Your Home is Not an Airbnb – Say no to too many Au Pair guests

by cv harquail on September 14, 2016

Oh good lord, this Host Mom’s got a problem —

9304655898_d22162d4e7_mHer au pair wants to have six people — Six people — SIX PEOPLE — come to visit and stay in the Host Family’s home.  For TWO WEEKS.

The answer is obviously, “No, that’s simply not possible”.

The Host Mom doesn’t even have to go into detail about how the Host Dad who works from home would be seriously interrupted by so many guests for so long.

The Host Mom doesn’t even have to go into detail about how, since it’s a busy time for her at work, she’d be unable to do her own job and address any of the predictable problems and issues of having guests, no matter how small these might seen.

The Host Mom doesn’t even have to bring up the concern about how the Host Kids will be cared for, if the Au Pair has her parents and family visiting for so long.

The Host Mom should, of course, print out all the wonderful advice in an earlier post on the topic of having the Au Pair’s guests:

Your House is Not a Youth Hostel

Here’s the added challenge:

What should the Host Mom actually say?

How could the Host Mom use this conversation, and this situation, to build a stronger bond with her Au Pair? 

And how many of us suspect that this Host Family lives in NYC, LA, or Florida? Hmm?

Here’s NotAMarriottHostMom’s email:

Dear AuPairMom — My aupair who has been with us since June and does an OK job just asked to have 6 family members visit us during a busy time of year at work for me. They want to stay 2 weeks! It is her immediate family and some other relatives. How do I handle this?

My husband works from home and is not keen on the idea at all!

Appreciate any help/advice!  NotAMarriottHostMom

 

Image by April on Flickr

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Mimi September 14, 2016 at 11:47 am

I hope you have guest policies outlined in a handbook (if not, draft some FFR). Ours says, “This is a family home, and the routines and needs of young children have to come first. Please do not have guests in the house later than 2000 without discussing this with us at least one day in advance. Guests are always welcome to enjoy any area of our home, but please make sure that they are respectful of our home and property as well as our rules and expectations for behavior. We welcome friends and family to visit but it is important that there is no major disruption to our work/home schedules. We must know in advance how long they will stay, and if we do not have accommodations for them, we will help you find a place locally for them to stay.”

The simple way to handle this is to simply say, “While we are thrilled that you have family visiting, we are unable to accommodate them in our home (or more than x here) because of crowding and the strain that hosting guests during this busy time represents for us. Here is information on where they can stay locally.” If you haven’t discussed if this will represent vacation time for the AP, make sure you bring this up. It’s important to be clear about expectations around any visitors (curfews, cleaning up after guests, etc.).

In the past we have been flexible with our APs when they had friends visit (if they had earned it) but they knew their duty hours hadn’t changed and most spent their time doing kid friendly things during the day with their visitors included. After one AP spent the week dragging because of late nights (we have no curfew) we told her that it needed to change or there would be a curfew and no more visitors.

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massmom September 14, 2016 at 11:59 am

We now allow the au pairs to have up to two guests twice a year for up to 7 days. It’s in our handbook, and we reinforce when we discuss an upcoming trip. I tend to be a bit more flexible if it’s a sibling or friend coming, because they have always been good guests, help out with the kids, and stay in our au pair’s room, so there is very little disruption to us or the kids. Hosting parents is more of a distraction, especially since the guest room is directly above our bedroom, and it’s also a more difficult dynamic for for the au pair to balance, we’ve found.

I would just say “We are happy to host your parents in our home for up to one week (if you are indeed willing to do so), but we can not host six guests. We’re happy to help you find a hotel or AirBnB nearby that would be appropriate for your family.” Then of course, there will need to be a discussion around whether she is taking vacation time while they are here. Our au pairs have often taken kid-friendly excursions in to the city with their guests, which can be fun for all, but we usually like them to take the second week as vacation where they travel somewhere else with their guests.

Also make clear your expectations around food — we usually asks guests to try to replace any food they are using for themselves, and to make us a dinner from their home country once during their stay. Many have also offered to take us out to dinner on their dime one evening. It’s also fine to make clear that you cannot entertain them every evening, and that you expect them to have meals out. In our house, having 7 extra people around our dinner table would be a big imposition and would definitely keep our kids up at night!

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NBHostMom September 14, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Six is just too much to ask, I’m actually a bit surprised that an AP would think this is a reasonable request. Also, you said your “OK au pair” not your “amazing super-star, that you’d do anything for au pair”, I wouldn’t turn my life upside down as a reward for someone who is “ok” at doing their job.

I’d offer to host a dinner for everyone one evening and, as others have mentioned, provide a list of potential alternatives. Also, I’d set very clear guidelines about vacation and work hours (i.e. work hours are still work hours with 100% focus on task at hand).

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HMom September 14, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Unless you have a fantastic relationship with your AP, I wouldn’t recommend hosting six members of her family for two weeks.

Out of our four APs, only one AP had family visit for an extended stay (the others intuitively understood that it would be difficult for us to host for more than one or two nights since one parent works from home). The one AP whose family stayed for one week was our least considerate and least functional AP overall, and her family was equally inconsiderate and dysfunctional. Our relationship with our AP after her family left became even more strained.

If you have just an ok relationship with your AP, just imagine what it will be like to have ok (at best) strangers, six more of them, in your home for two weeks. For some people from different cultures (none of our APs had a babysitter growing up), it is nearly impossible for them to imagine why we have au pairs, nannies, or babysitters here- the fact that both parents work long hours AND live hundreds of miles from grandparents or other family, etc, simply doesn’t register, and they don’t think about how much extra work it is to host them. From their perspective, it is an opportunity for a cultural exchange for their child, and they might as well benefit from the exchange, too.

My AP always behave differently when their parents are around, and usually regress to a passive, child-like role, which has its challenges when you need them to work. I highly recommend setting limits on guests, and sending a list of hotels in the area to the AP.

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WestMom September 14, 2016 at 12:53 pm

I’d be seriously questioning her common sense. Really, who asks for such as request? Unless it is the family which is pushing her to ask (which I have experienced before…).

Advice above is excellent. Write down your rules (IMO, this should have been preemptively discussed before matching to avoid the uncomfortable conversation that will ensue: Max 2 guests at a time, twice in one year for 7 days max, etc. etc.).

If you agree to any portion of this (less people, less time), still make it very clear that these are HER guests and that in no way it should disrupt your routine. I agree with the ‘offer to eat together one night’. It’s a nice gesture, but it also importantly says: ‘your guests should not expect that we will cook for them, or that we will eat together.’

I strongly recommend that you request AP take time off when her family is in your home. You would be amazed how that might quickly change the amount of time she wants them to stay, if she has to give up a lot of her vacation days (which she probably would prefer to spend with friends!).

When you write your rules, this of all the details:
– Will you pick them up at the airport? Can your AP use your car to pick them up at the airport? Or as they on their own?
– Can they use your car? should they rent their own?
– Can your au pair take your kids to sightsee with her family?
– Can they use your kitchen to prepare their meals? Until what time (think spaniards eating at 10PM), Can they use supplies from your fridge and pantry? If they buy their own, where do you store it?
– How much social time are you willing to share in the morning before going to work (think europeans waking up at 4AM)? Do you ask that they take showers after you leave to make sure you still have enough hot water?
– Can they use your washer/dryer? When is it convenient and not disruptive to your family?
– Where will they sleep? Do you have request about where they keep their things: suitcases, coats, shoes, toiletries
– Speaking of toiletries, can they use your family’s stuff or should they buy their own?
– Etc…

Good luck OP. Let us know what you end up doing, and please report back how it goes. Many people here know that I have completely stopped hosting parents a few years ago, but I do enjoy hearing someone else’e positive story.

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Frankfurt AP Boy September 15, 2016 at 1:40 pm

It is true that the house of host families are not hotels – my host family have treated my family far better than any hotel manager would. Unless I read them wrong, they have all been delighted to get to know my family. Although, I have only ever invited my family for an extended weekend though and only 1 at a time – I would never consider suggesting anyone stay for two weeks.

I think if you feel the need to regulate when your house guests eat, take a shower, use the washing machine and you need to consider if you will make the ‘nice gesture’ of eating together for only one meal, then you probably shouldnt host them at all. My advice would be to choose how many family members you feel you can comfortably treat as house guests, and for how long, and leave it at that. If you feel you must treat them as anything less then dont host them.

I can imagine the conversation with my grandma: “oh yes the family are thrilled to have you! Now here a long list of what you must not do.” To me it would be a clear message that they are not welcome. I guess I would only accept it if my family were very poor and couldnt afford a hotel but I would feel embarrassed that my family were being treated as unwelcome guests.

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WestMom September 15, 2016 at 2:42 pm

While I don’t disagree with you FAP that maybe I should not host at all, please keep in mind that any guests of our AP are not my guests. I do not invite them into my home. They are inviting themselves. In no way do I feel the responsibility of treating them like my personal house guests. As far as I am concerned, these people are not coming to see us. They are coming to visit their son/daughter and ask to stay with us to save money. For me to ask that they not use the washer/dryer on Mondays since that’s the day where we do 6-8 loads of laundry, or not take showers before 7AM where all 5 of our family members need enough hot water to get ready to leave the house for school/work seems completely reasonable. My home, my rules, and if this doesn’t please them, I can recommend a great hotel nearby.

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HRHM September 15, 2016 at 2:58 pm

I think it’s really important to also understand that the biggest mistake is to assume that your AP’s family will actually know/care how to be excellent house guests and then also assume if they aren’t that your AP will either a)recongnize when they aren’t and/or b) take the bull by the horns and put them back in line when they are not.

There are a LOT of cultural issues around how one behaves when staying with “family”. As WestMom points out, these aren’t the HP’s guests, they are the APs – yet most APs won’t be comfortable telling their Dad that he has to stop missing the toilet and smoking in “his” room. In addition, the AP’s family see it as visiting their daughter and would probably not even think about the cultural differences observed by guests in other countries, families, communities. My APs have often been surprised at how we stay in a hotel when we go visit family. They live in cultures where you would be expected as an adult, married child to give up your marital bed to your elderly parents and sleep on the fold out or the floor yourself. This is NOT the way most Americans think. We more often ascribe to the adage “Guests, like fish, start to stink after three days” We often view it as us saving our guests a ton of money by not having to rent a hotel, and we expect them to pay for food, arrange their own car rental, maybe take us out to dinner, etc. We want to feel appreciated, not that it’s just assumed that we will put ourselves out for the AP’s family (or our own for that matter.)

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SA_Au Pair September 15, 2016 at 3:39 pm

It’s reasonable for members of the family to shower first because they’re not on holiday, life has to go on as normal for them. All those things about laundry times etc. don’t seem farfetched at all. With that said, if your au pair’s family comes into your home that means you have invited them in a way (they wouldn’t be there if you did not say yes). That doesn’t mean that you have to show them around or even cook for them but it does mean that a certain level of hospitality will be expected from you (saying hi, engage in short polite conversation). I do think that it’s really important for host families to only agree to accommodate their au pair’s guests if and only if their heart is in it. Don’t agree to something out of some kind of obligation; it would be extremely painful to see my host family treating my guests in a way that they’d never be treated if they were to visit my own home. If host families never want to have guests stay overnight, say so. If they can only handle 3 days or 1 week…let your au pair know in advance. Be honest. HRHM is right, cultural differences have to be taken into consideration, in my culture guests are given first priority (I’ve had to give up my room, blankets, pillows for guests I didn’t even know), everything less is seen as being really rude. I personally wouldn’t invite 6 people I didn’t know into my home (I once let a friend’s cousin from a different country stay at my place for 10 days, she turned out to be really messy. Never again).

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WestMom September 15, 2016 at 4:31 pm

SA_AP, I think just like everything related to hosting Au Pairs, there is a fine balance between being generous to keep your AP happy, and putting limits to maintain your sanity. I realize that many (if not most) APs have friends, siblings and other relatives abroad who are dying to use this opportunity to come visit. I want to be able to support that within certain limits. As I mentioned above, I don’t host ‘older adults’ anymore (parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles) because I find it simply too stressful. But we have had great moments with sisters, cousins and close friends.

Of course, simply saying ‘no’ is always an option. In the end it is just another family rule, just like car rules or curfews that a family might need to put in place to keep their sanity. But the more rules you have, the less candidates you may attract… so again, it’s about finding the right balance…

2 kids and a cat September 16, 2016 at 10:39 am

I really appreciate this list of “entailments” – it represents why APM is such an invaluable resource. We only have a very basic policy : one guest for 1 week during the year; must be willing to stay in AP room as we do not have a guest room. This naturally rules out parents and groups, but your list makes me think, for example, that our airport is an hour away – will AP need to take off to get there?

We have an AP because our family schedules are precariously balanced — even our families stay in a hotel and make their own arrangements to enjoy the sights during our work hours. On another note, we had to work through some hygiene issues with our first AP, and had she had 6 family members with us I’d be disinfecting for a month after, I’m sure …

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HRHM September 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Yes, I’m sure many of us remember the post about the AP who arranged for her boyfriend to come stay but he bought a ticket showing up at 11pm on new years eve or something and the AP expected the HM to take her to pick him up at the airport! Definitely something to be addressed BEFORE the tickets are bought!

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massmom September 14, 2016 at 2:28 pm

I realized you also asked about creating a stronger bond with your au pair…I think it can help to have a discussion around how your au pair is feeling about having her family visit. We’ve found it can be a stressful time for the au pair. It’s often the first time her family is relying on her to make plans, and even though she is the one with the most local knowledge and is the best equipped to make arrangements, she sometimes doesn’t feel confident taking the lead, or perhaps her family may refuse to listen to her suggestions.

A long visit also cuts into her time with friends and upsets her daily life. We always encourage au pairs to have a fun visit that feels too short versus a too-long one that results in disharmony and ends on a sour note. (We had one au pair who kicked out her parent at the end of a long visit because they were fighting so much). So I would have a conversation to make sure she has thought this through. Shows her you understand how she may be feeling. Sometimes, it is a relief for the au pair to be able to blame visit restrictions on the host family. :)

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DCBurbTwinMomma September 15, 2016 at 5:19 am

Excellent advice given above and I concur. However no one has mentioned that all those extra people also creates an atmosphere where your child(ren) are being exposed to strangers you do not know. I highly suggest they do not stay with you, but also discuss if they are allowed with the children during working hours and that there are to be zero private interactions with these strangers. It is not their job to care for your child, unlike the au pair. The obvious horrible abuse can happen, but also little things like letting my children eat tons of candy, using nicknames that are common in their country that basically mean “fat little girl,” “little black girl” and “kinky hair girl.” My actual preemie born underweight kiddos don’t need a day of that BS and yes, I nipped that in the bud quickly and banned that relative from any contact with my twins.

There can also be the dynamic that the au pair falls into the child role instead of capable caregiver role. When my past au pair’s mom came to visit, she broke a lot of house rules and explained she was intimidated by her mom who had a different take on parenthood, house and car rules than my husband and I. That was also directly addressed with the mom. The au pair was counseled that she couldn’t handle her job while her mom was present so unless mom was gone during working hours she would need to take vacation effective immediately.

I’ve not had great luck with long visits. I’m sure many of you have had wonderful ones. However, based on our experience, our family handbook now expressly states that the au pair can ask to have guests up to one week, we will consider and will put the needs of our kids first. We state that relatives are to have zero unsupervised contact and the family and/or friends are to entertain themselves during working hours (similar to when my family visits and I can’t have them hang out at my job). I think I’m in the minority here but I am quite strict on long term visitors and rules. If I’m going to be inconvenienced even slightly (we also work at home quite often) then I have no problems suggesting great local hotels and vacation.

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SA_Au Pair September 15, 2016 at 7:13 am

I agree. I think that families should try to be specific about visitors in their handbook, it would help to clearly state that you will only host 2 people for this or that number of days and outline your expectations during this time – this way host families can avoid situations like this and au pairs know well in advance that they’re gonna have to say no to their 4 cousins who want to stay at the HF’s house during their stay. I come from a country where the parent/child relationship is very different (our parents are not our friends, children are to be seen not heard etc.) and EVERYONE will try to parent your children in a way that they see fit (or will make comments about the way you raise your children). The OP should look at what was written in her handbook about visitors and present that to her au pair; it’s okay to simply say that you’re not comfortable with having that many people in your home (especially since HD is working from home) – if you’re not comfortable with something no further explanation is needed.

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HRHM September 15, 2016 at 9:16 am

We have never discouraged guests from home, but we have only ever had one AP ask. Her brother came for a week during his break from grad school. He was pleasant, a good conversationalist and didn’t seem to detract from her duties. However, on a cautionary note: After he went home, my wedding set, diamond earrings and pearl earrings were gone. I can’t prove he took them, but we don’t have other people in our house (no cleaner, workmen, etc) and so it was either him, the AP or one of her other friends. I blame myself in the end because they were in my jewelry box and should have been locked in the safe. But they were home all day while the kids were in school and he had access to our entire house while she was showering, napping, going to pick up the kids, etc. Just another thing to keep in mind.

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NJ Mom September 15, 2016 at 1:02 pm

We ask that the visitors only stay during non-working days, because we all know what would happen otherwise. Also, we limit to 1 week otherwise it really disrupts our household. This is what we have in our handbook.

Family and longtime friends may stay in the home up to a week with prior permission. Longer or more frequent visits may be allowed depending on the circumstances. Visits need to coincide with Au Pair’s vacation or off times (such as weekends or holidays).

If you had 6 relatives ask to stay with you for 2 weeks during your busy time of year and expect you to show them the sights, house and feed them, etc – how would you respond? Absolutely not. You would tell them that’s not a good time for you and suggest a better time of year. If AP asks for something I wouldn’t do for my own relatives, my answer is “No”.

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cv harquail September 16, 2016 at 8:02 am

a test comment

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Seattle Mom September 16, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Having AP house guests is risky, and 6 at one time is 6 times the risk!

The risk is that these are people we do not know. They are coming for a short time, on vacation, while the rest of the family is working. We don’t know if they will be culturally sensitive, and minimize their inconvenience to the family. We don’t know if the AP will be able to rein in any outlandish behavior.

But as with many high-risk ventures, it can be rewarding to host the AP’s out-of-town guests. It might lead to a greater connection with the AP. It might make the AP happier. It might lead to a relationship with the AP’s family or friends.

I’ve experienced both sides of the spectrum. AP1 had both her mother and father visit (separately, as they are divorced) for 10 days each. They were both great house guests. The mother cooked traditional French cuisine for us- she was incredible! She also was amazing with our children, as was her daughter.

AP4 had a steady stream of visitors. They were not as good. Her mother was fine, though she spoke no English so I couldn’t communicate with her. Some of AP’s visiting friends were very inconsiderate and self-centered. One of them insisted that she had to go bra shopping with AP while she was taking care of my 5 year old daughter. I only found out about it because my daughter complained that they were in the store forever and it was the most boring day ever. And they got fast food for lunch, which is against my rules. This friend also took an hour in the bathroom every time she showered, which she managed to do during the prime bathroom hours, and we all share a bathroom in my house. We told AP that she had to tell her to be quicker, but it didn’t happen (the friend didn’t speak good enough English for us to get that across to her). AP was on her way out, it wasn’t the end of the world, it was just pretty annoying.

After AP4 I will put greater limits on house guests.

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Exaupair September 17, 2016 at 5:15 pm

To be honest, I wouldn’t agree to six guests at the time even for my partner if he ever came up with a brilliant idea like that.
Dear OP, if you don’t want to come across unfriendly and not welcoming enough you could actually blame your decision on your husband, which wouldn’t even be a lie! He works from home so needs his time to focus, full stop.
Good luck to you?

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NY host mom September 20, 2016 at 11:28 am

I am surprised that so many people allow overnight guests. We put in our handbook that we do not allow overnight guests. We do make some rare exceptions, but we have a bunch of kids and we don’t like people we don’t know living in our house, with our children. I would never allow six guests – way too much.

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LatinaAuPair September 29, 2016 at 1:31 am

That’s unbelievable. I’m shocked a person would have the nerve to ask that!!! I thought so long about how to ask my host parents if my mom could come and stay a week with me. They were amazing about it and the sweetest people and it was smooth and great. But it was ONE person for ONE week and none of them work from home (and I was very embarassed asking anyways). You are totally entitled to say a straight no to her face. Too many people for a considerable long time. I don’t even think you need to give that much explanations, but if you want to, just to keep a good relationship, explain about your husband job at home, it’s busy for you and having all these guests around is stressful. As an au pair I can assure you if she complains with her friends they all will tell her she is wrong and 6 people is too much. I don’t think she will hold grudges because no one will support her that asking for accomodation for 6 people for 2 weeks is ok. It’s not ok

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AutismHM October 10, 2016 at 11:29 am

Nope, I would never allow this. We actually have in our handbook, no friends, guests, family, etc.. allowed at any time, not even to visit. They have their free time to meet elsewhere, restaurants, bars, clubs, parks, etc… This is a personal choice for our family as we do not want anyone else in our home that we do not know, period. We set the rules extremely tough for a reason.

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