When the Cost of Rematch Seems Too High, but Your Au Pair Isn’t Working Out

by cv harquail on March 3, 2016

This brand new host mom, in a country without much of an Au Pairing culture, is trying hard.
au pair, host child, childcareDespite 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?


FirstTimeHM March 3, 2016 at 10:28 am

I’m usually for trying to make it work, but this attitude plus language problems is really unworkable. You’re certainly not a host mom from hell, you’re absolutely not expecting too much, this is not overworking an AP with chores, this is a princess AP who does what she likes and she’s got you treating her the way she likes it.

Getting a European au pair seems to be the best solution for getting someone fast. Northern European girls (UK, German speaking countries, Netherlands, Belgium) all have had at least 4-6 years of English in high school and I wouldn’t expect real language problems with them. They may not have all the fine detail but they can communicate quite well.
Please get a nice girl as soon as possible, because there are plenty of nice girls who would pitch in in a heartbeat, would appreciate your light schedule and would really try their best to help you.

Frankfurt AP Boy March 3, 2016 at 12:14 pm

It makes me quite angry and sad to read this. Of course you are not being too demand on her! She is a terrible au pair. Why on Earth would you apply for a job with such a small baby if you don’t even know how to hold one? It is incredible to me. What’s more is that she has managed to tell so many lies about her abilities without the agency picking up on it. I wonder how they found her.

If I were you, I’d get rid of the agency and search on somewhere like AuPairWorld. Norway is a popular place and there a number of Norwegian families looking (I know because I was considering Norway at one point). Many au pairs on that site are looking for a family as soon as possible so I don’t think you would have to search for very long before finding someone. What I would suggest though is that with you having such a young baby, that you check references and make sure thy have the experience (or at least the qualities) you are looking for. A neglectful au pair with that young a child, as you have pointed out, can have particularly grave consequences. With what you have detailed about her lack of ability to safely care for your baby, I would also suggest that you send your current au pair home and find alternative childcare until you find someone else.

(On a side note: the issue with taking nude photos of a child because they look “cute”: I don’t imagine there is anything more to that but… it really shows the difference in perspective when dealing with male and female child care providers. If that were a man he would be matched out of that house in handcuffs!!)

Frankfurt AP Boy March 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Oops sorry.. I posted this at the bottom too. Please delete this one? :))

WestMom March 3, 2016 at 10:56 am

This is a very long message that deserves a brief answer. Send her home now. You are better off without her. Get part-time care until you can get an AP without a visa from a European country. No- you are not asking too much. And what you describe seems more than cultural or language-related to me. Sounds like AP is actually missing something up there.

NorwayHM March 3, 2016 at 11:03 am

Right? Me an HD have talked about it several times; I really think she is not completely… I don’t know how to put it, and it feels horrible to write it, but she is so unintelligent we get scared sometimes. Like when we got a new, normal plastic bib for feeding times, and she put in on backwards? We didn’t even know what to say, just showed her the right way for the baby to wear a bib…

WestMom March 4, 2016 at 1:00 pm

She needs to go (she needed to go 3 months and 29 days ago). I think in this case the safety of your kids and your mental sanity completely outweigh the short term child care challenges.

NoVA Twin Mom March 3, 2016 at 11:09 am

We had an au pair with whom we could barely communicate because her English skills were much lower than we thought. We kept her because she took incredibly good care of our infant (at the time) twins. We figured if she could keep a baby alive in her home country, she could do so in our house – most of the skills don’t require much communication. That doesn’t seem to be the case with your au pair.

I agree, you need a new au pair. If the way to get one quickly is from Europe, then that’s where you look. We’ve had great success with Swedish au pairs, and many people have had great success with German au pairs as well.

Although I wholeheartedly think you need a new au pair, I’ll pass along two suggestions for communicating with an au pair that can’t/won’t understand you:
1. We used Google Translate for everything. I’d type instructions in to Google Translate, translate them into her language, make her read them on the computer screen so we could verify that the instructions were coherent after translation, and if they were I printed them out. That way I knew she understood what I was asking for.
2. We didn’t have to do this, but many people advocate having them for little kids – could you make her a picture schedule? Pictures of things to do that she can cross off when she’s done? I absolutely agree this would be borderline insulting to her intelligence, but might be necessary if you need to get through a few days or so now.

Good luck – I can put up with a LOT if my kids are loved and well cared for. If those things aren’t happening at your house you need to find someone that CAN do those things. Housework would then be a bonus.

NorwayHM March 5, 2016 at 11:42 am

I did a color schedule with a box to tick off when the dask was done… Don’t know how to be more specific. Except the translate tip – that was a great advice!

WarmStateMomma March 3, 2016 at 11:12 am

Our first AP couldn’t lift a finger to clean up after herself or the baby, but she was amazing with the baby. Your AP is just another child to clean up after and support.

Having hosted 3 APs and two exchange students from Asia, the lousy English is not a problem for our family. But the lousy attitude is a problem. And it’s not acceptable in most Asian countries I know of to let older people wait on you like your AP is doing. Her behavior is just unacceptable and it’s not a cultural difference. She is just a dud who is treating you disrespectfully. I’d get rid of her – she isn’t going to improve enough to be worth having and the basic disrespect would make me not want to help her improve. A good attitude can go a long way, but a bad attitude closes a lot of doors.

A huge amount of child care is cultural – safety, warm v. cold food, etc. – but if she can’t learn to do as you ask, she can’t do the job.

Any AP in the US would kill for your easy schedule and light duties.

You also sound like you’ve bent over backward for this AP. The problem is her, not you and not the job. I bend over backwards for my AP *because* she does the same for us. The relationship needs to be give and take but you’re a giver hosting a taker. Time to cut her loose.

I’d hire someone European for 6 months – or even a local sitter if possible – to give you time to find someone good. You know what you need now and you’re going to be much, much better at sorting through applicants now. I had so many doubts after our rocky first AP experience, but our second and third APs were both so good I can’t imagine using any other form of child care. It gets much easier after the first one.

WarmStateMomma March 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm

BTW – I know the OP was looking for suggestions on making this work, but I just don’t see how it’s possible. If the AP can’t be trusted to wipe a nose or safely use a changing table after 4 months, there just really isn’t any room for meaningful improvement. It doesn’t really matter whether the cause is language, attitude or even learning disability.

There are loads of APs out there who will make your kids feel safe, special and loved. Those same APs want a mutually respectful relationship with their HF. Go find one.

GermanHostMum March 3, 2016 at 11:19 am

I would also say – get a European Au Pair as soon as possible and get rid or her.

You mentioned you went through an agency. Did you just use the agency to take care of the legal details or was the au pair part of the agencies pool of au pairs? If the later, and if this is about the same in Norway as in Germany, that might have been part of the problem. I have found that agencies in Germany mostly have au pairs from somewhat exotic locales, or the very timid girls. Also, often, first time host parents are steered toward the au pairs which more experienced host parents shy away from – for instance, you get told that Au Pairs from Africa are very good with infants (leaving aside that they often are not familiar with European attitudes toward child care and sometimes have unfamiliarity with a number of household appliances…) Also, the pool is usually very restricted.
Log onto AuPairWorld or a similar site and you will find a large pool of EU au pairs interested in coming to Norway at rather short notice!

NorwayHM March 5, 2016 at 11:43 am

Exactly, the legal details and they had a large pool of applicants. The “matching” was a joke; they sent us candidates who for example didn’t like pets (when we have 3 dogs) and so on.

LuckyHM#3 March 3, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Just sending you some hugs… Short answer, tell her it’s time for her to leave ASAP. The first time, you leave my baby on a changing table in the bathroom, will get you a big talking to, the 2nd time with a cork will get you a good bye.. I can’t even imagine but doing your chores and not even trying to give an excuse however stupid it is and responding to me with a smiley face. You also can not be taking naked pictures of my kid.. It makes no sense. Get an EU Aupair with no visa issues and hopefully you will be able to really interview them with no language issues. Good luck

HRHM March 3, 2016 at 1:36 pm

I will add that I think the driving and verbal language issues are VERY common in Thai APs. It is very uncommon for young people to drive and most families (unless they are very affluent) do not own a vehicle but rather bike or use buses – in the US 89% of households own one or more cars, in Thailand, it’s around 30%.

Our first interview was a Thai AP and although her application was perfect on paper, when I called her, the only response I got to every question or statement was “I come to US now”. So I would take the verbal skills in interview at face value, ask complex questions and decline early for someone who couldn’t give understandable answers.

For the other issues, you definitely got a dud. The positives that I repeatedly hear about Thai APs is that 1) they are great with babies 2) they are very clean and tidy and 3) they are great cooks and love to cook for the family. Stinks that you got all the negatives and none of the positives!

I agree with the PPs, send her home now and find some local help for the few hours she is covering while you look for a new AP who can and will do the job.

AuPair Paris March 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm

You don’t have an au pair – you have a very expensive house guest, and it’s time she went home. I know it’s a stress and an expense to rematch, but you’re not getting anything out of the current situation, so all you can do is get a new AP asap to avoid compounding the situation.

WarmStateMomma March 3, 2016 at 1:42 pm

“You don’t have an au pair – you have a very expensive house guest”

This made me laugh out loud. My house guests help more than this AP!

LuckyHM#3 March 3, 2016 at 2:55 pm

The expensive house guest line made me laugh out loud too.. Though i have to say that the last house guest we had last month for a couple of weeks was DH’s younger sister, who vacuumed my house every day and made dinner almost every other day and took my kids to school. I almost wished she didnt have to leave

Mimi March 3, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Oh my. My heart goes out to you because with a small child and a business to run, you already have your hands full and this does not help.

If you feel like you need to give this another try, I like the idea of using Google translate and the picture charts with a serious reset conversation. Make it clear to her that you are very upset about her lack of attention to safety and lack of general knowledge in caring for your child. Explain how her attitude appears to you using the same examples you used here and also tell her what you feel an appropriate response would be. Tell her you expect specific improvement in these areas and that you will send her home if she cannot provide the care you hired her to provide. When she is doing something that bothers you/is a problem, address it immediately. This might be a different from how you would normally handle this, but I think that not addressing them on the spot contributes to her thinking that they are not very important. This is a common error many new HPs make by not providing communication/feedback early enough and frequently enough because it is not always an easy thing to do.

Although I also usually advocate for trying a few things to salvage a match, I agree with WestMom that this seems more than cultural and language issues. Although I think no amount of coaching is going to address the perceived attitude problem, what concerns me most is the safety issues you mention. Your child’s safety is important and I think any solution where she leaves as soon as possible is best.

Old China Hand March 3, 2016 at 9:08 pm

Send her home. I normally advocate working to try to improve the situation but I am from Hong Kong and have spent a lot of time in Thailand. This isn’t a cultural difference. This is an ap who needs to go home.

NZ HM March 3, 2016 at 9:24 pm

A big hug from me also and hopefully you’re feeling a little bit better after writing it all down :-)

I agree with other posters: It’s her, not you. Time to send her home and look for a replacement, but I also like the suggestions how to – possibly – make this work (translated or picture schedule, explain issues immediately, talk to her and explain how you want things done or she needs to go).

I would add: have not just a schedule of tasks but a check list for each day with specific duties for that day, if necessary detailing at what time she needs to do each chore. Have her tick them off as she does them. Check with her at the end of each day. If not done by the end of the day or week (depending on tasks and if you need them done at a specific time) ask her to do them there and then even if after hours.

If she standing next to you while you’re vacuuming and holding the baby don’t wait for her to do something; TELL her what you want her to do. Pass her the vacuum cleaner or the baby. Ask her to pick up the flowers. Tell her to finish her tasks if they’re not done.

For now and the future: Never assume anything. Don’t expect common sense. I think this is particularly important when it comes to the family member/ housemate part of the relationship. Communicate and don’t be resentful if she doesn’t ask you ‘what can I do?’ Just give instructions. In your next interview, ask a lot of ‘what would you do if…’ and ‘how do you…’ questions that can’t be answered with yes or no.

NorwayHM March 5, 2016 at 11:45 am

You are right. I really have to work on that, I really do. I have big trouble being very direct and are more comfortable hoping that people will get “the hint” which they usually do. I am not good at being “hard”. Thats absolutely on me.

Mimi March 5, 2016 at 11:57 am

For a lot of HP, tho is the hardest part of managing APs. When you consider the additional complication of cultural norms being different, it can be even harder.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 3, 2016 at 10:44 pm

I usually have a lot to say, but tonight it’s just one question. Why is this woman still in your house? She is a danger to your infant and she does not do her job. You’ve given her more than enough opportunity to do the job and she hasn’t. Her Norwegian vacation is over. Let her go.

HM-Europe March 4, 2016 at 3:34 am

Send her home now. Because I spent a lot of time in Thailand , I can just imagine how she behaves and smiles. It drives you crazy. I met Thai people like this. I even hosted a Thai-Exchange-Student (no chores at all) who behaved just like your AP. He left after 2 weeks because I couldn’t stand it. Of course, I met other Thai people who were very tidy, great cooks and did formidable with babies! But some people never plan and never seem to see the obvious. You won’t change her.

The good news for you is, that there should be European APs available in next to no time. Many German Students get their High-School Diploma during the next weeks, some even next week and still don’t know what to do until Oktober, when university starts. There should be a large pool of applicants available. As a rather experienced HM, I can only advise you to never hire an AP from exotic countries (Africa, Asia) in Europe. Since the agencies just care about the legal part (VISA) they almost never check the skills and personality of the APs. Usually, they do all the writing for the APs, sometimes they even go on the Skype-Interview in place of the AP (without telling the host-families!) – you will only realize when the AP without any knowledge of the claimed language moves into your house…
Stick to European girls, you can even let them fly in for an interview or a week-end considering the low-cost airlines – wou will be much happier! As somebody already proposed: Join APWorld, get a premium-membership (usually the HF does) and start finding somebody new. I just checked: There are more than 200 females from England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France and Denmark looking for an AP-job in Norway starting in April. I bet that 95% are more suitable than your current AP.
All the best!

Frankfurt AP Boy March 4, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Very good points but I might add that an appropriately qualified au pair boy would also be a very good choice ;)))

NorwayHM March 5, 2016 at 11:46 am

Thank you so much for the advice <3

American Host Mom in Europe March 4, 2016 at 5:21 am

I have very little to add that hasn’t already been said, but can sympathize as I’m in another Scandinavian country and the agencies here are worthless. In addition to au pair world, sign up with Great Au Pair. I’ve used both and had a dozen successful Au pairs. I do at least 2 phone interviews, and immediately rule out anyone who struggles to understand and answer my questions (I require that my APs speak proper English with my kids to keep up their native English).

Send your AP packing ASAP. My suggestion is to find someone who can enter Norway as a tourist without a visa (EU, US, Australia, Canada passports, etc.) so you can have someone start right away and buy you three months to find someone longer term. You will find many candidates on APW looking for short term positions.

Good luck. No one should tolerate what you have, and it is definitely the exception rather than the rule.

NJ Mom March 4, 2016 at 11:44 am

I think all the feedback is spot on. Send her home, or at least out of your house. If you are feeling extra generous, you can give her 1 week notice that if she doesn’t complete all her responsibilities in a way that is satisfactory to you during that week, then she needs to leave you house permanently. It really sounds like it would better off without her at all since you’re doing a large portion of her job already plus all the extra work of having her in your house.

My own family’s background is asian oriental and her behavior and attitude is in no way acceptable. This is not a cultural miscommunication.

CAmom22 March 4, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Wow, I’m so sorry. I agree with all of the PP; it’s time to send her home. I doesn’t sound like this situation is salvageable. At all. That said, I would just add one word of advice for the next go around. There were several instances in your letter that made me think you might be letting her take advantage of you. For example you stated “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”.” She clearly did not grasp (or understand?) that by referencing the handbook you were pointing out that you were doing HER work. If she is on duty I think you simply need to hand her the baby or hand her the vacuum cleaner (or both) and tell her that you have your own work to do and that’s why she is on duty. I know it can be hard if it’s not your nature to be direct but I think even some really good au pairs are hesitant to jump in and take over when they see the HM simply doing all the work. If you need for her to do it and she’s not doing it, tell her to do it and go into your office and close the door. BTW, I’m not suggesting you hand the baby to *this* AP as it doesn’t sound like she can be trusted to keep him safe and I really hope you let her go asap, but I do think it’s important to set the stage for the next one so that she can be a real help to you. I’m really sorry you’re going through this right now. Good luck.

WarmStateMomma March 4, 2016 at 3:48 pm


NorwayHM March 5, 2016 at 11:49 am

I know, I have to be more confrontal and direct. In business Im a hard ass but when its whit someone that I have at home, in my home, like this – Im really bad at being direct and confront the person. I feel mean then, which is stupid. And I guess that one part is that if I am to “hard” she might take it out on the baby.

WarmStateMomma March 5, 2016 at 6:23 pm

I’m a litigator – so I’m used to being very confrontational at work. Like you, I HATE confrontation in my home life. The way to do it is to be a hard ass about the rules before you match and when the AP arrives – come up with the strictest rules you need for a worst case scenario. Act like the boss – not her new BFF – when she arrives. Then loosen up the rules as you learn that she is the great person you hoped for.

We were too friendly when the first AP arrived and never managed to get things “on track.” We were all business with the next two when they arrived and then just told them we felt comfortable suspending certain rules because they were so trustworthy. It’s awkward to be The Boss when you want to make this new person feel like a welcome guest, but it saves you so much stress later. When the AP gets an easier gig than expected and you get an AP who respects your boundaries, everyones wins.

NorwayHM March 6, 2016 at 6:08 am

Exactly! Really good advice. THANK you!

exaupair March 4, 2016 at 4:35 pm

I echo everyone above, you should send her home.
The bit that scares me the most though isn’ her poor performance, although it sounds terrible too. But the fact she entered the bathroom to take photos of your naked 4 year old while he was shouting at her to stop is far beyond bad work performance. For that alone you could have get her packing the same day. I know Scandinavians have more relaxed attitude towards nudity, which is perfectly fine, but this is borderline harassment if you come to think about it. A 4 year old deserves his intimacy just like anyone else. Many of you may disagree, but think how you’ feel if someone surprised you in the shower and started taking photos of you. Wouldn’ t you at least tell them to leave?

WarmStateMomma March 4, 2016 at 4:50 pm

I completely agree with you, Exaupair, but respecting a child as a full human is a cultural thing that is not intuitive to people from other times and places where it is less common. I don’t know about Thailand, but in the US, respecting children’s dignity is more common in younger generations than older generations.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 4, 2016 at 7:43 pm

I usually have tons to say, but in this situation, I offer only this: this is not simply a situation of an au pair not living up to her duties. Your child is NOT SAFE in her care. She needs to go immediately.

TexasHM March 5, 2016 at 12:00 am

Agreed with all above. You are obviously unhappy, your 4 year old is unhappy, your baby is happy because you are doing her job all the time, the only person happy with the situation in your house is the AP! You could literally get someone in your house that day one would contribute more than it sounds like she has in the entire 4 months! I hate it when brand new host families get duds like this because you do wonder if its you or if you aren’t fit for hosting. ITS NOT YOU. You got some good advice about being more direct but in this instance I am not convinced she would understand you even if you were more direct and your child isn’t safe so it doesn’t matter anyway! But an aside for the next awesome one (any AP has to be better than this one!) – be more direct as most APs are eager to help and just need a little direction. Hugs and good luck!

Rads March 5, 2016 at 6:44 am

OP, this au pair needs to be sent back to her country. ASAP. You must be a saint to put up with her for so long!

On a side note, taking pics of a naked child – it’s a very cultural thing. I am from India and this is quite normal in Asian culture, if I am not mistaken – at least in my country, we think it’s ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’. You know, like taking pics of puppies or kittens :(. People pinch kids’ cheeks and pat their heads all the time, in public, if they come across what they perceive as a ‘cute’ kid. I myself do not encourage it and have never done it, but then I have au paired in the UK and know my boundaries… but a lot go people who never left their hometown in Asia might not even know that’s considered really bad in the West to take pics of a child (naked or otherwise) without the consent of their parents.

TexasHM March 5, 2016 at 11:13 am

People, I don’t think the OP had a problem with the concept of a naked kid picture, her point was that her child was uncomfortable with it, yelling at her to stop and he was embarrassed! I think we can all agree that’s a big difference between a smiling naked 6 month old. Her child was clearly under duress and the AP thought it was funny/cute. Not ok. Nakedness doesn’t matter. It’s the context.

NorwayHM March 5, 2016 at 11:41 am

Exactly. For me it was more the thing that she did nor respect his integrity. He might be a child, but for me he still has a say on when he wants or don’t want to ba taken pictures of. There was bubbles in the bath so the pictures wouldn’t show much nudity, its more the thing to continue with something someone obviously has a big problem with.

AnotherNorwegianHM March 5, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Being another NorwegianHM, I know that Thai and Phillipino APs is the norm, but there is no reason why an European AP will not work.

But you should really only invite anyone into your home as an AP if the chemistry works when you talk with them on video. I broke that rule ones, it was 3 very painful months before I realised it would never work. I unfortunately accept a lot of missing contributions in the house, but if it does not work with the kids it is a no-go

You should be able to get a new AP from Europe in a couple of weeks. Give your current AP notice today. She still have a month termination period, but tell her that she will be out much sooner if she does not do your minimum requrements. It is a pain to have to ask all the time, but this AP needs it. Also it is good practice for the next AP.

For the next AP, be very explicit on expectation before you match. That often helps. Good luck! It will be a bad month, but it is so much better than a bad year!

Australian Au Pair In Austria March 6, 2016 at 4:40 am

As everyone has said, you’re au pair is essentially taking advantage of you and you could easily find a better au pair with a EU passport (remember there are also people like me, for example, who are Australians/Americans/etc. who have dual citizenship) who could be with you within a couple of weeks. If I didn’t have a great au pair job already right now I’d be sending in an application right now to be honest.

One thing that I did want to point out, however, is that au pairs in Norway are legally only allowed to work 5 hours/day and 30 hours/week, so I’m not sure where you got the 35 hours from? Of course this means that your situation is technically illegal, which you will have to consider when looking for an au pair. But is this situation abusive or taking advantage of the au pair? If everything is as you’ve written it (and you’re following the rest of the laws in relation to pay (5600NOK/month and paying for Norwegian classes) and holidays (25 days/year)), then no way!

You could easily find an au pair that’s independant and can consider the situation critically and see that this situation, even if technically outside of the laws (which were put there for the aupair’s protection) is a pretty sweet deal compared to working 5hrs/day 6 days/week. Especially if they’re allowed to take a bit of a break while baby’s sleeping (so keeping the baby in sight but allowed to do what they want) so they’re not working more than five hours consecutively.

On top of that, your situation would be an absolutely dream job if you lived somewhere with reasonably easy access to either Denmark (so cheap buses around Europe) or an airport that flies to Europe. The ability to go travelling for 4 days any week they want plus having a Norway-sized amount of money to spend? If their job is otherwise a fair deal, then that’s an absolute dream.

As for housework, honestly I think you could ask your au pair to vacuum every working day if that’s what you’d otherwise do when she’s off, along with all the other household tasks you’ve listed, if you’re allowing her to do them while looking after your baby and/or during nap time. It really should never take more than an hour and she’d still have 3 hours of nap time to take a break.

If they hours are kept down to 28 (to people used to the American program, remember that these aupairs are getting paid less than aupairs in America even though everything is way more expensive) then I think going over the 5 hours a week shouldn’t be a problem for an intelligent au pair who can think critically and see that what you’re asking is still clearly within the spirit of the program and also beneficial to them. The only thing I’m not sure about is whether there is the chance that an au pair on a visa would be risking that visa if they do this since they are breaking contract (although likely much less of a problem for an EU au pair) or whether you’d be risking anything by this. If it’s anything like here in Austria though, you’re definitely all safe.

Australian Au Pair In Austria March 6, 2016 at 4:51 am

I also meant to include this link, it’s the Norwegian government website about the rules for au pairs: https://www.udi.no/en/want-to-apply/au-pair/au-pair-permit/?c=aus

Australian Au Pair In Austria March 6, 2016 at 6:06 am

Sorry for so many posts in a row, but I also just found this which is highly relevant:


“The contract has a cancellation period of at least four weeks. This applies to both au pair and host family and takes effect as soon as either party has been informed. Any cancellation needs to be done in writing. Host families may not cancel the contract without giving good reason. The au pair may ask you to provide your cancellation in writing. Your au pair, on the other side, may cancel the contract without giving reasons. In case of a severe breach of contract, both au pairs and host families may cancel the contract with immediate effect.

Should the contract be cancelled before the au pair’s residence permit expires, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) or local police department need to be informed. The cancellation of your contract does not necessarily mean that your au pair must leave Norway immediately.”

So you really need to let your au pair know ASAP that you’re giving them a week to improve and hold up their side of the deal (definitely use google translate for this plus give it to them in writing) then start your 4 weeks at the end of that period. I don’t expect whatsoever that the au pair will truly be able to pick up their game enough to match what a reasonable au pair would do (if they do get close you may just need to find one unsafe thing they do to still have reason to rematch), but it will certainly help your case in having had reasonable cause to end the contact, as well as respecting your au pair enough as a person to not completely blind-side them (as your au pair still seems to have no concept that what they’re doing isn’t okay no matter what you do).

I feel you would need to keep it extremely simple and not worry about being blunt at this point. Just say something along the lines of:
“I’m sorry, but you are not doing everything I need you to do as an au pair. By next Sunday I need you to look after my baby safely without me there. This means X, Y & Z. I also need you to do every single one of these tasks (list ALL tasks). If not, we will end the contract. You can work for us for 4 weeks until [date], then we will have a new au pair and you need to either fly home or find a new host family. You cannot stay with us after that.”

Repeat all of that including why you’re ending the contract a week later, with everything in writing.

NorwayHM March 6, 2016 at 6:18 am

She only works 3 days a week and 7 hours a day 2 days, and 5 h the third which was ok with the agency since she had 4 days off in a row every week and language class 2 times a week, so total working 28 h INCLUDING the babys nap time when I have the monitor and she is off (3 hours a day, 1,5 h each time) and on wednesdays she ends her shift at 3 to go to class – so basically she is working 19 (!) hours a week with the stated salary, the paid classes, a card for public transportation and so on :S

HRHM March 6, 2016 at 6:40 am

I will comment that in the US, when an AP cares for a napping infant, we generally count those hours as work hours. I understand that you are at home and she can be “off” but even 1,5 hours isn’t enough time to get changed, go to the gym, come back and get showered and redressed for work. So if my AP isn’t off for 2-3 hours straight, it’s not really a break for her. For example, she takes my kiddo to sports on wednesday night that is 2 hours long. She drops off and picks up and I would never count the time between as her being “off duty” because it’s too short for her to really be able to do anything with it.

If you are having issues with her getting household tasks done, those napping hours would be prime time to say that is when she has to sweep, do laundry, clean kitchen, etc. Working 5-6 hours a day, it’s not like she needs a mid day break anyway.

WarmStateMomma March 6, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Yes, yes and yes! We expect the AP to get chores done, eat her lunch, etc. during nap time. If she has time left over before the kids wake up – she’s welcome to relax until then.

Australian Au Pair In Austria March 6, 2016 at 7:38 am

Yeah, as I was saying, it sounds like a really good deal you’ve got going and I would totally being applying right now if I was looking for a family. You should be able to reasonably easily get an au pair that is willing to do everything you ask if you look on au pair world.

But you’re still breaking your contract and Norwegian employment law with this arrangement (see: https://www.udi.no/skal-soke/au-pair/au-pair-tillatelse/?c=aus) because she’s regularly working more than 5 hours in one day. Your agency really shouldn’t have okayed it, but they did since more host families = more money for them.

But if you can (aka. when you do) find an au pair that doesn’t mind this (because they see that what you’re offering is a great opportunity, I feel like it would be fair and in the spirit of the program to say that all of those 28 hours are “on” hours (so you should be free to leave the house and do whatever you need to without having any worries about your baby being well looked after). However one of those naps (1.5 hours) she needs to be doing housework while making sure baby is okay (maybe give her a daily list that usually takes about 1 hour, for some wriggle room incase something comes up) while the other she can rest and do what she wants as long as she stays with an eye on your baby, so within the same room or next to the monitor.

I feel like that would be very fair to both sides, so the au pair is essentially “going” for 8.5 hours a day, but the fact that they get 4 days off in a row makes up for working more a day than they should as an au pair.

NorwayHM March 6, 2016 at 9:43 am

If you look it actually says “The working hours must NORMALLY not exceed five hours a day, and the maximum number of working hours per week is 30. You cannot work more than 30 hours, not even for extra pay. ”

That was what the agency was referring to – we keep her under the 30 hours/week and she ALWAYS has 4 free days in a row to relax. I think thats how it was ok with the exceeding the 5 hour/day.

Australian Au Pair In Austria March 6, 2016 at 10:55 am

I guess we’re just taking this two different ways, I was taking the normally to mean that it’s okay if maybe once a month it’s okay to work 6-7 hours if necessary, but an arrangement like yours where 2/3 work days are over 5 hours would be outside the contract.

As I said, lots of smart women would be able to see the benefits of what you’re offering and would jump at it. But just be careful and as you’re taking into account that you’re asking for something extra and give time off appropriately (as you’re doing with 4 days off). As long as you’re doing that you’re not taking advantage of au pairs (which this rule is meant to prevent) and you’ll have a choice of some great young women.

TexasHM March 6, 2016 at 9:37 am

I would consider this situation a “severe breach of contract” because AP was hired to care for an infant and cannot do so safely even long enough for HM to run an errand! No 4 more weeks. Absolutely not.

NorwayHM March 6, 2016 at 9:38 am

And wouldn’t stating you have a drivers licens (aka can drive) if not also be kind of severe breach? We were expecting her to be able to drive to do some of the stuff we needed help with (picking up kids etc).

Australian Au Pair In Austria March 6, 2016 at 10:01 am

I know that I wrote all the above assuming you would be giving 4 weeks, but you really could also say here that it’s a severe breach of contract. Especially if you’ve written specific things in the “tasks” section on the contract that she’s unable to do (especially if you mentioned anything involving driving here or sole care)… but I think no matter what you really could just end the contract here.

I think it’s more here about whether you’d need to 4 weeks anyway to find a new au pair (if the au pair is contributing anything at all that you’d struggle to go without, if not then this probably doesn’t matter) and whether you’d feel that the au pair would be safe if you gave her very little notice and she didn’t have anywhere else to go. If she has little savings she could have no way of getting home (very irresponsible, but possible since your au pair seems fairly out-of-it) since au pairs that go to Norway through an agency may just have been told that their host families will pay their flight back. At least two or so weeks may be needed to organise everything and get money from family back home.

NorwayHM March 6, 2016 at 10:19 am

She has been traveling to 5 or 6 countries since getting here and the money is clearly no issue for her :S I wouldn’t put her in harm in any way but if we manage to get someone to come in 3 weeks i would rather like her to go so the other could start as soon as possible…

Australian Au Pair In Austria March 6, 2016 at 10:57 am

That’s definitely understandable and I think you’d be very fair in giving less notice, all considered. As long as you explain all of this and get it in writing to your au pair you should have no problems.

New to This March 6, 2016 at 12:52 pm

I would add that if you do need to let her stay in your house a few weeks before she can get home (I’m guessing a last-minute plane ticket to Thailand still dwarfs the cost of travel around Europe), but you’ve already terminated her employment, you should be able to treat her as a houseguest for whom you’re doing a favor, rather than as an employee. You certainly shouldn’t have to continue paying her, and if you need to get her room ready for a new arrival, you can move her to a living room couch or similar. I might also tell her no more weekends away, etc., since she should be using any spare cash to get out of your house — if only into a local hostel or something — ASAP. That might reduce any incentive for her to try to claim hardship as a pretext for extending her European vacation.

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