Unhappy Complainer who won’t make friends: Can this relationship be saved?

by cv harquail on July 21, 2009

It’s funny how sometimes, when it’s your situation, the whole thing seems complex. Then when someone else reads it, the answer is clear. Or not.

200907212132.jpg Do we ever really know whether a new au pair (or host family) is just struggling to get adjusted, or instead if it’s a lost cause?

Check out the description from HM, who is hosting her fourth au pair. Previous relationships have been good, but with this one “We’ve hit a serious snag.”

Our au pair, “Amy” is 20 and from Germany. Our previous au pairs have all been from German or Austria. We have never rematched, although one of our au pairs left in the first week, having had a total change of heart. Other than that, we have had three great years with three very different au pairs.

Amy, however, is like no one we have encoutered before. All her skills are good – good English skills, good driving and gets on well with the children.

I work outside the home part-time, and our children are 3 and 6 years old. We live in the suburbs of a major city.

Amy has been with us for 5 weeks.

The problems with Amy are as follows:

  1. Amy has not made an effort to make friends. Even our LCC has reported that Amy did not respond when the LCC introduced her to several au pairs at a recent cluster party and that Amy left early saying she wanted to go home.
  2. Amy complains constantly about everything. She does not say “I hate _ _.” Rather, she will say: my room is too warm; my room is too cold; it is loud; I don’t like the LCC; None of the girls have time to spend with me; I can’t travel because the girl I want to travel with has to work; I went to the city but it was too hot, etc. etc.
  3. Amy is very unhappy if we go out for the day and do not include her in the plans. However, we include her in almost everything and when she does join us, she does not seem to enjoy it at all. I suspect that she does not know WHAT she wants and is unhappy and confused.

200907212130.jpg

Bottom Line: taken all together, I think Amy is miserable here and should go home, but would welcome opinions. As I said above, her one saving grace is that she is great with the children, always on time, professional etc. It’s everything outside of the job that is awful.

Please help! Regards all, HM

grumpy guts by tripp-e on Flickr
we are not amused by mrsraggle on Flickr

{ 48 comments }

Deb Schwarz July 22, 2009 at 5:23 am

I would normally say “cut bait” – but then I read your comment that she is great with the kids so it might be worth saving. It sounds to me that she has likely never lived away from home, and has never had to make new friends. It also sounds like she has a bad case of homesickness. Some au pairs take longer to “warm” up to the idea of living in a new place and compare everything to their former life and as a result live in misery. Have you asked her what her goals were for her au pair year? Try starting with that and help her by focusing on achieving her goals. Perhaps she just hasn’t found anyone in your cluster that she clicks with? If so, then she might want to take a class or two, or seek out other agency’s au pairs in the area. I’d tell her that you want her to have a good year, that she is great with the kids – but that life is too short, and if she still seems unhappy after xx amount of time, then for the sake of her (and your family) that she will need to go home (you might want to involve your local coordinator in this discussion with her, too).

PA Mom July 22, 2009 at 7:32 am

This is a tough one – we too had an AP who couldn’t make friends, argued with the ones she did make and ultimately I wondered the same things as you. However, she stayed the year and it was just her personality – she doesn’t get along well with that many other women. Once she met her BF we saw her less but she was very happy. She travels to the US often even years later because of the BF who travels to see her as well. Why not do something with her one on one – like dinner at a local casual place where you can talk to her. Let her know your concerns and ask her if she thinks this might be homesickness or if it’s “her normal”. It’s a delicate conversation but perhaps better than beating yourself up over what to do. Some LCCs are good at this sort of thing – others are not. If you think yours is good, then perhaps she can try. Maybe it’s just not a good personality fit for your family. Or maybe she made a mistake thinking the program would solve some issues she had at home and of course it does not. Some APs think that leaving home is a goal in itself and of course, what they are running from is sometimes themselves and so it doesn’t work. Perhaps ask her when she feels happiest – where is she, what is she doing. Ask her if she has felt that here. And if not, does she know why? But we’re not “professionals” – just HMs and if she’s got a serious case of the unhappies – sometimes that can’t be overcome by the HF. Do what’s best for your family.

StephinBoston July 22, 2009 at 8:38 am

This is a tough one, I know that I like people to be happy and enjoy themselves and when they don’t I’m miserable (always have a hard time with the first 2 weeks an AP is here.. I wish I could make it all better!) So I would be completely miserable in your situation. I suggest you sit down with her and discuss the issue and like PA Mom said, it may be difficult but she might appreciate the fact that you are concerned with her happiness, in the end, it’s about what works for your family, if the situation doesn’t change and you can’t live with it, let her go.

Hula Gal July 22, 2009 at 10:18 am

We have a very similar au pair who is also from Germany and is 19. She is good enough with our baby, is on time, mostly does what we ask her to do, but always complains and is not happy despite our best efforts. We mutually decided to rematch. I’m so relieved now. She has been with us for 3 months. We are looking forward to welcoming our new au pair in August. This is a very hard call to make when they are good in some areas and miserable in others. You’ll have to do what is best for your family. We resisted this for a long time because we were already on our second au pair in our first year but once we took the plunge and found someone new it was like ripping a band aid off. You dread it but once it is done you are relieved.

CaliHostMom July 22, 2009 at 10:25 am

I’ve had APs for ten years. My vote is to spell it out on paper that her being a moper drives you nuts and you can’t take it. Either she acts cheerful or you rematch. My sister did this once, and it really worked. As for me, I never had a chance. Here’s what happened when I had a moper. She was unhappy and couldn’t make or keep friends. Nobody was good enough. Didn’t like our food, house, way of life, etc, etc. I stuck with her for 8 months on the thought that since I trusted her with the kids, all would be okay. Then, she finally quit and went back home. This left me in a mad rush to find a replacement and feeling like we were the ones rejected. As soon as she was gone, the entire mood in the house changed. A great weight was lifted. I was happier, the kids were happier, and I looked back on it and I thought, what the heck was I thinking!!? I should have rematched at the end of month #1 when I already knew there was a problem. We went through needless suffering. The girl who came next was cheerful and friendly and I kept thinking, we could have had HER with us these last 8 months!

A July 22, 2009 at 11:29 am

Could be that it’s just homesickness and the heat. Our au pair (20 years old, from Germany) complained A LOT at first. The food was all terrible, the girls she met were no fun, nothing in this country made any sense, etc. She gradually got over it. She still mopes occasionally after being here 6 months, but not like she used to.
Personally, I think it’s worth it to give her time, if she’s good with the kids.
One more thing, that I’ve noticed both with our au pair and with my close friend who is a nanny–sometimes people who are really great with kids are not as good with adults. So Amy might be someone who enjoys her job but needs a little help or a little more time getting to know other adults, and her complaining comes from the fact that she’s unhappy or embarassed about having trouble making friends.

TX Mom July 22, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I could imagine several factors making this situation bad. I don’t like to stereotype, but some German (or German speaking people) say things that soiund blunt and rude to me in English. Add that to a person who is generally negative and/or critical about things on top of a person who is not very social and maybe homesick or uncomfortable and you have a sourpuss. No matter what the reasons, if you aren’t able to communicate effectively together 12 months is a really long time. I would put the effort into improving communication, however, if you can’t then you need to really assess the impact of her in your home. You might find that a “less than perfect year” with good childcare is acceptable. (i.e. she brings more value than damage.)

NewAPMom July 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I’d be interested to hear from au pairs on this one.

General negativity, which could be viewed as a personality mismatch, seems like a trivial reason to rematch, especially if she’s good with the kids. I think what this affects the most is not the employer/employee relationship, but the host family relationship. It’s tough to live with someone who’s a downer, and it affects the whole family dynamic.

We had this problem with our current au pair. It finally got better around six months in when she made a friend. Now she seems happier to be here and has mentioned wanted to extend (with another family.) However in the meantime, it really took a toll on our relationship. I don’t think we really like each other that much, and consequently don’t have a lot of respect for each other. Which isn’t good for her or me, and in the end, affects the employer/employee relationship very much. Also, it’s been a pretty stressful home environment for me and it’s rubbed off on my family dynamics with my kids and husband, which is not good.

If we were talking about a live-out nanny, well, I’d probably just make it work and avoid interacting with her. But a live-in au pair is different.

If I had to do it over again, I just might rematch from the beginning.

Calif Mom July 22, 2009 at 1:24 pm

PA mom said: Some APs think that leaving home is a goal in itself and of course, what they are running from is sometimes themselves and so it doesn’t work.” yes to that!

We suffered through several months with a totally depressing/depressed girl and I will not do that again. That weight lifting when they finally leave is so true. But like frogs in the frying pans we just keep trying not to notice the heat until one day we’re in a terrible fix.

Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 1:37 pm

I once had an aupair from South Africa who was sweet but extremely immature and she kept complaining about every single thing and I kept bending over backwards to make her happy – it never worked.
That is, my efforts never worked.
However, I found that time made a huge difference and every book I read on foreign exchange or the diplomatic service or the military indicated that this is a classic symptom of homesickness.
Finally, I told this young lady that it was considered rude to compare our home unfavorably to her home and it was totally unacceptable to express racist and anti-Semitic comments in our home.
I had in fact talked to her about this sort of thing before she arrived and she said all the right things.
This young woman was here to avoid a less than ideal political and economic situation in her own country. Once I talked to her , her behavior changed radically in terms of expressed political views and personal criticism. My kids loved her but she acted like a fourteen year old rather than a 19 year old. She was consistantly late , did not know how to wash a dish, do her own laundry, or pick up a toy, left wet towels on the bureau, sent out for Chinese food without asking me – that sort of thing. It was for this reason that I rematched.
If I had wanted to adopt a needy child, I would have taken in a child from Belfast or Gaza or the Fresh Air Fund. Someday I may do that. I really think those kids would be very well behaved and living with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome would be easier than someone who forgot to catch the bus in order to get home in time for me to go to work. She always cried and said she was sorry and then would do the exact same thing the next day.
I had a French aupair once who complained a lot and called home to complain, too. But there was no issue with childcare and the complaints disappeared in time because I just stopped listening.
My point is that, if the aupair you have is good with the kids, that is no small thing , it is the only thing, really and my suggestion is to have her LCC talk to her and explain that this is a typical way to feel but not proper behavior to express. Or, you can talk to her yourself. You can also wait it out and just turn a deaf ear to what seem like very trivial complaints.

Amelie July 22, 2009 at 2:04 pm

I’m an au pair and I’m living with my host family for almost seven months now (and I’m staying with them for my second year).

I always try to be in a good mood when around the kids and my host parents, and I always show appreciation for everything I have here (I always tell them how I love the kids and how nice they are, how I love my room, how good is the place we live, etc).

I’ve never had big issues since I got here (it’s my second time in the US and I just LOVE this contry, besides I have a GREAT HF), but if there’s something bothering me (if I’m missing my family or friends, for example), I let them know, and they are very supportive, and it normally helps me feel better.

I really think you should talk to your au pair! I’m sure she will be very glad to know that you care about her happiness!

BTW, I read this blog for a long time, as part of my constant effort to be a good au pair. It’s great to know more about the host parents’ point of view!

Franzi July 22, 2009 at 2:09 pm

well, Germans like to complain. a lot! and about everything! one day we’re fine with something, the next day it’s horrible. that’s just the way it is. only those fortunate enough to leave for a while eventually realize that (no one in my family thinks that Germans complain a lot, for example).
and maybe she is a negative person in general. those two in a combination…moper.

the plus here: she’s good with the kids.
BUT is she great with them? could someone else do just a fine job with them? if your answer is yes to the latter then you know what you have to do.

what do your kids say? do they perceive her as a party pooper at all?

Future Au Pair Kellen July 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I think when you get out of our country with a purpose, we must focus and move forward. It is not easy being away from family and friends, but the experience of being an Au Pair offers a great personal growth. I think you should talk to the Au Pair and review the objectives of it, and even taking care of her kids with the humor it can disturb your family with negative things.

P.S.: Sorry my english is no good …. ~;-)

Future Au Pair Kellen July 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I think when you get out of our country with a purpose, we must focus and move forward. It is not easy being away from family and friends, but the experience of being an Au Pair offers a great personal growth. I think you should talk to the Au Pair and review the objectives of it, and even taking care of her kids with the humor it can disturb your family with negative things. Sorry my english is no good ….

FL Mom July 22, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Does Amelie want to rematch with us? LOL…..

Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 9:16 pm

My au pair from Germany constantly complains about everything and anything – food, room, kids, chores, etc. The latest is that she does not want to drive our mini-van. It is a 2002 Toyota Sienna XLE fully loaded. She would prefer to drive my car. I have explained that she is not covered to drive my car and that they only car that she has access to is the mini-van. She said that it is not cool to go out with your friends in a mini-van. I also have a limit to the number of additional people she can drive in the car. We had a meeting with our LCC who suggested that I let her drive my car on the weekends. My answer was absolutely NOT. Everytime an issue comes up, she wants me to comprise with the au pair. It was very clear in my handbook that she would only have access to the mini van and that she needed to ask permission to use it. I am ready to rematch, but my LCC tells me that I need to work with the au pair, but I am tired of the complaints. She is just a miserable self centered person, making me and the kids miserable too. What do you think?

Calif Mom July 22, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I’m going to add a little to my first response to soften its cutthroatedness, because it’s really not my style. (I’m more the maybe-she’ll-snap-out-of-it, wait 4 months and then end up in rematch anyway type.)

I fully acknowledge a lingering bias against German au pairs, rooted in past experience with a particular exchange student in my life who didn’t hate everything American, as it was phrased in the initial post, but did think everything was “stoopit”. And I mean everything! Boy we couldn’t wait for him to go home. (Franzi, I have no doubt you are nothing like this! ;-) ) And I adore our AP’s friend who is a lovely German girl.

Benefit of the doubt requires one to agree that 5 weeks isn’t long. Homesickness of that bone-aching type must be awful (especially if you are a pessimistic type to start with).

Some people will tell you that the sound of hoofbeats charging up behind you couldn’t possibly be zebras and would tell you you’re crazy, you can’t really see them yet, just wait until they get closer. But sometimes it really is zebras. If you have good people instincts, I’d listen to them and make some changes before it drags on and on and on and on…

Red flags for me are the LCC’s comments, and the leaving the meeting early thing. This sounds like she also has issues with shyness or just plain personal unhappiness and that’s going to be a long haul for your whole family.

Just last week my eldest piped up, when we heard something in the news about the country our gloomy gus au pair was from — “You know what, Mom, I never liked her. She was really crabby ALL the time.” No wonder little sibling was a raging PIA during those months that just happened to coincide with a stereotypically difficult age in child development. It was the zebras.

We shoulda pulled the plug a lot sooner.

Curious, does this AP in the original post have problems with the cell phone you provided? Not getting messages, missing calls? Our gloomy one had such bad phone problems that I almost bought her a new one. Funny how it works just fine now, even a year later, for her replacement!

Celia Anderson July 23, 2009 at 4:10 am

I’m not sure if my comments would be accepted here, but as I am an ex-HM and now run my own little Au Pair Agency, I thought I’d give my two pence worth on the subject.

Over the years, I have learned that a ‘grumpy’ Au Pair can be placed in three groups.

* She’s homesick and is acting out because of this.
In that case it is always a good idea to arrange an evening with no interruptions, for the HM and AP to sit down over a nice cuppa and discuss the matter.
I recommend that no one goes in defensive or aggressive and just chats about anything that comes to mind. Just as you would be doing with your own daughter or niece. Soon the tears will start and it all tumbles out, and that’s when the HM must be willing to act as the substitute Mom and give her comfort and advise. It’s good to remember that the AP’s are still young and the responsibility might be too much for them at the beginning. A negative attitude can spiral out of control very easily and has to be stopped as soon as possible. The AP might feel that this is acceptable behavior but that can be explained during the chat without being harsh. Also let the AP know how you feel. Make it clear to her that her ‘moodiness’ is getting the whole family down. Usually a good long chat clears many problems. Just remember, neither parties are mind readers, so if you don’t speak, they don’t know.

* She feels unworthy, overwhelmed and uses attitude as a defense.
In that case, once again the nice cuppa and chat will do good. The idea is to get to the bottom of the problems and talk it out. Not every problem can be sorted by this get together, but I found that 99% of the time it does the world of good and creates a bond between the adults and the AP.

* The AP is just a very spoilt young lady.
Although that might sound very harsh, especially coming from an AP Agent. At times a young girl becomes an Au Pair for the only reason to do something else than live with her parents. Trying to proof her independence and showing the world she is no longer in her parents safety zone. This young lady has most probably been spoilt most of her life and I’m sorry to say, if the chat does not work, it will not get better, as both parties have to be willing to make a compromise.

Now just a little note about the Anonymous HM with the 2002 Toyota Sienna XLE. You are right to stick to your guns. If the AP were your daughter and she knows the ground rules of your home, would you let her take your car just because she feels it’s not cool to drive the Toyota? I don’t think so. Home rules must apply to all members of the family and the AP will have to grow up and adhere to them. It would be different if she was afraid to drive the bigger car, but then a few lessons would have solved that problem.

Well, as I said, that was my two pence worth. Take care and enjoy.

Anonymous July 23, 2009 at 11:21 am

I love this website – read it everyday I think the van thing is over the top so I am seriously wondering why in the world the LCC would even suggest compromising on the car issue. I never heard told such a thing.
The only issue I have occasionally with this blog is that we only hear one side of a story. Since mediation is a large part of my job , I know that often there are variations on a theme.
Even though I think the aupair is completely absurb in this matter , I wonder how the LCC could possibly justify such a suggestion.
It would be interesting to hear what the LCC would say , even if we all disagree with her position. The obvious answer, to my mind, would be to withdraw the access to any car for other than work related driving. Is this someone who was ” chosen ” for you or did you select her yourself ? I am wondering how in the world anyone can predict this type of attitude from an application and interview.

Anonymous July 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm

When my au pair got here, she complained all the time. I finally sat her down and told her to write a list of her issues and how she wanted me to solve them. I can not control the temperature outside or the fact that it has been raining a lot, or that the kids cry or have temper tandums when I am not home. There are things that she will need to be able to deal with. After putting the list together, she decided that she didn’t want to be here and left the next day. She refused to give me two weeks notice and went to live with the LCC so she could think about it for a while. The LCC said that if she didn’t want to be at my house that there was nothing she could do. She ended up with another family for a few weeks and then her mother came and took her home. What a nightmare!!! I had to start all over again. There is no way I would have known this from the interview. She sounded sweet, charming, and very accommodating. She had tons of ideas for projects with the kids, she liked and was good at everything, etc. How do you know?

E2 July 23, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Does anyone have an au pair that is bubbly and happy with her friends, but a bump on a log with the family — present but not participative? How have you dealt with this?

Anonymous July 23, 2009 at 1:36 pm

The reason the LCC suggested letting her use my car on the weekends is that she has had a lot of problems with the AP in this cluster. They all get together and compare what they have and then complain to the LCC. She is trying to make sure everyone is treated “equally”. I can not compete with these other family’s nor do I want too. It is what it is. I do not wish to take my au pair on expensive vacation or pay for them to go on vacation. I do not want two au pairs so they can share the work. There are families in this area with a lot of money. We work very hard for everything that we make and can not live this lifestyle. My handbook was very very clear. The problem is that they don’t know what else is out there until they get here and compare with other families. Any ideas?

Anonymous July 23, 2009 at 1:38 pm

E2,
We rematched in such a case. The AP was more than a bump on a log, though. I drew the line when she became disrespectful to HD (in front of kids.) Having the two of them in one room was toxic and I refused to host a situation like that. Our situation grew from “not participating” to disrespect, so keep your eyes open and nip it in the bud if it gets worse. A timely conversation about what you notice may make her tell the truth; in our case, “I love the kids and the community but I don’t like YOU.”

ArwenAuPair July 23, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I was an au pair some time ago, but I am still very interested in reading au-pair and host-family forums. Once an au pair, always an au pair! :-) I am from Germany – but I did not complain at all!!! I don’t know if things like “German au pairs complain a lot.” should be written. This is just prejudiced to me. Every person is different, regardless of nationality.
I think that au pairs look at material things too much very often. “XY has a bigger car, a better cell phone, a better room etc.” The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence… I was very lucky with my host family in Florida, I loved them and still do. My host mom completely trusted me with the children and the cars. We were by far not the richest host family in my cluster. And sometimes I thought, XY gets so much more! But then I reminded myself that XY has to work much more, has not as much freedom like I do etc. My children were well-behaved, listened to me and we always had a good time doing homework or art projects. Even if I had some “complaining thoughts” from time to time, I would never have said it to my host mom! I think this is just rude and immature. Yes, your au pair is “only” 20, but she is an adult and you can expect respect from her. I would also ask her if she really wanted to be in the US and an au pair. I did and that is why I dealt with difficult situations and didn’t get depressed!
I think it is great that you all read this blog and comment and put so much effort into being a good host family. I wish I had read this blog when I was an au pair, maybe I could have been an even better au pair back then (I hope I did ok though)…

cv July 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Anon Sienna mom-
I just want to chime in with support for you re: following your OWN cr policy. There is no reason why she should drive your car if there is another safe one available. You don’t have to share everything!
You do have an important issue though, with your LCC’s attitidue about what APs should have/get. Your Lcc may think she’s being realistic and giving you good advice, but no host parent should ever be made to feel that her safe, warm, nutritious and friendly home isn’t ‘good enough’. This is a lesson we all need to learn and also teach our kids, that material things beyond necessities and niceness are not what’s important.
I did write a post about this specific issue last year: Stop the Amenities Arms Race … check it out. cv

cv July 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm
Anonymous July 23, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I can tell you what I would do in this case. I would write to the corporate office of my agency and say that I am not sure yet how I am going to deal with the present situation but next time around , I will be looking for an agency with more families with middle class values.

The agency will probably put out some spin but you can be very sure they will be most concerned about this specific response on your part. These programs were created by the State Department in order to allow young women who could not afford to take a whole year of their lives abroad without working and also to allow working families to have a cultural experience.

Everybody in the business knows that lots of wealthy people regard this as cheap childcare but the issue you address goes right to the heart of the mission of these programs.

Calif Mom July 23, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Sienna mom — insanity!
CV — hear hear!

Calif Mom July 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm

…there’s just one more thing. (channeling Columbo here)

The HM who originally posted has had 3, very different but successful AP relationships. The scale is tilted in her favor. Someone who has only had ‘bust’ relationships would be evaluated quite differently in my book.

HostMomVA July 23, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I have had similar problems with the 3 Au Pairs that have not worked out including the one that is going bye bye in September. They seem like they all feel entitled to certain things. This last (and our present) Au Pair has not made any comments but started today telling me how her previous family had a big house and lots of money etc…like I care…!
We also do not go on expensive vacations with our Au pairs and we watch our finances, we shop at Costco etc. If I ever go for an Au Pair again it will be one from a ‘poorer’ country or culture.

My 2 cents July 24, 2009 at 11:30 am

To Anonymous with Sienna minivan: honey, you don’t just need a new AP you need a new LCC! Her attitude and behavior is just out of line. Sounds to me like this LCC just doesn’t want to deal with the drama and tension that comes with managing people in conflict (a key skill set in her job), and so lays the problem on you to solve. My guess is she doesn’t want any of them to end up as a problem she actually has to deal with, or be left on her door step, so leans on the HF to continue on and leave her out of it.

For a far, far, less important reason, we switched LCCs, so it can be done and in our case it was done with 1 short call. Hopefully, you are in a populated area where there’s another one within reasonable range.

Sally July 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Oh my – you wrote my identical story from our last au pair. I don’t think it’s country-related so much (ours was from South Africa). I think it boils down to is she a child or a young woman?

After running myself ragged trying to help her, I realized that our au pair still THOUGHT OF HERSELF as a child versus a young woman embarking on her first independent life experience. Huge difference there. It takes a young adult to step up and take responsibility for making life a success in a strange new place. A child still thinks that how she feels and how she acts are supposed to match at all times and that if something isn’t going right then it’s somebody else’s fault, and nothing you will do for her will change her outlook. I wore myself out taking care of our last au pair — trying everything I could think of to make things right. Yes, I had given birth to an 18 year old.

I am so grateful that we cut ties quickly. She was on a plane home in 3 weeks with the blessing of the agency.

Since the HM who posed this question is a seasoned au pair mom, I would say rematch. And focus on finding someone who shares your family values and around whom you feel relaxed and happy, no matter how long it takes. The three months that I went without an au pair were ten times easier than the three weeks spent with a mopey, negative, passive, five-foot-eight child underfoot.

Our current au pair (from Germany) gave me that feeling that it was “just right,” but she wasn’t available for a while. She was totally worth the wait.

Anonymous July 24, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Before you ask to change to another LCC , consider a couple of things. First, you may get someone else very easily if there is another LCC in your legal driving range. It is possble.

It is also possible that you will get someone else who lives further away and holds meetings so far away that it becomes a real PITA to you.

At that point, your agency is going to start thinking of you as a PITA if you complain and then you are going to be in a pickle especially if you have another problem down the road and they approach it with an attitude toward you. And if your aupair has a counselor relatively far away, how happy is she going to be ? Bottom line here is that you will be impacted.
Your neighbors are not going to go away. There are always going to be people out there with more or less money and different lifestyles.

Morevoer, the LCC cannot mandate that you give this young woman your car. It is a silly suggestion with no enforceability. Just dismiss it . If the aupair complains to the LCC because you won’t listen, the LCC will very soon get tired of listening to her and tell her to just deal with it.

I would not count on getting someone from a poor country .

Sometimes people from poor countries are extremely resentful of what they see as extreme wealth and waste. I would try to find someone with solid values. That is, of course, easier said than done but you have been successful before.

I would ask the candidate alot of questions about her parents. And I would try to find someone whose parents had values similiar to mine. Sooner or later, your aupair is going to hear sob stories from the aupairs of some of these other families and that is going to be an eye opener.

arlene July 30, 2009 at 7:51 am

It is possible that this au pair does not like America. I had a French girl who complained about everything, food, room, food, me, my husband, the car, the traffic, the shops, the food (she hated America food and she was appalled at what we cooked and served to our children). After slugging it out for a few months, she began to say almost racist things about Americans and she crossed a line for us. It was one thing to be a complainer, but once she started bashing our country, our culture, etc., we could not live like that and we rematched. REMATCH and send Amy home.

HostMomVA July 30, 2009 at 11:52 am

So what happened with this situation? Just curious on an update. I hope it all worked out for the best for your family.

Liz August 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I am currently a aupair in Europe and am Very Very homesick. The family knows but when I am miserable I go to my room and sulk alone, whilst with the children I never ever let on that I am unhappy as that will make them unhappy as well.

au pair August 10, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I’m a au pair, and this is a very nice blog, so from my experience from other german au pairs i needed to say something in this post. Im south american so i see myself strugling with the “german” atittude, some of the girls are very sweet, but not nice, some are very nice and sweet, but thats not very commom, my german friend complains about everything, absolutaly everything! if the car have the windows open, we need to close, if everybody wants to go somewhere, she is never happy, her HP are SO NICE end for her everything is wrong, she even complained abou once the host dad was having a party and she went to the phone, in this time the host mom bring her a cake, and let in her side so she can eat, she called me just to tell me that they are not nice, and how nasty that was, that she needed time to talk on the phone, this and that.. well long story short, she is good with the kids, but very mean to the host parents that realy tryed EVEYTHING to make her happy… and they feal that they failed on that, she is going home, and they give up on having au pairs, thats very sad, cause maibe they could have someone that apreciate them more, and give them a good year that they was hopping.. well wish you luck with your au pair… you are going to need, but remenber, there are tons of au pair that are very happy with this experience and are good match, so dont be scared to rematch if you feal like its too much to handle…

PA au pair mom August 13, 2009 at 9:43 pm

E2–I have the very same problem. Our 19 year old German AP spends all her time on her computer or on the phone. She sits on the couch when with the kids and acts like she can’t be bothered to even acknowledge their existence.

however, her Facebook page shows a young girl living it up. She’s smiling in every single picture. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw her smile at home.

We took her on a family trip to Disney world in May. 7 days in a Disney resort, all expenses paid and no working hours required. When we got home my father-in-law asked her if she had a good time and she went down the list of complaints she had…..water pressure in the hotel shower not good, bus to the parks too crowded, lines too long. My father-in-law was taken aback that she could be so spoiled and bratty.

She is leaving in 3 weeks and I hope the next AP is more friendly and interactive.

BP August 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Hi all…let me say I am very happy to hear other Middle Class families…with aupairs who are comparing their situations…..I am currently in one of those…however…I do have an aupair who decided after a weekend in Chicago with a very wealthy family..that she too is unhappy with pretty much everything..except my kids. She does do a good job with my kids and they do like her…but…she is not that GREAT of an aupair. She has a personality conflict with my husband and I dont know what to do about it. she has been with us 5 months and now comes to us “very uncomfortable”…we ask her what we can do and she has no answer. After her trip to Chicago she “has seen what it could be like” for her…
I dont know if we should initiate a rematch..although..she might do it for us….
To HOSTMOMVA….our aupair is from a poor country…but evidently she was not one of those…she had a maid her entire life, 8hours a day did all the cooking and cleaning….has a father who paid for her apt while in college…all expenses…so…had I known all this..I probably would have passed.
Anyway…like I said..my kids like her and she does a pretty good job with them…but the relationship is very strained on our part and especially my husband…I was up all night last night thinking about it…and advice??

TX Mom August 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm

A strained relationship will likely get worse and I would rematch. (I won’t tolerate rude behavior to a HP.) If your AP is too immature to recognize that your family has non-material benefits she will have to learn the hard way (rematch.) She may be in for a surprise… You are better off with someone modeling good values to your children; good AP’s will learn and mature from rematch and your family can benefit from that. If you are at 5 months you probably have to act soon.

Anonymous August 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm

I agree with TX Mom. The ungrateful AP needs to go. The strain is not worth it, especially since she’s not excelling in other areas. Jump back in the dating pool and get yourself something better. There are so many awesome APs out there looking for homes, don’t spend another minute thinking about this girl. It’s a hassle but another 7 months with this lady is going to eat you up if you even make it that far.

PA Mom, I think I’d strangle an AP that I took an all expense paid trip to Disney and then they come home and complain! Did you post this on the thread about taking APs on family vacations? It may help another family to get your experience.

E2 August 17, 2009 at 2:42 pm

PA au pair mom — thanks for the validation…it is amazing how similar the situations are (were). Ours turned into more than just a sulky au pair…the facebook stuff was blatantly rude and then our kids gave us feedback that we couldn’t ignore. Needless to say, we ended the match (although I really think she would have left after the summer on her own). I really believe in the au pair program, but DH has had it. We’re going with an in-country extension au pair to finish up our contract. This person sounds absolutely wonderful so we’re going to approach it positively. Has anyone had experience where they’ve rematched and know that the other au pairs in the area are talking…how do you approach the new au pair about what they may hear from other au pairs? Thanks!
{E2, we’ll set your question up as a post. txs!}

A August 17, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Maybe this is because I’m tired and it’s Monday, but from reading these posts, it seems like getting an au pair frequently means adding a sulky teenage girl to the household.
As I stated in an earlier comment, our au pair is great with the kids, and complains less than she used to…but dang I get tired of her picking at good home-cooked food like it was poisoned (eww, vegetables!) and pouting when we tell her that she cannot borrow our car for a 400 mile weekend trip.
I wonder how au pairs are recruited, because it seems like the expectation is that they will live with a rich American family who will feed them pizza and ice cream every day, take them to Disneyland, give them a car, and clean up after them; that they will instantly make best friends with other au pairs and will spend their weekends frolicking at nightclubs with their new best friends–all in exchange for babysitting a little bit.
I remember being 21, I remember that I cooked, cleaned up after myself, ate my vegetables, and would have loved to have a (more or less) paying job that let me see more of the world. Our au pair acts like I did at 17. We are exhausted.

Anna August 17, 2009 at 8:04 pm

I’ve had three Brazilian au pairs and never encountered a sulky complaining attitude like described here with Brazilians . I think it could be a problem for particular countries (relatively wealthy countries or countries who think they are)
Brazil is a country with a very deep economic class divide, and a generally happy, accepting, diverse and open-minded population.

Another tip – I’ve learned to look for a sunny happy personality. You can usually tell…. and sometimes just from the pictures. There is a certain vibe you get.

A-Mom-ymous August 17, 2009 at 9:23 pm

BP– rematch. You don’t need this stress. Yes, it’s going to get worse. She’s in it for the wrong reasons. She’s holding you emotional hostage. The split of rematch is like ripping off a bandaid — it hurts, but then it’s over with.

My new theory: most APs are good with kids — it’s all the other stuff that is harder to find. If they can manage their lives in a new country, and have wisdom about forging decent relationships with both the parents, then they will certainly be able to manage the kids.

I’ve had wonderful Brazilian women and one Brazilian princess. Had us walking on eggshells. Ridiculous. They are out there.

Certain agencies have a higher up front fee for the APs themselves — like earnest money that they get back later. APIA has a lower fee for the APs, so they get a few more girls who are hard-working, have managed to learn pretty good English and yet aren’t spoiled princesses themselves. If you haven’t done this already, should click through the websites as if you were an AP prospect and see what they see. Very interesting.

Even when selecting from very poor countries you can absolutely end up with a princess. Here’s how: being an au pair requires good English skills, and in a very poor country, good English skills are learned in a good school and/or university, which is expensive. So it follows that if you are expecting perfect English and some college education, you are more likely to end up with an AP who is a little more accustomed to a privileged lifestyle. If you can afford to keep your AP in that style, more power to you; you’ll have an easier time recruiting APs.

We are not wealthy; we don’t spoil our kids, and we don’t want a princess as a role model for our girls. So we deliberately don’t even look at western european APs at all. And yes, you have to peer carefully into those photos to find the red flags and glimmers of princessdom. You have to seek what clicks for you. It’s different for everyone. But you know it when you see it.

PA Mom August 18, 2009 at 8:49 am

Interesting . . . one of our Western EU APs was no princess and the other was . . . not a country issue in my mind but a parenting one which you really can’t judge until you’ve met them. As for priviledged lifestyles another thought is that those from a poorer area believe that Americans are all “rich” and therefore can become fairly princessy (is that a word) before you know it. They adopt the American teen ethos quite quickly. One of our most helpful APs is from a reasonably well to do family and has tons of help at home (gardeners, maids, drivers, you name it) and yet this AP has been very helpful and rolled up her sleeves without being asked. I too had avoided the priviledged class (happened to miss it this time because the connection was bad between our countries and I just didn’t know enough to realize she’d have that kind of “help” at home) but now realize that I’d misjudged. It’s the APs personality and how she is raised that is really important. When one of us does something kind for the other, we joke that (insert name of housemaid or gardener) must have done it. I think it’s also helped her to realize how much those folks do for her at home and how much she was just used to it. I suspect they will be even more appreciated when she goes home for their tireless work for her family.

Sabrina August 22, 2009 at 9:04 pm

HFs complaining about complaining APs! I have been on both sides – AP twice and HM twice. I can safely say that APs in Europe are recruited with the promise that they will have the best year of their life, can expect a warm welcome from a most likely upper middle class family and will instantly make new friends. The AuPair year is portrayed as a year of cultural exchange as a valid member of the HF- the opportunity for the AP to learn English and travel. Hence, most of them write on their apps that they want to improve their English and like travelling. Most of the APs have not held a serious job before, let alone one where they had to work 45 hours/week. It is only after their arrival that they realize what they are in for and then culture shock kicks in. The AP is new to the country and new to the HF and the HF has to be willing to work with the AP and help her through difficult times. She (AP) most likely does not realize how she is perceived by the host parents. She needs to be told but she also needs to be shown that HF understands that there are cultural differences and that she is not an American nanny. She is a young and inexperienced foreigner relying on your guidance! Of course, you want her to fit in and behave properly but if you went to live with another family in her country would you know how to behave properly in every situation? A lot of issues depend on perception and can be solved if both parties are willing.

Disappointed September 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I am intrigued by the comments here. I am in a similar situation as the original posting. Unfortunately, I am so frustrated by the agency and my community counselor in addition to our au pair – I would like to end my au pair year early. Does anyone have any experience with that? I would be very interested to know if that is possible and the costs, etc.

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