When is the Best Time to Discuss Extending with an Au Pair?

by cv harquail on September 22, 2015

When your family has found an au pair who really fits, and when an au pair has found a situation where s/he’s flourishing, the obvious question is — should we extend?

Extensions can be a gift to both the family and the au pair.

4621367697_87ff46dafa_mThe Au Pair gets a few more months on the USS Adventure, and both s/he and the family get to reap the benefits of all the hard work that they put into their relationship to get it working well.

With extensions, one challenge is assessing whether the good relationship you feel at month 5 or 6 will still exist at month 15 or 16.

Experienced Host Parents know that the “Arc of the Au Pair Year” has both downs and ups.  If you’re assessing a relationship at an ‘up’ time, you might forget that the situation can change.

Your kids can change, your parent situation (e.g., work) can change, and your Au Pair’s friends can all go home and leave her/him alone. Or, the American boyfriend/girlfriend might turn out to be a jerk. You never know.

Another challenge is figuring out when and how to ask your au pair about extending.

If you ask too soon, you might be making a decision without complete enough information. Stuff can hit the fan later on, and either party might feel stuck in an extension that they regret.

If you ask too late, your Au Pair might have already down-shifted into ‘getting ready to go home’-mode.

This shift can happen imperceptibly between the halfway point of month six and the actual preparations for departing that begin around month 9 1/2.

It’s not a formal shift, but a psychological one… and if your Au Pair has already starting thinking about the year ending and her/his return home, it can get weird when you and/or the Au Pair try to get this shift to reverse.

What’s kind of weird about this all is that there is no real reason why an Au Pair contract “should be” 12 months long.

We’re just in that habit because of school years and fiscal years and toddler years.

Maybe the “perfect” amount of time for an Au Pair/Host Family relationship is really 9 months, with a 2 month ramp up, a five month golden time, and a 2 month wind down.

Or maybe the ‘perfect” amount of time is actually 19 months — with a 4 month ramp-up, a 3 month wind-down, and a full 12 months of golden time.

Who really knows? It’s more in our heads and our habits than in the activities and work themselves. The real challenge, I think, is wrapping your mind around the time you have, and working hard to keep the golden time as long as possible.

So, if you’re thinking about asking your Au Pair to extend–

How do you figure out when it’s been long enough to know it can stay good, but soon enough that it’s easy to reframe the arc of the year?

Last year we wondered whether the issues we were having with our au pair were caused by the program being ‘wrong’ for us or by the personality of the au pair we chose.   We ended up sticking out the year, although in retrospect we should have rematched because she just wasn’t the right fit.  

This year, when we searched for our new au pair we were much pickier and matched with the most amazing young woman.  I think she is one of these “rock star” au pairs that I’ve read about on threads here! 

She is exactly what we were looking for and what we imagined our au pair to be: a smart, energetic, vibrant young women who is amazing with the children and is a wonderful house mate as well.  She is polite, outgoing, friendly, enthusiastic about exploring the area and traveling.  The children love her and she loves them.  She goes the extra mile without being asked.  She is happy, and we are happy.  

We’ve only had her for a month, but my husband and I would love her to extend with her for another year.  How early is too early to discuss this?  I’m sure there is a honeymoon period with new au pairs?  (Although we never felt this way with the last one, I was in tears the first month in frustration.)  

When is the best time to discuss extension with your au pair?  I know she was planning vacations with friends (as we asked her to think about since we need a lot of notice), and was thinking about what she wants to see during her travel month, so that’s also why I bring this up.  I’d love some advice.

~ New AP Mom


See also: Deciding whether to extend: The Au Pair’s Point of View

Image from Flickr


Taking a Computer Lunch September 22, 2015 at 9:46 pm

New AP Mom – Don’t invite an extension now. You’re still in the honeymoon phase with a rock star that succeeded a mediocre AP. What you want to know is – after Christmas and the doldrums of February, is she still a person with whom you want to live another year.

Some HP never extend, some only look for Year 2 APs.

For our rockstars, we have had an initial extension conversation at month 6 (mostly rejected, although 3 did extend with us). Most have said no. We follow up when the extension packets arrive (around month 8) and issue the invitation again. Only once was the decision not to extend our choice.

Runner Mom September 22, 2015 at 10:23 pm

We always wait until about 5-6 months in to make the invitation, although we’ve often known within a month of arrival whether we would. We hosted a few APs who we knew from the start they wanted to/could only be one-year-only, but we’ve had three extensions. The halfway mark was always just about right: Not so early that it locks you into a situation that is likely to change; not so late that they have already started making plans for the year that follows.

NBHostMom September 23, 2015 at 7:48 am

I agree, it’s too early to make the offer. What you could do is casually bring up the idea along the lines of “so and so’s au pair just extended. Do you think staying with a host family for 2 years is a good idea?”. This way you can get a sense of your au pair’s general stance on extending. If she comes back with a resounding “no, 2 years is too long”, then you can at least stop wondering about it (although that too could change 6 months down the road)

EastCoastMom September 23, 2015 at 9:07 am

I am very reluctant to extend at all at this point (8 years in). We’ve had a few extensions and I’ve found the 2nd year generally doesn’t go as well as the 1st. I think it’s human nature for people to get relaxed over time and start to slack off a bit, plus all the little irritating things seem to become more prominent. I guess my advice is to wait until at least month 6 and then be sure you’re sure before you make that offer.

NoVA Twin Mom September 23, 2015 at 9:57 am

We also don’t extend (though I guess we’d consider it in just the right circumstance – we just haven’t found it yet). We’ve had rockstar au pairs – we just find that after a year everyone’s ready to move on to the next adventure. And the travel month doesn’t seem to line up as nicely for extension au pairs somehow.

Anyway. Other than to agree with what everyone else has said so far, my additional advice would be to get through the holiday season – November to January, whatever holidays you celebrate or don’t celebrate – and see how much you still like each other afterward before making any big decisions. That would be my advice, by the way, even if you were a little further into your year. Peoples’ true colors seem to come out during that time frame somehow. :)

Also, go on a vacation together, even just a long weekend, especially if you plan to take a bigger vacation later in your year (and *especially* if you’d plan to take a big vacation in the extension year). Even add in a so-far-unplanned “test trip” to see how she does in unfamiliar situations.

Hopefully both can occur before month seven, so that you have a little time to reflect before you have to decide about extension (I realize that you can’t move the calendar, so the holidays fall where they do. But the vacation part is key and may be a predictor about how she’ll handle the schedule upheaval of the holidays).

NewAPMom September 23, 2015 at 1:07 pm

We actually already have a couple vacations scheduled with her, one of which is this fall. Our schedule doesn’t change a whole lot around the holidays because the kids are not school age and our work schedules don’t really change. My husband did drop a hint the other day, that a year is not enough to see everything. :)

NoVA Twin Mom September 23, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Maybe “schedule” change around the holidays is the wrong word. Routine change might be better. Even if her “work” life isn’t different, all the hustle and bustle going on around the holiday makes it a prime time for homesickness to come up, even if it hasn’t before. Just something to watch out for, and yes, dropping hints is good, but don’t commit to anything until later. That’s all we’re saying.

I used to hate it when my kids were really little and the people with older kids would say “just wait…”, but that’s what I want to say here. I know you said this is your second au pair, and your first good one, and I’m thrilled for you.

We’re on number seven, and five have been great. One of the others lasted two months in our house before declaring rematch so she could “trade up” to a cushier situation (and we’re a pretty great host family, if I do say so myself – just not a monetarily rich host family). For the first month, we thought things were going well too. No one here is saying YOU shouldn’t extend (though some of us have said WE don’t extend). We’re all just saying don’t start talking about it yet. Give it more time to get to know each other, then in a few months, officially ask.

WarmStateMomma September 23, 2015 at 2:07 pm

This is a timely discussion for my family. We just celebrated 6 months with our rockstar AP and would loooove to extend with her. She told me at month 4 or 5 that she wanted to extend – I was excited but didn’t commit in case the honeymoon period effect was still in place. Long story short: she is better than ever and we’d be lucky to have her for a second year even if her awesomeness flags a bit.

However, she also wants to attend grad school when she finishes the AP experience. I told her she could only extend with us if it won’t interfere with her education goals and that we won’t sign the paperwork until the 9-month mark, to make sure it’s still what she wants. As much as we would love to have her extend, we don’t want her to feel trapped and unhappy because of a premature commitment. But I really hope she still wants to extend. :)

The OP may find herself with a similarly-great match, in which case I would just let her know that you’re happy with the match but leave the discussion about extensions until later. I know another HF who discussed extension during the honeymoon phase and found it awkward later when they’d lost their enthusiasm for extending.

ILHostMom September 23, 2015 at 2:54 pm

We also had a rock star Au Pair who wanted to extend with us but was up against a timeline for returning to school. My husband and I decided that she was such a huge help to us that it was worth it to make compromises in order to get her to stay. We gave her extra days off during her 6 month extension so she could do some extra travelling (since she wasn’t getting a travel month). We also released her 10 days earlier than her contract (we eat that cost) so that she could start school on time. It was totally worth it!

WarmStateMomma September 23, 2015 at 3:24 pm

I’ve told her that we’d happily make accommodations for her to go to school while she is an AP, give her extra time off, etc. I actually think the main reason she doesn’t want to go to grad school while she is an AP (the scheduling works) is that she wouldn’t be able to keep giving 150% to my kids.

She just doesn’t believe me that she doesn’t need to do so much on her days off; maybe she thinks we’d be disappointed if she scaled that back. In reality, I’d be thrilled to keep the same trustworthy, patient, loving caregiver (who can already drive quite well!) for my girls even if we had less of her time each week. Maybe it’s time for me to communicate that to her more clearly.

Old China Hand September 25, 2015 at 8:12 pm

We extended for 6 months with our first AP, who we love, because it worked well for my maternity leave and her plans to attend school. In the end I was really happy when she left. It was time. In the end she didn’t start school for a year, but I was very grateful for the enforced break from my maternity leave. Little kids change so fast and it’s hard to keep up the training for a moving target with a caregiver. Caring for a toddler was so different than the baby she had arrived to take care of.

That being said, I asked our current AP to extend (at least 6 months to get us on a school year cycle) and she said no. I am not psyched to be looking for a new AP but also happy that we are hopefully going to end on a good note. This AP is better than the last and we loved the first one. So maybe number 3 will be great too.

momo4 September 26, 2015 at 11:38 am

Old China Hand – You bring up an excellent and important point. The needs of an infant are very different than those of a toddler, and it has been my experience that APs often struggle to adjust to the changes. In some ways a toddler is more work, their needs are more complicated, and there is more potential frustration on both sides because they want specific things but cannot tell the AP what they want. Plus they crawl/toddle/run into danger in a way that infants simply can’t. And they sleep less, leaving the AP less time for activities other than direct child care.

With 4 kids I’ve watched this process over and over, and had to reassure my APs again and again that these changes are part of NORMAL development.

The idea of having one AP stay for continuity sounds good in theory, but it often works better when a new AP comes who can simply meet the child where they are, and not have the frustrated feeling that “it was so much easier back when they slept all the time”!

Old China Hand September 27, 2015 at 8:23 am

I’m noticing this even with our current ap. she doesn’t try to keep our 15 month old so actively engaged as the 3 year old. I think it will be easier that the new ap just arrives for this routine.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 28, 2015 at 7:39 am

For parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, who change enormously from week to week and month to month, having a good fit is extremely important. An au pair who is great with infants might hold back a preschooler’s development because she is used to treating her charge like a baby.

This happened to us. Our first AP had been a pediatric intensive care nurse in her native country and was perfect for The Camel, especially during the first years of her life as we discovered several major medical issues. She remained a great caregiver throughout and helped us navigate some tricky hospitalizations. We attempted to sponsor her as an employer because of her skill set, her thorough knowledge of The Camel, and her desire to stay in the U.S. While she was fantastic with child #2 when he was an infant and toddler, she was unaccustomed to caring for a child with a typically developing trajectory, and we found as he became a preschooler she continued to do too much for him – dressing him, feeding him, and treating him like a baby – because it was easier than waiting for him to do it himself.

When AP #1 was ready to move on – we matched with an AP had who had extensive pedagogical training in addition to experience in classrooms and summer camps with children who had special needs. She turned out to be perfect for child #2 – pushing him to dress and feed himself and make appropriate milestones. She was also receptive to regularly check-in conversations about what was appropriate for him to be doing.

It can be hard, at the 8-month mark, to make an extension decision – because you may not realize what your AP’s best skills are and where your child(ren) will be developmentally during the coming year – but if you sense frustration at their changes and growth, then chances are she will be the wrong AP for you during her extension year.

I noticed that this became less of an issue once my youngest became a preschooler. Now that he’s a teenager, the AP does not interact with him much as a caregiver, and it is we, his parents, who push him to continue to develop and mature.

TexasHM September 28, 2015 at 9:38 am

It’s amazing really the impact a change can have (in a good way). We were doing great with AP2 and when she left at month 14 I thought it was a huge blow..except french ER nurse came to us from rematch and in her 9 months with us she challenged my kids to grow and stretch themselves well beyond what I thought they were ready for/capable of and even now, almost a year later I am seeing the ripple effect in them of her presence. They are faster to try new things, more resilient when they fail and more confident overall. She treated them (8/5/4) like they were small adults and they more than rose to that occasion.

As others have said, it is also usually much easier to make changes to the role/reset expectations etc when you change providers vs having AP do things one way for a year or more and then trying to change course. Your family will change so much over the next 7 months let alone your AP. Enjoy the ride and cross that bridge when you come to it!

HRHM September 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm

I will chime in as well and say don’t do or say anything yet.

We are on AP 7 and into our 2nd month of her second year. She is the first AP that we have extended with and so far she is just as amazing as she was all last year!

Having said that, most of my APs were great in the first 2-3 months and then slid downhill fast. Generally by the time the winter holidays are over and they are comfortable (we start in July) they have started to let jobs go undone, have gotten less interested in engaging my kids and are generally much more “meh” than they were in the beginning when they were trying to put their best foot forward. For most that downward spiral continued to the point that I was practically shoving them out my door at month 12!

The message repeated here often is NEVER extend with a mediocre AP. You won’t really know if she can maintain the rockstar energy until at least month 6-7-8.

LuckyHM#3 September 23, 2015 at 3:38 pm

This is a really timely discussion for my family. We just reached the 2 month mark with our total rock star AP3. She’s as good if not better than the day she arrived which was awesome. We had an excellent AP1 and we are still in touch and a horrible AP2 that we called rematch after 2 months. AP3 is really a rockstar in every way. She is very young and has a year left to finish college in her country. During our Skype interviews, I asked her thoughts on extension in general and said that ideally she would want to go home after a year but would possibly consider a 6 month extension if things are going well. I dont know the right time to bring it up but based on all the comments above, perhaps will wait till month 6. The other issue we have is that I really like July matching vs April matching that we were on before. If she does extend 6 months, that will take us to Dec (Christmas week) matching and I’m not sure that would work so great for us and we usually are very busy during Christmas often travelling. But on the other hand, we are conflicted on whether we should just appreciate a rockstar for 6 extra months vs call it a day at month 12 for timing purposes..Yes, this is all a bit premature :-)

TexasHM September 23, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Just to make it unanimous, I 100% agree do not bring it up now and as said, please do yourself a favor and don’t insinuate or imply anytime soon. Is it ok to discuss in casual conversation? Sure. In fact, I actually ask during interviewing what their plans are for after their year. Not so much to lock anything in but because I am curious. Do they have solid 12 month break and then must return to finish school or miss out on a program? Do they want to go to grad school and it starts in January therefore could theoretically do a shorter than a year extension but they were hoping to do a summer internship beforehand? Etc etc

Our first AP extended but it took her half a year to figure things out! Second AP extended and she was great and it quickly fell apart right at the year mark and I am 300% convinced that it is because we agreed to extend too early. She was talking about it very very early on, she knew AP1 had extended and month 7 the minute she got the paperwork she filled it out and hounded me to sign it. Those last 5 months changed everything. Her friends started all leaving, the holidays hit (she was a Dec 26th arrival) and her parents announced they weren’t going to visit after all so she was hit with the realization that her family who she missed horribly wasn’t coming and it would be two full years without seeing them (including her little sister who was growing like a weed).

I am super excited for you that you have found a gem! Do yourself a huge favor and sit back and ENJOY it, however long it lasts. APs get very twitchy about extensions (you could actually scare her away or damage the relationship). They tend to not want to tell you no/share bad news so asking now (especially if she has solid plans back home or plans to extend in a different part of the country) could create a very uncomfortable/difficult situation for her.

AP3 was a rematch (AP2 left due to family emergency but was about to leave anyway 2 mos into extension) and was amazing. We got 9-10 awesome months and she wanted to extend but got the opportunity to live/work in New Zealand. Because I had a lot of angst over finding a new AP I started searching right away (5-6 mos out) and matched. Then a monthish later we found out rockstars NZ trip would be delayed and she actually could extend 6, possibly even 9 months but we had already matched! I felt I owed it to the new AP to keep the match (stupid! she was a burnout) so the moral of my story is, PLEASE learn from my mistakes and give it time and enjoy it, even if it is just a year. Even if she says no at month 6 but doesn’t yet have plans, give it time, you never know what will happen and as others have said, sometimes extensions aren’t the blessing you think they will be. AP2 ROCKED year one, started falling apart month 11. We had just nominated her for AP of the year.

Enjoy whatever amount of rockstar time you get with her and even if you both want to extend, wait to submit the paperwork and don’t get carried away. Lookup the threads on here about extending or not extending and ask what her goals are for year 2. Right now you are honeymooning and she is excited and everything is an adrenaline rush. She will come off the high and then you will have a better feel for longer term (definitely get through the holidays as others have said). She might get hit hard by culture shock, have a family emergency, find an american boyfriend and demand to stay – who knows! A lot will happen in the next 6-9 months!

Keep in mind there are lots of rockstars out there! AP1 rocked the job, AP2 rockstar, AP3 mega rockstar, AP4 burnout, AP5 rockstar! Each rocked in their own special ways (AP1 was a natural with my three 5 and under – potty trained my girls!, AP2 musically gifted/amazing positive attitude, AP3 maturity/wisdom/challenged my kids, AP4 made it 3 days on her own, AP5 most active/respectful/can-do attitude. I am trying to illustrate that your needs will also change over time and sometimes having an AP change is great because you can adjust and reset the job responsibilities and expectations more easily with a new face or you might need new skills. We now need stronger English for homework help whereas AP1 couldn’t put a sentence together! Each of our APs has said they could not have done our other AP’s job. :) Every one has said they were great for the kids at that age with those needs and couldn’t have managed them younger and it’s actually true!

AlwaysHopefulHM September 23, 2015 at 6:41 pm

New AP Mom, I get it. I totally get it. AP is a rock star, and you’ve seen what happens when you pick wrong. Of course you want to lock her in for as long as possible, as soon as you possibly can! But, as others have said, you just cannot know at one month. You don’t know if you will continue to want to extend, and you don’t know if she will. And, if you start talking extension now, the kids will also start thinking of the AP’s time as extending until the next year. If either of you decides later that the extension is no longer a good idea, what would have been the natural end to the AP year for the kids becomes in their minds an AP leaving prematurely. Just give it time. Enjoy this first year– don’t wish it away. If you guys continue to be great together, you’ll likely extend. There’s nothing to be gained by raising it prematurely.

I’m intrigued by the phenomenon HRHM mentions of everyone (AP, HPs, kids) become less enthusiastic as the year cycles on. I have been thinking a lot about whether to extend with our AP who is currently still a rock star. I’m nervous because he came to us in rematch, so our time before deciding about extension is naturally shorter, (for example, I won’t be able to wait until after the holidays). I fear that we won’t have the time to really cycle through and see if the rockstar match is sustainable. I also don’t think he has a great reason to extend, if he chose to do so, and I recall all of the cautions I’ve read here about the importance of the au pair’s extension reason.

Regarding things falling apart, HRHM’s post reminds me that I need to continually reinvest as well, to help everyone maintain the enthusiasm, and that maybe the cycles of the AP year are as much affected by the HF ‘s view of the particular stage as the AP’s. Maybe that makes a difference, and maybe year 2 is a brand new reset? I don’t know.

In our case, although I haven’t said anything about extension to our AP yet, I know that members of my extended family have, and based on what they’ve said to me, I’m pretty confident he’d like to extend. Also, our AD asks me about extension every time we speak (for our monthly calls), and I’m certain she asks him as well. So, it’s kind of the elephant in the room.

With that said, before reading this blogpost, I hadn’t thought about the downside of raising it too late. That’s certainly something to consider (but not at 1 month)., New APMom, I have the opposite problem from you– how do you know when it’s too late to discuss extending?

NoVA Twin Mom September 24, 2015 at 8:54 am

Maybe in your case, rather than making sure your au pair is extending for the right reason, just make sure he isn’t extending for the *wrong* reason. If you’ve found a real gem – don’t let him go just because of horror stories you’ve read about on the internet! We all tell our own truths, after all, but we’ve never met you or your au pair. If it’s working out, go with it!

WarmStateMomma September 24, 2015 at 10:29 am

I agree with NoVA. He may have joined the AP program just to have something different to do, and now finds that he enjoys it, is good at it, and isn’t ready for that experience to end. It may not be what we’d want for our own kids, but it would be a good enough reason for me to extend with someone who is as wonderful as our current AP.

My personal view is that the 20s are for building your future (education/career/family) and for enjoying life before taking on those long-term commitments. Years spent on either of those pursuits are well-spent in my book.

NCHostMom September 23, 2015 at 9:21 pm

We are extending for 9 months with our first Au Pair. We felt from the start that things were going well but didn’t bring up the topic until roughly 5 or 6 months in to her stay. I’m super relieved to keep her another 9 months (she has personal obligations at home and she arrived in late November so 9 months was a better time for us to be matching going forward and better for her personally than 12). She is a great au pair, she’s very responsible and since my youngest has been with her now since 3 months old it will be nice to keep it consistent.

We started talking around 5 months but told her to just think about it as she clearly misses home. Her cousin is in the states as an au pair too, she extended and I think that probably helped her make the decision. Around 6 months here felt like a good time to solidify it all for us. Hopefully year 2 is as enjoyable as 1!

TexasHM September 23, 2015 at 11:12 pm

I use the paperwork as a natural decision process. I.e. – paperwork has a due date, it varies a bit by agency but can give you an idea. I’ve seen people decide to extend after the deadline and get it done as well but the state dept cutoff I think is 30 days and agency has to prep docs to send to them so I wouldn’t push it to 6 weeks out if you think you want to do it. My hypothesis at this point is 90 days out is the target. (Meaning decision made). Then you are perfect timing to interview for new out of country candidate or sign extension. If I’d waited to 90 days on mine I am convinced we would have extended with rematch rockstar and avoided a burnout OOC. Also I think much easier for them to make plans, lookup courses, etc 90 days out vs 6 mos out. Just my two cents!

Should be working September 24, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Our AP is hinting about extension as well. So far (2 months in) he is really great. But I remember well how our previous extension fell apart, and how even with some of our favorite APs the last month of the year felt like we were genuinely approaching the right time to be saying goodbye.

I am going to try and hold back from any conversation about this until at least February. Hard to do though.

AlwaysHopeful HM September 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

SBW, I’m so glad your new AP is working out well! Hopefully, he was just what your family needed just when you needed him.

Should be working September 24, 2015 at 5:30 pm

He is! And let me add that things at home are going much better these days. Not back to normal, but definitely livable and borderline “ok”!

Taking a Computer Lunch September 25, 2015 at 7:11 am

There is nothing wrong with responding to a hint about extension, with a “Hey, you’re doing a great job right now, but we can’t start talking about extension until you’ve been here at least six (or eight) months. But if you maintain this great attitude toward the job all along, then it might be possible. That way you maintain hope and encourage performance.

Extension is a powerful tool. When AP #5 resisted getting her driver’s license and driving in the snow (we had to use a lot of vacation time that winter to drive the Camel to doctor’s appointments as our city had record snowfall), we used it against her at extension time. While there were many reasons why we did not want to extend with her, we used the driver’s license as the primary reason. And, as our LCC warned, her driving and English skills imploded – after we told her we would not extend.

Mimi September 24, 2015 at 2:17 pm

As a rule, we don’t extend, but CCAP sends us (and I believe the AP) a notice about this roughly 7 months into their year. You have until 75 days prior to the end of the AP’s first year so there’s no need to rush. Like many have said, maintaining momentum isn’t often an eeasy thing to do and this early in you might find that the next few months bring issues that mught procluede extending.

Seattle Mom September 25, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I thought CVH was reading my mind with this topic!

We are 7 1/2 months in with our AP, and just discussed it for the first time. She gave a “maybe” because she is trying to stay in the US through other avenues (work that she is qualified to do)- but the visa is expensive and not likely to work out. I’m giving her until the end of October, and then I will ask again if she does not bring it up. I will start looking seriously for au pairs in November if she doesn’t give me a positive response.

We’ve never had an au pair extend before, though we’ve asked 2. Our first one was a rock star but she was tired and needed to go home to see her friends & family, and get on with her life. I also think we asked her too early- about halfway through her year, though the answer probably still would have been no. The other was actually not that good and I’m glad she said no, that would have been bad. My husband was just dreading breaking in a new au pair (never a good reason to extend). We had one au pair who was on her second year with us (first year with a different family) so she wasn’t eligible to extend.

Multitasking Host Mom September 25, 2015 at 1:55 pm

This is a do as I say not as I do comment…I don’t recommend extending ever, especially if they are a rock star AP, even though I have extended with our last two great APs.
First great AP, broke up with her American boyfriend a month after our extension year began. She took it very hard, and was extremely emotional about it. I was very understanding about it, but six weeks later it was still really effecting her job performance. She became annoyed by every little thing, and she started complaining about her job to me constantly…totally not seeing the irony in the fact that I was essentially her employer and had created this job that she no longer liked doing, so she was complaining about me to me…She did decided to go home, at month four of her extension year.
Second great AP, definitely lost steam as her extension year progressed. It was little things, such as for example taking three days to do the kids laundry ie one day in the washer and dryer, one day with the clothes in the basket, and by day three finally folding them and putting them in the drawer. Six months before this, she would of had the laundry done in three hours flat. I resented the fact that I suddenly had to become the micro manager or nothing would be completed…that wasn’t our relationship at all in the earlier part of her time with us.
In both cases, we had all become too comfortable with each other. In retrospect, I which they had left when I still thought of them as awesome APs, and didn’t have the memories of them going downhill at the end of their years.
So in answer to the OP, give it a little more time to see if you still want to extend as the year progresses.

Abba September 25, 2015 at 2:05 pm

We, too, extended with a fabulous au pair and ended up frustrated. Too many liberties taken in that second year + all her friends leaving + her really being over living in our basement was not a good combination. We are three months in with our new, equally fabulous if not better AP and wondered if we’d extend again, but I think we won’t, based on that past experience. We were able to salvage the relationship, but I hate that it soured and that that affects my memories of an otherwise really lovely person.

momo4 September 25, 2015 at 2:26 pm

I agree with all the above posters who feel that you should not offer to extend until at least 7-8 months, and for all the reasons listed above.

After a very difficult year with an AP who was not a good fit, we are now about 1 month in with our 9th AP whom I absolutely adore, so I completely understand the impulse to invite her to extend right now.

Out of our 8 previous APs, we have extended with only 1. Mostly, this has been because our APs tend to be classic 19 y/o gap year APs from EU countries who have plans for university after their AP year. They are usually “done” with the AP experience after a year, and aren’t interested in extending.

Our one extension was a lovely Thai woman who was 25 when she arrived. She actually was not interested in extending when she started, but after making many friends here and breaking up with her BF back home she changed her mind. I think we agreed at about month 9.

But we also had one case where the AP was really sweet and enthiusiastic and wanted to extend, and we initally agreed (maybe that was around month 4? I can’t quite remember anymore). She adored the kids, and they loved her back, but she was the most incompetent AP we ever had when it came to setting limits with the kids and housework, and when her social life became a nightmare for us we decided that we did not want to extend after all. Retracting an offer to extend is really awkward.

I do discuss extending in a very casual conversational way with all my APs fairly early on, usually both because they are curious about it (since we have hosted so many APs) and also because I want to know whether it is something they are thinking they may want to do. I am honest and noncommital, explaining that most of my APs have had plans to return home for university, that most APs are ready for a change of scene even if they want to stay in the US, and that staying with a HF for a second year when most of your AP friends have gone home can be very difficult, especially since the initial excitement of being an AP in the US has long since worn off by that point. Even if really do want them to extend, I always try very hard not to put any pressure on them to decide. At the end of the year, you should only extend with someone when both parties are 100% sure that it is what they want, because as so many other people have pointed out, no matter how great the first year was, the second may well be different.

NewAPMom September 26, 2015 at 9:24 am

I’m the OP–yes, I wouldn’t actually ask her to extend now this early in, but wanted to know the time frame, 3 months in? 6 months? So the feed back here has been useful. I guess after the holidays we can explore it more with her if things are still going well. Now that I think of it, she mentioned she met a lot of other APs that have been here for over a year, so maybe she was hinting too? Not sure. Anyway, she is doing a fantastic job and we are very lucky to have her. She came with terrific references. She is a little older and already finished her schooling, so she doesn’t have anything with that regard that she needs to get back to at home.

One question, why do may of these girls slack as the year goes on whereas a professional nanny wouldn’t? Is it because of just that? They’re not a professional nanny and they know their time is limited? A nanny wants to keep her job?

momo4 September 26, 2015 at 11:24 am

I suspect that the younger APs for whom it is a gap year stop worrying so much about making a good impression once they get comfortable, which is a natural evolution in the relationship. This is why “baseline personality” matters so much. Someone who is naturally inclined to truly enjoy their time with kids, be hard working, organized and tidy is more likely to keep up the good work even once they get comfortable and are no longer worrying about what you think of them.

Being a nanny is a serious career for many women, so they treat it as such. Many nannies are looking to stay with the same family for many years, and when they leave they will need a good reference. Also, I suspect that most nannies are in childcare because they really love what they do. Every job, even one that doesn’t wind up being what they hoped it would be, is seen as an investment in a career they have chosen.

APing is just a one year adventure for many APs, and unless they go on to being nannies, they are unlikely to need a reference from you. (I know there are exceptions that others have written about). Younger APs have usually never had a “real” job, certainly not a full time job, and many of them do not really see being an AP as a job. Also, being an AP is sold to them by many agencies as an international adventure, a fun time to explore another country; certainly not as a year of wiping snotty noses, doing endless loads of laundry, and fighting the never ending battle against chaos and entropy.

Most APs start the year full of enthusiam and energy ramped up a fair degree of anxiety about making a good impression and doing the job right, especially if they are younger and less experienced. As the year goes by they naturally settle in and become comfortable which is what we want, but their enthusiam for some of the less pleasant aspects of childcare work wanes as well.

The degree to which work effort “slides” really can vary from one AP to another, but I think that having an AP who doesn’t slide at all is exceptional. Out of 8 APs, I have only had one AP who was fabulous right up to the end.

I should mention that I do not consider the AP spending less of their free time with the family as “sliding”. I expect that, and consider it normal so I am not disappointed at all. I do expect them to attend my kids little birthday celebrations even if they happened to occur during the APs off time at the end of the year, but that has never been an issue. All my AP have wanted to be there for the kids birthdays no matter when they fell, and if they didn’t want to it would be an indication of a much bigger underlying problem :)

Mimi September 26, 2015 at 11:47 am

IMO the difference is that you hire a nanny for the skills she has and an AP for the skills you can refine and teach them.

TexasHM September 26, 2015 at 9:43 pm

I think there are emotional complexities involved too. Particularly if your AP is a “member of the family”. Meaning we are very close to our APs and some of the struggle comes from as others have said – getting too comfortable. They literally stop seeing the little messes, the clothes left in the laundry basket for an extra day, etc.

I also think it is very hard for them to say goodbye and that some distance themselves at the end or have trouble managing the emotions involved which can bleed over into slippage.

I don’t think a lot of it is intentional “slacking”. In fact I have had several great APs start to slip a little and I have pointed things out and they jumped on them so it was less slacking intent than having a lot on their minds/distractions etc which is definitely more common further into the year.

Nannies go home after their shift is over. APs have their shift at home. My home office is a mess, my work offices in the past have been spotless. :)

NewAPMom November 16, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I’m hoping to revive this thread a little–we have had the amazing AP with us for 3 months now and just came back from a family vacation. She was absolutely fantastic on the trip and had a wonderful time too. She pitched in when needed and was very appreciative that we could take her along too. We still want to ask her to extend–is 3 months too early?

HRHM November 16, 2015 at 3:55 pm

I’m not sure if you’ve read the 36 comments above but I will point out that not one of them would advocate offering extension at the 3 month mark. At the risk of being repetetive, (although we are now in month 4 of her extension year and she’s still awesome!)

“don’t do or say anything yet.

We are on AP 7 and into our 2nd month of her second year. She is the first AP that we have extended with and so far she is just as amazing as she was all last year!

Having said that, most of my APs were great in the first 2-3 months and then slid downhill fast. Generally by the time the winter holidays are over and they are comfortable (we start in July) they have started to let jobs go undone, have gotten less interested in engaging my kids and are generally much more “meh” than they were in the beginning when they were trying to put their best foot forward. For most that downward spiral continued to the point that I was practically shoving them out my door at month 12!

The message repeated here often is NEVER extend with a mediocre AP. You won’t really know if she can maintain the rockstar energy until at least month 6-7-8.”

HRHM November 16, 2015 at 3:57 pm

And sorry if this came across as harsh, I didn’t really mean it that way. Is there any reason why you don’t feel like you can wait until month 6 or 7 to offer?

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