This brand new host mom, in a country without much of an Au Pairing culture, is trying hard.
Despite her efforts, though, the combination of her Au Pair’s inexperience, lack of English skills, lies about driving, and basic attitude (not to mention, cultural differences between them) have led to an untenable situation.
Worse still, it seems like there’s no way out until the Au Pair’s contract ends.
It seems that way. But maybe you all have some ideas for what this mom could do?
Hi Au Pair Mom!
I am a new HM in Norway and here it is very uncommon to hire an au pair – thats why I was sooo glad to find your page, cause there is hardly anyone here that has experience and that I can ask. I have learned a lot already by browsing all the posts, but I feel that I have to write to you to get some straight answers about what is ok and whats not.
We have had an au pair living with us for 4 months now and I am literally going CRAZY. She is 26 and from Thailand, and in all contact we had with her (written) she sounded perfect; very humble and eager to please and with plenty of experience. She did all her household chores at home and was no stranger to cleaning (even though there is not much of this required, will get to that later) and her english level was set to “advanced” and she stated she had a drivers license. We got her through an agency, but here its not like you seam to have it with local reps and so on – here you just pay the agency to do the match, fix the papers for the VISA and make sure everything is legal. The rest is more or less up to you.
I talked with her on Skype once and I reacted on how little she seamed to understand my questions, and how hard it was to get any answers from her, but I thought it might be a cultural thing (you know, everything “is fine” and “no problem” and she was sitting in a café when we talked so I also blamed the bit noisy surroundings. And as I said; in all her emails her english was flawless and her attitude was perfect.
So we brought her here – a long process of 4-5 months, and we were so ready to welcome her. Our family is me and HD and two boys aged 4 and (at the time) 6 months. HD is working every tuesday-thursday and I run my own business so we needed someone that could look after the youngest 3 days a week while I work. I have the office in the house so I am at home, but I need to be able to take some meetings or to work for a undisturbed amount of time to manage my business.
So her schedule is: work tuesday, wednesday and thursday, and then full tim off friday, saturday, sunday and monday. Her working days she starts at 07 and ends at 5 pm ( he sleeps 4 of these hours) on mondays and tuesdays and on wednesday she ends at 3 pm to go to language class which she attends twice a week.
So, a regular week she is working 28 hours, including the babys nap time. Thats it. In her chores we have included, except taking care of feeding and playing with the baby and regular childcare, that she should help with some light housework. When emailing before arrival I had put it as “help out some day a week to vacuum the house, cook some easy meal sometime, mop some floors” and I was stupid enough not to specify more exact what we wanted and so on. But she was fine with housekeeping and vacuuming and had no problem with this.
I don’t even know where to start.
When she first got here it became clear exactly HOW little english she understands. We can not have a conversation with her, unless its on a REALLY type of three words basic level. If there is anything important that er really need to know she understands we have to put it in a mail. She does not drive.
She also, clearly, has NO experience what so ever and freaked me out already the first week by doing things I consider being common sense not to (like leaving the very mobile baby on the diaper station in the bathroom; where he easily can fall to the tiles and get injured really bad, or giving him a small cork to play with and that he would choke on in a second if swallowed). When I point out this things “no, you must keep a hand on the baby at all times when he is on the table” or “he is not allowed to play with small parts that he can swallow” she is genuinely surprised over this knowledge.
And, to do things worse, doesn’t grasp the importance of my words and continue to put the baby in harm – so we basically had to tale away the diaper station and now have her changing diapers on the floor. She didn’t know how to dress the baby, how to whip e his nose – she still interrupt me while working to ask me change his sweater or whipe his nose. And this lack of basic judgment has made it impossible for me to feel safe with her taking care of the baby – so much that I for the last 4 months haven’t even left the house to get some food or go to get the elder at daycare if I don’t bring the baby.
She can’t still put the baby to bed or pick him up (she doesn’t understand how, Im serious) so every day I have to interrupt work several times to go and put the baby to bed, wake him up, and have an eye on the baby monitor. The oldest son and her is no match made in heaven; basically because she has the ability to wind him up like no one else – for example she went in and took pictures of him while he was bathing even do he clearly asked her not to. He was there, naked in the bath, 4 years old and yelling at her to get out and to stop taking his picture and all she did was giggle and say “he is so cute” and continue with taking pictures. I had to go in, tell her to stop and say that if he said no its no – but Im pretty sure she didn’t understand a word (but even if you don’t talk the language, a kid yelling at you in anger is pretty hard to not pick up I would think). So now I had to put “don’t take pictures of X when he is naked, especially if he said NO” in the handbook.
The first 2 or 3 days with us she was really eager to please and to do things, but since then it has slipped more and more to the level that its now a joke.
When the baby naps (1,5 hours at a time) she lounges in our sofa, texting with friends, while I vacuum around her legs. For me; if someone is vacuuming around my legs I would get up and help, but no. On a regular week she did following housework the 3 days she was working: arrange the pillows in our sofa, make the older sons bed and once a month she made our bed. I think she also vacuumed like 2 times in 2 month, but only the living room for some reason. She is free every thursday from 5 pm to tuesday at 7 am and this time she is never at home, and always out to travel (she has been to several countries since coming) which is totally fine with me – but she on top of this has asked on several occasions to get mor time off to go somewhere with friends. For me; if you have every friday-monday off you should be able to arrange your travel plans so that you can be away those days and so you don’t have to ask frequently for more time off.
So I found Au Pair Mom and understood that this was my fault, since I did not have an au pair handbook or in any way had it written down what I expected.
So I figured I would give it an extra chance and just blame my inexperience. I made a handbook containing exactly what we talked about in our initial emails – but broken down in understandable and (for me) reasonable tasks. Since she has a hard time understanding even the smallest things, I also had to put down like “change diaper every 2 hours”, “if babys clothes are wet – change them”, “serve his food finger warm; not cold and not to hot” and so on because she seriously doesn’t understand that he needs a new diaper and that he is not allowed to play with electrical outlets and so on.
There are SO many stories to tell about this girl but the email would be so long Ill have to just choose a few.
The house duty I had in mind for here, and that I hope are not over the top is the following:
To do every working day:
Tidy up oldest kids room (and this is seriously never messy, he is a star at keeping it clean on weekdays)
Tidy up after what you and baby have been doing.
To do ONCE a week while working:
Vacuum livingroom, small hallway, oldest sons room and kitchen (not our bedroom or bathroom).
Mop these floors.
Whipe kitchen table, kitchen counter and the window frames in these rooms.
Pack a bag with clothes for oldest sons swimming class.
To do every other week:
Clean the plastic toys with warm water and paper.
Brush of dirt from the boys outerwear.
And thats it. I do all the cleaning myself and I usually do it every day, so its not that heavy (we have 3 dogs so I like to vacuum every day and I like it neat, guess I am a bit anal ha ha). I timed it to make sure it wouldn’t be to heavy and the things I ask her to do once a week takes 40 minutes. I do our own bedroom, I do our bathroom, I do the cooking, I do all the laundry (except hers) and everything else.
So seriously: is this to much? Am I over working our au pair?
Here they are only allowed to work 35 hours a week, and we have her on 28 and with all weekends off so it feels like a good deal? Is the house work too much?
Because I put it down in the handbook, we emailed her the handbook, asked her to respond back if she understood. She responded that she understood, no questions. This was 2 weeks ago. Since then she has done… some stuff on the list. And this is what just makes me wonder what the heck is going on?! First week she didn’t do any of the things except vacuum 3 of the rooms WHEN I took the baby 3 hours earlier and left the house – she got an extra 3 hours off she could use on the tasks. She didn’t pack the bad with the swimming stuff, and when I email her and asked her nicely if she had put them together and put them somewhere in the house (she was away on a trip) she just replied “No I didn’t” and a smiley! A freakin smiley! The rest of the tasks she just decided not to do, I guess.
This week – same thing. She has chosen one thing to do, ignoring the other stuff on the list. The baby is in a very “mum is the best” state just now so I am having him a lot of the time, and today I had him on my arm while doing HER tasks – vacuuming the older sons room, cleaning his window frame and the other stuff she just haven’t done – and when she entered the room I had to ask (standing there with the baby, vacuuming the floors on her working time) if she got the handbook I sent her? “Yes yes, she did”.
I am going mental. Please help me. What should I do? Is this what to expect? A 26 year old who doesn’t know how to feed, dress, put down, interact with a child, who doesn’t drive, doesn’t speak english and just do the things she things she needs to? On top of it all; the things she USED to do (rearranging the sofa pillows) she is not doing any more, since its not on the list. And the strange thing is that sometimes I find her doing things I have not asked for, like sitting and fold plastic bags, which sure is great for storage – but wouldn’t it be better to do the things we ask?
It feels like she does a bare minimum. What drives me crazy is that nothing “out of the list” (well, hardly anything in the list for that mather) is on her table. For example can I several times come in to the living room while the baby is sleeping, and find the puppy eating my french tulips one meter from the au pair who is sitting there with her legs crossed, watching it, and text with friends. So I have to tell off the dog, and sit on the floor one meter from her and pick up pieces of flower scattered over the entire mat, and she doesn’t lift a finger. I am fully aware that the dogs are not in here responsibility list, but come on?
So here I am; housebound, unable to work because I have to monitor our au pair, and seriously loosing it since she even spot on refuses to do listed tasks and just answered with a “no i didn’t” and a smiley. I don’t want to be mean but I think that she might have a learning disability; the learning curve for here is so over the top that she 4 months in still don’t know, for example, to not give the baby food that is cold. And there is no such thing as a “re-match” here since it takes 5 freakin months to get a new one, and even if I can’t work fully right now I still manage to scrape up some hours during the 3 days she watches him between naps and that is better than nothing. There is a possibility to get an european au pair I guess, that could come without a VISA, but is it worth it? Or is having an au pair like this, and its us having to much expectations?
This is just one messy cry for help. What do you say? Did I get a nightmare au pair or am I just a nightmare HM?