The Worst Thing an Au Pair Can Overhear

by cv harquail on March 17, 2017

Quick — what’s the worst thing your au pair could ever overhear?

You telling your Host Parent partner how much the Au Pair bothers you?

Some kind of grumpy food-related complaint you should be too adult to even have?

You announcing that  you’ve tucked a speed tracker into the Au Pair car, so now you’ll have proof?

Or, how about …  never mind.

There is really no way to introduce this TOTALLY CRINGE INDUCING topic.

342834523_a649d83821_mExcept to say, from a Host Parent’s perspective, this might be a nice problem to have :-)

Here’s the Au Pair’s email:

Dear Au Pair Mom — 

First of all let me say that I love your blog. I’m an Au Pair and your posts and all the commenters’ advice have helped me see a lot of things from my Host Parents’ perspective.

My host parents have been wonderful so far and I love taking care of their baby.

I am their first Au Pair and this is their first baby (them being my first host family) so everything is pretty new to us!

About a month ago, the baby started sleeping in the baby’s own room as opposed to the parents’ bedroom. Ever since, I can hear my host parents having intercourse. Their bedroom is right above mine and the walls are thin so I can hear them pretty clearly.  They’re really loud and it’s making it hard for me to sleep at night, not to mention awkward to face them in the mornings.

At first I noticed this only happened during date nights, when they would go out on dates and come home later on the weekend. So I planned to sleep over at a friend’s house when I knew that would happen.

Now they’re doing it during normal week days, albeit at least trying to keep it down. But it’s become a great source of stress for me.

I spoke to other host parents who don’t know my host parents and their advice was to avoid mentioning it to my host parents at any cost.

But now I don’t know what to do. I would really like some advice from other host parents on the matter.

I don’t want to mortify my poor host mom by bringing it up! But if I brought it up, how would you like to be approached and what possible solutions can you think of? And other au pairs, have you had this problem too?

{ 18 comments }

txmom March 17, 2017 at 11:30 pm

First of all, good for them! On how you should handle it, this really depends on the type of relationship you have with them. If our AP mentioned this to us, we would laugh, I’d probably blush, and then DH and I would try to be a little bit quieter. If you aren’t close with your host parents, and you’re really worried about it, maybe install a sound machine app on your phone and set it when you go to sleep so that you don’t hear them. Or, be brave and mention to your host mom that the walls seem a little thin these days.

Jessi March 20, 2017 at 12:00 am

I would do this – there are tons of white noise apps that help block out noise – sound of the rain anyone?

I used to use a white noise app on friday and saturday nights so that the saturday and sunday morning breakfast noise didnt wake me

GermanAuPair March 18, 2017 at 12:27 am

I guess you are not the only Au Pair out there hearing their hostparents having intercourse. But i would never (!) mention it. Because its totally human and normal in a relationship. If you here them and it bothers you, put some earplugs in. But just don’t mention it!! I assume your relation will be awkward for a while, remember, they are your bosses!

That Wise Lady March 18, 2017 at 3:08 am

I think I’d buy a good set of earplugs and not say a word! Unfortunately, some homes have thin walls, but as an Au Pair your job is to ease the pressure on parents, not make it even more awkward for them…

Pauline March 18, 2017 at 8:57 am

It’s hard to tell whether they are just rude and inconsiderate or just don’t realize how loud they are. I was an au pair too, I suppose my host parents had sex sometimes but I’ve never heard them even though their room was close to mine so I guess it is possible to keep it quiet. If it makes you feel uncomfortable you definitely should tell them. If you’re too shy to approach this (how embarassing) issue, maybe you should turn the music loud enough for them to hear when things start to get noisy in their room, maybe they will understand that it upsets you.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 18, 2017 at 10:09 am

Whoa! I was not expecting this to go there! I don’t see how you can not say anything. As a host mom, , I would want to know how noisy we’re being! Im not a (total) prude, but i dont want to listen to other people having sex, and dont want others listening to me!

There are delicate ways to approach it…maybe don’t tell WHAT you hear, only casually mention that you’re thinking about getting earplugs or a sound machine because it’s sometimes difficult to sleep when they’re still awake and talking. Or maybe play music or have a loud phone conversation in your room whIle they are in theirs, so they will get a sense of how thin the walls are. I’m sure they’ll carch on. If not, you may need to be more direct.

Good luck!

Amy-AP March 18, 2017 at 10:20 am

I’d mention it. I don’t think I’d want to go through my entire au pair year hearing my host parents doing it – the same way I wouldn’t want to hear my own parents. If I were you I’d casually mention that I’ve been having some trouble sleeping because I can hear everything that goes on in their room. Chances are I don’t think your host parents realize that you can hear them and there’s an even bigger chance that they DON’T want their au pair to hear them being intimate. You’re an adult, your host parents are adults, there’s really no reason why you mentioning it in the most respectful way possible would cause a huge problem in your relationship as au pair/host parents. As for what other things you can do: maybe move your bed to another space in your room if you can? So your bed isn’t against the wall that you share with your host parents’ room. Also get a white noise machine, I can’t sleep with ear plugs in my ears so a white noise machine has been my savior. Also maybe try sleeping with some music playing? I strongly think you should bring it up and try other means to make sure that you don’t really hear what goes on outside your room.

DCBurbTwinMomma March 18, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Meh-if I’m being porn star crazy then it warrants mention. However, really gauge if this is swinging from chandelier porn track or just normal healthy expression. If I were approached about it, I’d think, “wow, the good AP would like me to change my sex habits in my own home to accommodate her sensibilities. We’re just not going to work out.” I value my relations with my hubby over the AP’s squeamishness. That’s why the question is whether it’s really over the top craziness or just the fact you can hear people having sex in general. My suggestion is to be as passive aggressive as you can by turning up the volume of the TV / music or getting headphones. The AP room is not a hotel where you can complain about the other tenants doing normal things. I know my hubby snores loudly and it drives me crazy. But I’m not going to kick him out of really make much effort for the AP for that, if he or she really had an issue, they’d be better with a new family.

Just like in all our working relationships, there is the level of impact to consider and a big dose of life isn’t always ideal.

Good luck.

Amy-AP March 18, 2017 at 1:57 pm

I don’t think this has anything to do with an au pair wanting you to change your sex habits in your own home because she’s “sensitive”. If I was in situation with my own host parents and that was their reaction my relationship with them would change drastically. You have an adult from another country living in your home and if she’s having trouble sleeping then that’s something that needs to be brought up – I think the au pair should get a noise machine or something that blocks out the sounds BUT I don’t think the au pair should just suck it up because well…that’s not her house, right? The last thing you need is an exhausted/sleep deprived au pair taking care of your children, it will not end well. I have a lot of respect for my host family, and I’d like to think that they respect me enough to at least hear me out if I were to ever bring up something like that. That’s just my 2 cents.

Azmom March 23, 2017 at 7:51 am

I think a big thing to also realize is that if the au pair can hear, the kiddos will also hear. They may not know what is going on but they may wake up and come see what the noise is! The family has chosen to have an au pair so being considerate is a given. If it is a few spring sounds ok, but if it is full on sound and motion, I think the host parents should be aware that others can hear.

I’d probably recommend just knocking on the wall. I know in college that is what people would do… Not like hanging on the wall, but enough to bring attention.

I’d also recommend the music/sound machine or ear plugs.

JamieH March 18, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I do not think it is reasonable to ask them to alter their sex life to make you feel more comfortable, so I would approach this from the angle of trying to figure out how to reduce your exposure to the sounds. There is a lot you can consider on your own! Do you have a fan or other white noise? Noise cancelling headphones? If this is a time when you are normally awake, would you be more comfortable hanging out in the living room with the tv on? If you do approach them, I would keep it to “I am having trouble falling asleep in my room at night because I can hear quite a bit of noise coming from your room. Do you have any extra fans or other devices I could use to try to muffle the noise so I can sleep better?”

Maybe future host mom March 18, 2017 at 4:03 pm

I would mention something casually about being able to hear them talk at night and not mention the sex – they should be able to figure it out.

If you do go the earplug route, I highly recommend a variety pack from the http://www.earplugstore.com and not just any pair you buy at the drugstore. They come in more shapes and sizes than you can imagine. For them to truly work, you may need to try several shapes and sizes before finding one that works for you.

Susannah March 18, 2017 at 7:01 pm

I would say that you are within your rights to mention “noise” to them, as long as you approach it with a solution in mind that can show that you are taking proactive steps in your mind to address the situation. Whether that’s asking them split the cost on a fan for your room (or asking about a fan in general) or a noise machine app on your phone, or moving your bed to the other side of the room you can show that you’re recognizing that you have some agency in the situation too. I think that this has to be some sort of a halfway point between a standard “tenant” situation and a situation where the AuPair just has to suck it up. It is true that the host parents will be there long after the aupair has left and that their needs do come first, but at the same time to suggest that the Au Pair has no right to advocate for situations in their living environment that they find uncomfortable or disruptive seems to be taking it too far in the other direction.

LongtimeAP March 18, 2017 at 10:04 pm

I think if the situation is like that I would rematch to be honest. I wouldn’t want to go through my Au-pair year listening to that.
If it causes you stress and you don’t get enough sleep because of it, that can affect how you work.

2 kids and a cat March 19, 2017 at 4:32 pm

When you go to work in the home of a family with children, intercourse is usually a precursor to those working conditions.
I’d suggest getting to your room and turning up the music or making a loud phone call before things start up so you’re sure they can hear you (and presumably extrapolate that you can hear them, too).
On the flip side, I’d ask if you are always in the home in the evenings after the baby goes to bed? I mean, what other opportunity do they have? I do support the comments above, but as a third adult in the house, you could ask yourself if you’re allowing them private alone time. Maybe you could use your education credit money to take a class once a week in the evenings. Can you hang out in the family room for a while, or take your shower at bedtime?

Aupair Lauren March 20, 2017 at 2:11 am

This is really really cringey to me!!! I personally wouldn’t mention it to them because if it were the other way around I WOULD DIE A LITTLE INSIDE.

I agree with pretty much all that’s been said. You are living in their home and it is completely natural. I guess the questions are: what time does this usually occur and is it completely awkwardly loud noises or ones that you can just hear from their room because the walls are simply thin? If your answer to the first is 7/8/9/10/11pm then I would agree with previous suggestions of getting out of the house – maybe catching a movie with a friend one night a week so this will give them an opportunity of being home at night with the house to themselves. On the other hand if it’s happening at 2 or 3am and waking you up then I’d suggest maybe making a loud trip to the bathroom or kitchen for a glass of water etc? Loud enough so they know you have woken. I personally can’t sleep or feel comfortable with earplugs or headphones in overnight but I like the idea of the noise machine app.

SeattleHD March 20, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Overall, I’m sympathetic to the issue, but realistically, how long can it possibly go on for, and how many nights a week?

Also, if the baby just moved out of their bedroom, it may be the case that it’s just “catching-up” and things will eventually stabilize to something more reasonable.

And while many people really wouldn’t want to bring it up, a quiet chat with the HM might be an ice-breaker that leads to a deeper friendship. We’ve usually had a moment in our hosting years when a discussion about a tricky issue (not this particular one) led to a better relationship with our au pair.

ChiHostMom March 22, 2017 at 11:12 am

I would assume that you can also hear talking and watching TV shows etc. So ask for an air purifier or a fan for your room to help you sleep at night and be as explicit as you want to be. But as others have posted, couples have sex and with kids especially babies, there isn’t always a lot of time for that to happen. Given your room is below theirs you may hear more than you want even with a fan/air purifier. If they have hardwood floors upstairs a rug might help with sound traveling. Good luck.

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