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To be worried that the au pair won't leave the house alone

(29 Posts)
Migsy1 Wed 03-Aug-11 17:05:08

Got a 20 year old au pair from Hungary on Friday. She is supposed to collect boys from holiday club. She has been great with housework but she has still not left the house alone even though I have given her a map of the area and gone out with her several times. I even walked her to the holiday club so that she would know where it is, yet I had to go and collect them myself today as she doesn't feel able to do it alone. I live in a city suburb where everything is quite close. When I brought them home I sent my 10 year old son to walk her to the shops to give her some confidence. This left me looking after the other 2 boys whilst I should have been working. Is this normal?

itisnearlysummer Wed 03-Aug-11 17:07:30

I wouldn't think so. What is her English like? Could it be she's worried about having to speak to people?

handsomeharry Wed 03-Aug-11 17:13:08

Oh dear - poor you and poor au pair. It sounds like she is very, very nervous. I have been in the au pair's shoes as I worked abroad for a summer while at uni and was absolutely terrified the first time I went to pick up at kindergarten.

If you can, give her a few more days to pluck up her courage.

Migsy1 Wed 03-Aug-11 17:22:20

Yes, I will give her more time. She is good with everything else and seems to be a nice girl. Her English is basic and I am taking her to an adult education centre tomorrow so that she can put her name down for lessons. I'm just wondering if I am doing too much "hand holding" for her which might prevent her from getting her own confidence. I sent my son to the shops with her so that it was one step down from being with me. I will give it until after the weekend and if she still has not gone out on her own I will call the agency for advice.
I'm also worried about her not eating enough. I took her to the supermarket and tried to get her to choose food that she liked but she said "no" to everything and only put yoghurt and nectarines in the trolley. I hate to think of her being lonely and hungry.

handsomeharry Wed 03-Aug-11 17:32:06

Well you sound like a lovely employer - your au pair is lucky. You seem to be doing all the right things.

It maybe that she is just not cut out for the job - too nervous or homesick, but it is entirely possible that she will feel more confident after about a week.

I know it took me about that length of time for me to come to terms with my new environment. Everything was so different that I probably was in a bit of shock for a few days.

I got over it pretty sharpish though, as my employer was much less understanding than you - to say the least.

alarkaspree Wed 03-Aug-11 17:32:07

Whilst being sympathetic about her nervousness, it does seem as if you might need to give her some stronger encouragement to get out. I think it may be one of those things that you just need to bite the bullet and do, to overcome your fear.

How about asking her to drop the kids off at the holiday club? That way she will have them with her on the way there to get her out of the house, and will have no choice but to walk back afterwards.

With the food, it is probably unfamiliar packaging and she isn't sure what things are. Is there any chance you could get a recipe for goulash or something else Hungarian and get the ingredients for it, maybe see if she could cook it with the kids or with you?

Dozer Wed 03-Aug-11 17:36:03

Poor thing.

Think alarkaspree is right on the food thing - first few weeks when I was abroad was totally confused and also embarrassed about eating my host family's food, ended up eating just breadsticks and grapes. Was great, lost loads of weight (I wasn't skinny).

But if she doesn't sort herself out soon, e.g. couple of weeks, reckon you may have to call it quits.

Migsy1 Wed 03-Aug-11 21:40:46

Thanks for all your advice. She really is lovely. When I took her to Tesco I did suggest she buy some ingredients to cook herself a meal that evening but she said that in Hungary all she eats is soup and sandwiches. She seemed to enjoy tonight's pizza though.
I think alarkaspree's idea about asking her to take the kids to the club is a good one.
I was hoping that she was going to meet up with some other Hungarian au pairs on Sunday as they invited her on a trip to Blackpool (we are in Manchester). She said she would go but then when I told her that it was about an hour on the train she seemed a little freaked out. It is really easy to get to Piccadilly Station from here too. To be helpful I then showed her the Pleasure Beach web site and I think the roller coasters put her off even more. Oh dear!
Perhaps it is just taking her a bit longer than average to get her confidence and she will be out and about soon.

MrsSchadenfreude Wed 03-Aug-11 21:46:13

We had one like this! We put her in touch with another au pair locally, who basically bullied her into going out, came and collected her and refused to take no for an answer. She was much better after that!

LolaRennt Wed 03-Aug-11 21:50:12

For many girls being an aupair is there first experience in a new culture and away form their families. I would encourage her (quickly) to try and find a group of other aupairs if you are in a city there will be loads. Once she has made friends her own age that can show her the area and get her feeling comfortable and confident she'll have no problems going out on her own (assuming she doesn't have any genuine issues)

gallicgirl Wed 03-Aug-11 21:50:38

Get the 10 year old to help!

When I was learning languages I was so much happier talking to children. Although it's hard work sometimes, they don't care if you make mistakes and usually happily correct your language without even trying.

Do they have some form of coordinator? Maybe someone who speaks Hungarian can have a little chat just to make sure everything is ok.

Migsy1 Wed 03-Aug-11 21:55:45

Thanks, yes, there is a co-ordinator who could help. I've also got her to contact 2 other Hungarian au pairs who are the ones who invited her out on Sunday. I just hope she meets up with them. The thing that really worried me though is that she seemed really nervous about my suggestion of walking to the end of the road and back again(I live in a cul-de-sac of 22 houses). It was then that I suggested that my son go out with her.

Anyway, time will tell pretty soon!

Migsy1 Thu 04-Aug-11 12:29:27

I asked her to walk the kids to the holiday club today so she would know where she is going (even though I have walked her there once already) but she wouldn't do it.
She doesn't really talk to the children. I know there is a language barrier but a few words would help!
I feel like crying now.

TrickyBiscuits Thu 04-Aug-11 14:29:11

She sounds like she's a bit overcome with anxiety to be seem like a lovely employer, and I'd just try to keep up your patience for the time-being.
Unless she's got some serious issues, she'll pick up quickly I'm sure. She is only 20, and it might well be the first time she's left home. Do you know whereabouts in Hungary she's from? Apart from Budapest, much of the country is rural, with some parts fairly remote, so knowing she's in a city the size of Manchester might be a bit daunting for her. Not to mention the traffic coming at her from a different direction! When I first moved abroad, this was a real stress to me! Seems silly now but there we go smile

On a practical note, Hungarians are very proud people and LOVE talking about their country. Perhaps you could get a country map up online and ask her to chat to you and the kids about where things are etc? It might help to break the ice a bit, as she'll have a subject area she's more confident in.

ZombiePlan Thu 04-Aug-11 14:33:26

So, she doesn't talk to the children and she refuses to take them places that they need to be? Not a very good au pair, then, is she? What exactly does she do apart from the cleaning (which could presumably be done more cheaply by a cleaner - and if you had a cleaner instead, you wouldn't be stuck with someone living with you, which can be a pita at times even if she is likeable enough)? It's all very well being really really shy, but even if she doesn't want to go out socialising she really has got to do her job. TBH I'd be having a chat with her and setting out what her duties are (and not let her tell you that she doesn't fancy doing it - she's supposed to be making your life easier, not adding extra stuff to worry about).

Let her make up her own mind about socialising and eating. If you offer her food I'm sure she won't starve - she may not like to pick stuff out for herself in shops just yet, give her time and she might start to feel more comfortable about it. It's her choice whether she meets up with other au pairs. So long as you've given her a few contacts I think it's her choice from there on. She might not like the other au pairs, which is fair enough - just because they're in a similar situation doesn't mean they have anything else in common - how many of us have ditched NCT groups or similar?

I do think it's nice of you to be concerned about her, but don't let that concern get in the way of making sure she does her job. She's there for a reason, after all...

TrickyBiscuits Thu 04-Aug-11 14:58:17

Fair point, ZombiePlan, but surely if you take in a very young au pair from another country (presumably because it's cheaper?) then you can expect to have some teething problems for a short time?

alarkaspree Thu 04-Aug-11 15:08:04

But 20 yo is really not that young. Most 20 year olds either have jobs that they need to get to or go to university, or do something that involves going out of their comfort zone. And however reasonable/unreasonable you think her anxiety is, the fact is that she can't do her job until she gets over it.

OP this must be a really difficult situation. I think you should give her a few days but warn her now that if, say, after the weekend, she still doesn't feel able to do leaving the house-type chores, the arrangement isn't going to work out. It won't be easy with the language barrier either.

Migsy1 Thu 04-Aug-11 15:08:15

I appreciate that she is alone in a country very different to her own and I understand that she might feel overwhelmed but I would like to see her making some effort to get over it. I suggested she take a tiny little walk down the road just to get used to it but she won't. I made it clear before she came that collecting the kids would be part of her job.
I took her to enroll for a language course today (in my working hours) but it turned out not to be suitable. I suggested the only other place I know which is in the City Centre and easy to get to but she seemed scared by that idea. She can't speak much English and if she won't go out she will find it difficult to learn.
I really have made a huge effort to show her round and to chat to her and involve her with the family and I need to see some effort back now. I feel really awkward because she does not speak to anyone unless spoken to. I know she struggles but a little effort would be appreciated.
I'm going to write her an "end of first week" review tomorrow in which I will praise her for all the positive things but set her targets for going to collect the kids. If she cannot collect them, then there is no point her being here.

mrswoodentop Sat 06-Aug-11 09:00:38

This sounds quite odd.Do you think that she fully understood what the role involved or did she think it was just housework.I would contact the agency /Hungarian contact,perhaps they could speak her in her own language and find out what the problem is .
It's very sad if she is so traumatised but ultimately you need her to do a job and if she can't do that for whatever reason ,she is no good to you.

Giselle99 Sat 06-Aug-11 09:39:17

You have been very patient but this is unlikely to get considerably better. I don't think she's cut out for au pair work, so the sooner you put her out of her misery, the better.

Migsy1 Sat 06-Aug-11 13:02:48

She has been here over a week now and still has not been outside the house on her own. She has never even opened the curtains in her bedroom. I thought she might like to be able to see what is going on in the street at least!
When I paid her on Friday I gave her written instructions that she "must" collect the kids next week and that I want her to take them to the park and to the library. The kids need to get out for goodness sake! It is really making me cross now, especially as I am not asking a lot as the boys are at a sports club from 9:00-3:30. They are also 5, 8 and 10 so it is not as if I am asking her to look after very young children which need more attention.
Yesterday, she hardly did anything. She even put the kids bedding on the line and did not bring it in, so I did it. Given that I had ferried the kids round during the day (which she should have done) and lost working hours to do it (I get paid by the hour) I though she might at least have made sure that she brought the washing in. Then as soon as I had finished work she went on the family computer on Facebook for 4 hours. How dull is that? Never mind hogging the computer for such a long time.
I'm starting to think that even if she does collect the kids next week, that she is too "wet" to be of much use to them. I don't want someone who is so wet lingering around the house all the time either.
If she does not significantly improve PDQ then I'm going to tell her it is not working out. I will get the agency to talk to her too.

squeakytoy Sat 06-Aug-11 13:06:17

I cant see this working out. Your children need someone they can communicate with too, not someone who struggles to speak the same language as your children.

cjbartlett Sat 06-Aug-11 13:07:58

Oh dear
She sounds homesick sad

mrswoodentop Sat 06-Aug-11 13:25:10

Struggling to understand why she thinks she can just refuse to carry out her duties.This is the job she came here to do ,I would be onto the agency pretty pronto ,she is not 16 she is 20.effectively you are paying her to have a holiday

mrswoodentop Sat 06-Aug-11 13:33:26

Have you thought about a male au pair ,my friend with 3 boys had one and he was fantastic with them .Maybe not quite so good with the housework but managed washing and snacks OK and she got lots of gardening and painting done
Her boys were about the same age as yours at the time

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