Unhappy Au Pairs Can Start “Reset” Conversations Too

by cv harquail on March 13, 2015

You don’t have to be a host parent to notice a problem in your Host Family-Au Pair relationship. Obviously, Au Pairs notice problems too.

That’s why Au Pairs should try some using some of the very same tools we recommend to host parents, tools like weekly meetings, written schedules, and the always-useful reset conversation.

132644487_3566894a5d_mOne of the most important things an Au Pair can learn during her or his year is how to establish what she needs and experiment with ways to negotiate for them.

Many of the emails we get are from Au Pairs who know there are problems but haven’t yet realized that they can step up and “lead” the process of addressing and even resolving these problems.  

“Child” Role vs. “Independent Young Adult”

Many au pairs arrive at their host families’ homes while they are still in the mind frame of a “child”.   Not that they act like babies, of course– they are young adults. But many of them still operate unconsciously in the role of “child” instead of the role of ‘independent young adult’.

In the ‘child’ role, they put themselves underneath the authority of a parent. They aim to follow the Host Parent’s lead.

A rare few host families find this arrangement comfortable for them, because it puts all the authority and direction in their hands. However, most host parents really *don’t* want another ‘child’. They want (and are ready for) a young adult who is becoming more independent and more in charge of him/herself.

Shifting Roles at Month 4

The 4th month of an Au Pair’s year offers a predictable opportunity for an Au Pair to reconsider her/his role relative to her/his Host Parents.

In the 4th month, Au Pairs often feel more ready to experiment with establishing their own independent authority.  The Au Pair has finished a three-month settling in period while s/he’s largely done things the Host Parent’s way.  Now, if the Au Pair has discovered some issues with the Host Parents’ arrangements, it’s time to think about addressing these issues.

Only relationship magicians can predict right off the bat the best to raise a problem in a relationship. Most of use try something – anything, as long as it’s respectful — and expect to adjust and evolve from there.

For every Au Pair, this is a chance to experiment with ways to bring a concerns to the Parent’s attention, how to document or describe what the problem is and how it relates to the guidelines of the programs, and how it might be resolved given the Host Parent’s priorities and abilities.

Or, in other words, it’s time to find a way to say to your Host Parents, ” I’ve realized that my regular schedule turns out to be 47 hours– how might we adjust things to get back und4r the 45 hour limit?”

No matter how gently or elegantly and Au Pair raises a concern, it’s possible that the Host Parents will feel unsettled. Nobody wants to be doing things wrong, right?

But even if it’s awkward, and maybe *because* it’s awkward, you’ve got to begin.

Initiating a reset conversation is a smart way to raise a concern, start a conversation, and begin to negotiate a resolution that works for the parents, the Au Pair, and the whole family.

The email, below, from an unhappy au pair prompted this post. The Au Pair has what at face value seem to be legitimate concerns.

(As usual, we take her word for it and extend a generous interpretation.)

What surfaced for me on reading this was the au pair’s sense of indignation.

[ editor’s note:  Yes, I know that we’re not supposed to assume and infer, but after getting about 9,00o emails similar to this one, the sense of indignation is a ‘new angle’ we can take on the whole ‘unhappy au pair’ situation. ]

This au pair is in a situation where she needs to have a reset conversation. She needs to reset not the specifics of her work and vacation arrangements with her Host Parents.  She also might need to reset her own role.

What might it be like to approach her Host Parents less like someone who’s beleaguered, and more like someone who can optimistically see a way to take charge of both the details and the emotions of the situation?

That’s my question. Read on, and then share your own response.

Dear AuPairMom — I’ve hit the 6 month mark of my year and am deeply unhappy.

I feel like my family treats me like an employee not really a family member. I recently emailed my co-ordinator asking for help regarding hours.

I regularly work 47-48 hours despite the 45 hour regulation. When I’ve said this to HP this week because they were working from home and I felt I should finish early, their reaction has been abrupt. I simply asked to finish earlier because I only had 6 hours left of my 45 hours and they were home!

When I ask for my cheque today they suddenly bring up the summer- we agreed that I would do alternate weeks of full time work and 10 hour weeks so I could do fun activities with the kids. But now they’ve said we are putting them in half day camps. Fair enough – if you want to now strictly adhere to the rules because I’ve brought it up.

Then they attack me saying I still owe them money for a course (which I’m saving up and haven’t took the course yet- I still have a couple of months to save) which we agreed I would pay for at a later date.

I feel like I’m being punished for bringing up the contract we both agreed to. I’m sick of feeling under appreciated but don’t even know how I would go about saying I want to go home. I have a home vacation trip in a couple of months and ideally wouldn’t want to come back.

I emailed my LC and she said I needed to talk this through with my family, then she went behind my back and told them what I said to her.

See also:

Your Summer Re-Set Conversation: What should you cover?


Image by brenn xOr on Fickr


Seattle Mom March 13, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Is it just me or is that email inscrutable? 10 hour weeks? What does that mean? 6 hours left of 45, what does that mean? She’s worked 39 hours and has a whole day left? It’s really unclear…

There’s definitely some stuff going on here that needs to be addressed, and it’s not cool that the LC broke a confidence, but I don’t understand the details and I’m really confused!

cv harquail March 14, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Usually I edit the emails so that they are more comprehensible, but this time I left it ‘as is’ because I was commenting on the tone. … When I find the details to be unclear, I usually pop up a level of analysis and think about the underlying complaint(s).

Mimi March 14, 2015 at 1:13 pm

I assumed the lack of details was part of the original email. I know you have guidelines for asking questions (“Give us enough information to help you”) and would assume although the site is intended for HPs, an AP asking a question would know enough to provide similar information to what you have listed under the guidelines for soliciting help. Unfortunately not the case here which is too bad because clear info not only allows posters to reply with better info/advice, but also prevents some us us from offering more neutral advice because we try to sort out if the AP is lacking awareness of her role in the situation when the answer might be more simple/straightforward.

SKNY March 13, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Maybe it was not Friday yet and she was so close to 45hs that she new she would pass? therefore asked to stop working early?

Should be working March 13, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Interpreting AP’s complaints:
1. Sounds to me like the HPs were home, the AP saw that she had more than 6 hrs scheduled, and saw that if she completed all the scheduled hours she would exceed 45 for the week.

2. I’m guessing that the “full time work” weeks that had been proposed for summer were “full time camp” alternating with 10 hrs/week of camp, so that on those alternate weeks the AP could do fun activities.

3. Sounds like the HPs paid in advance to register the AP for a course, the AP agreed to slowly pay them back, and hasn’t done so yet. In this case I’m not sure about cause/effect–maybe the HPs sense that this AP might go home early and are worried about not getting paid back for that course (that she might never take or complete). Not clear from this whether the HPs paid above the required $500 and the AP is supposed to pay them back.

I think CV is totally right. This requires the AP summon her maturity and calm, and ask the HPs for a meeting with or without LC (who should not break confidence). It would require the AP to express a genuine desire to do a good job, combined with a firm but pleasant statement that she really wants them to stick to the 45-hr rule. If they deny the overage, then she needs to show them the hours. If they don’t deny it then they need to adjust.

I, frankly, am skeptical of resentful situations turning around–but some time ago I asked about turnaround stories and there were some amazing ones. So if everyone can drop the resentment and do what they are supposed to do cheerfully, maybe it can happen.

If this AP has decided she wants to go home, then it might be hard to really turn things around. She needs to decide that, I think, before making the commitment to try and turn things around.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 13, 2015 at 3:38 pm

I can see how the 10 hour weeks might happen. Possibly the HPs initially planned to place the kids in full-day (here, 9-5) camp every other week, and no camp on the opposite weeks. That could work out to just a couple of hours in the morning or evening each week. I can also see how that may have been a general plan, but the HPs may have changed their minds when they looked at the available camp choices, compared the costs of doing it that way vs half day camp everyday, began to feel the relationship souring, or whatever other reason.

I agree that the au pair should try to have a reset conversation, especially if she is that miserable. It strikes me as odd that 6 months in, her choice would be to go home, rather than try to rematch elsewhere. I would think that by this time, AP would have a network of friends and a list of adventures to experience before going back. Was there more (not just the HPs) about this experience that made it unpalatable?

In any event, the OP sounds truly miserable. I hope she’s able to salvage the year, or at least to exit gracefully.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm

One addition– I agree that the LC should not have talked to the HPs without letting OP know, but anyone who calls an LC with a complaint should recognize that the LC is powerless to do anything about it if she can’t talk to the parties. So, unless the call is simply to vent, I would expect my LC to say something, even if not directly telling what I said. Maybe the difference for me is that my LC would say “I plan to address this with X” with the understanding that if I ask her not to, I should not expect resolution of the issue.

German Au-Pair March 14, 2015 at 8:24 am

I can see though that the LC’s behavior is seen as betrayal. Apparently she has offered no help except telling the AP to talk to them but then went behind her back instead of talking through with her how and when they should address this.

Mimi March 14, 2015 at 9:21 am

We really don’t know if what is reported here is the summary of what the LC suggested or that her suggestion was that brief/inadequate. She could have also been reaching out to the HP with the intent of helping mediate the situation. Perhaps even the HP refused to talk/meet without knowing what the problem was. Do the HPs think those extra hours are a give and take for some perk they give the AP? It’s even possible that the OPs interpretation of their abruptness is not a personal reflection on the AP but is more about cultural differences or an attempt by the HF to be direct.

Aside from ambiguity about the circumstances, there is a communication problem here and in many HF/AP situations. The AP can use the fact that the HP know why she is upset to her advantage…”I understand that (LC) shared with you my frustrations about X and I’d like to talk about it so we can move past this. I am worried about how these issues may affect the completion if a good year for both of us.” Neutral “I” statements will be very helpful in this conversation…”When the schedule is extended and I go over my allowed hours for the day/week it makes me very anxious/concerned/stressed and affects my ability to do my best for your family.” Plan out what you want to say and think of some things they may respond with so you are prepared and can have a calm thoughtful conversation. Their response to your concerns will probably tell you if this is a situation you want to/can continue in.

Mimi March 13, 2015 at 5:15 pm

I realize they are purported to be going over hours, but with 6 hours left of the weekly hours, asking to finish early wouldn’t fly in my house. Just because I might be home, doesn’t mean I don’t still need help for whatever reason. Given that the OP is considering going home, I feel like there must be more to this story we aren’t aware of. If summer plans have changed for the HK, that makes me wonder, too.

I wonder if the family had already reached out to the LC and this is how the HM found out about the conversation? This is what happened to me recently. I had called our LCC to pull the plug to go into rematch and before I got those words out, the LC told me that she had just heard from the AP about wanting to take a vacation as a break to decide if she wanted to stay with us. (I later found out she had already booked a flight.) The LCC shared information (minimal) with me because she knew that the AP would be leaving me in the lurch with no back-up childcare.

If the LC thought this AP was considering leaving, she may have been trying to give the HF here the same info. I’m not in a good space to think objectively about this being right or wrong, so I’ll just say that I think many LCs/LCCs know they will be working with families longer than with APs and will do things that will help maintain a good working relationship with the family, especially if the problems are typical HF/AP things and there don’t seem to be egregious issues on either side. Not knowing what the LC told the HF here, it’s hard to say if this was a general head’s up or a breach of confidence.

Moving past that, the OP has a few options:
-Reset conversation with the family (and LC or not), keeping in mind that the HP are going to weigh in on what they think is not working either and that might not be pleasant to hear, with a plan to tough it out until the vacation or for the full year.
-Rematch. Six months left is a good amount of time for another family.

German Au-Pair March 14, 2015 at 8:27 am

I understood the 6-hour thing differently, but I might eb wrong. I think the AP constantly works more than 45 hours and the 6hour-issue happened on the second last day of the week, when she knew about her schedule for the next day that would be 6hours or more. So she asked if she could stop working now so she wouldn’t exceed those 45 hours again. That’s the only thing that would make sense to me.

Multitasking Host Mom March 14, 2015 at 8:14 am

I am just trying to imagine the situation that the OP described above….
The HP is working from home and has to get a project done in the next few hours. The AP suddenly walks in and demands that she has to stop working. Even though the APs concerns are legitimate, the HP is now frustrated and put on the defense and lashes out.

My point is that better timing could have really helped that AP get what she wanted accomplished. A better way to handle it would have been for the AP to calmly ask the HP for a talk once they were done with their work. Then the AP and HP could have discussed, without distractions, what was going one. The AP could have shown her schedule and the total hours added up…in any negotiation I have found that the person with the most information wins! Once again this would all be done calmly and without indignation on the APs part. Just stating the facts and asking what can we do to fix this problem. Hopefully, the HP would then step up and come up with a solution.

We had something similar happen with our last AP. My husband travels a lot for work, so he likes to be with the kids as much as he can. About once a week or so, he would be home in the morning (after I had already left for work) and would be talking with the kids (and distracting them) at the same time as the AP would be rushing to get the kids feed, clothed, and out the door for school. He would only be there about fifteen minutes, but it was apparently throwing the kids schedule off and had made her almost late dropping the kids off a few times….which was really stressing the AP out.
If she had snapped one morning and told my husband that he had to leave since he was making her work harder, I don’t think it would have gone over that well. Instead she showed real maturity and calmly at the end of one day told me about the situation and asked if I could talk to my husband about it. We now totally understood what was happening, and we really were glad that she had pointed it out since my husband hadn’t realized that he was causing a problem. Now on the few days he is home he spends a few minutes with them right when the kids wake up and then is out the door to let the AP take over.

A/BHostmom March 14, 2015 at 8:46 am

I bet there is more to the story here. Are the HP giving her a schedule with defined hours that amounts to 47-48 or is it taking her that long to do everything? Sometimes my AP spends 30″ on her phone when we are both home and then has to spend time once she is technically off duty doing the kids lunches because she chose to use her on duty time doing a non work activity. (Don’t get me started here. When this happened I didn’t say anything because I wanted the AP to see the consequence of her actions.) Also, the AP needs to realize that just because both parents are home doesn’t mean they don’t need her; these are often the parents that need the AP the most and that’s why they chose that sort of childcare, because of the flexibility. I don’t understand the issue with the summer camp, so I’m sure we’re missing something.

AuPairInQuestion March 16, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Hi – I don’t have a specific schedule and when I asked for one within the first 3 months HP actually thought I was on a 50 hour contract – they then gave me a schedule which is always broken by them coming in late consistently.

All my duties are done within my working hours and I’m very lenient when recording hours- I log from the moment the HP get in as my ‘end time’ despite the fact that I normally spend another 15 minutes with the kids. As a way of trying to keep to 45 hours!

On the particular day that I wanted to leave early I had spoken to the parents beforehand in my free time- not my working time as the HP was taking the day off to specifically be involved with the kids activities. As well when interviewing with the family the agreement was ‘if we’re in the house, you’re off’ arrangement. No parents work from home.

The summer agreement affected me in regard to they knew how that having a full week at camp then a full week of me doing childcare would work better for me and the kids. More specifically giving the kids a chance to do more fun things with me. I think this upset me because by changing the camps to half days for every week – it limits the activities that I could do with them after camp (less time to get out and do things). Therefore it’s the kids that are losing out more on their summer!

Host Mom in the City March 14, 2015 at 8:58 am

I don’t get the story, but I do think this is a really valuable discussion – how should au pairs approach their host parents when they’re unhappy with something? I’ve had countless au pairs at my house complaining about something their host parents did and heard stories from my au pair about her friends not being happy. In most cases, it seems like simple misunderstandings that get blown up due to each side not being able to see the others’ perspective. I’d love to see tips here from experienced host parents and au pairs about how they would like to have these types of issues resolved and/or stories about having attempted to do so.

I’ll share some of my thoughts as soon as I get more time.

German Au-Pair March 14, 2015 at 10:40 pm

I had to deal with a situation that was long in the making (they were unhappy about something and didn’t say so directly but mockingly -and mocking is mocking to a German, not criticism) and then exploded when I had an accident that left them in a pickle. The LC was involved but she actually made things so much worse. She blamed me for everything, yelled at me and threatened me with things my HP had never said. I had asked her to please wait a day longer with the conversation because I was an emotional wreck from the painkillers and couldn’t hold it together for 10 minutes straight. She insisted on coming anyway and then mocked me for crying. I am not exaggerating here, it was truly terrible. So I had to deal with it all alone while dealing with attacks from her side, too.
It was a super uncomfortable situation and it was pretty awkward around the house for a while. It all worked out in the end, I was incredibly grateful for them not sending me home but things had to change a bit as we went on. So I had to do this inrecibly awkward, weird talk (thankfully written conversation was normal with us so it was easier to spell things out and rephrase and take your emotions out a bit via email). What made it worse was that it was from a position of weakness, which is never a good position from which to initate such a talk. While my behavior certainly was a huge factor, every relationship and issue has two sides and it is not easy to point that. You want to accept your resposibility and assure them you are commited to working on it, but you also need to make sure they know their part and what they could do and what you need them to do to make this work.
Something ended up getting in between a response, I think they truely forgot in the end but I sure would have wished to get one.
Nonetheless I was glad I got things out and I do think it cleared the air a bit and I hope I managed to hold up my end of the bargain. It surely was a great learning experience of facing the issue, accepting my part of the problem but also standing up for what I believe is right and set the record straight from my POV.
It is really really hard though, to muster up the courage and find the right words. For me the language wasn’t as much of challenge as the cultural part, but this whole experience really is about learning (or trying) to adapt to other cultures and lifestyles and while this was an incredibly difficult time and I had so much going on that didn’t exactly make things easier but I feel that I learned a lot.

So I would encourage any AP to at least try. Some issues cannot be resolved and some HP may not be changed but is worth a try if only for the learning experience. It also makes you a way more mature person than just disappearing on vacation.
I would also ask HP to try to be receptive to such criticism even if you think the AP is wrong. Maybe she is not completely wrong? And even if she is, I think if you try to take in what she’s saying you can see whether she is just being an entiteled brat or has put some thought in it and tried to raise the issue as sensitive as possible.

Sorry this got so long but you did ask for stories about such attempts. It was a difficult situation but it was SO worth it in the end and I ended up having a great second year with them. The whole AP experience is about not giving up when it gets hard. You didn’t leave your life behind to go home when there are bumps in the road.

German Au-Pair March 14, 2015 at 10:48 pm

I would like to add that I realize this is difficult if your language skills simply don’t enable you to have this conversation witrh sufficient sensitivity (looking at TLC’s “would you mind”-construction). I certainly couldn’t do this in my second foreign language. However, I do believe there are always ways to accomplish that. Maybe have a friend with stronger language skills (who ideally speaks your own language) help you. Maybe have your LC read over it and adjust the tone to the American understanding and work out any misunderstandings. If your language skills are not sufficient, you may be enrolled in a language class and your instructor may be able to help if both options don’t seem good. Getting a stranger involved may not be awesome, but I would choose this over going home any day.
The AP communities online SURELY have someone to help navigate the language barrier. Since such a reset conversation is not a small issue that you just have to come up with, I’m sure there are options to manage.

CaliHM March 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I do understand working overtime a lot is upsetting; but bringing it up during the working hours, just because the parents are at home is unwise and not very mature.
I agree with a previous poster that she should bring it up after the day is done, so that there is enough time to discuss the issue.

I admit that I do have a problem with the fact that the AP says she’s thinking about just not returning from her vacation. Again, a lack of maturity, and it would probably cause a lot of distress to the HF.
If problems/issues are not voiced how are people supposed to know that there are any?
The AP has to talk to HP to adress the issues with the help of the LCC or alone. If the HP still make her go over her hours constantly, she can think about remtach or going home.
But just going home feels immature and dishonest.

I recently went into rematch due to a couple of issues . I really wanted to talk to the AP and mediate when she just refused (I’m not kidding she simpliy refused). Things she said to the LCC during exit and to the AD were all very small, and could have been resolved (nothing was against the rules) . She also once approached us at 11:30pm after her first week with us when we came home from a date nigtht and told us that she refuses to get up at 6:30am the next mrorning because it’s her right to her 8h between shifts. mind you she knew her schedule for a week and all was within the 45hours. I understood her point about the 8h (which is not a rule/right), but the way she addressed it was out of line.

Momto4 March 15, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Also, in your defense, she could sleep during her on hours, no, like go to bed at 9 or 10? I mean, that is technically what parents do every night! If the 8 hours between a shift isn’t a rule and she is just worried about her sleep, this seems like a pretty easy solve (for her). Sorry she didn’t work out!!

CaliHM March 15, 2015 at 2:09 pm

yes, she could have gone to bed, but she said she felt uncomfortable doing it, and was checking on them regularly. My kids don’t need anybody to check on them while they are sleeping, they are 2.5 and 5.
I think she was generally not a good fit for us due to her attitude.

AuPairInQuestion March 16, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Hi , I didn’t bring the finishing early up during work hours but before I had started work. As well I was under the impression from interviews that whenever parents were in I was off duty.

In regards to leaving in vacation I didn’t make it clear that my planned vacation is actually in 3 months – so I wanted to figure this out so I could tell the family ASAP so they could find someone. I would never leave it until I was actually home!
This was the first time I’ve brought hours up because recently parents have been coming in later and later and I’ve been putting up with it. I’m all for mediation but my HP seem incredibly busy and I’m usually asleep before the kids (they go to bed super later) so there never seems to be a good ‘lets sit down time’

Taking a Computer Lunch March 14, 2015 at 4:28 pm

While I agree with the previous comments, that we only have part of the story, I want to acknowledge that the power is always tilted toward the HF, and that families that routinely go over 45 hours per week, even when the AP says “That’s okay,” may make the AP feel like they’re yanking her chain. So, it can be hard for the AP to ask that the family keep to the requirement and not feel retribution.

However, just ask HF ask for a “reset your attitude” conversation at night, when the kids are in bed and everyone has had a little break, the AP should know, too, that a “reset your attitude” conversation with the HP cannot take place on the fly.

I know, after 14 1/2 years of experience, that when APs make requests within minutes of my return home, while I’m trying to talk with a child, when I’m cooking dinner, that I’m going to feel pressured to commit without an opportunity to think it through. I’d rather have a “Do you have a few minutes to talk about the calendar today?” than “I want time off on Friday.”

It takes real maturity to stand up for oneself without sounding pouty or petulant. The AP who says “I want to be done for today,” when both HP are home loses a chance to get her point across. I’d rather hear, “I just noticed that you’ve scheduled me for 48 hours this week. Since you’re both home today, would you have time to reduce my schedule so we will stay under 45 hours?” (I understand that for APs with imperfect English, softening the request with the conditional tense may not be possible.)

There is a tendency (I have noticed in my own cluster, listening to APs with similar complaints) for HF who have advanced salary, pre-paid for classes, given time off on short notice, or acquiesced to a vacation that wasn’t convenient for them, to demand extra time as compensation. “I’m sorry I’m late, you you went to New York last weekend when I had originally scheduled to work,” isn’t fair to anyone. But what I don’t see in this brief snippet that the OP has provided that she is dealing with the issues maturely either.

A good LCC hosts a mediated “reset your attitude” conversation so everyone knows where they stand – especially when rematch/escape is one of the options. If the OP doesn’t trust her LCC, then she should ask if there is another LCC available to help.

Former au pair March 14, 2015 at 8:45 pm

I do not post very often anymore, mainly because I am exhausted most of the time and too lazy to formulate an answer that would make sense to anyone but me. However reading your reply TACL made me want to write a very quick post.

I visit aupairmom every week and when I do I always enjoy reading your replies and advice. Your posts always come across as well thought out, open-minded and considerate. It is people like you who make this forum such a fantastic resource for both HFs and APs…

TexasHM March 14, 2015 at 11:19 pm

To start, I agree with the LC that before reaching out to her and/or making plans to take off during a vacation you need to sit down and have a conversation with your HPs. This may seem like an obvious question but does your HF know you are working 47-48 hours per week? Or are you going over hours because it’s not clear when you finish or you are finishing tasks when you are “off” according to them? Just wondering if the HPs even know this is really an issue or if they think that you are working 45 hours per week and are asking them to get off early (as that might cause some animosity). It’s not clear from this email that the HPs are even fully aware of the problem or that there has been any real conversation on the topic.
I also don’t understand the camp reference but it appears the moral of the story is the HPs had extended some generosity and now that is being revoked (causing animosity in the AP) and the fact that the LC is saying you need to talk to the HPs makes it seem like they really aren’t in the loop. Usually your LC won’t tell you to talk to them if they are already clearly aware of the problem. She was giving you the opportunity to address it yourself but due to the nature of your angst I don’t blame your LC for trying to talk to your HPs to solve the problem.
Our first AP went to our LC several times with things that I think most on here would find trivial. It was frustrating to us because if she had just talked to us we would have addressed it, no problem. But we were never given the benefit of the doubt and the end result was AP tells LC, LC calls us frustrated to relay minor issue/detail, we addressed it no problem. The third time it happened our LC was actually here (brought our AP home from cluster meeting), told us what our AP wanted us to know and I proceeded to look AP in the eye and tell her that this was ridiculous and if we couldn’t communicate without using the LC as a medium then we needed to move on. I told her it was frustrating for the LC and she wasn’t getting paid for all the time on phone calls and sitting there with us and that there were APs with real problems that needed her help. I said if she talked to us about something and it didn’t get addressed then of course she was welcome to escalate and could call the LC anytime but that I wasn’t going to entertain any more message relaying and if it happened again we were done. Never happened again and finished a second year with us.
Now, if you have had sit down discussions to share your side and hear theirs and you are stuck because they know they are going over hours and don’t care or treating you with animosity and refuse to discuss/fix it then sure, go to the LC and escalate because then you have done your diligence and it may not be fixable. I can tell you as a host mom who has hosted and interviewed a lot of rematch APs my first question to you would be what you did to try to fix the situation and if they answer was “asked to be off early one day and called the LC” then I would likely move on. Being able to have open and honest communication and feedback is quite possibly the most important part of this program and while it does take courage, these are skills that will only help you in the future and I think most host families by nature want happy au pairs so if there is something they can do to help fix the situation I think most will.
If I found out my LC knew my AP was thinking about leaving or rematching and she didn’t give me a heads up I would be very frustrated. 1 – because she could have given me the opportunity to fix things, 2 – because I would expect my LC to demand that my AP talk to me about the issue before allowing any rematch or leaving conversations and 3 – because I would appreciate the heads up to work together to create transition plans (for the kids) and make sure we are covered and everything is transparent. So I guess I am saying that I would expect the LC to communicate with the HP if she knew that the AP was upset enough to potentially rematch or leave because it doesn’t only impact you, it impacts the kids as well! If a HF decides to rematch yes it’s unfortunate for the AP but she will be housed by the HF or LC and transition. If an AP leaves without notice its a big deal. It could mean HP having to take off work, fly people in, frantically interviewing rematch candidates and/or nannies, rescheduling kids activities, not to mention the emotional impact. So I understand that the AP is frustrated that the LC shared what she said but honestly, what she said should not have been news to your HPs and if you are upset enough to leave then not telling them isn’t going to make anything better anyway. Vent to friends, call the LC about things you want mediated. It’s not really fair to the LC to put all this on her and then ask her not to say anything to your HF.
Good luck with the conversation and if you think your HPs won’t listen you should ask your LC to be there as well and then you can move on into transition or make plans to return home and take the high road.

WestMom March 15, 2015 at 10:24 am

There has to be more to this story. If the family is handing AP a schedule every week with more that 45hrs, she should have brought up the overtime issue 6months ago. I suspect that they have a more fluid schedule, and that there might be a misunderstanding here. Nothing crazy, we are talking about a couple of hours and this should be easily resolved through an adult conversation.

For summer camp, I am confused. Looks like AP will be working similar number of hours in the end. Is AP upset because she wanted to work the little 10hr week and now feels punished? That’s perhaps jumping to conclusion too quickly… With kids in camp half day, this still promises to be a pretty light schedule.

And the parents were quite generous to pay in advance for more that $500. No harm is reminding AP she needs to pay back. They might be sensing that AP might be a flight risk and want to make sure she knows they have not forgotten about the debt.

To me, this sounds like this relationship has sunk down to the level of ‘convenience’. From the little AP shared, it doesn’t sound like either the AP or parents are thrilled with the situation (if the HP were, the recent issues would likely not have happened). I agree that it’s worth having a reset conversation, ideally with the LCC present to make sure there is an unbiased opinion.

Lastly, not coming back from vacation is incredibly immature (actually, I would have never matched with an AP who would have pre-planned a trip back home during her 12months. So many decide to not come back or leave shortly after). If you plan to leave, bring it up early enough so your host family can have time to find alternate care for their children.

AuPairInQuestion March 16, 2015 at 3:14 pm

To begin with I had a fluid schedule and when I asked the HP genuinely thought I was on a 50 hour contract – fine when I told them it was 45 hours and they set a schedule for 45 hours. Something that I’ve noticed HP come in later and later from work- scheduled to finish at 6.20 pm they don’t come in till 7pm, and there’s no contact to even say ‘im running late’, it just seems a given that I work till whenever they get in.

I think with summer camp the thing that bothers me is that the kids are going to have a worse ‘summer’ with me because I don’t have the time to do the activities I’d planned in the week where I would have had them all day.

With the course I explained that I wouldn’t be able to pay straight away partly because they wouldn’t let me take a vacation day in order to get flights that were $500 cheaper than ones the next day. It all seems to be me being flexible but not extending the same courtesy.

I think that the family see me as more of an ’employee’ than part of the family and this may be why I’ve got into this frame of mind.

In regards to ‘not coming back from vacation’ I don’t think I explained this clearly. My vacation is in 3 months and I wanted to figure out a solution so I could tell the HF ASAP so they could find a replacement so arrive in 3 months. Originally I would never have said that I would of planned a trip home in 12 months but I thought that it would be a good break to cure homesickness earlier in the year. I wouldn’t leave my family in the lurch (like the last au pair did, giving them 3 weeks notice!)

SKNY March 15, 2015 at 6:35 pm

A lot of families do go more than the 45hs. Some provide Au pairs with a financial compensation, some don’t.
The ones who don’t, many times few they are entitled to those extras because they are extra nice, they have no curfew, they let their Au pair drive someone they don’t really feel like allowing, they feel their Au pairs are being compensated on a different manner. So when the Au pair complain (and in this case in a not so mature manner) they resent and cut all the benefits they thought they were providing. Therefore the Au pair is kind of punished.
My first host family (who I rematched with 6mo), specifically told me that I would work 32-36hs a week only during the school year, but would be expected to work 50-55 during summer. And I could agree or not, but if not they would make sure I worked every week the marked 45hs all year.

HRHM March 15, 2015 at 7:32 pm

I guess we haven’t had an update on this one? I would love to here what the resolution is.

WestMom March 16, 2015 at 10:02 am

Same here. As well as more details from the OP…

AuPairInQuestion March 16, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Hi I thought I would update the situation and provide a few more details on my feelings.

When I asked to finish earlier I did this when I was off duty and under the impression from the beginning that when a parent is in – I’m off!

The summer camp bothered me because I felt like the kids would be missing out on a summer due to less time for me to do activities with them( yes I already started planning summer)

After actually letting my HF know that I’m tracking my hours, I think they’ve got the message that they should adhere to the rules more and that I’m not an employee for constant childcare.

I’ve spoken to my co-ordinator and feel a lot better, with the support I have in place. Decided to stay for the next 6 months and think that I feel like I can bring up any more issues in future. At the end of the day as long as they stick to a 45 hour schedule I have nothing to complain about.

NewbieHM March 17, 2015 at 2:44 pm

I still don’t understand the deal with summer camp. What do you mean you planned your summer and now don’t have time to do activities with the kids? Will someone else take care of them?

hOstCDmom March 17, 2015 at 2:56 pm

I am curious – How did you have the “impression from the beginning that when a parent is in – I’m off!” — is this what the parents explicitly told you? Many HP have the AP on duty when they are home (working from home, working out, paying bills, taking a shower, etc.)

AuPairInQuestion March 17, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I was told this during interviews and the first day I arrived , that as as soon as a parent was in I’m off duty – I assume this is because they require me for 9 hours per day every weekday. The only exception being snow days, where if a parent couldn’t physically get to work I would work till a scheduled time of 6:20pm.

hOstCDmom March 17, 2015 at 3:41 pm

OK, fair enough. If the HP explicitly say that, then that is the way it is :)

Emerald City HM March 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm

We don’t go over 45 hours. We work very hard not to do so, so I’m not sure how our AD addresses these types of complaints. But I would hope that if a family is breaking the rules that the AD would step in regardless of confidentiality. Becasue at the point the HF is breaking the rules, the AD does need to step in, it’s not a counseling type of issue.

We did see an email once that went out to all host families about non-child care chores. So I did assume there was an issue that came up with another host family in the cluster and the au pair wanted to remain anonymous.

I’m also not exactly sure what the rules are about the confidentiality issues. Are they therapists?

Our AD did tell me after our recent rematch that apparently our au pair made a comment (in passing, at one of the monthly events) that indicated she might have been having a difficult time, but she didn’t notice at the time the au pair made the comments that it was actually a big deal, or maybe she thought it wasn’t childcare related. I just hope that our next au pair has the maturity to come speak to us (or at least the LC) if there are any issues at all.

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