Seasoned au pair mums - would you be okay with this re au pair meals?(21 Posts)
So, we have our forth au pair. At interview/ad stage I checked that potential candidates were not fussy eaters/didn't have particular food fads/needs/diets etc.
Our new au pair has now been with us for nearly a month. She has started to not eat with us at the weekends and instead make her own meals (lunch and dinner). I'm finding this somewhat annoying for a couple of reasons - I'm buying enough each weekend to include her in our meals and whilst I have no problem if she wants to eat out it of course increases our food bill if she is eating a different meal to the family, also she is getting into the kitchen in the evenings to cook her meals when I've finished clearing up and just want a bit of quiet time to get stuff done before the next day at work.
My expectation has been that au pairs either eat meals with us or are not having the meal (not that they have a different meal at a different time). I'm starting to feel like we're living in a student flat.
Hit post too soon. So my question is - am I being harsh to put a stop to this practise?
I think that's a bit controlling.
When your kids are old enough to be in the kitchen are you going to ban them from using it when you are not too?
Maybe she doesn't like your cooking? Is she foreign, maybe she wants to cook her own food from her own country. I don't think you get the right to dictate how and what a grown adult eats. She's not your child.
You need to talk to her. I think it's fine that she doesn't want to eat your food but then that has to be the expectation so you aren't buying/cooking food that isn't getting eaten.
Our au pair went through a phase of starting to cook her meal just as I'd got the kids to bed and wanted to cook our evening meal. So I told her she could either cook in the 90 mins before hand when I had the kids, she could eat what I cooked or she could cook later.
In the end we mostly cooked for her and she ate it the next day at lunch time then just had toast for dinner. She said she preferred to eat a big lunch and a smaller dinner. But we'd not have figured this out if we hadn't talked about it!!
You need to talk to her, maybe agree that you won't buy for her at weekends but that she can use store cupboard items and what times she can use the kitchen. Is she buying the food she cooks herself at the moment? I think you are being unreasonable to expect that she will never want to prepare her own food, especially if it is only at weekends, it is normal for all adults in the household to do some cooking - could she cook for all of you occasionally?
I think it is also unreasonable that you would not choose an AP with special dietary requirements, if they are well suited to the role otherwise.
I have been a live in nanny and I've never had any rules re mealtimes /cooking. If you don't like her trying to cook at a specific time then tell her but I don't think it's a big imposition. I always used to cook for myself over the bedtime period so 6.30-7.15 time as my boss would be busy but it wasn't a problem if i cooked at a different time. We would work around each other/our cooking times. I think you're being weird.
I also think its fine for her to cook for herself at the weekends. Not sure why it is an issue that she is using the kitchen after you have cleared away your stuff?
I'd point out anything you don't want her to use if it is earmarked for weekday dinners.
I also avoid any candidates that have any special dietary requirements.
I'm currently an au pair and I'd feel pretty uncomfortable if my only option was eating with the family. I have a really lovely host mum and we have great communication, which is great. She's always made it plain that I'm welcome to eat with them (usually her and the kids around 8pm during the week) but if I want to make something for myself I'm welcome to whatever is in the cupboards/fridge. I'm quite a light eater, so I don't take the piss with using loads of food just for me, but I do always run it by her what I want to use, to check she hasn't got plans for it already.
Long story short, if you're buying enough for her to have meals with you, let her know what's available for her to use and then it won't be using up the food you want for your own meals. Wrt the timing of her cooking, yep definitely tell her a specific time that is appropriate for her to use it ("while I'm cleaning" or 7-8pm, whatever works for you)
If it's just at weekend then I think it's fine as long as she isn't using food that you were going to cook something with (I put a black star on anything that can't be eaten), she decides either way if she's going to eat with you so that the food isn't going to waste and she also isn't in the kitchen at the same time as you need to cook.
You can then also make it clear that this is just a weekend thing and that she needs to eat with you during the week.
We also only hire au pairs that eat everything as my children can be a little fussy anyway and I want them to only have exposure to non-fussy eating adults. Our first au pair was "intolerant" to lots of foods and it was really irritating having to cook for her.
So, 8 au pairs in (one every year) this is something I would be a bit blunt about, to be honest, at least with regards to dinner during the week, depending on what you're talking about in terms of food prep and clear up. If she is meticulous about clear up, I'd let it go. If you've cooked and cleared up and she is turning the place over and leaving pots and pans and plates out - non. Tell her she has to ensure that the kitchen is clean and ask her to turn the dishwasher on when she's done.
Also - many of our APs have been light eaters and I can see why they wouldn't want to eat with the DCs (we have a very light meal in the evening and they normally don't ever wait for us.) So - no issue for them to come come down and preparing a salad or pasta or something that is basically very straightforward to make and clear up.
Would also depend on the set up for eating the meal. In our house, the dining room is basically part of the kitchen and if I were sitting down to a rather more formal and organised Sunday dinner etc and someone was preparing their feast during that when we were trying to relax - also a non.
Lunch I would absolutely let go.
Not sure what to do about costs tbh. I guess just be clear what you've got planned for meals that week? There was only one year that the AP was inconsiderate about the food but her boyfriend was also staying a lot...It really didn't make a massive dent in the end.
Having said that - if I had an AP in the house who didn't want to join us for Sunday lunch there might be a different issue...
Only you can say if she is treating your place like a house share.
My experience is at the start of their stay APs are keener and more engaged, but there can be a bit of this towards the end.
We do a meal plan and involve her. Each week.
She'll tell us if she's planing to be out or has a specific request.
I quite like eating alone so I can see your au pairs point of view
Had lots of au pairs when DC were younger.
They were all very different but during the week they were usually "on" during meal time so would either help me cook (or help with dc while I cooked or vice versa but it was done together) then she'd eat with DC and help tidy/help with the dc.
The weekends she normally wouldn't be "on" during mealtimes and often was out or timings didn't work out-which was fine with me as long as we communicated. Most of mine were very social, and unless they had to babysit were spending time off in London etc not having boring meals with us
AP's always had their own drawer in the fridge full of the foods they wanted especially
so DH wouldn't eat them often they wanted something light like a yogurt or muesli. A bit of space for AP from kids and free time at the weekend very nice at that age and usually made them pleased to see DC again after...
I wouldn't be happy with messy kitchen or unsociable hours but overall think this is pretty normal AP behaviour...
But having an AP should not add stress-only you know how you're feeling and if you're uncomfortable with this set up tell her.
There is a very good chance your au pair might not be aware at all of how you're feeling so I think maybe a chat is in order to clear the air?
I used to be a live in nanny and I never ate with the family. Especially at weekends, that is her downtime and she probably wants to eat at her own time.
All our aupairs preferred to be independant and eat what they wanted when they wanted, which suits us perfectly. We never had any problems with the AP using the kitchen at unsuitable times or leaving a mess behind them, they've always been very sensible.
Meals can be a sensitive subject so it is always a point I check upfront before hiring the aupair: if they have a special diet (I had once an AP who could not touch meat which was slightly problematic when children were small and needed to be fed!), if they want to be independant or spend all their time including meals with the family etc
I used to be an au-pair for two years in the same family. This were wonderfulu people and a lovely chid. And I also don't have any food preferences. But I just couldn't eat the food they ate and tried to kook for me. My guest mother was making a list of products she had to buy for a week, and she asked me what I need. So no exta costs and wasted food. When inviding an au-pair to your family, you always should consider the fact that it's a personality, a grown-up, from other culture. And this person wants to live her life. Eating is one of it's most important concepts. And I would say it's a shame of you, to say that au-pair's meals cost you too much. How much can she eat????
Part of the au pair experience though is getting to know the local culture. I don't know how long you were with the family but are you really saying that there was NOTHING they made you could or would eat? I don't believe that families need to feel obliged to accommodate that sort of attitude. Thankfully we've never had this- we've enjoyed eating meals from their country too. It's been a bit of a mix. A NANNY job is different- you are an employee there for the work experience for an indefinite period of time.
Our first was vegan (and also bonkers and crap, for reasons not relating to her veganism) and although I had specifically asked her whether she had any special dietary requirements during the interview process and she said no.
Turns out she was a vegan and wouldn't handle meat at all. She was also very, very expensive to feed! Honestly, I never knew it could be so costly (and we are NOT tight with pocket money or food or days out and time off, the car etc) but she also decided to go organic whilst here.
Anyway, for various reasons she didn't last two weeks - I am surprised we actually tried for another! But the next one was amazing as is the guy we have now.
And I wouldn't get another one with intolerances or a vegan. It's just too incompatible with our lives and that's the point of an au pair - that they are a big sister/brother or whatever.
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