When a Host Family Doesn’t Keep Their Word, Get Ready To Rematch

by cv harquail on September 1, 2016

When Au Pairs or Host Families have unique situations, it’s smart to negotiate ahead of time to be very, very, clear about what you need.

Being specific about scheduled hours, transportation, unique food/nutrition needs, kid care tasks, and so on helps both parties make sure that they are finding the right match.

au pair problems, au pair advice, choosing an au pairThis MastersStudentAuPair (whose email follows below) seems to have done all the right things. She was clear, specific, concrete about what she was looking for and what her constraints were. Supposedly, her host family accepted all of these concerns. But you can already tell that her Host Family isn’t going to keep their word. Not on the schedule, not on the food, nothing.

Of course, this Au Pair will be leaving the family. In the meantime, though, what should she do?
And, are there any ways to tell in advance that the host family (or the au pair) just isn’t going to come through with what was promised?

I just started au pairing with my second family (I was wish another family in another country for one year) and am already seeing some issues with this family and would love some advice on how to address them. My situation is a bit unique as I am actually studying for my master’s degree while au pairing.

I did not go through an agency to find this family, but rather through a website. When in discussions with the family, I told them many times that I am very serious about my studies and though I am committed to being a good and engaged au pair, I am not willing to miss any class time. I had written specifically in my profile that I am in the unique situation of being a student and know that finding a host family with which this works would be difficult.

I have now been with the family for 3 days and they are already asking me to miss class time (more than one class as well). When we were in our initial discussions they sent me many emails saying I was their “first choice au pair” and that they were really willing to make concessions to make it work with me. I sent them my class schedule and told them to look at it to see if there were any conflicts, and they said everything looked fine. I am also feeling rather stressed and uncomfortable about the fact that they have made absolutely zero concessions to help me settle in. Granted, I am an adult, but I have already had to go out to buy my own groceries (I told them I have a milk allergy and they said that it’s no issue to buy soy milk etc) and have basically shown myself around the house and the chores.

I plan on bringing all of this up with them in discussion as there is no way I can miss class in my program and the year won’t work if they ask this of me. However, I’m wondering if there’s any sensitive way I can bring this up? I don’t want to leave the family in a lurch by leaving after only a few days as they seem incredibly nice and the children are quite sweet, but I feel that as I made things so clear about my expectations in our discussions before arrival and they are already demanding what I explicitly said no to, I almost have no choice but to leave.

Thank you so much in advance!  ~ MastersStudentAuPair

Image: The old way by Christina Welsh on Flickr

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

WarmStateMomma September 1, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Agreed that you need to leave. In the meantime, just be polite but firm about needing to go to class. Be wary of a situation where they will just leave the children in your care and fail to return on time for you to go to class. Try something like this:

As you know, I can’t be late for my class at 6pm tomorrow. What should I do with the children if you’re delayed in traffic on your way home from work? Is there a neighbor who watches them?

Then send a follow up email gently restating the agreement, but asking a question. So you aren’t explicitly telling them you’re documenting the plan, but you are. Try something like this:

I know we agreed that I should leave the kids with Neighbor X if you aren’t on time coming home and I need to leave for class. Does Neighbor X live in the brown house or the white house?

Many families would happily host an AP who was a serious student if the schedules worked out. (I would.) If you’re in a large city, it shouldn’t be hard to find a better family without changing universities.

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FirstTimeHM September 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm

The first word that comes to my mind is ‘weird’. You describe the family as incredibly nice and the kids are really sweet, that doesn’t combine with asking you to miss classes and zero concessions about settling in.
It’s my assumption that you’re in Europe since you went through a website and not through an agency. So you don’t have the backup of an LCC and you need to sort this out with your family yourself, and find a new family yourself.

Now you’re in their home you probably know their work schedule. Does that clash systematically with your classes?
Depending on the country you’re in, students either take pretty much all classes or regularly skip. I don’t know which country you’re in, but in some skipping classes is considered quite acceptable as long as you get a good grade on the test. Classes are not always mandatory.

In my country I would sit down with the host parents and explain why this won’t work. You’re serious and committed to your studies and simply can’t make the hours they require. So either the hours change or you both go into rematch.
I would let the soy milk slide for now, that’s something you can solve yourself, your studies is something you need their help with.

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Bitka September 1, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Good for You that You have all of the emails. In my opinion You should try to find a new family. Probably this one was naive or maybe they thought that You won’t be really studying-because real au pair soesn’t have time for “real” studying. Your situation is very unique unless my hosts were making me wait for things that we were talking about before and guess what I never got them. Always think on Yourself first. Not every familily can be honest I believe that not even all of them can afford for au pair.

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Chicago Host Mom September 2, 2016 at 7:14 pm

I think if you stay with this family there will always be a risk that you will miss class. I would guess in the US that is probably a risk with at least 75% of host families, since many families who host au pairs have two host parents with heavy jobs and like the au pair program for (among other reasons) its huge flexibility — they can’t make a regular day care pick up 100% of the time even if they tried. That applies to my family and all my friends who host au pairs. I totally agree that you were up front and they are not holding up their end of the bargain. It is now a question of whether you can coordinate schedules better with another family who is committed (if rematching is even an option – since you are not with an agency). I agree with the first poster – you will need a plan asap for what to do with the kids if/when the host parents don’t show up on time. I would suggest requiring a back up system where if someone is not home by X o’clock, you send kids to the neighbors or call a backup sitter who they will pay. Or agree to some major disincentive for them so they will be motivated to get home on time – for example, that they must pay you $20 for every ten minutes they are late. They have to commit to that plan though so they are only as good as their word…

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DC September 15, 2016 at 11:59 pm

I would study, do as much as you can with the family and be looking for a new job. Once you find a new family, take the job.

Anyone have advice on this?

In order to save you time, I will not bore you with the entire story. My friend is an au pair with 10 days left to rematch. She came here from Colombia and wanted to learn English. She is facing rematch now and seems to get many requests from Spanish speaking families. Is there any way at all for her to request a specific city/state desired? Or at least have bio showing up in those areas?

Thanks so much,

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