Ways to Take the Fury Out Of Infuriating When an Au Pair Does You Wrong

by cv harquail on September 16, 2016

There are some Host Parent – Au Pair situations where, once they happen, you can’t really do anything.  Except get steamed.

6891922045_5172449aa5_mEven when it’s more than just the Au Pair’s behavior, getting steamed at that other Host Family or even at the Au Pair Agency that let it all happen doesn’t actually help you.

So, I get it. You email Au Pair Mom with a polite, tidy, appropriate rant. And then, we post it so that members of the community can tell you:

You’re not nuts to be mad.

And…… what else?

Is there anything we can say that helps?

 

Here’s the email:

Dear AuPairMom — We were in rematch at the end of July, and we matched with a 9-month extension au pair. Her first family had wanted her to extend with them, she said she wanted to try something new, so even though she loved them, she chose to move forward with extending with another family- us.

Last weekend, she had friends from her last state visit. As they picked her up, she informed me one of the friends was her serious boyfriend. (I never would have chosen her had I known she had a serious attachment back there!!!!!)  Four days after he left town, she announced that she wants to rematch, and since her old Host Family is also in rematch, she plans to rematch with them.
WHAT!!!!!!! Is this allowed? Can an Au Pair choose to extend somewhere else, and then when she feels lonely for her old life, match back with the old family?!? 
Honestly we are now happy to say goodbye to her now that we have seen her true colors… but I feel her behavior is despicable.
I’d love any feedback.   Thanks, ~Steamed HostMom

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

NBHostMom September 16, 2016 at 11:47 am

I’d be steamed as well! My gut reaction would be to go after both the AP and agency but intellectually I know it’s likely a waste of precious time and energy.

At this point the harm is done and the decision is made. What you are in control of is your next step. Back to rematch? Leave the program for awhile? Stomp around the house in anger for a few weeks until you’re collected enough to move forward? Boils down to you can’t control others behavior, you can control how you react to it.

I think you’ll find lots of empathy from other host families, you got a bad deal.

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NoVA Twin Mom September 16, 2016 at 1:28 pm

I agree, I’d be beyond steamed.

Is this allowed? I guess it’s not specifically prohibited, but that doesn’t mean it’s the “right thing to do.” At this point, though, I’d turn your anger/need to DO something toward fixing things. Your agency can’t exactly order your au pair not to rematch and to stay where she is – the au pair could just pick up in the middle of the night and leave. As you pointed out, you don’t exactly want her at this point anyway, but you do want/need qualified childcare. The agency- well, let’s be honest. If this will make both the au pair and the former host family “happy” continued customers, they’ll probably let it happen.

If your agency is going to allow this to happen – because they will need to be involved to keep the au pair’s visa status regular – then make them work for you too. You want a person you can call (that will answer) that will help you find another au pair. This isn’t a normal rematch – if the agency will be complicit in this happening, they need to step up their game on your behalf. Give them a list of nonnegotiables (infant/noninfant, pets the au pair could be allergic to/afraid of, driving level you require, English level you require (though that’s probably too subjective to be useful), experience with x number of kids in y age range) and a list of nice to haves (types of experience, region of the world you tend to lean toward, other things). None of this “limit of candidates in your profile” nonsense – as soon as someone comes in that meets your nonegotiables and has some of your desirables, you get to see the profile. They need to help you get out of the hole they’re digging you into.

Good luck.

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Seattle Mom September 16, 2016 at 5:09 pm

Wow, that stinks! Ugh! I got nothing for you except empathy. What a crappy thing to do…

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WestMom September 16, 2016 at 6:29 pm

Are you officially in rematch? Is she back in your home or is she not coming back at all? Of course you need to focus your energy on finding the right next AP (and I would look at other agencies as well), but I would give her 24hrs to pick up her stuff and get out of my house. Clearly she has another family or boyfriend to stay with during ‘this difficult transition’. You don’t owe her any courtesies at this point.

Keep calm, forge on, but you don’t have to more saint than the pope and keep her in your home for the next two weeks. Beu-bye.

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SeattleHD September 17, 2016 at 11:25 am

We had an extending au pair this year that quickly crashed and burned in a different way (but the motivation was really to be near romantic attachments), but the moral of the story is be very wary of au pairs extending elsewhere than their original family. Of course, they are the only ones you see. Their motivations are rarely stated up front (well, there is a surface motivation, but it’s usually a publicly acceptable one). The crash and burn was due to some extremely unethical behavior on her part (which only came to light after she had left anyway of her instigation). When we brought it up with the agency they just shrugged, even though it had serious implications for the quality of childcare at the newly rematched family.

So we changed agency. Bit of a financial hit, but ultimately worth it.

I know people tend to steer clear of mentioning specific agencies, but I think there’s room for a “Consumer Reports” type rating of au pair agencies.

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Seattle Mom September 19, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Just to provide some balance, we had an excellent au pair who was an extension from the east coast. But it helped her case that she was really truly excited to come to Seattle, and was turning down NYC families to come to us. Her motivation was people though- she had friends from home (Thailand) who were au pairs in Seattle. She would have stayed with her original family if they would have kept her, but they no longer needed an au pair. Their loss, our gain!

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NoVA Twin Mom September 20, 2016 at 9:37 am

We also had a fantastic extension au pair, we were her second family, in a geographical area different than where she was originally. Horrors – she also extended largely because she didn’t have anything better to do at home, not because of some definable reason here in the US! :)

Just wanted to agree that not ALL extension au pairs crash and burn.

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Jennc September 18, 2016 at 9:23 pm

Yikes so sorry for original poster a nightmare. But i want to write on us lumping aupairs in a group especially those extending . I know We aré a Good family andcwe treat our aupairs well , however We dont live in a desireable area of the country . So it isnt un common for an Aupair to want to try a different location and family . Personally i think an Aupair is Nuts to gamble on a new everything if things are going good, but it is something an Aupair must decide. My last Aupair was decent but I couldn’t have handled her for 2 years, so I was okay when she decided to extend outside of us. But after she made decision she wasn’t so sure and had real doubts . I think you have to really be sure of why an Aupair is extending and if they are right for you . A current host family is unlikely to talk bad about their Aupair if she is trying to extend, try to glean stuff from Facebook pics, etc , and sometimes they are super good at being secretive and their is no way to know .

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Multitasking Host Mom September 18, 2016 at 10:39 pm

We had a rematch situation similar to this with an extension au pair, and it really was hard on our family. The au pair surprised us when he informed us that he wanted to go into rematch, didn’t give us any chance to discuss his issues or come up with solutions, then was gone the next day. He ended up rematching with a friend of his former host family.(He probably would have gone back to the other family, if they didn’t already have an au pair.) Mentally, he never really left that first family during the short time he was with us…planned all of his vacations to visit them, and kept in contact by phone with the host mom. In hind sight, I had talked to the host mom when we were in the interview process with this au pair, and they told me they really wanted this au pair to extend with them. I didn’t realize that this was a potential red flag. But the au pair gave us a really good reason for why he wanted to try a new situation, and we bought it.
After the au pair left, I alternated between being beyond pissed and crying hysterically. My children were totally crushed that they didn’t even get to say goodbye, and this abandonment is still something that gets brought up periodically by them. Plus, we had the stress of being left suddenly without child care. The whole situation was a big hot mess.
After we were put into rematch, there were no repercussions for the au pair at all. As for the agency, all they really provided was the chance for us to find another au pair. Our LCC was great through it all, keeping in constant contact and giving us the little bit of support she could, but the main office was no help.
I really don’t have any great advice. What helped us was talking to our former au pairs, and remembering the good that comes with hosting au pairs. When this programs works, it is great! Also, now that we have a great person talking care of our kids, that they love hanging out with, it helps to no longer brood about the past. Of course the biggest thing is time. Now that this happened awhile ago, the anger has definitely lessened. All I can do now is move on and let bygones be bygones…and hope that karma will take care of that au pair eventually!

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Anne_European Mom September 20, 2016 at 5:43 am

I read this blog with great interest. My situation is a reverse one: we live in Europe and had an American au pair (and are going to have a new one in a few days). We don’t have the au pair agencies here, it’s coordinated by a government service, so no LCC either.

But the real life situations and the emotional implications are … well… the same. Our AP was supposed to stay with us for 12 months, she signed a contract to that effect and was granted a 12 month visa. As we do not have agencies, I had to do all the paperwork myself and let me tell you it was not a piece of cake. Also quite a lot of money. She had previously stayed in another big European city a few hours from our place. So from the moment she arrived, she was all the time just planning trips and visits over there. Her focus was elsewhere. She turned out not to be a great AP and it’s a long story. In any case, after just one month she accounced that she was going back to the States to start college. She had apparently only ‘just’ found out about her admission and financial aid, and it was not possible to defer (which she said she had been planning to do).

So well not the same experience exactly but we were left emptyhanded, with a girl who maybe took advantage of us just to have a nice paid twp month holiday in Europe (we took her for 2 weeks in the French Riviera) and possibly, had not even really planned in the first place to stay the whole year with us. I fully understand your frustration.

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AZ the Au Pair December 6, 2016 at 6:09 am

Anne_European Mom, I find your comment and story really valuable.

I’m from the US and currently an au pair in France. I’m coming up on my 3 month mark and unfortunately re-matching has been on my mind a lot lately… This is my first experience as an au pair, and my host family’s first time hosting. Since this is new to both of us, it’s been really hard going through conflicts and figuring out if it’s my expectations or theirs that are flawed. While I signed a contract for 12 months and keeping with the agreement is very important to me, I want to know what is too much? It sounds like you might have a good view from the other perspective.

First, I understand a HUGE investment that has been put into this on both sides. Without an agency, there is a LOT of paperwork for visas, French social security, agreements, etc. for both parties to fill out. I personally invested a lot financially as well (without much support from family at home) in getting my visa, my plane ticket here, as well as my language course expenses now. I think both sides have put a lot into this idea of au pairing.

The issue I’m having now is that maybe our idea of au pairing isn’t the same. So is it me who’s wrong or them? I’ve had a couple open conversation with my host parents about the issues I’ve had with their expectations and while they’ve nodded and seemed on board in conversation, in reality they did nothing to change the situation.

A couple of the issues I’ve had with the family include working over-time without acknowledgement or compensation and their unclear expectations and way they’ve addressed me when I haven’t met them.

After being here a little over a month we hit the kid’s autumn vacation. This wasn’t something I had really been told about in advance and a few days before their 2-week holiday started I learned that I would be responsible for both kids for the entirety of the break while the parents kept working. They left at 7am in the morning and didn’t get back around 6:45pm (18:45) in the evening, Monday to Friday. After agreeing to a contract that said no more than 30 hours a week (which is also French law), this seemed like a lot to me (almost 12 hour days, totaling to nearly 60 hours a week for 2 weeks!). The breach in our contract was neither acknowledged nor compensated for in this period. After the 2 weeks were over, I sat down with them and talked about some of my concerns. They seemed to understand and take all of what I said into account, but when the next holiday came around a few days later (Armistice Day) and I had the kids another 12 hours (going well over the 30 hours a week again), there was no acknowledgement of the situation or overtime hours.

But au pairing is give and take right? I wanted to try to help them if I could, knowing they both could use it. But how can I know if it’s too much? Where do I draw the line, especially when I’ve voiced my concerns and they still go unchanged? This last week they scheduled me to work a few more twelve hour days later in December…

The other issue I’ve had is understanding their expectations EXACTLY and delivering. I asked for a written schedule very early on including all my responsibilities, and they gave me a couple pieces of paper with some hand written notes, but not much else. The issue is that I’ve since learned that they have many more expectations of me, not just for working responsibilities, but family related that I didn’t know about until I failed to do them. On one of my off days last weekend I went to my morning religious service as usual and then afterward a friend invited me to work on our language course homework at the library. Since it was my off day, I went out with them and got home probably 3-4 hours later than I normally do on Sundays. I probably would have texted my host parents letting them know I’d be back later, but my phone was dead. It was only a few hours, so I figured it would be no big deal. When I arrived, my host dad was furious with me and demanded an explanation as to where I’d been. He sat me down and told me to explain myself. I said what I’d been doing and why I’d assumed it would be okay, as it was my day off. He went on about how worried they’d been about me and how they couldn’t go out and be productive with their day because they didn’t know where I was or what I was doing.

I understand concern about where I was, but I felt very trapped and scared as he yelled at me in front of his children. I think he wants to take the role of “host dad” a little too far into the realm of “real dad.” But while an au pair is supposed to be like a big sister, I’m still an adult and the idea of having to report to someone with every decision and move I make is very uncomfortable.

So do I call it quits and find a new family? I’ve tried to be open and talk with them about my feelings but after being yelled at I’m having a hard time feeling safe and respected in open conversations. We’ve both invested so much in getting to this point, and I would hate to be the one to break this agreement. But where do I draw the line and say enough is enough?

What are the norms and expectations you have of an au pair as a French host family? How do/would you deal with overtime? What about integration into family life and the extent of the relationship? What perspective can you give?

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Anne_European Mom December 13, 2016 at 7:05 pm

You will find my reply below

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Anne_European Mom December 13, 2016 at 3:46 pm

AZ The Au Pair I’m not in France, but we live in a neighboring French speaking country, so I guess the attitudes may be somewhat similar.

After reading your post I have unfortunately only one thought that comes to my mind: RUN. Sorry but they are abusing you and seem to be taking advantage of the situation and that you are alone in a foreign country.

As much as I can understand that sometimes you could be expected to cover for holidays etc and do longer days (even though we then enroll our kids in sports camps or other activities in the mornings so that our AP only has the afternoons with them), this MUST be compensated either by extra time off or my extra pay. So I find it shocking that they ignore the topic and I’m sorry to say I think they are doing it on purpose hoping you will keep quiet and keep on working like this.

Also it’s none of their business what you do on your days off. I never even know if our AP is in or out when she’s off.

French people (and I work with a lot of them) tend to follow rules and require respect at work. Also they tend to be strict about their working hours and overtime. So it’s not as if they don’t know what you are talking about…

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