When What Host Parents Want Isn’t Quite What Host Parents Do

by cv harquail on September 1, 2015

Sometimes I look at my Au Pair handbook and roll my eyes.

It is more fantasy than reality. More aspirational than actual.

144335017_7c78b52a47_mI look at the way I’ve described our family life:

We’re a fun loving family who enjoys playing together“, and I think of all the times I’d have preferred to stay on the couch rather than go for a walk.

I know I *want* us to become an active family, and sometimes I’m just too lazy.

I look at my expectations about mealtimes:

We like to eat dinner as a family, with simple home cooked meals“, and I wonder if defrosted lasagna counts as “home cooked”.

I know I want to eat only healthy, whole foods, but yes there is a box of Cheez Its in my desk drawer.

I look at how I’ve asked my Au Pairs to treat the girls:

Never yell at the girls. Take a deep breath, and try telling them a second time what they need to do“, and I think about the number I’ve times I’ve been glad my neighbors weren’t home to hear me completely lose it.

 I want to be that cool, calm and cozy mom, not the monster who only complains.

That gap between what I want for our family and what I’m able to create, on any given day?

It’s, um, huge.

And the gap between where we are and where I want us to be?

On our very best days, we make it there. Other days, not so much.

  • So how can I even imagine asking an Au Pair to hold herself to standards that I can’t reliably meet?
  • How can I keep shooting to achieve what I want for our family, even when I slip up time and again?

Or as this Dreaming?Host Mom asks,

Can we just do a “Whole Family Reset”?

How should I address the fact that the way we *actually* do things is not the we *want* to do things?

Should I choose one area at a time?  Or just have a “household reset?” 

The 4 main areas I want to rein in & improve our family are:

better nutrition,
less screen time / more activity,
nurturing each child one on one, and
a more ordered & calm household.

Our (my) standards have gradually slipped into “survival mode.”  I’ll do spurts of healthy meals, evening trips to the park, supervising the older children doing chores, etc. But then I get exhausted and it’s back to unsupervised snacking & pizza dinner, hours of TV while I clean up, and lightning fast baths.

The kids are old enough to understand that we are changing our ways. I don’t think they’ll be resentful or “blame” the Au Pair if things start to change. I’m just looking for practical tips to overcome 5 plus years of (lack of) momentum.


Image of a Blackbird by Neal Sanche on Flickr


Rural host mom September 1, 2015 at 7:33 pm

I have pretty high standards for our au pair and did for former nannies. My take on it is that I’m doing what I can around parenting and my job, while child care IS their job. So, I might have to leave my breakfast dish in the sink until later when I rush out to work (and it’s definitely my responsibility to get it later) but it’s her job to pick up after my kids’ breakfast, and leaving those is not okay – especially since she works a split schedule which I pad with time for such chores.
I had to train pretty hard and not let up – sure she could let vacuuming the play room go and it only takes 2 minutes, but all the little things add up. Now that she’s on top of her stuff, I can stay manageably on top of mine, and we truly have more happy time together. I looked at all the things an au pair could reasonably do with the workload of my children, and picked the things that had the most payoff for me. Then I choose the three most important to start with. Once they were in a routine, I expanded a little. (For a lot of reasons, an instant make-over would not have been successful for our family).

Host Mom in Paradise September 11, 2015 at 3:05 pm

I would love to see the list of things from which you chose the top three for you (and the rest for your au pair). Would you mind sharing?

IntellectualMom September 2, 2015 at 12:16 am

I identify with this post and with Rural Host mom’s comment above – our new aupair is 10 days into the job and already I need to have that reset chat. She isn’t picking up the toys after playing with the kids (ideally she would lead them in picking up after themselves, right?) and I am doing all the laundry and folding (I thought she should ease into the job and get settled and then she could start doing more chores – mistake! She hasn’t touched a vacuum) Tonight, while she was off with friends, I had to put away all the puzzles and games in the living room that she and the kids played with earlier while I was at work and putting away loads of laundry. I can’t get my work done and be a good, available, happy mom without more support from her. This au pair is not too detail orientated. And she already wants to have a playdate with another au pair who lives 40 minutes away with her HC on a morning she has my 3 year old to herself (the others will be in school).
On the other hand, the kids are pretty happy with her since she isn’t a nagger. And I hate the part of the program that entails having to manage staff at home. I wish there was a way I could just say please read the handbook and pay attention to the parts about chores etc. but her English isn’t so good. I’ll really have to go through it carefully with her and feel like an annoying, demanding HM the whole time. Any tips from others to make the reset conversation go smoothly? Rural host mom, how did you “train pretty hard” and keep it pleasant?

Rural Host mom September 2, 2015 at 7:57 am

I think feedback is key in training. As I said, I took the whole list of what needs to happen and broke it down to chunks. Whatever I put in the notebook for the day, I reviewed with her at the end of a shift – I thanked her for what she did, and asked about what didn’t happen – did she forget, not understand, not have enough time, and always said (am still saying)- this is professional, not personal, and it’s part of training. So, she had an opportunity to let me know what was going on. I could write “vacuum play mat” three days in a row and she not do it. But, if I ask at the end of every day and she knows I’m checking, it will get done. Once she was more consistent with the first set of most important chores, I added on. There were days I felt I was being hard, but it’s her job, and I do what my boss asks me to at my job. I also make sure that on weekends I do as much as I ask her to do on a normal day (and really, with someone keeping up M-F what I do on the weekends takes much less time than it used to!)
At our weekly meeting we have 3 categories: what’s going well, suggestions, and need to improve. We always let her start with what’s going well for her and how can we help her with other areas. We try really hard not to pull out the laundry list of minor annoyances.

WarmStateMomma September 2, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Create a daily log where she hits down info about naptimes, lunch, whatever. Add a space for her to circle “yes” or “no” for whether certain daily or weekly tasks have been completed. It’s a daily reminder for her without the discomfort of nagging her yourself. This has worked very well for our family.

Mimi September 2, 2015 at 6:21 pm

This is what I do. It’s a good training tool and then later a visual reminder.

FirstTimeHM September 2, 2015 at 3:33 am

Does your husband support you in this?
My strategy would be to first get him to sit with me, look at the hours we make at work, look at the amount of chores that still need to be done at home, look at the amount of energy we usually have and then decide what’s important and what not. Last time we did this, we weren’t happy with the amount of clutter that seemed to become standard and with the little amount of time we were able to spend together. So we had a good look at the cupboards and did a lot of cleaning up, and we scheduled a regular date night, and we both make an effort to keep our weekend working hours a lot lower.
We’ve sat down with the AP (only when we’re both on the same page) and asked her if she could pay a bit more attention to keeping everything tidy and if she’d be willing to babysit on a date night regularly or that we need to bring in a babysitter.

American Host Mom in Europe September 2, 2015 at 4:27 am

We just did a “whole family reset” on two things this week, with a new au pair who started week two on Monday (her first week was overlap with outgoing au pair).

We focused on two things — the kids’ bad table manners (playing during dinner, eating with fingers), and not leaving toys out all over the house. Our last au pair was not great about making sure the kids picked up after themselves, and I realised because she was great at other stuff, I’d let that slip, but it was creating stress for my husband and me. And we’ve all been letting the kids slip at meals. So Husband and I agreed on an action plan for these two issues, and told the kids, and told the au pair, and we are reinforcing it every day at meals and in the afternoons when they are playing. And I’m reminding the au pair how this is a really important part of her job, as she’s with the kids when they are playing more than we are.

And I’m giving lots of positive reinforcement to AP when I see her doing other things I’d like to see more of (she got oldest child outside to play soccer yesterday while I was out with the other two! Hurrah for more outdoor activity!).

I think it is key to focus, make sure both parents are on the same page and AP understands how important it is (and kids do!), and then reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.

FirstTimeHM September 3, 2015 at 6:49 am

Yes, compliments are a really good way of reinforcing behaviour. We try to do that as much as possible and it works really well for us.
Another way that works for us is based on the core qualities model of Ofman. My youngest daughter is very modest but tends to get too little attention. When I try to get her to stand up for herself I praise her for her modesty but will tell her that she’s overdoing it a bit and that we really like to hear more from her, that she matters a lot to us and that her ideas matter to us.
My oldest son is sometimes hard to overlook, he’s the opposite. I’ll tell him that it’s good that he stands up for himself, but that he’s overdoing it. He matters, but others matter as well and we like to hear everyone’s voice.
It’s a model that’s used for teambuilding a lot in our country.

IntellectualMom September 2, 2015 at 9:37 am

Oh, I like that idea of writing in the chores I need done that day into the schedule. I think I must have been spoiled with our last AP who took initiative with laundry and was very tidy and organized. I’ll try writing in specific chores as you suggest and I also like the structure you use for meetings. Thanks!

DCMomof3 September 2, 2015 at 10:29 am

I have a weekly list that does not change – i.e. Monday grocery shop, Tuesday, kids laundry (explicitly states wash, fold and put away after having some au pairs miss one or more of the steps), Wednesday clean kids/au pair bathroom, etc. And each day, I write down anything extra that needs to be done that day – prepare pork chops for dinner, put away extra shoes piling up in mud room, etc. All of this is posted in my AP “work area” which the AP needs to check each morning at the start of her shift. Some au pairs will go beyond the list, some will not, but I think its very important to set the baseline with a checklist of things that must get done each day.

NewAPMom September 2, 2015 at 10:10 am

With our first AP she did was not doing the laundry, tidying up, etc. I was about to lose in 2-3 weeks in, and I hate managing “staff.” So I made up a “cheat sheet” of daily chores and weekly chores, put down everything I needed to get down and went over it with her. Helped a lot. Every now and then she needed a refresher though.

LuckyHM#3 September 2, 2015 at 11:48 am

For me, I include a section on AP duties in the handbook which is shared weeks before we match. Once she arrives, we go over everything. I tend to leave timing of the duties to their discretion since my kids are go to school every day, even my youngest is in preschool 5hr/day M-F e.g., I say choose a day to wash and fold and put away all the kids clothes before i come back from work. We only do laundry once a week so this is not a bog deal but AP2 still argued why she had to do it before i came back and that I didnt specifically schedule it. She wasnt a good fit given that my APs have more than 10 hours not scheduled and i expect them to figure out when to do these minor chores. AP1 and AP3 all seem happy to be given the freedom to decide.

Reluctant Grownup September 2, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Hi Fellow Host Moms,

Many thanks for all of these great tips and ideas. I want to emphasize that this is probably not as much an Au pair training issue as a parenting issue. For some more context, I’m a first time HM (about 1 month in), and a stay at home mom with four children – ages 11, 9, 6, and almost 2. So there’s a different dynamic – the only reason I have to leave messes behind is toddler safety and I’m not an octopus.

The older kids are capable of helping, and I’m encouraging them to help more. Everyone contributing is not the norm after 5 years of “survival mode.” I put reward systems in place, but sporadically.

This is the first time we’ve hosted, and I’m using this consistent support to try & reset our family norms. I think people are right that addressing 1 or 2 areas at a time is the best strategy. Cleaning up after themselves & getting their faces out of screens are my top two. School starting and our wonderful Au pair are helping hugely.

I’m finding parenting older kids, especially motivating them, very challenging. Sticker charts don’t cut it anymore. Choruses of “that’s not my mess” abound… Since I like my household orderly, I got into a bad habit over the years – “go away and watch something so I can blast music and clean up.” My husband works 60-80 hours a week, and I chose doing things myself over ensuring the children would.

So, now the kids are thinking ” lucky us, 2 slaves instead of 1….” (Not quite this bad- they are sweet kids in bad habits…) So, specifically, any more tips on – older kids respecting an Au pair, Au pairs motivating older kids, and SAHMs working alongside an Au pair?

dcmomof3 September 3, 2015 at 9:04 am

I would LOVE to have a discussion on this as well! My kids are 11, 9 and 6. I primarily work from home and hear them interacting with our au pair who arrived last week. If I were her, I’d be requesting rematch right now! Not that we don’t have a nice set up, fair hours, and all the rest, but really, what 18 year old girl wants an 11 year old boy telling her to go away when she is trying to get him to brush his teeth or engage in other necessary hygiene, a 9 year old freaking out over not being allowed to play x-box until he clears the table, or a 6 year old shooting her with a nerf gun. The whole scene is appalling.

I too like an orderly household and have a husband who comes home at like 8 pm every night. Part of the reason why I still schedule the AP for about 40 hours per week is to help me keep order in the house, to ensure that we sit down to an actual meal each night and all the rest. The AP spends a lot of time tidying up when the kids are not here, which is probably the best part of her day. When they are here, they fight a lot. The older boys get mad when they are trying to do homework (after the fight to get them to do the homework in the first place) and the little one is just running around making noise. They push back on like, well, everything. I barely want to be here myself.

dcmomof3 September 3, 2015 at 9:11 am

In terms of advice on this, one thing that works well (sort of) is withholding things that they seriously love. I tell my new AP to hide the X-box remotes first thing each morning and not turn them over to the boys until they’ve eaten breakfast, cleared their plates, cleaned up their mess in the living room, dressed, teeth brushed, and have backpack ready by the door. This forces them to actually do everything that they are supposed to do, but not without them complaining that AP is ruining all their play time, AP sucks, etc. So, it works to get them to do what they are supposed to, but I can’t stand all of the disrespect for the AP that goes along with it.
Same with sports practice. One son is a baseball nut, but if he is disrespectful, we don’t drive him to practice, or take him very, very late. It works for like a day or 2 where he will be nice and polite to the AP, but let’s just say he is missing lots of baseball right now.
I KNOW that things would be better if I had a male AP b/c these boys are alpha males and totally respect male authority, but my husband read one article in the NYT on pedophiles’ tendency to try to work in jobs with children and the possibility of a male AP is completely off the table. Lucky me, he is at work all the time and I am the one at home dealing with the consequences of his decision.

Mimi September 7, 2015 at 5:13 pm

My oldest has always been of the mindset that the AP is for everyone but him. Now that he’s 11, it’s even more eyerollingly fun. When our APs start, I schedule time in the first two weeks for him to have one on one bonding experiences to establish a relationship wth them independently. This usually fosters cooperation so that hiding the electronics becomes plan c instead of a go to necessity.

NJ Mama September 2, 2015 at 4:36 pm

I can completely relate to the OP.
I started having “family resets” a few years ago. It just sort of happened. I noticed that for two years in a row, we would have to do a reset after winter break. I guess being out of a routine — one that includes lots of fun, few chores, and eating Christmas cookies — I noticed it was really hard to get back on track. After reading this blog, and having a child with ADHD who needs a boost in structure from time to time, I’ve started doing family resets several times a year — typically after winter break, after spring break (spring break to summer is a tough time for ADHD kids), at the start of summer (more to help the au pair to switch gears) and of course at the start of the school year.

I personally focus on two areas — 1) healthy eating/lifestyle, which is hard when you have a skinny picky eater and a heavier eater who likes fruits and vegetables– but likes food too much, and 2) family responsibilities. These are two big areas and they sort of encompass two of the three areas the OP mentioned. What I do is I type up a “healthy eating plan,” which includes an outline of what’s OK for breakfast, lunch and dinners. This way the AP has guidelines. Then I talk to the kids and AP about it separately — and then together. This way everyone is on the same page. And finally, I’ll ask the AP and the kids at night about what they had for dinner or did they have the dinner I left for them – why or why not? I think it’s good to do followup, not every day but a few times a week.

As for chores – I am big on daily checklists for APs and for kids – although I’ve had mixed results with the kids. Recently what’s worked well is I’ve started doing a “pay for performance” for my kids, modeled after this http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/28/dont-just-pay-for-chores-pay-for-performance/

I don’t pay as much as the family does in the article. But I have found that it’s good to reward each kid for how well they perform their duties – and that includes chores as well as things like doing homework, making their lunches, and practicing instruments without the AP or parent nagging (as explained in the article.) Now if the kids want to buy a toy or a new nerf gun, they have to save for it. It’s on them. I’ve already told my kids we’ll be revising last year’s school chart for the new year, which starts next week. and the AP will oversee it and let me know how well they’ve performed each week. Interestingly, there was one week last year when my younger daughter opted not to do any chores, and she was not paid. And then she decided next week she would do them. And she has ever since.

I also found that making it clear to the kids that keeping the house clean is as much their responsibility as it is the AP’s is a big part of it. The other thing I do is I look over their school schedule, and I help them figure out when they should do the chores so it becomes part of the routine. As they get older and their after-school activities last longer, helping them schedule things in is really key. It also makes the AP’s job easier if everyone knows that at a certain time, they have to do homework. (for us the kids get 10-15 minutes to decompress after school, and then it’s homework time). This is also a good way to schedule in screen time. So you can tell the kids they get 20 minutes after homework is done, or 20 minutes after dinner- whatever works for your schedule. So the AP’s job morphs into overseeing chores and the schedule. That becomes the priority. Also while I used to let the AP decide which days to do laundry, etc., now I assign them days to do it. This leads to fewer fights between AP and the kids over why isn’t my XX clean? And I’ve found the kids like it when they know the AP is supposed to do certain things on certain days too. Everything runs better.

As for spending more one-on-one time with the kids – it’s really hard! For awhile I was letting each kid choose a night a week when they get me to themselves for 20 minutes. We could read stories or do whatever they want. My kids opted to combine their “me time” into “we time,” so instead of child 1 having her time with me on Mondays and child 2 having her time with me on Wednesdays, they both have me together Mondays and Wednesdays. I know it sounds silly but they really like it. And in the end the kids know they have me to themselves and as long as they’re happy I am too.

Like everything, we do start off strongly. And then taper off. So for me, having resets several times a year — and knowing one is right around the corner – is really helpful. It also helps me to beat myself up less. When things start to fall apart — usually about 4-6 weeks in, I’ll say to myself .. well the reset is right around the corner.

OK one last thing — none of this is full proof, and no one is perfect. For example, starting in the spring especially my last au pair was not great overseeing healthy eating for the kids for just a variety of reasons I won’t bore you with. And I got tired of pushing it, which I regretted when we went to the well visit and the pediatrician raised concerns about my younger daughter’s weight. So we had what felt like the 100th conversation about it, and I really impressed upon her that these “special occasion” treats were happening too often, and if you have rigatoni one night you shouldn’t have ravioli the next. And serving sizes should be smaller, etc. So that finally improved, and when matching with the new AP we discussed healthy eating at great length. So my last point would be this: in your mind, decide what needs to be the priority. For me healthy eating is our main focus now. It’s a big one and it’s hard one for working parents. And right now I’d prefer to see continued improvement there over a clean house, although a clean house is nice too!

Taking a Computer Lunch September 3, 2015 at 7:16 am

I think APs underestimate how much their own bad eating habits reflect on their HK. The only AP with whom we ever went into rematch, once ate french fries for dinner in front of child #2. In the 8 weeks she lived in our house, eating a steady diet of junk food, he started to pick up her bad habits (I personally thought she was bulemic, because she was rail thin) and gained a lot of weight. It took the well child visit and a lecture from the pediatrician to convince him that he could not drink a soda and eat a bag of potato chips every day. Most of my European APs have been slightly to moderately overweight over the years, and after the initial weight gain from the Cheesecake Factory and Starbucks (freshman 15, anyone?), most have joined a gym or done something healthy to control it.

My AP is only in charge of feeding The Camel, and we cook, package, and freeze dinner-size portions for the AP to reheat. The AP is not in charge of feeding my other teenager, so I work on him to understand how important it is to eat a balanced diet (and impress on his father who is home in the morning, how important it is to double check!)

But, as someone who ate Fruit Loops every morning for breakfast during her freshman year, and lived on tofu and salads for the remainder of college, I understand that no matter how much they tell me that they eat healthy food, precious few APs really understand about nutrition or appropriate portion sizes for children!

NJ Mama September 3, 2015 at 9:25 am

I completely agree! Also my last AP had one of the more strange diets. When we interviewed, she told me how much she liked vegetables and how much she liked to cook – both were true. I didn’t question the food thing too much, and what happened is that she didn’t eat a lot of meat – and yet wasn’t vegetarian. She didn’t like to cook meat or fish at all. And her favorite tofu-based foods were really high in calories.

A things were going one. 1) she was way way too lax about heating up the chicken breasts and other meals I cooked over the weekend to serve as food. 2) her portion sizes were way too big. 3) she caved too easily to my older (and pickier) daughter’s demands b/c she didn’t like the foods I prepared over the weekend, hence the multiple nights of pasta. and 4) the treats…. she once told me that her mother commented how awful I was that I asked her not to give my younger one candy during the week. And like you, it took the lecture from the pediatrician for her to finally reform her ways. It just wasn’t healthy. I found out later that they were taking trips to the 7-11 for icees once a week. and having candy almost every day. It would have been one thing if it was a small piece but it was more like a large candy bar. And I didn’t realize how bad it was until I noticed the pounds piling on. Toward the end when the AP was just not into the job anymore, they were watching way too much TV and not playing enough outside. So … it was bad.

What I learned from this experience is this: For many years I had been so focused on finding an au pair that helped meet my older daughter’s needs, b/c my older daughter has anxiety and ADHD and can be very difficult to manage. in doing so, I overlooked the needs of the easier younger daughter. She’s always been a chubby kid, and having a caregiver with bad eating habits was a recipe for disaster (excuse the pun). However, this AP was also amazing with my oldest – honestly they had the closest relationship of all. So I let it slide too much. I should have stopped it sooner.

This year when interviewing I tried to focus on both needs. And right now — now that we are all managing my older daughter’s ADHD and anxiety — my daughter mostly of course — it’s time to shift the focus on the eating.

The eating thing is hard. I struggled with my weight as a kid. I don’t want to make food the focus. So it’s hard for me to work with my kids with it – and of course that much harder for the au pair. Things are going well now and fingers crossed they continue.

Schnitzelpizza September 7, 2015 at 5:58 am

Great topic… as I desperately (!) need to have a reset conversation with DH. Again.

We always fight about the same (and only) topic of “helping with household duties” as we both work full-time (I actually work 10 hours more than him) and he thinks taking out the trash every other day is plenty to ask from him. His list of chores is short (dinner dishes, trash, kitty litter) and still doesn’t get done. Until I break down crying, tell him he behaves like a spolied teenage brat, threaten him with divorce, and he picks up for a week or two and then just falls back into old behaviour.
Twice a week I am home earlier than he is and vacuum, wash windows, clean the bathroom, pick up after everybody (and the cats). I am the one who does the odd chores like re-painting the bathroom, cleaning the balcony tiles, sweeping the rented parking spot, washing the curtains, driving out to the pet store to buy kitty litter. Plus cook all evening meals (even though I am home after 8 pm twice a week and would love to come home to food on the table). While he does all the manly things like… watching tv. Or playing computer games. It drives me mental.

I was gone for the weekend and just looking at the mess last night I am sure we are at the four week mark again. But hey, he ordered pizza last night. I guess that counts as cooking. I so want us to be that family that can have guests over without two week notice and a hissy fit (or two) by me.

FirstTimeHM September 7, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Hmmm, is the mess not a problem for him? Doesn’t he see what needs to be done? Some men are like that…
A friend of mine moved out for a month, she was so fed up with it (and they weren’t married yet) that she went back to dating him and lived with a friend for that period. It was a huge wakeup call for him and he actually got tired of his own mess. He’s still lazy, but it hasn’t been that bad for over a year now. Somehow he needed to realize that it was also his home and his partner wasn’t his housekeeper.
Concerning dinner, I usually cook two meals extra during the weekend and put them in the freezer for days we’re both home late. Perhaps that’s on option for you as well.
The cantine in my company (and also in my husbands company) serves hot meals as well. Before we had kids, we had dinner at work if we were both working late. I get cranky if I’m hungry so it saved us both time and arguments.
And perhaps a cleaning lady for a few hours a week could take some load of your back as well. If he’s opposed to the costs, he needs to step in more.

Jessi September 8, 2015 at 8:12 am

Can you hire someone to come in twice a week and do a tidy and some dinner prep? Because it sounds like you can yell and get as upset at your husband as you like (and you have done) but he either just doesn’t get how important it is to you/ how stressful you find it or he just doesn’t care.

I’m assuming that since you are on this website you have an au pair. Can you schedule him/her to cook twice, or 3 times a week? If this isn’t possible with your current AP maybe you can screen for one who cooks next time?

If you have an AP they (and the kids themselves) should be picking up after the kids, if you pick up after yourself that just leaves DH’s stuff and id be leaving that for him……..

Schnitzelpizza September 8, 2015 at 8:11 am

Nope. He doesn’t see it. [Or he pretends he doesn’t see it?]

I was fine with him doing less when he worked more than I plus had a longer commute (55 hr week plus 2 hour commute per day). But now that he only works 38 hrs and is at work in less than 5 minutes… Instead of moving out I simply didn’t do any housework a few years back. Nothing for four weeks. Not a good idea. Took me a month to get rid of the mess. And I really didn’t enjoy stepping into spilled milk coffee (with sugar so sticky) or cat vomit on my way to work. I have suggested getting a cleaning lady, which would be feasible financially, which he is totally opposed to.
I tried to make freezer meals, but of course teenage-husband doesn’t like frozen dinners (mommy never did that… mommy also didn’t work until he was 15 but heeeey, who is counting?). Plus, I also work every other Saturday and thus have to cram in a lot of housework on Sundays meaning that I just don’t have the energy (I have a chronic illness… and my spoons are just gone after a 55 hour work week, I need the day to recharge my batteries because otherwise my hormones go crazy and I end up with anxiety and panick attacks). If I am cooking something that is easily made in bulk (chili etc.) I will make extra and freeze but mostly for myself as he will eat it but make a face (teeeeenager).

We have just started the process of buying our first own apartment and things really have to change because I am not going on as it is. I love him. He is super supportive. He is my rock. He suffers through my anxiety without complaining (and we have missed more than one festivity because I was curled up on the couch crying). He goes to buy me ice cream at midnight (even if I am not pregnant). He is the only person I could imagine spending the rest of my life with. We have been married for eight years and living together for eleven. But the whole not doing chores thing… I feel like I am his mom. We have the same discussion every month, it’s the only thing we ever fight about and I just don’t want to fight about it any more. I am so done with it. Too much energy spent on nothing.

LuckyHM#3 September 8, 2015 at 2:35 pm

I feel for you.. You sound really down about this. Hugs!!!

I;m not sure why you need his approval to get a cleaning service? Do you have money to pay for it yourself or so you need him to pay for it. I say if you can afford it then go for it because you really sound at your wits end.

In my case, getting a cleaning when our twins turned 1 was the best thing that happened to DH and I. My husband is uber tidy so no issues there. My issue was usually that he didnt want to clean when i wanted. We would divide the cleaning chores on a Saturday morning and then I would say, let’s clean and he wanted to watch sports and clean piecemeal later – i hate procrastination. That didnt make sense to me so we would argue about that over and over till I got tired. Nothing to fight over anymore. Now if I ask her to do repairs and he procrastinate, then I will call a repair person and pay them to do it.

FirstTimeHM September 8, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Hmmm, difficult position.
My husband was opposed to a cleaning lady because she would be in our house and possibly going through our things while we are away. It helped a lot that I arranged things so she could come while I was there and that we cleaned our bedroom ourselves (well, that usually boils down to me). But in the end, I simply hired one and told him that we’ll try it out for a month.
But concerning dinner, he can cook as well! If he won’t he shouldn’t make faces over a frozen one. My husband can cook quite adequately if he doesn’t have to think about what he should make. I usually put down a note about what we’re going to have, that works for us.
He knows about your illness, he knows about your long hours and having to work on Saturday every other week, he knows the consequences if you don’t have enough time to recharge. He knows you should take better care of yourself, and please do! You love him, no doubt about that, you want him to be happy and you want to do things as you both agreed upon. But sometimes you also need to value yourself enough to do what it takes to stay as healthy as possible, also if that means hiring a cleaning lady if he’s still opposed to that.
A big hug! This is a really difficult situation.

old au pair mom September 16, 2015 at 3:07 pm

I am amazed by all you do. Hire a cleaning person tomorrow, let them do all the heavy lifting and concentrate on easy meals. You need to be much kinder to yourself. In a million years I would never think to wash curtains or paint rooms. Send the curtains to the drycleaner with DH on his way to work, have him take his laundry there also. Have him stop at the market for a prepared meal 2xs a week on his way home. Don’t nag, just state what needs to be done. On those meal nights don’t have anything ready, say you were counting on him to provide the meal. This is a natural consequence. Further, not to nag, but you should not be eating at 8pm. Such eating habits are not good for any chronic illness. Eat a reasonable dinner at your office, have the AP prepare, feed and bed down your kiddos before you even walk in the door, even if they just stay reading in bed. Think how much peace that would give your life.
When I read your posts, it seems you are on a treadmill of endless work. You will feel so much better if you hop off and try on a new way of thinking. For fun, call his mom and complain. Threaten to return him for further training. Perhaps he, like an AP, would benefit from a written schedule for his chores.

You don’t say how old your kiddos are, but teaching them to clean up after one activity before they go the next does help. Also, pick your kids’ toys for less mess, less pieces. Turn throwing lego back into the container into a game. It really benefits their eye hand coordination, even for the very young ones. As noted often on this site, pick your top 2 or 3 issues and go after those, and let the others, well, fester for a month until you have the first 3 under control. I wish you luck, but think long and hard before making a huge monetary commitment with someone who fails to understand that the care of the home and family is genderless.

If I can change the subject, our AP left unexpectedly in June. We are still unclear what happened and we assume she was hired by another family but not without a big stink on the way out the door, possibly in hopes of scoring a plane ticket home. Readers of this blog know that just doesn’t happen, and of course I did tell her, but….. We have had APs for more than a decade and really are winding down, so we aren’t inclined to commit for a full year and pay more $, but rather, seek a transition AP to finish the remaining 9 months on our contract. While we are in agreement that we love an AP who can do the child related chores and work on language or sports skills, we are just kind of weary and wary. Any advice for looking for a transition AP who can work with a now small family who will be kind and considerate, but not one that is looking to watch tv together at night with their AP?

TexasHM September 17, 2015 at 12:12 am

There’s a FB page called au pair host family matchmaker cafe I think and families and APs can post from all agencies to find matches. I would go on there and by super specific about who you are, what you desire and what your requirements are and no doubt you will get candidates. There are plenty of rematch APs that just want a family that follows the state dept rules that would love a second shot at fulfilling their year. This is especially helpful for agencies that have exclusive matching because it allows you to see candidates that might already be tied up in someone else’s profile vs sitting around and checking the site all the time. Good luck!

old au pair mom September 17, 2015 at 10:47 am

thank you!

Elisabeth September 19, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Former AP speaking. I agree completely with this article. Childcare is our primary job, so we shouldn’t be sat there thinking “well HM and HD don’t do this, so why should I?” However, in certain situations, I think it is acceptable for us to wonder about the differences. One being mealtimes. There are families who are dead set on healthy eating and ask that their AP make healthy meals for the kids, which I agree with, I don’t think any child should be given fried or ‘fast’ food on a regular basis, but as I said, there are families who would scold their AP for giving in one night and giving the kids chicken nuggets, but the parents actually feed their kids rubbish for every meal that they make for their kids, and never bother to attempt a healthy meal. Then when it comes back to the working week, the AP has a terrible time getting the kids to eat vegetables again because “mommy and daddy let me have X.” And also the same with the children getting their own way… Many a time I was told that the parents appreciate and encourage me disciplining the children, but they wouldn’t do it themselves. I would say no to extra screen time, or no to more unhealthy snacks an hour before dinner time, or no to a number of other things, but then as soon as the parents walked in the door (or also on weekends, when the parents had sole charge) the kids would get whatever they wanted, and not back me up in the slightest. I understand completely that a HP has had a tough day at work, but when they walk through the door and go against what their AP has said, and gives darling HK whatever their heart desires, it really is like a knife in the back to the AP. And as a parent, something like discipline, cannot be put on the back burner because you’re tired. It’s something that needs to be stuck by 100% IMO, it’s one of the most important things about being a parent. It’s guidance and setting them up for the future. Some might say to me “you don’t have kids, you have no idea.” But I do have an idea. I’ve worked with tons of children, in and out of the AP life, and I DO have an idea of how tiring it can be. I DO know how tough it can be. I DO know how hard it is to stick to your guns. Like I said, I totally agree with this article, but I felt that what I said, was a look from the AP point of view of how it feels when the HP go against what the AP tells the kids. Not only does that show the kids that they can push the AP around, it shows the AP that the HP don’t value their work to help shape their children into better people.

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