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Not sure if au pair is a bit useless

(43 Posts)
Migsy1 Tue 09-Aug-11 20:19:47

Or whether I am expecting too much.
Au pair arrived almost 2 weeks ago. The first week I took her round and showed her everywhere. However, she would not go out of the house alone for over a week even though I told her one of her jobs is to collect the boys from holiday club. She did not open her bedroom curtains in all that time. She has shown no interest in the area in which we live (manchester) and although she said she wanted to attend language lessons she has not made any attempt to enroll even though I have found a suitable course for her and took her to enroll at another one which she didn't want to do in the end. She speaks little English so I thought language lessons might be a priority.

She collected the kids from holiday club today but when she is looking after them she does nothing with them and just hangs around downstairs. I work from home so I know what is going on and they constantly interrupt me. If she engaged them more, then they would not need me so much.

She does a little laundry but leaves it on the line and today she even used the tumble drier even though I told her to use the line unless it is raining. She is certainly not doing the 5 hours a day she is supposed to.

Everything is half hearted and there is no enthusiasm for anything. She chats on Facebook and Skype a lot in her own time and she sounds cheerful when chatting so I don't think it is because she is homesick and the agency said she sounded very relaxed when they checked up on how she was doing.

To make the situation worse, when she was "looking after" them today, my 10 year old son had an injury as he was wrestling with his brother. He now has a swollen cheek and a black eye. She seemed to find it a very amusing when I was giving him a compress etc and she heard me tell him that he was getting a black eye. If a child injured himself in my care I would not be laughing about it!

There seems to something odd about this girl. I just can't figure it out but it is really stressing me. The agency found it very odd that she would not go out of the house for the first week and that she is not interested in meeting up with other au pairs.

Aren't au pairs supposed to be a bit jolly and enthusiastic with the kids? She hardly interacts with them at all.

nickschick Tue 09-Aug-11 20:23:02

I think it must be very difficult to be an au pair and behave how your 'empoyer' expects you to be - I wonder if it might be a good idea to have had a week or so 'intensive' guiding her towards what you expect?.

Jasbro Tue 09-Aug-11 20:44:32

I thought au pairs were just foreign teenagers. Her behaviour doesn't sound unusual for a teenager. Maybe she's an unhappy person who wanted to escape her family and move out of home, and didn't really care about learning English but just saw it as an escape route. You won't really know unless you give her a chance and get to know her, but is that something you want to do with your own children's welfare in the balance?

LynetteScavo Tue 09-Aug-11 20:52:49

It does sound odd that she doesn't want to interact with the DC..I'm wondering if it's because they are boys and she doesn't know how, exactly.

I was an au-pair when I was 18, and didn't speak a word of the language of the country I went to. I was too scared to leave the house at first, and only did what I was told to do by the mother. Looking back, I must have been a bit painful initially. blush I was keen to do language classes, but the mother had to literally take me and enroll me, and take me to meet other au-pairs.Also, I never spoke during family meals. This wasn't because I was too shy, it was because I was listening to the language, and picking it up. Once I'd found my feet I was OK, though. (Hell, the parents must have been relieved! grin)

The swollen eye insider sound worrying. She wasn't laughing due to nerves, was she?

Migsy1 Tue 09-Aug-11 21:44:22

LynetteScavo - Perhaps she is just a bit lost. I wish she would just try to interact with the DCs. I just can't make it out. I'll have to give her more time but after the eye incident (which is nasty) I don't know if she can handle my boys. I took her on because she says she is training to be a Kindergaarten teacher and she looked after a 5 year old boy last summer. I'm just wondering why she didn't intervene when they were having a rough game. They were playing wrestling and she was sitting on the garden bench watching them. She is nearly 20 so not the youngest of au pairs.
How did you behave towards the children. Did you play with them or just sit around without interaction. Its just that she can't be effective with the kids unless she makes an effort to interact.

ChitChattingagain Wed 10-Aug-11 09:39:01

You need to sit her down and ask her some questions such as 'why did youw an to be an au pair', 'what made you think you would be a good au pair'. Point out that you dont' actually see her interacting with the children, just sitting there and watching them is not the role of an au pair, she is there to engage them, and make sure their behaviour stays safe - sitting there and watching them hurt each other is not on!

Now you at least know what her behaviour is like, you can compare it to her answers and point out why she is not up to scratch yet, and that she needs to have a serious think about whether she wants to stay or not, and how long you will give her to show you that she is willing to put the effort in.

harrietthespook Wed 10-Aug-11 09:46:53

I would be extremely concerned about the eye incident - for me it wouldn't matter if she were just 'nervous' although this is a possibility I admit. And the way she managed the 'rough' play. I actually wouldn't continue with her. But that is just me.

I don't go for APs who don't already speak English to a reasonable standard (and hence have hired German girls who have just done their Arbitur - there are plenty about) but I would say that if she really is that weak in English her behaviour re staying in etc is not that unusual.

There are plenty of other potential APs out there who need less managing and I wouldn't feel comfortable with her in charge of my children.

LynetteScavo Wed 10-Aug-11 10:32:10

Migsy1, yes I did interact with the DC lots, but I found it very easy because they were two little girls who wanted to draw and play dolls, so it came quite naturally to me. If I had had to play football with boys I would have found it tougher.

I would give her clear expectations of what you expect of her, and set yourself a time limit to see if she bucks up. You need to be able to trust her if your back is turned.

Migsy1 Wed 10-Aug-11 13:04:00

Well, thanks for your advice. Most people seem to agree with me that her behaviour is not as good as I should expect. I have never had an au pair before. I have left her alone with the kids this morning and I am hoping that it will give her an opportunity to gain some rappor with them.
Spending 2 hours on a trip to A&E is not what I was hoping for. I know accidents happen but this incident just adds to all my other doubts.
Yes, I will give her a time limit to improve.

harrietthespook Wed 10-Aug-11 13:45:46

Where is she from Migsy? Just out of curiosity.

BranchingOut Wed 10-Aug-11 15:02:47

How about setting her some scenarios?

eg. what she should do if the children look bored, begin arguing, someone has an accident.

Maybe she isn't quite sure of the role she should be taking with regards to the children -she could think that sitting there and watching is enough. You probably need to spell it out.

Migsy1 Wed 10-Aug-11 17:24:05

harrietthespook - She is from Hungary. She told me that she is not used to the city because she is from the countryside but the Hungarian lady at the agency said she is used to commuting to Budapest every day. So not sure why she said she was scared of traffic etc. as an excuse for not going out. This makes me suspicious.

I think she will need a lot of training. My kids are going away next week with their Dad, which in some respects, is a little unfortunate as she could do with some continuous practice.

She looked after the boys this morning whilst I went out. I came back at 1:45 and she had not given them lunch. I think I need to state the obvious with her. The fridge was full of stuff.

Given that they watched TV all morning with no input from her, I am wondering why she could not have put the few football shirts away that were still on the radiator from the day before. I will resist the temptation to do it myself as the kids laundry is categorically her job.

I'm just wondering what her motives are for being here. Unfortunately, I cannot talk to her about it because of the language barrier.

harrietthespook Wed 10-Aug-11 17:33:04

We will be on our third and a half au pair from September. The 'half' is the French girl I mentioned on the other thread that I trialled and didn't hire.

Things au pairs CAN do include not tweaking about meal times. For example, next door's new au pair turned up at our place at half five/six yesterday and was kind of bewildered when our girls couldn't play. The oldest had said: let's go to littleharrietthespook's and she was like: okay. No urgency about getting her charges dinner or any clue that it might be ours. They do need to learn things like this. BUT to get to nearly two with no lunch is towards the rubbishy end of the scale. A good AP would have realised lunch was required.

Yes she needs training - I would be checking your contract to find out how long you've got for the agency to find you a new one. If you act fast, you may still get soemone good for a sept start from au pair world.

Sorry to be a downer but I really am not confident about this one.

Dozer Wed 10-Aug-11 19:27:08

I think you should get someone else!

catepilarr Wed 10-Aug-11 21:17:46

she does sound rubbish.
on the othere hand - did you tell to to give the children lunch and when? dtto the t- shirts? it is not easy to read your employers thoughts and know how things are done when you are in someone elses household, and in a foreign country.

Migsy1 Wed 10-Aug-11 22:12:48

Catepilarr - Yes, you are right. I need to give more instructions. I guess I was hoping for some initiative rather than having to write every single detail down. I have learned, so far, that I need to give very precise and detailed instructions. I cannot assume that she will know what to do and I plan to proceed on that basis.

gailpottertilsleyplatt Thu 11-Aug-11 05:30:19

I don't think it's fair to blame her for your boys battering each other. She probably thought it was a bit of rough and tumble. However, she doesn't seem to be of help to you and I would replace her if I were you, you need someone to make your life easier not more stressful.

foxinsocks Thu 11-Aug-11 05:42:19

The thing is, she's not trained nor is she a mother. I remember looking after someone's child as a favour when I was about 19 and the mother coming back and being furious because he was thirsty and me thinking 'surely if he was thirsty he would have asked for a drink' lol.

You have to tell her exactly what to do. Exactly when are mealtimes and exactly what you expect with laundry. She's not a mind reader nor has she looked after older children who are a totally different kettle of fish. I had to spend quite a bit of time with the nanny, who has loads of childcare experience, just to make sure we'd get a harmonious household!

Good luck and I hope she starts taking to your area and home a bit more! I would give her another chance but if you are worried about safety, I would let her go (or send her on a first aid course!).

StillSquiffy Thu 11-Aug-11 08:12:25

Au Pairs have either got the gumption to do the job, or they haven't. This one hasn't. Cut your losses and start again. The last thing you want is your own domestic dementer wafting amongst you. I've been there myself and it is NOT FUN.

fraktious Thu 11-Aug-11 08:16:18

You need to write things down with lots of explanations. Even for a fluent speaker retaining information transmitted orally is a challenge. Writing it down in simple terms means she can get a dictionary if needs be.

I think you need to lower your expectations quite a lot, regardless of whether this one stays or goes. Have a chat, write down your concerns and give them to her, give her concrete ways to improve.

Chandon Thu 11-Aug-11 08:24:14

From a foreigner,

you cannot assume she will know these things unless you tell her (write them down):
- In England kid's lunch is at 12:00 (in many countries 1 or 2 or later is normal)
- In England, a sandwich and some crisps counts as lunch (many countries do hot meals)
- In England, kids have tea around 5 (in most countries a snack at 4, and dinner at 7-8-9)
-In England kid's bedtimes are nice and early (specify the time)
- In England people like to dry their laundry outside, unless it's raining (you'd be surprised how many countries, esp. poorer countries, consider a dryer a status symbol, and washing lines for "peasants")

etc etc.

At lot of these things seem "normal" and "obvious" tot he English, but a foreigner would not know unless told. smile


jkklpu Thu 11-Aug-11 08:40:42

How old is she? You can't really expect her to come from a different culture, possibly on her first trip coming anywhere by plane, and know exactly what it is you want her to do. Manchester city centre is a major culture shock for anyone coming from rural Hungary, even if she did go to Budapest a lot, too. And remember she probably won't have any idea how to find any people who might be in a similar situation to hers for the time outside the 5hrs/day when she is doing the things you end up specifying for her. And help her find the language classes, too.

If you want her to cook, show her what you want her to make and guide her through. How old are your kids? Can the eldest help to make sandwiches and do a bit of bonding in that way of showing her the ropes around the kitchen? Can your kids suggest to her places to go out, eg take her to the park, swimming pool, wherever?

So don't write her off completely as you have a responsibility to make your expectations clear and give her a go. Good luck.

Migsy1 Thu 11-Aug-11 10:05:42

Jkklpu - She is nearly 20. She has been introduced to other Hungarian au pairs in the area but not managed to meet up with them.
I have given her loads of info about language classes - all she needs to do it choose one.
I have asked my eldest, who is 10 to show her how to do things in the kitchen and I have showed her myself simple things like how to make porridge and what to do with a tin of spagetti hoops.
I agree that I need to be very specific with tasks. I suppose I did not want to sound too patronising to her or to be constantly be on at her telling her what to do.
The overall problem is that I am not seeing any energy, enthusiasm or interest from her with my DCs and looking after them is part of the job.
Stillsquiffy uses the word "gumption". She doesn't seem to have it and it is doing my head in.

harrietthespook Thu 11-Aug-11 10:24:58

The problem here doesn't seem to be whether she's doing everything 'right' but rather that she's doing nothing at all.

ChitChattingaway Thu 11-Aug-11 10:33:21

The other stuff can be and is annoying, but the lack of interest in the children is the decider. That's why my au pair was asked to leave!!!

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