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Au pair dropped the ball a few times this week

(65 Posts)
MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 14:44:46

We have a lovely 19-year-old au pair, who's been with us since October and is generally doing really well. But there's been quite a few things this week, where she's done things that I think are downright dangerous with the kids. eg. She looks after our nearly-3-yr-old twins for a few hours each morning. We live on a really busy main road, and have a drive (with no gate) that opens straight onto the road. I looked out of the top floor window to see the twins playing in our drive, completely unsupervised. She'd got the buggy out, but not put them in it; realised she'd forgotten her phone; and gone inside to get it, but left them there unattended. There have been 3 other things like that this week. How do you think is best to tackle it? I was thinking of writing a clarified list of house rules re. childcare to give to her, in the spirit of 'I thought it might be a good time, now you've been with us for 5 months, to just remind ourselves of what the ground rules are'. She does NOT take criticism well, so I need to find a way to get across some really basic requirements about child safety without necessarily sounding like I'm criticising her.

PopcornBits Thu 09-Mar-17 14:50:49

I understand how heart wrenching it must have been to see them unattended on your drive, however I think you do need to recognise that she is human, and we make mistakes sometimes.
You will surely have done something like this with your own children at some point right? It makes you feel like a shit mum when someone comes and starts telling you to be more aware, or you simply recognise that you should of been paying more attention, we've all been there.

Well she's 19, and she sounds like she has her hands full, and maybe she shouldn't have, but she obviously had a moment where should of thought better about leaving them like that.

No harm came to them in the end, which is the most important thing, maybe you should just be polite and its understandable that these things will sometimes happen we cant be perfect, but let her know how panicked you felt when you saw them.
She probably wont do that again.

MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 14:53:14

Of course, Popcorn, I don't want to make her feel guilty or bad. But I do need to get it across to her that she can't lose concentration like that. I don't know why she's been so distracted this week. But it would be so easy and quick for them to run out into the road - a matter of 2-3 seconds. I'm more worried about making sure they're safe and alive, rather than not hurting her feelings. But obviously I want to get it across to her in the kindest but firmest way possible.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Thu 09-Mar-17 14:53:46

Did you not tell her at the time? I would have lost my composure about leaving the children on the drive because it's fucking dangerous.

MrsDustyBusty Thu 09-Mar-17 14:53:55

I think, as parents, we tend to forget that we had a chance to learn this stuff, we grew into parents who know this stuff as our babies became toddlers capable of doing this stuff. To expect an untrained teen to know is a bit much. Maybe some gentle guidance might be in order? You could explain what you do?

KoolKoala07 Thu 09-Mar-17 14:58:50

You could ask her if everything is ok if she seems unusually distracted. Something like 'is everything ok at the moment? You seem distracted, I was concerned as I noticed the twins in the drive without you, as you know how busy that road is'

MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 14:59:03

Yes, I did tell her at the time - but there are quite a few things that I've told her before, that she continues to ignore. (eg. she gets the bike & trailer out, parks them unlocked out of the front, and then goes inside for 10-15 minutes. This isn't unsafe (the kids are inside), but if they were stolen, it's over £1000-worth of equipment gone. She thinks I'm paranoid, because she's from a small village where no-one steals things, apparently!). So I need to find a way to get across how non-negotiable this is, but without sounding like I'm criticising her, because in general she's doing really well, and yes, I am aware of the fact that it's a lot for a teenager to cope with. But she used to be more careful, and has been really distracted this week for some reason.

KoolKoala07 Thu 09-Mar-17 14:59:15

*and not as

TheresABluebirdOnMyShoulder Thu 09-Mar-17 15:02:19

It sounds like her lack of attention this week is out of the ordinary. Can you maybe try and broach the subject from that angle? Rather than going in with harsh criticisms, could you say that you've noticed she seems a little distracted and there are a couple of incidents that have caused concern so is there something on her mind or something you can help with? She is only 19 and is presumably away from her family and friends so if there's something bothering her then she could feel quite lonely with it.

That said, I do think it's a worry that she does not take criticism well and you feel uncomfortable being direct with her. She is in charge of your children. There is really no greater responsibility that you could entrust somebody with. I don't think I could have someone in that position without being able to address any concerns swiftly and directly, knowing that they would be taken on board.

picklemepopcorn Thu 09-Mar-17 15:20:00

Id agree you need to ask her why she is distracted this week, is everything ok? That you really appreciate how well she has done but are worried about leaving the children or kit unsupervised at any time.

However, I 'acquired' responsibility for twin three year olds as a foster carer. It's a steep learning curve. I found loading them in and out of the car/pushchair very hard, car parks were a nightmare etc. Don't underestimate how much you learned to cope with gradually. Starting from scratch is a whole other ball game!

EmGee Thu 09-Mar-17 15:22:50

To be honest I would have an issue with someone NOT doing things I specifically asked them to do. Eg who cares that she comes from somewhere where 'nothing ever gets stolen'? It's a moot point. You have asked her not to leave the equipment unattended. She ignores you.

Not to mention the even more serious issue of leaving your children unattended!!! They are only three. I think you need to have the chat with her and sod her not taking criticism well. What the hell is it with young people who 'can't' be told how things are done/or are unable do the things they are being paid to do/are asked to do??? It's not that hard is it? You might make the mistake once but after your employer has pointed it out, you flipping well remember not to do it again.

Good luck and I hope she takes on board what you say.

MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 15:23:37

Yes, completely agree pickle. I know it's an enormous challenge for her, and I really admire how she's stepped up to it. It's just that she's been with us for 5 months, and from months 1-4 was really good at following our instructions and ground rules. Her family came to stay about 3 weeks ago, and since then, she's been really different. She's not upset or anything, just less careful about following our guidelines, and, I don't know, a bit tactless/thoughtless sometimes? I don't want to underestimate how well she does generally, but I also don't want to endanger my children's safety because I'm worried about being impolite.

Floggingmolly Thu 09-Mar-17 15:30:43

How exactly would you say she's doing really well??

MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 15:36:13

When they're playing at home (which is what they do most of the time) she's very good with them: does lots of art and crafty stuff, does cooking with them, builds stuff in the playroom, reads books etc. She doesn't check her phone all the time, doesn't just sit and watch TV with them. She's a fully engaged carer. And it is bloody exhausting looking after twin 3-year-olds. I know that. You have to have eyes in the back of your head all the time; you can't drop the ball for a second. And the kids genuinely adore her. The problem is with safety logistics etc when leaving the house - she's quite cavalier about leaving stuff outside not locked up, and I don't think she's got a good routine in place (eg. get the kids' coats on first; then get their bags ready; then get yourself ready; and only when you're entirely ready to go out, only then get the bike out or the buggy out. She tends to get the bike/buggy out first, then leaves it outside for ages while she gets the kids and herself sorted out. Anyway, I've written down a step-by-step 'leaving the house routine' that I'm going to give to her).

ofudginghell Thu 09-Mar-17 15:38:17

I'm not sure that at 19 I would have ever managed three year old twins 😳
I had my first ds at 18 and it was very hard as I hadn't developed my own fear factor much at that age so it was a learning curve 😳
He came off very unscathed by the way and is now a strapping nearly 19 year old and I struggle to trust him to walk the dogs 😀😮

MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 15:46:34

Yes, I do know it's really tough. But we did describe in detail to her, before she came, what her responsibilities would be, and she's done really well with following our instructions until the last month. I think we just need to 'reset' the relationship: so I'm going to go through, step-by-step, all the safety precautions etc that need following when leaving the house; so there's no ambiguity.

Doglikeafox Thu 09-Mar-17 17:54:54

I don't think this is any less of an issue because she's 19. I am 19 and a childminder. I look after 3 children, all aged between 2 years 8 months and 3 years 0 months. I wouldn't dream of doing that, but I do understand that it is a learning curve and is unlikely to be something she will do again. I totally agree with you on the routine- I still find myself learning quicker and safer ways to do things.
That said, I would be really upset if I thought someone wasn't treating me how they would if I were 40. I have worked with children since I was 13 (childminder's assistant/nursery volunteer/ nanny) and I know that I am a fantastic childminder, and certainly no less of a childminder due to my age. Speak to her like you would a regular adult. Ask her if anything is wrong, highlight your concern over safety and reassure her that overall you are happy.

mainlywingingit Thu 09-Mar-17 18:33:41

The problem lies with trusting a 19 year old child au pair this huge responsibility.

People see au pairs a s a perfect nanny-like solution. They are meant to be mother's help not Norland Nannies. You pay for what you get and OP I simply would not have an au pair for under 8 year olds.

mainlywingingit Thu 09-Mar-17 18:36:11

She's a child in terms of has not had proper childcare of professional teenager. Some of these au pairs are from rural places in Spain/Germany/France and simply don't have the training or life experience.

I wish people would not get au pairs as a childcare solution - it's crazy!

Oblomov17 Thu 09-Mar-17 18:41:22

I agree. A 19 year old with 3 year older old twins?
Maybe her family came and suggested to her that you were OTT or over anxious, in their view? That's caused the change?

MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 18:43:59

I acknowledge that it's not ideal, but we didn't have much choice. DH and I both work full-time for not very much money, in jobs that wouldn't be possible to pick up again if we have 5 years out. Our local nurseries have all hiked their charges up for under-3s by 30% to compensate for the 30-hours scheme for over-3s; we can't afford any other type of childcare and we don't have family nearby. We don't have the luxury of breezily declaring that we simply wouldn't have an au pair for under 8 year olds.

MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 18:51:48

We gave her a huge amount of training; I helped her look after them for pretty much all of her first month here. She's done a lengthy first aid course, and has worked in a nursery in her home country. She doesn't have the kids out of the house for more than 2 hours at a time; she has 3 full days off a week; and never does any actual hands-on childcare for more than 4 hours a day for the rest of the days. We pay her over the recommended rate, and she doesn't have to lift a finger with house-work. Her family were delighted with her set-up when she was here and think she's having a wonderful experience (and she continually says how easy she has it compared to other au pair friends in the same city). So tbh I think her distraction is more likely to be down to becoming a bit complacent and thinking we're terribly relaxed & accommodating host parents.

EdenX Thu 09-Mar-17 18:54:41

2 year old twins is a lot to expect a teenage babysitter to cope with.

I would maybe have her just stay at home with them.

mainlywingingit Thu 09-Mar-17 19:34:53

Sorry OP but I do have to criticise you.

You cannot have someone that leaves 3 year olds unattended on an open driveway to a busy road and thinks that's ok.

These are your children- if she's that brainless there could be a horrific accident.

I understand that it's hard - I've been working for effectively -£5 a day as childcare is so expensive in order to have a career post children but DC is in a nursery as friends of mine have au pairs but I think it is dangerous.

You need to make the decision and not come on mumsnet blaming a brainless aunpair. You are the one making this crazy decision after all.

You can't have someone that thinks that's ok - something bad is likely to happen. Please keep your children safe even if you have to give up work I just think it's a bad solution.

MaryHays Thu 09-Mar-17 19:44:19

She's been absolutely great and very attentive to safety for her first 4.5 months. We have carefully managed her working hours so that she doesn't become too tired to cope with the children. Nineteen-year-olds frequently look after children full-time: see the post above from a nineteen-year-old childminder. She's certainly not brainless. My query was about how to re-instill the level of attention that she had for her first months. Thank you for your comments.

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