Your Brother’s Wedding vs. Her 21st Birthday: Whose priority wins? (Poll)

by cv harquail on January 22, 2010

Here’s a tough situation that could use your advice! This host parent is facing what feels like a win/lose situation in a conflict between what the family wants and what the au pair wants.

Check out the details, weigh in at the poll, and then offer some advice!201001222033.jpg

Dear AuPairMom Readers– I was so glad to find this blog and LOVE the info and advice it provides to host families. I know the topic of vacations has been discussed in the past, I have a more particular have a situation that I would love to get input on, specifically related to whether we can/should ‘require’ our AP to come on vacation with us:

We are planning to take a week long vacation for a family wedding on the east coast in a few months. Our entire family lives there, so we generally travel there once a year.

We have taken our APs in the past and it has worked out really well all around. We have a two and six year old, so the benefit of an extra adult on the long plane ride is super helpful and having a sitter for a few nights and for family events is great.

We also make sure our AP has a reasonable amount of free time to explore the area, visit NYC, etc. We stay with our in-laws, but she has her own room and we do our best to help make her comfortable and assist her with sightseeing plans.

Here’s our current issue:

My brother’s wedding is the EXACT SAME NIGHT as our au pair’s 21st birthday.

Our Au Pair has politely told me that she would greatly prefer to spend her 21st celebrating with her friends in Vegas (which she has already visited twice).

She has been with us for six months and is wonderful with the children, although we’ve had some issues with being part of the family, car usage — just overall personal maturity stuff.

I certainly don’t want to ‘force’ her to go and worry whether she’s miserable during her trip with us. But, at the same time it would be very helpful for us to have her there.

Also, I feel frustrated that she is being shortsighted by not seeing this as a great opportunity for her to experience other parts of the country that otherwise might be too expensive for her to travel to on her own.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Just a quick poll for your immediate reaction (you can choose more than one answer):

What would you recommend?

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READERS:  (Sunday am) The Original Poster (OP), Melissa, has offered some additional information about the situation to address some of the assumptions and questions raised in the (already) 50+ comments. I’m putting this info right here in the original post, so that you don’t have to scan the whole comment thread to consider her information before sharing your advice. Also, the bolding and underlining are from me, to help you find the various elements. Here it is:

I’m the OP and thought it might be helpful to provide some additional details to our situation. First, thanks so much to everyone who took the time to respond – I really appreciate your input and suggestions and have some really good points to consider!

Regarding whether we ‘need’ our AP on the trip – this has been a tough one for me to determine because the only time I feel like I absolutely ‘need’ my AP is when I am working and I need someone to watch my kids in my absence. So, based on that, no, I don’t absolutely NEED her to be there. However, I work PT from home, so in addition to needing her while I’m working (which is about 25 hrs/week), a signficant part of our family’s purpose for having an AP is to be there during other times (help with homework while I’m making dinner, stay with my napping 2 yr old while I’m out with my other daughter, travel with us, etc), which we make very clear during the application process. We don’t have any family around, so this is a HUGE help for us and the reason that we choose an AP, and that ‘helping’ piece is a significant part of her job for us.

Finding another babysitter is an idea we have considered, and may wind up doing. However, our entire family will be at the wedding, so we would have to find someone other than a relative or family friend. Our 75 yr old parents would have no idea who to recommend for a local babysitter, so we would probably have to resort to care.com or something similar, which I’m not real thrilled with doing. Instead I would probably just bring the kids to the wedding and have my husband run around after them most of the evening (I’m in the wedding party) and leave early, if we need to.

I should have been more clear in my OP, that if we did bring our AP with us, it would be a working week for her and definitely not have her use any of her vacation time. And we’d make sure she has ample time to sightsee and relax (and give her some extra spending cash or pay for her sightseeing, which we’ve done in past trips with prior APs).

I do realize the importance of her 21st birthday, and was considering some of the things that others suggested, such as contributing toward a ticket for bringing a friend (a friend who will be on school break during that time, not an AP so no need to use up vacation time), or possibly even paying for her stay in Vegas the following weekend. And I don’t have any opinion about where she wants to go for her birthday (I personally love Las Vegas and see the appeal for her).

However, we have been very generous with her (in my opinion) – we provide her with her own car, cell phone and laptop, and we’ve tried to be pretty accommodating to her social schedule (she is our first AP who is quite a ‘partyier’ and that’s been an adjustment for us) by giving her off on New Years Eve, letting a friend from home stay with us for two weeks, giving her off most weekend nights, posting her schedule well in advance, etc. She is very nice and polite around us and never really complains or sulks or displays any immature emotional behavior.

The issues that we’ve encounted so far have all been regarding her free time. She is gone virtually all the time, which limits her ability to be part of our family (she’s probably had dinner with us less than 15 times over 6 months) and she has ‘pushed the limit’ with a lot of things, like always asking for exceptions to our worknight curfew, having male friends over later than we said she could, constantly keeping the car out overnight, etc. So we’ve had to have some talks about those things and set some additional rules. If we did require her to go on the trip with us, I don’t think she would be sulky or difficult, but b/c her social life and partying is so important to her, I know that while she wouldn’t be miserable, she probably wouldn’t be thrilled to be there.
Anyway, sorry for the looong post! Hope that additional information gives a bit more insight into my question. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!!!

Wedding – Flower Girl from bitchplz on Flickr

See also:

It’s YOUR vacation, not hers. Okay?

Scheduling your Au Pair to be on duty when you are at home…

{ 93 comments }

PA au pair mom January 22, 2010 at 10:14 pm

There are a lot of times when I would rather do something else, other than working, but I have to work because my boss needs me there.

I say she goes with you on the family trip to the wedding. Offer her another weekend, if you can, for her trip to vegas and don’t make her use up any vacation time. Buy her a nice gift so she realizes you still care about her birthday!

Good luck!

Jane January 25, 2010 at 9:16 am

I agree with this–take her with you to the wedding. I’ve had to work on my birthday when I didn’t want to–it’s part of being an adult with a job. If you can, give her off the next weekend to go to Vegas–she will still be newly 21. What country is she from? For US girls, turning 21 is a big deal. However, for all the girls we hosted, 21 was not a big birthday–their big birthday was 18. So don’t let the 21 thing guilt you into giving her off. I think having her help will make the wedding much more enjoyable for you and your husband–and that’s why you are paying her to be in the US with you this year–to make YOUR life easier. It sounds like you’ve given her a lot, so take some benefits for yourself that you are already paying for. It may be hard to tell her that she needs to come, but look at it as a growth opportunity for her. Get the support of your LCC if she reacts badly. Good luck and let us know what happens!

Busy Mom January 22, 2010 at 10:43 pm

If the main reason you want to take her is to have coverage for the family events and because it would be ‘helpful,’ I’d simply hire a babysitter and leave her at home to do as she pleases. Your inlaws should be able locate a neighborhood sitter. It sounds like she would be unhappy to come along and that will ultimately affect your enjoyment of the trip. If she doesn’t view it as a great opportunity to travel and be taken to NYC, then nothing you say will change her mind and you’ll have, at best, a mopey au pair on your hands for a week.

I would count that week as her vacation.

What’s with Vegas anyways? My au pair told me she wants to go because “eveyone says you should to there.” I told her she’d be wasting her money, that Vegas was gambling, fancy hotels and expensive shows, and that if she really wants to see the US, there are many other “better” places to visit. I’ve been to Vegas twice for business and found the glitz fascinating from a sociological standpoint, but personally unappealing! No offense to any Vegas-philes among us.

CV January 23, 2010 at 9:29 am

Busy Mom-
I had that same question when we got this email! The whole Vegas thing makes me shudder with horror. … it is such the opposite of what I’d consider ‘the best’ of the US. But, apparently, if you’re 21 and from some other country…. maybe we should do a post on this! cv

Jane January 25, 2010 at 9:18 am

Two of my au pairs went to Vegas, under 21 at that. They liked seeing all the sights even if they couldn’t gamble/drink, and they saw the Grand Canyon. It wasn’t bad.

Hula Gal January 22, 2010 at 11:32 pm

You have said it would be helpful for her to be there. But if it isn’t absolutely necessary and you could do without her than let her do what she wants to do on her birthday. I’m not sure why you are so concerned about her seeing this trip with your family as a great opportunity. I often have shrugged my shoulders at trips that my au pairs have taken and thought they sounded like a waste of time but I would have never told them not to go. If they want to go than that is their business. I think you need to make a clear decision – do you need her or not? If you don’t need her than don’t try to control her vacation. If you do need her and make her go because she has to work, than you better actually make her work so she doesn’t get mad that you made her go and then didn’t really use her for childcare services.

Should be Working January 23, 2010 at 1:10 am

I would offer her the trip one more time in its most attractive light–NYC, interesting part of the country, a ‘free’ week off some other time for Las Vegas–and if she still prefers Vegas, let her go and figure out babysitting with your family. To force her to go on vacation with you when she doesn’t want to is, to me, crossing a line from ‘au pair’ to something more servant-like.

former au pair January 23, 2010 at 2:47 am

I agree with what everyone else has said so far for the most part. I’m American and Vegas doesn’t really appeal to me, but it’s her 21st birthday! This trip may be a “good opportunity” for her to be able to go to NYC, but if it’s not absolutely necessary for her to help out on this trip, then don’t make her go. Nobody wants to spend their 21st birthday a) babysitting, b) without their friends, and c) with no celebration at all. Besides that, I can’t imagine NYC is very fun when you’re all alone. I would be totally overwhelmed if I was there alone, and I’ve been there a few times.

I have another idea too.
If you really need her to go on this trip, and if one of her au pair friends (who you know and are comfortable with) wants to see NYC, she could come with you guys. The girls could share a room in your in-law’s house and could both babysit on the night of your au pair’s birthday, but could go to NYC together for a couple days after that. Of course, this would only work if the other au pair could get vacation time for that week and could afford her own plane ticket to go on the trip. But if I was your au pair, this arrangement would sound a whole lot more appealing to me than going on this trip without a friend. Just a suggestion:)

Former au pair 2 January 23, 2010 at 10:08 am

Sounds good, but what friend would agree to spend HER vacation in other host familiy’s in-laws house, paying for the airfare, babysitting their kids all week, and (maybe) in the end go to the city for a day? Au pairs have only 2 weeks of vacation, they want some quality time.

Calif Mom January 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm

As much as I love Manhattan, I wouldn’t want to go to NYC by myself, or to babysit someone’s kids on my 21st bday!

I do the coast-to-coast thing, too, but it’s not SO hard that you should risk having a good time for your brother’s wedding by dragging along an AP who is feeling resentful. If you’ve already had probs with her ‘being part of the family’, this isn’t going to help, and could really exacerbate the issues.

Let her go to Vegas. She’s already been there, she knows what it is and would rather be there with friends on her big coming-of-age bday.

We have gone to NYC and hired a one-night babysitter thru the hotel for trips that APs have not joined us on. Not great, but it works.

IMHO, is NOT worth pushing, and could backfire (given the other contextual comments you provided).

former au pair January 23, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Well, it would mean not having to pay for a hotel or hostel. And would only work if the family needed babysitting for that night only, not all week. But good point.

Host Mom In Progress January 23, 2010 at 3:49 am

Really? Who is doing who the favor? The au pair is here in the U.S. because of the Host Family, not because of “friends.” A relative’s wedding is a family event. If the au pair receives the benefits of being treated like part of the family, then why isn’t it is appropriate for the Host Family to expect her/him to join them at this family event? Why is it that in these type of situations, there seems to be so much Host Family concern to accomodate the au pair rather than the other way around?

Mom of 3 January 23, 2010 at 3:52 am

I say – – Make it a ‘required’ trip! You brought her into your family to help manage stuff like this. Hoping for a random sitter on the East Coast is no comparison to having her help. She has other weeks of the year when she might take a vacation weekend (the week after you return, for example). She has advance notice and can plan ahead, just like you probably do. You have also mentioned helping it be a fun trip for her with some added sightseeing. You could even give her some “mad money” to buy some souvenirs.

When we got our au pair, I explained that we’d have a few trips where we’d need her help. For other parents who know things like this are coming up, make it clear, totally up front, even in the family letter you send before the au pair accepts with your family and comes to your home. If you don’t know up front, make it clear in your family letter that there may be some needed assistance on trips but that these will be opportunities to explore the world. Our most recent au pair went on a few trips with us, but chose not to go on a few as well (where we decided we could do w/ out her help since there was so much family around). But with a wedding situation, everybody will be AT the wedding, so you really do need her.

Why let her plans trump yours? You ar the boss, not her. Do your best to make it fun, be flexible about another time when she can take her trip.

P.S. Isn’t the USA one of the few countries where turning 21 really matters? Don’t let this be a huge deal that she is making it.

Calif Mom January 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I hear you, but if you drag her along and she’s pissy about being there, she can undermine the whole wedding weekend. You’re going to know she didn’t want to come the whole time you’re on the plane, etc.

I have a bad gut feeling about this one!

former au pair January 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I agree that turning 21 is mainly only a big deal in the US.

This girl was probably legally allowed to drink in her home country before she came to the US. When she got to the US, that privilege was revoked. So now that she is about to get that privilege back, YES, it is absolutely a big deal. Now that she’s in the US, it matters.

Aupair January 23, 2010 at 5:50 am

It is a huge deal! It is not a case of letting her plans trump yours, that is such a ridiculous way of looking at it.

I disagree with many of the comments here, it is the girl’s birthday, I’m sorry but that is important whether she is 21 or 19. The whole family will be at the wedding, you will not need her and most likely can mange without her. She will not want to spend her birthday working and I believe that it is unfair to make her do so. 21 may not be a milestone for some people but for others it is. This is something that could be held against you and I personally think that it is very very unthoughtful.

She may have been to Vegas several times but if she likes it and wants to make her 21st memorable there then she should be able to go. If I was forced to go anywhere with my family it would definitely raise issues and concerns about their appreciation of me. If this is a one-off, let her enjoy her 21st.

CV January 23, 2010 at 9:36 am

I think you misunderstand what this host mom is saying when she says they ‘need’ the au pair– they will be at a wedding with not only the wedding ceremony, but also the rehearsal dinner, the post wedding brunch, and possible more scheduled events. Not to mention, any running around that needs to be done to help with the wedding in the run-up before, having many relatives and friends to visit with over the wedding weekend, and so on.

If there is *ever* a time when you need childcare that is reliable, and if there is *ever* a time when kids could use a caregiver who knows them and who they know, this would be the time.

This is a situation where many au pairs just wouldn’t ‘get it’ b/c they have no idea what it takes to participate in, much less support, a family member’s wedding.

And, think about this: the au pair is going to be 21 the weekend after this, and the weekend after than, and the weekend after that. There is no ‘magic’ that happens on the day you turn 21.

And if she’s already been to Vegas, she’s already been drinking anyway. Really, what is the big deal?

my $.02- cv

Aupair January 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

CV

I am in total disagreement. I am a 24year old Au Pair, I shall be spending my 25th birthday (a massive deal to me) in France with my host family. This also happens to be Valentine’s weekend, which may be a big deal for the parents, I let them know from the get go that I will not be available that weekend.

We are different and as someone has kindly pointed out, cultures are different. Also to suggest that an AP has no idea what organising a wedding is like is very insensitive, how do you know?? I have had to help organise Weddings and funerals.

A birthday is your one and single day when it is all about you. I’m sure that if it was your child’s 1st birthday that would mean something to you?

Calif Mom January 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm

CV — we diverge on this one! :-)

maybe OP can chime in again and clarify how much she is really counting on AP during the wedding week.

She wrote:

“the benefit of an extra adult on the long plane ride is super helpful and having a sitter for a few nights and for family events is great”

That doesn’t sound to me like a real *need* during the wedding week, just sort of a bonus to the host mom.

If she does decide to bring the AP to the wedding, there’s no way any of it should be called vacation.

I absolutely despise Vegas, but some people love it, and I don’t think we can let our personal opinion of her travel plans weigh into this. Yes, she’s been to see her friends, but she wants to spend her bday there (and yes, some other cultures care about 21).

Since there were “problems about maturity” already, and “being part of the family”—the big risk in bringing her to the wedding to help is that she becomes a big center of negative gravity instead of a help. She could poison the whole trip if she decides to be immature about it instead of just sucking it up and making the best of it. Figure out some other options for babysitters during the wedding. You really want someone who’s happy to be there taking care of hte kids. What could you offer her as a bday celebration? Some people care a lot about bdays being celebrated on the exact day (I’m not one of them, but boy is my hub, and if I were to tell him we weren’t having cake on his actual bday, he would be hurt for YEARS).

Original Poster may need to have more conversations with the AP about this.

Hula Gal January 23, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I’m with Calif Mom on this. Does the OP really NEED the au pair there? I didn’t get that impression from her post. If she doesn’t NEED her there then she should allow the au pair spend her birthday in whatever fashion she chooses. If she does NEED her there than she should be sensitive to the fact that it is the au pair’s birthday during this trip and mitigate whatever hard feelings the au pair will certainly have by being as thoughtful as she can towards her. This girl is a person too! And if I had my brother’s wedding coming up I would have made it clear to the au pair upon matching that she would need to work that week. Sounds like the OP was wishy-washy about it or didn’t tell her until the last minute.

Melissa - OP January 24, 2010 at 12:19 am

Unfortunately, the date for the wedding wasn’t set until AFTER our AP’s arrival. I did mention to her during the application process that we will probably be taking a trip back east and that we like to bring our AP with us. However, we initially talked about it as soon as we found out the date (about 4 months ago), but left it up in the air at that point, and it’s still 5 months away, so hardly last minute.

Anonymous January 23, 2010 at 11:40 am

I totally agree with you, aupair. You only turn 21 once; it’s a big deal.

Melissa - Original Poster January 24, 2010 at 2:16 am

Thanks for your comments. However, just to clarify, I am struggling over this situation precisely because we feel we DO need her. Yes, our entire family will be there, but to assume that “you do not need her and can most likely manage without her” is not accurate. Because our whole family will be at the wedding, there is no one available to babysit our children and I don’t really feel comfortable hiring a stranger who has no familiarity with our kids, who will already be out of sorts b/c they’ll be off schedule and in unfamiliar surroundings. On the other hand, if we bring the kids to the wedding (which we’d like to do) my husband will essentially be stuck running around after my 2 yr old all night. I am in the wedding party and need to fulfill my role (arriving early in the church, being there for bridal pictures, sitting at the head table, etc) and want to enjoy this special, once in a lifetime day (hopefully!) for my brother. Sure, we’ll have other family members there to help entertain the kids, however, I cannot fully ‘rely’ on them to do that for any length of time (e.g., if I am busy having photos taken with the wedding party and my husband wants to have more than a 30 second conversation with his great-uncle Joe who he hasn’t seen in 3 years). Although I love my family dearly, they only see our children once per year (if that), and really just aren’t that familiar with caring for them.

Anna January 24, 2010 at 8:34 am

I think in that case, you should tell your au pair that she cannot take vacation during this week and she has to work and go with you. Put is as an issue of her requesting vacation at the time it cannot be granted.

I would not go into the details of why (e.g. you want to enjoy the wedding etc.), just tell her you NEED her, that’s all. Otherwise it will sound like you are asking her, or asking her permission. In this case it is your time to behave like a boss, not like a family member, because it is about her job.
Good luck, tell us how it goes.

Jane January 25, 2010 at 9:33 am

I agree–you NEED her and as you said, this type of help was made clear in the beginning, even if the wedding date had not been set yet. An unhappy 2-year-old can spoil a wedding more than a disappointed 21 year old–who is the adult, remember? As far as the importance of birthdays–she will get to dance on her 21st birthday with the kids and will probably end up having a great time with a unique opportunity to see an American wedding. Your brother’s wedding will happen once–her birthday happens every year–and it’s not like she won’t get to celebrate because she’s stuck in the hotel with the kids that night.

Tell her you need her to work without all the hemming and hawing, then sell the perks later. Have faith she’ll be an adult about her responsibilities.

franzi January 23, 2010 at 6:46 am

here’s my take on the issue:
do you really need her to work while on the trip (and i mean work as in actually be needed) then make her work and “force” her to come on that trip with you. but don’t call it vacation then.
i had to work for christmas and new years and while many may think “what’s the deal” i had several friends who planned great trips that i couldn’t join because i was told to work. christmas day came and after an hour i was off. imagine my disappointment – i was clearly not needed to work (both parents were home in that hour).
new years is a big thing in my home country so of course i wanted to celebrate it in a special way.

the fascination with vegas? i LOVED it there and i absolutely understand every AP who wants to go there. i’m sure your AP had friends who have been hyping her 21st birthday as THE event. so of course she wants to celebrate with them to finally be “legal”.

if you do not really need your AP on that trip (so that you HAVE TO take her with you) then lay out the two options clearly – the week with you under condition xyz (time she’s required to work, time off etc) vs. trip to vegas where the week counts as one of her vacations.

i would not give her more options because like it has been said above, if you need her to work then there is no discussion.
yes, she may be crabby during the trip but i think that if she sees that she’s needed she’ll have a turn around in behavior.

former extension au pair in CA January 23, 2010 at 9:43 am

ok to be honest, i, as an au pair, would never even suggest what this au pair did. if i knew my family was going out of town and i was expected to go with, i’d never ask my HM if i could do or go somewhere else -even if it was my birthday. maybe this is just me, but i think its a little too much to ask…

Calif Mom January 23, 2010 at 2:11 pm

You are a good person and I bet you were a gem for your host family! Clearly, this AP has had problems “being part of the family” and is not as mature as you are.

Chrysula Winegar January 23, 2010 at 9:55 am

Whilst I largely agree that the au pair is here to work and should probably go on the trip, I do want to flag a huge cultural issue that’s not been addressed here as yet.

Turning 21 in Western Europe, Australia and similar countries is THE “Coming of Age” birthday. It has NOTHING to do with the drinking age. It’s a much bigger deal than anyone here is realizing. It’s a cultural acknowledgment by friends and family that you are ready to make your way in the world. My 21st birthday party (and I’m Mormon, so alcohol was no where near) was bigger than my wedding. It’s just one of those rites of passage in countries other than the United States.

Something to bear in mind when you bring someone into your family from an entirely different context. Good luck.

tiredmom January 23, 2010 at 10:19 am

As a long time host mom, I truly understand the AP perspective. When you speak about this being an opportunity to ‘bond’ with the family, remember what you were like when you were younger- not that exciting to be around family for a whole week. Yes, she is here ‘working’ for the year, but in the same context about ‘bonding’- it is temporary- she is here for a year, then gone. If you can manage without her- then manage without her. Do you really want a suling au pair with you the whole week?? And, it is YOUR family that you will be spending time with, not hers. If you do decide to bring her, than my advice is have her WORK- not just an hour here or there, otherwise she will be quite resentful. Have a schedule with the hours you need her, and stick to it. Generally, most of my au pairs have been less than enthusiastic when required to go to my sister’s house and spend time with my family- even for a long day. I also understand that it is a job, and the rest of us have to work on our birthdays, is this really the time to make her learn that, when she will be with you for 6 more months? Good luck with your decision.

Anonymous January 23, 2010 at 11:35 am

I agree with this post. This is the kind of situation which falls in the “give-and-take” category. If the au pair is someone you’ve had a really good relationship with, let her go to Vegas. In my experience, being flexible on something like this with a great (or even just a good) au pair will make the remaining 6 months more pleasant.

I do sympathize with you, because you do really need her and if your boss required something like this from you, you’d have to do it. I’ve found that doing things, where I can, to increase goodwill with au pairs (or anyone else taking care of my kids) is a good thing and benefits me (and the kids) in the long term. I don’t want to have someone resentful of me caring for my children!

That said, I just saw CV’s latest post on the au pair who took the car without permission and is probably gone for the weekend (at least). I’ll be a softy on vacation time with a great au pair, but an au pair who “borrows” my car without permission for days? I would go hard-core and report the car as stolen (at minimum, and rematch would be certain).

Anonymous January 23, 2010 at 10:37 am

I’d require her to go. What it comes down to is – this is her JOB!!! I don’t get the day off work because it is my birthday, anniversary, or whatever. A lot of people even work on Christmas, NYE, Thanksgiving, etc…because that is the profession they signed up for. An au pair has signed up for a job that requires her to work a varying schedule.

That being said, I would try and do some extra for her and recognize her sacrifice. Give her some extra vacation time to go to LV another weekend, take her out somewhere in NYC (on the non-wedding event nights) and have a family member watch the kids for a couple hours so you can treat her to a nice dinner. Buy her a gift certificate for a store there, or maybe a site seeing tour of some sort. And give her a nice birthday card acknowledging that you know she had to sacrifice for the family, and that it means a lot to you.

As for Vegas – I go about every other month, sometimes with kids and au pair, sometimes not. Last year we took our AP to Vegas with us for the holidays, and left the kids with family members on NYE so we could take her out in Vegas with us to celebrate New Year’s. She had an absolute blast, so did we. I can absolutely see the appeal of Vegas because I love it myself (and my gambling budget is $50 in slots).

Noelle January 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Obviously it would be very helpful if she could be there, to help with the kids during and around the wedding activities. On any other week, I’d say you’d be 100% justified in making this required even if she had hoped to make other plans.

But this is her birthday. This is a big deal. Would you do this to an actual family member, require that they forfeit a big birthday to suit your purpose? Do you treat your kids’ birthdays with the same lack of acknowledgement? Now, I know it’s not the same, but I think it’s important to apply a consistent standard. Either she’s a family member/employee who you want to have a good relationship with and mutual respect, or she’s not. By not allowing her to actually celebrate her birthday, you’re telling her you don’t respect her. If you go ahead with requiring this trip, I think it would be reasonable to expect that she’s no longer going to respect you either.

I think most host parents wouldn’t do this to a family member, and they would avoid doing this to an employee they valued in an actual workplace. Somehow au pairs get relegated to this mule status, despite being “on par” or equal. They’re not equal, and that’s sad. I agree with ShouldBeWorking (above): “To force her to go on vacation with you when she doesn’t want to is, to me, crossing a line from ‘au pair’ to something more servant-like.”

Melissa - Original Poster January 23, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Thanks for your input. I appreciate all of the responses and ideas and realize that I need to provide some more information (which I’ll do in a separate post below) about our ‘need’ for her to be there and our relationship, etc. However, I wanted to respond to a couple of points in your post. Whether I would ‘do this to an actual family member’ is a very difficult comparison in this situation, b/c if she were truly part of the family, she certainly wouldn’t be able to not attend her brother/cousin/whoever’s wedding because it’s her birthday. Would my brother be ‘doing this’ to a family member if he expected his cousin to attend his wedding even though it’s her 21st birthday? If the wedding was on my daughter’s 1st birthday, or 16th birthday, I would certainly not tell him that we aren’t attending because we are having a separate celebration. And of course I don’t “treat my kids’ birthdays with the same lack of acknowledgment”, however, I don’t think I’m not acknowledging my child’s birthday if I have to work that day and we celebrate on another day instead (as Dorsi suggests). We have always treated our APs very well (from my perspective, of course), have treated them like part of the family, and when we’ve taken them on trips with us in the past, we’ve gone out of our way to ensure that they have an opportunity to have a memorable time (e.g., I’ve always taken them out separately, without kids, for the evening to show them the sights, have dinner, etc.). However, as we host families all know, they do work for us, so it’s a very unique situation. I don’t think requiring her to attend an important family event with us to look after our children, and ensuring that she has plenty of time the following weekend (or even the night before, for that matter, since she techinically turns 21 at midnight the night prior and I’m sure she will want to be at a bar at that exact moment) is equivalent to “not allowing her to actually celebrate her birthday” and by doing that it means that I don’t respect her.

Noelle January 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

Melissa, I hope this works out for you. I really do. What I’m not sure about this entire post is if you’re soliciting advice on how to hand your AP your unilateral decision while appearing fair and thoughtful regarding the weekend that follows, or if you’re soliciting advice as to how to convince her to make the decision to voluntarily forgo the trip she wanted to plan which was her priority?

Even if the 21st birthday isn’t important to you, it may be very important to her. I hope she has a voice in this. What has she said about that – how important is this to her?

Anonymous January 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm

C’mon. This girl is awful. I had a professor in college who told us that he took the orals for his PHD the night his first child was born. And Las Vegas, for heaven’s sake. Las Vegas will always be there and she has been there twice. I have very little patience for this kind of thing.
Leave her home or let her go wherever she wants to go if she is going to make your life miserable but do not give her any extras between now and then or afterward.
Going to Las Vegas once is fine and dandy as an experience but declining to go to a family event ( in NYC yet ) because someone is hell bent to go to Las Vegas is just plain rude. Reminds me of the kids I knew in college who went on ski trips just to hang out at the bar. Birthday or not, my guess is that she would not have wanted to go. I am not such a meanie. If your anniversary conflicted with her birthday , I’d say celebrate the anniversary another night. In this case, she should celebrate her birthday another day.

Deb Schwarz January 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Wow….this is a tough one – but in balance, I have found (after having 15 au pairs), that if they aren’t happy being there, then it’s probably not worth it. A 21st birthday is a big deal, so I’d probably just fly solo.

Janet January 23, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I agree. While it would be nice to have another helping hand while traveling and someone to watch the kids during all of the activities planned for the weekend, I wouldn’t force her to go. Since you state she has problems w/ “personal maturity stuff” you can bet her attitude will be immature if she has to go w/ you.

Calif Mom January 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Ha! CV–this new reply structure threw me off. I should have read the entire string before replying—many other folks said the same thing.

Such wisdom on this blog! love it!

Dorsi January 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Everyone in the room who has worked on their birthday should raise their hands. Oh look! All of the HMs and HDs are raising theirs.

That is part of growing up — you don’t get a day off for your birthday. I would have loved to have spent my 21st, 25th, 30th birthday in Vegas. (Yes, CV, I love Las Vegas). I was in school or working for all of those. For my 21st, I went a week later.

Of note, my babe’s first birthday was on a Tuesday. I was working. We had a small celebration the following Sunday. I think he got over it.

However, I am on the side of let her go — I hate the expense/hassle of traveling with a sullen AP.

CV January 24, 2010 at 11:49 am

Ok Ok I’m realizing that the host mom world is split between those who say Vegas- Yeah! vs Vegas-Why? :-)

Noelle January 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Ummm, I didn’t raise my hand….
I had no idea it was such an unusual thing to use a vacation day to have your birthday off from work. I’m guess I’m fortunate to work for an employer who gives vacation time which i can take at my discretion.

former au pair January 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm

If you have a typical job, and you have to work on your birthday, you can go out with your friends afterwards! This au pair would have to work on her birthday…and then go to bed in the family’s in-law’s house. Not the same!!

I’m willing to bet the OP’s kids will not be the only children needing childcare during all the wedding events. Is the AP going to end up having to babysit several extra kids if she goes on this trip? Why not hire a few local babysitters to take care of all the kids who will be at the wedding?

Jane January 25, 2010 at 9:40 am

I had an important business trip on my birthday. I had to go–I didn’t whine to my boss to get out of it, either.

Anonymous January 25, 2010 at 10:35 am

When you were 21???

MommyMia January 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

It’s not that unusual, actually. One of my former employers had “floating holidays, 2/year/person” and most people took one on their birthday. But after a certain age, sometimes I found I’d rather just save my days and tack them onto a longer vacation, as to me, it’s not that important if my birthday is celebrated on the actual day, as long as it’s acknowledged.

Noelle January 24, 2010 at 8:01 am

I hear ya on that, and have occasionally done the same thing myself. However, you and i were treated like adults, and could make that decision.

JJ January 23, 2010 at 5:42 pm

If this weren’t her 21st birthday, I’d make her go. But a 21st birthday comes around once in a lifetime. Do you still remember yours? I do. Can you imagine if the memory you had was being resentfully holed up in a room, babysitting, when all your friends were elsewhere celebrating without you?

I don’t like Vegas but agree with the poster who said that it’s all about where your friends are. If NYC is the best place in the world, but she doesn’t know anyone there, then it’s not a fun place to be.

I see your point of view, and agree with you that this trip will be much, much harder without your au pair. Harder, but not impossible. Is there a transition au pair who would agree to come with your family instead? (I’m not sure of the legality of this but it’s a thought.) Or maybe hire someone local on care.com for the whole week, and struggle through the plane ride yourself. It would be a huge sacrifice on your behalf. I don’t argue you that. It’s just that your brother can get married whether the au pair is there or not, and you can fully participate in it either way too; you’ll just have to make the extra effort to find backup childcare. Whereas your au pair’s opportunity to celebrate her 21st birthday with her friends will never come around again.

Crazylady January 23, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I would not “make” her go. Some of the responses make it sound like you rescued her from some horrid life and she is now indebted to you forever. Maybe some people don’t work on their birthdays; maybe some do- regardless, you have the right to ask your boss for the day off. Like someone else said, it would be different if they were home, and she worked that day but could go out that night (with her friends). I’m sorry, but 2 parents are traveling, right? You need help on the plane with a 2 and 6 yr old? Really? Being part of the family doesn’t mean they have to do everything with you, but I would hope that it would mean that you would respect and at least consider their feelings when you make decisions. It is her job, yes, but it is still different than a standard, 9-5, working for “the man.” I understand the convenience aspect, really, I do, but I also understand that you have other choices and that this means a lot to her.

Melissa - Original Poster January 23, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Thanks for taking the time to post and sharing your thoughts on my situation. I do see your point about not being at our home and therefore not having the opportunity to go out with the friends that she has made here that evening.

However, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised and disheartened to read your comment: “I’m sorry, but 2 parents are traveling, right? You need help on the plane with a 2 and 6 yr old? Really?” M

y husband and I will both be traveling together on the way there, but there is a good chance that my husband will need to leave for a business trip from there and that I will be flying back myself. Also, one of my daughter’s is disabled, and while her disability is thankfully not a huge impact when traveling, it does make things a bit more difficult.

I didn’t go into these details in my original post because frankly, I didn’t think I needed to justify my ‘need’ for bringing our AP on the plane ride with us.

Crazylady January 23, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I did not realize that one of your children is disabled- I apologize for making a comment without understanding all of the facts. I have 3 kids (2, 4, and 6), and my husband is deployed, so I will accept that my view is probably skewed when it comes to traveling alone. I will say, though, that most of my “energy” in writing my post really came less from what you wrote (I did read yours as asking for advice from others), and more from those that said, “it’s her JOB” and left it as that, as though that was all there is to it. After having au pairs for several years now (and I totally understand what you wrote about the flexibility of an au pair- I honestly don’t know how else we would do it), I have seen so many HF that really do treat their APs like employees in a very black and white fashion, whereas I think that, yes, they are your employee, but it really is more than that, and if people (again, not meant towards you) can’t accept that, then they should look at getting a nanny. Again, I’m very sorry about that comment, in light of the information you posted.

Melissa January 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for your additional comments. I totally agree that APs shouldn’t be viewed or treated just as employees, and that unfortunately some do get treated that way. Our best situations have been by far those in which our AP really wanted to integrate into our family and who we really regarded that way. Regarding the travel, I totally admire you traveling with 3 little ones, especially given that your husband is deployed! We don’t fly with the kids that often, so I stess about it when we do. My special needs daughter is not really that difficult when traveling, just a bit more active and ‘unruly’ (in a sweet way), so I don’t mean to use her as an excuse, just that it does give us a little more to plan for when traveling.

Melissa - Original Poster January 23, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I’m the OP and thought it might be helpful to provide some additional details to our situation. First, thanks so much to everyone who took the time to respond – I really appreciate your input and suggestions and have some really good points to consider!

Regarding whether we ‘need’ our AP on the trip – this has been a tough one for me to determine because the only time I feel like I absolutely ‘need’ my AP is when I am working and I need someone to watch my kids in my absence. So, based on that, no, I don’t absolutely NEED her to be there. However, I work PT from home, so in addition to needing her while I’m working (which is about 25 hrs/week), a signficant part of our family’s purpose for having an AP is to be there during other times (help with homework while I’m making dinner, stay with my napping 2 yr old while I’m out with my other daughter, travel with us, etc), which we make very clear during the application process. We don’t have any family around, so this is a HUGE help for us and the reason that we choose an AP, and that ‘helping’ piece is a significant part of her job for us.

Finding another babysitter is an idea we have considered, and may wind up doing. However, our entire family will be at the wedding, so we would have to find someone other than a relative or family friend. Our 75 yr old parents would have no idea who to recommend for a local babysitter, so we would probably have to resort to care.com or something similar, which I’m not real thrilled with doing. Instead I would probably just bring the kids to the wedding and have my husband run around after them most of the evening (I’m in the wedding party) and leave early, if we need to.

I should have been more clear in my OP, that if we did bring our AP with us, it would be a working week for her and definitely not have her use any of her vacation time. And we’d make sure she has ample time to sightsee and relax (and give her some extra spending cash or pay for her sightseeing, which we’ve done in past trips with prior APs).

I do realize the importance of her 21st birthday, and was considering some of the things that others suggested, such as contributing toward a ticket for bringing a friend (a friend who will be on school break during that time, not an AP so no need to use up vacation time), or possibly even paying for her stay in Vegas the following weekend. And I don’t have any opinion about where she wants to go for her birthday (I personally love Las Vegas and see the appeal for her). However, we have been very generous with her (in my opinion) – we provide her with her own car, cell phone and laptop, and we’ve tried to be pretty accommodating to her social schedule (she is our first AP who is quite a ‘partyier’ and that’s been an adjustment for us) by giving her off on New Years Eve, letting a friend from home stay with us for two weeks, giving her off most weekend nights, posting her schedule well in advance, etc. She is very nice and polite around us and never really complains or sulks or displays any immature emotional behavior. The issues that we’ve encounted so far have all been regarding her free time. She is gone virtually all the time, which limits her ability to be part of our family (she’s probably had dinner with us less than 15 times over 6 months) and she has ‘pushed the limit’ with a lot of things, like always asking for exceptions to our worknight curfew, having male friends over later than we said she could, constantly keeping the car out overnight, etc. So we’ve had to have some talks about those things and set some additional rules. If we did require her to go on the trip with us, I don’t think she would be sulky or difficult, but b/c her social life and partying is so important to her, I know that while she wouldn’t be miserable, she probably wouldn’t be thrilled to be there.
Anyway, sorry for the looong post! Hope that additional information gives a bit more insight into my question. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!!!

franzi January 24, 2010 at 9:30 am

as you mentioned above, there’s still 5months time until the wedding. for some reason i felt like this is happening in a couple of weeks and you are facing an immediate decision.

from your description, you need your AP so tell her that she is required to come with you. she has 5 months to prepare herself mentally that she will not be able to party with her friends on her birthday. i think she’ll grow accustomed to the idea and will end up celebrating her bday a weekend later.

also, it seems like you have been very accomodating to her, letting things like missed curfews and the like slide (often enough).
this is an important issue for you then step up and just tell her that she is required to work. i’m sure that with the handicap of your child you prefer stable child care rather than some random person from care.com.
also, a lot can happen in 5months. maybe your AP does grow a little and realizes that party isn’t everything in life.

NoVA Host Mom January 23, 2010 at 11:18 pm

If part of her job requirement is to attend functions and aid in the care of your child, then I say it is part of her job and she goes. And for a girl who seems to prefer to push the line a bit too much, I’m all with an earlier poster who said that she’s more likely to work to accommodate someone who works hard to otherwise be there and part of the process, than she is to bend over backwards for someone who is a very good “taker”.

You have legitimate needs. Yes, you describe them as more of “nice to have” but when you run the risk of traveling with a disabled child and a second young tot – neither of whom are go to the bathroom alone age – alone, while you pay for a full-time caregiver to aid you in this process already, then it is a need. It is part of the job and time to get to work.

On a side note, your AP and I would have already had a “chat” the first time the car failed to come home on time. The second time would have likely been one with the LCC in preparation for rematch.

Anna January 23, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Basically your au pair is asking for a week of vacation (not going with you for a week counts as that) on a very short notice.
I have it in my handbook that vacation is mutually agreed on, there are times when it cannot be taken (when kids school is out for example), and I have to have a certain amount of notice.

I kind of agree with people who said it might not be worth it to take a sulky au pair with you.. ..But I am also of the mind that she is not keeping up her part of the contract (with blowing your curfew etc…. )… .so it is a tossup between forcing her to do what she is supposed to do, which seems you have been having problems with doing before…. and letting her have her way, which seems you have been doing quite often.
It just sounds like the relationship has gone off track and you have failed to set her straight a long time ago. So she keeps trying to push the boundaries. I would have a serious talk with her, about what is acceptable to you (and frankly, any other family) and what is not… The problem is it could end up in rematch, and if you haven’t considered that and not ready for it , its bad.
I hate rematch. I have put off rematch in a similar situation, and in addition my au pair was bad with kids. You say yours is good with kids; that’s a big factor, and I really feel for you. It is not easy to rematch with somebody who is good with their job, but bad in their relationship with you…

Calif Mom January 25, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I gently disagree. Host parents make the mistake of thinking that the most important part is how good an AP is ‘with the kids” and think that the host-AP relationship is less important. If you have an AP that is great with your kids, but lousy with you, or even just sorta okay, but you don’t feel good about it overall, it’s time to think about finding someone else.

Kids do know when their parents aren’t settled feeling.
Being ‘good with the kids’ is actually a fairly easy trait to find in an AP; being ‘good with the parents’ is the tough one.

Obviously YMMV, but IMHO, the kids adjust to new childcare providers more easily than parents do (assuming as baseline that the provider is ‘good with kids’).

my two bits.

I actually would support this host switching; she would be in a much happier situation with an au pair who is great. With two little ones, this mom deserves–and clearly wants and expected–an au pair who is more of an honorary auntie than a roommate. No one’s to blame here, but it strikes me that both AP and Host are sort of making the best of the hand they’ve been dealt.

Host dad January 23, 2010 at 11:56 pm

While it is understandable that the Au Pair would want to have their 21st birthday off, that should not trump the need of the host family. You are being accommodating in the other elements of allowing time off while there, providing extra cash, and really going above and beyond. The fact of the matter is, the celebration of a birthday is doesn’t really diminish if it doesn’t fall on the exact day! Many people have stated the fact that they celebrate birthdays on different times. Going to Las Vegas the following week with friends would still create the memories and adventures that she will remember for her 21sts and is not unreasonable in my opinion. As you said, it is also an opportunity to bond with your family which is part of the reason you stated that you have an Au Pair. Make her go – she will probably thank you for it afterwords!

Darthastewart January 24, 2010 at 10:02 am

I would tell her she has to go. She can do her birthday bash the next weekend.
I just had my son’s birthday party a week early because the next few weeks didn’t work out. In fact, I did it mostly because his cousin has a birthday party next weekend (they were born 12 hours apart, so their birthday parties are always close). It wasn’t a big deal to move the party.
This birthday party thing is a question of maturity to me. Honestly, if I had an au-pair candidate or actual au-pair who was balking at helping me when I really needed it, I would re-consider them. You need good, stable childcare, and this isn’t meeting that need.

Jane January 25, 2010 at 9:46 am

Keep in mind, if this au pair pushes the limits, she may have asked to go to Vegas just because she knows you will bend. She will have an equally good time celebrating the next weekend there. And 5 months is a long time to prepare herself for it. Plus, a lot can happen in 5 months…you need to start holding the line so she knows her responsibilities. Check out the posts on avoiding becoming a doormat. It’s hard to be firm, but in the long run you are both better off for it.

Calif Mom January 25, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Yes, or she may be pushing the limits in order to force host mom to ask for rematch, instead of her taking action herself. Possible.

It all smacks of immaturity, that’s for sure. Why spend another 6 months with someone you KNOW is that immature? This mom already has two little ones; she doesn’t need to be mom to this AP. (IMHO)

Lola January 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I read the blog occasionally. Coming from a 25 year old, she has many birthdays to come and will come to that conclusion as time goes by. Who knows maybe she might even thank you for bringing her to NYC. If you do decide to take her, I can be willing to arrange for great sightseeing here in the city.

all the best

PA Mom January 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I would NEVER hire a simply babysitter as BUSY mom posted, you can not just hire someone( stranger ) for 1 day to stay with your children, furthermore who does that? most children at 2 years of age don’t take to strangers well. I know my 2 year old peeks behind doors when a stranger comes to my home! Since your AP has made it a point not be a part of your family and her social life is more of a priority, in this application your trip verse her 21st b-day. I would personally make her go with and tend to the children! why should YOU have to be all stressed out during this time frame. If you were not in the wedding party, I would consider giving her the time off. But you are in the wedding and it’s time that you consider your feels and thoughts and your wants and needs verse your AP.
If she views your family and your children as not part of her #1 priority while accepting her role as an AP. I would start treating her position as a job! I have been in a very similar situation, went above and beyond with my AP >> requests offs, vacations, family members staying for 1 weeks, boyfriend staying for 3 weeks, gifts, car and the list goes on and on. Some AP are just immature and the more you give the more they expect! TOO many young girls come here thinking it all about them and there personal life, travel, freinds, etc…. And if she has already been there twice!!!!! No Way!! hand downs I would take her with you and lift the stress off your chest.

Anonymous January 24, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I don’t think it makes one bit of difference whether this girl wants to go to Las Vegas or the beach or the moon. The issue is mutually agreed vacation time. I personally agree with the people who said it is better not to insist that she go along if she doesn’t want to. As far as 21 being a major cultural event in Europe my understanding is that aupairs must adapt to cultural mores here and it has been well said that most of us have to work on our birthdays. The fact is that most of us can rat out at the last minute and call in sick if we want to. Coping an attitude because we are pissed off at the boss would get many of us fired.
Weddings cannot be reorganized and postponed. A birthday celebration can be postponed very easily. A daughter would be exspected to attend your brother’s wedding even if it was on her birthday. Other relatives should not be asked to find temporary babysitters or go to any special effort. They should be free to enjoy the wedding. It is very gracious of your brother to create an atmosphere where kids are welcome. Some weddings exclude kids.
You have made extraordinary arrangements to have child care for your family. It seems to me unkind of your aupair to throw a monkey wrench into the machinery.
I would let the aupair do what she wishes and I would make other arrangements. As people have said , who wants a disgruntled individual. But I must say, the well would dry up. I would no longer be so generous with her. I would withdraw extra favors. People cannot have all the advantages of being an adult and a member of the family and none of the responsibilities. I am very generous with my friends and employees but once I come to the conclusion that I am being used, the relationship changes. If I can end such a relationship I do so. If practical considerations make that impossible, then I do what I am required to do and no more. Some aupairs realize that be sulking and whining and being passive aggrssive, they can gain short term power. But a hurt and disillusioned host mother is not an ideal situation either.

a

Anonymous January 24, 2010 at 11:07 pm

A huge majority of parents in the US with children do just fine on vacations and at wedding weekends without an au pair. While having your au pair there would be nice…the majority of the attendees will manage just fine without. Spending time with your children at a relative’s wedding (even if it involves chasing) is a part of being parents :-)

Janet January 26, 2010 at 11:10 pm

We went solo to my nephew’s wedding and were prepared for complete mayhem. At rehearsal dinner we asked two older girls (around 12 I think) to help us w/ the kids during the wedding. They did a great job looking after the kids at the ceremony and during the reception. We gave them some cash and they were absolutely thrilled. It also helped that they had a balloon man providing entertainment while we ate our dinner.

Anonymous January 25, 2010 at 12:03 am

I disagree. Many, many people do not invite or allow children at weddings for the simple reason that it is very difficult for adults to participate in relaxing adult time at a large event and simultaneously supervise children effectively. You are right that many people do manage to go through life without an aupair or a cleaning lady or a gardener or a nanny or a secretary or administrative asst. But this family has engaged an aupair because they need help and/or feel they need help. The issue is whether the aupair is willing to give the help they feel they need. Our original poster appears to have a lovely, cooperative extended family. I fully understand why the aupair does not want to attend this wedding – she has no vested emotional interest in the family and this has been evidenced in other ways.
This is perfectly understandable. We can also say that many people who turn 21 do not have the option to take a week off and go to Las Vegas for their vacation and no long term damage is done to their social or emotional life. That is part of being an aupair. The parents in this case have an aupair . Saying that they can manage without one is a moot point. Everyone can manage without an aupair. This young lady is an aupair most likely because she cannot afford to take a gap year and spend it partying in the US. How many people are in a position to do that , either ? It seems to me that this host mother has bent over backwards to try to compromise and the aupair is just digging her heels in. Has she come up with any offers of compromise ?

Mom23 January 25, 2010 at 10:39 am

I think I would ask to have a meeting with the au pair, HD and HM. I think I would explain why it is important to you that she goes with you and ask her what she would like from you to make her 21st birthday special (both in NY and in Vegas). Maybe having a night at a fancy hotel or some spending money in Vegas as a birthday present will be an incentive to get on board with your plans?

If she digs in her heels, I don’t think that I would force her to go. As others have mentioned, a grumpy au pair on travel, even with the added difficulty would not be fun.

HulaGal January 25, 2010 at 4:02 pm

In light of the updated information that OP provided if I were in her situation this is what I would do. I would make a clear and firm decision about whether I needed the au pair or not. If I were in OP shoes, I would in fact need the au pair there. So I would tell the au pair that we need her to work that week. She will need to take her vacation another week. I think the fact that you are traveling that week and her birthday is that week are side issues to the bottom line. The bottom line is that you need her to work. Au pairs cannot take vacation whenever they like. They need to get approval from you and it must work with your schedule. This clearly does not. I think you need to get firm about the fact that you need her to work and stick with it. If my au pair wanted to take vacation during her birthday but my husband and I needed her to work that week we would have to say no.

Anonymous January 25, 2010 at 4:18 pm

This is what I would do. I would very nicely explain to the aupair that we really need her come with us and that we understand that she is disappointed and to that end, we will provide some extra perks like some extra cash, etc. If gambling is so very, very important to her , she can take a couple of days at the end of the trip and go to Atlantic City.
I would appeal to her best nature and if she still says no, I would tell her that we will indeed make other arrangements. I would then tell her that I will be asking for a rematch immediately on the basis of the fact that her unwillingness to provide child care at a time when we need it and will not be breaking any rules like asking her to babysit for other kids is going to cost us money, cause us anxiety and upset our children who should not have to deal with a strange babysitter out of town ( something I do not want to do ).

Noelle January 25, 2010 at 7:37 pm

I have to wonder if the rematch process is that easy for other families.

Noelle January 25, 2010 at 7:40 pm

not sure how that got submitted – typer error! I was going to say – this must be ALOT easier with other agencies and for other families (or you guys have better support from family/friends that you can bridge the gap?). I’m in rematch right now, and paying for daycare, waiting for an out of country au pair.

I’m just surprised to see this being such an immediate, attractive option. I’d rather try to work out a nice relationship (even if I don’t get my way on something), than throw my entire childcare situation into chaos by pulling the rematch card.

PA au pair mom January 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I agree with you Noelle. I am petrified of a rematch. I would only want to rematch if my kids were in danger. The very thought of the whole process terrifies me.

I would be upset if my AP acted like this, but I don’t think it would be enough for me to pursue, or even threaten, a rematch.

Should be working January 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Probably this belongs in another topic, but I am just completing rematch, and while it has been expensive and sometimes difficult as a process, I am SO glad I did it. (I hope I won’t eat my words when the new AP comes on Friday!) I stayed in that previous match way too long because I was afraid of rematch. Fear of rematch should not, in my now-experienced view, not be a motive for keeping a so-so au pair (topic already covered elsewhere on this blog, I know).

Darthastewart January 26, 2010 at 10:29 pm

I just intitated a rematch. IMO, it was not worth keeping an au-pair who simply was not engaged any longer, and torturing us all. IME, it’s not all that bad, provided that there are back-up plans in place. I do have four children, so that gets a bit tricky. On the other hand, I can hold this state without an au-pair indefinitely, but I probably will choose to get another one.

Anonymous January 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I agree that rematch is a difficult process and that the agencies always encourage people to try to work things out. Sometimes , however, the last resort is the best option. It seems to me that this host family has tried many tactics and that they have a nice extended family : brother who invites kids to his wedding, in-laws who offer hospitality , host parents who offer extra cash and seek input before making a decision.
This host mom is in the wedding party ! The wedding was planned a long time ago. I think some people are thinking that because a wedding is ” fun ” and ” happy ” that the aupair has a right to her fun , too. Suppose this host mom was a tax accountant who always went on vacation for 2 weeks starting on April 16th ( like my dad ).
Would we feel a little differently about an aupair insisting that she needed/wanted that week off because it was her birthday ? Suppose the aupair said that she, too, had been working hard since January and that she wanted a break now that tax season was over.

LM January 27, 2010 at 9:33 am

I find it really nice all of the host families that would be willing to accomodate the au pair or her birthday. Of course, having her at the wedding would be easier even if not a 100% necessity. I was in a wedding before we had an AP and DH had his hands FULL! I personally feel giving her the week after to go to Vegas is a fair compromise. It doesn’t matter if she is turning 18 or 21 or 50. When you have a job, sometimes you are required to work when you would rather do other things. I had a work conference and was away from home on my first Mother’s day. It could have been scheduled on my birthday, DH’s birthday, the kid’s birthday. Unfortunately, they can’t ask hundreds of people the best day for them to be away. So, as an adult, you suck it up and make the best of it. You celebrate upon your return. The key is “as an adult.” We do work with young people with varying degrees of maturity. Personally, I feel taking her and having her live up to the job that she agreed to do will help to build her character and introduce her to adult responsibility.

NannyKelly January 28, 2010 at 8:28 am

Hi everyone,
I think you should bring her with you to the wedding. She’s already been to vegas right? Suggest she go another weekend.
The US has the highest legal drinking age in the world (besides Muslim countries), so I’m sure she’s already celebrated that birthday in her home country. But I think the idea of bringing a friend is a nice suggestion and if it doesn’t work out, make her birthday special. even if its the night after the wedding, take her into New York, to something on Broadway and a nice dinner to thank her for coming with you to your brother’s wedding. And if she’s over 21 now, wouldn’t a wedding be a fun place to celebrate anyway?
She’ll have to get over helping out on her birthday, we’re all adults. On my 21st birthday I had 8 hours of class and 4 hours of work after, I fell asleep around 10pm. Though, I did head out for Vegas two days later :P

Good Luck! Just keep in mind the au pair just wants you to make her birthday special.

Melissa January 31, 2010 at 3:00 am

Thanks so much to everyone for your comments and sharing your input! Thought I would circle back with an update. In the end, we decided not to require our AP to come along on our trip, for a number of reasons. Overall, although her presence would be very helpful from a childcare perspective, we felt that we could make do without her. I didn’t think she’d exactly ‘ruin’ the trip by being sulky or outright miserable, but we decided it wasn’t worth the risk of having to worry about whether she’s having a good time or whether she’d be resentful and show it in other ways. Also thrown into the mix is that the ‘issues’ that I mentioned we’ve had are seeming to resurface lately. She’s great with the kids and helpful around the house (which is the reason this has worked so far), but is continously pushing limits and I am having to have more and more conversations about house rules (which is probably a whole other topic). So, at this point, we’re starting to feel a bit fed up and tired of feeling like parents to a teenager, and we decided we just didn’t want to add that frustration to a wedding and family visit.

Jane January 31, 2010 at 11:38 am

Melissa,
Glad you came to a decision that works for you. Hope you don’t have to suffer too much for the next 6 months with these house rule issues though–it’s a long time to go. I’m feeling the frustration of parenting a teenager myself right now. It becomes very taxing when you have an extra child pushing your limits all the time–especially when you are paying that person to help you. I have felt the urge to say–“because I said so” a few times too many times lately–but I keep it to myself and try to re-explain my rules and limits to my au pair. Then I wonder–why did I have to waste all that time explaining a safety or house rule–why can’t it just be accepted???

Anonymous February 4, 2010 at 7:33 am

As I understand it, hosts aren’t employers and au pairs aren’t employees. Au pairs are supposed to be like family members. I wouldn’t force a family member to go to a wedding to look after my children.

Anna February 4, 2010 at 9:10 am

You sound like an au pair. Why anonymous?

If au pairs are family members, they would choose go to a close family wedding, not go off to Vegas with their friends instead.
If that were family, that would be her uncle! A birthday comes every year, a wedding (hopefully) once a lifetime. The answer is clear, and in this case it is the au pair who is choosing not to behave like family.

But it is a very common tactic for a selfish au pair to claim family member privileges when she needs favors and for the family to go above and beyond, and mention employee/employer relationship when family asks for a favor from her…

NoVA Host Mom February 4, 2010 at 10:53 am

Au pairs are employees with certain live-in benefits that other employees do not have, such as getting an American family experience. They are “part of the family”, but you should know that in my family’s business, family members can be fired for failing to do the job just as easily as non-family members can. I can also assure you that no adult family member is going to get a $200/week “allowance” on top of free room and board.

We *hired* an AP to give the best possible child care to our children, and chose an AP we like as a person since she is also a member of the household and now a good friend. But make no mistake about it, there is still a job to be done.

Anonymous February 5, 2010 at 1:59 am

A “family member” would HAVE to go to the wedding. What true member of the family would say, “No, I’m choosing not to come to your wedding because it’s my birthday”?!

Anonymous February 4, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Well, my husband is a member of my family and if I were in my brother’s wedding party and my aupair refused to go to the wedding, my husband, my sister , my mother, my mother in law, my other brother and my niece would all help out. As a teenager, I did accompany an aunt by marriage to her brother’s wedding for the purpose of looking after my little cousin. I also went to Puerto Rico with my aunt and uncle on vacation to help babysit. I had some time off, some time on and a wonderful experience.
I took my younger sister along to babysit on a family vacation
in my pre-aupair days.
There is no question in my mind that this aupair is being very selfish ; the real issue is whether it is worth it to the family to insist that she help out. It seems that they have taken a very reasonable approach.

Anonymous HM February 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I have to agree– to say that an AP is not an employee undermines the critical role they play in providing childcare. Why on earth would I pay someone to live in our home, provide them with room, board, and many extras, if their first priority was not to care for my children? We value our relationship with our AP, as well as the rich cultural exchange that is part of this experience, but I can’t imagine trusting my children to someone, 40 hours per week, who did not view this responsibility as a very important job. As a side note, I feel the term ‘pocket money’ is misleading and undermines to employee/employer relationship. I view this as a salary, and when I calculate the cost of room, board, educational expenses, car, cell phone, vacations, etc., I view it as a rather competitive salary.

Calif Mom February 5, 2010 at 10:19 am

Melissa and Jane — sounds to me like you both are having “frog in a frying pan” problems. You are sort of feeling the heat, but it isn’t unbearable yet. I think you need to push the issue: either they get good with where the boundaries are, or you all move on. Another 6 months of feeling like you’re always being pushed around by your AP is no good. It’s mentally exhausting, and no one wants to live with crabby Mom…even Crabby Mom. :-)

Melissa February 5, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thanks for the input CalifMom! I have gone back & forth lately, and feel a bit crazy at times! On the childcare side, she is very good. Same with the being part of the household while she is working (note I say ‘household’, not part of the ‘family’). Very reliable, rarely late, never complains, is competent, pleasant, interacts fairly well with kids. She also anticipates needs, takes initiative and is not lazy. These last few ‘soft skills’ were painfully absent in my last AP, so to me, those skills make a world of difference, and I find that APs either ‘have it’ or they don’t.

Although I’m very happy on the childcare side of the fence (she would make a great live-out nanny), it is the personal/living with us part that is causing problems. We started out with a worknight curfew & general rules about car use (we have a 3rd car for her use). After being here a few weeks, she asked about staying out past the 11pm curfew one evening. I said no problem, and explained that we’re pretty flexible, we have that curfew in order to prevent someone from partying every evening til 3am, & that we’re ok with an occasional exception, as long as she uses good judgment. Well, we quickly had 3 ‘exceptions’ in one week. We talked about it & reined her in. She generally abides by things after we discuss it, but that has been the pattern again & again-that another issue comes up where she pushes the limits & I have to have a talk with her. She asked if she can have a male friend over. I said sure, as long as doesn’t stay late (especially since this was a weeknight). I didn’t specify an exact time, rather ‘use good judgment’ (live and learn, on my end). Well, they finally emerged from her room at 11:15pm, just when I was ready to knock on her door and politely kick him out. Car use has been a big issue, as she goes out constantly in her free time. During the first couple months, she would often stay out til 2 or 3 am, sometimes with a guy she just met (this is where I try to keep my mouth shut & not be morally judgmental, but it doesn’t help my image of her). She had the car out overnight a lot, until we finally put a specific limit on how many times she could do that. We previously didn’t have any rules on overnight car usage because it had never been a problem. Our prior APs did occasionally stay out overnight, usually at another APs house or a boyfriends place, but since we felt comfortable with who they were with & they didn’t abuse it, it was never an issue. Our current AP tells us very little about her personal life and definitely likes to party, & most of her friends are not APs & I have never met them, so I’m much less comfortable about her judgment. And that is the main issue – we feel like we don’t “know her.”
We recently had a talk about texting and internet usage, after an occasion where she was literally attached to her phone & PC while working. I said ‘limited’ texting is ok (e.g., setting a time to meet a friend, NOT having an online conversation). The very next day, I used her PC (we have a separate laptop for her personal use) & saw multiple chats up on the screen, while she was working. In one of them, she said she can’t wait (using some choice language) to get the car back, which had been in the shop for 4 days, so she can go out and smoke (news to me!). I normally would never use her computer or intentionally invade her privacy, but my own was not working & I needed to get online. Well, I about lost it and we had a BIG chat afterwards. I was very specific about no text or internet, specifically clarifying our car rules, and most importantly, conveying my concern that we are not confident that we can trust her or her judgment when it comes to her personal time, and instances like this certainly add to that. We also subsequently had a talk about keeping to the mileage limits we set (again, another rule we had to implement after her arrival).
Well, the car, curfew and internet activity has been ok lately. However, my latest frustration was that she and another AP who is new to our area took a cab last weekend to an area with bars/clubs (presumably b/c she wanted to drink and not have to worry about driving, which was fine with me). She didn’t say when she’d be back, but I just assumed around 2 or 3am, when bars close. I said have a great time & was happy that she was being conscientious about car usage & that she potentially made another AP friend who lives fairly close to us (all the other APs live rather far). I was shocked the next morning when they came wandering in at 11am in their clubbing clothes (high heels, short dress, covered by a sweatshirt – not hers, mind you). I’m fine with her staying out all night, of course, but at least tell me beforehand. Particularly since we just talked about trust and safety, and feeling like we don’t know what she does in her free time, I couldn’t help but think, “Really!!??” Honestly though, I think she had no idea she was going to be out all night, especially since all she had with her was a purse (no car, no change of clothes, etc). This was just last weekend, so I have yet to gather up the emotional energy to talk with her about this latest issue.
So, in a VERY long summary (sorry!), that’s where I’m at. I love the childcare side but have been on a rollercoaster ride of frustration on the personal side. I cringe at the idea of having our lives turned upside down for a rematch, and I have very little other childcare options, so I don’t whether to push it or not.

Darthastewart February 5, 2010 at 4:14 pm

From my perspective, as long as their off hours activities are not impacting their on duty hours, I tend to let it ride. You’re going to encounter a LOT of this kind of behavior in Au-pairs, and even of the bunch I’ve had, all but a couple have done this.
You have to decide if you can live with this sort of stuff or not- but you may also want to consider whether an au-pair is the best choice, given that I find this type of behavior is typical.

Anna February 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Melissa,

I think you got caught up in not having clear rules beforehand, and then having to impose “new rules” on the au pair when she was pushing your limits.
I think maybe for next year you should think about those things and have a page in your family handbook clearly outlining the rules.
I have curfew for my au pair on days she works the next morning, NO EXCEPTIONS. If she is running late for any reason she is supposed to call me.
If she is staying out late or overnight on other nights she is supposed to let me know beforehand, and where she will be. This is for her safety and my piece of mind.
Also she pays for her texting plan, and I have a rule of no personal phone calls when she is working.

Anonymous February 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm

If you really feel that you need your au pair to work, then make her go. It’s her job. She knew she would be turning 21 during her time as an au pair and she knew what she was signing on for. We work because we have jobs or obligations, and yay for us if our birthday or anniversary falls on a weekend, but people in the real world don’t take time off to celebrate if they are expected to work — and if we do take time off to celebrate we take vacation time and give an appropriate amount of notice.

If you don’t really need her and can make other arrangement for your children, then I would let her use her vacation time to go.

If she had already put in for vacation time before the wedding came up, then I think you need to let her go to Vegas — though I have had a boss ask me to change my vacation plans because of unexpected things coming up at the office.

PA Mom February 10, 2010 at 1:35 am

Reading over your last posting! I would not want an au-pair with that kind of lifestyle around my children. Regardless if she is doing an ok job with my children. It might be a long road to finding another au-pair, but I am sure you would be much happier and not stressed out about her personal life and thinking>> OH! What next!! It’s great to be flexible but not when they start taking advantage of you.

aria February 18, 2010 at 4:35 am

Since it’s your brother’s wedding, I’m going to assume (maybe incorrectly) that there will be lots of family around for the entire week as you all get together to prepare. There must be a 13 year old cousin somewhere who wouldn’t mind occupying your kids for a couple of hours during the week (and I don’t mean during the actual wedding- I mean before, during rehearsals, dinners, etc) and like another poster said, I’m sure they would be thrilled to get 20 bucks for their time.

I don’t really see how [politely saying she would greatly prefer to spend her 21st birthday with friends in Vegas] is taking advantage or being selfish… it seems like a normal request. The OP didn’t say anything about the AP throwing a tantrum or a fit (like some other crazy stories we’ve all read) to have her birthday off.

IMHO, the AP’s personal life is her personal life. If she was staying out all night and then acted groggy and grumpy around your kids, then it would be a problem. But you seem to like how she handles them, so I would take a step back and look at that. If she hasn’t made an effort to be a part of your family by now, she probably isn’t going to want to start with a “forced” babysitting trip on her birthday. Let her be. Maybe she really doesn’t want to be a “part of your family;” granted, that’s not exactly the point of the AP program, but perfect childcare is impossible to find. If you are happy with how she handles the kids (especially since you said your daughter was special needs), her chores, and if she is pleasant and polite to you, be happy. The AP/HF relationship is delicate, and it’s very easy for resentment to start building up and creating unnecessary tension.

I’m an AP, and I try to do as much as I can do, because I know my HM will see and appreciate it, and she’ll reciprocate. She gives me time off when she can, even if I don’t ask for it. It’s the same vice versa- if you go out of your way to manage without her and let her go with her friends, it might be an incentive for her to try hard and obey the house rules even more, because she can see that you are fair and you made a sacrifice for her. She might be more inclined to make sacrifices for you.

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