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Au Pair/Host Family(15 Posts)
I just want to set up a thread so that I can have a place to ask advice/moan about my childcare arrangements and what is reasonable/unreasonable to ask an au pair to do. This has been motivated by my current au pair, but really I should have started this up when I got my first au pair a few years ago.
Anyway, my current au pair is pretty good. He is looking after my ds age 6 and dd3 age 4. I work freelance, so there are plenty of times I am around i.e. not working, however when I work I tend to do long hours - leaving before 7am and returning after 9pm. I sat down with the agency I get my au pairs from and spoke to them about what is reasonable re: hours/pay etc so that is all okay.
My current au pair has been with me since September. I started work soon after he arrived, but fortunately could do some of it from home so was able to introduce him around etc. His form stated that he wanted to au pair till July this year. Soon after he arrived, he informed me that this would not be the case as he was expecting to work the Summer elsewhere, then he also informed me his girlfriend was over in another part of the country and would it be okay if she came to stay sometimes. I was thrown by this but said okay re: girlfriend and, 'oh, it would have been useful to know that you don't plan to stay as long as your agency/form stated'. However I was just starting a new contract and didn't really have a choice about this.
We had gone over the role/duties etc. I generally made lots of meals over night/at the weekend so that he would have almost no cooking to do during the week. I also arranged for dd3 to go to a friend 3 afternoons per week to keep his work hours fair. On the other 2 afternoons she has activities which he takes her to.
My ds is obviously lovely but can be difficult. The school he goes to gives out quite a lot of homework and part of aps duties is to help ds with this. I have also asked him to do a bit of math with dd - all online.
It was difficult for ap to begin with. My dcs are very affectionate, especially dd3, she would run up and hug him/kiss him. He was not used to this and would push her and ds away slightly - culturally/not understanding british culture he could also be quite rude to ds friends.
We had several discussions, I think I listened to him and his concerns - I spoke to my son about his attitude and tried to pour oil on troubled waters when they had problems. ap moans at ds over homework, his speed at getting dressed, the fact he appears not to listen - basically ds is a typical boy. I offer solutions/compromises/ways of coping with homework. ds also goes to a tutor once a week so that any homework not completed with ap can be done with tutor, leaving ap only with listening to ds reading/spelling and some online math.
After Christmas, ap comes back and says he has found a job he is leaving in April - at the same time asking for half term off so that he can attend a course. Then the moans all begin again with ds. ap saying ds is disrespectful/doesn't listen and ds saying that ap doesn't like him/tells him off all the time. I offer ap some solutions and speak to ds. I then find a new contract with a different working pattern. I am working Sun-Thurs. I say to ap, in the light of this, would you be willing to have your two days off moved to Fri/Sat (when I was not working I gave him extra time off so that he could spend more time with his girlfriend). He says no problem, can my girlfriend come stay on Sundays. I say no, I would prefer if this did not happen.
On Thursday, my first day, I come back late (10pm) - having kept in touch via text - I say sorry, thank you and please go to your girlfriend etc. I walk into kitchen and find that no washing up has been done (dishwasher is stacked however), breadcrumbs/mess on counters dirty pots etc along with my sons lunch bag left on the counter. The family room has toys scattered, DVD's left out and one still playing, though tv is switched off. I ask why, did something mean you were not able to do this? He says no, I say, okay I will tidy up and wash the dishes etc, I need to get something to eat. He also had not fed the pets nor swept up/cleaned up properly after his hair cut. He goes to girlfriend, I spend 2 hours tidying up/washing up/feeding pets. He comes back late on Saturday, he asks about anything special to note for Sunday. I say no, not really. I hope some friends might call round for an hour or so, but just to enjoy himself. dd2 is home for weekend, so dynamic slightly different. I then say, I would be grateful if you could do the washing up and make sure the family room is tidy - please ask dc to help. He then says, you are so negative/I know I am bad/you always complain, there is never any praise etc etc. We talk. Long talk. I am thinking 'am I wrong to expect him to know what to do when I am working?' I have sent him a text saying that not sure when I will be back, but it won't be a long day, can he put concerns on paper so we don't get sidetracked, we can then discuss the points individually and further here is where everything is for lunch. He responds 'I'll try to put my concerns on paper for tonight chat but they shouldn't be different than those i expressed yesterday. I wish you good luck at work and i'll try to do as well as i can with children...as i've ever tried to do from the day i arrived'. By the way ap is 27..
I have 4 dc's and am widowed - I don't expect my ap to be another child. I am in process of interviewing for new ap. I know I don't always say or do the right things and obviously I need to learn from the experience of having this ap.
Really want to hear from others with ap issues - good and bad. How do you cope? Sorry for really long post..
Did u get him thru an agency, can u talk to agency owner?
So in total how many hours does your au pair work Sunday-Thursday?
Sorry - work has been really busy. I make it clear to the au pairs before they come to me ie at the interview and in my literature that when I work they would be expected to work 35 to 39 hours per week - I think they are called au pair plus because of the longer hours by some agencies. They have 2 days off per week. As I am freelance this only happens when I work - when I don't work they do roughly 20 to 25 hours per week max.
I have spoken to the agency and I am looking for someone else but I am worried that because of my situation - lone parent and freelance worker - that finding the right mix will prove too difficult.
I don't have many friends but am keen for my children to have a good social life but, of course homework pressure and the fact that I have to rely on au pairs means that they don't get to see their friends as often as they would like. DS goes to Beavers and I try to organise a play date once a week when I have him so the au pair is not burdened but sometimes it works out that DS goes to a friend so ap only deals with DD3. DD3 has one really close friend but she is at nursery at the moment, I think her friend pool will grow more when she starts school.
My current contract means I can help ap in the morning but am not generally at home for bedtime - I realise it is long hours however I checked everything with the agency before getting an ap and have been very clear about hours and role. No housework, just helping the kids tidy up and clearing/tidying after self. I do all family laundry/ironing and plan meals. I clean the house - no cleaner. I still have lots to go through as there is so much I don't want to get rid of because of memories (plus always a bit of a hoarder anyway).
Wow do I go on!
Thank you for your responses and being so non-judgemental. I know I do things wrong and try so hard to understand my au pairs as well as being clear about what is needed.
Saw post on au pair handbook and may just start one as I don't think what I use is working...
Au pair handbook is fantastic. I go in to huge detail and it is much easier and less personal than 1-2-1. I can simply say that it goes into lots of detail because some au pairs have needed that.
Thank you. Have started the handbook - trying to make it sound friendly etc. have actually managed to find a new au pair - can't believe it, so I needed to start writing it up pretty quickly. Current ap only has a couple of weeks left now but is becoming increasingly distracted. Fortunately my current contract is letting me work from home but it is very irritating when he starts forgetting things that he had no problem remembering before Christmas. One thing about being at home though - he seems to have stopped constantly eating! I was thinking also of getting one of those wipe boards to put on the fridge so that if anything is almost I running out it can be written down - is that something anyone else does?
The change to Sunday-Thursday must have been a big change in hours? If he was working Mon-Fri then the children would be at school/nursery during the day, on a Sunday he was expected to have them all day?
It sounds like you need a nanny rather than an au pair.
Thanks for all your messages. Outraged, if I could afford a Nanny I am still not sure it would be suitable. Nanny costs in my area start at £24/25k - afraid I am not in that earnings league. I don't think my circumstances are unique, but they are definitely not 'run of the mill'. There must be other people who may have to work weekends and arrange childcare? I made the Sunday working as short as possible to make up for it and often gave him an earlier leave on the Thursday also. He wasn't worried about the hours, it was more the fact that I wouldn't let his girlfriend come to stay. Plus, when I was between contracts I gave him extra time off with the understanding that when I got a new contract he would be required to work the hours. He also left without telling me he had broken a lamp/put the mobile phone through the washing machine at his girlfriends/lost kids gloves, scooter lights & scoobits/damaged my bike to the extent I had to spend £80 getting it repaired/stained the duvet and left the washbasin in his room with huge black rings round it! He also cried when he left - at the same time as walking off with our international plugs (which he has now returned after I emailed!). New AP is lovely, but virtually no English and time management skills are zero. He interviewed well on Skype - in English - but has arrived barely able to speak any or understand any (is there something out there which translates instantly and offers responses?). Have given up contract so that I can settle him in and try and sort time management/cooking skills out as kids are already very keen. I may be posting lots more!!
Is there any particular reason you want a male aupair?
Aupairing is an unskilled job but I just feel many aspects (childcare, housework) come less naturally to men than women, particularly if they might come from a culture that is more traditional in terms of men/women's roles. Male aupairs also take up more room and eat more.
Mind you, I don't necessarily have a universally easy time with women aupairs either ...
blueshoes - interesting thoughts about the male au pair thing. I am interviewing candidates on skype later tonight. the best one on paper is a man, which I wasn't expecting. Not sure what to make of that.
Lone4anger - glad you have found someone new. Did you want a male ap or was it by chance you had 2 in a row?
These type of threads make me really cross. Au Pairs are supposed to be like a family member who helps out. They work limited hours and are not MEANT to be full time childcare/cleaners. Helping with breakfast/homework after school, bit of babysitting, bit of tidying up sort of thing.
Au Pair Plus is a different contract, I think, although we last had one 8 years ago and paid way over the odds and asked them to do barely anything as I wanted them to feel welcome. However, they had their own separate flat in our nearby business and the chance to earn extra money there so they always felt pretty well treated.
Portofino, if you take into account the value of the room and food, pocket money and other perks, an au pair in London earns the same as a live out nanny for a 30 hour week. No way it's just a bit of babysitting, bit of tidying up sort of thing.
The fact that they live in, join in the family activities, eat with the family and generally muck in just makes for a happier more flexible arrangement, but it doesn't mean they don't have to do stuff - the main thing is to be clear - before they start - what the expectations are.
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