The only people who should be involved in the relationship between the Au Pair and his or her Host Parents are the au pair and the host parents.
The au pair should get instruction and feedback directly from the parents, and the parents should focus on the au pair’s experiences with the family and the host children, and not depend on third parties to involve themselves in questions of childcare strategies or au pair behavior.
If truly necessary, the local counselor or agency rep might step in to resolve a conflict or share information. And, in the case of a true emergency or unsafe situation (e.g., your neighbor saw your au pair texting while driving), it seems right to me that someone else might alert you to a concern. But, otherwise, it’s between parents and au pair.
Occasionally, other adults can interfere in the au pair-host parent relationship intermittently– like when a grandparent comes to visit. A savvy host parent will prepare both the grandparent and the au pair at the start of the visit, to make it clear which of these adults in in charge, when they are in change, and how the two should interact when it comes to the kids and the household when we parents are working.
For us, grandma’s visit always makes things crazier– in a happy way — since Grandma wants to spoil the girls and do crazy things after school, while our au pairs have wanted to keep the routine and make sure the girls practice their piano and get to soccer. And, grandma is a big friend-maker; she usually ends up friending our au pairs on Facebook and sending them one after another forwarded lolcat emails. The relationship between Grandma, the au pair, and the kids can get confusing, but it has always been addressed in a kind way.
God bless my mother-in-law, because she has never once questioned our au pair’s authority, second guessed their decisions, or complained to me about anything they might have done. (And, although we’ve had mostly great au pairs, I’m sure she could have found something to complain about if she’d wanted too– but she never did. She’s that kind of thoughtful, Grandma.)
So my heart went out to this au pair, Natalia, when she wrote about her host parent’s Mother’s interference in their relationship. This problem includes interference with the AP-HP relationship, interference with the AP-Host Kids’ relationship, criticism of the au pair’s child-caring, and basic dislike from the Grandmother.
Recognizing that there are more sides to this story, but starting first with this Au Pair’s perspective, what do you recommend?
I am an Au Pair from Europe and I have arrived in the States two months ago. I am 26 years old and my host family and I matched pretty fast. Although we Skyped a lot and asked all the wright questions I think we made a mistake but not all sure yet and I need a second opinion.
This is the situation: when my HP and I did the first interview they said to me that they want their next AP to be independent and to be in a good standing with her English. I am all that and before i came here i had my own place and a full time job as a professional nanny for more then two years. So they wanted an adult who knows how to keep children safe and to teach them some things, someone who’s an active caretaker.
They said to me that the host mom is working from home and that the dad has an office away from home. They wanted my day with their children to be the same as it was back home with my previous family. Everything seemed perfect.
When I arrived my room was amazing, they gave me a car to be used just by me, they totally respected my privacy and the host mom understood how it is to not live on your own anymore after six years.
The unpleasant surprise was that the HD was also working from home and they did not say so and that their children are extremely attached to their mom and that it’s going to be very difficult winning over their trust. SO, I was trying really hard to think of creative ways to distract these two year olds so the HP could go to work and after a couple of weeks it seemed like children are starting to like me. I played with them outdoors a lot and I love music so we danced together, and a lot of physical activities and a lot of reading!
Everything was different for me, the food, the weather, culture, different parenting, and although my HP are really nice they didn’t really give me any guidelines in how they wanted their children to be raised, they assumed I knew everything.
So, after a month my host mom’s mother came to visit and that’s when agony started for me. It was horrible. Everything fell into peaces, my relationship with the children. I didn’t do any of the things I used to do with them, I was just hanging around the house. The children started refusing me again and the grandmother accused me of not working, she said: ‘you’re not doing anything!!’ But when I tried to play with them or even to change their diper while the GM was there she would criticize me a lot. (I have changed a lot of diapers in my life!)
The grandmother didn’t like me and she accused me of being rude to the children. And they talked behind my back all the time about how I’m not a good au pair, how I think that my host dad is a crappy father and etc…None of those thing were true and they even called my counselor behind my back and told her that they want a rematch.
All of this happened within a few days and everything was great before grandmother came to visit.
I was so confused and surprised when they told me that they think I am all wrong for them and then they started naming all these things I supposedly had done. And we had a long honest talk and my counselor was there and HP realized that they are wrong about this and they want me to stay and they have apologized about everything and the next day the grandmother left. Here’s where I thought everything is going to be alright. But I was wrong again.
The Grandmother came back two days ago and my HP went on a business trip so I’m alone in the house with her and the kids. Yesterday she yelled at me, and when the kids woke up from their nap she didn’t hear them so she accused me of waking them up on purpose. ( I think she might have been embarrassed about not hearing the kids wake up). When I told her they were crying she told me i was lying and she was awful to me for the rest of the day. I
t made me feel vary bad and unsure about my relationship with my HP and the kids and now i don’t know what to do. I like this place here, my friends and the kids and the HP, but I don’t think I can work like this and the grandmother is obviously going to visit often. I am miserable while she’s here and I talked to my HP about that and they said they’ll talk to her but nothing has changed. When they’re not home she treats me really bad.
Now, I know that this is a delicate situation because she’s my HM mother and I don’t want to stand between them, I know how it would feel if someone stood between me and my mother. I need some advice!
Should I go into rematch? I am a good caretaker and I can be of great use to someone who needs help raising their child and I am so unhappy now because the GM is treating me like crap and I can’t take it any more. But I love this place and I want to stay in the area because I started school here and made a lot of friends. Should I say something to my HP? Please help!