Using Your Car is a Privilege, not an Entitlement: Best practices

by cv harquail on March 24, 2009

Second only to food as a ‘terrain of struggle’ is the shared family car. While the luckiest of us host families has an extra clunker or not-so-clunker available for the au pair to use as her own, many more host families have their au pair share the family car. And, some host families do not have cars themselves or share a car with an au pair. It runs the gamut, but one thing is true with every host family and every au pair:

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Using the Host Family’s car for personal activities is a privilege, not an entitlement.

In situations where you have a family car that you will allow the au pair to use, and addressing situations where she is driving for her personal pleasure (and not to classes or on family business) here are some "best practices".

Be explicit with your au pair about her probable car privileges when you are matching. Tell her exactly what kind of car she’ll get to drive, how often you think it will be available to her, and who will pay for what. Err on the side of underestimating. Why?

No au pair is ever disappointed when she gets to use the car more than she expected. Every au pair is disappointed when her use of the car is more limited than she expected.

Be explicit up front about guidelines for using the ca r (curfews, distance limits, gas allowance, paying for gas). Check the guidelines on this site , also as explained in the sample handbooks.

Explain to your au pair the way you want ‘permission’ to work. Yes, it can feel awkward to use the word permission….maybe you can come up with a better way to label it. As well as you can determine from past experience or from what other host parents tell you, try to figure out before hand how you want things to work and tell your au pair. In some families, the au pair asks before she takes the car. In other families, the au pair knows she can only use the car if the second car is available, so she won’t even ask unless she sees both in the driveway. In still other families, the au pair can use the car on weeknights but can’t expect to have it every weekend. And so on…

Don’t give your au pair her "own" set of car keys if she is sharing a car with you. lol cat keys.jpeg This is just a way to invite trouble, because it makes it easier for her to take the car without you two having agreed that she can have the car. Instead, keep one set of car keys in an "official" place, and have all drivers use that same set. Then, as backup, keep a second set in a place your au pair can access if and when she needs to know where they are (like, when you’re commuting to work on the bus, and you reach into your purse for your iPod, and you discover you yes you forgot to put the keys back in the ‘official’ place.)

Start by being explicit about yes or no with the car. Consider having your au pair ask permission verbally, or have her check the calendar (so she doesn’t take the car on the night of your book club), or plan ahead when you both discuss the week’s schedule, or whatever you can come up with.

Start with strict guidelines and limited use . Gradually, as your au pair learns how to drive in your area and in your car, and as your au pair demonstrates good judgment, relax some of these restrictions. it is perfectly OK to have your au pair "earn" additional use of the car. Starting strict and then loosening up helps you sent the message that the car is a privilege not a right. And, it’s easier to let her drive the car farther and farther away from home base than it is to clip her wings after you discovered she was driving 200 miles round trip every Friday to see her boyfriend’s band. (Yes, dear reader, it happened. To me. Hence, the weekly mileage guideline and the limits on distance from the house.)

Give the car a curfew. It can be different from her curfew… just as long as the car is home by 1 am. (Why? #1 When do you think most accidents happen? And, #2, do you want that middle of the night phone call about her hitting the deer and totaling the car, and she hadn’t even been drinking. Again, dear reader…. worse still, she was 90 miles away and my husband had to go get her and the car. At 3 am.)

Have a way to coordinate with your spouse, so that one of you doesn’t say yes if the other one of you needed the car.

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You have the right to say no, especially when you are not sure if you need the car yourself. You own the car, you pay the insurance, and you have a right to say no if the au pair requests to use the car but giving it to her is inconvenient for you. That said,

Try hard not to be arbitrary in your decisions . Don’t say no when she asks to use the car when you’re peeved at her because the kids’ laundry *still* isn’t done. You and your au pair will be happier if/when you can get into a pattern so that she can anticipate when she might use the car and when you might not be able to offer it to her.

Hold your au pair accountable for treating the car with care, and hold her accountable for keeping it tidy. Your au pair should always leave the car at least as clean as she found it. And, be realistic about holding the au pair accountable for wear and tear of the car; make a distinction between the effects of sensible use and the effects of abuse.

In families with two cars, don’t habitually offer the nicer car to the au pair. She doesn’t need the car with the CD changer and surround sound, let me tell you. That’s another way to invite trouble, because you’ll care more if the ‘best’ car is damaged than if the second best car is damaged.

There are more best practices in addition to the ones I’ve listed here, so parents chime in with yours. Also, check out the next post, in which advice is offered mom to mom about an au pair driving her host mom wild. [Tomorrow: Advice Wanted: How to manage too much “personal” use of family car ]

Check out these posts about Au Pairs and Cars:

When your Au Pair has a Fender-Bender — Who pays, and what, and how?
After the Car Accident: Advice on what to talk about with your Au Pair
Using the Car: Guidelines

Advice wanted: How to Keep Track of Au Pair’s personal car use?
Want Safe Driving? Forbid your Au Pair to use the cellphone in the car. Period

{ 39 comments }

CT Mom March 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm

How do you deal with use of the car when there is a 3rd car? …. CTMom, we’ve queued this question up for Thursday. That way, we can have a separate post covering ‘the third car’ and including more tips & concerns. Thanks in advance for being patient… we’ll do our best to make it worth the wait!! APM

MTR September 22, 2009 at 11:45 am

I need to rant about other families in my cluster. Yes, I know that using the car is a privilege, but still…

We live in a non-walking area where you cannot get anywhere without a car. And I am getting more and more irritated with other families in my cluster because they do not let their au pairs use their cars or put unreasonable curfews on it.

It seems to me that my AP is the only one who is allowed to use the car for personal use. She is constantly driving all her friends all over the place. Most of her friends do not have car use at all. Some can only use the car while working to drive kids around, but not for personal use. One girl can only have the car till 11pm, so she cannot use it to go out on Friday and Saturday night.

So my AP ends up the chauffer of the group. At least I found out that these girls are helping her with the gas as I do not cover her personal gas use. But, the car our AP uses is old, and I do mean OLD. It is in good shape and we keep a close eye on, but still. In addition, I have heard my AP complain a few times that she would like to stay home and relax on weekend, but other AP’s drag her to go out, b/c they cannot go anywhere without her – she is the driver.

How do these families expect their AP’s to get around without cars? Even is some distances are walkable, under 2.5 miles, for the most part, we don’t have sidewalks, so it is not safe to walk anyway. I was told by my AP, that one of her friends has an issue of getting to classes because family does not want to drive her and they don’t give her the car. They finally agreed to a class on Sunday, 1.5 away and promised AP that they will drive her to the train and then pick her up, but now that classes started there were issues of AP getting to and from the train. This is the AP who does not work evening at all, is done at 3;30pm and could’ve taken a weekday class 15 min from where they live.

We only have 2 cars, and AP uses our second car almost exclusively. When we need it, we tell her in advance, but usually we are fine with just one car.

OK, my rant is over. Thanks for letting me get it out.

Anonymous September 22, 2009 at 1:46 pm

You have made a fine point. I have had the same experience and my older sister tells me that it happens when you have teenage kids, too. Now I have sharpened up. I have definite responsibilities to my own aupair but I have no obligation to other families. They are not in my social group and many of them have children who go to schools other than those my kids attend. So I have no problem saying no. My aupair can always use me as an excuse. Talk to your LCC, if you like her. Ask her if she can give you the names of other families who are reasonable and do share the car. Call these other people and set up a driving network. One woman called one time and was looking for a ride for her aupair to and from every single meeting. There was no thought of reciprocity. I told her that I just wasn’t interested in a one way relationship. She said I was selfish.
You know what ? I did not care. You know what else ? She found someone else who volunteered her own aupair to do this. The girls
really weren’t friends but I heard that the aupair picked up the other girl willingly. Eventually, both host mother and aupair felt just as you do now. Then, this woman called the LCC looking for a ride. The LCC felt that she simply could not do this for one family. Where is the fairness in that / Wherever you go, you are going to find moochers. Practice now for when your children’s friends try to take advantage of your good nature.

PA au pair mom September 22, 2009 at 9:02 pm

We are 25 minutes, by car, from the nearest host family and we had similar problems last year. Our AP drove to the homes of the other APs and met them in their towns but they were never allowed to use the car to drive to our town/home. Our AP put 13,000 miles on our car.

So, this time, before our AP arrived, we asked our LCC for assistance in making reasonable “guidelines” about trips to the neighboring towns. We also asked for her assistance in contacting other host families about letting their APs make the occasional trip to our home. So far, in 3 weeks, one AP has been allowed to make the trip and it was great.

We don’t mind allowing our AP to drive and making the effort, but we would like someone else to also make an effort as well.

Anonymous September 22, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Another idea even though it is easier said than done. Maybe your LCC knows aupairs with other programs in your town who have nice families. Is there an electronic bulletin board in town or a college dean who perhaps knows some foreign exchange students with good families ? My LCC tells me that there are a lot of families who are very , very difficult about the car and it is a continuing source of difficulty for some aupairs in the cluster. All she can do is coax, though, because the agency does not mandate sharing of the car.

MTR September 22, 2009 at 9:55 pm

To last anonymous,

I double my LLC will get involved in this as she herself does not allow her AP to use the car.

Anonymous September 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm

That’s pretty sad. Good luck with this.

Darthastewart September 23, 2009 at 11:18 am

This is one way that I feel the program and many families do au-pairs an injustice- They bring them here, and give them no way to get out of the house. It’s a mostly car oriented society, and they are land-locked, with no escape.
We’ve been on the receiving end of others taking advantage of our au-pair being able to drive too many times, and it drives me batty. But I feel that the right thing is to have a car for the ap to drive, so we provide one, with fairly liberal terms.

Charlotte1 February 10, 2010 at 5:48 pm

We are hoping for some advice. My husband and I are expecting our first au pair in May. We have a one year old and while we asked all candidates about their driving experience, we never emphasized it as a requirement. I never planned to have an AP drive our one year old, and because I work part time we don’t anticipate situations where we would need her to drive our son. I have been reading the AP mom blog and think it is a wonderful resource. From my reading, it seems like almost all host families have provided their APs with driving privileges. It also seems like not having driving privileges is a ‘deal breaker’ for some APs. We don’t have a third car, meaning that if AP were to drive she would be using one of our relatively new vehicles. We are also responsible for all but $250 of the deductable if the AP has an accident. I was shocked by the extra expense of insurance to cover our AP, and since we don’t need her to drive as part of her work responsibilities, my husband and I have decided that we are not going to add her to our insurance and will take responsibility for getting her where she needs to go.
My question is, whether other families on this website have opted not to have their APs drive, or whether it is highly unusual not to allow an AP to have driving privileges for her personal time. While we have told our matched AP that we won’t need her to drive, I am concerned that once she gets here, this might be a source of conflict if ‘all the other APs’ are driving. We are very curious as to how others have handled this situation and kept their AP happy when you could not afford all the extras…

I want this to be a happy and productive year for all of us, but the expenses I never anticipated keep adding up and I feel that not having her drive is one way to save money and avoid the stress of having to replace a vehicle and face higher insurance premiums in the future!
Any and all advice would be appreciated!

NoVA Host Mom February 10, 2010 at 6:30 pm

We do not allow our APs to drive and specifically request non-drivers in our application process. We got our first AP when our first daughter was 2 months old (our second daughter is due next month). Since there was no way I was letting an inexperienced driver (certainly inexperienced for our DC Metro area) take my infant first born anywhere in a car, there was no need. We provide her with a Metro access card and provide money for the card for her travel expenses to and from school. For anywhere else she wishes to go, she may put her own money on the card and use it for the bus (and/or train system) to get around. We are on our 2nd AP and it has not been a problem yet.

There is no way I wanted to pick up the added expense of use (and potential loss) of the car, which while it is a third car for us, it is still a very useful one (my husband has a 2-door “guy car” from before we were married and it is not car seat friendly).

Is every AP okay with this? Probably not, but then again I am not looking for the entitled princess, but someone who recognizes that we do other things to make things easier for her instead. Please do not try to keep up with the “Joneses” in this AP race for privileges — it’s not worth the headache or financial drain.

NoVA Host Mom February 10, 2010 at 11:53 pm

And yes, HD and I drive AP to her meetings that she wishes to attend (and have provided rides for other APs home, not that a single HF ever thanked us for it), and give her rides to church when the weather is bad and one of us is available to do so (more as a courtesy to help her out, not as an obligation of ours). Frequently though, she takes the bus to a nearby AP from her country and they both bus around to do some shopping.

It does very much help that we are near (within a few blocks) of public transportation and that we are in a high-use public transport area. Obviously, when the children are older and we are considering nursery schools, etc., then our needs will be reassessed, but for now, a non-driver is the way to go for us.

AnnaAuPair February 11, 2010 at 10:46 am

I know, that there are AuPairs who think, that they NEED a car – but if you live in an area, that has some kind of public transportation, they don’t!!!
In both my HFs I didn’t have a car. And I got around well. Sure, it would have been nice somtimes, to not have to wait for the bus. But I also didn’t have to worry about having an accident and having trouble with the insurance.

When I was out with the kids (and sometimes, when I was out alone), my HM would pay the bus-ticket.

So, tell her, before she arrives, about ways to get around without a car.
Often, there are other AuPairs in the area, who can pick those up who don’t. It’s not as hard as it sounds =)

My 2 cents February 10, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I think it so very much depends on where you are and what kind of public transit is within walking distance. If you are in a more urban setting where she can truly get out and about without a car, great. If not, it’s more of an issue. Personally, it would be a deal breaker for me to not have some kind of access to a vehicle on my off time. Mind you, not my own car, or even a car every day, but some kind of access.

Also, keep in mind it is not fair to other host parents if your au pair is constantly shuttled around by other au pairs in those families’ vehicles. Your au pair will likely want — and you will want her — to go out with friends on a regular basis. If you decide to forego the car, then you really should offer to drive her and the others to places to even it out, and that can be it’s own source of pain.

Ann from NE February 10, 2010 at 10:03 pm

We’re same as NoVA Host Mom – we’ve had 2 APs (both pre-matched), and specifically told them in our communications and to the agencies that we would waive the driving requirement. We’ve avoided drivers for multiple reasons: cost/safety, space (our condo comes with only one parking spot, so it’s difficult enough for us to find overnight winter parking in the neighborhood for my spouse’s care, buying/parking a 3rd AP car would be ridicilous), and necessity. Also, in the E. European country from where I wanted both APs (bilingual reasons), few young people have driver’s licenses, so imposing that requirement would have narrowed my pre-matched candidate pool too much (the high cost for girls to applying to the AP program, and the English language requirement, already does so enough). We live in suburb of large metropolis, on two bus lines, within 10 minutes of subway ride downtown. Our APs were always able to take our daughter to her playgroups by bus/metro or walking, and there are several parks/playgrounds within walking distance. On their personal time, they could usually get out and meet their friends on public transport or occasionally get a ride. When needed, we drove them to AP meetings and classes and to airport/train station for weekend trips. Now that my daughter started elementary school, I don’t have an AP anymore, but it wouldn’t make sense in our housing situation because the afternoon enrichment classes she now needs to get to aren’t within easy public transportation access so I drive her myself and have arranged flex-time from work. With the 2nd AP, I specifically switched agencies because the first agency’s cluster mostly had girls who lived in the far suburbs where a car was necessary so our AP was left out of the social network. The 2nd agency had a more urban, closer to us cluster network so that helped a lot. There are a couple of other APs around us whose families don’t require them to drive. I think there were several benefits. For my APs – the need to push my daughter around in a stroller and walk a lot kept them in shape; no need for a gym membership. They also became very confident at navigating and urban geography. And my daughter is a very seasoned rider of buses, urban and commuter trains. By the end my APs and my daughter had many great field trips by public transportation: to the beach; to the zoo; to an art museum a 60 minute ride away; to a suburb to visit an AP who picked them up in a car. I was actually jealous of their daily “adventures”. In terms of cost, the AP had a metro system card that you add value to. We would reimburse her for trips with our daughter and to classes; she would pay for personal travel on her own. Children ride for free anyway.

PA au pair mom February 10, 2010 at 10:15 pm

We live in a rural area and there is no public transport. Not having access to some kind of transport, be it car, bus, metro, etc, would be very difficult. As long as there is mass transit nearby, it shouldn’t be a problem. Just be honest and discuss it with your AP.

good luck.

Sara Duke February 10, 2010 at 10:35 pm

We actually making car driving one of our highest priorities. We have a medically fragile child who has several doctor’s appointments every month. When I have had to transport her, it costs me 4 hours of leave each time – just for transport, not for the appt.! The year we didn’t have an au pair, both my husband and zeroed out our available leave (we always attend every appt., but the AP transports our daughter either to or from school), mainly for providing transportation (and covering for nurses who failed to show up for shift, but at least had the decency to give us notice).

If you live in an area where the AP can readily catch public transportation to meet her education requirements, attend cluster meetings, or meet friends/sightsee/work out in gym in her free time, then you don’t need a driver. If you don’t, then it may become a bone of contention. I think homesickness is more acute in APs who are geographically isolated. If you are isolated, are you willing to be the driver all of the time? Personally, I would find it difficult.

Our current AP is an acceptable driver of the “family van.” After a lot of time of effort on both her part and our part, she is now able to drive our minivan and to transport our children (except when it snows, so needless to say, we have had to do some schedule shifting in the past few weeks to accommodate this).

However, even though she swore up and down that she learned to drive on a manual transmission, her ability to drive the “au pair car” is mediocre. We have made it clear that if she makes the effort to prove to us that she can drive the car, then she will be able to use it in her free time. Her efforts have waxed and waned. The end result – she takes public transportation for 2 1/2 hours one-way to attend the religious institution of her choice. She knows it would take 30 minutes by car and she knows what she needs to do to achieve it. I have told my husband that he may no longer to offer to train her – if she really wants to be able to drive the car she will ask.

For our 4 previous APs, the “au pair car” was usually set aside for them, and we gave them fair warning when we needed access to it (we live a stone’s throw from excellent public transportation, so a good driver ends up driving both of our vehicles more than us). All had to pass my husband’s test, and once that happened we considered them free to move about the country. The furthest most ever ventured was the beach – most shied away from driving to other cities. (Generous, perhaps, but most APs don’t have to deal with a medically fragile child on a day-to-day basis – our generosity is offset by our APs’ hard work.)

Chev February 10, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I agree with the other posters, if you live near a lot of easy to use public transport or other au pairs who drive, then you don’t need to let your AP drive. I have 2 AP friends over here who don’t drive. One knew this ahead of time and her host parents said they’d drive her where ever she needed to go. So far she’s had to cancel a few times because they’ve made plans or haven’t gotten home in time. Another was told she would have access to a car on her off time. Which is technically true, but she has to book the car 2 weeks in advance and cannot have it Friday through Sunday. So she’s looking at buying her own car because she’s not comfortable always relying on our friends to pick her up and drive her everywhere.
I get spoiled by my HF and have access to a car all the time, but i think if we lived in a city with great public transport then i’d be ok without having one to use.

Jane February 11, 2010 at 11:37 am

We don’t have nearby public transportation, so we give our AP almost exclusive use of our 2nd car once my husband is home from work and all through the weekend. We also considered driving the AP ourselves at first, but after 2 weeks of doing that while our AP waited for her driving glasses to be shipped from home, we found it was just too much on us. We can’t constantly drive someone to night activities with small kids at home.

We put a specific curfew on the car after our first au pair repeatedly stayed out until 3:00 am (doing who knows what since she was 19) and caused some minor damage when she drove off the road half asleep. Thank God she didn’t hurt herself or someone else, but that taught me that writing “have the car home at a reasonable hour” in the handbook wasn’t going to cut it. Since then I’ve had to be very specific and direct with all of our au pairs about car rules, otherwise they would drive it later and beyond areas I am comfortable with. One other caution–even though I specifically wrote in our handbook that the au pair could not drive the car into the city (there are easy train options for that), she did it anyway thinking we would not know. The GPS gave it away.

The car has been an area in which our APs constantly push our limits. In fact, during the recent blizzards I’ve been daily asked whether she could drive…common sense does not seem to apply. However, I don’t see any way in which we could have an AP in our area and not let her drive. So, we constantly repeat our expectations/rules and hold the line. If something were to happen to this 2nd car, my husband would not have access to work and it would not be easy for us to afford a replacement. Yet our AP does not seem to understand that driving to the mall in a blizzard is not a necessity and not worth the risk, to herself, to others, or to the car. Do others have this problem? I think we are very generous with the car–she can drive it during all of her free time, just not past 1 am, not into the city, and not in dangerous conditions that we would not drive ourselves in.

Darthastewart February 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I think your requests are fairly reasonable. There are just some au-pairs that aren’t going to appreciate what you do, and will try to take as much advantage as they can.

I certainly do not allow them to drive in the ice/snow here- it’s usually icy. And people here don’t know how to drive in it. It isn’t even the AP’s driving I’m worried about so much as the other people’s.

Mom23 February 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm

We live in the city, have one car and have always put our au pairs on our car insurance so that they have access to the car. My husband and I commute to our jobs by metro so the au pair really has the car all day (and when the kids are in school she can use it to do her errands). Before kids my husband and I did not own a car.

We used to let our au pairs use the car whenever they wanted as long as we were not using it. Our third au pair completely abused this privilege. She would go out on Thursday or Friday nights, park two blocks away which then meant that I was dragging the kids around on Friday or Saturday morning looking for the car. I also wasn’t entirely sure if she was drinking or not. When the car is out of commission we can still get to work and school, but things like grocery shopping are difficult. After her, it was no more using the car at night. There are plenty of good transportation options and a cab never costs more than $10 (usually less). For classes I usually let the au pair use the car at night.

Jane, I do not think that you are being unreasonable. While I can understand that your au pair is a bit stir crazy from the blizzard (I am too), I don’t think that jeapardizing getting stuck in the snow is worth it. I haven’t driven my car in a week (I would never find a parking place if I moved it for one thing), but I also don’t think it is worth driving unneccessarily.

Sara Duke February 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

We don’t let any of our APs drive in the snow, unless they pass the HD driving test first. APs from Austria and Sweden excelled at it, one from Brazil eventually got it, the second from Brazil never bothered — but it was also a mild winter the year she lived with us. Our current AP will not be offered a chance to try (and who knew what a winter it would be!) – she turned us down in December, and now that we’ve had endless snow in February, we feel, why bother (and quite frankly it’s too deep to find a safe parking lot to practice driving into a skid).

We set an example by not driving during snow emergencies ourselves, and by doing our best to plan ahead by making a thorough grocery-shopping list in advance of the snow.

I do tell my APs that it is a good idea to get outside and walk for a little bit every day, even when it’s cold and snowy, to reduce cabin fever.

Jennifer October 26, 2010 at 10:59 am

We have had our AP for 2 1/2 months. She was a rematch to our home and she was concerned with the car use in the interviews. We have been very lenient with our previous AP’s with the car. We live in Atlanta and 2 have driven to Florida and 1 to North Carolina. We are 15-20 miles north of the city and have in our guidelines that the car cannot go into downtown without special permission. There is public transportation they can utilize.

Her first weekend here she asked me if she could live to a downtown club to meet some friends she met online. She has since spent every weekend with another AP who lives closer into the city and the other AP is driving to the clubs. In the past 3+ weeks I’ve noticed a serious decline in perfomance and she has become very detached. I talked to her last night and she said that she is having issues with the car use and wants to be able to drive downtown on the weekends to the nightclubs. She does not want to take the public transportation because “she is not comfotable becuase they are dressed to go out”.

I’m not feeling too comfortable with this and so far am not willing to allow her to drive downtown knowing that they are drinking and don’t feel it’s safe.

I’m wondering how flexible other families are/would be in this situation.

Melissa October 27, 2010 at 2:06 am

I dealt with an AP and car issues for a year, and we made it through the year because she was an otherwise great AP. But it was very frustrating and got worse and more irritating as the year went on. I look back now (now that we have a mature AP who does not push the car rules) and think never again would I put up with that. Have a frank talk and share your concern about her performance issues. If she is developing a poor attitude because she can’t use the car as she wants, you are headed down a very frustrating path.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 27, 2010 at 7:15 am

Most of my APs who took the car to go clubbing in DC understood that they were the “designated driver.” When they tired of the role, they pushed their friends to request use of their family’s car, but because we basically have a dedicated car and no curfew, our APs usually end up doing the driving. I had one AP who wanted to drink when she went clubbing, and she and her friends hired a taxi. They’d meet at my house and when they were done the other APs usually spent the night.

Personally, I am incredibly flexible, but I wouldn’t reward a decline in performance with more privileges. I would sit the AP down, and tell her that I’ve thought about her request, but that she is going to have to earn the privilege of driving the car by being energetic with the kids and showing that she’s responsible enough not to drink and drive. Tell her that you’ll reconsider her request in a month. In the meantime, she and her friends can pool their money together for a taxi if they don’t want to travel to the clubs by bus, or find another solution that suits them. You can’t force her to be less detached.

HRHM October 26, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I gotta say, not very.

There are abundant red flags here, from the concern in the interview, to the meeting friends “met online” to the first weekend plea to break the rules (already???really?) to the decline in work and dettachment from the family. Sadly, she is making it clear what her priorities are. While I never begrudge my AP her social life, there needs to be a balance. My current AP is older and very invested in her independance. I explained our car curfew and milage limits prior to matching and her reply was,”Maybe once you see that I am very responsible and a good driver, you’ll feel comfortable relaxing those rules”. She didn’t immediately try to wear me down, but rather did a great job, was reliable and trustworthy and proved herself before asking me to make the curfew later. Fast forward to now (7 months into it) and she has totally stepped up while I’m deployed – so now she can keep the car out overnight to stay at a friend’s house, can drive further if she arranges it in advance, etc. She has earned it. Your AP obviously doesn’t understand that the car is a reward for an excellant job well done. I would discuss this once (if you haven’t already) and prepare for rematch when things don’t get better. My tendency would be to say “IF you do a GREAT job over the next 3 months, we will consider relaxing on the rules” (this of course assumes that you are sure she wouldn’t drink and drive). Then give her a chance to rise to the occasion.
At this point, though, the well may already be poisoned and you shouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t have it in her. 2 1/2 months is pretty early to already be bitching about the creature-comforts if everything else is good.

Busy Mom October 26, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Ditto. I wouldn’t be lenient on this one either. Here in Northern NJ, we set strict car rules as well. Suffice it to say that driving into NY City is completely out of the question, but some au pairs have permission to drive to Hoboken where they apparently go to bars. This is outside our driving area not only b/c of the risk of drinkng and driving, but because it can be a challenging drive (heavy traffic), even for an experienced driver, and we don’t want our cars parked on the street in an urban area. Slacking off on performance because she’s not allowed to drive to clubs – a rule that she was aware of upon matching – seems like a warning sign. Good luck.

calif mom October 27, 2010 at 10:49 am

Hate to say it, but asking about car use in an interview is a red flag for us. Tell them to pool cash for cab fare.

As for meeting people online, well, that’s one I’m not totally willing to throw her overboard with, because I’ve met people online, too. (One day, CV and I will have coffee!)

Bad feeling about this one and would seriously consider forcing the issue now. I would sit her down for a serious talk in which you state clearly that you are NEVER going to be comfortable with her driving your car to go clubbing downtown, and you are concerned about her performance during the week. If partying is the most important thing to her, it’s not going to improve spontaneously. If you are very clear now (don’t get all soft and try to bend over backwards; you’re not being unreasonable), you will see how she reacts. Really, it’s up to her to either step up or move on. Better to give her the reality check now and move on again if you need to. We had one very bad year with two rematches…. Maybe check out the Grandma string and see if that AP is interested! :-)

anon this time March 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Okay, we had a relaxed, we never said no, use of the second car (we don’t require a driver). but now this week, she hit a parked car and until we know if they’re making an insurance claim we’re asking her not to drive. i’m not sure what to do – we can drive her where she needs to go while we find out, but if they DON’T make a claim, what’s next? She hit the gas rather than the break TWICE when leaving the library (for her own personal time, so yes she’s a good au pair, goes to the library on her spare time)… Both cars sustained damage, ours less than theirs, but enough that we need to get it fixed. Do we require her to take safe driving lessons before driving again or do we just assume she’s gotten over it and won’t do it again?

Taking a Computer Lunch March 18, 2011 at 8:57 pm

BTDT – if your AP hits another car and YOU don’t make a claim, there should be no deductible (the deductible is if she did enough damage for YOU to make a claim). However, your rates could rise. Your insurance may require her to be named on your policy for the duration IF she drives your car again (and you haven’t done this already). If they don’t make a claim and you do – there is the deductible and your rates may go up anyway.

Fortunately the “AP car” is almost spotless after 5 years. The family minivan, on the hand hand, has been roughed up by DH, by the driver who failed to notice I stopped for pedestrians, by an AP as she backed out of a pull-in parking spot… I would never make a claim on it unless it was impossible to drive. I call it my suburban pin cushion.

However, I would recommend that you require that she take a series of driving lessons before you let her behind the wheel of your car again. Her choice, right? You don’t require a driver. I had two APs with appallingly bad driving skills upon arrival (pretty good in a 10-year run). One was confident and caught on quickly without an incident (although several deep breaths were taken). The other hadn’t a clue. In hindsight, for the second, I wish we had required a US driving license before we let her behind the wheel of the “AP car.” In going through old email, I discovered just how many times I wrote DH (the official AP passenger) “X needs to practice her driving again.”

A minor fender-bender, IMPO, is not worth rematch, but guarding your car carefully is.

Dorsi March 19, 2011 at 2:15 am

I am a little skeptical of the “we can drive her where she needs to go” — Other than class and cluster meetings, APs don’t need to go anywhere. This seems like a bad start that could make you really resentful. Maybe you don’t live in a place where the APs are physically close, or there is public transit, but I would seriously consider helping her find alternative transportation options, other than you shuttling her around.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm

One other question – does this German AP have an American driver’s license? While we don’t require it of APs who do not intend to extend with us — and it is not required by our state — we do encourage it (and reimburse the AP for every step of the process). It is a good benchmark for understanding English, for conveying a common sense attitude toward the rules of the road (and for our minivan — demonstrating a knowledge of moving a larger vehicle through space).

While my family is generally extremely generous and provides an “AP car” (and rarely make claims on its use) – if an AP doesn’t pass the HD driving test, she doesn’t get to use the car AT ALL (not even to drive HK around) until she improves. And the one time that happened we put a lot of pressure to bear because we require a driver.

anonthistime March 18, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Thanks. I think we will look into some driving classes. She’s from Germany, I felt confident in her skills. I’m not sure if she was distracted or what, but either way, to ensure she can get around, I’d like her to be able to continue to drive, but she’s 20 and you can imagine the rate increase if the other people make a claim. We most likely won’t have insurance cover our damage because the damage can probably be fixed in under the deductable amount. If we planned to do AP for a few more years we’d buy a cheap car and do an individual insurance for AP, but honestly this is a 2 year stint while I finish up a few things-career-wise, and then we move to another country. It just isn’t worth the investment in a 3rd car for 2 years max of having an AP. :)

We didn’t consider rematch at all – she’s excellent in 90 percent of what she does, but last year the bus line by our house was cut so to get anywhere she has to either be dropped off at the bus line a 2-3 minute drive away (20 minute walk due to stop lights), etc. We’re 5 minute drive from all the major needs, but not close enough to any other AP family so not driving for her would mean she’d be less satisfied and I’m sure that would show up in her attitude with the kids, etc…

Taking a Computer Lunch March 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Our community has a private driving school run by off-duty police officers. When one AP hit another car backing out of a pull-in parking space, we shared the cost of 3 2-hour sessions with her (we require a driver and it was that or rematch). After the last session, DH had a serious talk with the officer (who had been with her for all three sessions). While no driver has a bubble to prevent an accident from occurring, a good tester should be able to determine whether the AP is a distracted driver and likely to make mistakes.

Emily March 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm

When we had our mediation meeting, our last aupair expressed a LOT of anger toward the following. She gave me the “death” stare the entire time.
1. we asked her to not drive in the snow or when it is icy out. She said she could drive in the snow and on ice safely back in her home country (Ukraine). She also thought we had to accept all risks of her having an accident since she was our aupair.
2. we asked her not to drive one time when we were getting 2 inches of rain.
3. we ask her to be careful when driving in the rain. She said we should just let her take the car whenever she wanted and say nothing to her.
4. we asked her to carpool with other aupairs and take turns driving when going to aupair meetings.
5. After she hit the island that holds the gas pumps at the gas station and put a 2-foot dent on our car, I told her the accident was all her fault. (she claimed she has never had a car accident on her profile, among other lies, on greataupair.com after our rematch)
6. we told her we would sometimes need our second vehicle (the one she used) on the weekends (before 3pm) while a first car is in the shop (we hit a deer). It had $7000 worth of damage and was in the shop for about a month.
Needless to say, she is no longer with us. Not only was she not good with our children (main reason to rematch), the entitlement that she had was unbelievable.

JJ host mom March 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Wow, she sounds exactly like the au pair we just went into rematch with.

anonthistime, our au pair just crashed our car and caused $8K worth of damage. Our insurance premiums went up about $600 a year. Luckily for us (unluckily for them) the party she hit seems like they didn’t have insurance because they took off without getting any of her information. So they’re unlikely to press charges. Otherwise our insurance premiums would likely have gone up even higher. So yeah, if you can just fix it without going through insurance, definitely do that.

You could ask her to pay for at least one driving lesson so that a neutral third party can evaluate her driving skills.

anonthistime March 20, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I think that is what we’ll do. She’s been with us just around 2 months, and in our handbook we indicate that we’ll split the costs after she’s been with us for 60 days (so we don’t invest money/time into something if things aren’t going well, since we don’t require a driver), so we’re at that point anyway. She read and agreed to the handbook before we did the second interview, so now we’re just going to go forward with it. She hasn’t had any issues with not driving since this happened. She did ask once, and she seemed like she understood why we were waiting on the insurance claim thing.

Our state allows them to drive for 6 months before needing to get a state license, which is why we do the 60 days before we split the cost for a driving class and such. She has gone driving with us many times, and actually drove back from a play date that day (I was in the car). I don’t feel she’s a bad driver, but I can’t help but wonder if she was texting or if her phone vibrated when she was parking because she hit the gas twice when she was trying to reverse.

As for the other posts – yes, she doesn’t need to go to many places, but to be happy where we are, driving would be benficial, though not required. Once summer comes along, walking to the store (10 minute or so walk), where you can also find an ice cream shop, fast food, hair dresser, etc, will not be a possibility, so I’d like for her to be able to drive, but not if she doesn’t see that this crash as something that is likely to affect us for many years to come (we have had no other claims on cars in the 7+ years HD and I have had insurance together).

Also, she was hoping to take a college class this summer that isn’t at our “near” college (25 minute drive instead of a 5 minute drive) and I don’t want to wonder 4 times a week for 6 weeks this summer if she’s driving responsibly, when before the worry was whether or not she’d get lost :)

Should be working March 21, 2011 at 4:12 am

Question: Why are you waiting to see if the other party makes a claim before letting her drive again or proceeding to whatever the next step will be? It doesn’t make her a better or worse driver if the other party does or does not contact insurance. Or maybe there is something I don’t realize about insurance rules in such an instance.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

Personally, when a HP witnesses or suspects that something an AP did inappropriately contributed to an accident, I think it’s okay to suspend driving privileges, even if it’s just for a few days or weeks. It allows the HP to cool off and the AP sees that the HP takes it seriously. When a HF has to absorb extra costs in insurance or repair, it is a big deal. There are plenty of things to distract young drivers besides cell phones, and if we, as HP, brush it off, then we’re sending a message to APs that it’s okay — but we’re also sending a message to our kids that it’s okay.

My son is now old enough to be counting the few years he left to get a learner’s permit. I want him to understand that driving is a privilege, not a right. (My APs generally have watched their friends beg for the privilege of driving the family car, so they quickly understand that having access to a car is a privilege.)

anonthistime March 21, 2011 at 11:38 am

TACL – that is exactly why we’re waiting. We don’t want her to 1) not see that this is serious since we are awaiting this whole insurance (potential) fiasco and 2) to make sure we follow insurance guidelines if they want us to put her into driving classes. I mean, what if she does something similar before we even find out if the other guy is making a claim?

More info just as an FYI because it does color our perception of the situation: a few days earlier she thought someone had brushed our car door, there were a few scratches but we’re not sure that they weren’t there before. That instance we were fine with, but what if she brought it to our attention because she did something then and this one there was no way she could have blamed someone else due to angles? I do trust that she told the truth both times, but there are those “what ifs” that come up when something larger happens.

I wish I didn’t even have to think that maybe she was parked too close that other time as well, but those darn brains making connections that sometimes don’t exist…

She has a class tonight (not required for the program) and I think we’ll let her drive today, but will let her know that it is important that she parks far away from any other car and that it is only because this was scheduled before the parking lot (i hate the word) accident and I don’t have time to bring her because it is when I’m preparing dinner.

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