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Au pair seems nasty to kids - sorry long

(26 Posts)
KenBran Thu 20-Feb-14 05:24:27

I really need some advice as I don't want to be unfair to new AP. She has been with us 6 weeks and all started well. The kids seem to like her and she takes her work seriously ie does homework with them, collects from school etc - can't fault her on this at all. But it's started to dawn on me that she doesn't really like children. She often refuses to play with my 5 yr old DD. I don't think DD is very demanding and likes playing by herself eg with lego a lot. AP only has the kids in the afternoons, has half day to herself and tends to go to bed for most of it. When she sees them she is impatient and snappy. She's worst in the mornings and I put this down initially to being a teenager (well, 19 next month) and not good in the mornings (I am probably irritatingly chirpy!) So I generally give her space, let her have a quiet breakfast and talk to the kids and manage getting them out the door myself. I like doing this so no probs. But this morning she was particularly bad and I think things are coming to a head for me. She shouts at the kids in front of me. At first I put this down to cultural diffs, I am a softy with them and laugh at myself for this, and she is German so arguably more brisk, stern. I hate cultural, national stereotypes but thought it might explain a little. Now I a startting to think she actually doesn't like kids. She is never affectionate to them. My DD vomited yesterday, and she never asked me or her afterwards if she is ok. When I took her with me to the hospital one time when my DS (aged 8) had asthma she told me she was bored. I know hospitals are no fun, but does bored come into it when a child is ill? She wasn;t expected to do anything and maybe I shouldn't have taken her along but I thought a helping hand might be needed. This morning she has really name called DS. She told him he was like a woman because he was messing about brushing his hair in the bathroom before school. I understand enough German to get what she says, and her tone is really shouty. Horribly impatient and short and keeps saying 'bitte' raher than trying to interact with them. She sometimes says 'Arrggg' with impatience or sighs to herself in front of me as if she really doesn't like what she does. I don't think my kids are angels but they are well behaved, like most kids a bit scatty in the mornings but loving and never, ever allowed to be rude. Now feel she is putting them down and I have a duty to intervene - if she is like this in front of me, what is she like when I am not here). They seem to like her though. The only other thing to say is she is serious at her tasks, never gives me any hassle asking for anything. But she is eating me out of house and home. She is very overweight and a couch potato, spends hours with her handy (mobile phone) texting and never reads so much as the back of a cereal packet. I don't mind feeding her of course - I think she is part of the family, we budgeted for this, she is always welcome to eat well (though her 4 helpings habit is stunning to watch) and joins us on all meals at restaurants. She is also paid very well, I provide taxis for everytime she goes out with her 2 friends who are trainee teachers at our kids school, and willingly change my work schedule etc to allow her to go out as I think she needs company her own age, to go out, and time away from our home. Also she is always free to invite her friends and they are here a whole day most weekends, and fed by us. I don't begrudge any of this and I treat her as i would want my DD to be treated if she went abroad. In return am I right to want someone to be nice to the children? I don't mean worship my little darlings, I really am not that kind of parent, but patience and some attempt to talk them around, be playful rather than shout and then come out with a stream of put downs doesn't seems a lot to ask? We live in Kenya so she has a nice and rather exotic package package, never has to do any housework as we have a lot of help. But I think she wanted to go abroad, has not got good school results and thought AP was the way to do it, rather than actually liking kids. She often rolls her eyes and comments v clearly that she would never want to be a teacher or work with kids which I thought was a little undiplomatic but not a major sin. Her only experience was babysitting neighbours in her village whom she knows well and who gave good references. But do you think I might be right that she doesn't seem cut out for being an AP? I have put a lot of kindness into her, always include her, show her around as a tourist/visitor, buy her treats, feel responsible for her. And so guess I am a little hurt when she is nasty and would feel guilty if I stand for her being horrible to my children as they are my first interest. What to do?

JeanSeberg Thu 20-Feb-14 05:31:28

Do you really need to ask?

omletta Thu 20-Feb-14 05:53:03

Have you raised your concerns with her?

KenBran Thu 20-Feb-14 05:54:40

Sean, just want to be fair and your reply makes me think i'm getting the balance wrong to my kids disadvantage. The comment to my DS really chilled me - we are v careful re gender stuff, would never ever say to any boy that they are being like a woman...This kills me. DS is soft, not a boyish boy and a bit of a head in the cloud faffing type, academic and and a bit disorganised. this somehow felt really calculated to wound and it really has hurt me. I could say nasty sideways comments to her eg about how much time she spends on couch, in bed, on mobile. but would never dream of it and am quite protective of her if I think other people are being judgmental eg about her size. I really believe that we should not judge people on body size and want my children to be encouraged in that, and so decided her perhaps bad example of overreating (and speed eating in silence at the table whilst we talk -she will not make small talk but gets her head down and eats fast and then has more hlepings without waiting for us) was counterbalanced by the kids having her example of good body image ie she is completely unselfconscious, likes herself and i like that about her. But the nastiness seems intolerable. Thanks for replying, am totally lost about this.

KenBran Thu 20-Feb-14 06:07:02

Omletta, thanks a lot for replying. I just have and she said she thought it was a funny things to say and she didn;t think it could be taken the wrong way. On one hand, WTF? On the other, maybe she's a bit young and can't see this. She did just walk in from the school run and walk straight past my DD who is sick and at home lying on the couch. Not so much as a 'how are you'? She's made a cup of tea and gone up to bed. Ggggrrr.

Rosa Thu 20-Feb-14 06:20:03

I think you need to be comfortable with who is looking after your children and although it seems that you have tried to adjust / accept her culture differences the most important thing is the care for your children.

Fifyfomum Thu 20-Feb-14 06:26:24

I would be ending the contract with this girl. Tell her why and let her learn from it on her own time, not yours

namechange74 Thu 20-Feb-14 06:28:49

Sorry to hear about this, from experience it's very stressful when an AP doesn't work out. Your situation echoes one we found ourselves in - basically our AP didn't like our DD. The email we received from her after she left was testament to this. I would say trust your instincts, if she is like this with them in front of you, what is she like with them, if she is like this now (when you'd think she'd be on her best behaviour) what will she be like further on. You know what to do. She has to go, no-one is as important as your family. Good luck xx

CheerfulYank Thu 20-Feb-14 06:33:46

I was a nanny and will not lie, I did was occasionally snippy with the kids. Of course, they were three extraordinarily mischievous, rambunctious boys. BUT...I loved 'em. I adored those kids and it was obvious.

I'd think it's time to let her go tbh. If it's not the right fit, it's not the right fit.

Jemma1111 Thu 20-Feb-14 06:38:58

You'd be mad to carry on employing her !

Theres no way in the world I'd let someone come into my home , be a miserable , nasty bitch to my kids and treat us all with so much disrespect.

You know what needs to be done op don't you .

Littleturkish Thu 20-Feb-14 06:46:01

You've put in a lot of effort and not received what you would have hoped for- I would terminate the contract and look again. It's a fantastic opportunity for the right person.

muser31 Thu 20-Feb-14 07:03:27

you have been more than reasonable with her - she is there for your children and like you say, if she is like this in front of you i dread to think what she is like when you are not there - you can't trust her and will always be worried

KenBran Thu 20-Feb-14 07:31:40

Thanks to you all for replying. It's really helpful as up close you don't know how to assess things. Really appreciate comments at a stressful time. Definitely anxious when she is alone with kids and always make sure an adult about (ie our housekeeper whom i trust completely and who is affectionate to kids) as I think she has capacity to neglect (on Friday afternoon when I do my weekly shop she fell asleep on sofa for two hours when she was in charge of them which set off alarm bells), and know she can be nasty. Seems to defeat purpose of having her if she can't be in trusted in sole charge! On up side, she is super efficient eg returning library books, making sure hw done (I always check and talk to kids about their work too), collecting and dropping. And she is homely so in bed at 9pm which in Nairobi is a blessed relief as I never have to worry about security, where she is etc. And my raising my concerns with her this morning has been water off a duck's back - she's just woken up and is tidying kids reading books but has spoken no more than 5 words to DD today who is ill and could do with a little niceness. Those five were to order her to put off a lamp. Loving she ain't. Anyway...the bullet must be bitten, you are all right, no matter what her good points, just don;t think she's made for caring for kids.

muser31 Thu 20-Feb-14 10:53:14

you sound really lovely, being able to see every good point she has instead of just the negative (and you can always point this out to her when you have the chat). but you are right, the essential criteria is to be good with the kids and to be trustworthy - above all else.

KenBran Thu 20-Feb-14 12:26:05

muser31, thanks for saying that. I'm not someone who likes relationships to break down and my starting point for her was that i took on responsibilities by asking her into my home, esp as she is from far away. But she's adjusted really well and hasn't been homesick once, tho I now see this is a sign she's a bit of a bruiser really. She does the job as per her contract - speaking German with the kids, overseeing homework etc, but I can't work out what she wants to get out of this. It's clearly not experience of kids. She's shown no interest in improving her very weak English (from bad US movies) or Kiswahili despite my offers of classes and her pastime is walking around a local mall, being vaguely haughty about Kenya (why do our pharmacies sell newspapers?). I put this down to immaturity though it raised my heckles (I am endlessly critical of my country but no one else is allowed!). I'm constantly told how nice her parent's house is and the wonders of Germany are legion. All fine, i just think 'whatever' and wonder why then she has left it, esp as her engagement here is nil. All tolerable but the line is of course crossed when she can't control herself, this morning's display was utterly self-indulgent and nasty.

muser31 Thu 20-Feb-14 12:41:21

She does seem to show some signs of depression too - going to bed in the afternoon for example and just the lack of interest....again could be just the teenager laziness, but you wouldn't know the circumstances she has left back home either.
still - anything that she has brought to your house isn't your kids fault, and no matter what her excuse is, no matter how valid, doesn't excuse her from behaving like that (affecting the kids with her issues or her way of being!) and the kids are your priority so don't feel bad about putting them first - you gave her a great opportunity it was up to her to take it and do well in it

morethanpotatoprints Thu 20-Feb-14 12:57:24

Nobody would show my dc such little respect, I wouldn't allow it once and she'd be gone already. Out of the door immediately.

NannyLouise29 Thu 20-Feb-14 18:37:47

You sound like a lovely person to work for. I nannied for a family who had property in Kenya and often accompanied them abroad - I am sure there are bad points, but from a visitor's perspective, and as a childcarer, I thought the country and people were amazing!

People who like children display their affection to children. I feel that for an AP position this is the number one requirement. The job with your family sounds great, I'd get rid of her and look again.

Floggingmolly Thu 20-Feb-14 18:43:37

You can't seriously contemplate continuing to employ someone to look after your kids who doesn't appear to like them??
How have you justified this to yourself thus far? hmm

BrunoBrookesDinedAlone Thu 20-Feb-14 18:44:21

No, she has to go.

Think of it this way: this is your childrens' childhoods - they go quickly, and there's no going back and undoing them.

If you're going to have a person living with them, influencing them, having 'power' over them, you don't just want someone who isn't absolutely awful! You want - no, should refuse to settle for less than - someone who is great. A good fit. Happy. Normal!

It's too important to coast with. She needs to go, it's not working out.

YeahThatsWhatISaid Thu 20-Feb-14 18:48:19

Before you do anything I would tell her that you would like to show more affection towards the kids. Teens can be a bit thick and she may not realise what she is doing. Then, if she doesn't improve, I would send her home.

Reinette Thu 20-Feb-14 20:29:27

I was an au pair at 18 and, after a 5 year stint teaching middle school, am now 31 and joyfully employed as a nanny.

She needs to GO. No discussions, no warnings, she doesn't like your kids (whether it's not liking kids in general or just one of those things where you sometimes dislike someone for no real reason but just can't gel with them isn't relevant). Get her out now - your DS sounds like my little brother and he still remembers one-time comments like hers that hurt him as a child.

Boomboomboomboom Thu 20-Feb-14 20:33:04

Believe me, if almost everyone is saying get rid asap - LISTEN. The sooner you give notice the sooner you will feel relieved and the sooner she will be gone!

I have had a problem au pair myself (see my posts where everyone rightly told me I was a mug). My au pair sounds just like yours and they could be sisters if it wasn't for different nationalities, although mine does actually like my kids! But she is similarly very young and lazy. It will not get better, it will only get worse.

I posted on MN because I need to be told what to do. I did it and she is working out her notice. Hurrah.

Paintyfingers Thu 20-Feb-14 21:31:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lottystar Thu 20-Feb-14 22:55:37

Gosh, you sound like such a lovely employer but with the greatest respect I think you have slightly muddled being welcoming and your empathy for this girl (teen, overweight, different nationality etc) with actually being her employer and being happy with her performance. As an AP it is crucial she likes your children and shows them genuine concern and affection. You have to be able to trust her 100 percent when you are not at home / with the kids. Whilst she may be organised, good with homework etc I think it's more important you utterly trust her with your children's care. Think of it this way, would you recommend her to another family? Good luck Op and don't feel afraid to do what is right for your family.

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