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Sulky au pair

(36 Posts)
pjsgalore Wed 15-Jul-15 13:50:57

Hi, I'm feeling depressed about our au pair and I wonder if any of you lovely mums or dads have been in a similar position.

She's really lovely in many respects, and I'm very fond of her (well I was…)

But lately, particularly in the mornings, she's had a very VERY long face. We are a very cheerful happy family - and I feel she's really bringing the atmosphere down. This morning when she came downstairs she didn't even reply when my little boy said good morning to her. And barely replied to me when I said good morning.

Only two days ago I spoke to her about how she was - as she burst into tears at my son's birthday party…saying she missed Spain and her boyfriend etc. I said that if she missed Spain I would totally understand if she went back. She has already had three weeks paid holiday in Spain since she arrived with us in March (we said she could have four weeks' paid holiday a year). She's literally only just got back!

I'm not very good at confrontations, but I took her aside and said that if she needs to go back she must, life is too short to be miserable and homesick, that we would all understand, and also I really need someone happy in my house. She said she WAS happy - we were a 'fantastic family' and she was just feeling unsettled. Her mum and dad (who've I spoken to over Skype) really want her to stay here to learn English. And she SAYS she wants to be here, but her mood doesn't quite tally.

I asked her if there was anything I could do here to make her life better. She said she'd like a bike so I said of course I'd get her one. We are very kind to her - never ever works more hours than we agreed, does virtually no housework as we have a cleaner, just been on a wonderful holiday to France with us (where she also often had a long face in the mornings), I buy her flowers and really have embraced her as a little sister. I help her with her English, found her an English teacher and paid for 10 lessons, my mum has given her some lessons etc etc.

Then yet again today she can barely muster a smile. It's AWFUL. I feel like I'm walking on eggshells in my own normally bright and happy home. She's downstairs right now crashing around in the kitchen with a face like thunder. I don't know whether I should just take it, whether I should mention it to her AGAIN or what. This morning I bought her some flowers for her room today to try and lift her mood and she barely said thank you.

Please help!!!

Ebb Wed 15-Jul-15 14:13:25

You sound like a lovely, thoughtful and generous employer. smile It sounds like you've taken the nice approach and it hasn't worked. I would sit her down and spell it out plainly that her attitude is affecting the whole house and you expect her to cheer up or leave. You told her life is too short to be unhappy. It's also too short to be stuck with someone walking around with a face like thunder. Maybe at home she's been 'allowed' to sulk and mope but, assuming she's 18+, she's now an adult and needs to learn to behave like one.

pjsgalore Wed 15-Jul-15 14:20:39

Thanks Ebb - your post has galvanised me! I will be strong and speak to her tomorrow morning if we have another surly morning greeting. I just went downstairs and she's gone out - leaving the flowers I brought her in a heap on the kitchen counter….! It's horrible because I find myself being effusively friendly and happy to her (ridiculously bubbly actually!) in an attempt to try and counteract her moodiness. Well, as you say, that's not working.

Salmiak Wed 15-Jul-15 14:25:25

I've only once had a slightly sulky au pair, nowhere near as bad as yours. I wish I'd handled it more firmly, rather than pandering to her moods. She was only a summer au pair and with us for 3 months, but looking back I should have either put my foot down about her general attitude or got rid of her. When she went home we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.

There are many many lovely, happy, cheerful, wonderful au pair candidates out there. Especially at the moment.

I'd say sit her down and explain that she is affecting the atmosphere in the house with her sulks, you and the dc are picking up on her unhappiness and it is now impacting on family life. Ask her to think about how she would like to proceed, what can be done to resolve the issue and suggest having another chat in a week or so. If her behaviour/attitude hasn't improved then I'd replace her. Let her know she is on probation.

Salmiak Wed 15-Jul-15 14:28:10

Actually I've just read your update. shock That's just rude and disrespectful.

Get searching for a new one who will appreciate you and your lovely family.

Nannylookingforafamily Wed 15-Jul-15 14:34:50

To be honest, you need to get rid....

Not answering your son when he said good morning is just so wrong

PeppaWellington Wed 15-Jul-15 14:38:10

Oh dear, you sound so kind and generous and patient, and it sounds as if she is resenting you for forcing her to stay. Which of course is bonkers, because you are doing the exact opposite. However, in the absence of her parents, you might have filled that role, in her head, hence her attitude.

I think the emotional impact of living so far away from home is a bit further than her maturity will stretch to - which isn't a criticism (unless she's 25!) - but if that is the case, in your shoes, I wouldn't want to be the one parenting her.

You have been incredibly understanding to her but I think another approach is needed now. A brief conversation about how she is clearly very unhappy, how her unhappiness affects everyone, and how it might be time for her to go home. Leave it for her to think about.

BitterChocolate Wed 15-Jul-15 14:44:38

Does she have friends where you are? Going to English classes where there are other Spaniards might help, or there are often au pair groups for particular areas if you Google. All of my au pairs have been Spanish and they have all made friends while living here so that their weekends and most of their evenings are occupied with socialising. Current au pair makes me envious with how much fun he has. We are in the suburbs and have good public transport into the city which I think helps, but he also has quite a few au pair friends who are with families nearby and they often meet up in the park or at the beach for a few hours with their respective charges.

I always recruit au pairs who have lived by themselves away from home, preferably in a foreign country and who have been sports coaches or worked in kids' summer camps. Both of these things usually mean that they are fairly extrovert and don't need much looking after. My au pairs are also always a bit older than the norm because they need to be 25 to be able to drive the car.

pjsgalore Wed 15-Jul-15 14:48:56

Thank you so much everyone. I feel a total sense of dread about talking to her, but as you say I must. Thanks for your kind and supportive responses. It's good to know that I'm not being too unreasonable.

I've just remembered that tomorrow I have to go to the doctor a little way away, so am leaving both the children alone with her for about four hours, so I might wait to have the conversation with her until Friday morning. Not that I think she'd be horrible to them, but she just might be very sulky and not much fun if I've just had that chat. And they're too little to tell me. Actually I really wish I didn't have to do that tomorrow. Bad timing. SIGH. I want another friendly happy au pair!!

pjsgalore Wed 15-Jul-15 14:55:48

She has actually made lots of friends and has a very active social life - one of her close friends from Spain lives here and she's met loads of au pairs. In fact she's often particularly nice to me when she's just spent time with them because I think some of them have not as easy families and are unhappy. I often tell her to invite her friends here - and when she babysits her one friend (who seems charming) comes around to keep her company.

that's good advice Chocolate - she has never lived away from home. Next time I'll definitely bear that in mind. Although she is 23, so not a total baby. She started off seeming to like England but now goes on and on about the bad weather. And about things she thinks are weird about the English (like the fact that our children have a bedtime - she says 'in my country children just fall asleep whenever they like' or that we say please and thank you all the time…as if that's a bad thing!). It makes me feel defensive about England!

mrsmeerkat Wed 15-Jul-15 15:00:27


you are too nice to put up with this! She is a pain in the arse. I wish i had the opportunity she has. I would give her ten days to improve or jog on dear.

MrsHende Wed 15-Jul-15 15:00:40

I've not really got any advice but can I be your au pair?! You sound lovely!

pjsgalore Wed 15-Jul-15 18:44:26

Soooo, we just had a chat…I got back from picking my DS up from nursery and she barely acknowledged our return. So I felt I actually HAD to say something right there and then.

I basically said 'what's wrong? I can see you're not feeling happy today. And she sort of smirked and said, well, we can't all be happy every single day. Not everyone is always happy like you!! Everybody has bad days. So I said, I'm not happy every day, but I just don't SHOW my irritation to everyone.

Sometimes I don't FEEL like waking up at 6am on a Saturday, but despite that I still enter my children's room with a big smile and say GOOD MORNING and look happy - for them.

I said I need someone who is happy and cheerful. If you're not happy, please, you must go back to Spain. I think you should talk to your mum tonight. I need you be cheerful. I said all day long I"ve felt uncomfortable in my own home. Please, have a good think tonight and be honest about whether you are actually happy here and enjoying it and enjoying being an au pair - for both of our sakes - and we'll talk again in the morning. So we'll see…I kind of wish I'd just told her I don't want her to stay at all. I feel I've lost confidence in her totally.

selly24 Wed 15-Jul-15 18:47:14

Me too! You sound great people to work for. But maybe too nice for this girl. It seems the stick would be better than the carrot for her! ( And you've even turned the carrot into carrot CAKE!)

couldoutme Wed 15-Jul-15 18:50:10

Well done pjs, you've done exactly the right thing.

saturnvista Wed 15-Jul-15 18:56:32

I have just dismissed a mother's help for attitude problems, among other things. The thought of her leaving quite soon is such a relief - when you home is your own again you will dance through it.

Rugbycomet Wed 15-Jul-15 19:04:10

I agree. You've bent over backwards to make her feel at home and the smirking would really get my back up. You will feel so relieved when she's gone. Good luck.

Nannylookingforafamily Thu 16-Jul-15 15:32:36

I think she's rude actually!

HeyDuggee Thu 16-Jul-15 15:50:25

You're way too nice and she's behaving like a sulky teenager, not a 23 year old adult.

Perfectly ok to say tomorrow morning ..I've slept on it as well, and thinking about it more... I have to put my young children's best interest first. I understand you might be homesick, but it is not acceptable to ignore my children because you are in a mood. This is not the first time I'm having this conversation with you and if you stay, it won't be the last time....

msgrinch Thu 16-Jul-15 16:16:51

Oh op you really do sound like a lovely employer. I really hope you get this sorted as you've been wonderful to her.

mrsmeerkat Thu 16-Jul-15 18:25:03

Did you do anything more about her op?

HuckleberryMishMash Thu 16-Jul-15 18:29:53

If only I'd worked for you when I was an au pair OP.

You sound like a brilliant employer and you have made so much effort to help her settle in.

I hope things resolve well whatever the au pair decides to do.

Jen1610 Thu 16-Jul-15 18:36:01

wow where do you live? I want to be your au pair. She actually doesn't sound like she does much work and seems to be getting a pretty good deal out of it in return?

pjsgalore Thu 16-Jul-15 20:54:56

Hi everyone! My lovely online supporters during this horrible little period!! THANK YOU ALL. Well, amidst a lot of tears this morning, I asked her if she'd made a decision, and she said she is missing her boyfriend too much and is going to go home. I told her I totally understood and we had a hug. I felt quite relieved….well really relieved actually.

I think she feels very guilty and conflicted about it, and for the first time in ages has tried really hard to be cheerful and nice today. So that's nice… she leaves in two weeks. What a wasted opportunity - apparently her parents are furious about it. Anyway, she's not ready, and you have to make your own mistakes and decisions. I hope she's happy and doesn't it regret it when she gets back to Spain.

I'm now feeling a bit gun-shy about trying for another one. But she was here for five months, so not too bad. I'm hoping maybe I can find a girl who already lives here, so I can meet her face to face - and so she's also used to living away from home. we'll see! I think for tonight I'm just going to relax in front of Netflix with some popcorn and not think about it.

Thank you all again! And any further tips on how to find lovely au pairs would be much appreciated.

Purplepumpkins Fri 17-Jul-15 06:38:58

Hey, just to say I think you sound lovely! I'm a nanny so believe me it makes a ton of difference having a nice understanding employer. Second don't let this experience or you off, I would recommend maybe an au pair plus who is slightly older and more experienced I think that way you will hopefully avoid this situation again.

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