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Au pair - bad gut feeling..(31 Posts)
I'm looking for some advice about our au pair (arrived late September). I've gone back to Uni for a year to do a full time masters and it's proving very full on. I've got 3 DCs (11, 9 and 6) and in term time she takes them to school and picks them up and then is at home with them until I get back at half 4 to 5ish. Holidays and half terms will be busier for her, although I've arranged some activities for the kids this half term (gym days, cinema outings with grandparents etc) so that she would never be in sole charge for a full day.
Au pair is pleasant and on the face of it willing but she seems to have a strange attitude to work. Yesterday I got back from Uni to find the kids parked in front of the telly (they are allowed to watch for half an hour after school so this in itself isn't necessarily an issue) with her upstairs, in her room with the door closed. I knew she wouldn't realise I was back so I stayed downstairs and she didn't come down for another hour! DD had gone up and asked her to help her with a powerpoint but she said she was too busy as she had to email her friend! This isn't on is it? I need to talk to her and tell her what we expect obviously (that when she's with the children, she's with the children, it's like any job) but I can't shake a very bad feeling that if she actually thought it was acceptable to do this she simply isn't the right person to be looking after my kids. I'm feeling tired and strung out, WWYD/say? TIA!
She's untrustworthy, lazy, irresponsible and not very kind. I would be reading the riot act/ending the arrangement.
Its not really a "gut feeling" is it? You have actually been there while she was upstairs ignoring your children. I would speak to the children and ask them if this is a regular occurrence. To give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she's having some kind of personal crisis and is normally very good and plays with and engages your children and they love her. You need to ask them I think.
Ask your children to be honest though she should be working not e mailing. I am a nanny if my charges are watching tv we watch together or I get on with something.yes I might sit down with a cuppa but not in another room. Personal e mails can wait
I always say, start as you mean to go on. It's all very well thinking you can have a talk and get it right with her. But people are very set in their ways. Get rid. Start again with someone suitable. She clearly is not it.
I've had nannies and au pairs
This is a potential deal breaker
Is she an au pair plus? How old is she and has she been an au pair before?
If you feel now that she isn't the right person then she isn't
How did she react when she realised you were there?
Thanks for your replies. She is 18 (nearly 19) and hasn't been an au pair before. louise, she didn't really react at all when she realised I was there.
I do appreciate that there are some thing you simply don't realise until you've been told, but that this isn't one of them...
Ok so as an au pair plus, they do more hours / responsibility
If she didn't react ie didn't realise she hadn't done anything wrong the she doesn't get it
I would have a firm chat, and lay it on the line that it's not acceptable and it's part of her role - unless massive family crisis meant she had to be holed up in her room
To be honest the trust is gone - you've seen her in action
I think you need to get a new au pair
Tbh I would have had it out with her there and then. In my experience of au pairs they need very clear guidance on expectation and much more supervision that you would expect if you were hiring them in say a shop. I think this is because of the blur between home life and work life. I never ever leave a situation like this pass without discussion because resentment can quickly set in if a pattern emerges so you are better off to head it off at the pass so to speak.
Isn't she a bit young? she is only 7 years older than your eldest child?
I don't think she is necessarily too young no and I've had very good experiences with 2 very mature and responsible 19 year old au pairs before. I think it's more of a personality thing than an age thing, although I appreciate plenty of people (esp on mumsnet) disagree
If she's only 18 and hasn't had a job/childcare job before, then you need to be explicit about what you want her to do. A teenager is likely to need a fair amount of managing and supervision.
I think this could well be something you don't realise until you've been told - they are older children so don't need to be watched like a toddler would, if her babysitting experience is just when kids are in bed, or being around for younger siblings when parents nip out then being in the house but not in the room may well seem reasonable.
I agree that I need to be explicit. I am still disappointed that I need to be about something like this and this is what is giving me the bad feeling.
New docker our last au pair did not feed our 3 year old from 10 o' clock in the morning until she handed him over to my mother at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, the one time ever she minded him at that time of the day and like you I had assumed she would not have to be told to open the packed lunch we had made for him. She never bothered mentioning to my mum she had not fed him either. Sometimes expilcit with au pairs is excruciatingly explicit and for others not so much.
She turned out to be fine after many, many conversations to make it abundantly clear what needed to be done. She was a very nice girl though so that earned her brownie points.
Blimey, numberone - that's pretty bad! Didn't she eat herself during that time?
Nah she was not a particularly a big eater herself. She certainly did not do it to be a prat she really was that clueless.
At those ages, I think your DC are old enough to be left alone for a while, but not more than an hour. When your DD asked for help she should have responded immediately. That bit's not right.
The au pair might not need to be directly engaged with them at all times, but definitely hovering and supervising regularly.
As an 18-19yo, she is still very young and this might have been what it was like in her family growing up. This is shown (IMO) by the fact she didn't react when she saw you were home. You need to make your expectations more clear (last chance for her) and if it continues then fire her.
Are the children generally happy in her company? If yes, another chance would be good for everyone (assuming your children weren't left in any dangerous situations), but if they don't like her that's a big red flag and take the opportunity to say no more.
Think you maybe do need to spell it out to her, give her some guidance on what you are expecting her to do with the kids after school. Homework, playing, helping get dinner on etc.
For comparison, when i was an a-level student i had a half term job looking after two kids, a girl, 12 and a boy about 9 i think, full time 9-5 for the week. I discussed with my mum whether to do it as I had m own school work i needed to get done that week. My mum encouraged me to do it, her take was kids that age would / should be able to play and entertain themselves a bit and I'd be able to put on a film on for them a couple of afternoons and get my reading done so i was prepped to write my essay.
But it just didn't pan out like that. the girl in particular wanted my attention every hour of every day and didn't appear to have any homework of her own (although the idea was we'd look at that together). Didn't want to watch films, read a book etc etc. encouraged by my mum one afternoon when her brother had wandered off to amuse himself i pushed this a bit, said we'd have a bit of quiet time / reading. I remember her not being able to do this and me eventually telling her i had reading i needed to do.
I wasn't asked back!
I can see from the Mum's point of view, now, that she probably thought it was totally off me needing / expecting to get a bit of my own stuff done during that time. On the other hand, part of her expectation was I'd help, the older girl with studying and study habits. The idea of doing some school work together seemed like a good one beforehand.
And crucially, I was following the advice of my mum who encouraged me to expect / demand the 12 year old entertained herself occasionally.
Anyway, the point of all this is, maybe talk to her first. Different families and different cultures have very different takes on what constitutes 'looking after children' from being present in the house to providing a non-stop entertainment service. And she's young, probably never done this before. Maybe babysitting at home did involve being in the house letting the kids watch tv while she emailed her friend etc, and that was acceptable.
Is she lazy in her other duties, like housework? I'd give her a chance after giving her clear instructions about your expectations. However, if the problem is laziness, IME lazy aupairs don't get better, they just get more sneaky.
OP I have learnt the hard way you need to spell things out for some people.
Not to be on phone constantly.
Not to leave dc to lie down in bedroom.
How they respond and behave in the following days/weeks is what indicates who they are. Yesterday my ap told me she didn't do something I asked because she had her own things to do. I told her simply, without annoyance, it's not on. It's within the hours she normally has ds and since I respect her time off it's reasonable to expect her to respect my time. And we both smiled and shrugged shoulders. Then today more than made up for it on her day off.
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