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How gormless should I let my au pair be?

(36 Posts)
curiouscat Wed 05-Sep-07 12:50:56

Sorry if I sound a complete bitch, but I'm at my wits end. I'm fed up with our au pair and don't know whether to leave work because of it or replace her.

Her job is taking 3 kids to school, and after school care so 8-9am and 3-7pm. She gets full board and lodging and £80 per week, rising to £200 per week in school holidays. We live West London.

I've bent over backwards to give her paid days off and keep her happy.

She's cheerful and friendly but

1. lazy with children. Just watches telly with them unless booted out of the house. Took son,9, swimming and made him time her laps instead of playing with him at all. Bribes kids with sweets when thinks I won't notice.

2. messy. Doesn't put away their coats/shoes/toys so I do this in the evenings.

3. can't cook. I've shown her simple meals but kids are sick of fish fingers every day and I'm sick of throwing fresh food away as she hasn't given it to them.

4. can't help with homework. simple spelling lists are beyond her.

5. forgets their book bags/pe kit etc.

She's 19 from Slovakia, has boyf in Ealing, really independent evenings and weekends. Kids are age 5,7 and 9.

Am I just lucky to have her for that price or can I reasonably ask her to improve?

NKF Wed 05-Sep-07 12:55:25

She's quite young so I think gormlessness is probably to be expected.

JennaJ Wed 05-Sep-07 12:56:50

Ask her to improve...set a daily task list of all the things she has to do. Write clearly that she is not to sit and watch telly until all things on the list have been completed..say when you go swimming she is to play with the children etc She is taking you for a ride!
There are probably hundreds of girls who would be happy with the hours and the days you need...
She might not be getting paid much in cash, but she is being paid in accomodation and food...!


KaySamuels Wed 05-Sep-07 13:00:10

I think these things would niggle at me too but I wouldn't expect a 19 year old au pair to be spot on at every point on your list either.

I think it's reasonable to expect her to tidy up, however do your kids know to hang coats up, put shoes in a certain place, etc? They are all school age and imo quite capable of helping out with little jobs like this.

I would expect her to engage with them but not plan activities supernanny style. Maybe make suggestions of what she could do, where they could go.

Why not do a timetable type chart on the wall, put what needs taking to school on it each morning, and what they could do after school, for example Monday - x's PE kit, y's bookbag, cutting and sticking after school.

I would sit down with her and have a chat about how you need more support, and that you will reveiw again in xamount of weeks.

escape Wed 05-Sep-07 13:03:14

I agree with you,
i am having this problem myself, but with a45 year old woman. she's effectively not actually doing her job. She sounds like she is simply being a prescence, rather than a carer IYKWIM - you can't decide anything until you've actually tackled her though, can you?

NAB3 Wed 05-Sep-07 13:14:32

Lucky to have someone who uses your house as a hotel and your kids as an inconvenience???

Mumpbump Wed 05-Sep-07 13:18:57

I think your pay sounds quite generous, but am outside London so not sure of the going rate... I would definitely ask her to buck up a bit. If she doesn't, I should think there are plenty of other au pairs out there who wouldn't mind living in London...

fridayschild Wed 05-Sep-07 13:28:16

Agree that children that age should be doing their own tidying up- though she needs to encourage it.

Also a 19 year old who doesn't have English as her mother tongue, helping with homework? I think that's a bit much myself, but your other hopes all seem fair enough to me.

omega2 Wed 05-Sep-07 13:38:46

Blimey at 19 she should be capable of learning to cook, able to tidy up and play with the children proparly not just stick the tv on

I moved out to the usa to work as an au pair at 19 and yes i spoke the same language which was a help but i worked hard and loved it and was quite capable of doing the job proparly

NKF Wed 05-Sep-07 13:56:15

She should be capable of learning but I do get the impression that au pairs have to be taught. Obvious things have to be pointed out to them.

NKF Wed 05-Sep-07 13:57:49

I also think the kids could do some tidying up. There's something about children relaxing while an adult tidies away their stuff that grates on me a bit.

Homework is a bit much to ask for. She's a big kid really.

curiouscat Wed 05-Sep-07 14:01:58

Thanks, this is really helpful. lol at NAB3! Of course we have the usual planning lists up and around, I talk through the week with her every Monday.

Also my husband works from a home office at the top of the house and is around to support her as necessary.

I feel between a rock and a hard place. Now I've decided she's gormless everything seems to confirm it but any particular event (eg millionth time of extracting her plastic rubbish from the food recycling bin etc) seems too petty to make a big deal over.

I travelled myself when young, and know how lonely and vulnerable it can be. I am keen to make her feel at home with us but feel she's taking the piss. I've told her she's the adult in charge, and to tell the children what to do but she always goes for the easiest option of doing what they say they want - which is surprise surprise tv and computer.

welcome any other thoughts good or bad ...

curiouscat Wed 05-Sep-07 14:09:20

Yes NKF I agree kids should and can tidy up. Grates even more when grown men sit around watching some else tidies ...

NKF Wed 05-Sep-07 14:13:08

CC - don't get me started on that one!

bev1e Wed 05-Sep-07 14:19:13

How long has she been with you? If she's only just started then you could excuse her not knowing the way you want things done but if she's been with you ages then...

MrsMarvel Wed 05-Sep-07 14:19:34

No experience here, but I usually believe you get what you pay for. But surely the relationship she has with your children is the important thing. I've seen some real nasty aupairs around so if she gets on with the kids, a bit of gormlessness may not be the end of the world.

curiouscat Wed 05-Sep-07 14:22:07

Mmm, she's been with us since June this year but in London since January. I agree it's the relationship with the kids that matters and they accept her but not enthusiastically. Kids hate me working outside the home (since Feb this year) and may take it out on her but that's another issue.

quint Wed 05-Sep-07 14:24:00

I think you should sit down and have a chat with her but if she doesn;t buck up her ideas get rid of her.

I was an au pair in america in the early 90's and I know I had the advantage of knowing the language but I had to learn to cook (my poor family got sick to death of chicken!) and had to be the one in charge and help witht he cleaning and laundry - stuff that I'd never really done at home (was very lazy!)

I would say she's taking the piss but give her one last chance to improve.

MrsMarvel Wed 05-Sep-07 14:25:39

But if the kids are taking stuff out on her she's bound to just want to keep the peace and let them watch telly? I suppose I'm also getting at that they may sense you're not happy with her so it could be a viscious circle.

bev1e Wed 05-Sep-07 14:26:45

Think I'd have a rethink if she's been with you since June. Opportune time to sit down and talk to her about the new school year ahead and what you expect for the children from her.

Issy Wed 05-Sep-07 14:26:51

CuriousCat: Our au pair is very hot on limiting 'screen time', very tidy, helps with reading homework, is very assiduous about book bags/PE kit etc.. However she is in her late 20s and is a senior school teacher in her home country. We had some problems around cooking at first, but I devised a weekly menu, simplified the recipes we use, printed them out and cooked them with her. That's working fantastically well - roast chicken and roast vegetables, salmon parcels with fresh coriander, spaghetti bolognese, chicken risotto, home made bean soup - yum! Interestingly neither our au pair nor her partner, who is also working as an au pair for us, wants to eat the food they've prepared, preferring to cook their own dinner each night. This makes me think that the early cooking problems were based on very different tastes between Western and Eastern Europe.

Hurlyburly Wed 05-Sep-07 14:29:17

GET RID. You're having doubts now. In a month you'll be screaming. In two months you'll be biting the furniture.

I did make sure our aupair could read English to help a bit with homework and reading. I also had to interview approximately 7,000 before I found one with a brain.

It's not easy. People come here to learn the language - so English by definition not good. Also pretty well everyone is gormless at 19. So you'll have to work hard to get anyone more suitable.

But I still say get rid.

MrsMarvel Wed 05-Sep-07 14:45:58

Does an Au Pair really only cost £80 a week?

curiouscat Wed 05-Sep-07 14:54:19

It depends on their experience and language. £80 is meant to be 'pocket money' in exchange for the hours she does. Bear in mind she's got no expenses and lives in with us. I also repay her for any food she buys for herself for whatever reason.

TBH I find the whole thing a bit embarrassing, don't like the idea of hired help generally. But as we all know office hours don't suit school timetables. Many of my kids' friends go to breakfast and after school 'clubs' which are really holding pens, and I think an au pair is the best thing for us at the mo.

I'm hoping she'll decide to move in with her boyfriend so I can duck out of a decision. I've told her I'll support any job apps she wants to do and help with her English etc, as long as she gives me a month's notice. Sorry to ramble here, but it's good to have some feedback to help me think clearly.

MrsMarvel Wed 05-Sep-07 14:58:04

Don't be embarrassed. I can completely understand that you want someone around to help. After-school help is fine, but you do need emergency backup.

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