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first au pair and need some advice

(14 Posts)
npa30 Tue 09-Jun-15 10:03:32

I wonder if people can give me a bit of advice
We have an au pair who started with us at the end of May.
It is our first one so we took 2 weeks off work between us to settle her in
Problem is whilst she is nice, and kind to the kids she is totally lacking in common sense and is really not able to set up mealtimes without some direction.
She took a couple of days to regularly remember to lock the front door after coming in, and yesterday she forgot to lock our car. It was in our garage but of course I worry about her present mindedness.
She is painfully shy and we have accepted that she runs off into her room as soon as dinner is done, but she never comes out and seems socially awkward and unable to chat to us once the day is done. Still that is her time so I don't mind, I just feel worried that she is lonely holed up in her room. She is starting to make friends so that is good and the kids actually like her (don't love her but like her). She is a kind person but the disorganisation and inability to plan the meals worries me. Am I being impatient or unreasonable? Perhaps I need to accept au pairs are young but I really would have hoped after 2 weeks some ability to plan and think ahead would be there and it is not.

car0line123 Tue 09-Jun-15 11:51:32

That is the risk with au pairs, some have never left home before so it is a lot to ask to be able to handle the running of a house in a foreign country!
Why don't you plan the weekly meals in advance, let's say on Sundays, that would help a lot. She would get used to the sort of food you expect your kids to have, and will gain confidence as the weeks go. Most of us starting to leave as a couple, then had 1 child, then 2... so had time to get into a routine.
As long as she is nice, good with the kids, and accept to pay more attentions to locking doors etc.., I would give her more time.

Artandco Tue 09-Jun-15 12:00:16

I would just give her a meal plan and recipes tbh for each week. Ask each week if she wants anything particularly added or a certain recipe one night. As time goes on let her do more

Most au pairs don't really cook tbh, they just heat up meals and add few extras. So most parents I know batch cook say bolgnaise or casserole or curry, then au pair just makes some fresh pasta/ rice/ give bread and heats up meat/ veg/ sauce part

citytocountry Tue 09-Jun-15 12:18:46

I don't expect mine to meal plan/cook.

I do the shopping (I ask for anything they want/need), have a weekly planner, and cook things that can then be heated up, or have in simple freezer meals e.g. fish fingers that I know she can do. I want her to concentrate on looking after the kids, not cooking (and I prefer my own cooking!).

Little things like leaving doors open - I think she will get used to it. I forget to lock my own car/door sometimes, and I'm not a young person living in a foreign country with a new language to lean as well!

Same for holing up in her room, she needs a bit of time to make friends, gain some confidence etc. I'm sure she will come round.

General disorganisation etc. - make lists for her and keep on top of it with regular updates (even daily if need be).

I hope that helps - she sounds pretty normal - main thing is that the kids like her.

npa30 Tue 09-Jun-15 12:18:52

thanks CarOline123 and Artandco - I will try and persist as she is kind to the kids. I have done meal plans but as you say, with time things will hopefully improve!

outtolunchagain Tue 09-Jun-15 12:19:09

I wouldn't routinely expect an au pair to cook from scratch unless you had specified that when you were looking .Some do some don't , how old is she? also has she come from a country where she might not be used to cooking the same kind of food ?She may be daunted by unfamiliar foods etc.

Can't comment on the unlocked car in garage as I leave my car unlocked all the time!I would be more concerned that she was a safe driver to be honest

npa30 Tue 09-Jun-15 12:19:29

thanks citytocountry - that is reassuring!

npa30 Tue 09-Jun-15 12:23:07

thanks outtolunchagain - I probably didn't make my problem clear. She is not cooking from scratch - sausages and oven chips for example, the sausages were undercooked as she did not know how long to cook them and the chips were placed in a big pile so they all stuck together. Eggs and toast - she started cooking the eggs before having got a plate or made the toast so it would have been cold eggs. She has only ever made microwave meals for herself. We are very much people who like to cook so we preprep everything and make it easy as possible. When I mean she cannot plan I mean she does not prioritise and cook the things that take longer first.

npa30 Tue 09-Jun-15 12:24:20

thanks everyone. I love the practical and honest feedback one can get on MN!

Karoleann Tue 09-Jun-15 17:38:36

Maybe she needs a basic cooking course? Undercooked sausages are not good and you can get potentially fatal food poisoning from under cooked pork.

I'd give it a couple of weeks, none of my au pairs have ever not locked the front door. You need to make sure your children are being looking after by someone with some common sense, they're not safe otherwise.
Most of mine have taken at a month to bed in.

OVienna Tue 09-Jun-15 20:54:21

The "common sense" thing is challenge when it comes up with child care help because it's very hard to teach/train it/anticipate everything that might come up, every situation that might arise. We've had similar sorts of things with au pairs (and in fact nannies) before. Sometimes people have their blind spots....I can't say I've never done anything a bit stupid either frankly.

Some of it is a question of growing up a bit and some of it may well be cultural/adjusting to a new environment. The key thing is do they TRY to listen to clear instructions? Do they want advice on how to do things? Or do they get defensive/insist on doing it their way? Do they like your children?

The last bit is really important because if you sense she really cares about your kids, this will help with her risk perception around them. I might do stupid things from time to time as a mum but my kids are my life and I'm always on gaurd and worrying about them. When I have been really concerned about someone's common sense, the key factor I worried about is if I really thought she cared enough to be bothered, if that makes sense. If she's got a really nice rapport with your children it will be salvageable as long as she has a good attitude.

She's not been there long either; give her more time for sure.

The cooking/food safety thing you should be able to train a bit - mention cooking times and also meal plan until she gets a feel for things.

I don't agree that au pairs can't meal plan to the degree of looking in the fridge, picking out a meal, veg, and potato/rice, etc. All of our girls have been bright and absolutely coped with the 'stress' of such a demand. But it does take a bit of time to get a feel for what children like and how to time certain things. If she's making an effort I'd take a deep breath and stick with it.

She also just sounds a bit shy; keep an eye on it but she may also feel exhausted speaking English by the end of the day.

youplusaupair Wed 10-Jun-15 09:38:24

Hi - I place au pairs in families and I must say I am so glad to hear that there are so many understanding mums out there!

Your au pair sounds young and inexperienced, which is perhaps why she decided to go abroad and be an au pair. If you are patient with her and give her a chance, she will be forever thankful to you! This experience often transforms the au pair's life and a view on life. She will become more independent and confident - thanks to you!

I know you got an au pair because you need help with your children and housework. But it is like in any job - people need to be first trained on the job, to excel later. As others say - as long as she is good with your children and she tries hard to follow your instructions, give her time and she will be great.

Common sense naturally develops with experience.

Good luck!

chloeb2002 Wed 10-Jun-15 18:26:28

I confess our au pairs don't cook. Even sausages involve cooking. Heating up bolognaise I have cooked earlier, boiling pasta.
Maybe keep it simple? Toast and cereal for breakfast. That said it doesn't really matter if the eggs are done first wink
Locking doors etc, I'm happy if mine remember to close them!
Two weeks is no time at all to settle in. Ours take at least two months to build up friends, routine Etc. grin

Jaffamagic2 Wed 10-Jun-15 20:29:48

how do I pay a nanny?
I am thinking of using my sister as a nanny a few days a week, I know I am responsible for her NI and possibly tax? but I am unsure how I go about organising this and as it is her first job she doesn't know either. Any pointers please?

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