What Can This Host Mom Learn From Her Experience?

by cv harquail on October 19, 2012

It can be so hard to do better with each au pair relationship.

I know that I liked to kid myself sometimes that I was actually improving– a better handbook, a clearer understanding of our family’s needs, a nicer au pair room, a sense of the arc of the year, and so on. I actually believed this from au pair #1 all the way to au pair #8, until au pair #9 & #11 pretty much broke my spirits.

The best way to learn, of course, is to experiment, reflect and revise.

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And we do. We obsess over details of this relationship, hoping to avoid similar issues with the next au pair. We host parents can only control one side of the relationship though. Every new au pair brings with him or her an entirely new set of things to adjust to, connect with, and work through.

We can make huge improvements in our own Host Parent behavior and still struggle with our next au pair.

Still, we do our best adjusting and growing how we approach our au pair relationships, becuase every improvement makes a difference in our lives, our au pairs’ lives, and our family lives.

I received a long email (after the break) from a host mom who’s moving from au pair #1 to au pair #2. She wants some help from us as she thinks about what she could/should do differently this time. She offers three specific examples of challenges she faced with her aupair, and you can also read between the lines for more information.

As always, we know only one side of the story. Let’s take this host mom at her word, and work from her perspective. (Note, identifying details have been changed. Don’t think this is that other mom in your cluster.)I

If you were in her shoes, how would you change your Host Parent approach?


Dear AuPairMom Readers–

I’d love to get your take – advice, thoughts regarding the behavior of our au pair this summer and how to address that we would like her to leave our home exactly when her year is up – we don’t want to house her a day beyond what we are obligated to do.

The following occurred in months 6-9 of our first au pair’s first year with our family 2011-2012:

We were excited to find a young woman from Europe, who used to be a champion athlete on the national level. She quit due to injury but we thought what a rich experience, she must be so motivated, energetic, etc… In many ways we were right! Additionally, she is so loving to our children, adores to play with them, draw with them, go to the park, take walks, play hopscotch, make funny faces, and sometimes cook. She is proved to be positive and energetic. Our twins will be 3 in January, and our son will be 1 next March (7 months old now) and our AP was 21 when she began and is now 22.. We have many reasons to be grateful for her in our home and lives.

We do a lot for our AP, whenever she prefers some food from the store, I add it to the list. Whenever she needs a ride to metro – I take her, if she needs the car to go to the pharmacy or bank, and if we don’t need it, she can have it, whenever she wants to have her friends over, we are happy to accommodate. She was seeking what to do for a career and expressed interest in cosmetology and I arranged an internship with my hair stylist who has his own business. In other words, we treat our AP like she is part of our family not only the person who watches our children. I wear a few hats for her – coach, mentor, Mom, employer, and maybe friend. Our desire would be to have a life-long link.

Much of our perspective probably comes from me since my parents met when my mom was an exchange student in the EU, and both my sister and my DH spent a year abroad. The most important people in my life come from this sort of cultural exchange. I am invested and committed to it and so is my husband and our children.

Challenge #1

We went away over a weekend to visit family, and our au pair wasn’t interested incoming (approximately her 6th month here with our family).

We asked if she could be responsible for the dog, so that we didn’t have to care for him down at the lake. She agreed. This is a very easy dog, laid back, needs only to go out to take care of business about every 8-12 hours, but should not be left longer than that. He has never had an accident in the house in the over 5 years we’ve been there. He is also fed twice a day, morning and evening.

We left Friday afternoon and returned around Sunday at noon. We found he had pee’d in the children’s room twice and pooped at the basement door to the backyard. The mail was still on the floor where the mailman dropped it Saturday afternoon (through the slot in the front door). There were various clues of a lack of activity at the house for a good 24 hours, including the fact that the dog ran out the door as soon as we came home, pee’d immediately and pooped twice in quick succession. Hmmmm.

That very day we talked with her, she claimed she could not understand why this happened. I am not sure that she was totally honest about when she was home and when she took the dog out. I believe she was out partying with her friends most of the weekend and was not committed or concerned to take care of him in even the minimal way needed. She said she was sad to have breeched our trust and that she would work to improve it.

Challenge #2

After that conversation she went out again that same Sunday and stayed out with friends, playing pool until around midnight when her purse (plus passport and VISA) were stolen.
So now we are looking for some important docs like I94, DS2019, passport and VISA and we are researching how to replace it all, etc… If she had just gone to get her state drivers license like I originally suggested, her papers would be safely at home and this would never have happened. UGH.

So , since we live near the city she was able to spend $110 and get her passport renewed. She found her I94, thus saving $320 in getting that renewed. She was able to ask the Agency to send her a new DS2019 and got it relatively quickly. When she had her passport, and the other papers, she went and got her VA DL and put her passport and other docs in our safe. Still the VISA was not solved. And we were all going to visit my mom in the EU in the au pair’s 10th month… She would need it to get back in the country…. UGH AGAIN.

We found out that there is only 1 solution – you have to go back to the original US Embassy where the AP got the VISA in the first place (Paris, for her) and sit through the VISA interview again and get a new one via re-application. You cannot get it by asking for a replacement for an existing VISA. I know this because one of our dear friends was the US Ambassador from the US to Luxembourg and he called the State Dept to confirm the process. So she booked another appt at the US Embassy in Paris. Meanwhile she figured out that she would be wanting to come back into the US at almost exactly 90-days before the end of her program. That means she could get the usual ESTA tourist VISA over the internet. She did this and was able to return from Europe with us safely.

Challenge #3

In the meantime, we traveled as a family for a vacation with all my cousins to FLA. Our AP came with us and was on a schedule to care for the kids and otherwise was invited to be with us as if with our family at all times. And by the way, when our AP is off the schedule, we do not rely on her or take advantage of her or ask her to do almost anything regarding care for the kids. We respect that this is her time off and we simply consider it time with our family. Most of her schedule was like noon til bedtime. She also had 2 days off.

During one of her days off, she went out to the little village, stayed in touch with me via text messaging, met some people (she is very social) and they went to do a bonfire on the local beach. She did not come home at what I would call a reasonable time, she was not on the clock the next day – so no obvious curfew, and by 3 am she texted me that she was going to sleep on the beach like camping and asked if that was ok. I texted her right back (thinking of Natalie Holloway) that NO, I was not comfortable with that, that I wanted her to come home.

I did not hear back from her that night, I texted her by noon that day – that I was worried. She texted that she was fine and would be home soon.

The net net for us was we were not re-matching because we were already committed to a trip to Europe with her, she cares well for the kids and our main issue was that she was a crap roommate and communicator. She never has the kids in danger, is 90% on time, etc… We’ve talked with her before and there were no effective changes to actually win our trust back. We created a curfew of having to be home at least 8 hours before she is scheduled to watch the kids. We lowered our expectations on a whole and were certain that we would not extend. If there were any major further breaches, we would simply send her home and find other care for our kids. She would not be able to leverage anything against us. We won’t have it.

I am learning and wanting to be the best HM I can be.

We have selected our next AP who arrives Nov 16. She is older (25) and we sought someone who would be a good roommate and a great child care giver. She is personally interested in US culture, family life, and not so focused on her own social life and clubbing – though I hope and expect her to be social. We are social and reasonable and expect our AP’s to be as well, within reason. We met and interviewed her while in we were in the EU. I hope we found someone who will not have the same challenges.

Any feedback on how we could have prevented, handled it better in the moment, preventative measures or structure, etc… I welcome.

Thank you!


Should be working October 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

This HF does a lot for their au pair, and offers a wonderful example of what it means to treat an AP as member of the family. But in my view the resentment expressed toward the AP is mostly unfounded.

Challenge #2 I think the AP handled very well. From your description, she solved it all herself. Yes, she should have had the DL already, but that’s not in itself so bad.

Challenge #1 strikes me as the result of a bad judgment call on the HM’s part. Our dog poops and pees in the house out of protest when she is left alone too long or even when ONE of us is out of town. If the HM told the AP she only needed to come home every 12 hrs to just let the dog out into the yard, he would feel very neglected indeed. Mail on the floor could easily be laziness on the AP’s part without meaning that she wasn’t home at all–does she usually pick up that mail? If the HM did not make clear that the AP had to sleep at home and keep the dog company, then the AP wasn’t responsible for doing that.

Challenge #3: I give the AP a lot of credit for texting the request to camp out. She is 22, I think it’s her choice if she is off. Same with the being out past a reasonable hour. Unless you are VERY clear in matching that even 9 months into the year with a 22-yr-old you will stick to strict curfew guidelines for time off, I think it’s unreasonable to not let the AP have more freedom with her private time.

newhostmom October 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hmmm…. Well, here are my thoughts (recognizing again that we’re not getting both sides, I could have missed something or misread something, and that all host parents and au pairs have different needs). This should be an interesting discussion.

Challenge #1 – I have to say that I think it was inappropriate to ask her to watch the dog all weekend in the first place. She probably said yes because she wanted to be helpful and didn’t realize how much it would take to watch a dog for the whole weekend. What that meant was that for a whole weekend, she had to be back in the house every few hours, which really isn’t fair. So honestly, I would recommend getting over this one, apologizing for asking her, and making sure you board the dog next time.

Challenge #2 – Not really getting this one. Her purse got stolen. Yes, she probably shouldn’t have had all that stuff on her, but she did and it’s not her fault that it got stolen. That sucks. The situation sucks. But what are you going to do?

Challenge #3 – We approach the relationship as one between adults. Which means for us that our au pair’s off-time is her own. We tell them to always tell someone where they are going to be, that we do worry when they are not home and to please check in if they think about it, but beyond that – if she wasn’t scheduled to work, I have to say it’s not really your business what she’s doing. Now it doesn’t sound like she was making safe choices (these were people she’d just met?), so maybe have a talk about safety. But beyond that, I don’t really see an issue here either.

So, in summary, I don’t think any of these are really problems.

But for the new au pair, probably clarify curfew or expectations for trips, tell her the horror story about losing all the documents to make sure she keeps them home, and board the dog.

newhostmom October 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I’d be curious whether there were other issues? That last paragraph, especially this: “…our main issue was that she was a crap roommate and communicator. She never has the kids in danger, is 90% on time, etc… We’ve talked with her before and there were no effective changes to actually win our trust back. We created a curfew of having to be home at least 8 hours before she is scheduled to watch the kids. We lowered our expectations on a whole and were certain that we would not extend. If there were any major further breaches, we would simply send her home and find other care for our kids. She would not be able to leverage anything against us. We won’t have it.”
…is really strong and doesn’t make sense to me based on the three “challenges” listed. If those were the biggest three during the year, I’d say you had an awesome au pair… Maybe this isn’t the full story?

Should be working October 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Good point, Newhostmom. Maybe the HM’s resentment is coming from something else. “Crap roommate and communicator” would be good reasons to be resentful. Perhaps this HM needs to focus next time on the things that build up irritation, rather than on ‘major breaches’ that may not seem so major if the irritation weren’t there.

Dorsi October 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I have made it clear from arrival that my APs need ID cards and SSNs, since we don’t have drivers. We take care of this in the first few weeks (after we wait the 10 business days for the SSN), open a local bank account and get a library card. These are all for my convenience and I never sell them as something else. However, they are cultural experiences and important things to do to learn to navigate American bureaucracy. I think the OP needs to do these with the new AP (or give her specific instructions on how to do them) right away, and then there will be no questions.

Interestingly, we have a fire safe that is easily accessible to our APs. None have them have ever left their documents in it, despite our encouraging. However, they don’t usually leave the house, so I am happy enough.

I had an AP caught up in a airplane mess when she was coming home from vacation. It was mostly not her fault. However, the way that she handled it, including refusing to listen to my advice, made me crazy. At the time, I would have rematched over what happened, but she was 5 weeks from going home and we had a new AP lined up. It really wasn’t about the way she handled her travel arrangements, it was about the poor attitude, know-it-all-ness, and selfishness that characterized the entire year. It was hard to articulate my thorough disappointment with her, and had I given examples, they may have come out much like the “challenges” above.

newhostmom October 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Dorsi – I really like your last point. I’ve had experiences like this where I’m telling someone some terrible thing that happened or that someone did and when it comes out, it doesn’t actually sound so terrible at all. It’s more terrible because of the pattern of behavior that I have experienced that the listener doesn’t have the benefit of and of which the story is just one indication. Maybe that’s happening here too?

Taking a Computer Lunch October 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm

In my 11 1/2 years of hosting, there are “challenges” or “incidents” with every AP. If things are going well, then you roll your eyes and think that you now have a great story to tell your office friends over coffee, “You’ll never believe what X did now.” I’d say this AP handled challenge #2 appropriately. She was able to join the HF on their European holiday, perhaps a little wiser about protecting her belongings. Lesson learned. Challenge #3 sounds like an unanticipated incident – I’ve never had an AP head out on their own on a Florida holiday, it sounds like the motivation that made her an excellent athlete also made her independent. Did she make a bad choice. Yes, probably, but she didn’t die, she came back. In my opinion challenge #1 sounds like a disaster on both sides. I don’t blame HM here. The AP accepted the responsibility and didn’t live up to expectations.

So what else is going on here? I suspect we only have one part of the story. So she bailed on caring for the dog, but the HM says she does a great job of caring for the children. Is the HM hard to talk to? Does she listen to the AP’s side? If she doesn’t, the the AP is going to stop talking to her.

Not having the whole story, I think this HM is acting unreasonable in wanting to kick the AP out of the house on her last day. Why sour her relationship with the children? Most of my APs have headed out on their travel month the day after their year ends (except the one who extended with another family after we said no – we put her on a train to her new family the day after). All but two came back after their travels and stayed with us for a day or two. All had incidents and were forgiven (we’re all human, after all).

Gianna October 20, 2012 at 8:37 am

I think that the OP sounds like a great host mom and I think that the clue is in the phrase AP #1. As with work, marriage, parenthood and life , we all start with high exspectations which evolve over time. That is why TACL has such a long view ( 11 plus years ). Adolescents are self-absorbed and some are more self-absorbed then others. At the period of time when we need an aupair, most of us do not have teenage children and we are shocked at their self-interest. We come to terms with it. I do understand the sentiment of feeling used – it is not pleasant. As I look back on life, I wish that I had declined to do some of the things that were
” exspected ” of me and I also wish that I had not over-reacted sometimes. From what I understand of these programs, you are not required to house her for that travel month. So, if you do it, it is a gift , not an entitlement. But if you decline, I would do so very gently without recrimination – spare yourself guilt down the line. Someday, this young woman may look back , too, and realize that she made errors, too.

anonamomma October 20, 2012 at 10:17 am

Hey there OP, whilst I do not have anything to add to the comments above about the “incidents” – can I state something that is very obvious. You say the new AP coming in is 25 years old.

I can see that two of the incidents seem to be to do with free time/personal freedom issues, i.e. expecting the AP to use her free time to care for your dog during her free-time and you being frustrated that your AP did not return home when you said it was not okay to stay out (again during her free-time). And I get your concerns for her safety, yadda, yadda, yadda, nevertheless…

I would say that a 25 year old would expect a lot more personal freedoms/independence than your current au pair has had or expected to have during the last year. I only hope that you have factored this in to your expectations for your new AP and will adapt accordingly.

For instance a 25 year old will simply say no – I do not want to mind the dog (as is her choice). Is this going to be an issue for you? and/or most 25 year olds that I know will not even bother to text you to let you know that they are staying out all night – as they really are old enough to take care of themselves (even in a strange new land!!). At 25 they believe themselves and are more than capable to make their own decisions – and here’s the ticket – she will probably choose not to explain them to you…

If I were you (and yes I’m judging you from your post which is only the smallest insight into who you are but) I’d go younger/more dependent and therefore hopefully more compliant au pair – rather than an older au pair who quite frankly will probably take no prisoners.

Just saying….

AuPairNow October 20, 2012 at 11:32 am

I totally agree with you. I’m a 20-year-old au pair and I have curfew even in my weekends. But I agreed with it before coming, so altough sometimes I wished I didn’t have, I really can’t complain about it. But most of my friends here are older and they all tell me that they would never agree to have such curfew. So I think you really have a point there.

HRHM October 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I agree. After 5 APs, what I’ve found is that the older ones want a job and a place to stay while they live their own lives. They are generally more independant and while they may agree to limitations in advance, they will chafe at you “playing mom” with them once they are here.

If you want someone who cares what you want, you’d be better off going younger not older. I now look for a just-graduated AP with strict parents and a younger sibling. They are under age so I don’t have to worry about having the drinking talk, the law says no. And although my car has a curfew (which I just eliminated for Super-AP5 in month 4 as a reward), she does not have a curfew – she’s an adult after all!

Leaving a Comment October 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm

The fact that they are under age doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about having the drinking talk.
Having read about under-age au pairs getting fake IDs to be abl to buy a drink in US, I think everybody should have the talk. Especially if they are under age.
Look at it this way… They come from countries where drinking is allowed from 18. They feel to be adults, they think they should be allowed to drink. What’s more, in some countries it’s relatively easy to buy a drink even if you are under age. One doesn’t even need a fake ID. That being said, they may feel that drinking when you are not legally allowed is not such a big deal.
So – I would advise you to have the talk anyway. Don’t assume they won’t drink because they are legally not allowed to.

HRHM October 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm

When I say we don’t have the talk, what I mean is all I do is tell them “No drinking at all, you are underage and if you get caught, you will be sent home” I don’t have to police whether they are too hungover to work, or going to drink while they are out with our car. There is no grey area, it’s the law and we’re insisting she follow it.

Leaving a Comment October 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Sure. I do understand there’s no grey area. I do understand it’s the law. Some of the au pairs don’t though (even if they nod when you say “No drinking at all (…)”). On one hand, they know they would be sent home if caught, on the other hand, some of them clearly assume they won’t get caught. I don’t know how big the problem really is. All I know is that I’ve seen au pairs chatting about it, passing links to websites where you can get a fake ID, admitting they have got one for themselves etc. Those were real people, not even concerned too much about writing all that on a public forum, where they had published their email address a couple of months back, a kind of email address which contains their name, along with the agency and area info. Does a person like that know she’s breaking the law? I guess she does. Does she know she’s going to be sent home if she’s caught? I guess so. Yet she’s taking the risk. If I ever get an under age au pair again (I used to have one which was a very nice person but demonstrated immaturity in another deal-breaking way) I will make sure she understands I don’t want her to take the risk because her risk is my risk, and I just don’t want to take it. Explaining that may take equally long as explaining the rules to someone who is allowed to drink.

Leaving a Comment October 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Also, when I was 18(ish) I had a group of friends who I liked to meet and the one who had the most strict parents and a curfew at 10 PM was the most adventurous one. She basically had to make sure to maximize her fun whenever she had a chance. She was the first one to try anything that her parents believed she would not try.

Dorsi October 21, 2012 at 12:37 am

I may be wrong here, but I think what HRHM was trying to say is you don’t have to have some big conversation about when it is okay to drink, how much is okay to drink and drive, when must you stop drinking, where is it safe to drink, working hungover etc. You can simply say, “In the US, you may not drink, ever. Here are the consequences.” For an underage AuPair, it is easy because there is absolutely no negotiation.

Leaving a Comment October 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Yeah, I understand. I think I’m oversensitive having read some threads about how they do buy drinks anyway and I was just trying to warn.

LuvCheetos October 22, 2012 at 9:44 am

Our youngest AP was the one who drank the most. The agency actually threatened to pull her visa and send her home because other HF complained about her drunken behavior. Of course, she never drank around us or mentioned it and didn’t come home for the entire weekend often, so we couldn’t “prove” she was drinking. The agency threatened to pull her visa and send her home, but it was the week before she was scheduled to finish anyway, so it’s not like we were going to rematch.

Little M. October 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I get your point. But I really get hers, too. One of my ex-flatmates had a dog. I REALLY loved the dog. I ADORED the dog (walked her without being asked, fed her, bought small treats and so on and on) BUT then my flatmate went on holiday and she left the dog with us for a whole week. We were meant to feed her, walk her… Okai, fine. But we had lifes, too! I’m a busy person (I work more than ten hours a day) and I wake up sooooo early (like half three in the morning….) and taking care of the dog and making sure I was home to be with her was a bit hard. Just that.

And I agree with some of the mums. A 25yo is much more independant than a 22yo (although I’m 22 and I live on my own) so maybe you should go for someone younger, less adventurous or still living with parents.

Good luck!

NoVA Host Mom October 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm

We are in our 8th year of hosting and i think it is great that you are trying to improve being a HM. some years i am so motivated to improve and some years i am just not… so good reminder for me to keep trying

I am far from perfect and would say we are a average family – follow the rules, try to be as flexible and accomodating as we can, encourage open communication… but as someone has pointed out each AP is SOOOO different that it really is having the/your basics down and figuring it out sort of anew each time.

As much as i am concerend about there safety, there is not much you can do other than let them know you are here for them if they ever get in a difficult spot. We also ask for a note as to where, when – nothing too detailed, but let us know if you are coming home or not – so if we do need to start looking for you we have someplace to start. And it sounds like she did this. I had a much harder time with this when i was a 1st/2nd… time HM and when my kids were more your age. but i have had to take a deep breath and let go…

On the dog – even when an AP has said sure, we do not. the dog either is with us or in a kennel – even if only 1 night. I have found most APs make very last minute plans – so even if on Sat morning they say sure, something comes up that afternoon and that changes the story.

Lastly, to echo another comment – just because an AP is 25 doesn’t mean a whole lot. i have seen very mature, independent,25yr olds and some very immature ones. similarly on the younger 18/19yr old side. so i have really thrown out age as too much of a factor when we search.

best of luck on #2!

CaliHostMom October 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm

So much good advice here that I can’t find much to add! In 13 years of hosting au pairs, I look back to my first au pair and I think “wow, she really was pretty good–better than I thought.” As a host mom, one needs time to develop perspective. I actually would say that none of the “challenges” above would for me count as more than a temporary annoyance. Once you’ve had a flame out or a girl with mental issues (I’ve had one of each), everything else just comes into better focus. These are young women, not mature mothers. If you have an AP who loves your kids, is safe with the kids, and has energy and enthusiasm, you have to not sweat the small stuff.

Regarding curfews, I have always been against them. APs are not children. If an AP is repeatedly coming home in the middle of the night, waking up the family, and being too tired or hungover to work the next day, then a curfew is really just a band-aid on a wound that is probably not gonna heal very easily (the wound being that you chose to match with a girl who turned out to be immature, inconsiderate and irresponsible). What I am FOR, is asking the AP questions that could help the police in investigating a disappearance. Doesn’t that sound horrible? As bad as that sounds, it is something that almost any HM and AP can find common ground on. Here’s what I say to my APs who want to do things like couch surf, camp on the beach with strangers, stay in a co-ed hostel in a bad part of LA, etc. “If something were to happen to you, and your mom and the police asked me, ‘where was she and who was she with’, I need to have something useful to tell them, so just give me the names and addresses and phone numbers of people you plan to be with and places you plan to go. If you change plans in the middle of the night, text me to my turned-off cell phone. If there is some kind of emergency in the middle of the night, call the house phone as the ringing will wake me. Have fun. And don’t do anything you’ll regret!” In the case of beach camping with strangers, I would have asked the AP where she met them and to give me the names of those bars or ice cream parlors or wherever she hooked up with these “new friends”. That way…there would be security cameras and store employees who could help piece together whereabouts in the event something terrible happened. You want to set up a relationship where telling the truth is safe and okay.

CA Host Mom October 22, 2012 at 1:32 am

Great advice! I am going to borrow your well-packaged approach to staying out and “new friends” … We don’t believe in curfews either but I always wonder ‘what if something terrible happened’ and try to balance the concern with the understanding that our AP is an adult and would likely resent being asked a ton of questions just so I could sleep better at night.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 22, 2012 at 7:09 am

We don’t assign curfews either, and I’ve generally had a hands-off approach. We use an exterior house light as a signal. The AP is to turn it off when she returns home. If it’s still on in the morning, then we assume the AP is out. If they intend to stay out, we usually ask where, but casually.

We did have one AP who went home with men she met at discoes. DH and I didn’t try to stop her, but did tell her to ring the house fun if something went horribly wrong, that we were concerned about her well-being. It turned out, one of her AP was pushing her into the risky behavior because our AP had complete access to a car. When that friend went home after an incident with her HF, our AP took far less risks. We do discuss safety with our APs – when meeting a stranger, better to bring a friend, but we can’t force them to be level-headed (and do recall all the stupid things we did between 19 and 25).

Seattle Mom October 25, 2012 at 1:25 am

That is brilliant! But it also gives me an idea why my AP is always texting me the details of her plans when she’s out… I’m not really worried about her, I know she has excellent judgment and nice friends, but she always calls/texts to let me know where she’s going, esp if there’s a change of plans. I think it’s sweet, but I’ve never asked her to do it. I guess I was a bit more independent when I was her age, so I don’t really expect so much data. Maybe she’s letting me know in case something happens, haha.

HMinDelRay October 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm

This was my post and I would like to start by saying thank you to everyone for the time, energy and interest in the discussion. It has indeed provided me with better understanding into what apparently is routine behavior for some AP’s as well as what host families should probably never expect, always do, etc….

In particular I would like to thank

I appreciated your kindness, respect, informative, and non-judgmental approach. This is a learning opportunity for me. I have taken my role seriously, probably given too much, and I would like to hone my skills and approach so that the experience gets better and better for our future AP’s as well as for my husband and our growing kids. My husband often commented through the year: you need to stop giving so much and get more selfish. Ok, well, I still need to be me, so I will probably get more structured, with experience I can be better at setting and managing expectations, will encourage the AP’s to do for themselves more, etc…

I chose our next au pair partially because we need mature judgment and I cannot be present to teach an 18-21year old how to care for 3 kids under the age of 3 in a foreign country and language. I was an au pair for 2summers in a row in France with the same family, I was 19 & 20 yrs old at the time. I had a 1/2 day of free time each week and was paid at the end of the month. I was at university in Canada during the school year. I consider that I was a fun-loving but responsible young woman but I would have been totally overwhelmed at that age if I was solely in charge 45-hrs a week for 3 under 3 in a foreign country, struggling with the language. I had 4 kids aged 9-months, 3years, 5years and 8 yrs old. The parents came and went and I slept in the same room, woke with them, did all activities with them, ate with them and went to sleep with them (read, wrote letters, listened to music, journaled).

I figured this was my chance to experience the South of France, make a little money, learn about kids (best contraception ever!), and so on.

I would like to clarify, too that we NEVER “expected”, insinuated, or strong armed our AP into taking care of the dog. We proposed the idea well in advance, gave her time to think about it and after consideration she agreed. We had never asked her to care for the dog on any other occasion – always had him boarded. But we thought – she’s part of our family, and perhaps she can handle this – we are all away so there is nothing else to handle in addition – no juggling of responsibilities. Upon leaving the house, my husband recalled making some sort of suggestion like leaving toilet seat up so dog could get water when he needed, and her response was “I take care of 3 little kids, I think I can handle a dog for a weekend.” Live and learn for us.

Likewise she uses our computer and left her SKYPE open to a chat where she said she was sick of hearing me moan about being tired, that I only see the kids for 3 hrs a day and she is raising / educating them. I guess having a baby 7 months ago, who does not sleep through the night, and spending all other hours a week besides the 45 she cares for them (while I am at my other job) and having 2 1/2 yr old twins makes me lazy, uninvolved and dependent on others. I am trying to remember she is young. She does not see or understand all that parents do, she does not care for the kids and work full time, she does not earn and pay for a house and the care and support of 3 adults & 3 kids. I just need to chalk it up and let go. But it did make my butt burn to read it. So I apologize if some of that bleeds thru into my writing.

The net net is we agree, we are just sailing to the end. No ending with recrimination, following all the rules, just not offering anything more than what our obligations request.

newhostmom October 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Ah, ok. Now I get it. I knew there had to be more going on than those three challenges. One of the first things we have in our handbook is that if you are appreciative, respectful, and great at your job, then we really have no other rules. Because honestly, if you have a mature, respectful au pair who is on time, engaged with the kids, and understands that you need her to work her schedule, then honestly she can dump hair dye all over the bathroom and it would just be funny. Sounds like you have an au pair who is none of those three things and therefore you’re not willing to put up with anything less than perfect in any other area either. I don’t blame you for wanting to fulfill your obligations and show her the door.

So for learning for next time, I would advise against asking another AP to watch the dog for any period of time. We have a general rule that any time we expect something of our AP, we count it towards her 45 hours. So for example, if we’re all on a plane together, I think about whether or not I would be mad if she was sitting there reading a magazine. Would I want her to help me entertain the kids? If yes, then it counts toward her 45 hours. So similarly, I wouldn’t ask her to do anything during her free time “for free.”

And the previous posters are right about a 25yo. Although maybe if your 25yo is great at her job and otherwise respectful, you wouldn’t mind if she’s out all night. Although I was thinking about it more and if I was on a family vacation, particularly if it was with extended family, and the person I trusted with my children met some people and stayed out partying all night and never came home, I would be pretty embarrassed. So whereas like I said we don’t place restrictions on our AP’s free time at all (we are another family who doesn’t believe in AP curfews), I have learned from your story that maybe I would ask an AP to please plan to at least come home at some point during the night if we were out of town. I especially like the approach of Calihostmom – because really my main motivation is truly keeping her safe. Because I care about her obviously, but also because I don’t want to have to tell her mother I lost her!

Anyway, good learning experiences and best of luck with #2. We’re on #2 ourselves and I have a similar struggle with giving too much. My husband has told me I need to think more about my needs this time around. Before, if she asked me anything, my first response was “sure!” and then trying to figure it out later. This year, my first response is “let me think about it tonight and let’s talk about it in the morning.”

Taking a Computer Lunch October 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I would like to add that I think almost every AP who has a 45-hour-week thinks she is raising her HF’s kids, and every HF who learns she feels this way (and most do sooner or later) resent it enormously. We wail, “But I’m the one who gets up in the middle of the night!”, and of course, it’s true. It’s also true that after a year or two the AP moves on, and we’re still there for our kids. And believe me, after I year or two the kids forget this AP or that AP – but in the moment it still hurts when we realize that our kids spend the majority of their waking hours with our APs (and of course we can afford to have APs because we spend the majority of their waking hours at work…).

I will also add, that if you’re in the downhill slope toward the end of a year, hurt feelings and anger come the surface faster than at any time of the year with an otherwise excellent AP. It’s hard to keep emotions in check as you say goodbye. (My mother said of each of her children that we became so nasty and crank before we left for university that it was easy to say goodbye to us.) In my experience, APs experience overloaded emotions in their last weeks. They are saying goodbye to you and your family, but also to AP friends with whom they will no longer spend time, as well as any American friends they have made. The last weeks are full of emotional tormoil – looking forward to seeing family, regretting saying goodbye, and then to top it all off, your HF is welcoming a new AP (a successor, not a replacement).

My advice, be bigger than your AP. Overlook the Skype message you weren’t supposed to see. Think about how you want the year to end. If you close the door, it will remain closed. Leave it open, it you and your family just might have a friend for life.

I usually have a quiet chat with my AP about 12-14 weeks out before the end of their year, before they fully realize what is happening. I talk about how the kids and I will miss her, and I realize that she will miss us, but also her friends. I acknowledge that she will want to spend time with her friends saying goodbye, but that I will need her to continue working her hours with the same high level of performance that has led to her successful year with us. And then, when I am able, I give extra hours off, or give a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant for her to have dinner with a friend.

It might be easier to say goodbye when you are angry, but at the end of the day you remain angry, and there is a good likelihood that some of it will carry over into your next AP relationship (BTDT) and it’s just no good.

You’ve lived abroad, so you remember those intense relationships you formed with people you thought would be your best friends for the rest of your life, but in reality as a young adult, they are just the first in a series of hello-goodbye friendships that won’t necessarily withstand the test of distance.

newhostmom October 20, 2012 at 8:52 pm

We’ve talked about the 45-hour work week in a few places, and it’s one that always bothers me when I hear au pairs who accept 45/week jobs and then complain that they are worked too hard. I definitely get that some HPs aren’t as good as others, but if your main complaint as an AP is that you’re required to work the hours that are allowed and that host parents pay for, then I have little sympathy.

Our first worked 45/week and she had a HARD job – I made sure she knew I knew that and I rewarded her with time off and being lenient in other ways when I could. I remember once feeling that she thought her life was so hard and how easy for me that I was away working all day and I casually slipped into conversation somewhere that her 45 hour/week job is my life when I’m not at my 40+ hour/week job! I think that comment might have actually sunk in a bit.

I remember pre-kids and it’s completely useless to try to get someone who doesn’t have kids to understand how hard being a parent is and that it’s truly a 24 hour a day job – if you’re not with them, you’re worrying about them or planning something related to them. So on some level I can’t blame a 20yo who doesn’t see all those hours you spend up with them at night or trying to cook dinner while they’re pulling at you as anything beyond her own experiences. But actually hearing or reading someone saying something like that would make me so angry. I’d probably have to come post on here and have someone talk me down.

Incidentally, there was one time when our daughter was going through a bratty phase. And my AP was having a tough time. She said something on her facebook page complaining about it and I was really mad when I read it. I had to remind myself that I’ve said things to people in the heat of the moment that I would be mortified if the target of my comment had heard. So while I’m not saying in this case that you should have let that go (I don’t think I would have been able to, particularly with the other snottiness that you describe), another learning experience would be to let some comments go, particularly if it’s something you overhear or see that you shouldn’t have that may just be venting.

amy October 21, 2012 at 10:07 am

But the difference, that when you guys get home and “take over my job” i wouldnt say it is as hard. Maybe you are different, but my hp are like this. They come home,kuddle, no tantrums because they can do and have wathever they want. Watch tv and so on and so on. If i would be allowed to do that, than i can do an other job at night as well:)i am just saying, we are required to entertain them, get them to do educational stuff,take them outside etc. You are not. If you dont feel like playing with them, nobody will force you. I think that was your au pairs point. When we see you with the kids, it looks like an easy job to us, because we are used different.

Newhostmom October 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

Well, Amy, I’m not really sure what to say to this. Think about all the stuff you do during your time off – showering, getting dressed for the day, shopping, making meals, eating, paying bills, relaxing, sleeping, seeing your friends, cleaning the house, fixing things in the house, etc. Now imagine that you have to do all that stuff but you have to do it while watching the kids. And also imagine that you not only have to think about your own needs and plans, but you also have to plan for your kids’ lives and usually (!) your husband’s life too. And imagine that you haven’t slept well in years, because every single morning you are woken up at 6:30am and many nights you are woken during the night too. And imagine that on top of all the things you are responsible for as an au pair, you also have a mortgage, a full-time job, all kinds of various bills and appointments for your whole family, etc.

Anyway, I could go on. But I would suggest that perhaps instead of focusing on the few hours your host parents let the kids watch TV, focus a bit on what they’re during while the kids are watching TV. Or what they’re doing when the kids wake up on the weekends, or what they’re doing during the time they are trying to get the kids in bed, when they’ve worked a full day and just want to have a minute to themselves, but they know they’ve got laundry and cleaning up from dinner, and doing a bit more work for their job, and then hopefully getting a few hours of sleep before someone wakes up at 2am because they wet the bed.

And also, keep in mind that even if your host parents truly do not care about enriching the children’s lives at all during the day and let them eat and sleep whenever they want and never make them clean up or anything, that that experience isn’t characteristic of all parents. We don’t even have a TV for example. And if I’m not playing with the kids myself, I’m feelinnguilty that I’m not playing with them.

And if you still don’t get it, then get back to me in 10 years when you have kids and a house and a job of your own.

Newhostmom October 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

And look, I know watching kids for 45 hours a week is hard. It’s really hard. I acknowledged that in my previous post. So I’m not taking away from you that it’s difficult work. All I’m saying is that thinking your life is so much harder than your host parents and begrudging them a few hours of TV time so they can make dinner or just sit for a bit after working all day and between the bedtime fight is really not going to get you very far in terms of a successful relationship with your host parents.

Mom Of 2 Cool Kids October 22, 2012 at 10:56 am

In my house, when I get home to take over it is the most stressful and exhausting 3 hours of my day. It includes preparing dinner, cleaning up from dinner, and putting the kids to bed. Usually by myself.

In your experience it may appear easy to you. Even when I am stressed and annoyed I put on a happy face for my kids and try not to let them see it. As I am trying to keep them happy and get things done I have a million things on my mind – the bill I need to get in the mail, appointments to schedule, the thing at work I forgot to do, etc.

Having an au pair has provided me the relief I need because on top of everything else I do not have to do my kid’s laundry, give as many baths, and pick up and drop off as often. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about those things. I ask myself – Does my au pair realize my kid’s skin is super dry and will she put lotion on after the bath? Does my au pair realize my kid has a new shirt and needs to be washed in cold water so the colors don’t run? Did my au pair hand in the permission slip that needed to get there today?

It sounds like your perspective is a bit off.

AP in Chicago October 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Amy, I get your point, and I know it seems easy for you, especially if you had a very hard day with the kids and the parents are there when everything is perfect again, but remember that they have hired an au pair to make their lives easier. Also, you, by being an au pair have agreed to be the one who makes it possible. Have in mind everything that Newhostmom said and even if you don’t see it that way, try not to be “angry” with your host parents, because that doesn’t solve anything :) A good thing is that you are already reading this *awesome* blog so I’m sure you are starting to understand the families’ perspectives.
:) have a nice day!!!!! :D

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

TACL nails it again.

Especially when your kids are younger, it is very easy to feel that “someone else is raising them” unless you are a SAHM. And that comes with its own bucket of perils–BTDT!!!

My kids don’t remember the au pairs who were really just so-so. Literally: they cannot remember their names or faces when I mention them, even when they had a few fun adventures togethers. Yet they do adore — and now email surprisingly frequently — the ones whom they still love and miss.

Guarantee they know who their parents and their family are! Take heart…

As for becoming a better host, I struggled mightily with the realization that my job was not as much mentor — a role I really love at work — but MANAGER.

The sooner you start managing au pairs as a person with a job, albeit someone you also need to support as they build loving relationships with your kids and hopefully you and your spouse, the sooner it gets easier.

With two kids in elementary and middle school and two working parents, one of whom travels, I’ve decided that parenting at this age is about unconditional love and setting boundaries and ensuring there’s fiber in the daily diet and all that, but day-to-day SUCCESS boils down to project management.

Taking this perspective–and loading my iphone alarms and calendar up with lots and lots of automatic reminders, with tones that escalate from the insistent ducks to the “holy crapola!” submarine red alert alarm sound–is what makes the difference between a smooth functioning household and “Mom, we missed ballet class yesterday!”

Even with an au pair.

Even thought I really really really want and need and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect that au pair to be responsible for logistical support, because 1) it’s just not my strength and 2) I am recovering from a TBI.

For whatever reason or reasons, we’ve hit a string of bad matches.

But I am also fully aware that bad matches and all kinds of other shenanigans and daily burdens occur when you are using a nanny or after-care or other options.

So we do everything we can to stack the deck in our favor, knowing that, as wise bubbes the world over say, “Men plan. God laughs.” And we try to improve.

When it doesn’t work, we have teaching opportunities for our kids.

You better believe that the incident in which the au pair who was taken along on a free trip to Santa Monica within the first few weeks of arriving (these were not fancy accommodations, it was my parents’ house, crowded and a bit quirky) LIED about not having the key to our locker at the beach house, it is now Family Lore. My girls know that because she couldn’t just say “oopsie! I did have it in my bag after all. so sorry!” and we would have been done with it, it made me feel like I couldn’t trust her. So when the car came home with a mysterious scratch, I didn’t believe her that she “didn’t know how it happened”…

And I’m learning how to manage flaky teenagers who think they are pulling the wool over my eyes while my own eldest is 13. Priceless.


Seattle Mom October 25, 2012 at 1:39 am

The chat & the gift certificate are a great idea.. I’m a bit late for that (I think we have 6 weeks left, if that), but the last week I’ve been noticing that my AP has really picked up some new energy & enthusiasm.. She was in a slump a month ago, but not so much anymore. I was thinking I’d like to get her a gift she can use while she’s here, before she leaves, but I didn’t know what- was going to get her a shopping gift card. But now I know what to get- Cheesecake Factory gift card- she and her AP friends seem to go there a lot!

amy October 25, 2012 at 7:46 am

Yeah we au pairs LOVE the cheesecake factory!:)

vdotw November 24, 2012 at 1:37 pm

My advice, be bigger than your AP. Overlook the Skype message you weren’t supposed to see. Think about how you want the year to end. If you close the door, it will remain closed. Leave it open, it you and your family just might have a friend for life.

This is so true. When we, as parents, spouses, or host parents let our own emotions rule we tend to turn to equally immature or ridiculous behaviors. If you see behaviors you don’t like, stop, breathe, and think about the situation and the relationships and how your reaction could help or hurt. Easier said than done, but the same thing goes for how we deal with our spouses and our children.

Gianna October 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I wish you the very best with your new aupair. You may find that you get a little tougher without sacrificing all of those wonderful qualities you have cultivated in yourself. Good luck

HMinDelRay October 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Thanks you all! Super helpful comments and kindly put! I so appreciate every learning opportunity!

Melissa October 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

I have a bit of a different take on this. I would personally be very frustrated and annoyed by Challenges #1 & #3.

Challenge 1: Asking her to watch the dog while the HF is out of town may or may not be out of line. It depends on the AP, the relationship you have with her (do both sides do a lot to help each other out, or is it more of an employer/employee relationship?) and how much work is truly involved with watching the dog. Also, it’s a judgement call for the HF. If the AP typically stays out til late or spends the night elsewhere on weekends, and caring for the dog would then impact her regular free time activities, then the HF should have known better than to even ask. I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking some of our APs to care for our pet while we were gone – these were typically our party APs who stayed out all night and had a very hard time turning down any social opportunities. Some of our other APs whose weekends typically consisted of going to the movies or having other APs stay over, and we had a “family member” vs. “employee” relationship with, I wouldn’t hesitate to give them that reponsibility if they genuinely agreed to it. However, given that it sounds like the HM had a pretty good relationship with the AP until that point and that the AP readily agreed to it, I would be pretty ticked off and disappointed to find that she neglected the dog. It’s not like she forgot to bring the mail in or let the trash pile up. It’s the family dog, after all. Is it a little outside the realm of acceptable AP reponsibilities? Sure, but so is picking up our AP in the middle of the night if her friend who’s driving had too much to drink, or hosting her family for a week. It’s what you do to help each other out.

Challenge 2: This is one of those things that just happens sometimes, and you can’t really place blame anywhere. But, it sounds like the OP’s frustration is linked to a larger concern about the APs sense of reponsibility (when she says it wouldn’t have happened if only AP took HM’s advice and got a state ID) and maybe having to deal with continual hassles? I would not be bothered at all if this occurred with one of my great, responsible, mature, part of the family APs, and would be eager to do whatever I could to help her resolve the problem. But if it was an AP who I have to continually remind to plan her vacation in advance, run the dishwasher if it’s full, monitor her car use, etc, I would roll my eyes and be a little annoyed.

Challenge #3: This one would make me livid. It is one thing if an AP decides to stay out overnight when she’s not working the next day at home. If she spontaneously decided, in the middle of the night, to stay over with someone she just met, I would think she’s not using the best judgment, but so be it and that’s her decision. But on a family vacation, with extended family there, it’s disrespectful and shows very poor judgment, IMHO. Our AP does not have a curfew when she is not working the next day (which is most weekend nights) and is free to stay wherever she wants. Our best APs have had the courtesy and maturity to let us know in advance where they will be for the evening without me having to pester them about it. But texting the HM at 3AM(!) while the HM is presumably sleeping, to ask if she is ok with her staying out all night with people she just met is ridiculous. Obviously, the AP was not genuinely “asking”, or assumed the answer would be ‘fine’. Or that the HM would not even see the text until the next morning. Which is just a passive and immature way of informing the HM of her plans. Even though the AP was working during part of the vacation, it sounds like the HF made sure that she was able to enjoy her time there too, both during time spent with the family and by giving her free time on her own. A vacation should be a time when the host family can relax and have fun. The HF shouldn’t have to worry about where their AP is, whether she is safe, hearing her come back to a strange hotel room or condo at 3am (especially while the family may be in closer than normal quarters) or whether she will come back at all. To me, this was not about an AP having freedom in her time off, but about showing a complete lack of good judgement. And the fact that she didn’t return or even respond after the HM said she wasn’t comfortable with her sleeping on a beach would completely destroy my trust in the AP. Whether it was right or wrong for the HM to tell her no, 3am during a family vacation is not the time for an AP to draw a line in the sand about her independence.

hm2 October 21, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I agree with Melissa on many levels. We once asked an AP to watch our dog for the weekend, which ended the way it ended for OP and to this day I get angry when I think back on this. If we go out of our way to accomodate out of country and out of town guests for days, we find childcare solutions because AP is too emotional about a friend’s departure and doesn’t feel she can handle being around the kids etc., why can’t she watch the family dog for two nights? The Ap we had back then rarely left the house and spent most of her free time on skype or fb – so it’s not like minding the dog kept her from living her social life.
Texting at 3 am and not responding to HMs answer is the worst. I would have flipped.

Amy October 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

Newhostmom: I am sorry. I didnt mean to upset you in any way. I am sorry that I did. What I meant, and yes I didn’t put it in the right words I guess was, that yes, a mom does A LOT! I have a little sister who is 15 years younger, I took care of her until she was 5 and she slept in my room because my mom worked at night. I know how it is getting up in the middle of the night;) but a lot of hp have cleaning ladies. Mine at least do and all my friends families. I also clean up every night after dinner, because I think that’s only fair since my hm cooks. Yes you are right, moms do have a hard job, but they also wanted the kids. And husband of course. I guess what I am trying to say is, that the other au pair we are talking about above, does not see behind the picture, because from the front it doesn’t look that hard for us. So again, I am sorry that I upset you! That wasn’t what I wanted. And by the way, no tv in the house? AWESOME! I wish more families would give up on that trashbox;)

Newhostmom October 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Thanks for clarifying Amy, and I’m sorry I came on strong. We don’t hav a housekeeper either and only a few of our friends do either. But actually I don’t begrudge parents housekeeper either. Unless you have someone full time, having someone come in to clean the floors and the bathrooms every week or two does not give a parent back tons of time. There is not nearly enough time in a day to do everything that needs to be done to run a household plus fully engage the kids plus work a full-time job plus take care of your relationship with your spouse plus take care of your own needs. So when parents get housekeepers, it’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because they’re trying to outsource as mch as possible so they can focus a little more time on something more important (which is sometimes going to manifest as playing with the kids, sometimes as cooking dinner instead of takeout, and sometimes something like getting your nails done so you feel like yourself instead of just someone’s mom).

APs, if you find yourself thinking your host mom is lazy and that she has it so much easier than you do, I’d suggest taking a week to really pay attention and count the hours she has totally to herself. If you have a smart host mom, she takes an evening to go out and focus on her spouse each week or goes out with a friend once a week. You might have a host mom whose time to herself is reading the paper on Sunday morning. You might have one that asks you to work an extra half hour after she gets home so she can have a few minutes to herself between work and family life. You might have one that uses the TV as a babysitter while she cooks dinner. But those examples are probably a few precious hours each week totally to herself. I’ll bet there are very few parents who are really and truly just lazy and pushing everything off on their APs. Something to think about.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm

On this point – we ask the AP to do one load of the kids’ wash once a week – keeps them in clothes between weekends. Our AP, whom I don’t think had given it much thought, came upstairs on Saturday, and saw the pile of clothes that had come in off the line (I was folding them) and gasped, “Oh!”

Personally, I don’t ask my AP to do anything DH and I wouldn’t do (and that includes policing media time), but I don’t think it always occurs to them how much we do (and I have a teen and and a ‘tween) until they’re confronted with it.

Seattle Mom October 25, 2012 at 1:48 am

I think I know what you’re saying. My good friend has 2 children (same age as mine) and she’s also a nanny (we met because she was my daughter’s first nanny). She has been taking care of kids her whole life, and she says that before she had her own children she HAD NO IDEA how hard parents worked. She says she was always critical of how parents were raising their kids, thinking she would never use TV or feed them garbage or talk to them a certain way. Well now, she’s happy to just get them to eat and get to sleep before midnight, and she is much more understanding with other parents. This woman also happens to be only 24 years old- she is an amazingly mature young woman. She is the same age as my AP, so sometimes when I have a concern about my AP I talk to her- she puts it in perspective for me, makes me realize when there’s a generation gap issue I’m missing. But she also tells me not to sweat certain things, that I’ll never win on some issues and it’s just not worth it.

By the way, we don’t really have a TV (it’s in the cold basement and we hardly ever use it, the kids never do) and I have yet to hire a cleaning service for the house, though it’s on my to-do list. The house is a mess. I don’t begrudge any parent either of those things, but I do think this ipod use for toddlers stuff is over the top.

massaupairmom October 21, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I’d like to address the initial question asked by CV – what can this host mother learn from her experience? I would say that she can reflect on what au pair personality profile best suits her needs/expectations. She can consider whether such an outgoing, adventurous (I’m sure that’s spelled wrong…) au pair is the right fit for her family. It may be that she would be more comfortable with an au pair whose social life is more mellow, or who spends more time with the family. It is a broad overstatement to assume that her incoming 25 y.o. au pair will expect even more freedom than the current au pair enjoyed – it totally depends on the personality of the particular au pair. I currently have a 24 y.o. au pair who wouldn’t dream of doing some of the things mentioned by op. On the other hand, she is certainly at home with the family more than op’s au pair, and some families wouldn’t like that. Host parents need to consider which personality type suits THEIR expectations better, and actively screen for it.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Agreed. And I must say from experience, it takes a few APs to figure out which personality is the best fit. (And each match requires an adjustment – because everyone’s human, after all.)

Should be working October 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I’ve plugged this before, but CCAP’s personality profile is in fact a pretty good indicator of ‘sociability’ vs. ‘homebodiness’ (in my study sample of 3). It’s not called that, but having studied the test in depth I feel like I can read between the lines.

I think age not at all a predictor when it comes to figuring out personality, going-out vs. staying-in, or just about anything except perhaps whether they have actually experienced living on their own (which doesn’t mean they have developed the habits a particular HF would want them to have).

Newhostmom October 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Can you say any more about this? We did CC last year and aren’t opposed to switching back and I’m curious what you’ve found.

Should be working October 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm

CCAP’s AP profiles include a ‘personality test’. I don’t know if any other agencies do this. It is the DiSC test [google it] which is apparently widely used in business for building teams, for instance. [This is NOT that silly test touted on Aupairclearinghouse.com that is supposed to screen for criminal personalities.]

CCAP’s version of the test results is very truncated, with just a few positive-spin phrases for each candidate. In order to read between the lines, I took the test myself ($35 online) and had my husband take it, and a former AP, got 15-page reports explaining the whole thing, and it is UNBELIEVABLY accurate in describing personality. Not inner-personality per se, but how a person deals with other people, tries to influence others, what kind of patience s/he has, how s/he deals with restrictions and rules.

My husband and I still laugh and cite the test results when dealing with each other (he tells me, “Yeah, I forgot that you get indecisive under stress” [True!] and I tell him, “Remember, the test said that with your personality we have to put a time limit on conversations or nothing gets done” [True!]).

There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ personality, and the test is not really something that I could see anyone trying to ‘game’ because it is set up in a very neutral (and even opaque) way. But it does help me to identify better what kind of person an AP candidate is and in general I have learned about what personality traits go together–is she an adventurous leader (who might also tend toward bossiness); a patient, gentle type (who might not be very ambitious and even a bit lazy); an enthusiastic, verbal type (who needs lot of attention to feel good about herself); and so forth.

I don’t think CCAP is any better or worse than the other agencies, but the DiSC test is for me a big deal. I know most HPs ignore it, but I think it’s worth studying the test itself to make good use of the report that CCAP provides on each candidate.

Tristatemom October 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

Someone above gave great advice: You don’t always have to say yes to the AP on the spot. APs have this ability, knowingly or unknowingly, to push for something while mom is wrestling three hungry kids and doesn’t have the mental capacity to think the request through.
The other thing I learned, don’t take things so personally. Where I used to think ‘why doesn’t AP get on her own that she shouldn’t put a wire hanger on my French wooden furnitue’ and I resent her for it, now, when I see something I don’t like, I tell her expressly and right a way what I don’t want her to do and expect compliance. This works so much better for me than expecting the AP to know how to behave properly.

Newhostmom October 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I think you we’re referring to my post. I learned from my first year that my initial response that comes out was always “yeah sure!” Because I wanted to be agreeable and nice and I liked our AP a lot and I wanted her to have a great year. I’m also just that kind of person that is happy to be inconvenienced if it means someone else that I care about is happy.

My husband, however, was not pleased. For there were many times that I happily screwed our family’s needs so the au pair could get what she wanted. I definitely think there is a balance that needs to be achieved so I’m not advocating for saying no and being totally inflexible. Instead, I’ve said that this year, I will tell her I need to think about how whatever it is would work and then revisit the conversation later.

On the latter point, this is something that remains difficult for me as I’d rather just have my furniture scratched up as in your example than actually have a potentially uncomfortable situation. Your advice is good and I’m going to work on just being more direct.

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 10:41 am

I still do this knee-jerk “Sure! Take the car, I don’t need it tonight.” Even before I’ve remembered to ask about the status of the big kid’s homework assignments.

Been burned by this tendency to be accommodating soooooo many times. I’ve always been “a pleaser” but it’s also the case that with my TBI, I just cannot multi-task. At. All. And I don’t think about homework status when I’m making dinner.

I’m on Week Two of juggling the kids myself since our au pair suddenly decided she couldn’t work a day more — a week after I had offered her the equivalent of a “no-fault rematch” — and I’m not missing the demands, frankly. Extremely stressed, yes, and concerned about long-term fixes but it’s a slow time at the office until after the election, thank God, and it is also really good to remind myself what the kids need at this stage.

This is really important when you are matching — the things that didn’t bother you when your kids were littler may change, and you may need to select for something slightly different next time.

Our first rockin’ awesome au pair — whom I silently thank every time my little one swims with her face in the water, unconcerned, because I know it was Priscila who made that happen, quite deliberately, years ago when my 3rd grader was 2 — was a total party girl. It didn’t matter a bit. My girls were too little to have a clue, and she was totally responsible in every other way. But that would not work now, because I have a 13 year old who is worried about being fat and wearing heels and itching to wear makeup. The coming home at 6 am “Walk of Shame” is not the role modeling we now need.

So I guess my point is to be aware of the things that YOU need first and foremost, but be aware too of what your kids may need in the upcoming year developmentally, because they definitely shift over time.

Should be working October 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Calif Mom, the reminder about changing needs is so important. We had advertised ourselves, based on previous experience, as having an adoring 10-yr-old girl who will worship and imitate the AP. Now we have an eye-rolling 11-yr-old who makes fun of the AP’s clothes and doesn’t want much to do with her.

What’s with the brain injury?? Did we know that on here???

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Oh I probably called it “health issues” to disguise myself since au pairs read the blog but frankly, I am so tired of sub-par performance and out-of-sync au pairs that I hope they do now. :-).

I was in a car accident on the way to work one morning after dropping my kid off at school. T-boned in our residential neighborhood. This was several years ago, but just like the “wounded warriors”, the docs can’t predict recovery well, and I have lingering long-term effects that aren’t visible but absolutely resonate within the household. (Chronic daily headache and migraine, lousy short-term memory, tinnitus, inability to multi-task, anything executive function-related is WORK. These things are do-able — I mean, I have a fabulous full-time job and am good at it, nobody guesses that I have these problems (except the headaches) but I have to work harder at everything than I did before — so I am also more tired. Not surprisingly, when under stress the symptoms worsen, so I backslide, and then we get that vicious cycle.

I am very up front about all of this (I’m Californian, after all!) and warn au pairs about what it means on a day-to-day basis loooooong before we match, and I spell out how it affects my kids, too, but either they don’t read the handbook, or they don’t care, or it’s just beyond their own developing brains’ abilities to truly empathize with what I am going through and hence what I need from them. I’ve successfully scared off au pairs who self-selected out of the pool because they are afraid of “mental illness”. That’s fine by me. I don’t have time for that kind of ignorance.

It *seems* harder to find au pairs with that wonderful “here to HELP” attitude that Lana just articulated so well. Maybe being less specific in the handbook would be better — would they then assume that it is their job to do more things if the list wasn’t so specifically delineated?

This leads me to wonder if we should think about a special needs willing au pair next time. My favorite two au pairs were both from rematch, as I’ve mentioned before, but they were also special needs willing — and as I remind myself, they also extended with us, so it can’t be that we are such an awful family. Maybe it is that special needs willingness that made them a great fit with us, not their rematch status. Perhaps special needs would be better — not for the kids — for me!

Thankfully my sense of humor was not affected by being whacked upside the head. :-)

Gianna October 22, 2012 at 10:01 am

I also used to say things like ” would you mind doing this or that ?”.
Or, “I would appreciate it if you did the following…. ”
Now I say ” This needs to be done ” or ” This must be done by 10 AM on Tuesday. I find that the different phrasing can be said with a smile and it is much less confusing. I learned this when I worked for someone who would say ” I want this done immediately “. Because he was a fair, decent boss no one resented him and everyone understood clearly what was exspected.

Leaving a Comment October 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm

And how do you handle situations when au pair does something that you haven’t really asked her to do and she does it in a different way than you would like it to be done? I could thank, mention it was not expected but pleasant and ask her to do it differently next time, but it still seems to be awkward to “complain” on something that was done “extra”.

Newhostmom October 22, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Our first au pair frequently did things around the house that we hasn’t asked her to do. I’d say 3/4 of the time it wasn’t done exactly the way I would have wanted (just like when my husband does things!) ;) However, I so appreciated her taking the initiative and helping out, that I just said thank you. Fortunately, nthing was of a big enough scale that it mattered enough to squash her helpful spirit.

Busy Mom October 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

It depends what it is, but I have politely asked an AP not to do things that she viewed as helping out but was actually complicating things. For example, we collect the kids’ dirty clothes on weekends and I sort into loads for the AP to wash during the week. During the sorting, I pull out items that require special handling and wash them myself (things that require ironing, no dryer, need to be washed in a mesh bag, might run, etc.) One AP took the initiative to wash some of the clothes that accumulated during the week before they were sorted. I didn’t want this to become a habit (envisioning that special sweater ending up shrunken from the dryer), so simply thanked her and told her it wasn’t necessary and explained why. Now, during the orientation of a new AP, I have on my checklist to mention this item specifically.

If it’s something that your AP is likely to do again and it might result in damage or it’s a safety/hygeine issue, I’d mention it. If it’s just a different way of doing things, then think about it. However, if it will bother you if it continues, mention it now. If you wait until the sixth time, it will be even more awkward.

Newhostmom October 23, 2012 at 8:51 am

Laundry was one of the things that our AP did without asking a few times a month, which was really nice and helpful. She did actually shrink a sweater the first time she did it. So after the I started keeping any dirty special wash items in a basket in our closet instead of putting them with the rest of the wash and never said anything. Worked for us, but we have mostly wash and wear stuff anyway. Something to consider if she’s being helpful and you don’t necessarily want to correct her and risk her thinking you don’t want initiative. She also put the dishes away wrong sometimes when she unloaded the dishwasher, but that’s another one I just let go. I’m trying to think if there were other issues so I can use your idea of warning her about how to do certain things early in the year…

Leaving a Comment October 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm

It looks like it really makes sense to have detailed instructions in the handbook on anything that can cause safety issues, hygiene issues, damage and go over those things at the beginning, even if you don’t expect au pair do use/do a certain thing. Laundry is one of those things. I just find it so hard to realize what our “rules” are until they are broken :). And it’s a challenge for find a good balance between being upfront with some “obvious” household rules and showing trust to a young adult, not insulting them…

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Oh yes! This is very important!

I used to use what my husband calls “smoke and mirrors” in my requests. This is from my very non-direct family of origin, which confuses him a great deal. We can come away from the same dinner with my family and I have to interpret for him — we come away from his family’s dinners and he has to talk me off the ledge because I find them so incredibly blunt and rude. It’s a style thing, but when you are dealing with language differences on top of it, it’s too easy for an au pair to misunderstand and actually think the task you just mentioned is optional.
“This needs to be done this morning, before you go to the library. Then this afternoon you can do X.” as Gianna said, with a big smile, is much more effective. Effective host parenting is what we are after. Not super politeness.

Remember — it’s management success you’re after, especially in the first month. She will either start building her own mental checklists after that and you can back off, or she won’t.

Pray for the former! :-D

HMinDelRay October 22, 2012 at 10:30 am

This thread gets more and more constructive and i am so thank you!

Just for factual addition here – may I add some mathematics? I read some posts by AP’s and by our AP that their hours and lives are so stressed, hard, put upon, etc… I think almost all HM’s would agree! We empathize for sure. We live it too, it is our reality. I rarely see a balanced account of gratitude seeing how much parents do and thankfulness that they have free time. There is not much space or effort spent to discuss the ability to stop the job at 5 pm or 8pm (whatever is your schedule) and go out with friends, or coup up in your room or go out and sit on the deck and have a full and uninterrupted conversation, or take a nap, decompress, etc…. So this data is a reflection of how time is spent and a little on why.

There are 168 hours in a week, and AP’s may be responsible for up to 45 of them. 123 hours remain, perhaps 63 of them are considered sleeping hours. That leaves 60 hours of active children hours which are covered by parents, generally in addition to the full 40-hr work week. Since I have 3 kids under 3, even the sleeping hours are not really sleeping. My husband is a chef and works in a restaurant – he is not home in the evening so I cover all evening activities from about 4:30-10 pm on my own. I hope that AP’s understand that our work is like 100-160 hours per week. I get maybe 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep at any given time. Good thing I am not one of those who NEEDS her 9-hrs straight.

I know that the AP day is full, stressful, focused, mainly awake and that AP’s are not used to it. AP’s are almost always young and inexperienced in life and in work – I know because I was one and I journaled so I can re-read exactly what I was doing and thinking 20+ years ago. We have so much to offer EACH OTHER. We should be the best of allies. That is how I approached our AP from the start and that is how much of the year was characterized – until let’s say Aug/Sept and her year is over in Nov. I think that was also maybe why I was so disappointed and surprised by how things transpired. This decline in motivation is normal for months 9-12. They have forged close ties and emotionally will have to let go and move on – this is an emotional rollercoaster and may even be partially unconscious.

I can also add that I have my family by luck and design. We spent a lot of money, resources and emotions going through IVF. I was a pin cushion for 4 years, getting shots, building up hope, experiencing miscarriages, blah blah blah. BUT! I feel like I have hit the mega lotto with our twins and baby. I am also grateful for all the years I had to myself – to climb the corporate ladder, travel the world, go clubbing, find myself, sleep in, sleep straight through the night, have a full phone conversation without interruption, wear clothes without spit up or mud stains, etc…. When I am drawing with my kids, going on a picnic, helping to potty train them or awake with them all night when they are throwing up – my gratitude is not lost. It is all part of being a parent and I adore my family (some moments may not look like it – when I am losing my patience and my head, but deep down, I am appreciative ;-)) Additionally, life is life and I have to work, and I need someone else to work to watch my kids. It’s economics 101. I make more$$, I share it with my husband, our mortgage firm, our AP, our kids, Giant Food store, TARGET, etc…

I really tried to do this without writing a novella but these situations are not simple. We are human and all in all this has been a great year – full of learning. I am more armed and prepared now and really looking forward to our AP#2. She is so keen on truly joining our family, learning about our holidays and traditions. We have already shared quite a bit on weekly emails since she has been selected. She goes for her VISA soon and will start packing. Time for me to paint her room, build her WELCOME basket with all her AP tools and some fun Wash DC stuff, etc… WEHOO! Likewise, we will work hard to finish this chapter with current AP on a high note. About 3 weeks to go! Wish us luck!

EU.AP October 22, 2012 at 6:09 pm

I have one more factor in your time mathematics, which I think is often overlooked. When I was working full-time, before becoming an au pair, I would come home after an 8 hr shift and have to do things like… Clean, dishes, cook, laundry. A forty hour work week quickly became sixty hours when the household chores and travel time were entered into the equation. As an au pair, my cleaning/cooking was generally done on the clock. It’s a lovely world when house and work can be combined, because then free time is actually free time.

Tristatemom October 23, 2012 at 8:55 am

Can we put your last sentence on a T-shirt and give it to all APs at orientation!!!!!

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 10:51 am

:-D Seriously! Au pairs do not sit at the kitchen table working, trying to figure out dinner, worrying about the fridge that isn’t quite at the right temperature, trying to remember which kid needs shoes for colder weather and what size they’re wearing now, whether the furnace actually got serviced…. etc .

On the gratitude note from DelRay — HEAR HEAR!!!!!

I tell people that my first was a “one in a million” baby because I was on the pill, and my second my million dollar baby, because I had 5 years and 3 miscarriages. And I am a much better mom when I work than when I am a SAHM.

Gratitude can also be a factor for the au pairs’ world view. My fave au pair, my good friend now, is just an appreciative person. She has perspective. She enjoys simple pleasures that we do (like great food and conversation).

Our last au pair got the same nummy food, and I tried so hard to extend myself to her, but she never *ever* said a meal was good, or showed an interest in what we were doing, or seemed truly grateful for anything.

Maybe gratitude is something that comes with the silver hair… :)

Seattle Mom October 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Amen to that, sister!

My 20 month old still rarely sleeps more than 3 hours in a row, and it just wears me down… (thankfully my 3 1/2 year old sleeps much better, but we’re about to start putting her to bed with no diaper, so we’ll see where that goes).

I really feel your pain on doing evenings all by yourself, with 3 under 3, I can believe how hard that must be. I do 2 evenings per week alone, because my husband teaches community college and he always has to do one evening class, which means he gets home after 9pm (sometimes 10pm depending on the class) 2 weekday evenings of the week. And he also does about an hour of daytime childcare per weekday (because he’s working from home when not in class), because otherwise we would be over the 45 hours per week. Then I’m on duty on the weekend, all hours, when my husband helps out here and there, but sometimes not at all. If I really need him to he will, but that’s when he gets most of his prep work for class done. He also rows, so he’s gone 3-4 mornings per week, so I have to figure out how to get ready for work while keeping my younger from waking up my older (if the older daughter gets woken up she is in a FOUL mood, and the younger finds it very exciting to barge into her room and yell). If they are both awake, they are both making demands on me all morning and sometimes I just can’t get dressed or brush my teeth until the AP comes on duty- and she never arrives until 5 minutes before I’m supposed to leave for work. HA!

I do appreciate all the hard work my AP does, I think she is amazing with the kids, but I don’t think she really appreciates how hard we all work.. it’s not like I spend all day on the internet while she is raising my kids :).

Au pair October 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Why don’t u just tell her to start a little earlier?

Posie October 22, 2012 at 11:51 am

What an interesting thread. AP#1 said something to me about how I “only” watched my kids 3 hours/day and it wasn’t meant to be mean (she was just a very direct person) but it really stung. She was 20 and while great with the kids, had never lived alone and had no clue what goes into running a household. Now that she’s gone home and tried to live on her own she is struggling and I’m actually really glad…she needed to have a reality check and we DID “spoil” her as our first AP.

Fast forward to our current AP (#2) who is 26, worked full time for 3+ years and during that time lived on her own and paid her way. She has said to me several times when I get home from work “you look tired, do you want me to get the kids dinner started while you change your clothes and have a few minutes to relax?” (I’ve only taken her up on it a couple of times!) and she has also said to me many, many times that she knows how hard it is to work in an office (she actually really prefers the company of children and plans to get a Master’s in teaching when she returns home).

AP#1 would also be resentful if we had her working when we were doing anything but working. For example, on a week where there was a holiday (like MLK day), we would often give her that as her day off and then my husband and I would have her work Saturday so we could do some errands together, go for a walk, have a carefree Saturday date-day. I could tell it made our AP mad, but I didn’t really care (we never did this for weeks like Thanksgiving, xmas, or New Year but just for the other one-day holidays in the year so a total of maybe like 5 times). AP#2 is happy to work whenever we schedule her although we do check in with her about plans with friends before scheduling weekends.

My kids are 18 months apart and are both under 4, so the AP doesn’t have an “easy” job but the kids do nap 2 hours every day and we encourage them to use it as a ‘break’ (after cleaning up lunch dishes and other tidying…worst case scenerio is a 90 minute break). I echo what the other moms have said…every moment of being a mom is being a mom and you don’t get any kind of break or peace. On weekends while my kids nap I am usually doing laundry for me and my husband, cooking, or doing some other house-related task. I’m never Skyping with my best friend during that time :) It’s a great thing to be a mom but I wouldn’t want another AP who begrudges me a little “me” time or a little more “lax” parrenting on occasion.

What this has taught us in our search for AP#3 (coming soon…) is that we want someone who does have full-time work experience, particularly in an office setting (vs. waitressing, etc.) just because I feel like she’ll have better perspective. Also, one of our requirements in both of our previous searches was APs who had full-day childcare experience. Huge difference between babysitting for 3-4 hours (even if hundreds of times) and spending 9-10 hours on a regular basis with little ones!

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 10:53 am

full time day care experience is VERY important for this age group. Totally agree.

I *thought* I was being smart with picking a former waitress, but honestly, I think the girl must have only worked one shift per week at it. She seemed to have never actually WORKED or been responsible for anything in her entire life.

New Host Mom October 24, 2012 at 11:04 pm

I looked specifically for full-time work experience as well as someone who had younger siblings. My preference was that this be something OTHER than day care experience, as I found it overwhelming to try to sort among all of the people who “loved kids.” Our ( great) 21 year-old has told me that much of the child care experience among her friends is fabricated, and that several of her au pair friends do not actually like children at all. I knew that before hosting an au pair, from this life saving blog, so I figured someone would be less likely to make up an unrelated job. We seem to have gotten lucky so far.

CA Host Mom October 26, 2012 at 12:35 am

We recently parted with a 19 y/o AP who had very obviously fabricated every bit of her “infant qualified” experience. She even admitted it to our former AP before she left! So frustrating to have spent the time we did on her. Happy to report, though, that re-match gifted us an amazing, responsible, helpful, loving AP for who really enjoys being around our 2 young boys.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 25, 2012 at 8:02 am

In my experience, unless the AP candidate has REALLY worked (I had one that had been a PICU nurse for several years in her country), then it is useful to ask them, “How many hours per week did you work at X?” For many countries jobs that teenagers hold are not like those American teenagers might hold.

I personally look for an educational component – did the AP earn a high school diploma that required her to have practical experience in a variety of settings with children? Did she earn some college credits or hold a university degree or certificate that featured work with children. I have also found, having a special needs child myself, that actual experience with children who have special needs is preferable to just being willing to do the work (I think of being willing as casting one’s net broadly).

For 5 of the 8 APs we have hosted, their educational component put them in the Extraordinnaire category. Although it means a lot of extra money (the fees are higher and the weekly stipend is higher), I got what I paid for. The APs were intelligent, dedicated, and good at trouble-shooting. Only 1 of the 3 regular APs did not need constant coaching.

Just yesterday, I asked — because I had been out of town on work — why the AP hadn’t made notes on something that needed to be done. Her reply – “I waited for HD to tell me.” Wrong answer.

Finally, while it may look like the majority of APs don’t like children, you might be surprised at how many feature their HKs on their cell phone wallpaper, or talk about them fondly. I think many APs fall in love with their HKs during the course of their year. On the other hand, for those who have never had practical experience with children or had a steady part-time job that required them to be on time and responsible, being an AP is a steep learning curve.

Seattle Mom October 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm

We also use those federal holidays to get a little alone-time.. sometimes we have offered our AP the choice of 4-5 hours of work on the holiday itself or on the following weekend. (her usual workday is 8-10 hours, depending on the day) She usually chooses to work on the holiday, unless she wants to travel for the 3 day weekend.

Newhostmom October 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I like where this thread has gone and just recognized something else for the previous post. One if the reasons we chose an AP (instead of daycare) is because we are at a point where we realized that in order to be successful at parenting and at marriage, we need to stop focusing exclusively on the kids and on work. We need to make sure we spend that evening together on a date each week, spend an hour each weekend doing something totally on our own, spend a few hours in the weekend cooking for the week so we’re not running around like crazy during what I agree is the most stressful draining period of my day (approximately 5:30-8pm). For a few years when we first had kids, we did none of this and we were miserable, which I’m sure affected the kids.

We don’t have an AP just for chldcare during work hours. We have an AP for childcare to make our lives easier and less stressful, which directly affects our marriage and our kids’ lives. This year, there are a few hours each week that our au pair will work when we are not at work. On some of those weeks, I may go shopping or maybe just to out to eat with my husband, or meet a girl friend or just sit in a coffee shop while my AP is with the kids for an hour.

I had assumed that she would just get that I need to step away from family life for a few hours a week to stay sane and to stay married. But I think that might be a conversation I have in the beginning now or somewhere on my application so our APs understand just how much they are needed for non-work hours too and even though it looks like I’m just relaxing, it’s not because I’m lazy and just forcing the AP to work. Without her, I wouldn’t get any time to myself at all (let alone the 60 non-sleeping, non-working hours a week that HostMominDelRay calculated that au pairs approximate per week). And I’ll remember to thank her for giving me those hours too.

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 10:58 am


How many of us even get regular haircuts? That’s my personal goal for next year. More than two haircuts in a 12-month period.

We had established “date night” for parents with our great au pair — actually, she’s the one who made us start doing it, and I will go thank her for it right now again — but I realize only now that we were so uncomfortable with the connectedness of our last au pair that we never did one in the past 3 months. You can’t do this if you aren’t comfortable with your kids being taken care of.

Good lord, the more time I spend reading this string the worse I feel about letting it go for 3 months.

If you aren’t loving your au pair, folks, make a change! Don’t just try to coach if the coaching doesn’t seem to have any effect after a week. I’m quite serious. I keep working at these relationships much harder than the au pairs.

Newhostmom October 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I like where this thread has gone and just recognized something else for the previous post. One if the reasons we chose an AP (instead of daycare) is because we are at a point where we realized that in order to be successful at parenting and at marriage, we need to stop focusing exclusively on the kids and on work. We need to make sure we spend that evening together on a date each week, spend an hour each weekend doing something totally on our own, spend a few hours in the weekend cooking for the week so we’re not running around like crazy during what I agree is the most stressful draining period of my day (approximately 5:30-8pm). For a few years when we first had kids, we did none of this and we were miserable, which I’m sure affected the kids.

We don’t have an AP just for chldcare during work hours. We have an AP for childcare to make our lives easier and less stressful, which directly affects our marriage and our kids’ lives. This year, there are a few hours each week that our au pair will work when we are not at work. On some of those weeks, I may go shopping or maybe just to out to eat with my husband, or meet a friend or just sit in a coffee shop while my AP is with the kids for an hour.

I had assumed that she would just get that I need to step away from family life for a few hours a week to stay sane and to stay married. But I think that might be a conversation I have in the beginning now or somewhere on my application so our APs understand just how much they are needed for non-work hours too and even though it looks like I’m just relaxing, it’s not because I’m lazy and just forcing the AP to work. Without her, I wouldn’t get any time to myself at all (let alone the 60 non-sleeping, non-working hours a week that HostMominDelRay calculated that au pairs approximate per week). And I’ll remember to thank her for giving me those hours too.

Gianna October 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I’ve come to love reading this thread. I want to share the observation that once children are in school they spend a considerable amount of time away from their parents in the care of people to whom their parents have delegated responsibility but I have never heard a schoolteacher say ” I am the one who is raising these children “. I have never heard a daycare worker say that either. I have heard women ( mostly women from the American south ) refer to a beloved housekeeper by saying ” she helped me raise my children “. In every case , the woman who said that was expressing gratitude without resentment. An aupair finishes her job at a certain time and is ” free “. Most of us hope she enjoys her time off although I have heard host mothers say comment on the fact that there is an end to the aupair’s day whereas a mother comes home from work and ” takes over “. Her day starts when she walks in the door after work. This is a critical difference. And the aupair could, if she choose to go through the agony of it, throw in the towel or ask to rematch. There is no rematch for mothers – as the L & D told me when I was giving birth to my first child : the only way out is through – you cannot stop now LOL

Taking a Computer Lunch October 22, 2012 at 6:07 pm

I write in my handbook that I expect the AP to be the 3rd adult in the house and that she plays a role in raising the kids. While you might think the AP’s role decreases as the children enter school, the opposite is true. The older they get the greater the opportunity for the AP to act as a role model. My kids almost always side with the AP, probably because they are so close in age. My APs read their books, may listen to their music, may attempt to influence them to enjoy other music, may encourage them to try new foods (although for the last few APs my kids have had a much wider palate and the AP is constantly trying something new).

However, as a parent of older children, who have an AP, as well as teachers, friends, and peers, I try to remain the biggest influence on their lives.

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 11:01 am


Radio station choice alone is important. Go spin around the dial and hear the objectification of women… :D Even if I had two boys, I would not like that.

Our fave au pair turned me on to Bon Iver.

Vive la difference!

Lana October 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Ok maybe I am wrong, but I assumed au pairs are here to HELP!? I have never talked to my au pair friends about this. But after this post I will!! I thought that it is expected and normal to help wherever you can. I write my hm a grocery list every day. I keep track of laundry and sheets every week. I tell her when the car needs to get a service. I go shopping if we are out of something we need every day. I make the milk order every week. Write down on family calendar when she needs to be at school for meeting with teacher because I get the information slip at school. I take kids clOthes shopping when they grow out of current ones. I put small ones in bags and lable them. She told me a week ago that I make her life too easy, and I didn’t understand, but that’s what I thought a au pair is here for… I didnt write that to show u what I do etc. I am just VERY surprised!!

Calif Mom October 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Lana, you are right, it is what the program should be– “on a par with”. But you are also rare and I do hope your host mom treasures you. Clearly, your own parents should be proud. You should be too.

oranje_mama October 23, 2012 at 3:46 pm

great thread!

I’m in month 10 of with our first au pair. It’s been a very positive experience – especially because it has made our lives less stressful. Less stress for parents = happier family. (I so agree with newhostmom!)

I have definitely also learned a lot this year. Like the OP, I think I was too accomodating in the beginning. I also was formerly an exchange student (in a family), DH is not American. The cross-cultural aspect is big for us and we really wanted our AP to experience a great year.

As the year has gone on, I’ve realized that for first half of the year, I didn’t ask enough of our AP. Even though our AP never worked the full 45 hours (2 kids in school), I didn’t ask her to work any time at all on the weekend. DH and I would run around like crazies starting our Saturday just like a work day, to plan the week’s shopping list and meals, dropping off and picking up kids from activities, birthday parties, dry-cleaning, etc. while AP slept in & slept right through the arrival back home with a week’s worth of groceries all to be brought into the house & unpacked by DH or me.

Over the summer we brought our AP on vacation with us mainly because of my good intentions to have her experience a different part of the US, even though she did not need to “work” that week. (This was separate and apart from her vacation, which was scheduled at her convenience.) I realized (too late) that we really needed to have some family time without the AP on that vacation. I invited her because I felt like that’s what a good HM would do . . . but found myself feeling resentful later. I think I know myself and family a bit better now, and realize that we need some breaks from the AP during the year.

Emboldened perhaps by the resentful feelings, at the end of the summer I asked AP to start working Sat. mornings. She accepted this gracefully. We faithfully schedule her full weekends off well in advance (they’re all scheduled through the end of her year). I realized that this AP (maybe like many of them) is just not going to take the initiative on her own – she just wasn’t going to “see” how crazy our Saturdays were and volunteer to pitch in. But once we made our expectations clear, she has been perfectly willing and able to work on Sat. AM. (and in return we have been flexible – if she has a special activity on a Sat AM, we will schedule around that.)

So, one thing I plan to do for our next AP is to be more explicit. Not to expect that the AP see the opportunities that I see for her to be helpful or expect her to jump in without direction. I will be more forthright from the beginning about how we want her to help. And regarding vacations and Saturdays — we alerted our new AP during matching that we expect her to take vacation when we do (we will likely take a 2-3 week vacation in the summer) and that she should expect Sat. AM as part of her regular schedule.

One last lesson learned is about food. Our current AP started the year a picky eater, but has made incredible (literally incredible!) progress in becoming more adventurous over the course of the year (she now eats almost everything we serve!). Still, we had some difficult few months in the beginning as the kids were hyper-sensitive to what she wouldn’t eat – she was clearly not used to eating anything that wasn’t bland – and it led to our kids become pickier – something which has persisted particularly with regard to fish which we used to eat at least 1X per week.

Any advice from fellow HMs on handling picky-eater-ness? We did our best to screen out extreme cases during matching (no vegetarians, no special diets). But for example, I would like to go back to eating fish once a week. With our current AP we established the habit that we wouldn’t serve fish when she was at home – or we would make sure we had something else for her. I don’t want to go down this path again. I want to simply prepare one meal for the whole family including AP – sometimes this will be fish, sometimes vegetarian, sometimes meat. I’m thinking that as I communicate with our new AP over the course of the next 2 months that I will work this into communications. Anyone have any other tips on dealing with this?

Finally, one big surprise for me this year is that unlike the OP, I do not feel particularly “protective” of my AP. She’s done couch-surfing (always with another friend) and travelled over weekends without my having her travel details. I have asked that she text me when she arrives to say that she’s OK. Or I’ll text her during her travels just to check in. I don’t find myself staying up at night to hear when she comes in. In general, I’m not nearly as “close” to our AP as I thought I would be. She is very private & reserved, this is partially the reason. But also, I think I discovered that the HF-AP dynamic and the dynamic I had as an exchange student with my HF (I was only 16) can be very different. I’m actually OK with the more distant relationship I have with our AP but it came as a surprise to me.

JJ Host Mom October 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm

We have a rule that if the au pair eats with the family, she eats what we’re eating. If she wants to eat something different, she eats by herself before or after our meal (and prepares her own food.)

Should be working October 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm

The eating does seem like an easy fix, certainly for next time and even for the remainder of your current year:

“We need to reduce our cooking responsibilities and model for our kids our expectations, so we’re going to be making only one dinner and anyone who isn’t happy with the menu will need to make do with the sides [and you could add that bread and butter, or fruit and yogurt, are allowed as supplementation–or better yet, have them on the table and make the rule that ‘whatever is on the table, is what we are offering’].

Now don’t ask me if I have implemented this successfully with my own kids. But I wish I had.

Newhostmom October 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm

We sound really similar in terms of being too accommodating and then getting a little resentful as the year went on. I think that’s probably a common pattern with first au pairs. On the food issue though, I think you’re being way way too accommodating. You are not obligated to provide a home cooked meal to her liking every night. I would just make what you’re going to make and if she doesn’t like it, she can make something for herself or go out and get something (on her own dime). I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all.

Newhostmom October 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Once again, I should clarify. We had an adventurous eating au pair who frequently ate with us. I knew there were some things she really liked and some she didn’t, so I would generally lean toward some things and not others just like any member of the family. But there is no way I’d be short order cooking for anyone.

Mom Of 2 Cool Kids October 23, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Glad your first au pair experience has gone well.

We are on our third au apair. Each one has had different types of food they like to eat. I feel like with each new au pair we adjust what we eat slightly so that we can prepare one meal for all of us. I am willing to avoid making the dishes that I like to make life easier. Then when I know she will not be around, I make it. Not sure this is helpful, but it is also quite limiting for you to have someone who won’t each fish at all. We dig for details on what candidates like to eat to try and get a sense of how difficult it will be to adjust. Rather than asking “what do you like to eat?” we ask about specific dishes and describe our typical meals. It wouldn’t necessarliy be a deal breaker for us if they had a serious aversion to one of our staples, but it is a factor we consider.

Our au pairs have all been different when it comes to how private they are and how much time they spend with us. I haven’t figured out yet the right questions to ask to predict this in an au pair. I do have to say when our 2nd au pair arrived I was shocked to see how different two people who are the same age and from the same country can be such different people. It sounds obvious I know, but I thought there would be greater similarities. I wasn’t so surprised when the 3rd arrived and she was vastly different as well.

Good luck with your next au apair!

LuvCheetos October 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Our rule (for the kids as well) is that if you don’t like what we’re eating, you can make a PB&J sandwich. Presumably, the AP can make anything she wants, not just PB&J, but the idea is that I do not make special meals outside of the main meal.

Lately, our AP has not been eating with us. She doesn’t eat much, but I also suspect she’s not in love with the food. That’s fine. I’m ok as long as she is not saying “yuck” at the table. I’m willing to buy whatever she’d like for her to eat during the day or prepare for herself.

Leaving a Comment October 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I bet my kids would want PB&J all the time if they knew what it is and if I let them have PB&J :).

Newhostmom October 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Why no PB&J? We use whole wheat all natural bread, natural PB and low sugar all fruit jam and when combined with apple slices or carrot sticks, that’s actually really healthy. No?

Leaving a Comment October 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I guess it’s the matter of personal preference… My kids would want to eat sweat meals all the time, if they were allowed. And I’d like them to know variety of tastes. I think most of the food is so loaded with sugar anyway and I need to make effort to limit sugar in-take. I have been raised in a different culture, were the food was less sweet and that may be one of the reasons I have such preferences now and I try to pass that to my children. I don’t want them to have sweet meals all day long even though they would love to :). From my point of view, PB&J is suitable for a dessert, because it’s sweet. I wouldn’t want my kids to have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner. But that’s just me. I totally understand I may be alone here with those preferences and views and that’s OK. Regarding the low-sugar jam, I may be wrong, but I think it’s pretty hard to find low-sugar products that would be actually less sweet in taste than regular ones and did not contain aspartame, which I’d prefer my family to avoid (I understand there are many different opinions on that, but my view on that is what it is). All in all I just wouldn’t tolerate PB&J as an alternative to regular meals, but I would accept it as an idea for a dessert. But that’s just me.

Should be working October 23, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I want PBJ just reading this thread! But I’m alone in my family in my PB obsession.

Newhostmom October 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Leaving a Comment – totally cool, I was just curious! I’m with you on the cutting down on sugar. We are a low-sugar, no processed foods family ourselves. You can actually find low-sugar jam that doesn’t have fake sugar (which we also don’t eat or drink, myself included). And of course, you can do what we usually do, which is easily make your own jam. PB&J is sweet though even if you’re using bread, peanut butter and jam that don’t have added sugars. So I see where you’re coming from. It’s one of my personal favorite snacks though :)

Taking a Computer Lunch October 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I cook 4-6 meals each week, and am fairly accommodating to au pair needs. AP #2 was allergic to corn, and we did without while she was here. AP #3 was allergic to shellfish and so we didn’t plan on serving it when she was sitting at our table (fortunately she had a mild allergy and could tolerate residues on the cookware). AP #8 doesn’t eat any meat or fish, and so we reserve our love of seafood dishes for the nights we know she is unlikely to join us at the table. Some APs preferred not to eat lentils, some preferred not to eat mushrooms. All learned to tolerate my cow dairy-free, pesce-vegetarian diet.

All get warned they will eat a lot of new foods in our house – some approach our explorations in food with greater aplomb than others. The picky eaters take small portions of new foods. Some of them learn to love what we serve, others choose to spend their salaries on meals out with friends.

I do make it clear that they are setting an example for my children, so if they don’t like a meal they are not to scrape their plates into the garbage, make faces, or make a meal of bread and butter. If their eating habits are lousy, then I casually refer to my need to mix my proteins. When an AP shuns fresh salad, and my kids notice and protest, then I say, “That meal did not have a full serving of vegetables, I expect you to eat your salad.” I do not comment on the AP’s decision.

If they respond to something positively, then I mark my cookbooks (after 8 APs, many of the recipes have lots of annotations), and try to make dishes for which they have expressed a preference a little more frequently.

Posie October 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I have a freezer that I keep stocked with Michaelina’s (spelling?) frozen meals. They go on sale frequently for 88centers per meal and I buy the ones I know our au pair likes. We also welcome her to have bread, yogurt, fruit, cheese, and cereal if she doesn’t want to eat with us (which she rarely does, she doesn’t like our food but it really hasn’t been a problem, she will join us for special occasions). I’ve also told her we will reimburse her for a few personal food items per week and she rarely spends more than $10…

HRHM October 24, 2012 at 8:58 am

I cook most evenings. I make what I make and if anyone doesn’t like it then they can eat sides, salad, fruit, yogurt or a bowl of cereal. Luckily this AP hasn’t disliked anything I make on a routine basis. She has asked for potatos on occasion (I usually try to keep it pretty low carb) and I made them a few times, but I didn’t make it a daily thing.

I try to pick up things from the German section of the store (hunter sauce, red cabbage) that we’ve never tried and she often advises me on making German dishes and cooks with me.

Having said that, this is the first AP we’ve had that has been like this (and I’m loving it!) I think it is actually something I will screen for in the future. She and I have a real bond over cooking (amongst other things) and we are teaching each other things every week.

In the past, AP1 never ate in front of us (anorexic) and AP2 ate pretty much bread and nutella pancakes only. AP3 ate a big meal in the middle of the day when she was home alone. I definitely prefer our current setup to any of these.

Calif Mom November 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

It’s very hard to find an au pair who actually does enjoy cooking like that. I’ve only had one.

Not hard to find au pairs who *say* they like to cook, though. But making cupcakes is much different from cooking dinner, so ask very careful and deliberate questions about this.

oranje_mama October 24, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Thanks for the suggestions!

To clarify, I should say that absolutely I haven’t been a short order cook. And this AP has expanded dramatically what she eats over the course of the year. In the first few months there was a lot left on the plate — most of the time it’s a clean plate now!

I like the suggestion of saying either you eat what we eat at the table, or you make your own meal subsequently. The “just make do with sides” is an issue for us because our rule is that our kids must at least try several bites of whatever we’re eating. It’s hard to enforce that rule if AP doesn’t have to eat any of it. And our kitchen is just too small for there to be multiple meal preps going on at the same time.

My thinking at the beginning of our AP year was, well soon enough she probably won’t be eating all meals with us and we’ll just save fish for when she’s not here. Turns out she eats almost every meal with us and on weekends, usually only very short notice on the relatively rare occassion that she’s not eating with us (perhaps proof that she decided she likes the variety of food after all – she tends to eat w/ us and go out afterward with friends). So, saving a meal for when she’s not there didn’t turn out to be a strategy that worked very well.

BTW, I’m perfectly happy with her eating with us virtually every meal. Especially now since her horizons have expanded! Really the only issue is fish.

JJ Host Mom October 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Yes… for the record, the whole family has the “eat what’s on the table” rule. I have 4 year old twins and it’s always been very important to me that they’re good eaters (which, thankfully, they are) so therefore it’s always been important that the adults in the household set a good example.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 25, 2012 at 7:52 am

We have a “one-day off” rule in our house, although now that my tween eats almost everything has become less necessary. He can pick one day to have leftovers from another meal. For the last few years his palate has been much broader than several of my APs’. I think he actually spurs them to try new things.

SandyKassia October 27, 2012 at 7:48 am

I am hosting my first au pair (second if you count the first one who stayed only 8 weeks). I am a former au pair myself (was au pair in 2004) and I must tell that I see a LOT of things differently now that I am a professional (physical therapist), a mom, AND a host mom.
First I used to think i was cheap labor. I used to resent the fact I worked 45hs per week and make $139 per week (yup that was the salary at that time) while nannies out there made $400+… I used to think I was the only one responsible for the children, and that I raised them. I used to be angry that I couldn’t get the kids to see tv but my hosts would as soon as they get home.
It is funny to see how things changed though. Somedays I am jealous of my au pair because in the end of her week she has $200 free cash, and after I pay all my bills, separate money for emergencies, savings, upcomings, I have little or nothing left in the account. My husband even jokes that many months our au pair has higher power of shopping than we do. I now understand that there is a LOT more on caring for children than the 45hs au pair do (believe me, I was up at 4am with baby 3, who I finally got to bed at 6am, when toddler woke up :( ).
I see my au pair’s friends (and possibly my au pair) making the same complaints that I used to have. I guess I have a better understanding of where they are coming from, as well as I always try to tell them the other (my/their family’s) side.
Regardless, I don’t think they will really get it until they are the parents themselves.

SandyKassia October 27, 2012 at 7:53 am

As for food, I cook one meal. and that’s it. If my kids dont like it, they dont eat… until next meal. Maybe that’s why my 2.5yo eats most anything. She will eat any veggie you place in front of her. I do confess though that If I am cooking something I am not sure of, I make extra sides of things I know they will eat.
The au pair eats what we eat. She is welcome to make a sandwich for herself AFTER dinner (so that kids don’t see her). Due to fact that the 2 girls who have been to my house are from my home country I have not had many situations where they did not like my food, but I am sure it may happen in the future.
The only thing I do avoid is shrimp because au pair is allergic

Calif Mom November 3, 2012 at 10:14 am

I’d just caution on the feeding issues — don’t get too proud about having “good eaters” or be too sure that it’s the product of your thoughtful parenting style alone.

Palates change over time, and your kids’ personalities drive as much about eating as your parenting approach does. Our eldest is an adventurous eater and our youngest is a fairly picky one, and I assure you that neither our parental food philosophies or expectations around mealtime behavior changed in between their births. The kids are just different people.

We have enough guilt as working parents! There are many ways to feed kids (and spouses/partners!) and most of them are just fine.

HMinDelRay October 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm

SandyKassia, you have such a unique situation since you we’re an au pair from another country than the US, recently, and felt the same views and resentment as many do today. In your reality, do you simply ignore it, go on with life knowing they may or may not realize the truth in time as you did? Or have you ever addressed it and discussed it with them?

If you discussed it, what did you say and how did it go?

Thank you for participating in this discussion!!

SandyKassia October 27, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I do talk about those things with many au pairs I know (mostly from my home country). I also used to be part of a facebook group for au pairs and former au pairs from my home country (used – in past tense – because I finally got tired of the same arguments and unwillingness to learn a different point of view).
I see myself (or my former self) in a lot of their complaints. I tend to try to educate the au pairs most of the times. They do give me some credibility because I will defend them when families are abusing, and my house is MOST OF THE TIME open for au pairs who got kicked out from their familie’s home for unfair reasons (and believe me, it happens).
My experience with “live” au pairs and the ones from the facebook group was that the “good” au pairs get it after a honest talk. They may still feel taken advantage of in many circumstances, and occasionally feel overworked, but they get.
The ones that don’t are in my experience, the ones who should not be in this program to begin with. Don’t take me wrong, it is very easy to feel like you are the only one pulling the weight (and all for $200 a week), and that you are undervalued, and that parents don’t care at all (I’ve been there). But the au pairs who still feel this way after I tell them about the realities of life in America are usually the ones who were spoiled in their home country, have a big sense of entitlement, never did real work or anything alike. they are also usually the ones who break rules, have bad attitude/behavior, get in trouble all the time, and lied about their child care experiences…

SandyKassia October 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm

In between, there IS a group on facebook for former au pairs who are now mom’s in America, and I will say that “WE” all get it now (doesn’t matter how we behaved before).
The group has about 30 girls and they all agree that things were not the way they thought.

Glenda October 28, 2012 at 8:25 am

Dear Aupairmoms,

I am 24, a teacher from Europe and was working as au pair many times (during my studies as well as for 7 months in one European country). I can tell you what I feel like about being au-pair and the so called: mutual expectations. I do not intend to insult any of you. I just want to tell you what happened to me personally and at the same time to state openly, that I will never be au-pair again in my life.
I will focus on just 2 of my “brilliant” adventures.

1. One, German speaking, European country

I went there to work as au-pair in January this year. I paid a lot of money to our local agency which I trusted. Moreover, the family was recommended to me by their previous au pair, who was still living with them. At that time, I did not know she was not telling me the truth. I beleived in what she said, was happy to work with them and learn German. I spoke with the family itself just once on skype, because they were too busy to speak more. So naive I was…
I arrived on the 9th January. I was picked up from the airport by my host father, driving an expensive car. My host mother as well as the children were very excited to see me. Their previous au pair was expected to stay woth me for a week to show me how the household works. The first 2 days were ok. The nightmare started later on. I was told by their previous au pair that the reality was not so bright as she had described on skype. The younger child ( a boy aged 3) used to hit that au pair many times, bite her and swear at her, although she was working overtime and put a lot of energy in childminding. The 5-year-old girl was spoiled to a great extent as well. She wanted a servant, not just a company to play with.
Days passed. I was treated very badly by my host parents and obviously by those spoiled kids. The apogeum came while spending with them 2 days in their grandma’s house, or rather a villa, as that family was wealthy. Their grandmother’s house was fully staffed ( a cleaner, a cook, a lady to walk a dog, a nanny for the children, private hairdresser, private gym instructor). I was meant to be one of them…just a cheap, working force. One day, after preparing breakfast for children, I was so hungry that I opened a fridge and took out a small yoghurt. Their cook noticed a yoghurt missing. She dived into a bin, grabbed an empty box and shouted at me: ” Glenda, that youghurt belonged to X” Then, she rushed into a dining room where I was refused to enter and said the news to X. Pathetic…
My agency found me a new family withing 2 days, as the previous one found me “lazy”. I used to work for them 54 hrs a week, weekends were not free for me at all, as they used to travel every single Friday and I was supposed to mind the children at that time, because the parents were ” too busy to do that”.
My new family was well-known to the previous one, although at that time I had no clue what I will go through soon. My new, host-family was even wealthier. They were very happy to employ me for a year. My new host mother even found a language course for me. I had a feeling that there was something wrong. On the day I arrived in their house, I was not given any meal to eat. I was only asked to clean after children and go back to my room…surprise, surprise…
Next day, when I woke up, I started working straight away, without eating or drinking. When the children left for school, my host mother gave me 6 hrs off, to go to the town centre and enjoy my time. I told her I would be gone for only 2 hrs as I needed to eat. I came back after 1,5 hrs. As soon as I opened the door, she run into the corridor, shouting at me and sending me staight to my room. She told me to pack my suitcase and leave the house. I did not what was going on. I managed to phone the agency which instead of listening to me, started blaming me myself for what happened. I was puzzled, or rather shocked!!! My host mother threw my suitcase on the ground, -13 outside, telling me to go. I started crying. Thanks God, I had a friend whom I met 2 weeks before and who promised to help me with finding a place to stay in. I spent 1 day in a house of the person I had just met, with the guarantee that he would help me to find a suitable bus going back to my country next day. That person cooked for me, took me for a short trip around the town centre etc. I came back home safe and sound, sad and still puzzled. I phoned the au-pair working for my first host family. She admitted that she had lied to me. She knew exactly that the first host family was not honest and looking for cheap labour and the second host family was enemy of the first one and when they found out that I had been working for them, kicked me out due to anger and jelaousy. The agency did not want to believe me. I was thinking of bringing the case to our local court. I wanted my money back. The agency started blaming me and my lack of involvement in what I was doing. Hahahahahaha…lack of involvement? Working 54 hrs a week without complaining, being hit by a child and treated as a servant is really the lack of involvement? I decided to forget and find a new family. This time with a different agency, free of charge.
It took me a month…

2. One, English speaking European country

I joined my new host family in March 2012. I was so happy to change the environment. Besides, that particular family seemed to be relaxed, obviously not wealthy (thanks God) and what’s most important – honest. I was supposed to mind a 15-month child and a newborn baby ( the baby was 1 week old), altogether 45-50hrs a week with babysittings. The pocket money was really good – 150 euro a week for 40hrs. The family made me feel home. We used to eat together, go out and talk a lot. I had 2 days off a week and babysitting were no more than 4 hrs a week. When I was asked to work 45 hrs> they paid me 170 euro for that. It all went well till September this year. In August I went on holiday. I was gone for 2 weeks. My host family went on holiday as well. I made it clear that I want to spend my holiday on my own, with my family, not working, but relaxing in the way I want. I am not a sociable person, but on my days off I used to go out for a couple of hrs and used to go back around 16.00-17.00. I used to do extra things for them, even when I was off, like for example: washing and sterilizing bottles, sweeping the floor etc. I just wanted to help them and show my positive attitude towards them. I did not have many friends and my family knew that. The only problem was they wanted to know in details whom and where I was meeting them. They were scanning my privacy. To tell you the truth, I hated that. I am an adult and have the right to have a private life. I do not have to confess. One of those little things I kep silent about were my religious views. My host family knew I was interested in Islam. However, they did not know I used to take part is religious services every Sunday. That was my private life again. Anyway, I came back from holiday in September, happy and full of energy. I noticed that things started to change rapidly. First of all, my babsistting were no longer and evening duty. My host mother switched from asking me to do babysittings in the evening to do babysittings in the afternoon, so that, for example when I was supposed to work from 8 till 2pm for money, I had an hour off and then asked to work (babysittings) from 3pm till 8pm, twice a day.I could not understand why I had to work for free more than 10hrs a week! Babysittings means working as well, not watching tv! Does any host mother/father work for free in her/his job? I do not think so…I said nothing. I was doing my job. Once I counted the hours and it was over 50 again. I started thinking deeply. One Friday, at the beginning of October (my 7th month) I wrote on facebook the number of hrs I did that particular week, but I did not add any personal comment, just the number of hrs. On Satruday and Sunday I did not see my host mother as I spent the night in my friend’s house. For the first time in my life I slept over. On Sunday evening she came back home, so did I. My host father called me for dinner. While entering the kitchen, I said “hello” to her and the grandmother. Only the grandmother replied. I felt puzzled again. After the dinner, while washing the dishes, my host mother suddenly asked me: ” Glenda, are you happy with your 40hrs for this week?”. I said: “yes” and left the kitchen. I realised she must have found out I was not happy with being cheap labour. She must have realised I started counting the hours. On Monday I was working as usual. On Tuesday I was supposed to babysit from 7.30 till 9.30 ( as before I went on holiday), but my host mother came back from work with the grandmother, which automatically meant – no babysitting. My host mother said she had to talk to me. She said clearly: “Glenda, we cannot keep you as we have financial troubles. You have to leave this week”. I nearly fainted! First of all, I had a feeling it was not the case with money, secondly – 3 days to pack my suitcase? The contract says: ” a 2-week-notice!!!” I found a suitable flight and contacted the agency. On Wednesday I was supposed to work half a day. Neither my host mother, nor the grandmother were as nice to me as before. I was pretty sure there was something else, not having been told to me directly. If it had been just the case with money, it would not have influenced their attitude towards me. That came as a surprise to me. My host mother used to underline how wonderful with children I was, how grateful to me she was for teaching her older child a foreign language (not my mother tongue). She used to praise me in front of her friends…and suddenly…such a change? By the way, on Thursday I spent the whole day with my Jordanian friends whom I met in the mosque. They prepared dinner for me and asked whether I wanted to sleep over. I was eager to agree to their proposal, but I was also required to clean my room before I leave on Friday. I wanted to leave the room clean for the grandmother. My friends gave me a lift back to my village. They suggested they would wait till I clean my room and pack my suitcase. I entered the house, told my host father I was leaving in less than an hour and that it would be easier for me to get to the couch station from the town. As soon as I stepped into my room, my host mother came running. She said to me: “Glenda, where are you going?” I replied: ” My friends will help me tomorrow and that’s why I will leave the house today. Let me just clean the room”. She started asking more: “Friends? Which friends?”. I had no time to explain to her and to dive into my privacy. I knew she would not tolerate Muslims. She shut the door. I got a terrible headache, felt like vominting ( because of stress) and wanted to leave that house asap”. I put my suitcase outside. When I was about to close to door, she came running again and said: ” Glenda, I am so disappointed! I read your blog! How could you write all those bad things about other families?” I nearly fainted again…Who told her such bullshit? My blog? In my mother tongue she did not know? What a lie!!! Moreover, I have never written any bad thing about host families!!! My blog dealt with my visits to the mosque and my teaching the foreign language to the older child.
I could not believe she was so cruel…For 7 months I was doing my best to meet their expectations. I helped them on my days off, I loved the children as if they were my own ones…
I spent the night with my friends. I came back home puzzled again. I had no energy to trace the truth. I promised to myself that I will never become au pair again!!! Nobody will treat me like a piece of rubbish. I graduated in teaching, have a university diploma and know my own value. How is that possible that au-pair works 50 hours a week? Where are the parents?
I realised that the reason for my dismissing was that my host mother “had discovered” I had my privacy she did not know about. She had no topic to gossip about with the grandmother. My friends helped me a lot. At the end she laughed at them with irony…
She had no courage to tell me directly she was biased towards Muslims. She decided to spy on me, probably using google translator for my blog and what I think – she asked for help her sister-in-law, a person who works with people of my nationality. She might have asked them to translate my blog and I wouldn’t be surprised if she paid them for translation.

Now, my gold thoughts:

1. An au-pair will never be a member of the family. Come on, let’s say the truth – au pair will always be a cheaper option. It is better to pay 400-600 euro a month to the au pair instead of paying 1000 euro for the kindergarten.
2. Babysittings means working, that is why au pair should be given money for that
3. Why should we work at the weekends? Au pair should have a full weekend off, only for herself, no babysittings, no holiday with the family
4. Au air should be able to choose whether she wants to spend her holiday on her own or with the host family. The host family cannot force her to go on holiday with them and obviously work at that time. We all know that the host family inviting au pair for holiday, wants her to work, not relaxing, because the family itself wants to rest…no comment
5. Host families should understand that au pair is neither a cleaner nor a all-day-carer, and she has the right to study, as it is exactly what the au-pair contarct says. The host family should be flexible enough to allow their au pair to study in the evenings/mornings, whenever the classes start.

Good luck to host mothers and to au-pairs. I will never do it again. I just do not have more time to waste….

SandyKassia October 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I will not comment on your experience as I was not there, and do not know the other side of the story. As for your points, here is my view.

1. I do agree with you that an au pair is not really a member of the family. Having both views, I don’t think it is. As an au pair, you (au pair) don’t want to be part of the family intirely. A member of the family will pick up around without counting hours. A member of the family will not mind holding the baby while “the mom” cooks a meal, a member of the family will not mind pinching in here and there, on her off time. And obviously au pairs do not want to be doing those things. In MANY cases, when an au pair says she wants to be part of the family, what she means is that she wants to be treated in a friendly manner, she wants to be respected, and she wants to be invited to family functions (while being able to decline without hurting anyone’s feelings). Mainly, she doesn’t want to be seen as a employee only. On the family view, we (or at least I as a family) really try to treat the au pair as a family member, but reality is, she is not. If my brother or sister acts in a not so responsible way with my children, I may keep him/her from taking them on outings alone, I may yell at him/her, but in the end they are my family. We will mend things. Most likely, if an au pair is not being responsible with my children, and I tell once or twice and they don’t get the idea, they are out. Sorry. So now, an au pair is not truly a member of the family. Plus, it is very hard for a host family, because au pairs will write in their letters about wanting to be treated as family members, but once they are here, they only want the benefit of that relationship and not the “annoyance” and extra work. It is a very thin line to walk on (and a gray area).

STILL ON 1: No, au pair is NOT the cheap way in my house. I live in a very small rural area. I have a wonderful and trustful daycare that will charge me $240 a week to watch my 2 kids from 6am to 6pm. Instead I spend $200 a week + agency fee + extra insurance cost for au pair to drive the car + $20 a month to add au pair to my cell phone bill + $10 a month for au pair to have cable in her room. AND she ONLY works from 7am to 4pm Mon through Fri (because it completes her 45hs a week per contract), and If somethings happens at work and I am late I must pay her EXTRA to get her to stay until later for me. Additionally, twice a week I send my 2.5yo to the wonderful day care because I want her to keep in touch with the kids she grew up with since she started when I returned to work after she was 3mo. So add another $60 for the 2 days a week. I have not been in a date with my husband in years, and can’t use my au pair for such because she has already worked all her hours during the week and wants to go out on weekends.
SO WHY DO I DO IT??? Because it is VERY important for me that my children learn my mother tongue and they were not learning it spending all the day in an English speaking day care.
So NO, Au pair is NOT ALWAYS the cheap option. Many times it is the EXPENSIVE ONE.

2. I agree that you should be paid for every working hour. As an au pair I expected that. However, as a mom it seems funny to me that I have to cook all meals that my au pair will eat (and in my house it means FROM SCRATCH), and I do all this work to provide us all with a meal, but she feels taken advantage off if my husband is away and I suggest she does the dishes today, or if I ask her to hold the crawling 8mo for a few minutes because I am dealing with something VERY hot and the little one is on top of me. It is like I am working for the au pair too. Yes, the family is supposed to feed the au pair but if you are eating and someone else than you had the work to cook it, DOES IT COST TO ASSIST A LITTLE HERE AND THERE (and believe, I was an au pair, I know what is abusive, I really mean a few min here or there).

3. In Europe things are different. In USA the contract says 45hs a week, with 1.5 days off a week. The au pair is not FORCED to match with a family. She has a right to wait until a family comes along that will provide her with weekends off (many do. I did in my matching times). When I talk to prospective au pairs I do actually advise them to not come to families where they will work most of their weekend. I know both sides and I know how important is the weekend for au pairs to connect, enjoy, travel, etc. However, if they accepted the match knowing, there is nothing to do. Sorry.

4. First, I agree that an au pair should be able to choose to spend holidays (as in Christmas, new year, etc) with a family or not. Specially if it is her day off. If as holidays you are talking about vacations, then it is different. If the au pair is on vacation, then it is au pair choice to do whatever she wants. If it is family vacation and the au pair is working, then she is working. Get over it. If the family is counting that time as working time, than the au pair should work her 45hs a week (and have her days off, etc as in the contract). I am a physical therapist and my employer once decided to send me to a training 6 hours away, for a full week. As a mom of two young kids I HATED it. I had to bring a sitter (I did not have an au pair at the time, and was nursing). I had to pay out of my pocket for board for the sitter, and all of the kids and sitter’s expenses. My employer wanted me to go away for a week and was paying me for it, so I went. As ADULTS we do things we don’t like. I did not like going away. Was a PAIN!!! I actually worked way more because the class was more than my 40hs week load, AND I did not get extra. Well… I GOT OVER IT. We all do things we don’t like and sorry.
Second, I like to think that au pairs are mature young adults, and as such they are NEVER forced to do anything. There is always a choice. I had a choice to tell my employer I did not want to go 6hs away for such a long training. I could have quit my job. I didn’t. I made the choice. As such, as an au pair, you can try to tell your host family that you don’t want to go to the beach house with them for a week. They MAY let you stay and count as YOUR vacation week, or they MAY tell you that you go or you quit. And you are always free to rematch, if you are really strongly against going. YOUR CHOICE. Take responsibility over what happens in your life.
As for the family wanting to rest, as long as the au pair is not working more than the hours in the contract, is having her time off as in the contract, and is being paid for the job, there is nothing wrong with it.

5. I agree. Au pair is not a housecleaner. And contract should be followed.

Finally, about you hiding your muslin interest and/or you going to a mosque… The best way would have been the honest approach BEFORE matching. You should let your family know before matching. Therefore if they were against it, they would have had a chance to not match with you. Besides, if your family is really against Muslins, do you really want to work for them????
My family is Cristian. We go to church every Sunday, we pray before meals. I wanted an au pair who would not feel embarrassed praying with my kids before meals. Who would pray with them before bed. So for MY family, I wanted a Christian au pair. Obviously I don’t care which church she goes to, or if she even goes, but she must feel comfortable enough to give hands at dinner table while we pray (even if she only stay quiet), or to say a simple prayer with the kids before serving them lunch.

SandyKassia October 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Just one addendum to the religion thing:
As au pair I worked to a Jewish family. I learned all the prayers. I really enjoyed shabbat dinners and didn’t mind doing the wine or bread prayer with the kids. I actually enjoyed the exchange. And I specially LOVED their holidays!!! So much Fun!!!!!! I had my own Menorah on Hanukkah and they gave me a GIANT Christmas tree that they placed on my room (and occupied 1/3 of if). Their kids had a blast decorating the Christmas tree with me. So it is possible to have a great experience even if you are from a different religion that your family. However, au pair must be upfront on whether or not she is comfortable with family’s practices… and because the au pair will be living in the host family’s house, they must be aware of au pair’s practices too, and feel comfortable about it.

Glenda October 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

But the thing is that they were aware of my interest in Islam from the very beginning. I told them about the people I met on the street and I had spoken to. I told them about the differences between Catholicism and Islam, because they wanted to know. I have never made my interests a kind of secret. The only thing I kept for myself was the mosque. I do not think I had to tell them absolutely everything about myself just because I was living in their house. I am an adult and there are issues I do not have to raise to the people I hardly know and to the people who like to gossip ( my host mother and the grandmother used to spend 3 hrs twice a week on gossiping in the living room which I found disgusting). I just did not want to give them a reason to gossip about me and my practices.
As for “being a member of the family”, as I wrote in my previous post – I have never complained about working overtime. I started counting the hours when I realised I was working 10 hrs for free and I did not find it appropriate. I understand “flexibility”, but to a reasonable extent. Moreover, on my days off I used to do extra things for them in order to make their schedule easier. I did not mind washing the bottles, cleaning the window or the floor. I just wanted to help my host mother, because I knew she was working hard herself. I am not a party-type of au-pair. I used to spend my evenings in my room, learning and talking to friends on skype.
I was always on time, ready to work, always clean, never drunk as I do not drink, never late home from a party as I did not party, always happy to do whatever I was asked to do.
I taught the older boy a foreign language to the extent he could tell aloud simple words himself at the age of 19 months!!! I used to create games for him, songs in that particular language etc. Besides, I loved the newborn as if he were my own baby. Obviously, I was tired after 10-11 hrs of work every day, but is there anyone who wouldn’t be? A newborn and a 19 month old at the same time.In my culture, it is the mother who is responsible for children, not a nanny/au-pair and when one of the parents is at home he/she should take care of the child.
I did not mind dealing with colics, teething, carrying the newborn around the counter so that he could fall asleep etc. I really did not. What I did mind was that “spying”. If I do not tell something aloud, it means I want to keep it for myself.
I am 100% sure that the reason for my dismissing was that sudden discovery. She just couldn’t stand I had a wonderful life outside the “castle walls”.
I do believe there are host families amongst you who really do care about au-pair and who respect their privacy and I do believe that some of you do not bottle up their feelings. If you have an issue with your au-pair, tell her straight away instead of playing a game with her and pretending to be nice. I still can’t understand why my ex host family kept me for so long if they had known before about my religious views.
I was really sad that someone I trusted and felt happy with told me at the end such a lie and tried to persuade me she had read my blog which was in my mother tongue and had absolutely nothing to do with being au-pair or partying. I know that my host mother simply needed an excuse to kick me out and whatever she would find interesting enough, she would not mind using that piece if news against me. Well, I learnt my lesson. Currently I am doing something matching my qualifications and abilities. I decided to use my languages to make a personal progress. I told my female friends about my adventures and of course – I am trying to discourage them from being au-pairs…

newhostmom October 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Glenda, while I certainly feel awful that you had such bad experiences, surely you realize that there are many wonderful host parents also? Host parents who are strict about the 45 hour max, are open to all types of religions and beliefs, and are very appreciative of all their au pairs do? Who would never allow their children to hit their au pair? It sounds like perhaps you had two host families who weren’t a good fit for the program. But there are many au pairs who are very very happy with their situations also.

And on the “cheap labor” thing – we’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. It costs host parents between $20,000 to $30,000 a year to have an au pair and it takes considerable time and effort to “manage” them. It would be about half the price for me to have the kids in a daycare or before/after, so if I really wanted cheap, I would do that. Yes, it would be more money to have a nanny, but a nanny would mean I didn’t have to give up a room in my house or share the car, etc. and nannies require a lot less effort than do au pairs (and around here anyway, are much more experienced and educated in early childhood fields).

EU.AP October 29, 2012 at 8:16 am

Since she’s talking about her European experience, I will say that an au pair IS the cheaper option, though that may not be true in the US.

Agencies are optional, but that doesn’t mean you can flat out exploit an au pair because she “agreed to terms” prior to her arrival. Unfortunately it does make it easier for a family ill suited for the au pair program to abuse the system.

The extra expense that the agencies cost in the US, I imagine, would help to weed out families truly looking for cheap labour.

My family wanted affordable child care, were enthusiastic about inviting another person and culture into their home, and wanted their kids exposed to English. In short, they are perfect candidates for the au pair program, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing that they went with the cheaper route.

newhostmom October 29, 2012 at 9:29 am

Thanks, EU.AP – I just wanted to clear up this line from Glenda’s post: “Come on, let’s say the truth – au pair will always be a cheaper option.” because it’s simply not true for everyone. But you’re right, as I said, that it isn’t the most expensive option either. One of the reasons host families choose au pairs, among many reasons is because it is cheaper than a nanny. I get offended, though, when au pairs think they are so underpaid (when comparing what they would get paid as a nanny) because they forget all the money host parents spend that isn’t a direct cash stipend, they forget that part of what host parents provide to au pairs (and not to nannies) is room and board, and they forget (or maybe just don’t know?) how much time host parents spend on au pair-related tasks that wouldn’t be required by a nanny.

I appreciate your attitude and thank you for posting!

Posie October 29, 2012 at 10:23 am

Well…I think APs are cheaper for the hours you get and flexibility, but when you do take into account all the extra expenses, we found we were only spending a few thousand less per year than we had been on our live out nanny. A few thousand is significant, but it isn’t “half the price of a professional nanny” as I’ve heard stated (unless we are talking very high-end nanny!!!)

Also, I’ve never in my life had nearly $200/week of spending money. Even if you assume $50 week for tampons and gas money, that’s a lot of mad money ;)

Calif Mom October 30, 2012 at 11:27 am

One your kids are in school and you have to fill the summers, au pairs are about the costs in our major metro area as before/after care plus camps.

Au pairs — in the US — are NOT necessarily cheaper. And yes, I’d love to have that kind of pocket money again, no meals to buy…

Taking a Computer Lunch October 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I choose having an au pair for two reasons 1) willingness and flexibility.

I couldn’t get local day care for my special needs child at anything cheaper than the infant rate (and that was presupposing that I could get someone to take her – at the time she was on a strict pre-meal medicine regimen as well as had visits from 5 early intervention specialists who came to our home to work with her). Child #2 was also in early intervention after surviving a life-threatening illness that left him developmentally delayed (fortunately not permanently). I was told it was unlikely that any local providers would take either at any price.

Flexibility – you don’t have to worry whether or not your AP can drive through the snow to get there on time, or if you might schedule her to cover transportation to or from that midday drs. appt. – you may. When I had “free” Medicaid-paid nursing, they wouldn’t drive my daughter to any of her drs. appts., and finding someone to care for her on her full days off from school that wasn’t coming off a midnight to 8:00 shift was a nightmare!

Hosting an AP is not cheap, but for me, the benefits of having flexible, willing, and loving childcare outweigh the costs.

shoepursegal October 29, 2012 at 12:39 am

I have had three APs now. The latest one is the best one and we still have a lot of challenges but the best thing I have learned in being a host mom is that I have had to alter my expectations about these young women. All of the challenges you have mentioned are legitimate but you won’t have these challenges if you manage your expectations. Specifically, I think it is reasonable to ask a “room mate” to watch your dog for a weekend. We pay our AP to watch ours $50 a day but that’s because we have 3 dogs. I also would be annoyed if a girl lost her documents and put me out of several hours of work time or time with my son to fix her mess. That is not adult behavior. I understand having things stolen but adults have back up plans right? That’s how I was raised. Lastly, I agree with you that it is inappropriate for a girl to camp on the beach with people she just met when she is living with you. This shows bad judgment and do you want this bad judgment used in taking care of your kids? Your gut is right about this one. In my view, we are supposed to take care of the girls and make sure they stay out of trouble. I think you are good host mom already. Probably the best way to be a “better” host mom and not lose your mind managing these difficult relationships is to lower your expectations and expect to be annoyed sometimes. When we interview APs we are upfront about our expectations. We are up front about how we are NOT flexible about house rules but in exchange we provide a large, comfortable house, a nice car, international trips, and a GREAT KID. We also disclose things APs hate (such as a reasonable curfew-8 hours before a shift, that I track the car and phone with a GPS, that we have a heavy duty surveillance system in the house (cameras in all common areas and the nursery). Believe it or not, we always have a lot of takers to be our AP. I agree that communication is the key but I also believe honesty up front about expectations gets rid of a lot of the girls who come to the U.S. to party. I understand a lot of host parents are more laid back and good for them but my husband and I are very type A so our AP should be too. Good luck. It sounds like you are on the right track.

Calif Mom October 30, 2012 at 11:30 am

Not everyone can offer international travel and a ‘nice’ au pair car. I think you are undervaluing those benefits vs the surveillance! You are speaking au pair language — the American TV sitcom dream life — and I’m not surprised you have a lot of takers.

newhostmom October 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Curious about why you would track the car and the phone and how your APs react to being so monitored all the time? I obviously wouldn’t be a good fit for your family because the presumption from the very beginning that I couldn’t be trusted would drive me crazy. Are your APs not allowed to go places with the car or something? What’s the point of tracking them? Sounds like it works for you, so I’m not attacking, just genuinely curious about why you prefer this much control?

anonamomma October 29, 2012 at 4:43 am


I always find it ridiculous when an ex-AP has a bad experience (and usually several bad experiences with several families) and they can still come out and say they did absolutely nothing wrong and then goes on to take no responsibility for their failed AP year.

Take for instance your first two choices –

Family No. 1 – yes, you spoke to their current AP before you arrived but you obviously did not ask the right questions or that many of them and more importantly how much time did you spend speaking with the HPs themselves before matching? – not much I reckon because most wealthy families are very honest about looking for an employee/employer relationship and couldn’t be bothered “lying” to you. So that bad choice is on you my girl.

Family No. 2
Okay while you did not choose this family – your story is a bit baffling – could it be that you unintentionally left the house when you were expected to be minding the children – that you misunderstood your host mom? Because for an agency to come and collect you – the offence has to be fairly serious – so perhaps there was a misunderstanding on your part on this one. On the no food issue – why didn’t you just tell them you were hungry??

Family No. 3 – I think I understand where the HPs were coming from on this one.

Issue No. 1 – you posted information about them on FB — this is a serious no-no for most (if not all) HPs. APs should not do it. Doesn’t matter what it is or what you say – you shouldn’t have done it. The comment of the HP after it meant that they realised it was about them.

Issue No. 2 – Secrets – – I believe their issue was with the secrets in that if you can’t be honest about this very simple thing (i.e. going to a mosque) then what else are you hiding? or what’s the big deal, why are you hiding it? Both not comforting thoughts for a HP.

Yes it is okay to be private but honestly you were keeping secrets (and that is different), i.e. just not wanting them to know for the sake of it – what little power game were you playing? It’s no big deal you going to the mosque – if you’re family knew about your interest in Islam and took you anyway then they didn’t have an issue with you attending the mosque either.

Basically they started to distrust you – to be honest I wouldn’t trust an AP who behaved like this either.

Stand back and look at it from a HP perspective. Here’s this AP who:-

(a). Doesn’t have / can’t make / chooses not to have many friends;
(b). Spends nearly all her free time on the internet skyping home;
(c). Starts venting on FB instead of being an adult and discussing issues;
(d). Keeps secrets/acts suspiciously/avoids NORMAL questions when there is no need. (this one would seriously set my teeth on edge).

Would you really want to live with that?

I think not. They didn’t either and that’s why you were let go.

The problem wasn’t with Islam, it was with secrets.

anonamomma October 29, 2012 at 8:52 am

Sorry lads HFs came out HPs!

kat October 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

glenda, while i am sorry you had so many bad experiences, i am not sure why exactly did you post it here. it looks to me you are just trying to proof that aupairs are overall treated badly, which is not the case.
there is lots of good families who treat their aupairs nicely. and yes, there are cases where close relationships are formed and maintained over the years.
obviously beeing part of the family has many different levels and shades and differs from family to family , depending on the expectations of the family and aupair. beeing part of the family doesnt mean you are either threating as their daughter or another wife/husband, it may be something like an aunt of the children , simply someone important for the children and the parents.
trying to discourage anyone from beiing an aupair is certainly a very selfish thing to do. just because it did not work for you , doesnt mean it cant be a great experience for someone else.
have to agree that hiding going the mosque is weird. not beeing honest going into the relationship is never a good thing in the long run.

and just to act as an example, i do have a family i worked for that has become like my own family, or even more ‘family’ and ‘home’ then my own family and home. I have been and always will be a part of ‘my’ little girl’s life which makes me feel very lucky girl :)

Calif Mom October 30, 2012 at 11:32 am

And some wonderful au pairs are just as beloved by the girls whom they love, too!

But I agree that it takes time for those loving relationships to bloom, and to become family. You don’t start out that way, it just happens (or not).

HMinDelRay October 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm

By the way – I was the original poster and I did have a clarifying talk with my AP this past week. We have two weeks left. I felt that there was clearly issues unresolved hanging between us and decided to air them.

Result – we are good.

How we got there – she said she didn’t know why she acted the way she did, she apologized for saying mean things, she knows I am a good mom, she knows she is with an enviable family and has been lucky all this year. She cried A LOT.

I think she is going through major transitions, almost like she were more like a teenager going through puberty (especially when she said she could not account for her behavior or judgment to say the things she said – like she couldn’t understand where her anger or venom was coming from). She did admit that she was resentful when benefits were removed.

So what have I learned:
1. Definitely have our new AP get local US identification and keep passport and VISA in a safe place
2. Find other solutions for dog care with folks who know him and know what to do in emergency and have a track record of loving, responsible care of him – less stress and possibility for conflict with us and our AP
3. Start with more structure – it is easier to loosen up than it is to tighten up.
4. Now that I know what causes me stress, I can set expectations more accurately from the get go so that the AP can actually have a fighting chance of being a part of the solution. For example, we love to have family meals and AP is always invited. If she decides to join – then she joins ALL THE WAY, including assisting with getting it onto the table, and cleaning up. We do it all together.
5. We do feel that an older AP knows her mind, understands how to care for kids, I cannot teach, nor do I want to teach everything. I want someone smart and capable and if opinionated – so be it. So am I and my opinion is the one that goes in the end. But I am also open to learning and maybe in all those opinions, there might be great ideas. I love to learn new things. Our first nanny started our 12-month old twins in time outs. They had no idea and always crawled out of their naughty corner, but by the time they were walking and comprehending better, the time out was not new and they fell right in line. She started potty training, with books and discussions probably earlier than I would have thought logical. But my daughter was ready and trained 100% including all sleeping times by the time she was 2 and my son was 100% by the time he was 2 3/4 years old. So I have learned with openness.

I have more than appreciated this thread and just wanted to provide some final closure for anyone who might be interested.

Thank you to each of you for reading and posting!


Calif Mom November 3, 2012 at 10:21 am

Great news! thanks for sharing…

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