What if we don’t follow through to rematch, when we said we would?

by cv harquail on November 19, 2010

One of the most important lessons I learned when my kids were toddlers, and one of the important lessons I’ve tried to impart to our au pairs, is that actions have consequences. If we said no drawing on the wall and you drew on the wall, well then you would not be able to use the markers for the rest of the day. And, you’d ‘help’ to wash off the wall.

Similarly, if you regularly slept through your alarm and were late for work, you’d lose important privileges, like using the car on weeknights.

Well, that’s how it works in theory201011191531.jpg.

Our “Seasoned host Mom”, below, has backed herself into a bit of a corner. Her au pair has an evening curfew– 8 hours before needing to be on duty — but regularly ignores this curfew. Worse, her ignoring this curfew has serious effects, since the au pair rather regularly oversleeps and is late for work, leaving Seasoned Host Mom scrambling to get to her work on time.

Dear AuPairMom-

I have read many of the posts and comments on the site, and I haven’t found one that particularly addresses the issues I am facing with our au pair.

Our AP has been with us since late spring, so we’re about 7-8 months into the year. She is 23 and from Germany. She is responsible for my two kids, ages 7 and 4. I work outside of the home, full-time. This au pair is our third au pair (I have only recently discovered your site, and wish I had known about it when we were feeling our way with our first au pair). We had a relatively positive experience with the first au pair, although she spent ZERO time with us outside of her work hours. It was a business relationship, but at least she was dependable. Our second au pair was our “Mary Poppins.” She loved us and we loved her, but she left a couple of months early because of a family crisis back home. When au pair #1 left, SHE told US that we should have a curfew! With au pair #2, we asked that she be in about 8 hours before working the next morning, but she was older and very mature, so no issues arose there (although I think she stayed up late sometimes).

Here’s the problem: Au pair #3 has the same “curfew”–we expect her to be back 8 hours before next morning’s work hours begin. We have had a regylar problem with her ignoring the curfew and coming home very late. This seems to have gotten better within the last couple of weeks, but I don’t think I can expect that to last (see below).

Also, we have another problem. Even when our AP is here on time or doesn’t go out, she stays up until all hours of the night. She sometimes wakes me up by walking around her room in the middle of the night, but that is not as bad as when she is late for work as a result of being up late. She struggles to get up and get downstairs on time in the mornings. She “oversleeps” at least one day a week.

I find that I have to check to make sure she is up every morning. I can’t leave the house to exercise (which I have generally done in the mornings so I can spend the precious evening hours with my little ones), since I can’t rely on her to get up without having to be awakened. I should add that my DH travels during the week, every week, so I am a “single parent” Mon.-Thurs., and I need someone to act responsible and reliable.

The problem is that we have had numerous talks during her time with us about the curfew and her lack of dependability when it comes to being on time to work. Time and time again, things will get better for a week or two, and then regress. (She has admitted that she realizes that she does this.)

The last talk we had, last Sunday night, was when I said that if she doesn’t come in on time or doesn’t get up on time, “we’re done.” I told her that if she needed to set her alarm and iPhone both to go off to get her up, then that’s what needs to happen. (She claims that she is a very heavy sleeper, but I think it’s the constant sleep deprivation.) Well, it took all of a week and two days for her to oversleep again. I don’t think she set any alarm, because I was up and about yesterday morning and heard no alarm going off when it needed to be. This ticked me off, of course, and ticked off my DH even more, since we’d been so clear about the consequences.

My conflict, though, is that she is good with the kids, they like her, and overall, I trust her to keep them safe and to engage with them. She does an OK job on things like the laundry, a good job cooking on the one night a week I ask her to do so, and is a nice person. While there have been other small issues, such as her disappearing at the kids’ bedtimes at night while still on duty, constantly having her iPhone on her person (don’t know what she’s doing with it), or having a small fender-bender, they haven’t been enough for me to consider rematch. Breaking the few rules we do impose, however, is another story.

I feel that if we don’t immediately initiate re-match, it will ultimately make us look like we don’t enforce our own rules or are pushovers. And yet, there are a number of positives that are keeping me from making the call to my CC to initiate re-match.


I would love to know what others think. Is this enough for a re-match?

What will happen if we don’t initiate a rematch after all, after we said we would?


Au Pair Advice: Getting enough sleep & being noisy late at night

Our daily alarm clock outside the…from
Malcolm Surgenor
Alarm Clock 2 from alancleaver_2000


franzi November 19, 2010 at 8:02 pm

ask yourself the following: are you REALLY ready to go into rematch with all the stress it entails? if your answer is no or maybe then your solution cannot be rematch.
if it is yes than you have to ask yourself if you are ready to initiate it right away or not.

have you ever included your counselor into your conversations with AP? what advise was given?

personally, i think that being up in time for work is essential, no matter what job you are doing. no office-setting workplace would accept you to be late at least once a week. who knows how long she would sleep if you wouldn’t wake her up! she is a grown adult and it is not your responsibility to wake her up.
fact: she does not do her job and does not oblige to your rules (though, frankly, being on time is no specific AP rule but really should be common courtesy). if you would not take care of her waking up your kids would be unattended when she is on duty. she leaves the kids unattended when she is on duty (kids bedtimes). if you would just leave the house in the morning, your kids would be on their own because she’s sleeping!

her walking around at night or constantly being online with her iphone would also bug me. did you turn off your wireless at night or during the day when she’s the only one at home and supposed to watch your kids? turning it off at least at night might prevent her from being online until the wee hours.

a possible reason for her being so tired could be a lack of nutrients/vitamins/minerals. when i was an AP i was always very tired, even napped (school aged kids). eventually i started to take vitamins and things got better. what was also hard on my brain (and thus also physical labor of sorts) was the constant switch of language from German (AP friends, family) to English and back. when i stayed in the states to study and had no contact to German speakers i did not experience this fatigue.

if you kepp her until christmas give her one of those alarm clocks that move and roll around. they have wheels and when the alarm goes off the clock rolls of the night stand and is all over the floor busily sounding its quite loud alarm. to turn it off you HAVE TO get out of bed in order to catch the alarm clock. nice idea, worked for a friend of mine.

Dorsi November 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I think initiating rematch is not the same thing as going into rematch. I have never been in your shoes (so it is super easy to say how I would take a hard line, not so easy when you are the one whose life will be disrupted). The lateness thing would make me crazy and I think it is fully grounds for rematch.

If you are to sit down with the LCC and say that you are ready to start the process of rematch (with current AP present) I see one of two outcomes: the AP says “fine” and is ready to jump ship, or the AP says “I don’t want to leave” — and you can come up with an accountable plan for fixing the problem.

If you don’t start the process, I only see this getting worse and worse as the AP will find that you can’t enforce any rules. And 4 months is a long time to be angry.

Now, I am going to go work on arranging backup childcare — cause I fear being in your situation….

Taking a Computer Lunch November 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm

My handbook says that there is no curfew but that we expect our APs to be on time and ready to work in the morning (only 1 in 6 felt the need to eat breakfast before she went on shift, but every other has been punctual to a “t”). I also say in my handbook that if we find that she has difficulty being awake, alert, and engaging in the morning, a curfew will be instituted. I must say in 9 1/2 years, I have rarely had to knock an AP’s door, but it usually happens once or twice each year, and my APs are quite embarrassed about it. (My last 4 APs also have 6 hours a day to nap if they need to – although I make it clear that I think it’s a waste of a year if they spend all their daylight hours in bed.)

Institute a curfew. It will be hard and may be nasty, but tell her you’re tired of waking her up every morning. Require her to get up and have breakfast before she starts her shift. At least one parent participating in this blog has figured out a way to block the wifi – block yours from 11-6 or 10-5 (that way if she wants to “chat with friends” she’ll have to get up early).

One thing that seems amiss to me, is that if you and she are the only adults in the house, then her shift should be starting the minute you head out the door to exercise (or better yet, 15 minutes before you do so you are able to communicate important information). Our LCC makes it clear that if the AP is the only adult in the house then she is working. Now, when the AP and I are the only adults in the house, and I want to leave for work at my usual 5:30, I tell her that her shift starts at 5:30, but that she’s not required to be up until her usual 6:00, and I book her hours accordingly.

If you find that you are getting angry because you have to treat your AP as if she were an exhausted high school student, then I would call a meeting with your LCC and your AP. If you’ve already invoke the word rematch and done nothing, then your AP will take it as a sign that you are not serious (just as your children would). By calling a group meeting, your AP will see that you are concerned enough to require mediation. Allow your AP to talk first and air her concerns — and really listen — before you vent.

Do ask your LCC whether invoking rematch requires you to commit to it. In my agency it does, which is why my LCC talked me down when my non-driving AP drove me up the wall in month 6 (because I was unlikely to do better, given that I have a special needs child). Start with mediation, but before you call a meeting, figure out exactly what you want from your AP. With that particular AP there were other major issues, and we established benchmarks and used the dreaded “R” word. If your AP is 7/8 months in, then she probably doesn’t want to rematch, especially if it might mean heading to another community. That doesn’t mean you should allow her to push the limits of her work schedule.

Shelley April 7, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Not that we need to do it for the current au pair (in the past it would have been helpful…no, just a rematch was needed I guess) but I am wondering how do you block wifi for certain hours of the day?! All I can figure out is to unplug the modem, but that’s pretty easy to figure out and turn right back on. As the kids get older, this might come in handy…

Dorsi April 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm

You can always take the modem with you….Or change the password. (I am sure there is a higher-tech solution, but that is not my area of expertise.)

MommyMia April 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Somewhere on here a while back a poster described how she did this – sorry, but I can’t remember which topic it was under….

Seasoned Host Mom November 20, 2010 at 11:00 am

Thanks for the comments so far. To respond to some of the questions, yes, we have included our LCC in this situation. We are lucky in that she is a long-term LCC in our area and is very supportive of host families, and of us, as I think we have gained a reputation as being a very fair, easy-going host family with our au pairs. She believes, as we do, that getting up on time is a vital part of being a good au pair. She has spoken to our au pair separately and reinforced what we said, and asked our au pair if she understood (yes) and whether our au pair thought our rules were fair (yes).

Franzi, she eats many meals with us, and we eat fairly healthy (miraculously, my kids eat a variety of fruits and vegetables), so I doubt she is suffering from a deficiency of some sort. She seems more than able to go out and stay out very late when there is no curfew in place, including all weekend, without physical effects. But I do appreciate the reminder that I shouldn’t dismiss health issues or other circumstances I may not have considered.

I also loved your idea of the rolling alarm clock, but I don’t think she would use it. She has one next to her bed, and most of the mornings she has overslept, I have never heard it going off. I think she just doesn’t set an alarm.

Dorsi, I’ve already been angry for a couple of months, so yes, I know that 4 or 5 more will seem like an eternity!

TaCL, when I leave to exercise, I do usually schedule her shift to start a few minutes before I go out the door. However, much like your situation of leaving at 5:30 a.m., my au pair doesn’t actually need to be up and out before I go (my kids aren’t up yet, and breakfasts and lunches don’t have to be started so early), and I have never required any of my au pairs to wake up and be out of their rooms before I leave. With her, though, I think I will have to insist that she be awake and downstairs before I leave, so I know she’s up and I’m safe to leave. However, the morning will come (and soon) when she is not, and I will have to go up and knock on her door to get her out of bed.

The thing is, like CVH’s initial post above, we are all about teaching our kids about consequences, both good and bad, of their actions. I feel that, now, having sat her down and giving her the one last chance talk (after about 3-4 other talks), we should follow through.

One final, but interesting, note: When our LCC talked to her this week, she mentioned to the LCC that she was flying home for the holidays and asked a couple of questions about going home/returning that made my LCC believe that she may be considering staying home and leaving us high and dry anyway. If it raises a red flag for our very experienced LCC, it certainly raises one for me too. So our decision may be getting easier. Nonetheless, we are traveling for Thanksgiving this week, so my LCC and I agreed not to do anything until next week when we return.

BLJ Host Mom November 21, 2010 at 1:43 am

This last “interesting note” says it all to me.

She’s either planning to leave you high and dry or she’s making plans for going home because she assumes you are going to rematch. Either way, she’s mentally planning to be gone after the holidays.

I would go with the “initiate rematch” route. That way you are staying true to your word, following through, but giving an out. Allowing her to “earn” an out if she shows she wants to. That’s also something I do with my children sometimes when I don’t REALLY want to follow through on the punishment I’d set in place… :)

Good luck.

TahoeMom2Twins November 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm

It’s amazing how often I wake up, click on my new message from Au Pair Mom, and find myself reading a situation I could have posted myself! It happened again this morning. First, for your issue, it’s time to let her go. I’ve never rematched myself, since we are on our first AP, but we have had to deal with the oversleeper issue several times in the past. [In one 10 day period, it happened 4 times. I should have dumped her then, but we talked about it, and talked about it, and got to the root of the problems; she didn’t know how to set her alarm clock, and sometimes she’d sleep through the phone alarm. She hasn’t been late in a few months now, but that’s because I wake her up. I don’t work, so my life doesn’t go into a true tailspin, but it is annoying and messes up my day regardless, such as being late for a dr appointment or an exercise class. We have also had to deal with a butt-dragging AP when she stays up, or out, all night. We didn’t change our house rules, but we had a conversation about “immaturity” and “responsibility”, those two highlighted words being fundamental parts of the actual conversation we had with AP. We have since moved to a new community, where it’s necessary to drive and she doesn’t know how, so we’re having some issues with her late arrivals; last night was 2:10 am when her shift this morning begins at 8:30. I will have to add that her 8:30 shift was changed this week from 9:30 because she wants to attend a birthday party (for someone she can only have known for less than 2 months, max) this evening in a city over an hour away, and she has no way of getting home to start her shift at 9:30 tomorrow morning, and she asked for her shift to end 4 hours early so she can get ready to go to this party, and her AP meeting, also an hour away; her AP friend, the only other AP in our remote community, is driving her there, but staying the rest of the weekend. Oh sorry, back to you…] Micro managing your AP sounds like its taking way too much time, and energy, and since AP is only blah anyway, get rid of her. You told her you would, so you at least have to have the LCC come over and get this show on the road. It’s going to get worse with her. Your LCC notified YOU that she sees a problem. It’s funny that my AP is flaming out right around that same time period; she’s been with us for just over 8 months. Coincidence, or just the nature of the beast of girls who want to come to the US, but having to care for kids is a consequence, not their true motivation.

With regards to reasons to initiating the end of this relationship, in my case, we just moved into a new house that we are renting and is for sale. It’s unfortunate that it’s the only house we could find that met our needs and it’s for sale, but that’s the deal. We have to deal with occassional showings. In our last house, AP stained the walls and the carpets with her sloppiness with food, drinks and make-up spills. She caused more damage than our young toddler twins. So we implemented rules, which may seem harsh to some, about no food or non-water beverages outside the kitchen or dining room. Keep in mind, before you judge, that my husband and I do follow this rule, too, and our kids also do not eat or drink anything other than water outside of the kitchen, so we’re not asking her to do something we don’t impose on ourselves. We have to keep this house very tidy at all times. The first few weeks of this rule was ridiculous, where I’d walk by her open door and find a soda can on her dresser, peanuts on her nightstand and another open soda can on the top shelf of her open doored closet. We have had no fewer than 5 discussions with her about this, have re-issued the house rules, sat down with her and asked her to repeat the rules in her own words. She said she understood, but we found out the following day, by her own admission during normal conversation, that it took her less than 2 hours to go out to the grocery store and return to her room to break that rule with just discussed. I feel like stapling the rules to her head!! Last night, when she was out, I went into her shared bathroom to check the supplies and condition of it because a) I had a new housekeeper start yesterday, and b) my mother in law is flying cross country this morning to spend thanksgiving with us and is going to be using that bathroom during her stay. Not only was there make-up and bits of hair all over the counter (so much I couldn’t just wipe it off with a tissue, I actually had to get out cleaning supplies!), but there was a bottle of iced tea AND a used Snus (a Snus is a little pouch of tobacco that is all the rage with young people right now, to get the nicotine without the smell of smoke, like “chew” but in a little tea bag looking pouch). We are a vehement non-smoking household, but she didn’t break any rules, other than being gross, with regards to the tobacco. But now I have to deal with the zillionth time she had drinks in her room against our rules. I know that all of you are going to say that this isn’t worthy of rematching, but take the actual rule out of the equation, and just realize that it’s an important rule to us that she completely ignores; it makes us seem weak, and wishy-washy by ignoring this broken rule and not following through on the consequences, especially when she does it knowingly and openly, and last time it happened (last week) I told her that my husband wants her to go and she begged for a second chance, to which I replied, okay, but you have to promise me to be perfect! Honestly, I have to micro-manage every aspect of this girls time with us. Another kicker is that our current LCC is phasing out and a new LCC is starting in two weeks. So I’m not sure which LCC’s doorstep to drop her off at! :) I am going to advise the LCC today and let her know that we aren’t happy and I’d like her to have a conversation with her, which seemed to work with the lateness issue from the summer, but that LCC is long gone and we’ve moved away. We are in the process of having a blizzard, so nothing will happen phsically until at least Monday, but I’m ready to part ways with this AP, and frankly, I don’t think we want to rematch at all.

Thanks for letting me vent, and sorry you are going through this situation. But clearly it’s affecting your work, your mind and you may not realize it, but it is affecting your family if it affects you and your DH so much. You need to get serious and find someone else.

Calif Mom November 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Any au pair who has been given a cell phone has a perfectly usable secondary, back-up alarm clock built right in.

I really like the idea of “initiating rematch” and see if it provokes either improvement or a rapid decline in attitude. Those meetings rarely are followed by the status quo. I’ve (now) had them go both directions. Let’s hope for the former, since in all you think she’s an okay au pair. The turmoil of a rematch is not fun, but I’m hearing a lot of stress and frustration from you, and I’m often a single mom in the weeks due to hub’s travel, as well, so I know how much you rely on your au pair to be dependable.

Maybe you could tell her you’re going to go into her room and set the alarm yourself if she can’t handle that responsibility. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing?

I’d say push the issue with your LCC in one of those painful 3-way, in-person conversations after Thanksgiving, and see what happens. You’re not being unreasonable AT ALL to require your AP to get her own butt out of bed and to wake up able to keep your 4 year old safe and happy. That age can wear you out if you haven’t had enough sleep, and it’s easy to just “phone it in”.

I hate having to be the bad guy, too.

I also read about those alarm clocks, Franzi — they sound totally cool and effective.

TAHOE mom–being a slob while someone is trying to sell the house is not acceptable. And you sound so very d.o.n.e. I wouldn’t tell you suck it up or that you’re being unreasonable. Does she understand WHY you need her to do her part? Is she stupid or just rude? Either way, you are paying too much to accept that attitude. I mean, I’d give an eye tooth to be living in Tahoe… :-)

What is it with people not being able to be basically polite and moderately responsible for themselves? It’s enough to turn me into a grumpy old lady….

Good luck!

calif mom November 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm

BTW, CV — nice image! At first I thought it was a chicken and thought hey, the HM isn’t being THAT meek, but on second look was glad to see it’s a rooster. Wake up and smell the coffee, AP!

cv harquail November 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm

and of course, you found some fun in the picture, whether as rooster or chicken… it’s funny what pops up when you google for images of alarm clocks

Deb Schwarz November 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm

TahoeMom and Rooster Mom,

I think both of you need to call for a mediation with your au pairs. At CC, LCCs are well trained to do these and they can be very effective (once I had an au pair and host mom that were not speaking to each other it had gotten that bad – I mediated and they ended up extending with each other). In the corporate world, it’s like being put on a “performance plan” – it involves clearly outlining the issues, brainstorming how to resolve them, and then the au pair has two weeks to “shape up, or ship out”. Sometimes this is better than a rooster crowing to get their attention and things can, and many times, dramatically improve. (wish I could do this with my kids!). Something about having a third party witness it and putting it all in writing that gets their attention. Try it and let us know how it goes! (of course, it only works if you are committed to making it work vs. pulling the plug, which I know how easy it can be to get to that stage of throwing in the towel – yes, I’m in transition again right now….but that’s another story). It does sound like both of you have positive aspects of your au pair that may be worth saving.


AnonHM Europe November 20, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Germany is said to be one of the most punctual countries in the world. Germans – mostly – are obsessed with being on time – never to be late and especially never to be too late at your job. Bus and train schedules are obeyed by the minute – if a bus is 2 minutes too late the passengers will start complaining. By German law the employer is entitled to tell once that the latee will be fired next time he is late and the next time the employer will act accordingly.
What I want to say: This is not a cultural thing (as she is not used to punctuality) but extremely disrespectful versus the hostfamily/employer. This is her decision – not to stick with your rules. It’s not a disability (she wouldn’t be able to function in her home-country if she didn’t know the concept of time). I bet she isn’t planning on coming back after Christmas. I would rematch immediately.

My 2 cents November 21, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I 100 percent agree. Having had German au pairs myself, they are extremely punctual. It’s almost as if it’s genetic. Even if she weren’t German, it’s disrespectful to constantly be late and inconvenience your employer and your host family. She obviously doesn’t care on iota what you think or about her job performance.

Everything with this young lady points to her leaving you. I’d start rematch. You said you would. Now do it. You won’t regret it.

maleaupairmommmy November 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm

The thing is when choosing I learned from the first one don’t pick one from a huge time zone difference it will bite you in the end because they are up all night talking with friends and family back home can you last this long and feel resentful for the rest of the year?? What if this happens next time?? It’s not easy good luck. Been there done that chalked up the experience dealt with it and moved on and made a better handbook

Dee Dee November 20, 2010 at 8:40 pm

If an au pair is not complying with the small and easy rules….honor the hours, respect the car boundaries, etc., can you really expect them to comply with the big rules?

We are on the brink with our current au pair who has had a chronic issue with the small stuff. One more strike, and she is out.

That said, we are a seasoned host family and really mostly beyond needing an au pair. Right now she is the safety net, and as the balance shifts from her becoming a help to a burden….well, lookout! She is a nice girl, not a spectacular au pair, but we like her and are committed to honoring our end of the bargain, as well she holds hers up as well. House rules, etc. were emailed well in advance with lengthy email chain as well (well, apart from the late-disclosed food issue; see earlier chain), so take a step back and analyze the relationship as both a legal and moral contract, as well as a personal relationship.

JJ host mom November 21, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Seasoned Host Mom, it sounds like you’ve made your expecations very clear, and given her lots of chances, and she just isn’t taking responsibility for her own actions. The opinion of your LCC, that she may not return from her trip, is certainly worth heeding. You said something about believing in consequences. Remember, too, that this isn’t only about the relationship between you and your au pair; it’s about teaching your own children that you follow through on what you say you’ll do. Rematch is a pain, but if you’ve been angry for a few months, I think it’s time.

Tahoe mom, it’s tough when you get a dud for your first au pair, because you have no baseline for how good it can be. Unfortunately, it sounds like that’s what happens. I’d say it’s time to move on for you too.

Seasoned Host Mom December 3, 2010 at 10:45 am

So, I thought I would check back in and give everyone an update, and thank you for the comments and suggestions. After another day of oversleeping, I instigated rematch with our au pair. I think she was very surprised that we went through with it. I had previously made comments about my lack of enthusiasm for the rematch process, so maybe she just thought we wouldn’t pull the trigger. Anyway, there were tears involved, and well, I’m a softie, so I agreed that we would talk to our LCC about stopping the process and sticking it out–but with absolutely no room for error on her part. I essentially said, in the eternal words of Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” ;-) I asked my LCC if she thought I was being dumb or naive, and she said, no, since our au pair is good with the kids and they like her, she supported my decision to stick it out one more time. So far, so good. I’m “cautiously optimistic.”

Anna December 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

Seasoned Host Mom

good luck to you, thank you for updating us!

Calif Mom December 3, 2010 at 5:18 pm

yes, thanks for the update! I always wonder what happened next…

The thing I learned this year, from our current au pair, is that an au pair really *can* change when confronted directly. The part I did not realize was just how bull-headed people can be, requiring the direct confrontation to be presented with (to my sensibilities) the force of a lead baseball bat, directly to the noggin. We’ve had a sea-change. I hope you get one too. Wouldn’t that be a nice holiday gift!~

keep us posted!

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