Where oh where is my soon-to-arrive Au Pair?

by cv harquail on June 25, 2010

You’ve found her/him, you’ve matched, you’ve sent follow up information, exchanged a few happy emails, and then all of a sudden…

… Your au pair goes quiet.

Time to panic?201006251054.jpg

Dear Au Pair Mom,

We are excited about our soon-to-arrive au pair. She seems great, but I am starting to worry.

I haven’t heard anything from her in several weeks, and she’s been slow to respond to my emails. She’s a native English speaker, so language isn’t the issue.

We had emailed a lot during matching, and we had lovely long chats by phone. I know that she’s busy working to make extra money to travel, seeing all her friends, etc, but I wonder: Is this a red flag?

Is this a sign that she is too self-centered? Will she slam into a wall when she gets here?

I’m starting to feel concerned because, while we’ve had good experiences with extension au pairs and rematch au pairs, the two I started off with “from scratch” went into rematch.

Advice, anyone?

Image: Anxious child at window by  IronRodArt- Royce Bear


Anon Nanny June 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

Well, I was the other way round, sent emails and stuff to hear mostly nothing from a Host family. Now I have the best family I’ve ever had!

she’s probably procrastinating and working hard. Does she have facebook? add her as a friend – most people check that more often these days! at least people au pair age.

don’t panic yet!

West Coast Mom June 25, 2010 at 11:58 am

What timing … I was having *exactly* the same thought, but have decided it’s just a busy 19 year old enjoying her summer before her new job. (I mean, if she was really going to drop out, in the middle of the visa process, wouldn’t the agency know? And tell me?)

We’ve had very interesting discussions on this board about adding your AP as a Facebook friend … I think I’ll try that.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 25, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Think for a moment about her current life. If she’s European, is she is the middle of exams? Secondary schools and universities have a later end than they do in the U.S. My incoming AP has one more exam – in July – and I know she’s busy studying. I try not to be intrusive while she prepares for them, works, and says goodbye to her friends and family.

I personally don’t feel that I have to be constantly in touch. I offer advice (to the Europeans – it’s hotter than you can imagine – to those from closer to the Equator – it’s colder in winter than you can imagine) about what to bring, tell them not to waste valuable space with sheets, towels, blankets, etc. I also tell them not to accept the cell phone offer that my agency provides because they will get one for work.

As their arrival date draws closer, I ask them what they like to eat for breakfast, what their favorite foods are, so we can have the fridge stocked with a few foods when they arrive and then take them grocery shopping at the weekend. (My agency sends APs to their HF on Thursday evenings.) I am always ready to answer questions quickly.

Another issue with email is that for some APs it is a telephone call, and therefore expensive and use restricted. This may be changing, but almost every AP has worried about when she might use our computer or her own laptop, fearing that the fees might be higher at different times of day. (For most of the year our APs have the middle of the day off, as we have school-age children.)

2boys2girls June 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I had this exact experience with my last au pair – e-mail went very quiet for almost three weeks before she came and I found this very distressing as I had not had this experience with previous au pairs. After going through various scenarios in my head I sent her an e-mail stating I was worried and was everything fine? The phone rang almost immediately with an apologetic AP explaining that she was just incredibly busy everything ready and that there was no way she would change her mind about coming or our family. I re-evaluated my e-mails that had gone unanswered and realized they were just chatty, “hello there!” e-mails that really didn’t read as if they needed an immediate response. Now that she has been with us a year, and is extending for another year, one of the things I so appreciate about our AP is her ability to prioritize what is needed and necessary and not get distracted. She never creates a sense of “urgency” about things that aren’t, in fact, urgent. If you are worried, ask her directly to call you (or call her). It certainly made me feel much better in a similar situation!

Anon Au Pair June 25, 2010 at 4:33 pm

My first host family never replied to my emails and if they did it was a short one sentence type response. Now I’m entering my extension year and have matched with a family which sounds identical to the main topic here. We emailed a lot through matching, spoke long conversations on phone yet now it’s been 4 weeks since our official match and I’ve heard nothing! After having a not so good year, this makes me so weary. Do I take it as warning signs? Are they just busy? They seemed great in the matching process but now it’s official, not a word. I’m beginning to worry if I made the right choice? Hmm!

Amelie ex-aupair June 25, 2010 at 6:51 pm

That’s not necessarily a bad sign. I barely communicated with my HF after the match. They would take daaaays to answer my e-mails, and the responses were normally very short. But they were an AMAZING host family. They’re just too busy, so they really didn’t have much time to write back.

Jan June 25, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I don’t think this is a red flag. Most of our AP’s slacked off after matching. I think it’s a combination of needing to prepare to leave their country (often a whirlwind time and some AP’s even return to their parent’s home) and inaccessible internet.

One AP moved in with her grandmother who lived way out in the country to avoid the dengue fever and did not have any internet access or cell phone coverage. She never responded to my e-mail’s and the first time I talked with her after matching was when she called me from NYC. I wouldn’t worry.

NJMom June 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm

I also would not worry. My first AP was obsessive about staying in touch right up until she flew in. This last one went silent too because she was at her family’s country house, visiting with relatives, getting ready, etc. She was just very focused on saying goodbye to her family and getting her affairs in order. She’s been a great AP (awesome with the kids) although her style with my me and my husband is a bit more hands off than our previous ones. She’s more private. It could be a style thing.

aria June 25, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I think my HF had a little communication issue too with my replacement. It turns out the potential AP was told it could take up to 2-3 months for her visa to process (Canadian going to France) and I think the AP freaked out and thought my HF wouldn’t want her anymore; my HM started getting formal emails saying she “understood if she [HM] no longer wanted to employ her…” and that she “would be willing to come on a tourist visa,” yada yada. They cleared it up, I said mine only took about a week, and now there’s no problem. Not saying that’s what happened, but communication is tricky when you’re oceans apart!

Original Poster June 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm

This blog is wonderful. thank you for the variety of insights, all of them reassuring!

CO Host Mom June 25, 2010 at 6:03 pm

I wouldn’t worry…most likely she’s busy wrapping up things at home, getting ready to leave, spending time with family and friends. Time goes so fast when you’re that busy. My next AP arrives on August 6, and she and I typically email about once a week – but there have been times where it has been longer.

NoVA Host Mom June 26, 2010 at 12:12 am

As the others have said, don’t freak out yet. I have actually been spending a little time checking out the blogs of future and hopeful APs (promise that contribution is coming soon, cv!) and noticed that their entries post-match are detailing some seriously busy timeframes. Just getting the visa alone frequently requires travel to another city (sometimes many, many hours away), and there’s the shopping and finding the right suitcases and figuring out how to make sure their own personal business (bank accounts, etc) are set up properly and taken care of while they are gone, etc. That is on top of the possibly restrictive or limited internet access.

Just send her a note that specifies you hope she is getting things done before she arrives and you would really feel better if she would send you a note back as soon as she can just to confirm everything is fine. Ask a few questions that require an answer (such as specific foods she likes or cannot stand, favorite color, etc). Tell her you are thinking about her and just need to know things are on track for her arrival, that you are looking forward to her joining the family.

And remember, she won’t know what you are thinking unless you tell her. Good luck. I won’t say it gets easier, but being a HP is certainly an interestng ride!

anonmom June 29, 2010 at 11:09 pm

I had this same experience, but it did not turn out well!! We emailed. Talked on the phone. We matched! And, I knew she was going away for an extended week-end. Imagine my dismay- when on the last possible day I could match with an au pair in time to keep au pair coverage, I got a call from the agency that my au pair “did not pass the medical” and therefore woulsd not be joining us. After the shock of it and the sheer panic, how am I going to match? what will I do, etc. I was told by the agency that there were some of my ‘favorites’ still available in my ‘family room’ on the agency website, and that there was one new girl, she would be put in my mailbox. I finally call the agency back, worried about the au pair, will she be alright, etc. only to learn that surprise- she was pregnant!! oops! Hopefully you won’t have that, and she is so busy getting herself ready and spending time with friends and family!

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