When Au Pairs Plan In Advance Not To Complete Their Year

by cv harquail on April 23, 2015

Au Pair contracts, for both the au pair and the family, exist so that both parties are absolutely clear about what they can expect from each other.

A Host Family pays an agency fee that they expect to cover 12 month of service. Indeed, knowing that you can amortize the cost of finding and training an au pair over a full 12 months is one of the things that makes the program ‘work’ for families.

au pair breaks contractAnd it’s not just the money — we Host Parents want our children to invest in a caring relationship with their au pair, and we ourselves want to invest in a relationship that (as we all know) takes a lot of energy.

When your au pair doesn’t stay around long enough for either you or him/her to reap the benefits of these emotional, time and financial investment, it’s a real drag. To put it mildly.

But to find out that your au pair intended to leave early from the very start?

That’s even worse. For Host Parents, it’s infuriating. How else would you react when you discover that an au pair has entered into a match and a contract with you – a contract that  that formally specifies a year long commitment from both of you — when he or she has no intention of completing 12months as an au pair?

Falsely committing to a 12 month contract is a severe breach of ethics by an au pair.

If a host parent were to discover that their au pair had no intention whatsoever to spend a full year with them, this discovery would shake the entire foundation of their host family-au pair relationship.

That’s what’s happened to BrokenTrustHostMom:

I am currently hosting an AP from a non-European country for less than half a year. From our perspective, she is a fantastic AP. She’s fun to be around, she’s a kind and thoughtful person, she’s great with the kids, I trust her completely with her day to day care of them.

Recently, we were discussing our vacation plans for later in the year, and we gave her the option to join us (as a member of the family). The destination is to a location I think of as a “dream” AP trip, so I was very surprised when she said she needed to think about it and talk to her Mom first.

DH thought that it was because she wanted her Mom to come visit at some point and thought that might be a good time – i.e. while we were away. But later, after telling us that she would join us, she told DH that she had needed to talk to her Mom because her Mom expected her to be coming home (permanently) before the planned trip started.

Now this was very confusing to me, since this would be well before her year was up. The impression she gave him was that she was originally intending to return home about ¾ of the way through the AP year, but changed her mind because she loves it here and now wants to extend even, and the trip forced her to make her “decision” final.

She also seemed to be intending this news as a compliment to us – which my husband bought into completely!! – but I saw it very differently and was pretty upset to hear what sounds like she intended from the start not to complete her year (and her mother condoned this plan!) with us and only changed her mind later .

To me , this is extremely unethical and brings her entire character into question. DH seems to be less concerned. We have noticed in many ways that (especially compared to our previous German au pairs) “rules” are not something that she takes very seriously.

This I know sounds bad, but what I mean is that while she follows all of our house rules without issue , she has made clear that she thinks our constant juggling act to ensure we stay within the 45 hour rule is completely unnecessary (she would be happy to work more and has told us this many, many times), and she often makes suggestions that she would be happy to stay with the children overnight so DH and I can have some time to ourselves (we have no family around to help us). In fact, she almost seems to be OFFENDED that we won’t break these rules.

I guess my question is, how would others feel about this ?

Could this just be a cultural thing where rules and legal contracts are not taken that seriously?

I don’t have the feeling she’s a pathological liar or deceitful by nature, but I also feel uncomfortable with the fact that she essentially lied to us by not telling us she wasn’t actually initially committed to staying a full year. On the other hand, lots of APs stay for less than a year for various reasons, it’s obvious why she would keep that information to herself since that would basically have eliminated her chances of matching with anyone.

Am I overthinking it ?

Image: Broken


ILHostMom April 23, 2015 at 11:11 am

We ran into a situation recently where both parties wanted an early release so the Au Pair can go home early. What I learned is that with an early release, its the Host Family that is out the money because the contract is for 1 year, even if the Au Pair leaves early. The only way not to eat the cost is to go into Rematch. Maybe your LCC can provide some guidance because it sounds like there could be a financial cost associated with this.

Host Mom in the City April 23, 2015 at 11:16 am

I can completely, 100% understand feeling exactly the way you do. I’ve had an au pair return home after only being here for two months and it was devastating to be planning for a long-term family member, getting to know the person, making plans, etc., to then have her announce that she wanted to return home. After talking with her about her decision to return home, I found out that she never really considered it a commitment. She thought she might try being an au pair, but never really thought it was her thing, and then when she arrived realized it wasn’t and then just skipped back home. To her, this wasn’t a broken commitment – it was a thing she was trying and whatever if it didn’t work out for her, she’d just go back home and try something else. It really shook my faith in the program – before, I had always automatically assumed that all au pairs want to be here for a year and want to really try their absolute best to see it through. Now I know that’s completely untrue for some au pairs.

So with all that said, I think this might be something you are going to be able to get over. I try to remember that these are young adults – when I was a young adult, I had many plans that were later broken or that I simply changed my mind on. It didn’t make me a bad person, though I do think it probably annoyed some people. Likely your au pair really did think she would just easily return home after 3/4 of a year and didn’t consider (and probably wouldn’t have had the capacity to consider) what that would mean to her future host family. In her mind, they could just get another au pair, no big deal. It’s likely that she didn’t mean this to be truly “deceitful” and probably was acting with some immaturity.

So with that, what do you do next? I’d want to have a serious talk with her, maybe even involving the LCC. You say she’s terrific, so that’s a big reason I’d say stick with it. If she were mediocre and announced this, I’d change my tune. But since she’s great, tell her straight up how you feel about this. “Au pair, I was really really shocked to hear that you never intended to stay past July. One of the reasons we choose the au pair program is because we’re assured that we’ll have a relationship with our children’s care provider for at least a year, and I understood that you made that commitment to us. It feels deceitful to me that you were letting me assume you would be here until November when all along you were thinking you would surprise us by leaving in July. Please know that that would really have put us in a bad spot – finding temporary childcare is extremely difficult. I need total honesty from you – are you planning to leave in July? If you are, that’s ok, but I need to know that now so I can plan childcare for the summer [or whatever]. If you are no longer planning to do so, then I will be happy to hear that, but I must admit it has broken my trust a bit. I’m not sure I’m comfortable paying for a trip for you when I can’t be sure you’ll be here. If you do decide to leave in July after I’ve already paid for the trip, we will be out almost $1,000. If you would like to join us on this trip, and we hope you will, we will ask for you to pay half of the costs as an insurance against losing the money if you change your mind. We understand if you don’t want to pay that, but then please understand that we will not be able to bring you on the trip.”

And then after the conversation, no matter how it goes, carry on as you were. Don’t punish her for making this mistake. She sounds like a great au pair who didn’t fully recognize the consequences of her initial choice and who has since come to her senses. But no way I would be paying full freight for a trip for an au pair who I wasn’t absolutely sure would be with our family still.

Good luck, OP! I’ll be curious to hear others’ thoughts on this too.

Seattle Mom April 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm


And I agree with the comments below, that there is a cultural aspect to this and also immaturity. But she sounds like an otherwise nice au pair, so I would just let her know that you need to know for sure if she’s planning to stay. That is the most important thing. And also tell her that this is a 1 year commitment and you are hurt that she didn’t see it that way, but don’t push the point too hard.. as long as you want her to stay.

AuPair Paris April 23, 2015 at 11:27 am

Mm, I think that’s a really common attitude actually. The thing is, before you *go* to a place, you don’t necessarily empathise very much with this family you don’t know. You can kind of know intellectually that that could leave the family in a sticky situation with regard to childcare, but you don’t have a relationship with them, and some people find it hard to put themselves in the shoes of other people without knowing them. It’s a problem, and it’s not a *good* thing, but I don’t think it makes you a *bad person* either. Still, depending on the kinds of HP these are – if they’re the nurturing, familial type, they might want to gently use this situation as an opportunity to point out this empathy blindspot…

Still, it makes perfect sense to me that someone would be very blasé about going for 3/4 of a year, and then get to know the family, start to change their mind, want to stay because of this newly developed empathy. If the au pair is older, or experienced, she may be used to jobs where you can certainly sign a contract for a period of time, but quit before that time’s up – with a notice period! The jobs I had before I was an au pair offered me very little support, consistency or anything – they were part time jobs to pay for my uni… It was a given that I wouldn’t offer them much loyalty in return, knowing they wouldn’t trouble over cutting me off if there was a slow patch. It can be hard to shake that attitude at the very beginning of a first, committed and consistent job.

For what it’s worth, the only way I sucked up my courage to throw myself back into the fray after my abusive first family, was by telling myself “I can leave if I need to. I’ve done it once, and I *can* do it again.”. Of course, I didn’t need to, I found a wonderful family and the job’s worked out as well as it possibly could have for me… So I guess initial attitude isn’t necessarily an indicator of future success.

Old China Hand April 23, 2015 at 12:34 pm

I have a few thoughts upon reading this, and also an example of a host family that did this to an au pair, which I think is worse as the au pair is more vulnerable.

First is regarding contracts. If your au pair is from Asia, then yes, contracts and rules are viewed very differently. It’s a lot of end justifies means and if it doesn’t hurt anyone, it is ok. Both our Chinese APs have been confused why I can’t just ask them to babysit or why I won’t let them work more than 45 hours a week. Both have always worked longer because they keep playing with the kids or cleaning up after I get home, but I make a point to tell them that I am home and they are off. I also just tell them that we follow the rules and that I believe in rule of law, which means that you have to follow them.

The second is that young people often just don’t get it. I am a professor and students I work with often seem completely divorced from reality. If it’s really hard to imagine a situation, maybe they figure that they can go home and it’s not hurting anyone. We saw this in study away students on an exchange program I was a TA for in grad school. The students were supposed to commit for an entire year and their home tuition paid tuition for Chinese students going to the US. When students bailed part way, it messed up a lot of people, but they didn’t see it that way.

Finally, the opposite situation. Our AP has a friend from home who matched with a family in a nearby city. It turns out that the family really only wanted an AP for 3-4 months to adjust to the new baby and while the mom was on maternity leave. Both kids were then going to go to day care and the older child was in daycare through the maternity leave. So the AP was to be a mother’s assistant. The family didn’t allow the AP to drive and although very nice to her, they were in a suburb and she felt quite isolated. They suggested that she rematch to be in a better location and in the end she did but agreed to stick out the few months until the maternity leave ended. In the end when she rematched, the family admitted that they never intended to have an AP for the entire year. So they set the entire thing up to seem like it was her idea to rematch but it was their plan all along. This poor girl could have been sent home to China because of the family behaving unethically! I was so irritated when I heard. Fortunately the girl found a new family.

WarmStateMomma April 23, 2015 at 1:31 pm

That’s horrible! Especially since the AP spent thousands of dollars to get here.

BearCo Momma April 23, 2015 at 3:44 pm

That is really awful, and I agree is 100x worse than the AP doing this. It is amazing to me how many people can be comfortable doing something so selfish and dishonest at someone else’s expense.

JJ Host Mom April 23, 2015 at 1:03 pm

This happened to us with our last au pair, only with an extension. The first year went great and we all agreed to extend for one year. Then I got laid off, but we had made a commitment to her, so we figured out how to make it work and kept our commitment. Then she started getting grumpy and resentful and mean to the kids and we were patient, then had talks with her, and finally, after about six months of this, said that she needed to decide to stay and change her attitude, or go. And she responded that she had been planning to go, but was searching for a job in her home country first, and was planning to tell us that when it was settled. In retrospect I am very frustrated that we were so patient and so committed for so long, knowing that she never intended to stay in the first place.

To make it worse, we found out after she left that she had been telling the kids that she was planning to go home early (before she told us.) Super frustrating because when she and I and HD finally agreed that she would leave early, we all agreed that we would just tell the kids her year was up, to save face for her. She knew that they would know this wasn’t true, because she had been telling them something different, but she never let on.

I’m still angry about the whole thing (and this was just one of the things that she did that frustrates me, not the worst by far.)

I think the hardest part about a situation like this is that when you have a contract, you are both operating under the assumption that you will try to fulfill that contract in good faith. Each person should do their best to do so. If that’s not happening, then the parties need to communicate and reset expectations. Otherwise one party feels taken advantage of.

In the case of the original poster, I really liked Host Mom in the City’s response. You have a basically good au pair, who probably went into this naively and has since changed her outlook. I think it’s fair (and would be a valuable learning experience for her) for you to communicate your expectations and frustration and then try to move on. Easier said than done? Perhaps. But maybe it’s one of those things you can just get past, especially with an au pair who is otherwise great.

SKNY April 23, 2015 at 1:08 pm

If the au pair is this fantastic, doesnt have a history of lying or deceiving (well, other than this situation), and really offers to do extra (even though you dont need it, but still means she wants to help) I would completely let it go.
As a former au pair I agree that immaturity and lack of life experience plays a big part. Cultural aspects too… South Americans are more used to bending slightly rules than Europeans. If you dont have family and I feel you could use a break, why should I not help you out? As long as you don’t tell and I dont tell we are happy… I guess that is the idea.
IF you really like her work, and she likes your kids and is trustworthy with their care (which lets face, is hard to find… ) just have a talk with her (not yelling or anything) making it clear that you were disappointed and hurt by the fact that she contracted for a year and was planning to leave, and explain the trouble it would have caused you. Then tell her the things you like about her work, and that you appreciate she is following her commitment. And let it go.
Unless you are going to rematch, there is no gain on a big fight with resentment, or treating her different, or “punishing her”….

HRHM April 23, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Unfortunately, I think this scenerio is far more common than you think. My AP often tells me the tales of her counterparts locally and a lot of their antics make my hair stand on end. One knew she didn’t want to stay in our locale before she even accepted the match but her time to match was running out due to age, so she took it and then just waited a couple of months to rematch. I’ve heard of APs who initiate a rematch before their year is up because one of their friends is leaving and they want to take their place with that HF. I’ve seen an AP come, stay 3 months, have her whole family come for two weeks vacation in the HF home and then all leave at the end – including AP!

Some of it is immaturity, some of it is desperation, some of it is pure selfishness and entitlement (when the parents are involved in helping their daughter I can’t help but shudder, what are they teaching her???)

THere is no way to screen for this. You just have to move on. Sorry :(

Returning HM April 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm

HRHM, your last scenario happened to us back in 2008. AP had her mother and sister come for two weeks towards the end of month six. They spent the entire time driving our car up and down the east coast, eating all our food (never paid for anything), enjoying all that the US had to offer without paying for anything, and on the last night, announced that they were all going home together. We realized at that point that the AP had always intended to go home with her mom…I had wondered why they brought coffee from their country as a gift for me but not for AP, and suddenly it all made sense!

OP I am very sorry that you have had this happened, but I agree with others, that it probably happens more than we all think. HMitC had a great suggestion for how to handle things. Personally, I would not involve the LCC unless you find AP resistant to hearing your point, but I do think a clear sit-down is in order so that you can feel better about moving forward.

SKNY April 23, 2015 at 2:56 pm

I feel this happens more often with Europeans than other “poor” countries. Most au pairs from developing countries pay higher fees (or maybe they feel higher because economy is so low), and it is a big investment just to take a 6 months “vacation”. I have seen girls from my country return home early, but either because they got here and realized it was not what they thought (too much work, too little study, too little money), they were homesick, or they got here and realized that the program would not bring them all the benefit they had thought (professionally). I have met 2 au pairs who had to return due to mess ups in their colleges (real stories, and both were upset to lose).
BUT never met a South American (of course there must exist) who spent all this money and planned to return early from day one.
But have heard a lot of it about Europeans. Maybe because their economy is stronger, they can make more money at home in real jobs (not truth for most south american/African countries), etc… Plus it is easier to come up with the program fees in those countries

Old China Hand April 23, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Our first AP told me that some of the girls from China planned to come here and then once they were here to find a different job to stay. Not sure if that actually happened though.

Returning HM April 23, 2015 at 3:34 pm

The AP in question was from Latin America.

BearCo Momma April 23, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Returning HM — what a nightmare that must have been ! How do you even react to that ? I’m furious on your behalf !

Mimi April 23, 2015 at 2:00 pm

We went through this also, with different circumstances in our last two APs. AP#5 (Italian) also only accepted our match so she could get to the US and start looking for another geographic location, thinking that being in-country made her a better candidate. She left me in the lurch with a newborn, thinking that because I was on maternity leave, it would be easy for us to recover. She didn’t consider how my kids would be affected, how hard it would be for us to interview/match/process a replacement in 8 weeks, etc. We didn’t know until after she left that she had been looking for a new family almost immediately after arriving until I stumbled onto her account on a site I saw talked about here. ?

After being with us for a month, AP#6 (Colombian) announced to us that she would have to leave her year early because of a problem with her schooling at home. A project needed to be revised before her year with us would end or her project partner would lose her job, which had been contingent on the degree that was now threatened by an incomplete grade. We offered to help her work collaboratively on-line and present from here using my employer’s technology equipment (which I had gotten special dispensation to use) and offered a ton of options that she pretended to consider, when in reality, she was finding that being an AP was not what she had expected and that she was relieved to be able to return home early, despite having to pay for her flight and still owing someone money for her borrowed program fee. Being an AP was not going to give her the opportunities she was looking for so she was trying to figure out how to cut her losses when we pulled the plug.

We also had the same issue with a lack of willingness (or maybe understanding at first) with both about how the rules and structure in our home needed to be followed. When it was to AP#6’s advantage, she was willing, but not when she felt it was something she felt was silly or trivial. This led to problems for her in getting tasks accomplished and having a good relationship with my headstrong boys. However, the really big factor in our situation with AP#6 and here (IMO) is the concept of familial duty. “…she had needed to talk to her Mom because her Mom expected her to be coming home (permanently) before the planned trip started.” Even before we started having problems with our AP’s performance and attitude, her mother was eroding her confidence in her decision to come to the US and made the situation really difficult for our AP by crying and lamenting about missing her daughter (and more). What this may boil down to for the OP is whether or not the AP can convince her mother to go along with an extension or if she’s even willing to try.

I don’t think this is a question of character as much as it is a cultural difference. IMO, in countries where the idea of being an AP is not a common concept and where recruitment focuses more on travel and adventure, combined with cultural differences about commitment– you are going to have these issues. I like HMitC’s approach to this and think it’s important to stress to her how this is perceived in American culture and breaking a commitment and being deceitful. I also think it’s a good idea to talk about fulfilling commitments during the interview process.

BrokenTrustHostMom April 23, 2015 at 4:32 pm

I am actually the OP in this case. The situation you mention with your AP#6 sounds very similar – although our AP didn’t announce she was leaving but that she apparently was planning to at some point (when exactly is another question I have…) but changed her mind now. Our APs reason for going back home early was also school program related, and what worries me most is that her mother appears to be telling her she is ruining her future by giving up her educational opportunity back home. And if she really is giving that up, I may even agree with her! I think she may now be breaking a commitment she started back home to instead stay here longer, which also makes me uncomfortable and gets back to the whole idea of commitment in general.
The main thing that bothers me the most though is that I feel I always bend over backwards to ensure my AP has a great year, and I was putting in a lot of effort to ensure she could be comfortably included on our trip (similar to what you were doing with trying to set up technology for her to finish her program), all while she was withholding the “secret” that she might in fact be leaving early. I felt hurt and betrayed a bit honestly, and like a fool. (wow that sounds dramatic!)

Seattle Mom April 24, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Wow, I now have another series of questions to add to my list of interview questions:

Do you understand that this is a one-year commitment?
What does this commitment mean to you? Do you plan to stay in the USA for a whole year?
Do you have any obligations at home that you must return to complete?
Do you have any unfinished projects for school or work that you will need to work on in the next year?
Is anyone in your family planning a wedding or having a baby in the next year? How do you feel about missing that?

I would follow up with an email saying “here is what I heard you say, please correct me if I am wrong” and then write about why the one-year commitment is so important to my family and how we always choose au pairs that we want to stay with us for one year. I will tell them how every time we transition to new childcare it is difficult on my children, makes my younger daughter go through behavior problems, and makes more work for us and we lose money.

At least then maybe they will realize how serious it is to break the commitment. They might still do it, but some who plan to jump ship might decide that we are not the right family to jump from.

Mimi April 24, 2015 at 1:13 pm

It’s not dramatic at all. We as HPs put a lot of effort into hosting and that effort is also emotional so it stands to reason that you will have an emotional response to situations like this. This situation is especially hard to swallow if you’re someone who sticks with a commitment even if doing so is bad for you and probably not worth the aggravation you go through. (Like me taking so long to pull the plug on her when it was causing so many problems for us.)

I’ve started to question whether or not AP#6’s academic situation was genuine because she did not seem to have the type of reaction I would have expected from someone in a similar situation, even factoring for cultural differences. I’m starting to feel very cynical and have to remind myself that two bad experiences don’t define our overall experience with the program but it still bugs me that neither of these APs seemed to take any responsibility for the problems we were having (and there were mutual issues). Of course, it’s not unusual for people in the AP age range to not be introspective enough to understand their role in the kinds of situations we see here and some of them never will be. ?

The fact that you are concerned about her academic future is admirable and in your place, I’d try to find out what is going on with that and (assuming there is a conflict of commitments) see if you can’t help her work out a solution that will work out best for all involved, even if that means she cuts her year with you short. You’ll at least have advance notice and maybe she will have learned from you a valuable lesson about setting adult priorities.

I like the idea of getting the LCC involved, provided you feel you have a good rapport for it to work. I’m lucky to have a good relationship with my LCC, because having her on board made it easier for me to look objectively at the situation and do what was needed. (Also, on her way out AP#6 tried to have us removed from the program for “ruining her dream” and that of AP#5 and my LCC went to bat for us.) Your LCC should be able to help you take some of the emotion out of this and deal strictly with the circumstances and moving forward.

Host Mom X April 24, 2015 at 1:21 pm

I agree with that. Our LCC gave us some very much-needed perspective with our last rematch. We were willing to give the situation a good bit more time, and it was the LCC who said, “I have seen this situation over and over again. You are being a good host family to keep trying and be patient, but I can tell you right now I don’t see this working out, and I’ve got a bunch of great candidates in rematch right now who would be a much better fit for your family.” And she was so right.

Host Mom X April 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Hearing this now, OP, I’m not sure if I were in your shoes that I could continue with that AP. It sounds really immature, and with the broken commitments on both ends? Is she really just saying she’ll stay to take this all-expenses-paid vacation, and then going to leave right after? Though I’m not in your shoes, and we all know rematch is not something you throw yourself into lightly. Although with this AP it seems you could have a somewhat “safe” rematch period because likely you could at least work it out with her that she’d stay on till you found a new AP….and then she’d just go home right after.

BrokenTrustHostMom April 24, 2015 at 2:14 pm

I don’t believe she is staying specifically for the vacation – I don’t feel she’s that opportunistic or materialistic – I think she is just enjoying herself more here than she thought she would and now wants to stay longer. I think me forcing to her make a decision on whether she would come on the trip (because I wanted to book the flights) forced her to have to think about her original “plan” (to leave early) and make a choice RIGHT NOW to continue with it or give it up. So I guess it at least shows that she understands I will be spending money and didn’t want me to do that if she knew it would be wasted. But – I *don’t* think she’s changed her mind because she realized it is a commitment and therefore the ‘right’ thing to do — which is why I still feel uneasy about it.

I think it may just be immaturity and not really seeing the program as a true commitment and why the HF being able to rely on a full year would be really important — more like what HMitC said above about it being something she was just trying because it sounded fun. She’s a very easy going and adaptable person , which in most ways makes her a great AP, but on the other hand the “Sure! Whatever! Nothing is ever a problem!” attitude has also gotten us here.

I think I will try and talk to her this weekend and explain how the whole thing made me feel (tricked) and try and get from her exactly where she stands now – hopefully she will be honest. I don’t think she would BLATANTLY lie to my face, but I guess we’ll see….

Thank you guys all so much for your responses it has REALLY helped me think this all through !

Host Mom in the City April 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Ugh, these stories are scaring me.

Former Au Pair April 23, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Okay so what think is yes.. YOU ARE OVERTHINKING, i mean she sounds like a great au pair so what’s bugging you? when i was about to start my year as au pair people used to ask me.. so are you going away for a year? i’d reply.. errr.. maybe? because i didn’t know these folks and although i was very careful during the matching process.. you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until you are actually there. when it comes to working more than 45 hours i think you are the FIRST family i hear tries to stay within the hours limit, most of the families depend and rely on au pairs and it’s VERY common to work more than the established, i believe she’s just trying to be nice and to give you and your husband a chance to have some time alone.. geez, host moms need to chill out, this is an exchange program we all learn from each other, no need to analyze every single behavior.

The one thing i can read as a red flag is why would somebody say: I will ask my mom? like for real? how old is she? au pairs MUST be independent and mature young ladies and make their own decisions.

TexasHM April 23, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Agreed this is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night! Our new AP arrives next Friday and I’m already having PTSD symptoms due to our last burnout match! I was so excited up until the last few days and now I am second guessing everything! Ok, back on topic.

I agree that this is not an ideal scenario by any stretch of the imagination but I also agree if this AP is a rockstar and has bonded as a member of the family this is something that can be forgiven BUT she does need to be made aware of your feelings and the impact a decision like this would have had and will have in the future. If she was trying to tell your husband that she has since learned of the error of her ways and is ready to complete her commitment that is great. If she is saying that she’s changed her mind for now then that’s not great.

I think you should also point out to her that often times the relationship can be salvaged if she is honest with you and works with you to make it a win-win situation for everyone. We had a great au pair get extremely homesick right after her extension started. I don’t think she even realized the true extent of the problem but the bigger issue was that she wasn’t forthright with us about it. we were hearing rumors on the street and getting mixed messages from her and it was finally so clear that something was wrong that I just straight up asked her if she didn’t want to be here anymore and she said she didn’t know and was very upset. She talked to her parents and they told her she was just bored and to rematch into another part of the country. We sat down with her and made a plan for her to cover up to six weeks while we searched for a replacement but were clear that we needed her to commit to giving 200% during that timeframe. She agreed and things were worlds better. Since then I have made it very clear to au pairs that we understand that things change and problems arise but that we expect them to be honest with us and work with us to find a mutual solution. We explain to them the implications of surprise weddings or rematches via examples from the site and other families experiences to try and help them understand how crucial the fulfillment of their duties and role is to our family.

There are several candidates that I really liked that I passed on because I wasn’t completely convinced that they thought WE were a perfect match. Sure enough, once I notified them that we were moving on the vast majority were unfazed and often matched with the new family within days!

Taking a Computer Lunch April 23, 2015 at 11:15 pm

What I would encourage the OP to do is call in the LCC. This calls for a mediated meeting. When I had an AP who wanted to yank my chain about going into rematch after the Christmas holidays (I had already paid for her ticket to a destination city to join my family in the celebration with my parents), I told her, “If I had known you wanted to go into rematch after Christmas then I would never paid for a ticket. You may decide to go into rematch, and that is fine with me. I will give you the airplane ticket as a departing gift and you may decide where to stay in the destination city, but you will not be staying with my family.” (I think the AP had imagined a world in which she called the shots.)

When she decided to stay with my family for the holidays, the LCC made her agree to commit to the rest of her year. Both she and we had to negotiate the terms of her commitment. Oy!

When AP #10 told us, at a week 6 meeting, that she was considering rematch, I gave her two weeks to make up her mind because I wanted her successor in place well before Christmas (in my experience, nothing is harder on an AP than arriving right before Christmas). She literally blanched at the meeting, I think because I had already agreed to time off for her to join friends in NYC during Christmas and now it would be off the table if she went into rematch). Within a week we were in rematch over her inability to communicate with a teenager and her ignoring a medically fragile child while she baked her contribution to a potluck she was attending in the evening.

If I were the OP, then I would call in my LCC for a mediated meeting. If the AP were considering ending her year without notice, then it would be grounds for initiating rematch. Immediately. Tell the AP in the mediated meeting how much she means to your family, but make it clear that she cannot leave without notice because your family made a contract with her. If she cannot agree to stick out her year with you, then you’ll start looking for her successor immediately. Really. If she agrees to stay, then mediate the terms. If she agrees that she’s leaving, then start working with the LCC immediately to find her successor. I don’t care how great the AP is – if she walks out the door without notice, you are SOL and stranded. (And you better believe few LCCs are going to go to the ends of the earth to place an AP who is going to up and leave the next family without notice.)

Peachtree Mom April 24, 2015 at 9:38 am

True to all the above, disappointment, frustration, panic over childcare, host children caught in the middle….terrible situations. I often wonder what consequences the agencies have for the aupairs. One aupair we had left under those circumstances….rematch to a better location….no notice given. She owed me a lot of money because I had fronted her vacation time and education costs. I was never paid back in full but the agency allowed her to rematch. Never mind the $800 in driving school we were out and the panic over childcare. They sent a replacement within 2 weeks but again another 2 days of vacation, driving school, getting reattached emotionally. I was told the contract had a clause that either the aupair or the host family could break the contract for any reason. …”free will employment” or something like that. I never noticed it. I learned a lot from this: not paying for education in advance and not fronting vacation time. May be all agencies have the same policies about rematch or going home on a whim, leaving unpaid debt with the host family without any consequences….I don’t know but I am going to look more into it. It is a fine line between holding the aupair to their committment with some sort of leverage but not keeping them in a true bad match. As much as I love this program, I have looked at my husband and said….there has to be a better way and then logged onto care.com.

Host Mom in the City April 24, 2015 at 11:01 am

This was what was most frustrating to us when our au pair left after two months. This was the one that just sort of announced that it wasn’t working for her and that she had decided to go home. She was almost cheery about it and obviously did not understand a bit how big of a deal it was to us. We were out about $1,000 in what we had paid so far and had no choice but to just pay that money again for the au pair we took out of rematch. $500 in education fees (she had immediately signed up for a class that she stopped attending as soon as she announced that she was going home), $250 for the driving course we had paid for for her, $100 for a welcome package and a birthday gift we had sent her before she arrived, $150 in drivers licensing fees (which we paid literally two days before she said she was going home), not to mention all the time and effort spent interviewing, communicating, and training. It was infuriating how little she got it.

I admit it made me pretty gunshy about how much I was spending in the very beginning. I’m thinking this will be our last au pair (even though we’ve had a great experience this year, I’m just about done), but if we do get another one, I will be very careful about what I pay in the first month or two. That’s too bad, but I don’t want to get burned again.

Host Mom X April 24, 2015 at 11:41 am

I think it is interesting how the different agencies deal with the issue of expenses that the families have laid out. We’ve been with APC and APIA, and I find the way APIA does it to be more fair to the host family (though difficult on some APs, because it requires APs paying back host families).

APC just said (while we were with them; don’t know if their policies have changed recently): “well, whatever the host family spent it spent, too bad.” And on the flipside, “whatever the AP didn’t get, too bad” (e.g. accrued vacation). Although really this basically only harmed the family, because if an AP left a host family having not used vacation or the education allowance, the new host family would have to give the full vacation and the full education, even if the new host family had a departing rematch AP for whom they had already provided vacation and education (this happened with our first rematch described below – we had “fronted” a week of vacation fairly soon after she started because she said she just had to visit her sister who lived in another state and who she hadn’t seen in years, and we wanted her to be able to; but then we still had to provide our incoming rematch AP with nearly two weeks vacation because she had only used one day with her prior family).

APIA does it this way:
They pro-rate vacation and education for the year, and a departing AP has to pay back the family, in cash, the pro-rated value of any education allowance already expended by the host family, as well as the pro-rated value of vacation days used (if more were used than had accrued). Conversely, the family has to pay a departing AP the pro-rated value of education NOT used, as well as of vacation days accrued and not used. So we just had this happen. We paid our departing AP two months’ pro-rated monetary value of her two months’ worth of accrued vacation days (since she hadn’t taken any), and the pro-rated value in cash of two-months’ worth of the education allowance (since she hadn’t taken classes yet). Our incoming rematch AP had already fulfilled her education allowance, so she paid back her host family the pro-rated value of what she had used, and we in turn paid her the remaining pro-rated value (so she got paid back, i.e. she wasn’t out of pocket for her education). Which actually reminds me – we forgot to check on her vacation days status with the LCC!

Host Mom in the City April 24, 2015 at 12:06 pm

To be clear, we are with APIA and I agree that it’s the most fair way I can think of to do this. But it definitely inflames anger on both sides and I imagine there is a lot of LCC time spent dealing with both sides not wanting to pay anything. Also, of the $1,000 I listed above, only the $500 was supposed to be paid back to us on a pro-rated basis, and our au pair refused to pay it. Honestly, I was pissed that I had to pay her accrued vacation days (which amounted to like $80, I forget exactly) because she said she was perfectly happy with us, she had just changed her mind about wanting to be an AP. And we had given her at least a day or two off already, it’s just that we didn’t consider them true vacation days at the time. And the rest of the $500 I detailed isn’t anything you could ever get back – it just is what it is.

Argh, I’m getting irritated just thinking about it.

We got a rematch au pair who similarly had a host mom that refused to pay her for the accrued vacation days and education fee she had accrued and the LCC had to get involved. Of course then our rematch au pair technically came to us with 8 vacation days instead of the normal 10 since she was paid for the two by her former host family, but I’m giving her the normal two weeks off because she would rather have the days then the money obviously so she can travel. So it’s costing me an additional two days of vacation too (our au pairs get about four weeks total anyway, but still it’s irritating).

Host Mom X April 24, 2015 at 1:13 pm

No I agree; when there’s bad blood with the rematch, the money thing is super-super irritating. Believe me, I’m not HAPPY that we had to spend all of the “beginning” costs twice in two months just now (e.g. welcome gifts, loaded metro cards, gift cards etc. that we like to give our incoming APs; buying pricey imported food to make AP feel at home, etc. – and not that we HAD to do this, but we did, and it’s not coming back to us!), though we are lucky we don’t have driving APs, so we didn’t have the car-related outlay that a lot of host families have. We weren’t too miffed by paying out the pro-rated vacation days and education accrued, since it seemed the way APIA was doing it in terms of our incoming AP it was fair and even (we didn’t part with acrimony from our recent failed AP, and our incoming rematch AP was also on good terms with her prior host family). This time around I’m more miffed by the emotional outlay on a person who required SO much in that department and was soooo unappreciative of our efforts. I’m actually more miffed about that NOW, three weeks into a rematch that’s been going so well, because I now see the contrast. What a difference in our house and in how we spend our emotional energy! Reinforces for me how a wrong-fit AP just completely alters your household energy, atmosphere, etc. We’ve emerged from under a dark cloud! Well, and I guess we also just heard from the neighbor’s AP who heard from our outgoing AP that now outgoing AP is super-happy because she got what she wanted – the “easy” AP gig with about 5 hours of basically just driving kids around each day. (Sorry for the tangent-vent! Though I’m starting to wonder based on the topic of this post if this AP just said yes to our “difficult” AP job while planning all along to see if she could rematch to an easier job, since no other families had even reached out to her yet when we first spoke to her. But – I don’t think so. I really think she just didn’t realize what the job and living abroad situation were going to be like for her. And she had changed a lot of her plans in a big way to say yes to our family, including leaving several months earlier than she planned, which involved negotiations with her job, landlord, etc. Okay, good reminder. Now I can be mentally charitable again!)

Seattle Mom April 24, 2015 at 1:06 pm

InterExchange has a similar policy to APIA, but I don’t know how it works in practice.

CCAP just sees everything as a sunk cost- but I think that is partly because you could end up with a rematch AP who has already taken most of their credits and vacation, and not owe them too much. Luckily the one rematch I’ve had we knew pretty much from day 1 so I didn’t pay for anything. I’ve never had a rematch initiated by an AP.

SKNY April 24, 2015 at 10:18 am

Peachtree Mom,
that goes for host families too unfortunately. When I was an au pair on my first year I requested rematch due to a whole lot of situations. The agency wanted the family off the program and the LCC was the one to call and tell me I could rematch at that point (6mo mark) or stick it out, but if I did it would be hard to find a rematch family later one. Plus they already had a family in the area for me.
Anyway, the family owned me 4 weeks of pay. At the time the pay was only 139.05. They were always “forgetting” to pay me and because I spent little and was ok, I would usually let a few weeks go before asking (I joked with other au pairs they were my savings account). I had never taken my education or any vacation.
As soon as LCC and I told the family I was on rematch, they canceled my cell phone, internet, and took car away. I had no way to communicate with families. I ended up matching and when they heard (I was still going to give them the weeks to find care), she came home in the middle of the day (when I was playing with the kids), yelling and breaking things and telling them I was leaving because I hated them, because I lied to them all this time… long story short, I left their home that day, and they never paid me. I lost 4 weeks pay, my first week vacation, and 250 in education. The new family was only responsible for the proportional to the time they had with me.
I never got paid.

Host Mom X April 24, 2015 at 11:51 am

Just terrible. Our best AP who came to us out of rematch had the same thing. The family withheld her last two weeks of pay once they went into rematch, and demanded that she pay them the education they had spent on her or they wouldn’t pay her. (Even though if you pro-rated it, her two weeks of owed pay was more than what she “owed” them for education.) We tried to work it out with the prior host family (we were with APC and they didn’t have a system in place for working this out), and got screamed at by them on the phone for an hour after which we thought we had finally reached an agreement that they’d send the amount of withheld pay deducting the education money spent (which we said we’d pay to the AP to make her whole). They never sent the check. We just paid our AP her missing two weeks’ stipend, we felt so terrible for the awful time she had spent with those truly awful “host parents.”

Seattle Mom April 24, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Wow, that is horrible. There are some sick people out there, and sadly some of them become HFs. I’m glad that they got kicked out of the program, but it’s unfair that you were collateral damage!

exaupair April 25, 2015 at 6:58 am

that’s terrible. did the agency didn’t force the to pay you?

SKNY April 24, 2015 at 10:24 am

when I extended my second year, the family convinced me to pay for my own transportation to their home (200 dollars flight) and never paid me back either. Every time I talked to LCC she told me to talk to them, because they HAD to pay me. they never did till the end, and did some weird thing where I only got paid 40 or 50 dollars on my last week there. Cant completely remember the whole reasoning or amount, but something about the fact that I arrived there on a Thursday and my week was therefore Thursday through Wednesday, and not Monday through Sunday (mind you I never realized it, as we always counted hours Monday through Friday). Anyway, my last day was a Friday, so they only had to pay me for Thursday and Friday that week (???). LCC did nothing
That family still hosted au pairs one additional year before they decided to just have after school care.

Host Mom in the City April 24, 2015 at 11:12 am

While I totally agree that host families should pay what they are owed, our LCC recommends something similar for the last week. We count our week from the day our au pair starts, not Monday to Sunday for every au pair. Our current au pair arrived on a Saturday night, so we count her week Sunday through Saturday. Our other au pairs have mostly arrived late Thursday night, so we have counted their weeks Friday to Thursday.

Then we prorate the last week depending on when they leave. For our current au pair whose weeks are Sunday through Saturday, if she decides to leave for her travel month on a Wednesday (and therefore only works Monday and Tuesday of her last week), we pay her stipend/five for those two days. She’s an extraordinare, so that’s $50/day, or $100 for that last week.

This was on the advice of our LCC. Was that what the family was doing for your last week?

Peachtree Mom April 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

That is terrible and I heard of an aupair in the area whose family was behind in payment….I cannot understand that. How can a family not pay what they owe…it is so black and white to me. I used to pay a week in advance because I worried about how much cash the aupairs had when they arrived and I never wanted them to be short of money, in addition to paying the education in advance. Not anymore. But you are right. …there are dud families that should not be in the program.

Host Mom X April 24, 2015 at 11:24 am

Our first au pair never intended to stay with the program – it was just a way to get a visa into the U.S. (she was from an Eastern European country with no jobs, poor economy, corrupt government, etc. – just needed to get to the U.S.). We felt so betrayed – after investing so much time and emotional capital into the relationship (she was not a good AP, lied to us about everything all the time including her care of our two small children, infant and toddler – which took us awhile to catch onto since kids that age can’t tell you, but we were newbies and bent over backwards thinking everything was our fault and that we needed to keep trying to make it better). The whole time she would keep telling us about how she’d see people from her country in our city working these menial jobs “under the table” and how they made so much more money than APs, etc. She didn’t understand (having never paid a bill in her life, at the age of 24) how much it would cost her on her own to live in our prime spot in our city; and she didn’t realize that this wasn’t where the people whose jobs she seemed to be coveting were able to afford living (odd, since she made some friends who lived 8 to a one-bedroom apartment in a far-out section of the city). She also had a sister here who had married an American with a good job, who was now in school, living here legally, etc. So she had a safety net – even if not an immediate path to legal residency. Anyway – when we finally called rematch, she was out of our home lickety split, no interest in finding another family. It appears she’s still in the U.S. over five years later, from my Facebook stalking. And apparently able to travel in and out from some fabulous-looking vacation photos from south and central american locations, so perhaps she has achieved legal residency. Can’t imagine how, though, having jumped a visa…..

I do think she had SOME sense of having entered into a contract and some idea that MAYBE she’d try to fulfill it and jump the visa after that, from the conversation we had at rematch, but she also (due to high unemployment in her country) had never worked a day in her life and was not cut out for being an au pair of a toddler and baby. We also lived in a big city – prime AP dream location – but it seemed she was really hoping for the “American dream” of a big suburb, giant McMansion, pool in the backyard, open high ways, an SUV for her use to drive to malls all the time, etc. And since we lived in a big expensive city, we had a small apartment, no car for her to use, and our life basically looked nothing like that. Our next AP out of rematch was overjoyed to live where we lived. Ah well. We live in a different big city now, and just came out of rematch and the AP who left also had no appreciation for our city, but thankfully our new AP – who rematched from a middle-of-nowhere midwestern type city (no disrespect!) is super-happy to be living where we live, with access to all our city has to offer.

FirstTimeHost April 24, 2015 at 4:14 pm

Our first AP matched with us with re-match on her mind from even before starting with us. We were never the ideal host family for her for couple reasons, one being our location. She was an a timeline for a start date and she used us as a gateway into the program. She was fairly misguided about the contract and was shocked to learn that the agency would not necessarily guarantee a re-match. Finally, after some cherry-picking between new host families while being housed by us, she re-matched with a family at her dream location. This was definitely not a great first experience.

Mimi April 25, 2015 at 9:39 am

This was the case for us with AP#5. We found out after the fact from another AP that she found another family on aupairxxx.com and was all set to leave when she realized the other family was with another agency and her visa wouldn’t transfer. So she initiated rematch and got panicked when she found out she could go home, especially since her rematch reasons were vague and even the LCC was shocked when she announced she wanted to leave. We helped her evaluate new families and gave her two additional weeks to match, not knowing the depths of her deception. (She had also been smoking in our house and tried to sabotage the AP car to try and get a new one if she was “forced to stay.”)

When we heard about her plan to leave immediately, I looked for on the AP advertising sites and found her right away. I took a screen shot of her profile which showed her join date and sent it to the LCC with a note about what I had heard. Fast forward to last month and AP#6 filed a lengthy complaint about our family which included allegations about AP#5. The LCC forwarded our info (which she had verified after speaking with the gossipy AP–where she learned even more) and the emails I had copied her on when we were having problems and it was all added to our file when the complaint was dismissed. The moral of the story is, documentation, documentation!!

chicago host mom April 25, 2015 at 1:16 am

Our first au pair left us high and dry after nine months caring for our first infant child. She went on spring break and stayed an extra (unplanned) week, citing medical problems. At that time, I randomly googled her and discovered she was on Nannies4Hire.com, advertising she was available full time, could start “any time”, and had her “own” transportation. We called for rematch and she returned — our LCC tried to mediate it but it was impossible to repair. She sayed another month and then said she had been accepted into a university at home and she needed to return early so she could meet the program start date. We offered to take her to the airport and she said her friends were taking her. I was suspicious, but it was our first experience and our LCC was no help. I found her on Nannies4hire.com and some other child care sites the following week. As you can imagine, I was livid. I reported her to Homeland Security and directly to the agency, which yanked her SEVIS, making her status illegal. That made me feel only slightly better. Then I wrote her mother a letter telling her how disappointed I was in her daughter and the poor character she displayed, and how if my daughter ever behaved like that I would be ashamed. Like I said, I was livid. It did make me feel a little better, but my heart goes out to you. We are on au pair #6 and when the program works, it’s AWESOME, but when it doesn’t, it can be torture. All I can say is that our second au pair was a FABULOUS young lady who we love and stayed with our family two years, so I hope the same for you and your next au pair.

caringhp April 25, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Watch out for situations like the one we had when a year 1 Au Pair decides to go home 29 or 30 days early. LCCs and/or Au pairs may try to walk HF into signing a waiver (on the basis that they almost finished their year) which means AP will get a free flight home BUT HF will forfeit their prorated 30 days of Program Fees. That was with APIA.
Instead have it be a formal Rematch where she goes home; and HF gets 30 days credit on next AP placement/fees. Document it carefully with agency so they don’t stick you with a 2 week mediation requirement.
If someone is going to break her AP contract and head home a month early for her convenience and enjoyment, then her flight cost is her issue and I will take the credit. That was the case with out situation – it was relaxation and leisure motivated.

We also Know of a situation where it was discovered by luck/accident, approximately the weekend the AP arrived and before she had even started her training that she was not planning to stay and finish the year. HF notified Agency right away; they verified with AP who admitted that had been her plan. As a compromise, all parties agreed to put the AP into a sort of rematch and log her end date as several months away (before her program year would have ended) and prorate the HF fees, vacation and education money to the revised end date. Very inconvenient but better to find out before one had paid all program fees and get stuck with refund negotiations!

Watch for APs arriving without the seasonal clothing; or looking reluctant to talk about dates out into the future. Also watch for APs whose end date goes slightly past the University year start dates in their home country – they may be awaiting news of acceptance and may walk out leaving you stuck with cost and hassle like OP.

Schnitzelpizza April 27, 2015 at 6:06 am

Going home a few days or weeks early can happen quite easily and is partly an agency problem, I think.

Applicants often get pressured into agreeing on a lengthy time of availability… i.e. the agency I screen for only has one or two departure days per month. To give the applicants a better chance to find a family they get told to not pick one month in which they can depart but a period of 3+ months.

Most German au pairs finish school some time in July – often too late for one or both July departures. Depending on their school they might be allowed to end their school year a few days early as long as all exams have been taken (sometimes graduation will be scheduled for a few weeks before the official end of the school year anyways) but they will then of course miss graduation (e.g. one of my friends left on 2 July, our official last day and graduation was 3 July, I left on 16 July).
If they want to start a vocational training after their return from the US the starting date will be 1 August or 1 September. If they want to go on to University the starting date will be 1 September or 1 October (with lectures usually starting in the second week).

The applicant that is told to allow for a period of three months ([July]/August/September/[October]) may really only have one or two dates that are convenient for her, especially if they have decided on a practical training instead of heading on to university. If they are unlucky their last day of school might be 27 July with a departure date to the US on 3 August 2015 and their training might start on 1 August 2016, the employer of course expecting their new trainee to show up on time on that day and the family expecting the au pair to work until she has fulfilled her contract. Even if the family only allowed them to leave early enough to get them home on 31 July the au pair would need to leave four or five days early. For an au pair that is planning to head on to university the travel date might be a bit more flexible but seeing that many will have to move for university it might not be as flexible as they think.

If you then add the applicant’s parents to the mix, who will most likely be eager to make sure that their child does not “ruin their whole life” by doing a gap year and who will very likely be pushing the au pair to make sure they are back on time for training / university and to leave a bit of time to “come back home” and to not pick a travel date that leaves them with an additional six (for university, if starting in summer is even a possibility) or twelve months to cover between returning from the US and starting their training and who don’t want them to “lose” two full years by extending (which might not even solve the problem as the last work day would still be 2 August) or to just take a job that is irrelevant for her future for a longish period of time between returning from the US and continuing her education.

My point being… for many leaving the host family early is the only bit of “flexibility” they have. If school won’t let them out early there is very little they can do (unless they drop out which understandably won’t be an option). If their new employer / school won’t let them start a few days late, there is also very little they can do (unless they want to start a year later, which might not be a great option either or give up that job). They might even be aware that they are doing their host family a disservice by leaving early but that might be the easiest way to solve the problem.

By the way, many au pairs will come with a Plan B. Before they arrive in the US they cannot know if everything will work out. They might realise that becoming an au pair is the worst decision ever, they might be too homesick to fulfil their conctract, the host family may be mistreating them. I came to the US with a Plan B (university / medical school) and most people I knew thought I would be back by October. I wasn’t. But I could have been, had things not worked out as well as they did. I don’t think I ever actually told my host family that I had applied to university before my departure… was I lying to them or trying to deceive them? As I knew quite quickly that I would never consider leaving them early even if I was accepted (and I was) there really was never a reason to tell them. But it could have been my way out had it been horrible. I never thought that my Plan B could be considered lying to my host family.

Many of our PhD students also arrive without seasonal clothing. Both our Mexican and our Indian PhD student came totally unprepared for German winter (our Spanish at least brought something that resembled a warmish, waterproof overcoat) and had to be told to buy sturdy shoes and appropriate winter clothing in fall.

caringhp is right in that you should ask applicants you screen about their plans for the future! And you shouldn’t stop at “What do you want to do after your return to your home country” to see if she is ambitious or comes to improve her language skills (because she wants to study International Business) or her childcare skills (because she wants to become a teacher) but also ask when her training/schooling would start. It’s a great small-talk topic, if she has any idea about what she wants to do with her future (even if it’s only “I want to go to university but haven’t decided on my major, yet”) that can be something to get her talking.

But also keep in mind that agencies with very few departure dates can set an au pair up to ask for this kind of flexibility from a host family. If allowing your au pair to leave a week or two early is nothing you would ever consider go with an agency that has weekly departures where it’s easier for an applicant to make sure that the departure dates matches a necessary return date to their home country.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 27, 2015 at 7:25 am

I have, without qualms, agreed to an early departure (usually one week) without a problem, and I could even see agreeing to 2 weeks. However, any earlier release, and I’d be telling the AP that she could save her vacation time to depart early (obviously with pay). When I know, 4 months out, that an AP wants to leave early, then I am able to interview for an earlier arrival date. (My agency has weekly arrivals throughout the summer, so it’s not a problem. During the rest of the year, I’d be telling my AP that she would have to depart two weeks early because arrivals go down to every other week and I don’t believe in overlap.)

Once we go past a two-week earlier departure, then I’m out a month of fees that I’ve paid for that AP – unless I don’t agree to sign the waiver – and then she (or her parents) have to pay for her plane ticket home. If she’s starting university, then it may be worth it to her. Nevertheless, I’d want to know when I start interviewing for her successor that she wanted to depart a month early.

I have hosted several German APs who have arrived in August, successful spent 2-3 weeks traveling during their 13th month, and gone home in time to start university. Candidates whom I interviewed who said they wanted to be able to come in July or could not arrive until September received a pass from me. They were going to find families for whom they were a good match.

Finally, there is a difference between wanting to go home a week or two early to accommodate university or a big family event, and intending to leave months early without informing the HF at the point of interviewing. It is a huge deal to families whose APs walk out without notice.

Many of my APs go home armed with a letter detailing the skills they have acquired in caring for my child who has special needs. If an AP who had left me high and dry were to ask for such a letter, she’d get one that made it clear that she was unreliable and immature. Fortunately, in the 15 years I’ve hosted APs, most have been absolutely fantastic, reliable and mature woman who have gone on to make great contributions as nurse, teachers, therapists, psychologists, public health administrators, and social workers.

German Au-Pair April 26, 2015 at 1:08 pm

I would say she hasn’t broken YOUR trust but “some stranger’s” trust and once she got to know you she realized she didn’t want to do that.
You grow a lot during that year and I also think APs aren’t really that aware of what just leaving means to the HF. When you think about it, to an AP who has not done extensive research and tried to see the other side, it may seem like it really doesn’t matter that much if a HF gets a new AP after 9 or 12 months as there’s a transition anway. Only when you get to know the PEOPLE behind it and maybe see what it means to establish that relationship do you realize that that’s not true.
While maybe that shows that she’s a rule bender in general (I’m obviously German and a rule follower, too, bu I also took care of my kids over night more than ones…the rules are there to protect both sides, but I offered, they took me up on it so no one felt exploited…), it doesn’t show that she is a lier or anything.
I understand the uneasy feeling, but when you really think about it, it doesn’t show anything except that she was immature and didn’t quite know how things would turn out.

UKAu Pair April 26, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I agree with all of this, but I also thing that it would be worth the OP in this case having a word with her and explaining how important it is to have a full year of year, and all the problems it can cause if an AP doesn’t stay. As you said, she sounds immature, and this might help her to understand that her actions would have consequences.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 26, 2015 at 4:39 pm

I would say that whether or not an AP intends to stay often depends on their family situation. For APs who borrow extensively from family members to obtain a visa, pay the AP subvention, and are expected to repay those loans during the course of their AP year – the thought of rematch may be terrorizing. I hosted a Chinese AP who arrived barely able to drive (after a 6-hour police-supervised driving course, the officer told DH that he felt that the AP could drive safely on the roads, but that she would fail the driving test on parallel parking and three-point turns). We decided that she needed more lessons, and offered her a choice – go into rematch or pay for lessons (our agency split the cost with her). She chose the lessons. We worked very hard during the course of the year to build her skills to an acceptable level and so did she. Our LCC made it clear to her that she didn’t really have a choice – that she was not a candidate for rematch. In the end we used her failure to obtain a US license as a reason not to extend (there were many other reasons).

I think European APs tend to come with a more casual attitude about their AP year. It’s a gap year, a bit of an adventure. If they didn’t have to work to earn the fees, they may have a different attitude about going home than those who do.

Nevertheless, there is a world of difference between AP who says to herself, “I’m taking this risk of going halfway across the world to live with this family and if it doesn’t work out I’ll go home,” and one who says to herself, “I want this adventure but I also want to do this other thing five/seven/nine/eleven months later, so I’ll go and just leave when I want to return home.” There’s one thing to acknowledge that living with another family is tough because it involves compromise and change, and other thing to refuse to compromise.

The AP who puts her own needs first, without communication or compromise is not just immature – she’s selfish. Relationships, throughout life, involve a great deal of give and take – and living with a HF is no exception.

German Au-Pair April 26, 2015 at 7:31 pm

There’s one thing I’d like to add that does make sense from an AP’s POV but maybe not from the HF’s.
Sometimes, when you get opportunities that are important to you, you may put your needs first. I can imagine a situation in which an AP might say she’s planning to leave after 9 months or 10 because that’s when she’ll be able to start college or a job or something like that. It’s still not fair and I get that. But what one needs to consider that at this point, the AP CAN only think of herself, because she simply doesn’t know the other party involved. She may not know how much money the HP put into this or the effort it takes or she may have heard about HF who really don’t care about their AP (and the relationship at all). So what she sees is the chance to either go for 10 months and have a job, don’t go at all and do nothing fpr 10 months or stay for 12 months and not get the job.
I can see why a young person in this situation might make a decision that seems wrong in retrospect but really isn’t that unreasonable to her at the time. (That would alse explain why she needed to discuss this with her mom.) Once she actually got to know the family and formed a bond, her priorities may have shifted and that’s what caused the change of mind.

Maybe she was just not thinking straight at the time, but I can imagine scenarios that would make sense, too. So it might be beneficial for the HM to explore those reasons in a semi-casual talk. Maybe she’ll discover good reasons, maybe not. Either way, I don’t thinki this necessarily measn the AP as some kind of character flaw.
I would adress what an early departure would mean to the family to make sure she doesn’t change her mind again(though it doesn’t sound like she would at this point.)

DowntownMom April 26, 2015 at 9:50 pm

It is puzzling that she does not have a sense of commitment. Whether I made a commitment to friends or to strangers (even as a little kid), I always felt committed once I gave my word.

One another note, we contacted one AP, who said she needed to be back home after 10 months and seriously considered her. She fulfilled most of our main criteria and knowing about the slightly shorter timeframe, made it not a big deal.

Returning HM April 26, 2015 at 10:05 pm

I agree that a thoughtful, mature AP tells her HF up front if she has a conflict. One of our APs did this — she wanted to come in July, but we didn’t need her til August. She told us right from the start that this was going to be an issue, since her university would start the following August. We agreed going in that she would leave a couple of weeks early, to accommodate both our needed start date and her preferred return time.

She ended up leaving three weeks due to exams she had to sit before starting university, but I knew about almost a year in advance so had plenty of time to plan for it. She didn’t just drop this on me because it suited her but instead negotiated out a good solution for both of us, right off the bat. Now, it’s true as one of the PPs said above that she didn’t “know” me yet when she agreed to match with us, but she took seriously the idea that she was joining a family and didn’t want to leave us high and dry without notice. Part of what I liked about her right from the start was her honesty and forthrightness in raising this issue prior to matching, and I was happy to let her go a few weeks early (and suck up the three weeks’ fee to the agency) because she was a great candidate from the start and proved to be a fabulous au pair who gave her all to our family and the AP experience.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 26, 2015 at 10:10 pm

As a HP who not only shells out $8500-9500 (depending on whether the AP is a regular or extraordinnaire), an AP who only wanted 10 months instead of 12 would be a deal-breaker for me. While many HF can find an AP in rematch, as the parent of a child with special needs, realistically when I go into rematch I have to watch 6 weeks for an out-of-country arrival, which means finding a nurse for my child in the interim. My insurance will only pay for 5 hours of nursing a day and because absolutely no nurses will take a split shift of 2 hours in the morning and 3.5-4 hours in the afternoon that my APs work. It takes me from the moment I go into rematch (and require the AP to work the two full weeks) to find a nurse to take a 5-hour shift (for which she will complain about not having enough hours – because let’s face it 25-hours is not a full time job.

So while I get it the selfish and immature young woman is incapable of seeing — or caring — about the larger picture. And yes, it makes me angry to have to deal with it. I’m the one who writes the huge check that pays the agency fees. I’m the one who deep cleans the AP suite, replaces the damaged and missing items. I’m the one who runs to Target and buys the mini-toiletries and the calamine lotion for the incoming AP. And so, if she were to pull out early, I’m the one who would feel burned by the extra out-of-pocket expenses. Because, for HF, after the 6-month-benchmark, it becomes a loss leader when AP announces she’s going home.

DowntownMom April 27, 2015 at 8:59 pm

We matched with an AP after a long discussion about one of our kids being highly fragile and not wanting to expose the kid to loosing an AP early. The AP swore she was committed to the full year. She initiated rematch almost as soon as she got here. Later on I found out that she had been planning this from the beginning. The callousness was unbelievable.

German Au-Pair April 27, 2015 at 9:00 am

Just to be clear, even though I have said it before, I agree that this attitude is immature and while I think selfish might be a bit too harsh, it is definitely not thoughtful. But since the AP seems to have been a good AP, I would definitely address the issue but give her the benefit of a doubt and assume that her time abroad has contributed to her maturing process. I know I was less mature before I started.
Immaturity is not necessarily a character flaw, especially if a development is visible.

Host Mom in the City April 27, 2015 at 10:57 am

FWIW, German Au-Pair, I agree with you and tried to put a similar view in my first post:

“Likely your au pair really did think she would just easily return home after 3/4 of a year and didn’t consider (and probably wouldn’t have had the capacity to consider) what that would mean to her future host family. In her mind, they could just get another au pair, no big deal. It’s likely that she didn’t mean this to be truly “deceitful” and probably was acting with some immaturity.”

I can easily see (though I agree that it’s selfish) how I might have, as a young adult, set out to do something and have trouble visualizing what the impacts of a choice I make might be on some abstract set of people involved. Totally understand. Doesn’t make it right, but it also doesn’t make it straight up deceitful or indicate to me that the young adult in question is a bad or selfish person, just that they might be unpurposefully acting in a selfish way.

WarmStateMomma April 27, 2015 at 12:03 pm

I can definitely see how a young person from a completely different culture could be clueless about the repercussions of an early departure – without being deceitful or a selfish jerk. APs don’t have kids and many have never had any responsibilities before. My first AP had never considered that someone had to watch my daughter while she went on vacation and that we’d need to take time off work or get someone else to care for her during the AP’s absence. It seems rather obvious to us as HPs, but APs are not in the same place in their lives and may be clueless about what challenges host families face in a culture that is generally unsupportive of working families.

It’s definitely worth adding to my list of topics that I cover with candidates: this is a commitment I would expect you to honor because x, y, z would happen if you bail. Likewise, my family won’t flake out on you after you’ve spent $3-5k on AP fees.

Seattle Mom April 27, 2015 at 6:43 pm

I can see those scenarios and understand the line of thinking, but I would still want to avoid matching with an au pair who is not committed to spending a full year in the US (barring any unforeseen circumstance or family emergency). If I discovered that my au pair had plans to leave my response would depend on the particular situation and how well I liked that au pair- but it is still a situation I would avoid if possible.

I do not accept that it is a reasonable position for an AP to take, that they will plan to leave after 7 or 9 or 10 months. Unless they tell all potential HFs honestly when they plan to leave, it is dishonest and wrong.

I joined the Peace Corps when I was 22, right out of university. It was a 2 year commitment. I could have quit at any time and my flight home would have been paid. But I planned on staying for two years. If I hadn’t, if I was even a bit unsure, I probably would have quit at some point- it’s too hard without that kind of resolve. The majority of people I served with were also in their early 20s, and also planned to stay for 2 years. Not everyone did. Some left during training when they realized that it wasn’t going to meet their expectations. Some left later on, usually due to a combination of homesickness and things just not going great. Some people who intended to stay did not, but I can say without a doubt that no one who went into it thinking “I might leave after a year or so” stuck around for 2 years. I had some good friends who were not fully committed for 2 years, good people, who did not stay. I don’t think they should have joined the Peace Corps if they didn’t intend to stay, for whatever reason. The US government invests time and money into each volunteer, and they go to live in a community that is in most cases heartbroken if their volunteer quits- there are exceptions to this, but at least where I served Americans were loved and it was an honor to have one living in the community. Not to mention the individual personal relationships, and all the possibilities for what could have been.

I feel the same way about au pairs- if you don’t want to stay for a year, either let that be known up front, or don’t come. Not every au pair is thinking that they might leave early- a lot are actually committed for the whole year. Some hope to stay for two years. So while it might be a rational way to think, it’s not a given that they SHOULD think that way, and it’s not really acceptable, in my opinion.

Seattle Mom April 27, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Also, I was planning to attend grad school right after Peace Corps, and since my service started in September (ended in November, 2 years later, because of training) I had to wait around for a while to go to school. I was annoyed by this and felt my life was slipping away (ah, to be 24 again!) but in the end it turned out to be such a good thing. If I could have gone to school right after Peace Corps I almost certainly would have gone to law school and that would have been a huge mistake. Instead I worked at a law firm for a while, saw everyone’s souls being slowly sucked out of them (if they had them to begin with) and figured out what I needed to do instead.

*Many of my best friends are lawyers. 99% of them would agree that at least half of their souls have been sucked dry. The 1% that would not agree are no longer my friends.

WarmStateMomma April 27, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Lawyer here. You dodged a bullet!

NZ HM April 27, 2015 at 6:04 am

I agree with most comments and suggestions made sofar and also think there is a world of a difference between someone committing to being an aupair for a year and at the back of their mind thinking: ‘if it doesn’t work out I can always leave’, someone negotiating with the HF a shorter term to suit everyone’s needs and interests and someone PLANNING to leave early without telling the HF. The first, in my view, is a kind of insurance policy to make it easier to step into the unkown, a fall back plan to be used only in a worst case scenario, not desirable from an employer’s perspective but good for people like me who always think ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ and have to have a plan ready.
The second is the mature and considerate approach if a conflict of interest is already apparent.
The third, as mentioned already, says unreliable, selfish and immature and is probably also fuelled by the aupair’s parents/ her relationship to her parents who condone the behaviour.

In NZ, aupairs coming here to ‘just try it out’ and leaving families in the lurch is a big problem (and because of the visa restrictions they are primarily if not solely from Western European countries) and the two bigger agencies try to entice aupairs into sticking out their term with a completion bonus (an extra NZ$10 or $20 per week paid at the end of the agreed term) and one agency imposes a fine on aupairs who decide to leave a family without going into rematch (I think they have to pay NZ$500) – no fee for those looking for a new family.

oranje_mama April 27, 2015 at 11:36 am

We’ve successly had 2 German au pairs. Neither one cut short their year – even though one was returning to start vocational training and the other, university. One returned to Germany in February and was able to start vocational training in March. The other’s year +travel month would have ended in December/January. She extended to July and then started university in September.

I agree with a PP that cutting short the year by 1 or 2 weeks because of a university or job start date would be reasonable. But that’s pretty much the limit.

4th time lucky?! April 28, 2015 at 3:24 am

sorry for hijacking: some urgent advice needed. We met latest aupair candidate in person. Great opportunity to chat and see interaction with our children first hand. I felt good about her up to now and not worried how things might be because we would only need him for 3 or 4 months (not in US!).

Here pros and cons in no particular order:
The AP doesn’t have much (any) special childcare experience but seems keen to connect, warm, friendly and eager to learn (though not natural in interaction), late 20s and noticeably more mature than other candidates we interviewed, he’s been in the country for 2+ months and should be over homesickness/ culture shock by now, he’s lived away from home/mum and with other people for several years; his background (work) is technical/ engineering. He made the effort to come and see us and spend a good few hours with us. He gave a bit of a hand with the kids right away (help put shoes on when going out, etc).

BUT: he smirked (saying ‘oh that’s so cute’) at my 5 year old’s (wrong/ unusual) pronounciation of some words in his second language and insisted my 4 year old should stick to the rules of a board game in quite a pertinent way [fyi, kid wasn’t cheating to win just amending the rules] – both rubbed me up the wrong way. [it’s not that we teach our kids to totally disregard rules of games or let them win all the time but it certainly depends on the type of infringement – and maybe everyone just adopts the ‘new rule’]. He had also asked for and read our handbook before coming here (Great!) and commented on that he was a bit shocked to read about ‘help needed with toiletting’, hopeing that this wasn’t an issue anymore once he got here. After all, the child was already 4. (not so great)

I guess I already made up my mind but I need some feedback: am I being too harsh/ premature? it’s only for a few months after all… plus I am instantly doubting myself and my parenting: should I put more effort inyo teaching my kids how to properly play games and by the rules?
and some nice easy let-down phrase since both parties have been so positive up to now (as if there was no doubt we would proceed with the match) and admittedly he has put a lot of time into this already… Thanks!

exaupair April 28, 2015 at 5:00 am

I think you should keep looking. You said he already rubbed you the wrong way, and you’ve only spent one day together!
I understand he might be otherwise a really nice young man, but he already did some things you disagree with.

BearCo Momma April 28, 2015 at 8:24 am

I would move on – mainly because of the comment about seeing the help with toileting as an “issue” (assuming that’s actually how he worded it). Whether he’s judgy of their development (just in general) or just really doesn’t want to get dirty in that sense, it would be a problem for me. Then again, my grandparents asked me almost every day once my kids were 1 years old if they were potty trained yet and INSISTED all of their kids were potty trained by 1. That’s ok coming from a grandmother though, not an AP :-)

Mimi April 28, 2015 at 10:46 am

In many countries and cultures, kids are toilet trained before age 2. For someone from one of those cultures with little or limited childcare experience, this would be a normal reaction. Before the 1950’s and Dr. Spock, most US children were potty trained by the age of 1.

BearCo Momma April 28, 2015 at 12:16 pm

When potty training means getting half of your day back because you no longer need to devote a massive amount of time to washing and sterilizing diapers, this makes sense you would put that kind of effort in as early as possible. Lots of things about parenting were very different 70 years ago.

My point was that it doesn’t bother me when my grandparents or parents make comments like this, but it would bother me if my AP did, and said they hoped they wouldn’t have to deal with these “issues”, as if there’s something wrong with the child because they still need help wiping sometimes at 4. I want to hear “Of course, no problem!”

Seattle Mom April 28, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Yeah, and actually- needing help wiping or a reminder to go to the potty or occasional accidents is different than having a kid still in diapers. I’m sure that even in the old days there were 4 year olds who needed help. I think that this guy doesn’t really have the experience to understand what he’s getting into, and 4th Time Lucky *is* lucky that she had the chance to meet him ahead of time and rule him out.

Mimi April 28, 2015 at 10:13 am

Nothing he did really strikes me as odd coming from a male engineer in his late 20’s with limited exposure to kids, because I married one. :) The things that make folks good at technical and engineering don’t typically translate easily to childcare, but it doesn’t mean they can’t do a great job. You can let him know that although you were impressed with his willingness and preparation, his lack of experience is too much to overlook with young children.

As for your question “should I put more effort into teaching my kids how to properly play games and by the rules?”…IMO playing board games can give children a good introduction to critical thinking skills, reasoning, numbers/letters, and the concept of rules and fair play which will translate into skills they need for school. If your children can play the game by the rules without having a meltdown if they are losing or if they don’t like some aspect of the game, then continue letting them be creative with rules and play. If you’re concerned that their need change the game is paramount or that they get upset if other’s resist their rule changes then it might be time to start alternating between regular rules and special rules play.

Seattle Mom April 28, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Haha, I had the same thought about a male engineer in his 20s with limited childcare experience!

Personally, I would pass. It is possible that he could learn to be a good au pair, but it is a gamble. If you think he is personable and fun to be around *in general* and open to learning new ways of doing things, then it could work. What would happen if you said to him (privately), next time you play with the 4 year old, try being a little flexible with the rules. Or if you tried to make him change something else. Would he bristle? Would he defend his position? Would he say “OK” and then continue to do it his way? Or would he be able to see it your way?

Part of the reason I would pass is that I had an au pair who brushed me the wrong way from Day 1 for similar reasons. She was not an engineer, but I think she had an engineering personality. Very rule oriented, not able to just go with the flow and let the kids have fun as long as no one was getting hurt. She ended up in rematch and stayed with her next family for the whole year, so I am sure that some families are OK with that. But if it’s not for you, then it’s probably going to annoy you more and more each day.

Also my husband has been taking engineering classes for fun over the last few years and he is aghast at the social skills of his classmates, for the most part. Certainly there are exceptions but I am always skeptical of engineers who say they want to be au pairs. (FWIW my husband is an experimental physicist & mathematician by training- not the same personality as an engineer)

UKAu Pair April 28, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Some of this wouldn’t bother me (as Mimi has said, children in different countries are toilet trained at different ages) and the thing about board games would be similarly unimportant.

However, it’s clear that YOU, personally, wouldn’t be comfortable hosting him for an extended period of time. He sounds lovely, and I’m sure he’ll be a good fit for another family, but he sounds like he’d be happier with older, more autonomous children who are used to rules and a more structured household. That’s not your fault, and it’s not his fault, it’s just the way things are sometimes.

German Au-Pair April 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm

If you’re already annoyed, you might want to pass simply based on that. Or you could try to figure out whether your annoyance is really reasonable.

However, I come from a culture where playfully mocking children is okay. It IS funny when someone mispronounces something in your language. Just as my (very American) children “laughed” at me and had a BLAST when my mom tried to pronounce the American R (Broadway….) I also found it cute and funny when they mispronounced something. I think there’s a HUGE difference between being condescending and shaming someone and saying “O that’s cute”. (Plus I’m sure children hear “Oh that’s cute a hundred times a day because they just say the cutest things all day…)

I am also a big fan of teaching children to play by the rules and not ever letting them win. It’s one thing to hold yourself back a bit, but actively letting them win is not the right lessons. My grandma taught me how to play most games and while I was still learning, we played with open cards so I knew we weren’t really playing yet but once I felt comfortable to play, she played as well as she could. I learned that beding the rules was NOT a good thing because the point of playing is not doing anything you can to win, but to enjoy it. I had to lose and I aslo learned that my winning counted for something. (I also personally think that children aren’t stupid and KNOW when you let them win all the time. Justs ends the wrong message IMHO.)
As for changing the rules -that’s totally fine, but BEFORE you start the game. Changing the rules according to your needs in a running game is cheating. Changing the rules before you start because one particular rule is annoying to you is okay. And that’s exactly what I would tell a child and what I would enforce.

Mathilde April 28, 2015 at 6:23 am

Don’t go with someone you don’t have a great feeling about. You are going to spend several months with him, and If this day wasn’t that great for you, you might end up regretting your choice. And I’m sure there are other great au pairs waiting for your family apart from this one.

Returning HM April 28, 2015 at 6:58 am

Anyone who smirked at my child’s language mistake or made a negative (as opposed to questioning or curious) comment about my child’s toileting habits would not be a good candidate for my household. Children do what they do when they do – especially around toileting – and I suspect this issue would only exacerbate and not help your child be ready any sooner (and possibly later to know he or she was being judged by the caregiver). I would keep looking too. Just say thanks so much for coming, we appreciate it, but we have decided to keep looking and wish you best of luck. If he asks for feedback you can say that you just didn’t feel like it was a great fit, which is the truth. You don’t have to get into specifics.

Good luck finding someone great for your family.

anotheraupair April 28, 2015 at 9:50 am

I’m an au pair who is exactly in the au pair’s (in the original email) situation. I have a great host family in Germany and have been here a little under three months (I began in Feb). I’m also mid way through a degree back home and these past few months not studying has led me to decide I want to go back to uni next year. While uni would start in Feb, I wouldn’t have enough money/somewhere to live back when I arrive back so am thinking of leaving here in December instead, to get everything organised and find a job back home. I haven’t told my host family about this yet because I’m afraid they will think I’m selfish and might want to get rid of me now. I also don’t want to feel awkward for the rest of the year! Any advice about when to tell them I’m thinking of going home early!? Or any advice from a host parent about what you think about it? Keep in mind I’m in Europe, not the US…

TexasHM April 28, 2015 at 9:51 am

Agreed. As someone that ignored some little things that didn’t sit right with me after matching but before arrival I can tell you, TRUST YOUR GUT!! You won’t make it 2-3 months (we made it 3 weeks but 10 days of it was a family vacation and previous ap was overlapped the first week to help train – made it about 4 days on her own!). Just be honest as said, fit isn’t there, he might prefer older kids. Good luck!

FirstTimeHost April 28, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Potty training is an important and sensitive part of your child’s life at the moment. All involved should be supporting it well for success. The last thing you need is a set back bc somebody doesn’t want to be involved in it.

WarmStateMomma April 28, 2015 at 2:54 pm

If your kid is still dealing with potty training stuff, I’d ask myself if the kid is going to feel comfortable with someone who smirks at him helping with something so private. That probably depends on your kid’s personality and how private he thinks potty training is. The guy’s reactions to the child’s language and potty training make me think he lacks the ability to see the young child as an individual person who deserves to be treated with respect. This is something I’ve seen in some of my in-laws and my toddler doesn’t like them as much.

I guess the awkward part is how to cut the AP loose after everyone has assumed the match was inevitable. I would blame it on the potty training and say the 4yo wants someone else (female, elderly, any characteristic the AP can’t be) to help him and that this is a corner you want to turn before the kid starts school.

FWIW – being “potty trained” means different things in different cultures. In some places, kids who are out of diapers might still relieve themselves in public, and wear open-crotch clothes to facilitate this, because they aren’t expected to wait to get to the bathroom. Whether kids are potty trained is more subjective than you’d think.

4th time lucky?! April 28, 2015 at 5:12 pm

thanks all for the great responses and advice. As said, I did already make up my mind and I’m grateful for all those supporting my decision! :-)

To add some more detail:

toilet training: the wording in the handbook is “you might need to wipe his bum (he is just learning to do this himself and will need help sometimes).” and the comment was along the lines off “when I read it I thought ‘ooh, I really hope that won’t be necessary anymore when I arrive. He’s 4 after all…”

rules and games: totally agree with everything said re cheating and letting kids win. With the younger one we are really just getting into games with more complex rules and have played boardgames with dice only in the most simple of manners (role, move) – pure luck, no strategy. The upsetting issue at hand was that it’s against my son’s nature to put his red block (or whatever colour he chose) on a field of another colour (some slight spectrum tendencies) so he skips the starting fields of the other players when moving his blocks. It’s not about getting ahead and gaining an advantage to win (I don’t think he’s even grasped the concept of moving more quickly = winning and is not too concerned about winning anyhow, always gives other players a hand, etc)

pronounciation: my kids grow up bilingual, German/ English in an English speaking country and I feel very lucky that they speak both languages actively and often, even if not perfect. Although German, it’s totally against my nature to correct their pronounciation or make the ever so slightest fun of it – it’s not their fault and they will get their eventually with loads of positive exposure! I also think it’s different for kids to make fun of an adult than for an adult to point out a kid’s unsual pronounciation.
With the AP, we talked about language development early on in the day, incl. that it can take up to the age of 7 for certain letters to be pronounced correctly (that’s for English and not taking into account any slower development due to bilingualism) so I was a bit taken aback when he had to repeatedly comment on it. (btw, since German Aupair mentioned her mum’s difficulty with the English ‘r’ it’s what both my kids struggle with in German and they say ‘drei’ (3) with a nice rolling ‘r’ – could actually be a southern German dialect :-) – it’s possibly cute! although I’m not a big fan of the c-word, but we generally ignore it)

AlwaysHopeful HM April 30, 2015 at 9:50 am

This is all very interesting to me. My family teases quite a bit, adults as well as kids. We brag and boast after a win, but playfully, and not to put the other person down. The ribbing is a part of the game, and we don’t see it as mean.

As far as changing game rules, we do this often also. Sometimes it is make the game move faster, sometimes, it’s to make it less complicated,sometimes it’s to make it morw challenging or interesting, and sometimes it’s just because. My son is super competitive, but our goal is always to have fun. I don’t necessarily “let” him win, but sometimes I help him out. He does the same for me if I’m getting pummeled because it’s really not a lot of fun for anyone if the play is too unbalanced. The most important part for us is spending the time together. Then, the winner celebrates obnoxiously, and the loser fakes agony, no matter how much help was given. It’s all done in fun, because we just don’t take it too seriously. We also tease each other about being bad sports. I get that many people would find our loose rules and rowdy behavior strange! Outside of our home, my son knows he has to pay attention to the rules and be a good sport, but at homw, we say “our house, our rules” and don’t feel bound to play a certain way just because someone wrote it down that way.

We’ve had 2 German AP’s. One was really easy going and fell into our craziness without missing a beat. The other felt very uncomfortable with the lack of adherence to the rules, and didn’t get the jokiness. My son often declined to play games with him because AP was so focused on playing the game correctly that it took away from the fun.

German Au-Pair April 30, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Oh god, thank you! That’s EXACTLY what I meant. Your dynamic seems to be the same that I am accustomed to it never felt mean. But I also learned not to be a sour loser and not to be too boastful when plaiyng with others.
I personally really love a competitive player because while it IS about the time spent together and the fun you have, there’s a winner for a reason and everyone’s goal essentially is winning. I would find the handshake-thing pretty weird tbh.

The rule changing can only happen before the game and not at a point when one introduces something that gives him an advantage. That’s not making it more interesting, it’s just cheating. Other than that, there is no correctly.

Host Mom in the City May 1, 2015 at 8:39 am

Ha – you sound very similar to us, AlwaysHopeful. Wanna come over for a game night? ;) We’ve been fortunate that both our German au pairs fit right in with our “game culture.” There are some great German games out there too!

4th time lucky?! April 28, 2015 at 5:13 pm

thanks all for the great responses and advice. As said, I did already make up my mind and I’m grateful to all those supporting my decision! :-)

To add some more detail:

toilet training: the wording in the handbook is “you might need to wipe his bum (he is just learning to do this himself and will need help sometimes).” and the comment was along the lines off “when I read it I thought ‘ooh, I really hope that won’t be necessary anymore when I arrive. He’s 4 after all…”

rules and games: totally agree with everything said re cheating and letting kids win. With the younger one we are really just getting into games with more complex rules and have played boardgames with dice only in the most simple of manners (role, move) – pure luck, no strategy. The upsetting issue at hand was that it’s against my son’s nature to put his red block (or whatever colour he chose) on a field of another colour (some slight spectrum tendencies) so he skips the starting fields of the other players when moving his blocks. It’s not about getting ahead and gaining an advantage to win (I don’t think he’s even grasped the concept of moving more quickly = winning and is not too concerned about winning anyhow, always gives other players a hand, etc)

pronounciation: my kids grow up bilingual, German/ English in an English speaking country and I feel very lucky that they speak both languages actively and often, even if not perfect. Although German, it’s totally against my nature to correct their pronounciation or make the ever so slightest fun of it – it’s not their fault and they will get their eventually with loads of positive exposure! I also think it’s different for kids to make fun of an adult than for an adult to point out a kid’s unsual pronounciation.
With the AP, we talked about language development early on in the day, incl. that it can take up to the age of 7 for certain letters to be pronounced correctly (that’s for English and not taking into account any slower development due to bilingualism) so I was a bit taken aback when he had to repeatedly comment on it. (btw, since German Aupair mentioned her mum’s difficulty with the English ‘r’ it’s what both my kids struggle with in German and they say ‘drei’ (3) with a nice rolling ‘r’ – could actually be a southern German dialect :-) – it’s possibly cute! although I’m not a big fan of the c-word, but we generally ignore it)

German Au-Pair April 29, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Ah, that does give some perspective. If your child has autism tendencies, was the Ap aware of that at the time? I would generally insist on following the rules as well (well, maybe not the very first time I meet a child…) but when the cheating is due to other circumstances that’s a different story.
I still feel that is has always been okay for me and basically every other German I know to lovingly mock others. In my family it was normal that the winner would mock the loser in a game for losing and I never ever felt inhibited by it but I think it made me more competetive and want to stick by the rules and earn that win.
As a teacher in the making, of course I know you shouldn’t laugh at a child and I personally wouldn’t do that. But I guess someone with limited experience and knowledge would me more likely to apply his own family’s habits to others without thinking much of it. If it were that alone I think it would suffice to tell him that that’s not okay and while it IS cute, it really isn’t okay in the context of bilingualism.

The wiping thing is a no-go for sure though. Mostly, because it sounds incredibly judgemental and even IF he had a point, you simply don’t judge your potential employer. You just don’t.

OT: what is the c-word in your book? I know two c-words and I’m confused now because when did they come up?

Returning HM April 29, 2015 at 3:17 pm

We have had six German au pairs over the years and not one has ever mocked one of my children for losing at a game. I don’t know what I would do if I saw an adult who had won mock a child for losing. Maybe it’s something you have to see to understand, but either way, not one of our German APs has ever done this, so I haven’t had to figure out yet how I would feel if it did happen. Let’s hope that the next one doesn’t either! I would love to stay blissfully ignorant on this one!

4th time lucky?! April 29, 2015 at 4:53 pm

I agree! My German friend does it (the friendly mocking), my extended family do it and I don’t like it. I don’t think it makes you stronger and that you have to toughen up your kids because ‘they will be mocked and maybe bullied by other kids’. I believe home should be a place where they can feel safe and accepted just as they are and know that even if it’s tough out there a loving, non-judgmental environment is waiting at home.

On playing games, we always congratulate each other (with formal handshakes :-)) for winning / playing a great game. I hope it conveys that winning is great but that there is nothing wrong with losing either.

AlwaysHopeful HM April 30, 2015 at 1:32 pm

I agree with this. My mom in particular can be very cutting with some of her”jokes” and definitely believes in shaming. I watched with horror as my niece and nephew endured her attacks and swore my own child would not be subjected to that. I keep my son away from my mom when she gets on a roll, talk with my son when Grandma is being mean, speak up in front of him on his behalf, and allow him to speak up for himself. My mom is very offended by each of these responses, but I’ve explained the reasons, and I’m not willing to budge on protecting my son. I also encourage my son to honor his feelings: cry if you’re hurt, smile if you’re happy, tell someone you’re angry if you feel that way. I see a big difference though between harsh, insensitive dominance and playful ribbing. We do a ton of playful ribbing! ????

4th time lucky?! April 29, 2015 at 4:45 pm

c as in cute, thought it was obvious in the context ;-)

German Au-Pair April 29, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Yes it was, but it confused me. You don’t like the word cute?

For us the playful mocking was not connected to a larger goal of toughening anyone up. It was not like “you’re so stupid you lost” but more like “Whooo is the coolest one here because he’s won?!” I never thought anything wrong with that and when I play with my friends, we still do this.
Not doing this to strangers’ children is simply a good judgement call. My father obviously knew me and I knew him so we never ever thought anything of it. To this day, when I am unreasonably upset about a grade that is generally viewed as good, my father will mock me for this grade and pretend he also thinks is terrible. Mocking is very normal in most families I know. Doing something like that to children you don’t know well and with whom you don’t already have a loving, supportive relationship established is simply bad judgement.

That said, there is a huge cultural difference when it comes to sheltering children between the US and Germany. That’s true for my generation, it may have changed now. But I do think we already had this discussion about how Germans generally seem more willing to allow their children to experience some discomfort (within reasonable limits) than Americans. In my and fellow AP’s experience, Americans seem more eager to keep their children from being hungry, tired or else uncomfortable. In Germany (in my experience) parents don’t bring forgotten gym shoes or lunches to school.
So I see why your view on this may be a bit different and just think it’s bad judgement not to take that into consideration when interacting with other people’s children -especially interculturally.

HRHM April 29, 2015 at 5:59 pm

In the US most of the time it is taught and widely understood that gloating when one wins at anything is being a “poor winner” just as moping when one loses is being a “poor loser”. Both are to be avoided in polite circles.

When we play a game of any type with any other people, the losers congratulate the winner who thanks them for doing so and the winner says something sympathetic or supportive like “great game”!

Being self-congratulatory about your own win is seen as rude and boastful.

Mimi April 29, 2015 at 6:12 pm

I think the word “mocking” isn’t necessarily the right choice here. Good natured teasing would probably be more appropriate. It’s something you would do with family members or close friends, not in competition. My family referred to it as “table talk” during card nights (nowadays they call it trash talk) and the worst was my tiny old oma, telling the youngsters she was going to “give us a drubbing” and make it hurt. :)

Seattle Mom April 29, 2015 at 7:43 pm

I don’t know if this is along the same lines, but this is what your comment makes me think of:

There seems to be a penchant among older adults in the US for brutally teasing kids.. from toddlers up to teenagers. Not all adults of course, but I have mainly noticed it among people of my parents’ generation and older (ages 65+). I recall being teased as a kid and not liking it, and now I see them teasing my kids and my cousins’ kids and others. Some are more mean-spirited than others, and some are funny (though mean) and some are not even a little bit funny (but they think they are hilarious and if you say they are not funny you get accused of having no sense of humor).

When I was a kid I just accepted it as normal and became adept at pretending it didn’t bother me… but it did. Now when it is done to my kids, and they get upset, I get really really angry. Teasing is ONLY fun for the person doing the teasing, ESPECIALLY when there is a power imbalance between the teased and the teaser (as in, age or authority). It’s extremely unfair and unpleasant, and I don’t believe that anyone should have to pretend that something is ok when it’s not.

My MIL to this day likes to tell me that DH is deficient because he couldn’t tolerate being teased, so therefore he’s a spoil sport and has no sense of humor (you can see, this is where the dysfunction comes from in his family). Last time we had this conversation I was too flummoxed to say anything, but now I am prepared to tell her that no one should have to LIKE being teased, and that it only is a sign of not putting up with being abused for someone else’s amusement.

It’s different when friends who are equals tease each other, and they know each other’s limits and respect them.. but this feels different.

I would hate to see an au pair teasing my child in a mean way. It is equal to shaming in my book. Stick to self-deprecating humor, when you are the power/authority figure. Much safer to self esteems.

I know that there are many cultures where shaming is considered an appropriate discipline tool. Even people in the US. I don’t agree, and the psych literature is on my side.

Mimi April 29, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Mean spirited teasing like what you describe is totally unacceptable. Ours was always mixed with compliments about good plays and were instead aimed at keeping our egos in check. Something like “be proud, but be humble about it” and oma knew she’d fall asleep during the game and we would tease her about it.

WarmStateMomma April 30, 2015 at 12:03 pm

@ Seattle Mom:

Yes!! A few of my in-laws do this and I find it obnoxious. For example. my MIL thinks it’s helpful to laugh and tease a kid who is hurt so they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s not only disrespectful to the target but these are the same people who would be most offended if a child dished it back at them. It’s all fun and games when the teasing goes downstream but it’s disrespectful for the child to direct any back at the adult who started it. There will probably be an uncomfortable scene or two in our future when my husband and I have to figure out whether to let our kids return fire or make them to “respect”/defer to their elders. Either way, it doesn’t foster the close, trusting relationship that my in-laws no doubt want.

Totally different from when friends or family joke with each other as equals.

UKAu Pair April 30, 2015 at 4:52 pm

I don’t think ‘mock’ is the word you want here- that’s very negative. ‘Tease’ is probably more appropriate.

Teasing for us is a normal, healthy part of family life. That said, we wouldn’t do it about someone winning/losing a game (and being a poor winner or a sore loser definitely isn’t polite, which is where we’ve sometimes had problems with foreign exchange students). I also (probably) wouldn’t tease a child I had just met unless I knew they were comfortable and would give as good as they got.

I’m not sure that I agree with the posters saying that teasing their child over a mistake in a foreign language is always completely unacceptable. I’m trilingual, I make mistakes and sometimes they’re quite funny (and often quite rude! I seem to have a terrible habit of mixing up vocab and accidentally saying something very vulgar- or, conversely, not realising that a verb is only used by children and saying something in ‘babytalk’ in a meeting. I don’t have a problem with (gently) teasing someone about a mistake, and I’d expect to be teased in return.

I think this shows how important being honest about expectations is. I have a lot of childcare experience (I believe I’d qualify as an extraordinaire if I was working in America). I also come from a culture where children aren’t protected quite as much as in America, and it would be really important if I was matching with an American family that they were honest (and self-aware) enough to be able to explain things like this, and what is and isn’t appropriate for them.

NZ HM April 30, 2015 at 7:16 pm

I repeatedly read replies on here that say “I don’t mind being teased for bad pronunciation…” – Are you as adults with all your experience and understanding of how irony works seriously comparing yourself with a 3 or 4 year old who is still figuring out humor and how the world works?

Of course there will be cultural differences and I agree that this needs discussing between HF and AP. And yes, it’s important to teach children to be good-humoured in view of adversity, be humble winners and good losers, but, as others have pointed out, it is a huge difference if teasing / giving someone a good ribbing occurs amongst equals or is being done by someone older, superior or in a position of authority.

UKAu Pair May 1, 2015 at 4:35 am

I agree with you, and I wouldn’t tease a child I didn’t know very well, nor would I tease them if their pronunciation was slightly ‘off’ but nothing else.

I do tease my Italian (sort of)-brother when he says ‘zebra’, because he pronounces it like an American- even though the Italian pronunciation is more similar to the English! He’s 4, he understands perfectly well that it’s good-natured humour and he understands how it works- and he teases me back when I make mistakes. Equally, I know not to do it if he’s overtired, and I know not to tease his (older) cousin who is much more sensitive and would take it very personally. It depends, as with everything, on the child.

Of course it’s not always appropriate, and of course there’s a difference when the child doesn’t know the person doing it- even someone like a grandparent, if s/he doesn’t seem them very often- but I don’t think that flat-out forbidding it is the answer.

A Host Mom April 28, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Early in our au pair experience, we matched with an au pair that we really liked. She arrived (a little early, at our request) and things were great. About 6 weeks in, she started acting a little weird and then told us that she wanted to go home because she was homesick but one of her friends was in rematch. We ultimately matched with her friend, because it provided us with no gap in childcare and her friends seemed fine. We later found out from her friend (our new au pair) that our original au pair joined the au pair program as an “extended vacation” and had no plans on staying any longer than 2 months. I can’t say I was mad, because we did match with her friend and it all worked out fine in the end, but I did feel a bit used/played by the original au pair. However, this stunt has turned us off from even interviewing au pairs from this particular county.

Host Mom in the City April 29, 2015 at 10:39 am

Oh wow, that’s awful. Seems like an odd and expensive “vacation.” I can’t believe that someone could be so duplicitous. Although now I’m wondering if that’s what happened with our au pair that decided to leave. Did you have any idea that she wasn’t settling in as normal? Do you mind sharing the country?

A Host Mom April 29, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Both original au pair and replacement au pair were from Sweden. From what I gathered, she wanted a long visit the US and come up with this scheme to avoid having to pay for airfare and room/board, plus she made some money while doing it. She seemed fine at first, but then got a little depressed, got a drastic haircut, etc. She said she wanted to go home, told us a friend she met at orientation was in rematch, we matched with her friend and she went home, which all happened in less than a week. A few months later, we were chatting with new au pair (her friend) and she mentioned that the original au pair had plans at home that were already in place before she even came to the U.S. When we inquired further, she told us that she knew original au pair had no intentions on staying for more than a couple of months.

WarmStateMomma April 29, 2015 at 2:33 pm

AP#3 has been with us for 6 weeks. She has spent so many hours handling AP applications/paperwork, managing visa interviews, waiting at the Social Security office, waiting at the DMV, changing diapers, waiting some more at the DMV, and so on. While I believe her AP year will ultimately prove worthwhile, I cannot imagine describing it as a vacation or doing it for a free plane ticket and bedroom.

Did you have a beachfront home in Hawaii? What kind of family vacations was this young woman subjected to that she thought an awesome summer would consist of child care and hanging out at the DMV?

A Host Mom April 29, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I wish! The polar opposite, in fact: NYC middle-class suburb.

WarmStateMomma April 29, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Ha! She sounds like the worst vacation planner. I can’t believe none of her loved ones helped her realize what a terrible plan this would be before she jumped through so many hoops to get to the US. Or maybe they’re the people who took her on such horrible vacations that she thought DMV + diapers = best summer ever?

WorkingMomX April 30, 2015 at 4:36 pm

I think “extremely unethical and brings her entire character into question” might be a stretch. She’s young and the young often think that there is flexibility with arrangements of all kinds. There are families who do the same, who take an au pair who arrives in the late summer and then transition just before the school year ends. I would be upset but not devastated, and would ask that since she has had such a good year and is thinking of extending, can you get her to commit to a 6 or 9 month term? Maybe she can return home to see her dear mamma while you go on your dream trip?

BrokenTrustHostMom April 30, 2015 at 5:00 pm

I certainly wasn’t “devastated”, but I was upset. I have come around though and am now chalking it up to youth, as many have pointed out. I will say though that I think if/when families do the same to APs, it *IS* unethical and shows bad character. HPs should know better.

I’m not sure I follow what you mean by asking her to extend for only 6 or 9 months? Why would that be better than another year? (if we even do want to extend at all, which I’m not sure yet – we’re too early in the year to say)

As far as returning home to visit family, she has already done so and I’m sure will have more opportunities to do so again if she wants – no reason for her to skip the trip for that – although of course she could do that too if she wants. But, I think it’s pretty clear she WANTS to come with us, hence the whole dilemma she was faced with.

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