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Concerned about how au pair engages with 4 yr old DD - advice please

(19 Posts)
Rycie Thu 09-May-13 15:17:30

I work full time, and usually get home at 6.30pm. I have a 4.5 yr old DD who is fetched from school by the au pair at 12.30, who then looks after her until I get home. She has various activities that she goes to such as swimming and ballet, and I do arrange playdates, but the reality is she spends a lot of one on one time with the au pair. This is a new au pair, as the old one couldnt' do the hours I needed anymore (although she still babysits and does one shift a week). DD started complaining about the new au pair almost immediately, she doesn't like her fetching her from school, doesn't like her voice etc, and I put it down to her preferring the previous au pair and that she would grow to like the new au pair. The new au pair had really good references, good experience and I liked her a lot when I met her.

Anyway, I was off sick from work earlier this week, and so at home with them both which is unusual. I appreciate that my presence may have put some pressure on the au pair, but by the end of two days I was pretty unhappy about how she engages (or doesn't as the case may be) with DD. DD told me again this morning that she's 'boring.' She's perfectly competent in all the necessary areas, but when they play together she doesn't really respond and engage on her terms. For example, DD said to her, let's do dancing and she agreed and they went off to the living room and I heard the music, but later when I popped my head around the au pair was sitting in a chair with her phone watching DD dance by herself. I suggested they do an activity book which DD loves but needs direction on what to do, and again the au pair just sort of sat there with her and was very passive in that she didn't seem to know what to do and the activity didn't really get going until I got involved. There were a couple of other of similar things, basically she watches DD play rather than plays with her iyswim.

I am going to give her more structure and plan more things for them, but this seems to be a personality thing rather than poor organisation, and as I said she's perfectly competent but possibly not very stimulating or fun for DD. Do any of you have any advice?

LadyHarrietdeSpook Thu 09-May-13 15:45:34

I suspect it's too many hours for the au pair to be expected to engage one on one with her.

Most au pairs don't realise how exhausting it can be looking after children, they aren't looking for a role where you have to work that hard for so many hours in one go....just my view. I don't even think it's a question of salary for many of them as they seem to enjoy the free time to see friends and go to language school. I guess unless they really need it to be a stepping stone to a nanny position, which is mostly not the case.

Can your DD stay later at school and the au pair do more like 3-6.30?

Our first au pair did 1 -6.30/7.00 but my DD slept reliably for two hours when she got home and also in the afternoons the au pair was working with a nanny.

OutragedFromLeeds Thu 09-May-13 16:46:32

I don't think it's really the role of an au pair to actively engage with a child for 6 hours a day tbh. What you're describing is a nanny. An au pair job is generally collect kids from school, supervise, keep safe, make supper. If she's had more traditional au pair roles in the past that would explain the good references, she's doing a typical au pair role.

ReetPetit Thu 09-May-13 16:54:51

Gosh op you are expecting a lot for your £100 max a week aren't you?
If you want 5.5-6 hours a day one to one and taking to various activities for a pre school child i suggest you pay the going rate gore a nanny not employ someone for peanuts who is over here primarily to learn the language!!

fluffymindy Thu 09-May-13 17:00:26

Do you constantly engage with your child for 6 hours? I don't...I do other stuff whilst they get on with stuff. I think you are asking a lot for your money

Blondeshavemorefun Thu 09-May-13 17:51:28

As others have said 6hrs a day full on is a lot for an au pair

You said your old one left as couldn't do the hours - they are more than what The average au pair does

Assume dd will start school in sept so what will Happen July/aug in holidays?

And it's good for children to play by theirselves sometimes

Nannyowl Thu 09-May-13 18:24:47

Hi Rycie

Having had au pair when my own dd. was same age, I agree is quite a long time each day. But au pair working time rules may have changed since I used them. Maybe you could use some other type of childcare one or two days, until your daughter starts school.
I always looked upon the au pair as a big sister type role. So maybe playing with the child at times, but other times there as the adult allowing the children fill their time themselves. It is important your little girl can engage in her own play without adults intervention. Make sure she has the right type of toys for this, small world, ie dolls house, Lego, Play Mobil. Props to play schools or libraries. Make some signs, tickets etc for her.
To be honest I expect you will find the problem solves itself as if au pair is not happy she will leave. Or your daughter will get used to her being different from the last au pair and settle. Best wishes, it is hard being a working mum.

Rycie Thu 09-May-13 20:06:43

Gosh. Thanks everyone. Those are very useful replies, although it had never occurred to me that it was too long a time period. Just to be clear, she only does it two days a week for the whole afternoon, I didn't explain that more clearly in my op.

Also she gets paid pretty well and wanted to do these hours, but in any event I take your point about it being a long time.

I'm I'm another country, so her school hours will stay this way for the foreseeable future. There are aftercare facilities at the school but DD doesn't want to go, she specifically wants to come home.

Do any of you have any more practical suggestions about what to do or do you think I need to get over it? I hate feeling like my child is unhappy during the day (which is obviously compounded by the fact that I know she'd rather have me with her than an au pair.....)

Rycie Thu 09-May-13 20:09:23

And thanks for your suggestions about her playing by herself, she's an only child so I suppose I worry about her being alone too much so I really appreciate the input.

WouldBeHarrietVane Thu 09-May-13 20:10:37

I think it's perfectly ok as an ap role.

Practically speaking, it sounds like the ap just simply hasn't bonded that well with your dd. I experienced this with a nanny and wish I'd terminated in the probationary period. I would talk to ap, ask for improvement and if that doesn't work, look at your contract to check your legal position and consider whether you want to continue the arrangement.

OutragedFromLeeds Thu 09-May-13 20:15:27

I think 2 days a week is ok, I thought it was 5 days as you say you work full-time. What happens to DD on the other 3 days?

If you want to keep this au pair, then the only thing you can do is really plan the time after school, lots of activities, playdates etc. I would schedule the whole six hours, e.g. 12:30pm lunch, 1pm DD's quiet time (reading or DVD or something), 2pm free play, 2:30pm snack, 3pm go to the playground etc Hopefully the au pair will improve with time and as she gets to know your DD better.

You could try getting the au pair to do something with DD that she enjoys. Does she have a hobby? Maybe if it's something she is interested in then she will be better able to engage with DD about it.

Ultimately, some people are just not very good with or interested in little kids, so if it really bothers you find a new au pair.

Blondeshavemorefun Thu 09-May-13 20:21:38

agree 2 days is, thought you meant all 5 - maybe she does need that direction and be told what to do

but if dd isnt going to school in sept then you may want to rethink childcare/au pairs if this one isnt bonding well with dd

Rycie Thu 09-May-13 20:30:52

Thanks Wouldbe and outraged, you're both right. I'll start by trying to structure the time got her as you suggest, and then if I can't deal with still I'll have to find someone else. I guess the problem with the lattes that's don't feel as if I have any really justifiable reason to fire her.

Outraged, apologies as I didn't explain the set up that clearly on the op, I do work very full time so have two au pairs. The first who started Jan last year still does about half the time (not one shift as is said in the op) and au pair 2 does the other half.

School holidays are my nightmare to be honest. They do a lot of time in the school holidays, but its easier in the sense that they do a lot of days out like the aquarium, beach etc and I try to take a bit of time off as well, and also swap play days with friends who have kids of a similar age. It's a bit of a juggle.

Good advice, thanks very much.

Rycie Thu 09-May-13 20:32:59

Sorry, terrible typos in my previous post - latter not latte!

OutragedFromLeeds Thu 09-May-13 20:39:43

It might be easier to just get a live-in nanny to do all 5 afternoons and the school holidays. Is that something you've considered?

ReetPetit Thu 09-May-13 20:45:51

Sorry op, thought au pair was doing five 6 hour days hence my unhelpful reply..
I would do as others say, try giving her more structure, she may have just been more awkward having you around but trust your instinct, i think you will know if ddi is genuinely unhappy or just preferring other au pair

dontblameme Fri 10-May-13 00:09:48

Reading together, pottering round the garden (if you have one), tents, blowing bubbles, sticker books, dominoes, play-doh, cutting/sticking/crafts, baking??

4yo charges are hard work, and I only do 4 hours with mine! Give them a chance to bond, but if there's zero warmth there I'd be concerned.

BoffinMum Fri 10-May-13 18:53:23

I am sure there is also a generational element too. I have noticed some au pairs disengage from human company quite often these days to fiddle about with smartphones, in a way most of us on here probably wouldn't. It's almost a habit akin to nail biting - a completely reflex action every time their hands are idle. The fact that needy young children are with them does not seem to matter. They are not used to being mentally present at all, and instead they exist in a kind of self-centric technology bubble.

Interestingly I have had one or two who regularly put their friends on Skype in the corner of the room and chat away quite merrily all day in their home language via the internet. Fine, apart from it slows them down no end when they are doing their jobs, they are completely excluding the children from any interactions, and frankly I find the whole Big Brother aspect of an estranged face on a screen in the corner of my kitchen watching my family bizarrely creepy. Plus their English never gets any better because they are wrecking the whole immersion aspect of their placement. It seems absolutely daft to me, to come over to learn a language and then do this.

Anyway, that's a roundabout way of saying this AP probably falls into that category and it's worth considering getting a replacement.

middleeasternpromise Sun 12-May-13 10:37:27

I think if you have two au pairs sharing the job with one being liked by DD and the second being the inferior new girl - Au pair 2 hasnt got much of a chance. You either need one arrangement that does it all or accept that DD is going to compare and someones not going to make the grade.

You could be doing a lot of replacing to get a good match.

I do agree with Boffinmum though, expectations have changed and au pairs I have had recently are very much focussed on their social world and not the job at hand. Have just given recent one notice as have decided to go back to clubs etc and boy has the cleaning and focus improved dramatically. Au pair actually wanted to give up au pair work because she wants a job that pays more. However I think as is often the case she hadnt factored in that she doesnt have lots of exp; doesnt speak english as well as she thought and will need to earn quite a bit to cover food and lodgings and travel everyday. However I do think thats part of the learning and Im trying to help her all I can to find that sought after job

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