Who Are The Mysterious Wise Women (and Men) on Au Pair Mom?

by cv harquail on February 19, 2013

I know some stuff about the folks on AuPairMom that I bet you wish you knew.

Au Pair Host Mom hiding her identity

Just to name a few:

I know the real name of TakingAComputerLunch.

I know what kind of music CalifMom enjoys.

I know how to reach DarthaStewart with a moment’s notice, whenever I need her opinion.

Lucky me, I know the email addresses and many of the actual names belonging to the wonderfully wise women and men who make up the AuPairMom community. Even so, I wish I knew them better.

I bet you wish you knew them better, too. 

Of course, we keep our real identities secret here on AuPairMom, because we talk about some uncomfortable issues. We need to be real about our emotions, our hangups, and our struggles.

To help us be more honest when we share here, nearly all of us use a “nom de mom” or a blogonym so that we can ‘be’ the same person every time we comment yet also ‘be’ private about who we are in the so-called real world.

Respecting this need to keep our ‘real’ identities a secret, we occasionally take a moment to share a bit more about ‘hoo’ we are.

Here’s your chance to peek out from behind those sunglasses.

Whether you are a regular contributor, an occasional wise voice, someone who’s sent me a query to post, or a lovecat lurker who reads regularly and sends silent support, here’s your chance:

Tell us a little bit more about who you are.

Use the comments section to divulge a few details and maybe even some secrets. Tell us

  • What brings you to AuPairMom?
  • What you wish we could talk about more?
  • How might you change the world if you were the HostParentInCharge?

… Or, tell us anything else you’d like to share!

Ready? Go!

 

See also: Who’s Hoo? List of Contributors

Owl In Sunglasses illustration by Donna McKensie Art & Illustration, available for purchase on Etsy.

{ 159 comments }

Should be working February 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I’ll start! I’m eager to read some biog/AP-experience ‘profiles’ of the HPs here! I’d especially love to see their AP ‘histories’.

Household: Me, a few school-aged kids, a dog, a husband, dual career. We live in an area much desired by APs. Requires strong screening for intent! We share car with AP and are on the generous side with perks.

AP experience: We’ve had several. We tend to get APs from northern Europe.

First one was a mistake, big learning curve on that one. Depressive and more interested in lingerie than kids. Rematch after a few months. Second one (out of rematch) was a go-getter, loved kids, but frankly had conflicts with my older daughter, was better with boys. Third was peaceful, reliable, slightly lazy, and we loved her. Fourth is very social, goes out tons, but is responsible.

Big lessons learned: We thought we wanted a more distant, professional relationship with our APs but discovered that actually we want someone we can truly love enough to enjoy having them in our house and at our table. So family-member-type is our style, although going out a lot is fine if she is responsible. We look for sense of humor–a biggie for us–and older siblings in a larger family (not that easy to find in northern Europe).

The blog: I love what we talk about, the little and big conundrums. So much great advice and different attitudes to consider on here.

Omnipotent fantasy as HM-in-charge: lower costs to AP program. No 2-week waiting period including housing outgoing AP before rematch. Better and cheaper health insurance for APs. Somehow build into the program driving insurance so that HFs don’t suffer long-term consequences for premiums if the AP has an accident and then leaves. More orientation for APs about how no family is ‘the perfect match’ and setting out realistic expectations of how they will be spending many hours a week.

And, last but not least, I would produce world peace; food, shelter, health care and education for all; eliminate meltdowns and tantrums; and produce the perfect chore chart that would automatically compel cheerful compliance for my family.

Did I miss anything?

Should be working February 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

And I hope that when regulars and ‘occasionals’ respond you’ll give enough info that I can build an internal file and finally keep mental track of who is who (esp. among those with similar names!).

CA Host Mom February 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm

This is great! I will give it a shot and stick with the same format that SBW used above …

Household: Me, a pre-schooler, a baby, a husband, a school of Koi fish. Husband and I both work, own a company together. We live about an hour outside of a big (every-au-pair-we-speak-to-wants-to-live-there). We thought that was good in the beginning … but it’s proven to be quite a challenge. We are in our mid-30s.

AP experience: We’ve had three. 2 of the 3 have worked out.

First one (from Denmark) came to us while she was in re-match. We caught our nanny at the time asleep on the job, and that – coupled with other issues – led us to dismiss her on the spot. Since we had been considering hosting an AP prior to that, we jumped in and didn’t have time to wait for a traditional match. Made a lot of mistakes (in hindsight), learned from them all – but it was an incredible experience and we will forever count AP#1 as a very special member of our family. It feels like just yesterday that I was hugging her as we both sobbed the morning that she was to fly home. Great driver, excellent with our children, not very outgoing, kinda negative (think: Eeyore) at times, very loyal, a big sister to 2 little brothers back home. All-in-all, a wonderful young lady that we feel very privileged to have shared our lives with.

Second one (from Sweden) was our first experience going through the full matching process. She was a peppy 19 y/o, seemingly athletic and energetic, positive attitude and lots of energy. Turns out that she was energetic about shopping and partying but not much else. Absolutely incapable of caring for an infant (mine was 5 m/o at the time), dishonest, and one of the weakest 19 y/o characters I have ever met. I am certain that mommy and daddy sent her to the USA so that she would grow up on someone else’s watch. We re-matched – and she found (despite what our LCC called “no chance”) a new HF on the other side of the country. That lasted a few weeks and she was back in her home country before 4 months were up.

Number three (from Colombia) is with us now and she’s a sweetheart. She was in re-match (very rough/angry/aggressive child matched with her passive and quiet personality was not a good fit with her last HF) and I was able to take the kids and meet her for lunch to interview her in person. She, without question, loves our boys very much. An awful driver, very nurturing, patient, doesn’t complain, is respectful, eager to participate in family events, goes out of her way to be helpful, has a nice group of AP friends and likes to go out and enjoy herself. She’s been a great addition to our family and I know that we will hold her in the same regard as AP #1 after she’s gone back home.

Big lessons learned: I took on way too much of the “mothering” role to our first 2 APs. I felt an intense obligation to care for there every need, cure homesickness, act as their ‘stand-in’ mother, and it was exhausting. While we are a family-member-type AP bunch as well — I went too far and gave way too much of myself in the beginning – I lived to regret it. Some of the things we look for now are APs who have lived away from home, have younger siblings, have held a real job that required them to be accountable, APs who did not have “help” at home (i.e. housekeepers, etc.). I also take great pride in the HF Handbook that I have authored (complete with graphics and pictures – ha!) that this site helped me so much with.

The blog: I love this blog! I love that it helps me think rationally through situations that can become quite emotional and I love the thought that things I take the time to write might possibly help someone else in need. I know no other HMs and it is tough for people unfamiliar with the uniqueness of the AP/HF relationship to really ‘get it’ at times … so here is where I land to be understood.

HM-in-charge dreams: Better screening on experience by the agencies (we are with CC). Better education for APs about infant care. I’d also like to see horrible host families kicked out of the program more often. We have seen some awful (rule breaking for sure) ones that were catered to by our previous LCC. All of the APs I have spoken to don’t feel like their LCC is someone they can trust and I would like to see that change.

All-in-all, I really like the program. I feel so fortunate to have the diversity in my children’s lives and the opportunities to meet wonderful people and make life long friends. AP#1 has just informed me that she booked her plane ticket to come and stay with us for 2 weeks later this year … we are thrilled!

CA Host Mom February 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Oh my … I blithered on forever. So sorry!!

A B C Au Pair February 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I loved your profile haha :) I’m with APC and I’m infant specialized. I think it’s worth the money. The clue is in finding an AP that has A LOT of experience with children the same ages as yours. and by A LOT I mean over 2000 hours. And when you interview them you should ask specific questions about how to care for them and also activities that she enjoys. There are a lot of girls who lie, you wanna make sure yours doesn’t! I applied with CC before, and they wanted me to lie in my application, then I knew I didn’t want to be with them, and even though I had already paid some money, I started doing research for other agencies, found that Au Pair Care is the best, in my opinion of course. :)

CA Host Mom February 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for the feedback! I too have heard from many APs (ours and their AP friends) that they outright lie about experience, make up hours and are coached in how to answer key questions. It’s disheartening for sure. I have developed a pretty extensive list of interview questions, thanks in most part to this site and my personal lessons learned. We are seriously considering going with the more specialized (and expensive :)) model next time around if there is a baby #3 in our future.

WestMom February 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Love the format. How nice to get to know each of you a little bit more!

Household: Mid 40s parents with three daughters, twins in elementary and one in middle school. We live in the suburbs of a large city in the North East. We have no issues finding girls to come to our area. We are a bilingual family and seek AP who are willing to speak their native tongue in our home (which can be a deal breaker for some prospects). I love the overall flexibility of the program, and the ability to find care from someone who speaks our native language.

AP Experience: We have had 4 APs so far, and knock on wood, no rematch. I love them all, but realize I prefer to have a warm, family-like relationship with our girls. Probably because we have a modest size home for 6 people, therefore, it is definitely best if we like to be around one another. We keep in touch with all three of our departed APs, but have a closer bond to our first two who feel like daughters to us.

Lessons Learnt: Car usage always seems to surface as a ‘reset’ issue for us. At some point, a feeling of ‘comfort’ sinks in and we have to put the brakes (no pun intended) on what seems to us as excessive car usage. Each year we try to finesse our car rules a little better. Another lesson learnt is to not get too involved with the APs family. A little too warm and fuzzy the first year ended up with a whirlwind of visiting relatives for the entire year (and possibly assumed visitation ‘rights’ for years to come!). We have since formulated some balanced limitations re: out of town visitors.

On the positive side, I think I have become the schedule master. In 4 years, I have not had a complaint about schedules, even with a full 45hr week. I let our APs know ahead of time, and I can be flexible as needed. Our system seems to be working.

About this Blog: This blog is so unique and fills a large void our agencies are unable to fill. It offers a community of people with unique experiences who truly care about making things work. Personally, I love all topics discussed, but I would love to get more advice on our APs ubiquitous access to telecommunications and internet. The more technology evolves, the more I fear our APs being sucked into this constant need to be connected, which I fear is taking away from attention given to our children. How do we learn to deal with this?

HM dream: Better screening! I wish someone would actually do the first round of triage for me. Our criteria are numerous, but they are pretty black and white. I wish I could get some of alerting when a great candidate becomes available on our registered agency Web sites (or third party sites), even when I am not actively searching. I also wished AP candidates could initiate the search process and first contact. Then at least I would start my work from a pool of interested candidates.

Cristina Sierra February 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Love the idea of allowing the AP candidates could initiate the search process. Just like other match sites – I hope some of the agencies will consider it!

FutureAP February 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Wow that’s funny, your profile is very similar to one of the HFs who contacted me a week ago to be their AP ^^

Busy Mom February 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

I have my teenager do the first round! We have a number of non-negotiable criteria so it’s easy for her to cull the set down to something manageable.

Momma Gadget February 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm

House hold: Late 40’S Parents w/ 2 older Boys (1 pre-teen, one teenager) Both Parents work in the design field. Our home is always in creative Chaos compounded by our many pets including a large dog, lizards, snakes and fish. We live in a very AP desirable suburb of a big city.
We joined the AP Program when our live in nanny (family Member) decided it was time to move on with her chosen career- journalism after 7 years. Being that our boys were school age we decided we really didn’t need a nanny any more; But since we both work and occasionally travel,we needed more than a part time sitter.

AP #1: French 24 year old party girl lasted 3 months. Lessons learned:listen to your gut and don’t let your rational side over rule with A ” I’m sure she’d be just fine”. We realized that we wanted someone who didn’t treat us like a boarding house and really cared about our kids, and respected our rules. I also learned that I needed to prepare better for the AP arrival,and make sure I had our rules spelled out clearly.
AP #2 Extending AP from South Africa- I love this woman as a favorite niece! She was great with both sons, and was able to balance being both a friend and an authority figure to the boys. She was also quite social but very responsible.Unfortunately she was coming out of a tough AP situation, and was only extending for 6 months. So we had to say farewell way to soon. Lesson Learned: there are some truly funny, loving, creative, brilliant AP’s out there! If it had not been for this experience I would have dropped out of the program.

AP #3 Extending AP also from SA. A very nice girl who also stuck out a previously tough HF situation. Though she was soft spoken I was constantly surprised by her bravery. She was always around for important events,yet, she was amazing at saving money and managed to get quite a bit of traveling done. She also braved through scary emergency surgery. She did get along better with my younger son, but the the older grew 10″ that year and started testing her. ( though he liked her too!) We keep in touch with her via social media and occasionally skype. She stayed with us a year and then had to go home.
AP #4 : A 22 year old Dutch AP. She sounded perfect on paper, was very charming via Skype. Her background working with ADHD and autistic children seemed like the perfect match for our ADD boys. She came to us 1 month before Christmas and was sooo home sick. She also turned out to be impatient, rigid, lacked sense of humor, incredibly nationalistic and easily flustered. She would come down stairs everyday with red rimmed eyes- And tell the boys how much better everything was in her country. Much to my horror- this inspired such maliciousness in my older son -like a shark on the scent of blood- that I was shocked and embarrassed by his behavior. She crashed my car her first week on her own, and the tension in the house when I came home every night could make my hair stand on end. This lasted 1 month. With a threat of military school, I was able to get through the transition period in relative peace. Lessons learned: 2 home sick AP friends can play off each other and actually make it worse. Institutional experience where you have other people to constantly back you up does not mean you can handle kids on your own. AP’s from privileged families are not a good match for us. We will never again take an AP who has not lived on their own.Not all your childrens’ amazing and surprising developments are positive. The Plus side of this “experience”, we got off the Pre-Christmas cycle of starting with new AP’s.
AP#5 Our first Bro-Pair from Hungary. He came to us from transition. My eldest had a class trip when our BP arrived so it allowed me to divide and conquer the boys. My youngest was able to go to the park with him on his own. I was shocked with the instant connection they had. The next day my eldest, the BP and my Hub went to an indoor go cart track. That night my usually sullen teenager told me ” he’s an awesome au pair, Mom”. There is no moodiness or drama. He pitches in, is respectful,proactive, a great driver and is a great example of health,fitness and work ethic for my boys. We were all so happy when he wanted to extend with us. Lesson learned: Give the guys a chance!

AP #6: Bro-Pair from Serbia, coming in April.

I found this blog while going through hell with AP#4, and found it very helpful.

I really like this program in-spite of it’s flaws. I wish the recruiters were a little more realistic in their portrayal of the program. They need to not sugar coat it and let potential APs know that it is hard work at times, and the stipend will not make them rich. I also wish dossiers were checked more carefully… especially in the childcare experience claimed. I wish they would allow continuing ed classes to count as part of the education requirement. I wish all LC’s would be as level headed and caring as ours is.

So there’s my “Blither”!

5kids=aupair February 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Bro Pair, LOL! Thanks for the insight, we’re considering one now.

TexasHM February 20, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Since when does continuing Ed not count? That’s what our au pairs have always done and first extended no problem.

Momma Gadget February 20, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I meant continuing ed as in the programs offered on the community level in the different public schools or Library. Now only C.E. at accredited institutions are accepted.
It would offer more variety and more reasonable rates, and usually these classes are held on a more practical schedule for APs and HFs.

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification and agreed!

Emerald City HM February 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm

We are in Seattle as my name would imply. I sometimes post as “Emerald City Host Mom” because cookies disappear and I can’t remember which I used first.

Household: Me, HostDad, 18 year old (on his way to college), a toddler, and an infant. We are also cat people, though we currently don’t have any in the house.

AP experience: We are on our second. Our first was amazing with us, with our oldest daughter (now toddler) and with the house. There were some issues that I think ate at her. The agency in her home country told her to lie about her boyfriend and we didn’t know that was why she didn’t talk about him at all with us. He came here to visit her and we would have loved to meet him, but missed the opportunity.

Big lessons learned: We thought we wanted an employee-employer relationship, but we are now realizing we need someone in the house that is more outgoing (like our first au pair) and has the initiave to jump in and join the family, not wait to be invited to even just hang out in the living room. We would still be ok with the first type of relationship, but she has to be a darn excellent employee for that to work for us.

The blog: I first came here wondering how to integrate an au pair into a houshold with a teen. Just reading the advice helps me figure out things we are trying to screen for and things to add or delete from my handbook (our agency never even mentioned one). I do (sort of) with the format was a little different, I find it difficult to follow discussion in this format. How to have discussions about performance and many many other things.

HM-in-charge ideas: I have ideas on this that I’ll have to type up later, gotta go for now.

Emerald City HM February 20, 2013 at 3:56 am

Ok so the the HM-charge-ideas:

More help from the agencies for new host families. If I didn’t have this blog, I would have had no clue at all. A little bit of guideance (for new families) on things almost every au pair / host family is going to have to do anyway, taxes for the au pairs, social security cards, driver’s license, checking accounts, classes that are reasonably affordable that the au pairs might actually want to take, etc.

I would love to have some way to screen for common sense. Or to have this as part of the inital screening…

Oh and I would love it if my agency actually listened to feedback I have given them. Two years in a row I have asked for under 2 number of hours to be on the front page of the search so I don’t have to dig into every candidate’s application to find out if they can even match in our house.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Okay, CV knows me by name, and I’ve chatted with a couple of you on the phone and exchanged emails with a couple of you, too. I feel dead cert that my APs can easily read this Blog, so I thinly veil myself.

Household: Me, a teenager who functions at the infant level – affectionately called The Camel, child #2 – a ‘tween who does enough talking for both of them, a husband, and 2 semi-feral cats. DH works from home 2 days a week, but we both commute into nearby city, that is semi-desirable. I have my dream job in a nationally renown institution, and love the fact that hosting an AP makes it possible to love my job and my family. The Camel is good at weeding out good-time party girls, but not perfect. I’m nearing the half-century mark, DH is past it.

AP experience: We’ve hosted 8 over a 12-year period, 6 of which I’d host again in a heartbeat, 2 not so much (but they weren’t so awful that we couldn’t tolerate them for a year). The Venn diagram of special needs willing rematch APs who can drive is almost nil at any point in time, so rematch has not been an option for us. Every time we think we’ll save money by hosting a regular AP we head straight back for the Extraordinnaire pool the following year.

First one (from South America) was a PICU nurse who was perfect for our needs – medically fragile toddler-aged infant and a newborn who had survived bacterial meningitis with very minor complications. Based on our love for her and her desire to stay, we attempted to sponsor her as employer. She stayed with us for 3.5 years (2.5 years not as an AP – back then they could not extend) before moving on. Child #2 was absolutely bi-lingual by the time she left (he only remembers a couple of words now).

Second one (from Europe) put up with an amazing amount of crap from child #2, kept her head high, and eventually he fell in love with her. She remains our only AP who has begged to take him to the movies. She had trained as a primary school teacher and was exactly the AP we needed to get child #2 motivated to feed and dress himself. She fell in love with The Camel, too. She extended 6 months.

Number three (from South America) was mature, sweet and loving. She spoke to child #2 in her native tongue and he replied in English. He easily went to her on day #1 of her arrival. She was better than fantastic with The Camel, and saved her life by recognizing a life-threatening situation, allowing us to get to the hospital in time. She tried to extend for 6 months, but family circumstances sent her home after 3.

We then had a “gap” year in which we gutted our home to put a handicapped-accessible bed & bath in our home, and to open it up for The Camel. Although Medicaid paid for the nursing, it was far from free. We went through 25 nurses, including 5 who failed to show up for shift without calling in first. My pregnant and elderly neighbors took The Camel from the bus driver. We were glad when we could host APs again! Every time I had to take The Camel to a PM drs appt, it involved half a day of leave, pinpoint precision, and schlepping two kids around.

Number four (European) arrived comfortable in her skin and seemingly made the easiest adjustment to our home. We loved her immediately and intensely! Although she was only 19 when she arrived, she was mature, engaging and totally competent. We begged her to stay.

Number five (Asian) was uncomfortable from the moment she arrived. Her English wasn’t great, her driving was so appalling that we split the cost of lessons with her for 13 weeks (and I was still emailing DH about her driving into month 8), and she hated American food. However, she was absolutely fantastic with The Camel and we continue to make the recipes she cooked for her. Not an extraordinaire. We chose not to extend with her and made her failure to obtain an American license by month 8 as our excuse to the many HF who called. In reality, we never connected.

Number six (European) was judgmental and rigid when she arrived and learned to give on those qualities. She played a mean game of Wii with child #2 and helped us get through a lengthy hospitalization with The Camel. An extrovert, she filled our house with her friends and we came to love them, too. We threw them all a good-bye party when the time came. We begged her to extend. I not only drove her to the airport, but one of her best friends, whose HM refused.

Number seven (European) was reserved but joined us in many family activities. She sat with my grandmother for several hours holding The Camel so grandma could see her. She quietly got obstinate child #2 to do his chores and homework. I never felt close to her because she was so reserved, but I think she felt close to us. We begged her to stay and missed her incredibly from the moment she was gone.

Number eight (European) will not go down in the books as my favorite AP. She told me “I’m not here to be a housemaid,” when I began training her on chores. She does what she has to, and only recently has started doing more. She nearly totaled the AP car, and so we withdrew our permissive car policy. She lacks common sense (I’ve threatened to write a Blog post on it). For the first time in 12 years, I feel like a job coach. The love is not there, and everyone is agreed there will be no extension.

Big lessons learned: We prefer APs that enjoy being with the family, but understand that there comes a point where their friendships are more important. We enjoy meeting their friends and getting to know them, but have met a couple of rip-off artists (in their friends) along the way.

The blog: I needed this Blog when I was hosting AP #5. It was a great place for me to vent, learn, absorb, and give back.

HM-in-charge dreams: Cloning my LCC so everyone (APs and HF could have a better chance at a good experience).

I have really enjoyed hosting, or DH and I would not continue to invest a fair share of or paychecks to make it happen year after year. So far it has been the best model of caregiving for The Camel that we have found. However, when I dive back into the pool in a month or so, I’ll be looking for Extraordinnaires. For me, the extra money for the experience is so worth it (there are some candidates out there who could be extraordinnaires, but chose to apply as regular APs because they’ve been talked into a wider HF pool).

PA AP Mom February 19, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I love the format as well.

Household: Hubby and I (both 37), 2 boys (almost 12 and 9) and 3 cats. Hubby travels for business 48 of 52 weeks of the year. I’m recently disabled due to my multiple sclerosis. I am a nurse practitioner. We live in a very RURAL area in Pennsylvania. We have a little more trouble finding au pairs who aren’t turned off by our rural location. We offer a lot of perks….only 2-3 weekends of work per year, full-usage of a dedicated 3rd au pair car, our boys are in school all day so only about 25 hours of work per week.

AP experience: We are on our 5th, and last, AP now.

AP#1 was an 18 year old German girl. Very immature and naive. Never been away from home before. Told lies about our family and rules to our LCC (later busted by other APs who ratted her out to the LCC). Had 2 accidents with our car.

AP#2 was a 21 year old from Sweden. She was fabulous. Kids loved her. No issues.

AP#3 was a 20 year old from Germany. She came to use from a rematch in Dallas. We weren’t in rematch. She was good. Not great. Didn’t really spend a lot of “family time” with us. Good with the kids though.

AP#4 was a 22 year old from Germany. She was also very good. Very task-oriented and sometimes a little colder than the kids liked, but overall good performance.

AP#5 (current) is a 22 year old from Sweden. She’s great. Kids love her. DH and I are very happy with the way she handles the boys. Not looking forward to her departure in June.

Lessons learned: I can’t have an AP who doesn’t want any family type interaction with us. We are VERY family oriented and it bothers me when they don’t join in on anything. Love for them to have free friend time too or alone time in their room too, just something about being there when it counts.

The blog: When our first AP crashed our car twice I turned to this blog for suggestions on how to talk to her about the safety and responsibility factors. Of course, lots of great responses. When the LCC accused us of things that weren’t true, I again found advice from host moms here about how to handle the situation. I love this blog and recommend it to everyone with an AP. For me, it’s my only relationship to other host families because of my rural location.

HM in charge dreams: More realistic portrayal of the program to APs before they arrive. Lower program costs. A summer AP program for those of us with school-aged kids. Removal of bad APs and bad host families from the program, instead of just rematching them with new families or new APs.

HRHM February 20, 2013 at 5:46 am

Household: Dh & I, both mid 40’s, both active duty military. Move every few of years, some locations more desirable than others – right now medium city near the beach! Who knows where come July. 2 girls 5 and 8.5, overscheduled with activities. During the school year, our AP has an easy gig as a chauffer and cook!

AP Experience:
No 1 never got her visa from Moldova (hint – they rarely do!), leaving us in a tight spot so we had to take a transition

No 2 came on Saturday, went out that night with her friends in DC, in the morning announced that her father was gravely ill and she had to return to Brazil. Promptly bought her own ticket to FL (where her BFBH had moved for a internship) and was gone by Tuesday.

No3 was a transition from Bosnia – total disaster in the end. Lessons learned? 1. ALWAYS speak to the the previous host parents! She lied about them and she lied about us to everyone who would listen. 2.Trust your gut. She was stealing from us throughout the year and I kept thinking “nah, couldn’t be. Anything she asks for we give to her” 3.Her psych issues ARE relevant. She was an anorexic from a war torn country and her food issues bled over into her force feeding our kids, 5 years later my older DD still talks about it.

No4 fresh from Montenegro. Lovely girl who fabricated her entire application! Lesson learned, believe half of what you read and none of what you hear! Learn about your intended’s country – social structure counts. All Brazilians have domestic help, almost all europeans get money to stay home the first year or two with their kids, anybody with enough cash can buy their driver license in the iron block countries, no Indian girl has ever cleaned a toilet. In the end she worked out and we still keep in touch, but what a year!

No5 26 yo OOC from Czech, had spent the year prior APingin Europe. Lessons learned. 1. Age doesn’t equal maturity. 2. European experience is NOTHING like APing in America and success there doesn’t guarantee anything here. 3. People with Mommy and Daddy issues often have HostMommy and HostDaddy issues! We thought that after No4, we would foster success by chosing an older candidate who had lived on her own and had AP experience. In the end, she treated us like a US hostel and was pissed everytime we asked her to work. She had no interest in being part of our family and chafed at following rules.
We took a year off to recover and get onto a better matching cycle. Lesson learned – timing is everything. Best to match in summer (Germany/Europe) or Jan (Brazil/S. America) when the pool is thick with candidates.
No6, OOC from Germany, 19, has a 11 year old little sister. So far our best. A little more regimented and cool with the girls for their taste, but actually does most things without being asked, follows guidelines most of the time, and is great to be around. Only complaint is that winter seems to be getting to her and I’m hoping her mood will perk up as the weather does. Lesson learned – I’m definitely being more assertive with managing the AP. If I don’t like something or things aren’t getting done, I address it immediately. I hate to manage the AP but then get pissed when they can’t read my mind and fix what’s wrong. LOL. We will also be sticking with Germany for the forseeable future.

I can’t remember when I first came to the blog but I’m pretty sure it was before things went south with No3 – it was just pleasure reading at that point! But since then, I’ve gotten so much great advice and support here, I don’t know what I’d do without it!

HM Dream: Having the overseas screening be run by people who actually encourage the AP to tell the truth, instead of coaching them how to lie to get the quickest match. Maybe if it were run by US host moms!

Seattle Au pair! February 20, 2013 at 8:18 am

Just to clarify, not ALL Brazilians have domestic help. :)

Amelie ex-aupair February 20, 2013 at 10:16 am

True.

I don’t have one, and most of my au pair friends didn’t have one either.

With the economy growing, it’s getting more and more expensive to hire a helper. Which is a very good thing! =)

Buuuut… It’s still very common to pay for a driver’s license. I don’t have one, I didn’t drive during my AP year, but some of my friends had bought theirs.

didis February 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I have to say, with all respect, working for family who is so judgmental will make the best au pair – not so good. I am coming from one of the country from Eastern Europe and I am little insulted by the way how you categorized us. Of course everybody has their rights to have opinion, but doing research on girls based on their country instead of their family background, values, opinions and many skype conversations that should be done before matching, it’s wrong, disrespectful and gives wrong picture of some of us who are not ‘as bad’ as you described.

And maybe I could describe myself here, even though most of people here are hosts parents.

I am au pair in NW USA for more than a year now, taking care of two amazing little girls, 4y and 18months. I have the best possible family and feel amazingly blessed with everything here. I am coming on this website almost daily, everytime I need advice, or just when I need ideas about improving myself.

I comment occasionally and usually when I find somebody being unfair or wrong with no background. I like to give my perspective, because I am not bitter or angry au pair who needs justice, I am happy and loved one, and hopefully that gives me more balanced and mature view on some subjects when it comes to au pair side.

Momma Gadget February 20, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Didis- I am sorry you feel offended.
We are all colored by the experiences we’ve had and by the experiences of those close to us. Naturally this often causes us to make generalizations..
I lived in Mexico for a year- My HF had maids as did all the families of my schoolmates. The Mexican exchange student my mother hosted complained to my AP that back home she wasn’t expected to make up her own bed because “we have a maid to take care of such things”… most generalizations do have some roots in fact. Do All Mexican’s have domestic help? Absolutely not! But enough well educated Mexican candidates do to keep me from considering their dossiers.

Choosing an AP is a stressful and daunting task. When I review dossiers, because of my positive experiences I will always look at APs from South Africa, and Hungary first, and automatically discount any candidates from countries I had bad experiences with -Even though I see on this site other people have had very happy matches with APs from these.

I feel a huge responsibility to narrow down the field of focus to AP’s I feel will be good match and happy in OUR family.

The 2 Au pairs that did not work out for us were not horrible people. They were both good girls and we both went on to successful matches with those we were better suited to.

AFHostMom February 20, 2013 at 7:09 am

Hi all….I am not as regular as I’d like but I try.
We are a family of 5–I am a civilian with the Air Force, husband is active duty, and three kids are almost 9, 5, and 4. Life has been a great adventure, and we moved 13 times in 15 years of marriage. We’ve lived in lots of fun places–but we wanted to settle down when we got orders to the DC area. That’s where we are now but the Air Force had other plans, and we are not settling down–we’re off to Colorado in July. Just found out last week. So, I’ve been aggressively blanketing the state with my resume (as my job doesn’t transfer. sigh.). We are in our mid-30s.
We’re on our third AP. First, from Germany, was a girl we knew and matched with while we were living there. HUGE mistake. We limped through 5 months of her drama and immaturity before pulling the rip cord. Lesson learned: we need a cheerful AP, who likes kids, and decided to go with an older girl. Our rematch AP was a non-driver, which was fine with us at the time. She was 25 from Bolivia. She was great but very private and didn’t get involved with our family much. 3rd AP is also from Bolivia and we just extended with her. We’ve just done a massive reset of expectations and she’s doing great (my kids have gone to the library 3 times in the last week. 3 times. this is big for her).
We’re up in the air right now about whether we’re staying with the AP program, given the move. Of course it mostly depends on stuff over which we have no control–like my employment status.

Newaupairmom February 20, 2013 at 8:13 am

Hello! I am more of a “lurker” – I love getting the email message that there is a new post available to read. I’ve posted once or twice and that’s it. I need to think of a new moniker since I don’t love the one I quickly chose.

Household: My husband and I are a blended family. We have three school aged children (1 lives with us full time, 2 are with us half of the time) and a 10 month old. We both work full time but my schedule is flexible which allows me some time at home to visit with the baby and attend events. We live right outside a big city in the northeast and didn’t realize until recently what a benefit it is. Our au pair loves that we live right on a bus line and she can be in the city several times a week.

Au pair experience. We have a unique experience in that my DH had an Au Pair with his ex. They had several au pairs over 4 years that I interacted with and had in my home to watch the kids but I didn’t “host” them. The final burnout au pair on that side lived at our house for 2 weeks until she could go home.

We are hosting our first au pair (in month 8 and extended for another year). She is very involved in our family, loves school and has several close au pair friends. She doesn’t drink (major bonus!) and though her driving was shaky at first, I now trust her with the kids. We wanted an older au pair (one of legal drinking age so that if they drink it is legal at least).
I feel like the Au Pair is a preparation for my own girls turning 21. I treat her like my kids (Santa, Valentines day, etc). She is caring for my baby and I feel safe with her and I want to reward that as much as I can!

The blog: I found this blog while researching to host my Au Pair. I read it religiously now and have even used it as a discussion starting with my Au Pair. (She has learned all about my au pair blog).

Au Pair program: we have a great LCC but I wish we knew the other families in our cluster. I know the Au Pairs and some of the kids (from play dates) but I wish there was more introductions of the families.

Thank you all for your posts and sharing!

AP-to-be February 20, 2013 at 10:28 am

This particular post has helped me realize, that even though I am from Northern Europe there are families out there, who would be interested in that!

About me: I am from Denmark and hoping to become an AP in July/August this year, once I graduate. I’ve been interested in this program ever since I was 16 or so and known ever since, how much I wanted to be part of it.
I go to school full-time and has always liked to keep busy, but had to let go of my 3 jobs to completely focus on school.
I might be one of the few, who is seriously enjoying school and getting as much knowledge as possible in one day, which in the end has paid off. I have a retentive memory and is good when it comes to language.
I hope to be a child psychologist one day, my dream would be to work at a children’s hospital but I am open to go wherever an opportunity might take me.

Household: Even though I do not have a HF, yet I guess it is relevant to know that I have 4 siblings aged 22, 15, 7 and 7 months. I come from a big family and have loved it all my life.

Future HF: I might be a little more specific, once I actually get to talk to host families but location, perks or hours aren’t the important things in the end, if you ask me. I look for a family, where I feel comfortable, welcome and someone, who I can forever keep in contact with.
Besides that, I have a very big love for infants and/or toddlers, which is also where I have the most experience both with other families but especially my own brothers.

The blog: I found the blog, probably about a year ago and started by reading every single blog post on here. I’ve never posted much as I am not really in the program yet, but I feel like this blog has helped me a lot to see HFs’ points of view, as well as learning about things to expect, things to come and how to deal with them.

CA Host Mom February 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Good luck! Our first very dear sweet AP is from Copenhagen. You are smart to do your research first and prepare as much as you can for your time as an AP. This is a great place to get very valuable and realistic information … hope it all works out for you!!

Emerald City HM February 20, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I think it’s great that you are here looking into what it’s really like! I wish more au pairs took that initiative.

It’s a shame that you are with a different agency than we are.

AP-to-be February 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Thanks to both of you!
It’s a great place to figure it all out because there’s only so much your own family and friends can help with, though they try their best!

CA Host Mom: I did see that your AP was from Denmark but she’s even from the same city as me! It’s not until this post came up, that I’ve heard of any HF hosting Danish APs so this makes me really happy!

Emerald City HM: I am actually not officially with any agency just yet as I am still filling out the paper work, which needs to be turned in by April 5th. I found it extremely difficult to pick an agency but ended up picking EurAuPair for a couple of reasons but now that I’ve been here for a while I wonder if they even have that many host families. Which agency are you with?

AnotherSeattleHostMom February 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm

You sound perfect for us too, AP to be! But we’re with APIA…

AP-to-be February 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm

That’s so sweet of you, AnotherSeattleHostMom. I’ve just today signed up for APIA and it seems so much simpler than the agency I chose a while back. I will definitely try to complete my profile within the next couple of days.

Emerald City HM February 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm

We are with Au Pair Care, but they don’t seem to have Denmark as a country to choose from right now, so I’m not sure if they maybe don’t have a rep in Denmark right now.

I would suggest whichever agency you go with to turn in your paperwork ASAP, as there are already au pairs in APCs system with July arrival dates. (We are interviewing right now for that time frame).

Good luck in your search!

AP-to-be February 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm

No, I don’t really see any options for me with Au Pair Care but I will definitely fill out my paper work as you say, I didn’t realize that I was in a hurry because the agency in Denmark seemed to think I was way too early..
I’ve now come to realize how dated their system is and APIA is almost completely online, which is great.
Thank you for the heads up!

Reb February 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Just a quick thought, I am pretty certain that STS Au Pair in Denmark are linked to Au Pair Care in American, and that is the agency you will get support from once you are in America.

(I was with STS Au Pair Sweden, which transpired to be Au Pair Care in America)

Good luck in your searching and I am sure you will find a fantastic family that is just right for YOU!

Momma Gadget February 20, 2013 at 11:45 am

Good luck to you! Hope you find SA great family!

AP-to-be February 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Thank you, Momma Gadget! That’s really sweet of you!

Indiana hostmom February 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I am a former HM living in Southern Indiana and a working mother of a 3 year old. My husband and I are both working in higher education. I have switched to nanny care because of two bad experiences with AuPairs, one of which was bad from the beginning (a rematch was initiated after 3 weeks), the other started out great but upon renewal got worse and worse and worse because of changed priorities for AP, who got engaged and now is married here. We watched the situation changing and remained quiet, ignored lies and other issues – a big mistake on our side. The end of the second AP hosting was just awful and the full details are not fit for this blog.

I initially chose AuPair child care because of the special dietary needs of my child coming along with Celiac disease and because I want my child to grow up bilingual, laying a strong foundation for my native language (I am German and was exclusively selecting German speakers) and also because I believe in having a child home for the first few years (German maternity leave is substantially longer than what is offered here and I have a very generous employer for American standards). I have very much benefited from your contributions to the blogs here (historical and current blogs) and truly wish I would have come across this site earlier than I did.

Why AuPairMom:
See above. This is a MUCH more valuable site than any agencies’ site or the clearinghouse site. A huge THANK YOU again to the host and the contributors.

Talk more about:
True costs, emotionally for child and HF if things do not work out and financially. For the latter, with everything that was broken by our last AP including a car, furniture, dishes etc. and with our extra stipend we paid into an account to be used for travel in the 13th (or 25th) month – AP used it differently at the end – we estimate an annual cost of $35,500. That includes the program fees, pocket money, food and utilities and all the normal stuff as well. This equates to the salary of a super nanny in our region.

Change the world:
1) Better screening of AuPairs so that only those who are also interested in childcare (e.g., professionally) and not those who only wish to work abroad to improve their language skills or just want to escape from their daily life for a while.
2) Better insurance for AuPairs (e.g., for healthcare – routine checkups were not covered for our AuPairs)
3) Change rematch policies and rescreen or council AP and HF and see if either one should leave the program. I am saying this because our first AP was rematched twice, blogged HF families life in detail on a webpage (in her language which I happen to speak), ranted in the most inflammatory way, and shared intimate details of the family. She was here just to party. She should have been sent home!

American HM in Europe February 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I think I’ve posted a few times under other names, but I’ll try to remember to stick with this one!

HOUSEHOLD: DH and I are mid-40s, and have a 5 yo daughter and twin 3,5 year old son/daughter. I’m American, hubby is Swedish, and my kids are totally bilingual. DH works out of town M-F and has since my older daughter was about a year…so I needed some help when the twins were coming as we have NO family anywhere near us. We live in the countryside about 20 minutes from the 3rd largest city in Sweden (small city by American standards – about 365,000 people).

We think we treat our APs pretty well — they have their own car which we don’t restrict usage on, we provide them a mobile phone, and a variety of other benefits. They work 40 hours per week or less, no weekends except if they volunteer to, and we pay for them to take Swedish lessons. We have a large home, so they have a really nice bedroom and private bathroom with sauna.

AP EXPERIENCE: We’ve had 10 au pairs in the past 4 years, which sounds horrible, but almost all have stayed the agreed duration or longer! When I had three babies, and DH was away, we had two au pairs so one could start early and finish early afternoon, and one started late morning and finished around 8pm — a 13-hour day would have been too long for one person!! Plus they helped on the weekends, as DH often had to work then too. (for a while, one worked a Sun-Thur shift, and one worked Tues-Sat). Some were gap-fillers, e.g. for the summer or until we could get a visa sorted for someone. I’ve had three for a year each, including my current one who is half-way through her year, and some have been for as short as 1 month (one AP) or 3-4 months (several of them).

Most of my au pairs have been American, as I require an experienced driver who speaks good English (in the first couple years, I wasn’t getting enough sleep to cope with someone I couldn’t easily communicate with), and there aren’t always so many on the au pair website I use (no agencies in Sweden, at least not worthwhile ones). I’ve also had French, Estonian, Dutch, and Swedish (along with US/European dual citizens which helped avoid having to wait for a visa!). While a few have scratched or had accidents in my car, I haven’t felt any of them were bad drivers. Most have tended to be in their room with the door closed if they aren’t working; I’d actually quite like someone who wants to spend a bit more time with us. They do celebrate most holidays with us, and go to family outings like the circus at the weekends; but most have found friends in the city 20 minutes away, and tend to stay over at their friends all weekend most weekends.

Had one au pair that really wasn’t great, but she still stayed 6 months out of the planned year; it just got progressively worse. She wanted to make all the decisions, and didn’t agree with our parenting philosophy.

Oh, and I find almost all my au pairs on http://www.greataupair.com, and nearly all of them have “favourited” me first — which IS a great way to find candidates.

THE BLOG: Forget how I found this, maybe googling for a site to share ideas with others. I find it not always applicable given the differences b/w the US and European AP practices (e.g., no agencies, no LCCs, etc.), but love some of the great ideas, and now have a written handbook (rather than a bunch of one-off documents) that I’m rather proud of, thanks to Au Pair Mom community members.

And if I was HPIC? No idea really, as the issues I face are rather different. I guess with respect to the process, I’d find a way to only have candidates on the au pair sites who ACTUALLY want to be an au pair, and are not just window-shopping, so I don’t waste my time reading profiles for people who never even bother to reply to me. I’ve gone through over 100 profiles to find most of my au pairs, and phone interviewed dozens in some cases!

Glad to “meet” you all!

American HM in Europe February 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Oops, forgot to say, since my kids were 3 and 1,5, I’ve been back at work full time — although work from home, so get to pick them up at daycare a few days a week. This is both good and bad for my au pairs — they have the challenge of trying to keep the kids away from my office, but the benefit of two of us around when necessary.

TexasHM February 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I, like a previous poster, was a “lurker” for the last two years until I felt like I had a little more perspective/something of value to add!

Household: Dual working parents, young 30s, 3 kids age 7, 4 and almost 3. As you may have figured out we live in Texas, in a suburb of a major city. Have found this can be a challenge when matching – lots of stereotypes and need good drivers but has actually become a blessing in disguise as it seems to yield girls that care more about the family dynamic than the location/perks!

AP Experience: 1st AP was a very nice 26 yr old Brazilian girl that we trusted 100% and bonded instantly with our kids. Not a great driver despite having had a license in home country 8 years. Took almost 3 mos to get a license and we were shocked when she passed even then. Translated into reduced driving privileges and consistent challenges (no highways, 20 mile radius, no GPS allowed) still had several “mystery” scrapes on the bumpers and scraped the house (garage door frame) once. Like a previous poster, I took on way too much of a mothering role and was always dealing with her drama of the day/week/month. Not a malicious bone in her body, but very dependent (unless of course she wanted to drive blind 45 min on the hwy to see her new boyfriend or our car curfew interfered with her plans at which point we were promptly reminded she was 27/28 yrs old)! We both considered letting the first year run out (I was asking more of her – still a watered down version of the role – and she was struggling) but at the end of the day, she sucked it up and we were too exhausted to think of starting new so we extended. We actually ended up ending the second year about two months early because she was engaged to marry an American, was about to start school and we were able to find an awesome match earlier than expected so it was a win/win/win.
2nd AP – 22 yr old also Brazilian (coincidence, not preference) been here about 2 months and is everything we thought/hoped the program could be. She’s bright, confident, always joking/smiling “Tigger” personality and within one week I was already upset at the thought of her ever leaving our family. She works hard, hangs out with the family but also puts herself out there, new driver in Brazil but already better than any other au pair I know in the area, got her license on the first try 17 days in! She dishes it back to my husband (well deserved) and after the kids go to bed we sometimes shop/watch movies/eat ice cream and giggle like girlfriends.

Lessons learned – Too many to count! I came to this blog about 6 months into the first au pair and realized that everything I ever/wanted needed to know/ask was here. I spent an entire weekend devouring the content and now look here first every time a fellow HM comes to me with an issue/problem or I’m presented with a new scenario. I feel like I already know so many of you and thanks to everyone that contributes! I wish I could name you all but specifically CalifMom, Should be Working and Taking a Computer Lunch have all helped me through some very trying times and I honestly feel like if it wasn’t for all of you and this blog, we would have left the AP program.

AP Program – agreed that families shouldn’t have to host during rematch and if other families host I think it should be paid. We’ve done this and while I don’t expect huge compensation, it would be nice if the agency would stipend $25 a day or something for food/bills or discount on next contract. I would like a daily “new candidate summary” email from the agency while we are looking so I don’t have to constantly log on looking for new candidates and I think there should be more screening to prevent burnouts which I think in turn would lower the cost of the AP program in general. I think English level should be tested again and the American AP agencies should discuss expectations with the girls before they get put on a plane. I wish girls could extend as long as both parties want (3-4-5 years). I think new host families should be paired with experienced ones or a great LCC to help them screen/interview/match for the first time. Oh yeah, and world peace. :)

PS – neither of my brazilian au pairs had “help” in their homes.

CA Host Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I love your suggestion of pairing new host families with veteran host families! Great idea – we’d have loved that when we first started out. I still don’t personally know any other host parents in our area, and there are over 20 APs in our area cluster.

Momma Gadget February 20, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Yes! Brilliant Idea!

OB Mom February 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve read or posted, but I have always loved this blog.

Family: Two boys age 9 and 12. DH and I both work full time as Scientists/Professors. DH travels a few times a month so schedules can be variable. The menagerie also includes a Golden Retriever, Fish, guinea pigs and until recently a a (stinky) lizard.

Au Pairs have a pretty good life as we live in a very desirable area and our house is extremely well suited to their privacy. Kids are in school all day and they have access to our 3rd car (they do pay for gas and have some distance restrictions).

We are currently on our 7th AP and have generally had great experiences. Still in regular contact with 5 of them including a visit from the first (sadly the kids didn’t really remember her). I love knowing that they have each had their own impact on our family and also am proud that we have had important influences in theirs. Several have developed a love of world travel and have used their experience with us as a launch pad into great things.

AP#1 was from Canada (not that “foreign”). She was the only one >21 and was very outgoing and fun. She was a bit of a party girl, but still an involved with our family. She was the only one who extended even though we offered it to several (probably b/c she had already finished college and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with the rest of her life). She left our family and became a Nanny in Dubai and continues to live there involved in child care.

AP#2 was from Germany and started out a bit shaky b/c her English was weak and we had been a bit spoiled by AP#1. It was a bit of a crazy year b/c I was unemployed for 6 months and we had to buckle down on our finances. We “fired” all other support functions and this AP worked with me to do all the cleaning regularly. We became fast friends and did workout videos together. She embraced the opportunity to learn english and ended up scoring very highly on the TOEFL test. She has subsequently spent a year in Chile and time in Indonesia as part of her international education.

AP#3 was from Sweden and didn’t last with us. She seemed like a ghost and couldn’t connect with us or the kids. Without restraint the kids became monsters and managed to lock her out of the house and I heard reports of them jumping on the roof of the car. I gave her plenty of warnings but when I finally initiated the rematch she shared stories that made me realize that I didn’t want her with my kids (I think she may have been abused). Rematch after 2 months.

AP#4 was a rematch from another local family from Austria. She was great with the kids and talked often with me, but seemed to be nervous around most adults and didn’t engage with DH. She was fascinated with education strategies and was great at keeping kids on track for school (the monsters disappeared immediately with some control). The weird thing was that she apparently had a boyfriend that she is still dating but we never knew. Clearly an example that she lived with us, but wasn’t really part of our family.

AP#5 was not our favorite. From a fairly well off family in Denmark that seemed to have an infinite supply of $ for shopping. She enjoyed talking with adults and liked debating about politics over dinner. She was a great cook and caused me to start the tradition of asking our AP’s to make us dinner once a week (and thereby forcing them to eat with us once a week). The biggest problem was that she was very much a party girl and didn’t respect our rules. We found out that she had a party at our house when we were out of town … imagine bags of “red solo cups” in the trash when we returned and our recycling smelled of vodka from all the bottles that were there. When we called her on it and explained that she was putting us at risk she said “My friends are rich enough that they wouldn’t steal from YOU …” (yes, really). There was only 2 months left, so we didn’t rematch, but clearly we should have earlier on … I think she drove me to this blog the most.

AP#6 was probably our favorite. (German) She is currently attending school to be a science teacher which fits best with us both wanting to be a teacher (like #4), but also loving science. She was truly part of our family and loved being with us. She could engage with both the kids (both of them) and us and really built strong friendships.

AP#7 is again from Germany and is having a great year. She is a wonderful blend of #6 and #1 … well balanced and part of our family but still a bit of a party girl and outgoing. She is conscientious and pays attention to building strong relationships with the kids and us. We have asked her to extend but don’t think she will (needs to go to college).

Lessons learned: Best AP’s are “proactive” not “reactive”. They need to anticipate what might happen and have planned ahead to keep things on track. They want to be part of our family and embrace the experience of being in the US. They want to support our family and help us all do better.

This Blog: Love it even though I haven’t been here much lately. It seems that traffic had diminished over the past year, so I wasn’t drawn as often as a few years ago. I have often thought to send my AP’s here, but realize that I wanted a place to vent at times so have not.

Dream: Better screening process and application that gave more real information about candidates. Perhaps the interviews at their side can help define the motivation of participating in the program. Do they really like kids?

Other important comment … I would have made a terrible AP at age 19-21 … I don’t want someone like me but rather someone to compliment our strengths.

Thanks for all the support and insight.

5kids=aupair February 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm

US: Workaholic Husband who is almost never home, Me – super mom/SAHM. We’re in our early to mid-40’s. Live in less-desirable part of country. 5 kids, ages 3 – 10, + easy dog. Very relaxed rules family, has AP car, great AP room, etc. Have cottage. Just a lot of kids with a SAHM in an undesirable part of country.

AP Experience: 7.5 years
#1 – France, 19 – Awesome, loved to party but didn’t interfere, had big time fight w/BF and became sullen last 3 mo. This was our only underage au pair, she was fine and mature, but we just realized there is not enough for the girls to do if they’re not 21.

#2 – Norway, cried on day 2. Wanted to be somewhere warm with mountains and be able to walk to town. Um, not the midwest. We rematched, but she ended up crying when she left bc she loved us. Went to 2 awful AP families on East Coast.

#3 – Slovakia, Sweet as can be but not very bright. Most stressfull AP year ever due to zero learning curve and bad driving. Should have rematched.

#4 – Germany, Amazing AP, she even crashed our 2 cars into each other and we asked her to stay. She couldn’t.

#5 – Norway, AWFUL rematched – Goth girl (did not appear so in profile) Sullen, bitter, terrible with kids, hurt my pre-schooler by dragging him across carpet. Rematched to Seattle and stayed her year there. New family motto “Just say No to Norway”

#6 – Germany, Amazing! Best AP ever! From totally broken home, thought she would have issues, but nope! Did it ALL, extended for 6 months. Ruined all future APs for us.

#7 – Germany, Awful, rematched. Hated Americans, challenged us on our politics and had uneducated views she felt she had to share. Could not do even the simplest tasks right.

#8 – Ukraine, Awful, rematched. Lazy, opinionated, also could not do anything right. Could not handle small children. Terrible driver. Rematched locally which was very awkward, crashed HF’s car then rematched to CA to finish year and as extension AP, is with 2 small children.

#9 – Extension AP from Spain, (figured we needed PROVEN girl) she was great, but liked to take the kids out instead of doing work at home. Household duties suffered and with a big family, that is a hard hole to dig out of. Very careless, ruined more than her fair share of laundry and other misc. items. Trashed AP room, never cleaned. Her heart was always w/her first family. She sent them lavish presents yet did nothing for my kids.

#10 – Brazil, great, asked to extend but she is going to extend with another family.

#11 – ??? We’re interviewing right now.

Kelly Hand February 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

It’s been really interesting to read these candid accounts of each host parent’s experience. I worked for six years for one of the biggest au pair programs and was also an au pair in France twenty years ago. Being a counselor was the perfect work-from-home job for me when I first started and my second child was still a baby and I lacked the earning power (and bedroom space) to pay for an au pair myself! Becoming familiar with the child care struggles of so many working parents (or parents who just needed the extra child care help) made me feel this country needs dramatic reform in the area of child care. Since leaving the au pair program for another work-from-home job, I have written a novel called Au Pair Report about au pairs and host families in Washington, DC. It involves a presidential campaign and the prospects of child care as a potential focus issue for politicians.

I worked with scores of au pairs and host families and found there were huge differences in the appropriateness of both au pairs and host families for the program. Just as there were au pairs in it just for the chance to learn English or have a good time and not really cut out for child care, there were also families just in it for the cheaper child care (it’s still cheaper than a nanny here in DC, and it was especially cheap when the stipend was only $140, before the minimum wage increases led to the phased-in stipend increase) and not really cut out to host someone from another culture. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that an au pair can be a failure with one perfectly nice family and a great success with another. Similarly, a host family that one au pair considers horrible may turn out to have an excellent relationship with next au pair. The success of matches often derives from a good personality fit, so this is why au pairs and host families should not be too insistent on having other au pairs and host families “kicked out” of the program when things don’t work out. There are always at least two sides to every story, and counselors are not supposed to take sides, but host parents are typically more articulate and forceful advocates for their interests; they have more power in the relationship than au pairs because they are the potential “repeat customers” and they are not young and vulnerable in a foreign country. However, their children are vulnerable, and their needs must come first. I think the mom of “Camel” is admirable for working with a variety of au pairs, recognizing that they were a better solution than a string of nurses–and I agree “extraordinaire” au pairs do tend to work out better for special needs kids.

The program works best when both sides have reasonable expectations, goodwill toward each other, good communication patterns, and genuine concern for the well-being of the host children. Also, it’s crucial for both sides to follow the State Dept. rules about working hours, etc. which exist to protect au pairs, host families, and especially children. Families who can make do without a driver (common in urban areas like mine, but less common elsewhere) have the pick of the best au pairs because there are so many wonderful au pairs who are horrible drivers. The licensing system in Western Europe is strict enough to (almost) guarantee solid driving skills, but many other countries just do not offer that peace of mind.

My dream is to have comprehensive child care reform that would include a serious look at how au pair programs are run–and perhaps shut down any au pair program that is subpar. I think the one I worked for was one of the best in terms of customer service, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have some unhappy customers, and I heard horror stories about some of the other programs. I would like to see a little more government involvement in the programs (the State Department could be more concerned with the qualitative and less with checking boxes) and, even better, family subsidies for child care that may reduce the cost to families of hosting au pairs or procuring other child care. When I was in France, my host family got a monthly allowance that covered my costs.

Because I have had so many au pairs find ways to stay in the U.S., we also need to acknowledge this is a motivation for many program participants. In an ideal world, immigration reform and child care reform could complement each other. Most nannies are immigrants–whether legal or illegal–and it is clear that child care is not a field where we can find enough workers domestically. Au pair programs are one of many positive steps that have been taken toward professionalization of child care (the other one is the push for early childhood education that is starting to get a little momentum), but we have a long way to go. I’d like to see some creative options available to families and au pairs.

TexasHM February 20, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Kelly great comment about immigration/child care reform. This is where I was casually treading in my comment that we should be able to extend 3-4-5 years if both parties agree. I have seen a several smart, hardworking, amazing au pairs make desperate or illegal decisions to stay (get married, HF “sponsor” student visa, etc) when I am confident these girls could have held down a job(s), paid their way through school and contributed (all volunteered in free time) in a legal way had there been a channel in which to do so. As it stands, the hurdle is having a sponsor ($25k) so the girls that have wealthier families or HFs willing to break the law get to stay. I am all about incentivizing the desired behavior and right now the messaging is if you don’t have resources you need to get married or get on a student visa illegally. I’m not saying you make it an easy path to citizenship but if internationals on work visas can apply for green cards after X years and requirements, why can’t au pairs? I find that the girls that are successful in the program are the “best and brightest”, why would we not want more of them in the country?!

Au pair with two awesome kids February 20, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Well this is not entirely true. I know several HF that sponsored their au pair because it is cheaper AND more importantly have stable Childcare with someone the kids love! Depending on where you live, a community college costs $10000 a year including insurance and books. Au pair program with everything added up, you pay at least $20000 probably more. It works for both, you and your awesome au pair. Only do it if she is really awesome!

TexasHM February 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm

I wasn’t clear above, the $25k is what you have to show DHS you have in cash to “sponsor” a student visa. Not what it costs. So the girls either get someone with $25k in spare cash to vouch to support them or they get a family to sponsor them and work illegally. That was my point. Or get married of course! We won’t do it. Both girls have asked, our second I would do anything for – legally.

au pair February 20, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Why would you not do it if you dont mind me asking?

TexasHM February 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Why not? Several reasons. 1. It’s illegal. 2. There is no support/protection for au pair or family. 3. To be a sponsor for a student visa you have to show you have $25,000 in cash and sign an affidavit with the US government stating that you swear you will use this money to pay the student’s tuition/room/board etc if for ANY reason they can’t pay and you must pay for them to finish the term. So if a girl enrolls and gets sick or quits going you pay for everything until next semester break. 4. Because we need a caregiver for 45 hours per week and there is NO WAY an au pair could take a full time course load and au pair full time and be successful. I just had AP#1 (married an American and now in school part time) come back and tell me I was right on this. She’s a part time nanny and part time student and really struggling. It would be selfish of us and taking advantage to set a girl up to fail like this. The families I know that have done this had older kids and only needed help 20ish hours per week. One of those APs told me its still hard and she has no social life. 5. What kind of example does that set for my kids? It’s ok to break laws you don’t want to follow? My oldest doesn’t miss anything, not a conversation I want to have. 6. I have to do what is best for my family and putting them at risk (legally, financially, emotionally) is not worth even the advantage of more time with an awesome au pair.
I would love nothing more than to keep our current au pair forever, but if we’d done that with our first our current wouldn’t be here now! We feel a moral obligation to follow the law and give another girl the opportunity. Ok, off my soapbox!

Momma Gadget February 20, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Texas HM-
Thanks for the insight. I have had a couple of AP’s I would love to have helped stay here. I hadn’t realized how big a commitment it would be.

au pair February 20, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Texashm: for some reason i cant replay on your last post, so i just do it here. I understand your concerns, i really do. Especially the money and law issue. But never think that it is not possible for someone to work 45 h take 15 credits and be successful;) because it does work:) if you really want to, it works. Believe me, i know:) but everybody needs to decide for their own good. If you think it is not good for your family, then i sure think you are 100% right. It has to work for both sides, and there has to be a very very special bond.

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 2:40 am

I’m not saying its not possible to take a full course load and AP, I’m just saying its not a recipe for success. I looked at course schedules for our first AP to illustrate this. We live 30-40min from the school, our APs work M-F 8-5 so with commute she’d have to shovel food, haul out the door and get home between 1030-11pm only to wake up and do it again. She’d have to take a Saturday am class as well so that leaves part of Sat and part of Sun (our APs have been active in church) to do all their homework for 5 courses, hang out with a friend or Skype home. We would end up with potential for a very tired or lonely or mediocre in school AP, none if which are a win/win.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 21, 2013 at 8:07 am

I think it depends on the person. AP #1 successfully negotiated working full-time and attending college full-time because that was what she had been doing in her native country. In some ways she had it easier with us: 1) because she could study while the kids napped and 2) she wasn’t paying for housing, utilities, or transportation (so while she was making less money than she would have had at home, the money she earned was “hers” – I put that in quotation marks because I know she sent a fair amount home to support her family).

We attempted to sponsor our 1st AP (PICU nurse) because she wanted to stay and she was fantastic with our kids (who were both enrolled in early intervention at the time – child #2 having had bacterial meningitis as an infant and The Camel being the The Camel). We were fortunate because we had a lawyer who did the work pro bono because of our situation. While we were waiting for the Dept. of Labor to review her application (she was gone 3 1/2 years later before her application rose to the top of their pile), we put her on a student visa. This was in 2001, and I don’t recall having to prove that we had $25,000.

However, the first year we had her on a student visa nearly broke us. The community college considered her a foreign student for the first year (remember – now she wasn’t an AP), and it cost us over $23,000 in tuition alone. We continued paying her Extraordinnaire stipend (then $205 a week). We were broke. That first year was much more expensive than hosting a new AP. Was it worth it? Absolutely, The Camel was extremely medically fragile at the time – having a PICU nurse familiar with her care was extremely beneficial to us. When The Camel was hospitalized for 4 weeks, she was essential.

For the years following, the community college charged in-county tuition, which was considerably cheaper than hosting a new AP. She did leave us three weeks earlier than intended – our relationship broke down over monetary and trust issues (not her – her silly friends). We stayed on the books as her sponsor for a couple of years afterwards, but offered no monetary support. When she had amassed an amazing amount of community college credits (almost enough to graduate from a university), we severed the sponsorship.

Would I offer it to any other AP? Absolutely not. Now that my kids are school-aged, I don’t need the level of care that would offset the expense.

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

TACL – as always, thanks for a great perspective. I want to be sure and point out that the original question was why WE would not do it. Like almost everything in this program, it boils down to the best scenario for your particular family/situation. We are very blessed in that our kids are healthy and high energy, leaving our au pairs happy but exhausted at the end of the day. Naps are almost a thing of the past (middle doesn’t, youngest does for an hour) and with a family of 6 (inc au pair of course) it’s a constant effort in controlling the chaos. :)

< cv notes: I have nipped this issue of visas for a new post... coming right up !>

Au pair with two awesome kids February 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Well then I think it is different from state to state. Because we never had to show $25000. Only $15000. But as I already said, it has to work for both sides, and you both need to have benefits. For me, I get the education I always wanted, and my HF gets the Childcare giver they trust and love. It worked great so far the past years. Because it was worth for both of us. They got through the years while their kids are young with 1 au pair, and don’t have to get another one once I’m done, wich is a big advantage for them, since the older one has huge transition issues.

OpinionatedHM February 21, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Hi all, I had to chime in here because this confusion about sponsoring student visas caused a misunderstanding with our first AuPair who couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t sponsor her like another family was doing for her AuPair friend. We had alread extended with her and her time here was at a close. When TexasHM says it’s illegal, that is because it is a violation of the student visa to work without approval by the INS. If work is approved, it must be on campus or approval must be obtained to work off campus. the work can be no more than twenty hours per week. the work must be directly related to the degree being obtained. It’s possible that this criteria can be met (like in the case of TACL below) but unlikely in the case of many of these “converted J-1” visa situations where the sponsored student is expected to be a caregiver in exchange for sponsorship. In fact, if you read about it, you will find that requiring work in exchange for sponsorship is expressly prohibited in the explanation of the visa requirements. I’ll try to find a link for you all. BTW I explained all of this to our much loved AuPair and sent her the appropriate links to read for herself. We bid her a tearful goodbye a year ago. She is now in an international business program at home so she can get back here on her own terms as a business woman. You go girl! This would be a great topic to have a full discussion on as there is obviously a lot of misinformation out there.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Yeah, I figure DH and I fit into the Zoe Baird not-quite-legal category, but because we were attempting to legally sponsor our AP as an employer (all of that was Kosher), we put her on a student visa so she could visit home and return to the US legally while her application was in process. I’m not running for public office and neither is DH. We were in a shady area and even the college officer in charge willingly took our money and looked the other way.

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

This is why I was hesitant to tread into this topic in the first place. APs and HFs DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! It doesn’t vary state to state, visas do not vary state to state, they are national! I literally researched this and TALKED TO DHS personally 4 months ago and was told $25k is what they are looking for as the proof of funds requirement. For the rest of you host parents that are curious what an affidavit of support to the US government looks like which is only step one of several in the process to do this (next being proof of funds), below is the link! Check it out yourselves. Again, I wish there was a legal way to keep the girls longer that want to stay. I don’t see why they can’t transition onto a work visa with me as the employer or just extend the J-1.
http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-134.pdf

RedBlu Au pair February 21, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Texashm: you don’t have to fill that form out. The I-134. That is something different. What you would had to do is prove the college that you have the amount they want. Usually around $20000 for community colleges. Than they give you or better your au pair an I-20 you send this with your I-539 to the department. You have to show prove of the money the college wants, but that’s it. Believe me. I did it just like that and a lot of other au pairs I know, and we go our visa just fine. So I don’t know who told you that, but it is definitely not how it works.

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm

NOT TRUE. I don’t know how many ways I can explain I just went through this but I can send you 10+ college websites right now that prove this. You are correct in that the college helps you get an I-20 but not without an AFFIDAVIT OF SUPPORT also known as an I-134. If your sponsor currently lives in the US, it is required. Period. Here’s a few websites, I can send you a dozen more.
http://www.lado.edu/dnn/F1Visa.aspx
http://www.oip.lsu.edu/iso/pdfs/affidavit_of_support.pdf
http://www.altiusdirectory.com/Society/what-documents-required-usa-f1-visa.html

TexasHM February 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

NOT TRUE. I don’t know how many ways I can explain I just went through this but I can send you 10+ college websites right now that prove this. You are correct in that the college helps you get an I-20 but not without an AFFIDAVIT OF SUPPORT also known as an I-134. If your sponsor currently lives in the US, it is required. Period. When you say your HF had to show proof of funds, that was a part of the I-134 requirements. I tried to post the links but it held the post for moderation so if CV pulls this as a separate topic I can send her the links to post.

Seattle Mom February 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Glad to hear you say that there are a lot of great APs who are not drivers….. driving is currently one of our requirements because the AP needs to take the kids to preschool, which is a 20 minute drive away. But we’re switching to a new preschool next Sept, a 7 minute walk from our house. And we live near lots of bus lines (and walking distance to all the amenities you can imagine), so driving is not really going to be required anymore. We will be looking for a new au pair to start next January, and it will be the first time we don’t need a driver or infant qualified- it’s going to be very exciting!

JJ Host Mom February 20, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Hi I’m JJ Host Mom. I think I posted under the name “NewAPMom” a couple of years ago but now use JJ Host Mom.

DH and I live and work in the Silicon Valley with our 4 year old twin boys. We’ve had 5 au pairs.

1: from Guadaloupe by way of France. Although she worked in a daycare before coming here, being solely responsible for twin babies was really more than she could take. We eeked it out for about nine months before sending her home.
2: from France. We loved this au pair and still keep in touch with her. I think her year here had as much positive impact on her life as it did on ours and our kids, and that’s how this program is supposed to work.
3&4: both from France. Neither lasted more than a few weeks. #3 (a male au pair) smoked and talked on the phone all day with the kids. #4 almost totalled the car while driving the kids (luckily no one was injured) and was very argumentative and defensive about everything.
5: rematch from another family. A kindergarten teacher from the Ukraine. She was really good with the kids. She extended with us, but then left suddenly when she became unexpectedly pregnant. Still, she’s a nice person and we still keep in touch.

I quit my FT job about a year ago, intending to start my own business, but due to life circumstances that didn’t work out. Instead I’ve spent the time staying home with my kids for the last year before they start school, which has been great. And also hard! It’s making me realize things that I can do to help au pairs be more successful. When I’m working, I’m a manager in high tech, which basically amounts to hiring smart people who know what they’re doing and getting out of the way so they can do their jobs. I think I was trying to replicate that with au pairs, which doesn’t work at all, since most of them don’t have any relevant experience to draw from. The next au pair we get, I’ll be a lot more hands on about helping them get settled and training them to do their jobs.

Love this blog. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

Au pair program wishlist: I wish the agencies would be more realistic with candidates about the fact that this is a job. I wish they’d be choosier about who they let into the program – both au pairs and host families. I wish they’d pay LCCs better, and give benefits. The LCC job is an important one, and a hard one, and I think the program would be more successful with better, more motivated LCCs. Not to say that there aren’t some great ones but they’re not consistent.

I agree with OB Mom – I also would have made a terrible au pair at that age. I’m not even sure I have the patience to be a great SAHM even now, at twice that age. So our au pairs have to be different than me, which is sometimes hard for me to remember in frustrated moments.

CA Host Mom February 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Excellent point about the difference between hiring professionals in the workforce vs. Au Pairs! It sounds like our work environments are similar. As obvious as it seems (in hindsight) it was difficult for me to transition from the frame of mind that I use to operate in as a professional, to the frame of mind that I needed when “managing” an Au Pair.

Tristatemom February 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Interesting read!
Sadly, I don’t want to divulge much info about me because of privacy concerns and my APs reading when I am venting. I think if we had to log in, and there was a vetting process before being alowed to participate, I would participate more. There could be members-only forums and open forums so we can continue to benefit from APs perspectives but also have private space to really talk about issues.
Another thing I wish for is that we can start topics instead of having CV pick them (this is not a criticism!) or piggy-backing onto other threads.
In total, I am very grateful for this resource!

anonmom February 20, 2013 at 4:04 pm

It is interesting you make the remark about starting topics. There was once a board on ivillage (many years ago)that shut down, which is how I found this site looking for others who had insight as to this form of childcare.

Anna February 23, 2013 at 8:46 pm

yes, I remember that ivillage board, it was not very active – I don’t think many knew about it. I also wish there was something for au pair moms in a bulletin board format…

Seattle Mom February 27, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Me too! I tried to start a community on LiveJournal for AP Host Families, but Livejournal is passe and I don’t even really use it anymore, so it never got off the ground (zero members!).

I wonder if someone started a yahoo/google email group, would that help? Personally I am on too many of those groups and I don’t really like them- too annoying to get emails every day (even in digest form) and not easy to look up old threads. But really useful when I have a question for the group or need to get something off my chest!

What else would work? Unfortunately facebook is the best bet to get a lot of members, but privacy is an issue there…. I’ve looked for good HF resources but all the groups seem to be geared towards APs or perhaps HFs looking for APs.

LookingForwardToBeAP August 27, 2013 at 11:58 pm

I think the solution to this idea would be to create a forum, where you create a profile, and you can have exclusive forums for some groups of members. Wich doesn’t necessarily mean to close the blog, both could co-exist. Perhaps CV has thought about it already, I don’t really know what it takes to build one

Although I can imagine wanting to stay anonm, I must say I have benefited so much in reading HM’s points of view, I think I have read at least 100 post here since I started considering the program and has been so helpfull!! please keep doing this!

I have already matched and I am now looking forward to change my name to “happiest au pair ever” in december! =)

FutureAP February 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Well, I have poster through different profile names since I can never remember which one I used and often delete my cookies ^^
I’ve been here for about 1 year, I used to be an AP in MI (3 kids who I love from the bottom of my heart, my HF didnt need an AP anymore so I came back home to study instead of extending).

Now I have decided to become a repeat au pair, I will be late August and recently matched (was quick, 8 days online, 5 contacts, one great fit, 4 I would not see myself with).

I came here to get the perspective of HFs and learn more about the program from this point of view, see what motivates HFs and get great tips on how make my second year a great one as well (I believe I was very lucky the first time but this time as well).

Well, that message was confused :p

Momma Gadget February 20, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Good Luck!:)

FutureAP February 23, 2013 at 10:14 am

Thank you :)

AnotherSeattleHostMom February 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I used to post under a different name but recently changed it and I’ll try to stick with this one :)

Household: Me, my husband, a preschooler and a toddler. We both work full time and kids do morning preschool 2 days per week.

AP experience: We’re on our second…two very different young ladies but both have been wonderful.

AP #1: Eastern European and young but very hard working. We had a rocky start because she had exaggerated her experience significantly but really wanted to be here so she worked her hiney off. Spent time with us as a family when asked but didn’t really engage hugely with kids “off the clock”. She was social but not a party girl. Could not boil water. Ended up having a great year we are still in touch by email, she went home after her year was up to go to school.

AP#2: Asian country. Older. Very mature and great experience with children. A truly lovely person, hard worker, great cook, my kids adore her. She sometimes asks if she can play with us in her time off because she misses them. I’d like her to stay forever but she has agreed to a 6 month extension and then will return home to help in the family business.

Big lessons learned: We will choose older APs from here on out, although our young AP was quite mature, it’s night and day between her and our older AP. Will also always choose someone with real, full-time job experience vs just a summer job or part time gig (outside of childcare). Gives perspective and prepares the AP for the 45 hour work week we impose.

Also, I think it’s so important (if you have the option) to find the agency with the best LCC in the area. Much more important than cost or ease of AP search for us is the support of our incredible LCC. Our LCC has been doing her job for 18 years. She is amazing, responsive, truly cares about the APs and families. A friend of mine in Seattle was with a different agency and found the LCC VERY unsupportive and it made a huge difference. The money she saved with the other agency was not worth her aggravation.

The blog: Found it over a year before we started hosting as I was researching the program. Check nearly every day, I’ve learned so much.

HM-in-charge: We are with APIA and I like their website search function fairly well but my husband and I agree it would be nice to have more criteria to search by to weed out the “no ways”. We won’t need an IQ AP next time so I can’t imagine how huge the pool will be! I also wish there was better screening. Obviously we all beef up a resume a bit but there were flat out lies in our first APs application with regard to her childcare experience. Because she was the first we rolled with those punches but wouldn’t do it again in a similar situation. I also think it would be nice if the agency would offer some sort of “rematch insurance” to cover childcare for up to ~3 weeks if you have to go into rematch. I’d happily pay a few hundred bucks for this. I take 2 weeks off when new APs arrive so if I needed to rematch and take 3-5 more weeks off…well, I wouldn’t have a job. And sure I could hire a temp nanny but would be cheaper and easier for everyone if the agency had some on retainer or a contract with a nanny agency.

Seattle Mom February 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm

ITA with you on the LCC.. we have been in the program for a little over a year and are on our 3rd LCC. First one was ok (very nice and capable but new), left when she got a FT job. Second one was experienced and very good, but was just filling in for our neighborhood while they hired a new LCC, and she had way too many APs and was all the way at the other end of town from us. I am glad that she was our LCC when we needed to rematch- she could tell that mediation was not going to help and she did everything she could to be supportive and get the ball rolling on our rematch as soon as possible. Third one is brand new, so time will tell, she seems nice but hmm… I just hope we don’t have any AP problems for her to deal with.

I actually was almost an LCC myself. I interviewed and went through the training but in the end decided not to do it- it was more of a time commitment than I initially thought it would be, and my 4 month old (at the time) baby did not do well when left with DH or anyone else- we weren’t ready for me to leave her. Plus I knew that I would be looking for FT employment within a year so why bother being an LCC when I would likely have to quit. If the gig paid enough for me to stretch out the time until I needed FT employment, and paid enough for childcare when I was doing LCC duties, it would have been worth it… I think I would have enjoyed it but it felt like volunteer work and I wasn’t sure I would be good enough at the sales aspect to make it pay (all the real money is in being able to sign up new HFs- not the greatest incentive structure to provide good service to HFs & APs).

Aussie AP February 20, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I’m a lurker here as well. I’m one of those obnoxious APs in Europe, rather than in the states, but this blog is still super helpful. I think the host parent perspective is probably similar the world over, even though the rules of the program probably differ slightly. I first started reading stuff here when I was doing my research before I even started looking for host families (so probably 2010 sometime.), just as a way to suss out what the general expectations of APs would be. The working hours are different in Europe and there are no agencies or LCC’s to help out when you get into a tricky spot, but otherwise I think the AP experience is probably similar.

I’m 7months in to a year in Germany. Two boys (4 and 7) and a dog who pees in the carpet a lot. I have had mixed experiences with my host family. Kids are fantastic little dudes who I would go to the ends of the earth for. Stay at home HM (who didn’t tell me she was a stay at home mum until I got here…) and I have alternated between deep affection and deep resentment. I came to this blog a lot actually, when we were having some issues, just to see what the common AP problems seemed to be and whether I was doing any of them without realising. It was very very helpful to get the Host Parent perspective, even if it is a perspective geared towards the American system. There are probably blogs/forums like this for Host parents in Germany, but my German wasn’t good enough at the time to know what I should be googling for. There are plenty of AP facebook pages and blogs, but most of them are usually just full of girls bitching that they have to work the weekend, rather than offering any constructive advice on awkward situations. As such, this was the most helpful place to find advice in a language I can read, even if the situations were slightly different due to location and AP regulations.

I can’t really think of anything that I wish we could talk about more. But in regards to comments, sometimes I do think it would be nice not to see so many “just rematch!” comments to problems. Could just be my AP insecurity talking here though. We are all paranoid that at any moment out host family will turn around and kick us out over something insignificant (I know girls who have experienced that. In Germany with no agency, you are royally screwed if that happens.) so I guess we’re a little overly sensitive. Though that said, I dont know the full extent of many of the situations. If the AP is a danger to your kids or something, then absolutely get rid of her. I’m rambling. But you catch my drift?

If I was the Host Parent in Charge?
I think the system would work better in Europe if it was mandatory to be with an agency. There are agencies here but they seem to cater mostly to eastern european girls. and families who want someone to mop their floors, not look after their children. I think that if the system here was similar to it is in the states, then you’d get a lot less bad APs and WAY fewer bad host families. There are a lot of them and if something goes wrong you have no safety net. I think the agency requirement would definitely be a benefit here. Having the LCC thing here would also be amazing because then you have a mediator if things go sour. Would have probably helped me a lot in December… :P

If I was the AP in charge, however: It would be nice if it was madatory for the family to pay the language course. A lot of families do, but not all. Otherwise, it is what it is. Nobody wants to iron fifty tiny child size burberry shirts or mop up dog pee, but that’s part of the job and we all knew that going into it.

Long winded rambling aside, this is a fantastic site.

Georgiapeach March 19, 2013 at 1:01 am

From a HP’s perspective, APs generally are not “kicked out” over something small. My perception is that negative attitude AP’s tend to feed one another. These are the AP’s who carry the woe is me attitude; never taking responsibility for their actions or poor work.
For example, our AP has NO CHORES because twins are hard. All she had to do was engage them, feed and change. She did not make an attempt to do all three wholeheartedly. Hubby spoke with her often, as have I. By the time we parted, she declared she did not deserve to go to rematch because she “did not do anything bad”; and that it was not like she beat the children. I feel allowing a baby to eat wood chips while she looks on (amongst other things) is not acceptable.
Also, she frequently took legal advice from her other AP friends. Turns out most of it AP interpretation of hearsay. No legal validity at all.
It is very disheartening that many APs always put the blame on HPs. HPs go into this program on blind faith, just as much as APs.

Host Mom in the City February 20, 2013 at 9:53 pm

It’s been really fun to read these! We are a two-kid, two-working parent family living in a major city. We have had two German APs. I think we’ll try for another country next time just to mix it up, but we’re not wedded to anything. They have both been solidly good with hardly any issues at all. We plan to continue in the program for at least a few more years assuming it continues to go well.

We have a very small (city) house for all five of us with only one bathroom and small bedrooms all on top of each other and only one car (both my husband and I bus to work and rarely drive on the nights or weekends) so I worry that we’ll have trouble matching, but we never do.

We seriously interview and weed out candidates and only even think about ones with excellent experience. We probably speak to 20 candidates at least before choosing. One thing I was surprised about is that our first AP had no siblings and had never lived alone and she was just as easy to live with as our current who is one of three and had also never lived alone. Both have also had boyfriends in Germany, which has been a total non-issue (and actually maybe better because neither have been so obsessed with going out and we haven’t had to deal with any local guys). So in terms of siblings, living independently and the dreaded BFBH, we won’t screen on those common things in the future.

I’ve been shocked at how time-consuming having an au pair is. I find myself thinking about her, planning for her, talking to her, and doing things for her almost as much as I do my own kids! I’ve been personally trying to find a balance as I think I burnt myself out a bit with our first (totally my fault – she wasn’t even particularly needy).

But I love the program – the kids have adored our au pairs and feel really special that they have their own young person in the house “just for them,” my husband and I love the date nights and flexibility and I in particular love giving the gift of all the growth and experiences to a young adult. I love watching them grow and knowing that they are having a life-changing experience that they will always remember.

Things I wish agencies would work on – many! I wish the fees would go down, I wish the health insurance au pairs get would be better, I wish they would do better screening on host parents (I’ve heard some awful stories about host parents that continue to have au pairs placed with them), I wish they would do better screening on au pairs and only even accept ones who really wanted to come to get child care experience and direct the ones who are here for travel and fun to another visa program (is there one?).

I wish most of all that the agencies would bill the program to both host parents and au pairs more accurately. Telling host parents “want cheap, totally flexible child care no matter how many kids you have???” Is totally inaccurate and misleading. They quote monthly costs that are half of our monthly costs. And yes, it’s flexible, but within what is reasonable for a young adult who also wants to do her own things sometimes too. And they mention nothing about how time-consuming it is or that really, I would never ever recommend it to anyone that wasn’t also truly interested in the cultural exchange aspect.

And the marketing to au pairs needs to be way more “this is a job” than “have a year of fun in America!” Showing them example schedules and focusing on “gain child care experience and English skills” probably wouldn’t attract as many paying customers, but I think it would make for happier au pairs and host families in the long run.

It would also be great if agencies could tell au pairs what a typical parent pays for the program. Neither of mine have known that we paid almost $8k up front or know enough to consider how much it costs to get them licensed and insured, fed, on a phone, etc. both of mine have gone through a period where I think they felt underpaid compared to nannies in our area, but they fail to consider other costs and also that they are less experienced and educated than nannies tend to be at the rates they hear about. Having the agencies address this at training would save some hurt feelings.

Lets see…I literally could not have hosted without this blog. I know there are many other families here with au pairs but unfortunately I haven’t really become friends with any of them. So this has been invaluable.

Host Mom in the City August 28, 2013 at 8:42 am

Ha! I had forgotten about this thread. Funny that I was so happy with our au pair even three to four months in. And funny how I thought I had vetted her so well (suffice it to say that she had glorified a lot of her application – not outright lied, but definitely wrote it to look much better than the truth). She broke up with the boyfriend shortly after this post too. This was posted right before everything tanked. We are switching countries though for our next au pair (just matched last month!). And going back to the Extraordinaire program (like our first was) of course.

NoVA Twin Mom February 20, 2013 at 10:00 pm

NoVA Twin Mom here. I’ve been lurking since just about when we matched for the first time – so about 2 and a half years ago – but posting for less time.

Household – Me (mid 30s), my DH (older than that), 2 year old twins, and a cat. Both my husband and I were exchange students in college, and I’ve hosted “regular” exchange students in the past – one for a full school year as a single host mom, which was a fantastic experience. So when we learned we were having twins, I was excited to try the au pair program. The idea seemed great – as I explain to friends unfamiliar with the au pair program, it’s a cross between an exchange student and a nanny. The other major advantage was not having to bring twin (preemie) infants to day care every day – my maternity leave ended during flu season, so RSV was a real concern. In home care suited our situation perfectly.

We use every one of our 45 hours during the week – usually 4 – 10 hour days and one 5 hour day, but that may be moving to 5 – 9 hour days depending on our work schedules in the future. For the first time in three au pairs, we asked for our current au pair to work a Friday evening this year. Normally we’re OUT of hours after the end of the work week, so our au pairs don’t work evenings or weekends. We also notice that even the best au pair seems to “turn off” after 10 hours on duty – so we wouldn’t ask them to work overtime even if it were allowed in the program. The only time they’re “on duty” more than 10 hours is on travel days while vacationing with us, and they’re not even really on duty that long. But the “turn off” observation on travel days is enough to keep us in line for real work days.

AP experience: we recently matched with our fourth au pair for a July arrival date.

Our first au pair was 19 and from Sweden, as many have commented we didn’t really know what we were doing but she was wonderful and we all learned together. She was with us for long, hard days – but also got to go on some pretty awesome vacations as we wanted the extra set of hands!

Our second was a flame out – she asked to rematch at exactly two months after arrival. Honestly we knew we were headed in that direction and she beat us to the punch. We were unable to find an infant qualified driver in the country, so brought my parents in for a month while we waited for AP number 3’s visa to process.

Our current (third) AP is from South America, and while we knew going in her English wasn’t strong (APIA classified her as low intermediate), we figured once she got here and started speaking English every day, her English would quickly improve. But then she never left the house after her shift, preferring to skype with friends and family back home in her native language. Or to skype with other au pairs in nearby clusters (just far away enough to make evening coffee meetups impractical), again in her native language. And our kids are just now two, so she wasn’t speaking English much during her shift either. I was usually able to understand what she was getting at, but it drove my husband crazy that she wasn’t “embracing all of the opportunities available to her” by exploring the US beyond her bedroom. On the other hand, she’s FANTASTIC with our kids and I have no doubt they’re safe and loved when they’re with her. I can put up with a LOT as long as I know my kids are safe and loved when they’re with the au pair.

We recently matched with number 4. We usually take a “just us” break between au pairs, and often take a vacation during that time. Number 4 is from western Europe, one of the countries where I studied abroad and my husband was once stationed with the military. So we figure language issues will be minimized, as I can understand and speak her native language. She’s also on the younger end of the spectrum – we’ve learned that we tend to do better with girls on a “gap year.” In contrast to some who have posted today, I don’t necessarily look for someone who wants to spend a career in child care – but we do look for someone who has regularly spent 6-8 (or better yet, 10) hours in a row with kids on a regular basis (not just the 1-2 week “internship” we tend to see that prospective APs use to beef up their hours).

Improvements I’d implement? Our LCC is great, I wish everyone could have one like her. She did create a private/secret Facebook group for her host families, so we’re having more contact with other host families since she did that. This forum is the best “discussion area” I’ve found – I recommend it to others in the area that have or are considering au pairs. I’d love a search when considering au pairs that would let me narrow down what age group candidates have experience with without going into every profile. Now that we don’t require infant qualified APs, having a candidate with experience with only kids over 6 in a camp setting isn’t going to work with my just now verbal two year olds. We need someone with experience with younger kids. I’d also LOVE the ability to focus on prospective APs with multiples experience – they’re out there, but again, require searching to find. Both seem like requirements of enough HPs out there that they’d be widely embraced and wouldn’t be too technically difficult to create.

NNTexasHM February 21, 2013 at 12:17 am

I love this forum – in just a few weeks I have found it to be tremendously helpful. We are a a host family in a semi-desirable location with one child which makes us a target for the Au Pairs that want an “easy” gig. But as an only child who had to work all her life, I expect a lot of myself and anyone who lives in our home (including our 6 year old) – plus I’m a straight shooter from New England. I recently launched a business after 17 years in the tech industry and my husband is the head of sales

First Au Pair – from Bolivia. My family is from Colombia so I thought this would be a good fit as I speak Spanish fluently. Told me she was an awesome driver but not really – had to pay for her to take private driving lessons to get her license. My reaction after the year – “meh”. Gal was closed off, scared, conservative, complacent. Also, could not take care of children (rather: a child) or manage a schedule worth a darn. As our first AP we put up with more than we should have and I swore to avoid that situation in the future.

Second Au Pair – from Colombia. Told me she was a go getter, full time teacher, oldest. Only the third claim was true. She also told me she could drive (she couldn’t) and swim (terrified of water even clutching a flotation device) which made me question her character. Just rematched and we are now waiting for our second Au Pair from Hungary who seems terrific.

Incidentally, after connecting with several rematch and a few extension Au Paris, I’ll only seek these categories in the future. They are experienced, already familiar with the US, have SS# and bank accounts and licenses, have a solid basis for any description of their driving skills (they either have the license or they don’t and they should be able to provide an in country reference). I’ve learned there are as many rough families as Au Pairs so one can really benefit from having an open mind and considering an Au Pair who is in search of a new family and / or environment.

Look forward to future discussions!

CA Host Mom February 21, 2013 at 12:28 am

I completely agree with your last point about an open-minded approach to APs in rematch … the two that have worked well for us were in re-match when we found them. Always screen well of course … but re-match candidates could be the perfect fit for you even if they weren’t for someone else … the same is true for HFs in re-match from the APs perspective.

Momma Gadget February 21, 2013 at 12:36 am

I am a straight shooting New Englander too!

It is so true what you posted about rematching and extending Au pairs. The 3 great APs we had were either extending or transitioning.

I am hoping that our new match will correct my terrible record for choosing out of country, first time AP. Although I think I have learned from my past mistakes…I am nervous- there are always new ones to be made…LOL!

NNTexasHM February 21, 2013 at 8:04 am

CA Host Mom – thanks!

Momma Gadget – you said it. I realize I must be doing something wrong in my choice for out of country first timers. I am friends with TexasHM and followed her interview process to the LETTER (she has it down) with the 2nd but when she arrived I quickly realized she was leagues worse than the first as far as capabilities and dedication to the job. Is there a remedial Au Pair selection school? If so, sign me up!

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 10:37 am

NNTexasHM – you did everything right gf! :) Unfortunately, when a girl flat out lies in her application and during interviews there isn’t much you can do about it. As you well know, we ran into that with our first AP – said she had no med conditions, drove “all the time”, etc. While Skype helps – I have eliminated several girls because I got a gut feeling they were being less than honest or heart was not in the right place – there is still no substitution for meeting in person and now I am nervous about when AP #2 leaves. I am afraid she will ruin it for us with all future APs! I am tempted when she leaves to look at only rematch/extension candidates for all the reasons you mentioned above (and we’ve discussed at length!). :)

NNTexasHM February 22, 2013 at 2:02 am

aw, thanks !

Momma Gadget February 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

If they could make that a correspondence class I’d be in too! LOL!

Old China Hand February 21, 2013 at 10:12 am

I will have to write a short post since I am teaching in 20 minutes, but I wanted to write something. My name for the blog came up because I first posted to a question by an au pair living in China… but I am an Old China Hand (raised in Hong Kong and lived in mainland China for 3 of the last 11 years).

Us: Husband works about 1 hr from our house as an engineer. I am a professor in the town we live in (work 3 blocks from home). We have 1 infant.

AP Experience: We are on month 2 with our first AP. She is from China because I want our baby to grow up speaking Chinese. We only looked for candidates from China and went into it with our eyes open – we knew they might lie on applications and didn’t need a driver, so we ignored whether or not they had a license. So far ours seems to be great. She had good training in China (volunteered for months at a foreign-run orphanage for handicapped children – it’s an AP training program in her province) and loves our baby. She doesn’t think we give her enough work (45 hours a week, every week). I think that the fact that I know tons of college-age kids to introduce her to and got her connected with ESL classes, dance classes, and a regular class on campus is helping her to integrate. That being said, she has stopped eating dinner with us most nights, and I realize that I like having her eat with us. She cooks at least once a week, so we eat together then. So far things are going well but I am glad to have this blog to read and glad for all my China experience. There are no APs in our small college town, so for better or worse, our AP has to make friends with students and local residents.

Blog: This blog has been fantastic for me. My agency is small and the LCC doesn’t really do a very good job. She never had an au pair and doesn’t really have much experience with successful families and hosting. She was surprised and impressed with the handbook I wrote up and the daily log sheets (both ideas from here), as well as the weekly meetings. In a post-matching interview with the agency, they were so impressed that I had thought of this stuff that they wanted copies to share with LCCs. Clearly the agency needs to train their LCCs better. So the blog is becoming my surrogate LCC. I found the blog at the recommendation of another professor who used to have APs.

Host mom in charge fantasy: Better LCCs who can help orient host families better. I don’t know how I could have done all the leg-work for our AP arriving if I hadn’t had the blog and hadn’t been on maternity leave. I’m glad to have it over with now and feel fortunate that our AP is working out (so far).

I also second the idea of making the applications easier to screen for infant experience. And no more lying. It doesn’t help anyone.

AnotherSeattleHostMom February 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Our Asian Au Pair also stopped eating dinner with us after the first month or so (except the 1-2 times per week she does the cooking). I think she was just trying to be polite but didn’t like the food. We tried modifying some of our regular meals to her taste but she just seems happier to eat her own food (although she will join us for special occasions or meals out with the family). We decided just to give her a $25/week food budget and she goes to the International District and gets the foods she really likes (and with this “allowance” she usually buys some ingredients to make a meal or two for all of us). She also tends to go eat out with friends at least one night per week. Very different from our first AP who ate dinner with us 95% of the time, but this is working fine for us :)

Old China Hand February 21, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I offered that to our AP, but she said she wants to be part of the family and that she is getting used to our food. She is trying to lose weight (unnecessarily) and seems to think that dinner needs to be cut. We do make an effort to get Asian veggies and to keep noodles around so she can have noodle soup for lunch. I also bought a lot of white rice for her (we prefer to eat brown).

Seattle Mom February 27, 2013 at 1:48 pm

We’re having a similar experience with our new Thai au pair. I think she likes our food ok, but she is extending and spent her first year in upstate NY where it was much harder to get good ingredients. So she’s really excited about all the asian markets here and cooking a lot. I don’t really mind, because she shares with us and doesn’t mind if we eat her food instead of cooking. We are informal about meals- we try to eat together, but the kids are usually hungry before I come home from work so DH & kids eat together before I get home, and they might eat a little more after I’m home. I’m often surprised by some yummy Thai dish when I get home, instead of the spaghetti or salmon I was expecting :)

Taking a Computer Lunch February 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm

We had a Chinese AP who hated our food and rejected it completely. She stopped eating dinner with us, and there went a major opportunity for communication. Solved it by having her cook the one night a week I took The Camel for therapy and could not cook dinner myself (I think she would have cooked for us most nights had we asked – but I prefered a varied palate). Her food was delicious and child #2 still remembers it fondly 4 years later.

Southern HM February 21, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Wow, this is awesome. I found this website way too late, but I am glad I did find it (and I cannot even remember how). I have never left a comment, but I have read some awesome advice.

We (40 and up host parents, 3 kids 6-11) have hosted 8 au pairs in 10 years or so, from various European and South American countries (and we have met many of their au pair friends). Both DH and I work, and travel for work, though with owning a business I have the luxury of some flexibility (as long as my customers are happy). We live in “suburbia” in the Southeast, probably not the most desirable au pair location, but there are plenty of au pairs from all over the world in our cluster.

We have had a couple of awesome experiences, several mediocre ones and one rematch. We have extended 3 times (once for a year, twice for 6 months). But if I had only found this website earlier! Having learnt a lot here and being older and wiser now, looking back, we put up with way too much mediocrity. But overall the program has worked well for us. We have visited with a couple of our former au pairs and been visited, and we are staying in touch with most (but not all).

We are actually not hosting an au pair right now, but trying a “after school babysitter” (mostly, she is a taxi driver…). It’s only been a few weeks, and I am already missing the flexibility (but not the roommate), so we’ll see how it goes, or whether we’ll go back.

I so agree with many of the above statements, the importance of great LLCs, the need to change the advertisements to more realistic ones on both sides, the wish to kick bad au pairs and bad host families out of the program (has anybody ever heard of a host family being kicked out?), I even agree with some of the stereotypes (though I understand how offensive this is, we would not look at au pairs from Eastern European countries again).

Again, I think this website is very, very valuable, please keep up the good work! Thank you all!!!

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I know of a host family that was kicked out but that doesn’t prevent them from applying with a different agency. I have heard of a couple of infamous families that skipped from agency to agency. I wish somehow that DHS or AIFS could keep a database of APs and HFs with specific complaints. I realize this would stack the deck in the APs favor potentially (HF likely would have several APs so potential for more reports) but I would think you could spot patterns of abuse and at least prevent these APs and HFs from continuing on.

PA AP Mom February 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm

We got a German AP from Dallas, TX who was in rematch. The host mom physically and verbally assaulted her, in front of the LCC. Our agency removed the family, but the host mom (they were in process of a divorce) signed up for another agency with no questions asked. Got a new AP from Poland who rematched after 2 months and then got another from Germany who she verbally abused also and left for a 4 day (3 night) vacation on her own, leaving AP of only 1.5 months alone with her 2 kids. AP reported to LCC, who reported to agency. As far as I know, host mom was then removed from that program too.

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Ok and add to that database that a witnessed assault in LCCs presence is instant removal from the program and barred forever from any agency. This is exactly why I think someone needs to have national visibility that isn’t driven by profit.

Southern HM February 21, 2013 at 5:31 pm

100 % agreed! And I wasn’t even thinking of stories this bad, I actually think consistently not following the rules (or never following any rules…) should be enough of a reason to kick a family out of the program.

TexasHM February 21, 2013 at 5:52 pm

I agree but unfortunately, families can play the ignorance card the first round usually. Our current AP told me when interviewing with a single dad from CA she asked about colleges in the area and his response was “what for?” – he had no idea there was an education requirement. Talked to her for less than 10 minutes and then asked her to match!
For me it boils down to intention of abuse. I know HFs that give the APs first dibs on babysitting extra hours, pay them extra to start early a couple days a week, or occasionally go over the 10 hr per day rule because of odd shifts, all of which is against the program rules but in this case both parties are happy and agree to it, so it’s nobody else’s business. Luckily these are all scenarios where I know the AP earns extra and this is not expected or accepted as a normal part of the job and they have the opportunity to decline. Where I have a problem is the alternate side of the coin – the girl that is expected to work over 10 hours per day, the HFs don’t have alternative babysitters so APs can’t decline and there is no additional compensation. That;s not in the spirit of the program and it’s a shame.

Multitasking Host Mom February 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I have used other names before, but this will be my name from now on. I am a constant reader, but I only post when I feel I can add something to the conversation. (So many other people give such good advice!) I work as a supervisor over an area in the lab of a hospital. I have non-traditional hours: start work about 6:30am, about once a month work a weekend, for a couple years worked 10 or 12 hour days, so I could have a day off during the week. My husband works as a manager for a large international manufacturing company. (We are both mid-30s) We have moved a few times now for my husband’s job. Currently we live in a suburb of a large mid-west city. We have two boys that are early elementary age. My youngest has OCD, leading him to have extreme anxiety in some situations.
We have used just about every kind of child care. They were in day care as babies. This was okay, but not great. When my oldest was three he started all day preschool, and we moved my youngest into an in home day care (1 woman with 4 toddlers). This was a great situation for both boys at the time. Once they started school, we tried before and after care at the school, but my youngest struggled with such a long day. Plus, I wanted them to participate in some after school activities, and needed someone to drive them there. We switched to hiring college student babysitters. They worked about 3 hours a day after school. Overall, this was a good situation. Big issues where I struggled were to get someone to cover the early morning hours if my husband was traveling, and if there was a non- routine event, for example there was a half day of school due to a teacher in-service, and the babysitters had classes and other commitments, I would have to call several people to see if someone could watch my children. I first heard about the au pair program from moms at my children’s school. Being the scientist I am, I researched it and stumbled across this blog. Thank goodness I did! I followed the posts for about a year to see if this was even the right fit for our family. So far, CV has posted two of my questions. Thanks so much for everyone’s advice and suggestions!

AP#1 Our current au pair is from South America. It was very rough going at first. She arrived right before a spring break, and was completely overwhelmed by working all day with two high energy boys. She actually fainted two weeks after she arrived because, as I later learned, she was so upset that she had stopped eating. (Luckily, I hadn’t left for work that morning yet.) I spend all day in the ER with her, holding her hand, as she got stiches in her chin and had an MRI to make sure she hadn’t damaged her brain when her head hit the tile floor. After that great beginning, I used many suggestions I read on this blog. We had weekly meetings, talked a lot about ways to handle issues that came up and encouraged her that she could do this. We did talk about rematch, but we both found the unknown about that situation too much. She has improved, and is able to do all the basic child care things that she is required to do. Luckily, she has a sweet personality and is easy to live with. She decided to extend with another family on the west coast, a place she always wanted to visit.

AP#2 Arrives in a couple weeks. Also from South America. We actually went with a special needs willing au pair this time. While my son’s anxieties are for the most part controlled, we felt we need someone with actual hands on experience working with “not typical” children, so when he does have an issue the au pair would have the patience and understanding to help him work through it. We focused on those au pairs with actual all day work experience, not just occasional babysitting. Also, we wanted someone with at least some college, since homework help is now so important.

The au pair program is something that is working well for us now. The flexibility of scheduling the au pair’s hours is a big plus for our family. We love that the au pair is a part of our family, joins us on vacations, celebrates holidays and attends the boy’s special school events. Our au pair always eats dinner with us during the week. She then spends her evenings and weekends out with friends, which I think is a nice balance. We are thinking we will switch to male au pairs as the boys get older. We are a “dare to match with us” host family. I want to make sure that they know what they are getting into. I do worry that the agencies gloss over too much for the au pairs, and that they do not truly understand what being an au pair entails. So far, I am not exactly seeing what the huge benefit of the agencies is to the host families. Let me clarify that I am glad that they handle all visa requirements, travel arrangements etc. But I wouldn’t know half of the things that I needed to do as a host mom if it wasn’t for this blog. Maybe, I just don’t have the great LCC that some host parents/au pairs are lucky enough to have.

Multitasking Host Mom February 21, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Woops, rushed through that last line…Meant to say “Maybe, I just don’t have the great agency that some host parents/au pairs are lucky enough to have.” Our LCC is actually very helpful when I call her for advice. She was invaluable the first month we were hosting. And no matter the agency, I have found that the LCC can make or break the situation sometimes. I am not saying that any agency is “bad”, just that this blog is more helpful to me than any brochure or marketing material.

Host Mom in the City February 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm

We’ve done both APIA and CC. I always hear about these great LCCs, and while ours have been ok, I value this blog because there are a lot of things I wouldn’t want to bring up with the LCC. It’s nice to have a first line to anonymously run things by.

Momma Gadget February 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm

I completely agree with you about the importance of having a good LC- for both HF & APs!
I don’t think it is specific to an agency.We lucked out with a very exceptional and experienced LC.
Since we had 2 extending and 1 transitional APs, We have spoken with 3 other LCs from different areas of the country. 1 was good, the other 2 were, at very best, negligent in their responsibilities toward the welfare of their AP charges.
In one case, it was only at our LC’s intervention and insistence that the AP was removed from a volatile and dangerous HF situation.

spanishaupair February 21, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Hi:
Very interesting and nice post :) Is always nice to know more about the people you read :)

Myself: Im soon to be 26 yo (in 2 weeks) girl from Spain. Im the oldest of three sisters: 23 and 13 and both my parents working. I came to the aupair idea when i was in college and one of my friends was trying to search for a family. After leaving the studies i took the first hostfamily and after them, I start new studies now for being kids teacher something i liked more and now im taking a break year and working.

Aupair experience: I have been an aupair for 4 families all in Europe. 2 of them great ones, 1 more or less and the other bad.

the first hostfamily: was the bad one. They had 6 children aged between 4-13 yo, apart from the big amount of kids even i was taking care more of the 3 younger kids i was the housekeeper. Our relationship finished 1 month and a half later when they kicked me out for refusing to clean the car.

The second one:Was the most wonderfull of all, they had 3 kids aged 1, 3 and 6 who i became a big sister/second mum/best friend. It was only a summer job and even working lots it was the best experience ever, i was part of their family and have the best summer ever. Only to say that after more than 1 year i keep in touch with them and hope to see them one of this weeks/months before going back home

The third one: was the more or less. They had 2 kids aged 1 and 2.Basically i stayed with them only for 1 month, they moved to another country, and that month was chaothic including their wedding in the first week, and a mad race against the time to find a family but they werent so bad.

My current hostfamily: is also great i have been here for almost 7 months and planning to stay at least until summer. I take care of a boy of now 14 months and a girl of 3 and i love them so much, i dont feel this is like a job, but having one of the best times ever minding my loved HK :)

How i got in this blog: I was thinking about becoming an aupair in USA and searching in the net and found this blog and really great and interesting, most of the blogs you find in the net are from aupairs so is always great to get the other side point of view.

DarthaStewart February 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Household- 4 Kids, ranging in ages from 14 to 6. Two computer geeks, too many activities, and very busy. I just finished my classes for my MBA at Duke.

Au-Pair Experience. We’ve had au-pairs continuously since my first daughter was an infant. She was a preemie born at 28 weeks, and we couldn’t put her in daycare, and so it began. We are currently hosting our 21st au-pair, and it has been a great experience. Of course we’ve had plenty of bumps in the road along the way too. I still find myself saying “I never would have thought of that!”… We’ve had the flipped car, the au-pair who came and went in the same week. One that went home on vacation and never came back, And… Gosh plenty of fun. But 4 of our former au-pairs are my youngest son’s godmothers. This summer, my oldest is hopefully going to go to Germany to go couch surfing, and visit several of them. In October, my second daughter will go to Germany and France for about 3 weeks, and visit various au-pairs, and go to Paris with one of them. So- lots of ups, downs, but mostly ups.

The Blog- I’ve been around for a while. I think I first found this blog about 4 or 5 years ago now. I lurk along and occasionally post. I blog on my own too- I have a blog, and I post on two other blogs, as a guest blogger as well. One of them is the Duke Fuqua School of Business Weekend Executive MBA blog, the other is happyschoolsblog- which is owned by a friend.

The Program- We’ve been with 3 agencies total, but have mostly stuck with AuPairCare. I like the matching process better, and have typically had better luck with the AD’s from APC than with other agencies in my area.

coloradohostmom February 21, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I rarely comment this blog but I read it all the time since I find good advice to deal with certain situations.
I am a stand-at-home mom and my husband works 24/7 outside home. We live in a house with 2 boys and 2 cats and 1 dog.

We had have great experiences with 3 wonderful au pairs all from colombia but wehad a terrible au pair from Germany she was so rigid and cold with people.

AP #1 (Germany): rigid, cold, a little bit rude, good driver but kind of preppy. She spent with us 3 months and we decided to rematch after she said she was annoyed with our lifestyle.

AP#2 ( Colombia): she was in rematch and came to use to spend her last 4 months in USA. loving, sweet, great cook, good driver, nice and very sociable. She didn’t party too much and follow rules without any problem.

AP# 3 (Colombia): we chose after having a nice experience with our second au pair, this girl was not a good driver, but it was not an issue to us as she was perfect in all the other aspects. Great with kids, warm, amazing cook, great English, educated and to come from a well off Colombian family she was really humble and was not preppy or mean. We love her and miss her a lot.

AP # 4 (colombia): still with us. Great girl, awesome with kids, caring, responsible, humble, good cook and driver, she is a teacher in her home country so she always has a cool activity to keep my 2 high-enery guys busy. We hope she decides to extend because she is a perfect match to us.

OpinionatedHM February 21, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Hi all! I’m mostly a lurker, occasionally a poster. We live in one of the largest cities in the US. It’s the “red-headed stepchild” of large cities though. We learned this from a candidate we interviewed who told us that we were a really nice family but she wanted to be in a “big city” in the US like San Fransisco or New York. My husband and I still have a good laugh about that from time to time. I’m a SAHM/Student and my Husband spends a lot of time traveling and entertaining forhis work. Some times I have to (get to) travel and entertain with him. After a few wonderful nannies, we realized we need the flexibility that an AuPair provides. Plus, i’m an “army brat” and my husband is not an American citizen, so we like the idea that our kids will grow up knowing that the world doesn’t look, talk, or think the same way they do. I think it will almost be a necessity for our kids to have that understanding given the global nature of business and politics. Anyway, we are on our second AuPair having extended with our first. Both with very different strengths and weaknesses and both wonderful people.

Someone once commented that being a Host Mom is preparing her for when her kids are teenagers. (sorry, i can’t remember which of you it was!) I love that and think it’s so true. I’m going to be the expert on all the foibles of the teenage mind by the time my kids get there. I’ve got ten or so years of practice time! I’ve decided there are three aspects to the Host Parent/AuPair relationship: employee, caregiver, roommate. It’s like winning the lottery to get all three, so the most important thing is knowing what is order of importance for you when selecting an AuPair. Most of that depends on my skills. Am I willing to teach someone how to be a better employee? A better caregiver? Or a better roommate? Because let’s be honest, part of being a Host Parent is watching these girls experience a first step toward true independent adulthood and theres a lot of learning and maturing that happens in that first year here.

Improvements to the program? Ditto to everyone that said there needs to be a clearer explanation of the “work” of being an AuPair. Our current AuPair didn’t consider me her employer. My response was, who pays you? Who sets your hours? Who decides your job responsibilities? And she said Oh, you do!

And I love hearing about how tired my aupair is. I have to smile about it because I used to think I was tired too. And then I had kids, and I realized what it means to think about someone other than yourself 24 hours a day. The huge responsibility of it all. So I smile because I know this is her time to think that a 10 hour day is exhausting because some day soon enough, she’ll have a ten hour day and then come home and work some more and then stay awake at night thinking about all the things that didnt get done and then just when she is about to fall asleep, her kid will come in and say “my tummy hurts” and then vomit all over her, and then she’ll think, I remember when I used to think I was tired.

Sometimes I need a deep breath and a big old dose of patience, neither come naturally to me.

Thank God for this blog. My sister told me about it and I am so thankful to all of you for sharing your time and wisdom.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm

I love this post. I’m at the job coach phase right now, I prefer the favorite aunt/employer mode. And yes, every time my current AP tells me that she slept all day I inwardly roll my eyes (I hope), because I get up at 4:45 and sign on to my computer at work by 6:30 am. As long as I keep moving I don’t fall asleep, but I DON’T want to hear how tired my AP is. While I might sound like the ideal HP on this blog some times I get so itched with irk that I want to scream.

HRHM February 22, 2013 at 9:52 am

APs – SPREAD THE WORD! No HM EVER wants to hear that you slept all day or that you are tired! LOL. It’s like us telling you how big our paycheck from work is. Yes, it’s true. Yes, you have a right to sleep all day (just like we have a right to a paycheck that is 10 times what you make) but NO it’s not kind to mention it! :)

DarthaStewart February 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I agree- AMEN! Can I please get a LIKE button for this?

Emerald City HM February 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I love this post too!

NNTexasHM February 23, 2013 at 12:23 am

Fabulous post – I struggle with coaching an employee / caregiver / roommate – it’s so true. I also agree that the thought of being an employee seems like a foreign notion to the Au Pairs I’ve encountered. I wish it wasn’t the case.

europhile February 22, 2013 at 12:58 am

Household: Me, DH, girl 7 and boy 5. We live in a major city in Australia. Lived in the US for 10 years before moving to Australia. Born and bred in Europe.

AP experience: I never thought about having an au pair until a friend of my sister bugged me about becoming our first au pair. That coupled with the fact that I couldn’t get baby into day care led to a series of au pairs over the past 4.5 years. All of our APs were / are from Germany, as we are a bilingual home. We find that that restricts our choice (as many APs want the immersion experience, which I completely understand). That said, Australia is super popular with young German girls, so I have never had a shortage of applicants.

AP#1: Early childhood specialist, excellent with the kids, but a bit sullen and had a tough time communicating with DH. Stayed 8 months. #2 another early childhood specialist who after just a few weeks decided that she was too homesick to stick around, so she left after about three months. #3 19 years old and fresh out of school, but absolutely lovely girl, well organised, kids loved her to bits, as did the adults. Stayed for 8 months and spoiled us and our expectations. #4 another young one, just out of high school (19). Adventurous, intelligent, OK with the kids, but an extremely flat learning curve as far as things around the house are concerned. She stayed a whole year. #5 flamed out within weeks, spoiled only child with both parents and grandparents serving her hand over foot. Swore to never again hire an AP with an iPhone (this is a couple of years ago, LOL). #6 absolutely fantastic, albeit the youngest girl we hosted. Had lost mother at young age, oldest of several children. Very mature, great with the kids, proactive around the house. She stayed 8 months and we adored her. #7 is our oldest AP, just finished her BA in Europe, had done an AP stint in Europe before, knew what to expect, able to stand up to my husband and not be intimidated. Will be with us for a total of 9 months.

Big lessons learned: Age does not equal maturity. Many APs found it difficult to communicate with DH, who is very demanding and outspoken, which meant I had to do a lot of mediation (which I got *really* tired of). Having APs can be a lot of work, but when it works well, it’s golden! We want someone who can hold a conversation at the dinner table and who can relate to the kids. I am very honest when I am recruiting, don’t gold plate anything. Our girls have it a bit easier than many APs in the US, as they never work more than 30 hours/week.

In Australia, agencies play a minor role. I usually source my APs via the web. I have used agencies a couple of times, but they only are involved in the matching process. The advantage of using the agency is that the APs are more captive – their profiles are only shared with one host family at the time. Interestingly, two of my best APs have come through agencies, but I think that’s coincidental. With the help of this blog I have fine-tuned my hiring and things have gone quite smoothly. For the most part, I find that I have learned to weed out the good from the bad, and I would now be experienced enough to pull the plug if I needed to. Never had to happen to date, though – so we’ve been lucky.

The blog: I come here for advice, perspective and sometimes also a little gossip. I don’t post a lot but read frequently. A great resource!

My dream: keeping current AP for a lot longer, or for my kids to be able to do more stuff by themselves….

Emerald City HM February 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm

We were debating on a “no one that has an iPhone” prerequisite, because of various observations, but now it’s like almost everyone has one.

CA Host Mom February 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm

This is such a sticking point for me … our disaster AP#2 was NEVER without her iPhone (from home). She was texting, (WhatsApp – app that allows free international texting for iPhone) surfing the web, on FaceBook, etc. CONSTANTLY!!

We use wireless internet routers in our home and it got so bad (after several discussions and attempts to get her to abide by rules) that we had to disable the router during her work hours so she couldn’t connect to it. She was not going to use the international data plan on her phone (very expensive) so this prevented her from accessing the internet during the day. It was really sad that she did not have enough self control to just leave the dang phone in her room.

We were able to confirm that she was not abiding by the rules because our router provided logs of what device (by IP address) was accessing what website and when. So we were able to see that her phone was accessing these websites during her workday at different times while she was supposed to be working and thereby confirm that she was not abiding by the rules.

Thinking through it all gets my blood boiling again … :) Suffice it to say, I too would love a way to prevent the intense distraction that smart phones represent for APs.

NNTexasHM February 23, 2013 at 12:41 am

So this may amuse you: my husband works for Samsung and AP#2 kept harping about iPhones (the other Au Pairs have one, do you know I can use an old one, I saw a good deal on an old iPhone, etc.) until I finally told her. ” I get that you want an iPhone but here’s the deal: my husband’s salary pays your stipend. My husband works for Samsung. Please enjoy your top of the line Samsung phone. If it doesn’t meet your needs, you are free to work elsewhere.” For other reasons, we rematched after 6 days but that seemed to get the point across.

Momma Gadget February 23, 2013 at 10:25 am

Lol! Some people!
That reminds me of Our first AP who was unhappy with the few car restrictions we have. She told us that cars in the US were so cheap, and that we could get a 3rd car for the AP for a few thousand dollars. I told her if she would like to buy one and pay the insurance herself , we would make room in the driveway for it.

Momma Gadget February 22, 2013 at 11:06 am

This is a great thread!
I wish there was a “Like” button to hit for everyone’s story!
Nice to “meet” you all and read your histories!

JJ Host Mom February 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

I agree!

Busy Mom February 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Household: Late 40s with three tween/teen kids. Living in a suburb of a highly desirable US city. We offer a dedicated AP car, bedroom/bath on a different floor, very little weekend work.

This Blog: I’ve been involved with this blog since January 2009 with AP1! I stumbled up on it because we were having issues and have enjoyed it immensely ever since. I’ve learned a lot from all of you.

AP Experience: We transitioned to an AP when our youngest started first grade because we needed more flexibility (as in evening and occasional weekend hours) and an AP was less expensive than our full-time, American born, major metro area, college educated nannies. We had live-in nannies, so wanted the reliability of a live-in caregiver.

On the spectrum, we lean slightly toward the employer/employee relationship. We make it clear when matching that we don’t travel with our au pairs. We discuss that weekends are frenetic and that, while we will include the AP to special events (e.g., birthday parties, special performances), our weekends are full of activities the AP will probably not be interested in (e.g., lessons, appointments, homework, extracurricular events, sports games). That seems to effectively set the tone and we’ve found APs who want some interaction with us but who are often off doing their own thing.
We are country-neutral as long as driving skills are superb, which effectively eliminates a bunch of countries. We’ve hosted 3 Europeans and 2 from South America.

We rushed into AP#1 and it was not the best fit, but it was bearable. Part of the issue was that she gave me access to her blog and then complained about us! She wasn’t the brightest bulb (another issue that prevented a good fit) and I guess she didn’t realize that I could easily run her blog through Google translate. Then, we played hotel to 3 acquaintances who overstayed their welcome. We terminated her a few months early b/c I was out of work (though I kept her on a month longer than I wanted because she had a friend scheduled to visit and I didn’t want to mess up her plans). Had she been outstanding, we probably would have found a way to keep her.

APs 2, 3, 4: After #1, we refined our search criteria, formulated handbook entries around our lessons learned, and had excellent years with the subsequent three.

AP#5: We are in the middle of a good year, though she has not formed a close bond with the kids. (See below)

Lessons Learned:
-A university educated AP is imperative for our family. They ‘get’ our book-reading, extracurricular-juggling, academically-oriented, high-achieving kids better than one who is not.
-No facebook friending until after the AP year. Better to keep those complaints private!
-Be really, really explicit in the handbook (and discuss) the most minute details (e.g., flushing things besides toilet paper down the toilet)
-Too many guests, particularly ones who are merely acquaintances of the AP, made me feel like a hotel. Our guest rules are now restrictive and explicit. (e.g., family only) We can always loosen the rules if the year is going well or if family is unable to visit
-No extension APs. AP #3 was an extension. She was an excellent AP and did her job well, but emotionally her focus was on the boyfriend so she had little left over for my kids
-It would be lovely for all three kids to develop a close relationship with the AP, but in point of fact it doesn’t matter at this stage of their lives. The teens need someone to drive them and enjoy having someone cook for them. Everyone seems okay with the status quo, so I need to enforce politeness, but need to stop trying to mandate closeness. If it happens, it happens. (Fortunately, it happened with APs 2 & 4!)

Future Challenges: Hosting APs with teens. (I promised a guest post on this one!) Figuring out if there are practical/affordable/reliable alternative care relationships when the main thing I need is a driver. We have had live-in caregivers for 15 years and I would someday like my house back to myself!

Southern HM February 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm

We have run into that Facebook and blog issue, too. Never understood that the au pairs don’t realize how easy (almost automatic) it is to have those status updates and blogs translated. Still cannot decide whether I am glad I read the whining (and therefore knew about it), or whether it would have been better for my state of mind to not have known. I am leaning towards I am glad I knew, made me less generous…

Taking a Computer Lunch February 22, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Our favorite AP was the only one to ask to be included in child #2’s sporting events. She didn’t attend every one, but she did come to several (and often helped care for The Camel during the event, too) despite not being on the clock. My hand book says “We encourage you to attend child #2’s events,” but most will only do so when they’re on the clock.

OB Mom February 24, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Our last AP loved coming to little league games (baseball is so American!). She even brought her best AP friend. They were a great cheering section and it was a delight to share the fun together. One of the many reasons we loved her.

Momma Gadget February 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

“Future Challenges: Hosting APs with teens. (I promised a guest post on this one!) Figuring out if there are practical/affordable/reliable alternative care relationships when the main thing I need is a driver.”

I am very interested in your insights on this. Most HF we have met all have much younger kids than we do. Although we have mostly enjoyed hosting, I keep wondering how much longer we really need to do this… Does this mean I need to host for another 6 years with maybe one year hiatus-(when my eldest has a drivers license before he (hopefully) goes to college)- Until My youngest gets his driver’s license (scary thought!)?!!

“We have had live-in caregivers for 15 years and I would someday like my house back to myself!”
Ha ha Ha! I empathize!

(Not to mention that 120K spent would buy an awesome new kitchen!)

Taking a Computer Lunch February 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Oh don’t get me started on what I could have done with the money (every time I think of visiting friends and family in Europe, I sigh). Nevertheless, I consider it money well spent (the nursing for The Camel burned me – every AP has been better than the best nurse at falling in love with The Camel). The less-than-perfect AP showed me pictures she had taken of herself with The Camel today, which makes her go up several notches in my regard.

I know that I have a different take than all of you on the ‘tween/teen AP relationship. Because I need my APs to work their butts off caring for The Camel, I don’t really care if they develop a relationship with child #2, other than to 1) drive him places, 2) make sure he makes himself a meal, 3) and arrange for homework and instrument practicing times. He doesn’t need help #2 and #3, he just needs to do them.

What always amazes me, however, is how much child #2 defends absolutely every AP, whether she appears to have bonded with him or not!

Busy Mom February 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I’m very much undecided as to how much longer we’ll need an AP. But, I fundamentally need a driver until the youngest has her license! Even if the eldest has hers, I can’t expect her to drive both sisters to activities when she needs to participate in her own. I’ve been jotting down ideas for a post and will get to it when I can.

Dorsi February 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm

A little about me. I love this site. I am always a bit paranoid that my Au Pairs are reading it (which would be fine, but I worry they would identify me.)

DH and I are in our 30’s, Biggish city (that is highly desirably in the U.S., Au Pairs have never heard of it). I work a variable shift and we need flexible care. Also, I was an exchange student in high school and have always wanted to give others that kind of experience. We have 3 kids (under 5) and just welcomed AP#5.

AP#1 Sweden. Pleasant, smart, interested in the world. Not at all interested in kids. Should have rematched — my daughter learned to play independently while AP read books/surfed the internet. I was terrified of her leaving suddenly and was unwilling to lay down the law. She was also quite lazy — it was too hard to take the bus places, so spent all of her time inside Skyping with her sister back home. Probably the AP that got the most perqs too — lots of travel, lots of meals out. Got over my fear of rematch after she was gone and I could honestly assess the situation.

AP#2 German. Good Au Pair, good driver (in the one emergency we needed her to drive), very much loved my daughter — kind of the pendulum swinging the opposite way from the last one. Not so pleasant to live with (always “tired”, not very enthusiastic). Stays in close touch. Made me skeptical of ever having a German again.

#3 Colombia Rough start with terrible english, but really rose to the occasion. Had an boyfriend 30 miles away and spent all of her off time there. I would not have been happy with the live-out nature of the relationship except she was great with the kids and super conscientious. Learned that I will put up with unexpected things in order to have flexible, enthusiastic child care.

#4 Brazil The only extraordinaire we have had. Was a preschool teacher, which meant that she sometime thought she knew a lot more than she did — she made lots of great craft project, but wasn’t so great at planning meals and household tasks. Found out later that preschool teachers don’t change diapers (or do menial tasks) in Brazil — they have paid helpers for that. Very social — led to some drama during the year. Was very loving.

#5 Colombia. Here a week and is causing me a lot of anxiety. Our first driver (we have moved to the suburbs). Here to play with the kids. Intimidated by all three (which she has the luxury of being for the next few weeks, I am still on maternity leave). Doesn’t seem to understand that she is not a playmate. Will be doing some serious counseling (using a lot I have learned from here) to see if I can bring her up to speed.

Dorsi February 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Nap over. Will wax philosophical later.

BeachMom February 22, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Note to Momma Gadget and CV Harquail: Would LOVE to see the kind of thread Momma G describes (AP alternatives when your kids are older and all you really need is a driver). Anyone else interested?

Momma Gadget February 22, 2013 at 9:52 pm

FTR-That’s Busy Mom’s great idea…. That I’d like to see too!
;-)

Should be working February 23, 2013 at 1:34 am

Me too. Except does a teen/tween really need only a driver? I want an AP my tween/teens will show their homework to, talk to, connect with a little. And also maybe they might listen to her and clean up their stuff or do their chores.

I’m more worried that the AP will THINK she is just a driver. I want her to be an AP to teens. Is this possible?

Taking a Computer Lunch February 23, 2013 at 8:59 am

I thought we already had a thread about APs and ‘tweens and teens. And yes, you want more than a driver!

DCAuPair February 23, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Two of my host kids are teens, and I am definitely more than just a cook/ driver to them. I help with homework and projects, talk to them about their friends and even their crushes. Sometimes, I am able to give them the kind of advice that usually falls on deaf ears when coming from parents, even though we say the same stuff. According to my teens, its because I am young and cool and “know stuff”. Haha :) With teens, it might be better to get a slightly older au pair, who is not still a teenager at heart herself. Also, someone who has experience with older kids (tutoring, youth leader, coaching etc) might be better at connecting with teens than those who only have experience with younger kids.

Should be working February 24, 2013 at 1:14 am

DCAupair, thanks for posting. Can I ask:

How did your matching work? Was matching with a teen-child family initially not on your radar, or were you at all disappointed, or how did you view matching with such a family?

Have you had any problems with moody teen behavior and how do your HPs support you with that? Do you have younger siblings and did that make it easier because you knew the story?

How do you connect initially with teen host kids? Do they resist?

Thanks!

DCAuPair February 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I wasn’t planning on matching with a family with teens, it just worked out that way that the best family for me happened to have them. I don’t have younger siblings, but I do have experience part time au pairing two very “difficult” (moody, rebelious, etc) teens (separate families, both had younger siblings too), so I knew what I was possibly signing up for. I wasn’t disappointed this family had teens, I knew it would be a good challenge and that I have had sucess in the past in bonding with teens.

In terms of teen behaviour, my one teen has special needs, and functions at an emotionally much younger age, so no teenage drama yet. As for the other one, I have had to deal with some mood issues now and then, but not much more. I think the fact that we have similar interests and hobbies has helped tremendously with bonding. I think she likes the fact that I’m clued up about, and interested in, the things she loves to do. It also helps that the teens I have worked with were all girls. I’m not sure if it would have been as easy for me to bond with teenage boys.

In previous jobs I have dealt with much worse, such as finding out about really bad behaviour and having to tell the parents while not losing the teens’ trust and respect. Also, some teenagers can be very manipulative when they can get away with it, so you need someone who doesn’t just take the easy way of being their “friend” and letting them get away with everything. It can be really difficult, which is why I think an older au pair might be better at it. In both old jobs, I didn’t get much support from the parents, which was hard. My current host parents are very supportive though.

DCAuPair February 23, 2013 at 9:28 pm

I discovered this website about a year before I arrived in the US, when I was doing research about au pairing here. I am immensely grateful for it, because it prepared me for what it really means to be an au pair. It also helped me to know what questions to ask to find a host family that is great for me. I spoke to many, but I’m so glad I waited for one that felt right. I take care of four kids, two teenagers (one with special needs), one in elementary school an one in kindergarden. The parents work full time. The schedule, and household, is crazy and I absolutely love it. It’s easy to work hard, form great relationships with the kids and have a happy social life when you live with a family that treats you well and appreciates what you do for them.

Now that I am working as an au pair, this website is still a great resource for me. I often find myself referring back to relevant posts here when something comes up in my own life, or one of my friends’. So thank you all for contributing to this great website.x

DCAuPair February 23, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Oh, and if I could change anything about the whole au pair thing, it would be to get the bad host parents and au pairs to read this blog. It’s such a pity that it’s mostly the good HPs and au pairs reading and commenting here, while there are many out there who have MUCH to gain from this site.

SKNY February 24, 2013 at 10:12 am

Taking a computer lunch, don’t ask me how or why (probably because last thing I read before bed was a post by you about au pairs last weeks and work going down hill – which we are having trouble with), but I had this crazy dream last night where I was back being an au pair (which I am not since 2005) and was matched to your family.
Very weird as I remembered mid through the dream that I had kids myself and was afraid you would rematch. Anyway, thought it was funny.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

That is an odd dream. We only threatened rematch with 2 APs, and mainly over driving issues. AP #5 was a horrible driver and wasn’t practicing skills, so after a month we told her to practice or go home (because our LCC said she wasn’t employable in her current condition). She not only practiced driving, but she worked very hard on her English. AP #8 had an accident that nearly totaled our AP car and our insurance underwriter now requires her to have a U.S. license. We had the chat 2 1/2 months ago and recently gave her a rematch deadline.

Have that end-of-your year chat with your AP. You should remember how it was!

SKNY February 23, 2013 at 8:03 am

Household: Both parents on the 30s. I am a former au pair from South America. Now a physical therapist. Hubby is a teacher. There are 4 languages spoken between the members of the household. We have gone from 0-3 kids (all girls) in 2 years. 2 months after child one was born, hubby went to eastern Europe to adopt a 14yo girl, and 9 months later we discovered a “surprise” pregnancy. Now my girls are 16, 3, 1.

Location: we live in the middle of nowhere in a big state. We are the ONLY family here from our agency (they hired a LCC just for us), and we require our au pairs to speak their home language so the kids can learn my native language. this is a major problem because au pairs don’t seem to last, even though we offer many benefits (weekends off. car that can be driven up to 2hs away, cell phone, housekeeper once a week, no curfew, no restrictions on guests…). also as a former au pair I like to think I know the rules and don’t take advantage of my au pairs….

Au Pair 1: got deported before getting into training. She had been an au pair prior and overstayed after her year was over. Apparently no one realized it (she DID get the visa) until she arrived in USA and got held at immigration. She left the country 2 days later

Au pair 2: was a short term placement while I waited for au pair 3 (extending au pair that I thought was perfect) end her here. She was ok. Her driving was awful (scared me a LOT), her English non-existent (reason why she rematched, but didn’t bother me as she spoke her native language with kids)… But she and at time 2yo could not get along. She also wanted nothing to do with our family. She disappeared the sec after she was off, came up for meals, and disappeared again. She also refused to go with kids in pool for her entire stay (she came during summer), saying she had her period…

Au pair 3: Big promise. Started VERY VERY well. We loved her immediately. BUT she met her now fiance 2 months later and as soon as he proposed to her work went down to nothing. I feel I have to remind her to feed the kids sometimes…. She was on computer last Friday when I arrived from work (kids napping) but today I see and all the laundry she did is in the floor of kid’s room. She never put away. Her work went down from a 10 to a 4 in weeks. She completely ignores requests to take kids out or do other things. She also would finish her year in August but decided to get married in May. We finally decided she will be done in 2 weeks. This experience made us seriously reconsider the idea of au pair… And as of now our kids will be going to day care for a while…

Big Learning: no extension au pair for us. I feel they are already done with the program, and desperate for a way out.

This blog: I love it! learned a lot!!!

AboutToBeHD February 24, 2013 at 1:02 am

I’m going to have to change the handle (PacificNwHD?) as I actually am a host dad now (5 weeks) with 8 week old twins that spent 3 weeks in the NICU. Yes, if you do the math that means our au pair arrived the day before the twins came home from the hospital.

We matched with our AP#1 back in July (Aussie) and I started reading this site about then. So we had six months of waiting for babies and all the accompanying issues with a high risk pregnancy in the run up to birth, including two weeks of hospital bed rest for my wife with just about every pregnancy related issue in the book. At least we figured we had child care covered. Our two kids are awesome, btw ;)

Fortunately, my wife has three months maternity leave, so our au pair is working while one or both of us are home. As these are our our first kids we never had a chance to figure out a routine before the AP arrived, but so far it’s OK. We do need to know that all will be well when my wife is back at work.

This site has been a great resource, especially as things never go quite the way you expected, so we’re learning to roll with the punches.

Thanks to CV and all the regulars, because you are all awesome for sharing :) No other au pair site comes close.

Pokermom February 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I’m a litte late to the thread, since I lurk and have been dealing with family stuff! Here is a little about us!

Blended family 30s and 40s, 4 kids between us, one out of the house 19M, 11 year old M with special needs, 9 year old M with special needs and 3 year old F with special needs. They are all biological children. DH works for a large financial company and I am a student and SAHM trying to coordinate everyone’s care (doctors, therapists, specialists, school stuff, friends, ex’s LOL) How I don’t get paid for that is a crime! I feel like I run a small company. We live in a large city, that is in the west. It doesn’t sound like an ideal family but we split a lot of the responsibility between a team of 1 on 1 behavioral specialists, therapists, AP and myself. It works and we end up having a lot of fun! The kids do go to their dad’s house on most weekends so we all get a much needed break. I’m highly structured which makes the house run well.

AP #1- lovely girl 24 when arrived 25 now, from South Africa. Works hard, loves the kids, has been a true family member and has been very understanding when emergencies have come up (like waking her last night briefly at 2am to let her know we were taking DD to the hospital for a 104 fever and febrile seizures, in case we weren’t back in time for the boys getting up and they wondered where we were.) I joke with her that she has ruined us for all future APs and we are all going to miss her dearly when she leaves to go home next week. She had gone back and forth on extending but in the end really missed her family back home and was worried about being too “old” to find work there when she returns if she were to remain another year.

AP #2, 24M from South Africa arrives on Monday! We got a BroPair! (thanks to the above poster who coined that phrase, I’m totally “stealing” it.) We had already been thinking about a male au pair, and our LCC suggested it since our boys are school age and very high energy and I thought it would be a good idea our team is quite female heavy. My current AP agreed. New AP and current AP are from same area, and even know some of the same people but don’t know each other! I am hoping he will be as wonderful as current AP but of course in his own way. We will have one week of crossover to help with the transition.

I found this blog when we were considering having an AP and it was just an amazing wealth of information, especially from those like TACL who have dealt with being a special needs family. I got great ideas for the handbook and interviewing, and have come back to check various ideas. I don’t feel like I have too much to contribute since I am “new” to the program, but will chime in as I get more experience. I do wish there was a way we could post things on threads when we have issues instead of having to wait to see if it’s selected as a topic.

Lessons learned- most of them were reinforcements. Clear, concise communication is important. Give and take/flexibility is a must with our kids. I learned that I would not do well with someone who has a similar personality to mine so I need a team player. We definitely want someone who is willing to be more of a member of the family. We need someone who has excellent English skills to understand some of the direction we give. We also need someone who can follow a schedule and has a curious mind about children who are outside of the norm. Thankfully my kids are very high functioning, which presents its own challenges. Truly, one person handling all 3 at once is almost impossible, and we make sure that we have that happen as little as possible.

If I were HMIC- I would definitely make sure that education requirements are clear. We ran into issues with this because we were the first family in our area with our agency and our LCC wasn’t clear and it seemed like the rules changed as more families signed up. I would lower the fees and try to find a better interface for matching. I’d also like our agency to maybe split our area and have a couple different LCC’s for the different parts of the city because it’s so large that the APs have a hard time getting together even for their meetings. I know my AP has felt lonely and it seems like if they could group the families together by area it may reduce this a bit. And the LCC’s would have a better idea of what’s going on for meetings and things in their respective areas instead of just picking a random coffee house or something.

All in all, we are a very happy Host family and I look forward to many years having APs. We give up a lot to do it, but I think it really is what’s best for my kids and how I want to raise them to be a part of the world community.

Seattle Mom February 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Hi, I think I have always been Seattle Mom, but maybe I started as Seattle Host Mom? I don’t know… I can’t remember!

Anyway, I found this blog soon after the arrival of my first AP, about 15 months ago. It has been a great resource, and clued me in to some of the potential issues before any of them came up.

About my family: I’m in my late 30s, husband is 50, two little girls who just turned 4 and 2. We obviously live in Seattle, but we are transplants from the east coast- we moved here right before DD1 was born. I think Seattle is a great place to host APs- it’s not one of the most highly desired cities (because it’s not CA/NY and anyone who has heard of it just knows that it rains a lot), but any AP who cares to do the research will find out that it’s a great place to live & visit, as long as you’re not too attached to year-round sunshine :).

AP#1- Wonderful, sweet, caring, intelligent, fun-loving, responsible 24 year old woman from France. You can see we had a good first year :). AP1 was great with the kids and pretty easy to have in the house. The baby especially loved her- they definitely had a special bond. AP1 really impressed me with her ability to learn and improve over the course of the year- she picked up on how we interact with the children and moved in that direction, and her English language skills and general confidence improved amazingly over the year. She was an excellent driver from the get-go (better than me) and had a great sense of direction (which alwyas impresses me because I do not have any sense of direction). She was not 100% perfect- my few complaints were that she was always very tired at the end of the day, a little on the low-energy side, avoided going outside if the weather wasn’t great, and could be a bit sullen at times- it took me a while to realize that it wasn’t necessarily directed at us. She was social but not a partier, she did sometimes party but never went out during the week (even though we have no curfew). She always respected the few rules we have, and was very courtious.

AP#2 was a 19 year old girl from France. She seemed great on paper (lots of childcare experience and her mom ran a day care out of her home, seemed very enthusiastic and seemed to have excellent english skills). We also thought she seemed great on Skype- we could tell that she had a lot of energy and she seemed more upbeat than AP#1, which we were looking for. But from the instant she arrived, we knew she wouldn’t work with our family- we found her personality to be horrendous. The first clue was that I gave her very specific instructions for where DH would pick her up at the airport- outside on the curb- and she totally screwed that up, and when she didn’t see DH she called the home number instead of DH’s cell phone. OK, at the time it wasn’t a big deal, but it really was a clue…. In her first few days in our home she didn’t talk to us AT ALL and directed all of her questions & interactions to AP#1, who was still with us to help in the transition. It was understandable because they both spoke French, but very strange that when I would talk to AP#2 she didn’t look at me or respond to me- she would immediately turn to AP#1 and start talking in French. After AP#1 left, she did open up a little, but that only made things worse- she would talk on and on at length about some little stupid detail of her life in perfect English, but would not answer direct questions (“What time did the children nap? What did they eat for lunch?”) and never seemed interested in what we had to say. The worst part was that she was inconsiderate in sharing the space in our house, to the point where she seemed very passive aggressive- we have one bathroom, and she consistently jumped into the shower in the morning right when we were getting ready for work. When we asked her to shower in the evenings (nicely! I am very diplomatic & tactful, though I may not always seem that way in my writing) she made a huge stink about it, that was impossible because she needs the shower to wake up. So I told her she needed to shower an hour before she came on duty, and every morning she showered EXACTLY at that time and over time crept up later and later, taking more and more time. I also didn’t like how she interacted with the children (too stern, not flexible or empathetic, she didn’t really seem to like children- they were more a prop for her ego). She could not take any feedback and flouted the little rules for the children that were in the handbook and I told her about (no juice in sippy cups, no snacks other than fruit after 4pm, always be home by 1:30pm for DD’s nap). Whenever I confronted her about the rules or just asked her to do something differently she argued with me, and on a couple of occasions said that AP#1 told her to do it that way (um hello, I am the mom, not AP#1). Oh and her driving was lousy- she took turns so fast I would hear the tires screeching as she drove around the corner while I was sitting in our house. It was a really hard time, and as you can tell I’m not quite over it. We went into transition at the earliest possible date, one month after her arrival.

AP#3 is extending for a year with us, after spending her first year in rural upstate NY, coincidentally very close to where my parents now live (I grew up in NYC). She is 27 years old and from Thailand, and has been with us about 6 weeks now. We LOVE her, she is pleasant, upbeat, funny, energetic, interesting, and very sweet with the kids. The children love her too. She is mature and considerate- I don’t think I will go back to a young AP again, unless I get a very good sense. She is a good driver, though I can see a little bit of the crazy Thai driving style you hear about… she drives a little fast but I think she’s safe. She is not always consistent about things, like sometimes the house looks like a tornado hit it but she always folds the laundry & towels REALLY NICELY. She is a little too loose with letting the kids snack on crackers and hasn’t been great about getting the younger DD to nap. She can be spacey, and I don’t think she is as bright as AP#1… but it’s all stuff I’m willing to overlook because I like and trust her. She is also kind of a bad-ass… she takes martial arts and does a lot of exercise outside in all weather, and she has recently taken up using our rowing machine in the basement. She is tough and independent- I don’t worry about her taking the bus alone at night! She’s also beautiful and goes out a lot even on weeknights, and her personal life is kind of a mystery- if I ask she tells me what she did, but she doesn’t volunteer information about her friends and adventures like AP#1 did. I sort of miss having that connection, but I respect her privacy and I trust that she’s doing OK- she can come home at 1am and still be up and ready to go for work the next morning, so I don’t question it. And after one misunderstanding she is now aware that the car does not go downtown after dark, she actually likes riding the bus and rarely uses the car when off-duty. She also cooks all the time, and shares her delicious Thai food with us.. I’d say we hit the jackpot. Too bad she can’t extend again- I think she would, though it’s too early to tell.

I love this blog, it has helped me with a lot of stuff and it helps me have faith in the AP program, even when it has not always worked out well for me. I have learned a lot about selecting an AP, and how to train & prepare them, but I have also learned to go with my gut when I don’t think it’s working at all.

If I could change anything about the AP system? I would let APs extend longer. I would change the incentive structure for LCCs so the good ones stay and focus on the HFs and APs. I would allow more flexibility in meeting the education requirement- it’s silly that my AP could take a karate class through the community college continuing ed program and that would meet the ed requirement, but the martial arts she is taking through a regular dojo doesn’t count at all- she is in there with Americans in the community, interacting in English- what’s the diff? I would also improve the transition/re-match process… make it more transparent.

Seattle Mom February 27, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Oh and AP#3 found us through greataupair.com- she wanted to come to Seattle and liked our family size & profile. So I think it would be good if the agencies would have a way for APs to initiate contact with HFs.. during the match process, it was very frustrating to have about 75% of my emails not responded to. I lay out the basics of our family in my intro email- # kids, general schedule (42-45 hours/week, occasional weekends), location, etc, so it’s possible that APs aren’t responding because they read my email and are not interested. But if they could search for my profile and express interest in me first I would know that they are OK with the main features of our family. That would be easier. I never would have found AP#3 if not for greataupair.com- she was in someone else’s account, she didn’t want to match with them but she didn’t realize she had to tell her program manager to get out of their account. She never appeared on search & select because she was in someone’s account, and my PM didn’t see her as an option either.

Au pair UK March 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Interesting article and valuable information for families.

Toni(SoontobeanAmericanAuPairinEurope) March 5, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Whoo, my name changes, and somehow gets longer every time I get on here, but Toni the first part is always the same. I felt that I should identify myself a bit more when I comment on here.

?What brings me to Au Pair mom? Well as my name says, I’m soon to be an American Au Pair in the Netherlands, I’m super excited about that. I only need one more part of my application (my passports) and then I can give to my agency. I’m excited as can be and working my butt off so I can have a bit of money saved up when I go.

?What do I wish we could talk about more? Sometimes I wish that you would have more Au Pair talk about their experiences and what REALLY goes on. Because whenever I go to check out blogs, most of the times it has maybe one thing about childcare and the rest of them talking about their social lives and home sickness. I love traveling and being away from home, so that wont be a problem for me. I just wish more up front from the Au Pairs point of view. However I lOVE the fact that I can get a POV from a host parent, so I know how NOT to act. Not that I would, but its kind of reassuring. Sometimes I feel like maybe I’m not supposed to know it, but I don’t want to go in this blind, or more blind then I already am!

?How might I change the world if you were the HostParentInCharge? I don’t know, I don’t even have kids…maybe I’ll come back to this when I’m older and have kids lol. I do know that I want to be a Host family for an Au Pair, to give another girl that adventure like I did. Give back and all that. I’m also aware that I didn’t answer the question, I don’t think I’m qualified to answer it lol.

If you guys have any Au Pair Blogs where people actually talk about their job or know of any youtube videos where they do, please let me know. Because I have scoured the web for it lol

German Au-Pair March 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm

A little OT. I will go back to Germany in June and I love the Netherlands. I’d also loved to get in touch if you like. The Netherlands are not that far from where I live and love visiting. Would be great to have an American close by and the au pair life not completey gone.
Maybe CV can exchange our email addresses if you’d like?

Toni(soontobeanAuPairinEurope) March 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm

That would be awesome!

I’m interested in everything there is to know, and that you want to tell me. It would be great to have a friend when I get down there.

If CV could, again that would make my week :)

Seattle Au pair! March 6, 2013 at 9:32 am

I was an au pair in the US, but I can tell you about my experience. We could exchange emails if you´d like.
:)

Toni(soontobeanAuPairinEurope) March 19, 2013 at 9:38 pm

That would be fantastic actually!

EU.AP March 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I haven’t found any au pair blogs that really compare to how this one is run, and the ones I have seen don’t really go beyond common sense. I would recommend European travel blogs, and Pinterest for kid activities.

The Netherlands is a ton of fun to au pair in, especially coming from the US, total culture shock! Where I grew, you would drive 3 hrs to get to the next major city, here you drive 3 hrs and you’re not only out of Holland, but Belgium as well. I eye roll a lot at what is considered “great” distance when my high school commute totaled over 30 minutes :p

I’m finished as an au pair, but still living in Holland. If you have any questions, then feel free to email me b_850@hotmail.com.

Georgiapeach March 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I started to write but quit several times because I did not have time to finish…I know all HP’s out here can relate to that!!! So, here goes.

We are middle aged parents to baby twin girls; whom just turned 1. I am a SAHM, age 38 yrs; HD works in IT, age 48 yrs. We looked into the AP program when I was at my parent’s home; having them help me care for the twins. The AP program seemed the best option out of all child care options. It was also the most affordable. We crunched numbers and realised from the beginning that if I went back to work, it would actually cost us more than I was bringing home!

AP #1; was from Czech Republic. We chose her out of a pool of 8 AP’s we had interviewed. She indicated she had experience with babies, and special needs. Another appeal was she spoke english we could actually comprehend; even with the accent. Eventually, we rematched after 5 long and exhausting months. Hubby wanted to do so before, but I felt bad. Big mistake on my part. She would later inform us she does not comprehend English very well and that often times she’ll nod and agree just for the sake of not coming across as being a liar.
Our younger twin was suffering from bad reflux when she came. The older twin has been on & off hormone therapy due to her private areas not growing properly. Both suffer from recurrent ear infections.
In the beginning all was well. She seemed really shy and would retreat to her room as soon as her shift ended. We never gave any thought to this because it is our first time as HPs and just did not know any better. As time went on, we noticed she would forget everything we asked of her. Or she would claim she did a task that did not seem to be accurate based on the twin’s actions. For example, she would say she changed them, but I would smell poop. In addition to their list of needs, they have extremely sensitive skin. To the point if a poopy diaper was not changed within 5 minutes, redness would start. 30 min. in, patchy rashes would develop. After a day, skin would crack and bleed. When our older twin would poop, we know the sign: deep and intense concentration followed by “the shudder”. Several time, she would do the shudder and I would point out she pooped. AP would shrug her shoulders and sit there.
She never engaged our children. The majority of the day was spent sitting and saying “no” to them. The few times she took them out for a stroller ride, she was home almost immediately. One time, when we were both at the park and I had one twin on the slides, she sat and watched the other eat wood chips; even after I told her to stop the baby. Then, twin fell while walking and had a nice concrete imprint on half her face. She just sat there while I handed her twin #2 and consoled the first.
All she focused on was getting her driver’s license. Not because we needed her to. I stay at home so the kids do not need to be driven around. But, for as badly as she wanted it, she complained and dragged her heels. Her complaint list was long and distinguished: consisted of: #1) Not fair. She has an international license. We explained the state we live in now does not recognize international licenses issued by her country. She kept insisting it does. “The other AP’s said it would” Over and over she was angry about it. #2) Her counselor and the agency never told her about her international license not being valid in our state. The counselor left her and did not help her obtain the information. Incorrect because the counselor copied me on all emails she sent with informative links for licenses and schooling. #3) Since she already held an international license, she initially refused to take the online driving course mandated by our state. #4) Her doctor in Czech said her vision was perfect. She failed the vision test and the DMV asked her to get her eyes examined and get glasses. She argued with the lady about not seeing to sets of numbers. She said they did not exist. The lady had to take the template plate out of the machine to show her there were 4 sets. She would later by diagnosed with a lazy left eye; but I had to drag her, literally kicking and screaming to get the eye test. I told her: “no glasses, no license” per the DMV. She later admitted to me she had lazy eye as a child but stopped wearing her glasses because she was uncomfortable.
#5) Did not want to start classes because she wanted her english to improve before she did. We thought it strange but shrugged it off until hubby asked again a few weeks ago; 5 months into being in our family. By then, she was cutting it real close with the deadline to complete courses before her year was up. She never did enroll before we rematched because she opted to get her driver’s license instead.
#6) Not having a car to use. During our interview, we clearly stated she would not have a car to use for leisure every weekend and day off. It would be occasional. Looking back, she readily agreed just to get to the US. She was upset when hubby said she could not take it out of the city for road trips. She would later go onto road trips with other AP’s where they would take turns driving one HP’s car. This fiasco resulted in another AP’s boyfriend taking the car; the AP takes off to another city with a new guy she picks up at a bar. Our AP calls & says they need a ride from the bus stop; and this is 3:30 a.m.
#7) Did not feel she should pay the copay for her doctors visit. The other AP’s told her so.
#8) Her other AP friends advise her on many legal aspects of being in the US. We were so sick and tired of “the other AP’s said”
Hubby finally got so fed up, he informed her we would requesting a rematch. The next 2 weeks were spent with her crying and saying she did nothing wrong. It wasn’t her fault, it was not like she was abusing the girls, etc…..basically, she refused to take ownership of her actions. I spent hours during her duty time consoling, guiding & working on a game plan for her to present to her counselor and agency. The plan was to show them she was serious about staying to complete her year.
She was scheduled on a flight to depart the US 4 days after her 2 weeks were up. During that interim, she fought us and the agency about the one week stipend towards the flight. She said her other AP friends told her AP’s only pay if they request the rematch. If the HPs initiate, the agency must pay. Agency does let her off the hook for the remainder of the flight money. The last straw came when she asked for pay to compensate for alleged “work” she performed in order to claim another week’s stipend. Hubby called the agency and threw out the house the next day; 2 days before her flight.

AP #2- Is from Canada. No language barrier. Best part is she comes with 3 glowing recommendations from former HP’s. We got her during our rematch. Her HM said they were having child #4 and mutually agreed that it would be way too much for 1 AP. She will join us next week.

I found this site and was so happy to meet other HP’s. I knew AP’s have alot of support but there did not seem to be any for HPs. Now that we are introducing ourselves, I feel relieved. Thank you to all in advance for letting me vent. It’s been bottled up for a long time now.

If I could change anything? There should be probationary period for AP’s that is separate from rematch. If they do not work out, they should go home. There should be much much more support for HPs. AP’s should not have so much priveledge monetarily. HPs pay so much and it feels like we keep being bled for more by APs who take advantage.

Momma Gadget March 18, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I hope your next AP is wonderful…. And that you twins soon grow out of their issues quickly.

MommyMia March 18, 2013 at 11:09 pm

We are about to match with one who will start in June, but I should advise that she was here at the same time as AP#1 and came over to our house frequently so we already feel like we know her, as we have had many interactions already.

DCBurbTwinMomma April 5, 2013 at 10:25 am

I have been waiting to post my information because I was about to welcome Au Pair #2 and I wanted to be able to “report” on our relationship here.

My husband found this blog about 1/2 year before the arrival of our first AP which is now almost 2 years ago. I have been lurking and reading every since. I used this blog to shape the questions I asked during the interview and it was a great resource to create the household handbook.

FAMILY: I am 41 and my husband is 45. We have twin girls who are currently a very busy 14.75 months. We live in Maryland in a smaller town that is considered part of the DC burbs (hence the name obviously) and live minutes from the DC Metro system. I have not had any difficulty finding au pair candidates with my location. I advertise that we are a half hour outside of the city itself and the potential APs do not seem to mind. I also advertise that NYC is a quick (and cheap) bus or trainride away and that we are often visiting family in southern Florida to sweeten the pot. Daycare is QUITE expensive in our coveted part of Maryland so getting an au pair was a no brainer for us. Additionally, I had nannies growing up and knew that it could be a wonderful experience for the girls and for the person we welcome into our family. Our hours are erratic at times (I am an attorney and hubby is a judge) so we needed the flexibility of having a caring adult in the home. Coupled with the fact that we both work in DC — it was the best choice for us.

AP#1- I immediately fell in love with this girl. She is a responsible, experience, amazing 23 year old from Medellin, Colombia. She had extensive day care experience (her parents own a day care) and experience with twins. She had the patience to help me let anyone care for my preemie 2lb and 3lb girls when they arrived home. Some days, she would just sit next to me and fold clothes or clean while I did all the daycare. Slowly she earned my trust and become a third parent to my sweet girls. She has so much more childcare experience than I had (or have for that matter) and could suggest alternative ways to do things when appropriate in such a kind and caring way that I didn’t feel that she was stepping on my toes. We cloth diaper the twins and had a wonderful preemie feeding schedule that involved medicine droppers and food scales–she tackled those with ease. I tend to overspend on the girls and she would tell me to stop and that whatever I wanted to accomplish with an edu-toy could be accomplished with things we already had in the house. Who needs electronic toys when there are pans and cardboard tubes? Her English was marginal so I ended up speaking only Spanish to her which did tend to leave hubby feeling out of the loop. She also had a problem with thinking through her plans. She once missed the last commuter train back into DC and spent the night in a coffee shop with a dead phone (I WAS WORRIED!) and another time she made plans to stay in DC overnight to celebrate an au pair’s birthday and they booked a motel known for prostitution. (I nixed that motel immediately). She returned to Colombia after a year to finish her degree program (they would not take more American credits without her making substantial changes to her program which we were willing to finance). We keep in touch and she departed with tears and we hope she will visit often. We plan to surprise her with a trip to visit on the girls’ 2 year birthday. I can sing her praises enough. We were spoiled in that she was super inexpensive for us: she was a non-vegetable eating, milk and cheese diet gal with a quirky sense of fashion who was just what my family needed. I honestly can say she was a total success. I really like her family as well. She helped us pick her replacement and spent a month training the new au pair much more thorough and strict that I thought necessary but “her princesses” needed to be in good hands.

AP#2 is also from Colombia (a smaller city about 2 hours from Medellin) and is just as fabulous but in different ways. She and my husband both have advanced degrees in engineering and she has a better grasp on English so they have a bond that was lacking between him and AP#1. She also plays guitar and piano (both of which we just randomly happen to have in the house) and was on a traveling league for basketball in Colombia. She loves soccer and follows the national team on radio. She is just what we need for busy active girls who love music and being free to run. She is 25 and the maturity factor is appreciated. I didn’t think I could possible feel as close to another caregiver as I did to AP#1, but I truly enjoy AP#2. I consider us the luckiest HF in our cluster because I am thrilled beyond imagination with the two APs we have had. They have some disaster au pair friends who often hang out at our home and I can see the difference. She is a better driver that AP#1 but that is not much of a factor for us. She loves to cook Colombian food for us which is not a requirement but is amazing. She gently is weaning our girls off the bottle during the day (which I know I should have started but enjoy the morning bond before work). She does already have a boyfriend who lives in NYC so she has spent some weekends there but that has been a bonus for hubby and I do have some rare “just us and the girls” time. She is resourceful and is even attending the Navy’s formal ball in a few weeks–things the other AP would not have imagined to venture to do.

I’m nervous that a future AP is going to be such a disaster to balance our luck. I’m so appreciative of all the voices here that give me new perspective and help me to grow as a HM. I tend to be very permissive and I’m learning to set some rules. (Hubby appreciates this because he has come home to too many impromtu parties or sleep overs). Thank you for this blog.

CA Host Mom April 5, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I enjoyed reading your great reviews of both APs! Our current AP is from the same city that your AP#1 was from. And we love Colombian food too! Happy to “know” you. :)

Tristatemom April 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Hi there,
just wanted to say you sound like a fun family!

Our first AP was also Colombian and I loved her. Sadly, she was a terrible driver so we switched to Europeans after that. It has never been as great.

Momma Gadget August 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I wish contributors could set up profiles… So that we could refer back to them when reviewing comments. My memory stinks on a good day!
It would be great to be able to look up where some one is from, how many kid’s and their general age group when reading later posts…

LookingForwardToBeAP August 28, 2013 at 12:50 am

Well I was bored… So I actually read the entire post and counted the experiences you told…

108 au pairs, 27 rematches… exactly 25%

The only one I didn’t count was DarthaStewart’s because I didn’t really understand how many rematches she had, If you read this maybe you might add them.

I know this is not oficial but perhaps it migh be close to what really happens =)

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