When Having An Au Pair Exposes Cracks in Your Marriage

by cv harquail on January 30, 2016

Getting an Au Pair can expose cracks in your marriage that you haven’t seen before.

Getting an Au Pair can also force you to pay attention to dynamics that have been there all along but that you and your spouse have “successfully” avoided before.

5866691254_9a0e0b7c1b_mIt’s not the Au Pair herself or himself that “causes” the problems. It’s that you and your spouse have to work together guiding the Au Pair in caring for your children, in following house/roommate expectations, and in making your Au Pair “part of the family”.

A few weeks ago we heard from NeedingEveryoneOnTheSameTeam Host Mom.  She was anticipating that conflicts between her directions and her husband’s directions would end up frustrating their Au Pair, causing the Au Pair to want to rematch. ( See When Parenting Styles Conflict).

In that situation, it became clear that NeedingEveryoneOnTheSameTeam Host Mom  needed to talk with her spouse to re-set expectations between them, now that her spouse would be more active around their home.  She had the ‘advantage’, if you will, of having a particular event (him changing jobs) to trigger this conversation and make it seem more about the change in situations than about a conflict between the two of them.

What we knew in that case is true here:

A conflict in parenting styles is a conflict between parents.  

And it’s not just when the conflict is focused on ‘how to treat the kids’. It’s also true when the conflicts are about ‘how to treat the Au Pair’.

A conflict in treatment of the Au Pair rules is a conflict between Host Parents.

This isn’t an Au Pair-ing thing, it’s a marriage thing.

(See this post: You’re right, he’s wrong. This is a problem.)

As TexasHM noted, and as we’ve discussed in other posts, once the Au Pair or other Host Parent has set an expectation for the kids in a particular situation, there is NO OVERRIDING. (Unless, of course, it’s unsafe, mean, or against some very clear family rule).

From the post 3 Easy Ways to Sabotage your Au Pair’s Authority, you never want to:

1. Reverse your Au Pair’s child-minding decisions.
2. Criticize your Au Pair in front of your children.
3. Criticize your Au Pair behind her back.

We can easily revise this into a list of Ways to Sabotage Your Host Parent Partner’s Authority.

It’s bad form for one Host Parent to reverse the decisions made by the other Host Parent, to say the least.  And, it’s a significant betrayal of the spousal unit (as well as the other parent him or herself) for one host Parent to allow the Au Pair to break the rules that the Host Parents have set together.

Check out the details of the situation that TenseHost Mom shares (below).   One the things I see in the handful of details that TenseHostMom shared is that she created the family’s Au Pair Guidelines (handbook) herself, without her spouse’s participation, contributions, or explicit support.

This was a big missed opportunity for these Host Parents to discover, clarify, and resolve beforehand any critical gaps between their Host Parent approaches.  

We tend to think of the activity of creating the Au Pair Guidelines as something we do for our Au Pairs (which, of course, it is).

In addition, creating the Au Pair Guidelines is also — importantly — an activity that literally gets the Host Parents on the same page.

But it’s not just that the Host Parent partner is unaware of the details of the house rules that apply to the Au Pair. The Host Parent Partner is also breaking the rules, hiding the information from TenseHostMom, making decisions about the Au Pair using TenseHostMom’s personal property,  and perhaps even building an alliance with the Au Pair so that the Host Parent Partner can be the “preferred Host Parent”.   (That last behavior, to me, is a form of relationship cheating. But I may be over-reacting.)

Advice for Host Parents

Here’s a start at some advice:

Sit down together to go over the Au Pair Handbook and renegotiate what matters to both Host Parents.

As a parental and spousal unit, make an explicit agreement with each other about what you will do when there is a conflict between you about how to manage the Au Pair.

(For example, (1) tell the Au Pair “Let me think about it”, (2) go with Host Parent Spouse to Starbucks to discuss the issue and come to an agreement, and (3) then tell the Au Pair together.)

Don’t treat this issue as a problem you have to “fix”. Treat it as an opportunity to strengthen your marriage. As partners and as parents, you both need to find ways to connect when problems occur.

One of the most important ways that being a Host Parent adds to your life is that Au Pair Host Parenting offers you one opportunity after another to clarify your values and to put your values into practice.

Seize this particular opportunity to strengthen your relationship and your family. 


Details below:

We hired a FABULOUS au pair. She is older, mature, and into her hobbies. The kids ADORE her, especially the youngest. She is part of the family but also very independent. She takes advice well.

The issues:

Car use: We immediately paid for a number of professional lessons. She did great and is probably as skilled as most American drivers of the same age. Zero complaints on safety.

I had one rule. No highway driving until my spouse had done a test drive with her to make sure she was safe. Let’s say I found out in December that she had been driving on the highway since August without having gone on the test drive. Annoying, but I can get over that. What I can’t get over is the fact that my spouse found out about it in September and didn’t tell me. She still has not gone for a test drive.

Further, last time I asked her where our Au Pair was going on a weekend, it was over two hours away. Had I not asked, she absolutely would not have told me.

Recently, I was sick over the weekend. I woke up from a nap (rare) and my car was gone. My spouse had given her permission to take my car. I had errands to run and was irritated. I chatted with my spouse and I made it clear that I need to be the one who gives permission to drive my vehicle. The next weekend, my spouse asks me if the au pair can borrow my car. I say, “sure”! Later, spouse discloses to me that she knew the au pair was driving somewhere I would not want my car to be taken for safety reason. Our Au Pair is so great that I feel like I can’t make a big deal out of where she drives but if something happens to that car it will seriously set us back financially.

Other issues:

1. After reading your blog I drafted a great guide for the au pair that included everything from schedule and discipline to car rules and groceries. My spouse failed to read it which led to multiple problems for us.

For example, au pair was told she could go pick up personal groceries. She spent $100 dollars and bought mostly junk food. Spouse wanted me to “discuss” it with her and “fix the problem”. I refused as I had not caused the problem. The guide was very clear that she does not do personal grocery shopping. If spouse gave her permission to do so but did not give her a limit on what to spend, we can’t blame her for the mistake. I told spouse to address it.

2. Within three weeks of arrival spouse and au pair end up hanging out solo all day and drinking at a whiskey bar. That’s right, I saved the best for last! You can imagine the discussion that ensued. Just recently, while I was out of town with the kids, spouse and au pair end up going out for dinner together. Spouse had plans to go solo but that didn’t end up happening. I was told in advance in an apologetic tone but the message was “I’m doing it regardless”.

So, do I keep the perfect au pair that is accidentally causing tension in my marriage? Really, the alternative is keeping the au pair and ditching the spouse. How would the other parents feel when the issues are developing with their spouse, not the au pair?

For the record, spouse would say I am not jealous or controlling person and I know spouse is not cheating.



See Also:

What exactly is a Host Family Handbook?
R.T.F.M. Making sure your Au Pair Reads the Family Manual

When Host Parents Disagree, once an Au Pair has let them down
Divorce Difficulties: When Your Ex-Spouse Gets an Au Pair
Au Pairing in an UnHappy Home

175/365. However much I turn and stare, there's always someone there. There's room to spare, but I can't share. There's wear and tear in my jaded prayer...I scare and turn away on this darkly winsome long-lost cloudy day. What's left unsaid is my sacred splendid muted right of way. .

Image by Tom Wachtel on Flickr


TexasHM January 30, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Wait CV is this written by a host mom or host dad? Sounds like a host dad – “Further, last time I asked her where our Au Pair was going on a weekend, it was over two hours away. Had I not asked, she absolutely would not have told me.”

I ask because while it doesn’t change the underlying issues I think it does change the context a bit. IE – if written by a host dad then it was AP and HM at a whiskey bar vs AP and HD at a whiskey bar.

Regardless this is sticky. In our household I wrote our handbook but via conversation with DH. We are completely aligned. If I had written the handbook and then he refused to read it/give input then whatever I would have written would become law and vice versa. If you can’t be bothered to participate in the process then you don’t get an opinion in our household (goes for kids too that choose to sit something out and then want back in later).

In this case, it sounds like a spousal and AP reset conversation might be in order. Spousal in that you review the handbook together (even conversationally) and agree on whatever terms and then stick to it. AP from a standpoint of – you read our handbook – some things have not been followed/strained and now we need to get back on track.

I tend to run a pretty tight ship with my DH and kids (but ironically I am a pushover with APs which is why I am hyper structured in hosting) so I would likely create an action item list with the reset. IE – no highway driving period until test drive – no exceptions and must be scheduled when convenient for me in advance. Depending on how complicit the AP is in all this (does she see the weakness in your relationship/communication and capitalize or is she completely innocent?) I might even do that and not allow use of “my” car anymore. If there is a car that you are afraid to have AP drive for whatever reason then she shouldn’t drive it. Our AP does not drive husband’s truck. It’s totally his and none of our 4 APs have ever sat behind the wheel. My parents don’t drive it when they come to visit (they take minivan or the car) and I only drive it on occasion myself! It’s not a super expensive vehicle, he just isn’t comfortable having others drive it. Fair enough, off limits. The angst isn’t worth it. Especially if you can’t afford to have it totaled. We have had 5 APs total (one lasted days) and 7 car incidents with damage. No accidents thankfully but scraping garage, scraped in parking lot, brushed pole in parking lot, etc etc. We haven’t fixed any of them and we aren’t buying any new cars either!

Lastly I don’t know if your spouse loves having an AP but I would absolutely threaten to end the program if my spouse and I couldn’t get on the same page. APs are awesome and ours are family but they are here for a period of time. If my spouse was truly in cahoots with my AP we would be out of the program in seconds It’s hard enough to hold a united front with the kids and crazy schedules, the last thing I need is an AP wedge added to the mix! I would threaten to leave the program immediately and hire a nanny that I screened, pay and set rules for (no spouse input) to ensure that our marriage was not being jeopardized and that my rules/wishes would actually be followed. Ideally that would be a huge wake up call and spouse would shape up and get involved but if not, that’s what I would recommend you do anyway! It’s not fair to the AP either and if you ended up in marital trouble and AP knew she played a part – nobody wants to live with that!

I would include in the AP chat some of the things you said too like she is awesome and you don’t want to restrict where she drives but that you really can’t afford to take the risks she has been taking (unsafe part of town, road trips) so you can either sit down together and come up with a plan (if this wasn’t in your handbook) and only agree to something that you can truly stomach for the rest of the term or pull out the handbook and review the restrictions and let her know going forward they need to be followed or you will have to restrict personal usage so its not out of left field.

I personally would focus on moving forward. Hopefully now that you aired this list out you feel better. :) When sitting down with your spouse I would try not to dig too much into past issues and would try to focus on path forward. Ask if they want an AP or not. If yes, then need to get aligned or no more AP. Review desired rules/restrictions/policies and get agreement. Plan how to resolve any outstanding issues (highway test drive, $100 junk food bill, etc) and move on it. Then sit down together with AP and lay out the plan with her and get agreement. Depending on my spouse, I might even tell AP to come to me on certain things (like use of your car, grocery money) and that if I don’t directly grant permission then it is not to be done or will not be covered regardless of what spouse says. I would hate to be in a position to have to make a statement like that and hopefully you don’t have to go that far but if it came down to fighting with my spouse about my car usage then I would!

Also, if this is your first AP then it takes some time to adjust and get your legs and keep in mind your spouse is probably testing roles as well. As long as you get aligned and manage things (as you are doing here) there is no reason you can’t host long term. But like anything else, if you find its unmanageable for you all its not worth risking your marriage. Good luck!

Mimi January 30, 2016 at 6:03 pm

I think this is a same-sex HF. TenseHostMom at one point refers to “spouse discloses to me that she knew the au pair was driving somewhere…”

cv harquail January 30, 2016 at 8:57 pm

Yes, its a same sex HP pair– I think. It was a good nudge to get me to think “Partner” instead of husband/ wife… The gender roles of Host Parents often play into the AP / HP tensions, but these roles don’t seem to be at issue here….

OpinionatedHM January 31, 2016 at 3:47 pm

I also thought same gender HP’s.
I completely second the “if you can’t be bothered to participate in the process, you don’t get to have an opinion” idea. That’s how things work in our house too!
The OP and spouse do not seem to communicate well with each other. These types of issues have cropped up in my house in one way or another (we are on AP #5). I’ve always seen them as signs I need to sit down and talk with my spouse so we can get in the same page. These issues have usually made an appearance when he and I have been “ships passing in the night” and haven’t made time for both casual and productive communication.
The whole time I was reading this I thought how confusing this must be for the AP.
I can’t decide if the OP has made all the rules without consulting her partner and then expects her to just get on board or if the partner ceded responsibility and then wanted to use that as an excuse to do whatever she wants. It confused me when the OP said she told her partner to address the issue with the shopping. When DH and I have a miscommunication like that with our AP, we discuss it together, figure out how to avoid it in the future, and communicate that with our apology for the confusion to the AP. When your partner communicates something other than you have communicated, BOTH of you are being inconsistent from your AP’s perspective. Therefore, you must both address the issue with the same solution to resolve any confusion your AP might be feeling.
Anytime divorce is mentioned, I don’t see it as casual. That’s a huge red flag. the AP is not the problem here.
I agree that if the AP is exposing issues you are not ready to tackle, you should exit the program until the partnership is in a more connected state. Otherwise, set a time when the AP is watching the kids for you and your partner to go and talk about everything you’ve written above. Come up with a plan for how to deal with this in the future and move forward.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 30, 2016 at 9:22 pm

With the caveat that I am a single mom, so haven’t experienced the relationship dynamics here, I am having some difficulty understanding exactly what would be different if you and spouse were on the same page. For example, highway driving: now that it’s all out in the open, has she stopped driving on the highway? What was her rationale for missing your only car rule? If she’s still highway driving and hasn’t taken the test, why is that? Also, when she drove your car into an unsafe area, while it is clear that it made you uncomfortable, it isn’t clear to me that you would have said no had she asked you directly. (You mentioned that you don’t want to make a a big deal of where she drives). It sounds like the taking of the car was not addressed by a rule, but rather a matter of consideration? If that is the case, that sounds less about the au pair, and more about your spouse considering what you might prefer.

The fact that neither of you wished to address the personal shopping suggests that maybe spouse’s behavior is more a matter of not wanting to rock the boat with a great au pair than actively defying your wishes. Could also explain the dinner out when spouse originally intended to dine alone. If so, maybe the 2 of you are more on the same page than you thought!

It sounds like this may be your first au pair, so I offer two other thoughts: 1) handbooks are great — I don’t know how families host without them, but they are not set-it-and-forget-it. It’s important to review the handbook with the au pair, highlight what is most important, and when a mistake is made (and it will be) discuss it in terms of the handbook. It’s also important to supplement guidance as you go and discover things that weren’t highlighted at the outset but need to be discussed. 2) Are you sure she’s a fabulous au pair? First time HPs are less familiar with what makes someone great. Loving your kids is important, but it’s not the only thing. Being able trust that she will follow established rules is also important. I can’t tell from the post whether she is bending /breaking rules you’ve set or just operating out of confusion because it seems the rules aren’t really rules. If it’s the former, I would reconsider whether the “fabulous” label really applies.

Tense Host Mom January 31, 2016 at 12:16 am

First of all, thank you for the advice and feedback. I do actually feel better just getting it out there and reading your suggestions. I have already scheduled a time to sit down and review/edit the handbook with my spouse to make sure we are on the same page for next year.

I feel I should add, spouse has been a foreign exchange student and my in-laws have hosted nearly a dozen. I think this explains why our approaches are so different. I see this as a family/employee relationship and spouse sees it as a friend/family relationship.

A little clarification:

I asked for assistance with the handbook but ended up doing it solo. I asked spouse to review and discuss it with me multiple times. I let it slide knowing how busy they were at work. Oops.

My frustration over the grocery issue was that it was clearly prohibited in the handbook. Had my spouse bothered to read the handbook, it wouldn’t have happened the way it did. I was irritated at being told I needed to address a problem that I had not created. Spouse and I had a long discussion about what the conversation should entail, I just did not want to be the one to deliver the message. We actually settled on a certain sum per month going to au pair to be spent on groceries. It keeps all of us happy since we don’t cook much as a family.

Had I been told of the highway driving when my spouse found out it was occurring I would have addressed it immediately. When I did find out, I told spouse and au pair they needed to schedule a practice drive the next weekend. Two months later, no action. I feel like I can’t just lay down a hard rule because it has already been going on for so long. Further, when my spouse found out au pair was highway driving, au pair was told “just no kids in the car”. Naturally, au pair thinks that is now the rule. My concern is that I undermine my spouse and look like a total jerk. Plus, the activities my au pair drives to are actually really cool and are a huge part of her making a life for herself here.

I think I will insist on the test drive and clearly define rules about weather, destination, and who she must get permission from to take the car. I am also going to require requests to take the car for future dates be in writing. I woke up this morning to NO CAR for the entire day. Au pair thought I had given her permission to take it to something today but based on the convo we had I believed the event was next weekend. My work and plans had to be rescheduled.

Au pair is not intentionally rocking the boat 95% of the time. Driving might be another story but I doubt it. There are genuine language barriers. It has taken as a very long time to realize that a lot of the conversations we have are totally lost in translation and we should really be emailing important information.

Thanks for listening!

Anna February 1, 2016 at 5:15 am

ok a quick thought here: my work and plans take precedence over au pair’s leasure plans. if i woke up with plans for the day and my car gone, i would be calling au pair immediately asking to. turn around and return the car ASAP.

Multitasking Host Mom January 31, 2016 at 9:37 am

Two points I want to make here….

First handbooks are great! But everyone has to know what is contained inside them. Otherwise there is no point. I did put together our family handbook, but I definitely discussed all the issues with my husband as I was doing it. Also, each new au pair cycle my husband and I review it again and make updates and changes as needed. Now would my husband ever actually read all twenty pages of our handbook (I might be a little detailed!). No. He is much more a “just give me the highlights” kind of guy. And that is fine. You have to sometimes meet people where they are when trying to get information across to them. But I know he sees the big picture, or if he doesn’t know/remember the details, he knows where to find it in the handbook….which is the same thing I expect of our au pair.

Second, I would encourage this family to start having weekly check in meetings. They don’t have to be long…10 minutes maybe…but gives everyone a chance to discuss the up coming week and get on the same page. I started these with our first au pair when I would walk in the house at the end of a long day of work, I had to make dinner, the kids were running around me, and the au par would spring on me some random request that I just couldn’t concentrate on at the time. I either started making snap decisions that didn’t actually work with our schedule I would later find out or just brush off the au pair which might leave her request never answered in a timely manner. Once we started having a set time for weekly meetings, I could simply tell our au pair…let’s talk about it on Friday when we sit down together to check in and I can give your issue undivided attention. Every family’s check in will be structured differently based on the dynamics, but with the OP family having both spouses present with the au pair would be a must. Then car use could be planned out, grocery shopping could be discussed, the handbook could be referenced, etc. and the host parents will appear united and on the same page.

WestMom January 31, 2016 at 9:42 am

I think a good rule of thumb with AP requests that either fall outside the handbook, or that have never come up is for either host parent to say something like: ‘Let me discuss this with my spouse and I’ll get back to you’.

When I am not sure, I check in with my spouse and run the situation by him to get his perception. Am I reasonable in my expectations? Am I being petty about rules for rules sake? I am being controlling? I expect the same from my spouse when he is asked for a request that might fall outside of the usual.

On a side note, I am not understanding the issue with the spouse taking AP and kids out to dinner while OP is out of town. If my spouse takes the initiative of dinner for my family, I am thrilled. I know OP mentioned this is not a jealousy issue, but I can’t wrap my head around the problem here…

Taking a Computer Lunch January 31, 2016 at 9:18 pm

I second this. In the nearly 15 years that I have been hosting APs (and as the parent who comes home from work first 80% of the time), I’m the one most likely to be blind-sided by AP requests as I walk through the door. After years of reacting negatively to the immediate request, as I attempt to shift gears from employee to mom, I learned to say. “I need to think about this. I’ll let you know later.” Don’t let it linger too long (because after 15 years of hosting, I’ve learned how hard APs have to work to cobble something together as they wait for HP replies, but don’t feel like you have to respond on the spot!

OP, since you and your spouse have “cars” and the AP doesn’t have a dedicated car. It’s okay to make a “No giving the AP my car without asking me first rule.”

Tense Host Mom January 31, 2016 at 12:51 pm

WestMom. It was not AP and kids, just AP. I was out of town with the kiddos.

HRHM February 1, 2016 at 9:28 am

I often go out to dinner or lunch alone with our AP. Granted I am a straight HM but AP is not straight. It would never occur to me to be worried/jealous if DH took an AP out when the kids were at CCD (that’s often when I do it) or at sleep away camp. I guess if he took her somewhere pricey and “datey” I might raise an eyebrow, but my response would likely be more along the lines of “don’t do that, the neighbors and other APs will talk”.

FWIW, being a first time HP sucks. It gets better with experience!

WarmStateMomma February 1, 2016 at 12:41 pm

I go out sometimes with just our AP – to performances, restaurants, shopping, etc. It’s like going with a niece or younger family friend. HD won’t do the same kinds of things because he doesn’t want anyone to misunderstand and thinks people are judging him to be a creepy old man. He found our first AP crying on a park bench when baby and I left them for 48 hours once and the AP was mortified about being home alone with a man. So he refused to ever stay home alone with an AP again.

I often feel that people see AP and I has a same-sex couple since we take the kids to a million places together and AP handles the “parent” stuff when we are doing something in the Chinese community (e.g., Chinese dance class). Our last AP said the same thing, so maybe we really do have a family vibe with our APs. Thus, I understand why my husband feels that people would see him and the AP as a couple, but I’ve also learned that my community is quite welcoming to two-mom families. :)

hOstCDmom February 2, 2016 at 9:56 am

Totally know what you mean re the perceived as a same-sex couple. Previous AP few years ago – extended, here 2 years – was our best by far. We have lots of kids to annual, family memberships are always cheaper than even one visit to most venues. I signed up for so many memberships (aquarium, museums etc.) with AP and I as the (only) two adults (couldn’t have 3 adults, so HD lost out since he was least likely to use), and we ended up on so many mailing lists etc. as a result, several years since AP left, that I still regularly get mail for Ms. HM Jones and Ms. AP Smith. AP and I used to joke that we needed to take the next step in our “relationship” and should start sending Christmas cards out as a couple! ;-)

WarmStateMomma January 31, 2016 at 2:06 pm

I’d make time to have a long conversation with your partner about the situation. I’d let her know how much this is bothering you. Hosting an AP is not going to work for you as a family if you can’t be on the same page.

My husband doesn’t remember any of the AP program rules or our household rules because he doesn’t retain information he doesn’t find interesting/relevant to himself. It’s annoying but the trade off is that he defers to my decisions so we can present a united front. In a weird way, we can be on the same page.

I don’t know how old the child is, but this issue is probably going to come up again as your child gets older. Negotiating your united front for the AP relationship will have you ready for doing the same with your child.

I wish you luck in figuring this out with your spouse!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 31, 2016 at 9:26 pm

There are always going to be HP issues. I’m personally dealing with someone who cannot look at a paper calendar on a kitchen wall. He is also incapable of putting his stuff on it. He only uses his electronic calendar and I can’t tell you how many times he’s messed up because he doesn’t enter personal data on it. His employer and mine use the same email software, and it’s gotten to the point where we make appointments with each other about the big things, so he can block them out on his calendar (would be less of an issue if we weren’t raising a medically fragile teenager with lots of drs appts).

OP – if you’re the parent who does the organizing for the family, then you have to own it. You have to manage the AP and organize where the kids need to be. Writing a handbook isn’t enough – you have to review it with your AP and point out what is important to you. At this point, figure out what needs to be enforced, and what you’re willing to let go.

And if your spouse is the parent who gets to take the AP for dinner, then change that. Book a dinner date with your AP, so she gets to hear how great you think she is without competing with the kids for your attention. Let your spouse stay home with the kids. You can review the handbook over dinner. Just saying no HP wants to only have the role of the “enforcer.”

ExpatMom February 25, 2016 at 10:52 am

One AP once told me, in a confidence, that her AP friend had a crush on my husband and told my AP she was crazy not to try to get closer to him (i.e. intimacy)… It was a bit of a shock to me, but it reminded me that AP are young and vulnerable to their own stormy feelings and immaturity.
I did have a talk with my attractive, fun and loving husband, and we decided that he would be very careful with all AP. They have their friends and their lifes, and I really think that starting to go out on one-on-one activities that involve a certain intimacy, or could be interpreted as intimacy is just calling for trouble (or at least, there’s a risk not worth taking).
HD thought I was jalous, at first, but eventually got to understand that this was simply prevention – our AP are vulnerable, and my extremely charming, great husband needs to be on his toes, not to create any misunderstanding that could ruin the AP experience. It’s just about loving our AP, and wanting to protect everyone from drama.

That being said, I do go out with my AP, mainly when we are traveling and I know she has no friends around, and HD stays witht he kids – but being both straight, there is less room for confusion (or at least, that’s what I think for now : )

LuckyHM#3 January 31, 2016 at 7:48 pm

I’m thinking this is a same sex HF with 2 women as I’m not getting the jealousy angst her i.e hd takes AP to a whiskey bar while HM is out of town. Having said that, I think that the HPs have to get on the same page. I see a whole lot of “don’t want to rock the boat” here. I have to confess that hubby had never read or HFHB (all 20 of so pages of it) but we discussed the key points I.e, curfew, car curfew, test drive first weekend of arrival, no drinking, no smoking, no driving more than 50 miles away etc. And this was so important and useful during our rematch and we both separately and together agreed that AP2 was not the right fit based on who we are. I do however believe that despite the fact that OP and her partner are both women, they have to decide who the primary AP manager is. In my HH, is me, while HD talks to AP and has a pretty good relationship with our APs, managing our AP is my territory, I have reset conversations, I have the check-ins (though HD is there sometimes but doing something else. On occasion, HD may notice something and he would ask me to speak with AP about it think having a united front is important. AP2 (rematch) used to go behind my back to HD after I had told her no to a request but thankfully HD knew to airways ask her what I said (which she often would say, that we hadn’t talked, so he would say, OK, let me talk to HM and her back to you”. Believe me, this would make your life so much easier.

And finally, be careful of labelling this AP as amazing if she’s your first AP just because she lives your kids, that’s just table stakes. I’m not sure I’m seeing her “amazingness” here as she seems to wilfully go against your rules and continues doing that with the driving and stuff. But all in all, good luck and be prepared to have the right discussions with both your spouse and AP as needed

Reluctant Grownup February 1, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I’d like to echo a couple of things that were said.

First, it is very frustrating being the detail-handling
member of the household (writing the handbook,
managing the schedule), getting no input during the
process, then getting disagreement once the plan
is in place. I think most failures to communicate
are likely due to lack of time and effort, or detail-oriented-ness.
These are not nefarious, but highly irritating.

As others have said, the spouses either need to
confer before the rules are in place, or the person
not involved in the process needs to defer to the
“household manager.” Usually families settle somewhere
between these two extremes. If you spouse is really
strapped for time and/ or not detail oriented, you can
agree on broad strokes and fill in the details.

Second, you see the AP filling different roles in your
household (you- employee), (spouse- cultural exchange
student/ part of the family). Again, this is something to
sit down with your spouse and discuss. It influences the
rules of the household. I’d argue that a member-of-the-family
dynamo can actually be great. It’s built on more mutual respect
and trust, and although the casualness can be grating to
some, it allows little favors both ways. (“I notice you’re out
with my car. I’m stuck here sick. How long will you be? Would
you mind picking up cough drops/ chicken soup/ milk on your
way back?”)

Reluctant Grownup February 1, 2016 at 2:38 pm

I meant a “part of the family dynamic”.

Point 2.5 – some people hosting (like me) have a hard time
knowing or picturing how they’ll feel about certain issues, situations, and rules.
This is why hosting the first time can be do challenging. This
is also another potential reason you didn’t get help on the handbook
Starting strict and relaxing seems a better approach than
“let’s see what happens” approach. (Even if it doesn’t fit either personality.)

Third, weekly check-ins are essential. A brief sit-down on Friday
nights, or Sunday nights, or whenever works for you three,
will really minimize misunderstanding and keep you on track.
You could conform the schedule (especially wrt the car)
say what’s going well, set a goal, and address any concerns, all within
10-30 minutes weekly.

Fourth, the car. Since it’s your car being shared exclusively, you could
have an absolute reset. It’s annoying to do a previously delegated task,
but if the highway test drive is essential you should probably go yourself.
If you don’t feel you need it now but feel like backsliding on this requirement
sends the wrong message you can cancel the test drive, but address why in
writing, and get a lot more formal on the car rules. Also in writing.
“You’re a safe and reliable driver. You ended up highway driving without
a test drive due to a miscommunication. So there is no more miscommunication,
here are my rules for my vehicle. The the use of my car must be prescheduled (plus X mile radius, areas that aren’t allowed, last minute “courtesy” car lending, gas policy, etc.). You could mention that you aren’t changing the rules, just reiterating
guidelines that existed but weren’t known.

Fifth and finally, the “jealousy”. I absolutely think you can be unsettled by
your spouse being at a solo dinner with AP even if you’re beyond
100% certain nothing would happen, physically or
otherwise. Even if you aren’t worried about appearances.

It’s clear that time with your spouse is rare and special. So,
for someone else to be out being interesting and chatty while
you are working at your job or on handbooks no one reads is grating.
I think we all are a little envious or at least nostalgic about the carefree,
exciting life of a young adult. Having one in your house just makes the
contrast between our past & present lives more obvious.

Saxe February 10, 2016 at 11:39 am

Why can’t the au pair just use uber and not even need to have the car share problems.

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