When Your Previously Swell Au Pair Starts Acting Entitled

by cv harquail on July 18, 2015

Earlier we had a conversation about whether or not au pairs in the USA were, as a group, starting to act more entitled than in earlier times. 

food-sugar-lighting-milk-mediumBy “entitled” we mean, dissatisfied with a situation where the family follows the rules, offers the au pair a car, feeds the au pair well, and aims to be kind and respectful.

In our poll, 60% felt that au pair expectations were on the rise, while 40% felt that things had stayed the same. Although we were fairly split in our views, there was one thing we all agree on —

An au pair who’s unhappy with a good deal and wants something more plush can be a very annoying presence in your household.

So how should you handle it if your au pair starts acting like his or her gig with you is no longer ‘good enough’?

I just did a quick poll of the former host parents I’m visiting with this afternoon, and all three of them said “rematch”.  I think they all forgot what a boatload of awful it is to go into rematch. So…

First, I’d run a quick self-evaluation:

  • Are you following the rules?
  • Are you being fair?
  • Are you walking your talk?
  • Are you making good on promises that you’ve made?
  • Have you kept a lid on your expectations of your au pair?

If the answer to all of these is yes — and you’ve made sure  you’re not letting yourself off easy — then what?

First time host family here, and we are about halfway through our year. So far, we have had a fairly good experience. Our au pair is wonderful with our son, and everyone in our family loves her.

In the beginning, she went on and on about how lucky she was to have us as a family– half of her friends from training were in re-match/horror stories, etc.

Recently, however.. we have a case of the “entitled” au pair.

We have just one 2-year old son, she works during the week set hours (probably only 40, not even 45), never works weekends, and can use the car nights/weekends.

Now, though, she is finding au pair friends with “princess” situations– their own suite, school-aged kids (so the au pair has a LOT of free time), free gas/food credit card, lots of extra $, etc etc. Due to the au pair’s carelessness (we were NOT snooping.. she uses OUR computer, and left her email open!), we noticed she was complaining to the area director about “never getting the car,” and “can’t wait until the contract is over.”

I resent her complaining. We have been MORE than accommodating with her.. and she is so ungrateful. I feel like I have a bratty American daughter!

Can anyone provide some advice? I’m not going to say anything to her- I don’t want her to quit at this point. We are in a good rhythm, and I want her to stay with us until her year is up.

But, any advice on how to deal with “entitlement” would be greatly appreciated.

See Also:   Classic Case: Can you change a Princess?


Taking a Computer Lunch July 19, 2015 at 8:19 am

I’d recommend that the OP tread lightly here. Yes, the AP left her email open on a shared computer, but she didn’t actually confront the OP about her dissatisfaction. Personally, I’d contact the LCC and ask how to proceed.

Nevertheless, after 14 1/2 years of hosting APs, I do know about how to deal with princess behavior. First of all, it is very natural for APs to compare their situations – and every one has a reason to be envious of the others. I have also found that that APs often complain about their HF when they are together.

My advice is to politely cut your AP off at the pass. If she verbally compares her situation to that of others, then be honest. “I am grateful that you are willing to work 40 hours a week to take care of X. He loves you so much and he’s grown so much this year – you’re doing a great job with him. I wish I could come earlier to give you more time off, but if there is something you really want to do, then just ask.” It should also be helpful to point at that the friends who take care of older children tend to work longer into the evenings and often have to work on weekends.

If she’s Infant Qualified, then HF with older children cannot see her application. APs can ask to change their status if it turns out that they don’t really like working with infants and toddlers.

I do think it’s time to have a check-in conversation. Don’t play your hand, but do see if she’s willing to discuss her issues with you directly. Start off with praising the quality of her work, your pleasure in seeing the love her son has for her, and then ask if there were anything she could change what would it be. If she does have real issues with you (and it may not be your willingness to accommodate her), try to really listen. Finally, be honest with her and demand that she be honest with you and about you.

I’d be wary of an AP who has been coached to lie so she can set herself up for rematch. It’s not happened to me, nor anyone else I directly know – but there have been cases discussed here…

Peachtree Mom July 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

I agree with TACL, our LCC said that at every cluster meeting the aupairs compare notes about EVERYTHING. Sometimes it is complaining, sometimes inquiring or just talking. Maybe that is the nature…..to compare and complain. I love my job but catch me at the wrong time or after a frustrating day and I complain ….but to my husband in the privacy of our home. Offer me a different job and I would say “no way, I love my job”, knowing that each job comes with its own set of ups and downs. Schedule an informal “how are things going” talk (we do that once a month) and see if anything comes up. Inquire how things could be better and how she is doing overall (homesick?, bored?, happy?, meeting goals?). See if she brings anything up. Our LCC contacts us on a monthly basis to see how things are going, usually after their cluster meeting. Ask the LCC if there are any complaints or issues to discuss. If she says no, things are fine, then let it go. If your aupair still seems happy, upbeat and enjoying your son, may be it was just a bad day and it was an isolated incident. Being 6 months into it and having a nice rhythm with a thriving child and overall good feeling in the house is a great spot to be.

C in DC July 19, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I agree with the two other posters. Also I have found that encouraging my AP to take a mini-vacation usually helps. If she can get away for a long weekend, then she usually returns refreshed and renewed. Also, I try to reward her with small tokens to show our appreciation for her efforts- movie tickets, extra cash to spend when she is going to the amusement park with her friends, etc. While we certainly don’t have a lot of extra cash to spare, these little indulgences seem to go a long way and help readjust attitudes when perhaps my AP is feeling overwhelmed and/or under appreciated.

AlwaysHopeful HM July 19, 2015 at 4:27 pm

I may be missing something, but I don’t see the entitlement that is suggested. Has the au pair complained about not having what her friends have? The only thing mentioned is the complaint about the car (which is something she DOES have). And, after 6 months she’s still great with your child and you’re in a good rhythm. OP, could you elaborate on the entitled behavior? Has her attitude towards work changed?

Might the seeming entitlement be something else? For example, the fact that she has new AP friends could suggest that prior ones have left. Is she missing them? Did their departure trigger homesickness in her? Did she suddenly look up and realize 6 months have passed and start to panic?

I agree with others that talking to her about how things are going makes sense. I would talk with her about her experience overall, not just her work/ home experience. You can also discuss her goals through the end of the year to help her rekindle some excitement. But without more, I wouldn’t worry too much about entitlement, at least not yet.

German Au-Pair July 19, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Yes APs do comlain to each other because while you can do that to your husband, we don’t have anyone but strangers over there and it’s hard for the family at home to fully grasp the situation.
However, she didn’t complain to other APs…she complained to her LCC and that seems like a bigger deal to me. Maybe the LCC is really casual and the AP feels comfortable to just randomly complain. My first AD was like that. Usually though, I’d wonder if the AP is having a real problem if she’s contacted the LCC.
Maybe it’s time to re-asses the car situation if that is what her complaint was about. Can she REALLY have the car and leave the house in the evening or does that not work out on a regular basis? Is her access less than previously discussed? If she can have it in the evening and weekends, I don’t see why she would complain. Can she leave the house with the 2 y/o? Maybe that’s her car issue?

HRHM July 19, 2015 at 8:57 pm

I too accidently found out that my first AP was complaining about us in her email (just as you, left up on our desktop) but to her friends back home, not the LCC.

In our case, things did not work out well and I wish I had addressed it right away, but I felt like we couldn’t say anything (she came to us in rematch after she found out that the prior HM read her email!) and when I asked her she denied having any issues or complaints.

In your letter, I don’t see any evidence of “entitled behavior” with the exception of the email which wasn’t for your eyes. Prior to seeing the email, were you already starting to feel that she was dissatisfied? Have you seen any changes since the email? You need to address this with the LCC. She is the one who got the email and hopefully can engage your AP in a real conversation about the situation.

If she’s stuck at home all day with a two year old, I can see why she would be unhappy. To be unable to go to library story time, childrens museum, zoo, the local pool in the summer or to meet up at the park with other APs and their kids would be a huge drag to me. I realize that buying a third car is not in everyone’s budget but maybe arranging for her to Uber at your expense to some of these things might help. Or maybe you can let her drive you to work once in a while so she has the car during the day. Just some ideas.

FWIW, if that’s not her main issue or it can’t be resolved then perhaps going into rematch is your best bet. I am somewhat concerned about her sentiment that she can’t wait for her year with you to be over. That doesn’t sound like someone who is just mildly irritated about the car…

Schnitzelpizza July 20, 2015 at 7:52 am

As usual, I agree with TACL and HRHM.

And while I understand where you are coming from about not talking to her (I am extremely non-confrontational, I’ll rather suffer through 99% of all situations than speak my mind), are you sure that’s a good idea? Don’t we all know how things can start brewing if you know they are there and they don’t get talked about. Especially if you are living together? Isn’t there a saying in English about an elephant being in the room?

It’s difficult to not react to something you know, even subconciously. You now know she complained, will you really be able to not have that feeling nagging at you? Are you sure you can still treat her the same or react the same you would have, had you not read that email? Especially as you already say you resent her complaining and think she is ungrateful? Sometimes slips like this happen on purpose instead of by accident. It’s like texting the wrong person “accidentally”.

In the end, it’s often easier to approach the other person and talk it through. Not that I necessarily recommend going to her, telling her you have read the email and know that she is unhappy… but how about sitting down, as a “half time” get together, and talk about how it’s going in general? Tell her how much you appreciate her and how well she is doing her job and fitting in with the family and then ask her if there is anything that is bothering her? Things she’d like to see change? Anything that would make her time more enjoyable? You know it’s difficult to be far away from home and live with people who are basically strangers and you want her to have a positive experience? It might be an uncomfortable talk about but it’s often easier to nip things in the bud.

Was not being able to use the car as often as she’d like the only reason she gave for being happy the year is over soon? Unless she is stuck in the house all day that sounds a bit much? Might she be missing a boyfriend at home? Did her best AP friend just leave (the summer is a emotional time for APs with many people coming and going)? Is she currently working long days due to summer break? Are you requiring her to do things that are not child-care related (for extra $) because she only works 40 hrs/week? Is she working an awkward set schedule? Are you limiting what she is allowed to do with your child during her working hours? Is she stuck in the home 8 hrs / day with a fussy two-year old who is going through his terrible twos?

Yes, au pairs compare their lives. We always have!
There is always the one AP who only works a few hours in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, not more than 20/25 hours per week, with her designated au pair car… who has to drive the kids to see their dad every other weekend and spends 3 hours driving down to where he lives and back home every other Friday and Sunday, whose host mom treats her like a maid, whose school-aged host children are constantly fighting because the whole family situation is difficult.
There is always the one AP who only takes care of one easy-going baby… who is not supposed to drive with the baby in the car and is stuck at home all day, is amazingly bored and spends most of her time snacking in front of the tv because the baby naps most of her work hours.
There is always the one AP with a huge AP suite with a kitchenette, ensuite bathroom, own living room, designated au pair car… who does not feel welcome in the family, feels the family doesn’t want her to hang out in the living room to watch tv after work or share dinner with them.
There is always the one AP with the angelic looking little girls who has a perfect schedule and is only supposed to do child-care related work… who is told how to structure her day, where to take the children, who is not allowed to be crative in how to spend the day, who has to wash all kid’s toys with bleach twice a week.
There is always the one AP who loves her family, feels completely included into everyday life, feels welcome and appreciated… who takes care of four or five children, works extra hours and is so exhausted in the evenings that she’d rather stay home than meet her friends.

The problem starts where APs aren’t honest and open about the drawbacks of the job (most have some) and try to present their AP experience as perfect and the best that ever happened. When I was an AP and the internet was in its early years… all we had to compare our experience to were the APs in our cluster. I was in a cluster of 8 and we all had things that weren’t perfect. But because there were so few of us we all knew that the other’s job had pros and cons. Even if the other AP didn’t tell you, you would hear of it eventually. Now you have support groups online, you have blogs and vlogs and facebook and instagram and twitter. You get to see what others want you to see and not the whole picture.
And the problem continues where APs don’t only complain to their friends or their mom but start contacting the LCC/AD. It’s the difference between complaining about your boss to your husband after work and complaining about your boss to their boss. But if the AD is young and casual and works with her APs on a very amicable basis, the AP might not realise how she might have overstepped the line as she might not see the difference between telling something like that to her friend or the AD. Many au pairs are young and still learning the does and don’ts of a workplace environment – this might actually be a good teaching moment about whom to tell what when.

WestMom July 20, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Another approach for the conversation would be that you are starting to think about next year’s AP and want to get her feedback on the rules you set forth in your family guide. We did this with AP1, and it was very insightful to get her input on what worked and what could be improved. And definitely, we changed a few things between AP1 and AP2 (less afterwards, but year 1 was a big learning experience for sure).

Obviously, this is still earlyish into your year (although I usually start looking 6m before), and I don’t know if you were planning to ask her to extend or not (that could be uncomfortable). But asking for that type of feedback could be helpful to you without being too personal or confrontational.

momo4 July 20, 2015 at 4:30 pm

I agree with the advice to contact the LCC first to get a better sense for what’s going on. A direct confrontation with the AP at this point is unlikely to be helpful given that she herself has not chosen to share her concerns. I definitely think they need to be addressed, I just think it will need to be done very diplomatically, and if the OP has some additional information from the LCC it may help her to come up with the best approach. Schnitzelpizza and WestMom had really good suggestions.

I agree that all APs compare and complain, and it is always hard to be on the receiving end of these complaints when you are trying to be a good HP, respect the rules and keep your AP happy. I think it is quite normal that the AP expresses lots of joy and appreciation at the beginning and that as time goes by some this initial enthusiasm wanes, espcially as they realize how “easy” some other AP’s seem to have it (the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence!). 6 months in… that’s about when the initial honeymoon period is completely over, but usually too early for senioritis. That she is saying she can’t wait for the contract to be over is worrisome when she is only 1/2 way through. She could be just tired and venting, but the fact that she is emailing the LCC suggests it might be more serious than that.

When your AP is unhappy, it will eventually make everyone unhappy, so it is important to take a step back, and look at the situation as objectively as possible.

What is the AP really unhappy about? Is it something that can be changed? Is it something that you are willing to change? Is there some creative compromise that can be made that will be acceptable to both parties?

If the APs unhappiness is about something that you can’t or won’t change – and there are a lot of issues like this – you should carefully, and as unemotionally as possible, consider to rematch, but remember that rematch is usually an awful experience and a last resort.

Remind yourself of the reasons why you chose to have an AP in the first place. Ask yourself honestly whether your expectations are realistic and fair, and whether your AP is meeting your expectations. But also remember that even if both are the case, your AP may still be unhappy for any number of reasons that actually little to do with your family and try not to take her unhappiness too personally.

It is easy to become angry and resentful toward an AP who seems ungrateful and critical of your family, but in the end it really will not benefit anyone to give in to these feelings. Remind yourself that your AP is probably very young and inexperienced, and ultimately had no way of really grasping what she was getting into when she became an AP, any more that most of us really grasped what we were getting into when we became parents :).

OP writes: “We are in a good rhythm, and I want her to stay with us until her year is up.” If this is the case, and the AP really does sound like she is living up to the family’s expectations, I think that there is good reason to put personal feelings of hurt and resentment aside and find a way to work things out.

CFeds July 20, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Thanks, everyone! I appreciate all your comments.

I did reach out to the area director, who was surprised herself by this email (previous correspondence with our AP was all positive- she described feeling supported/happy by our family). The area director will talk to her, and then “officially” loop me in. She has a good relationship with the girls- so I’m not surprised that my AP decided to email her.

However, regarding “entitlement,” she doesn’t complain much. Sometimes she drops that her friends get more $$, get more car access, etc. But, one friend of hers recently went into rematch from a truly hell-ish family, into a “princess” situation. So, I think seeing this may have made her re-think how “lucky” she was to have us as a family.

I really, really, really hope we don’t end up in rematch- I don’t think we will. I just want to address any problems/real issues, and set honest expectations for both of us.

And- the car thing.. I sincerely wish we had an extra car for her. I know that it’s tough to be stuck at home all day without a car. But, we can’t afford it right now, so it’s just not in the cards. I do give her car access all evenings and weekends. It’s the best I can do!

I’ll keep everyone updated!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 20, 2015 at 10:19 pm

I find it best (with 14 1/2 years of experience behind me) to just apologize for the imperfect world: “I wish I could afford another car right now, but they’re so expensive and with the insurance, that it just won’t work right now.” (In my case, I apologize for the extra workload my boss assigned to me during the perfect summer months when my AP realizes she has a job for the first time – and not a summer vacation. It’s hard. I remember.)

But, if you realize her frustration, you can also throw it back to her to solve. If your commute is short enough – could she drive you to work one day a week to have the car?

First time HF don’t often realize that just like marriage involves compromise – so do AP/HF relationships. No one is going to get their “perfect” match – at least not all day, every day. Now that your son is getting older, is there a way to get her out of the house beyond walking distance?

It may not be merely a “grass is always greener” but a real sense of feeling trapped in the summer. (And if sharing the car isn’t possible, is there public transportation – because everyone knows most little boys love buses and trains.)

100% of the time it hurts to hear/read an AP’s complaints, but if you are able to take a deep breath, and peel away the layer of hurt – is there truth?

NoVA Twin Mom July 21, 2015 at 6:04 am

To piggyback, is there anything she can walk to? Most au pairs consider longer distances to be walkable than most Americans, and maybe she needs help finding things she CAN do without a car. Does the neighborhood library have story hour? Or classes for little kids? Ours had something called Babygarten for kids your son’s age, and it seemed to be a program they got from somewhere else, not something they developed. Do you have an HOA with playgrounds? Or even just a place they can walk to for “picnics?” My four year old still love picnics with the audience pair, and bonus points if they could meet up with another au pair in the neighborhood with (or even without) kids if you’re OK with that.

With this, do you have a good jogging stroller? Our automated pair had a friend in a similar situation to yours and she was largely OK with it – until the HM sold the jogging stroller without telling her. After all, the youngest kid was 2. The problem from the au pair’s perspective was that was the only way she had to really GO any distance during the week since she didn’t have a car. The parents didn’t realize – Because they always had a car. So if you thought you were done with the heavy duty stroller, keep it around for a while yet to give her some mobility or invest in a good one – still cheaper than a car.

Would you be OK with play dates at your house? Another thought would be to let her invite an au pair friend over for a play date. The kids don’t have to be exactly the same age – my 4 year Olds would love to be invited over to play with a “baby”. It’s almost more important that your au pair and the other au pair get along well. Your LCC can help facilitate that.

I think the important thing here is to help your au pair figure out how to add some variety to her days. Can you give her $20 and turn her loose at Michaels each week? Buy a new water table for outside since it’s hot out now? Some combination of all of this? Maybe brainstorming with her will work but you know more about your area and your comfort level so you might have to take the reigns a bit initially but I bet she’ll come up with some ideas too.

NoVA Twin Mom July 21, 2015 at 6:06 am

Hate phone spell check…. automated pair = au pair

Host Mom X July 21, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Hahahah, your auto-corrects made me laugh! Automated pair, audience pair, heehee.

Angie Host Mom July 21, 2015 at 3:47 pm

The moral of the story is don’t read your AP’s email. If an AP read my email, I would feel violated and would probably kick her out.

German Au-Pair July 22, 2015 at 8:42 am

I agree to some extent. I had to use my HM’s computer (because she told me to) a few times and I made sure not to take a look at anything that was open. However, I see how an opened email can be hard to ignore, especially when you see your time in it. I’m also not sure if it’s better to wonder what it was about once you have seen that name than actually reading it.
Respecting privacy is one thing but you also have to learn not to carelessly leave your private stuff open…it’s like a post card -if you don’t want people to read it, don’t write it on a post card.

HRHM July 22, 2015 at 12:30 pm


In our case, DH was getting ready to do some kind of software update. He asked AP if she was done with the desktop so he could do it. She said yes – likely she forgot that she had left an open email string up on the screen. When he went to close it, right there in the middle of the screen was a rant about how terrible we were. Should he have stopped right there and closed it without continuing to read? Probably. But he didn’t, it’s not human nature to see that and just walk away without wondering (and looking to see) what else is there. He was livid and brought it to me (after printing it out) and I was devastated. In retrospect, we probably should have just rematched there but I tried to chalk it up to her 1)venting and 2) trying to garner sympathy from friends and family back home. I moved forward but in the end, we would have all been better off parting ways right then and there.

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