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Au Pair-

(26 Posts)
evangelina Sat 02-Aug-08 18:11:57

I've posted on here recently about our au pair who is due to arrive tomorrow. I'm very nervous and unsure about the whole thing.
I have a long standing arrangement to meet up with 2 friends and all our children on Tuesday. It's at one of their houses which is about 30 minutes away and will last from about 10 to 3.
I don't really want the au pair to come with us, partly because one of the friends lost her father out of the blue a month or so ago and she is still in a state of grief and it would be strange for everyone. We can't rearrange for a later date as everyone has holidays coming up.
Would it be ok to leave the au pair to her own devises that day? I was planning on spending Monday driving around showing her the area so at least she will have some idea where the shops/library/station are etc.

SqueakyPop Sat 02-Aug-08 18:21:12

It's a bit mean to abandon her that early for a social thing. I appreciate not being able to take her, but could you possibly leave one of your DCs with her?

catepilarr Sat 02-Aug-08 18:32:26

i think it's perfectly ok to give her time to herself. you don't need to look after your ap all the time. tell her that you cant take her with you this time ( perhaps explain) and that she is free to do what ever she likes. if you show her the neighbourhood on monday she will be fine. i wouldnt leave her to do housework. are you out for the whole day?

evangelina Sat 02-Aug-08 19:47:00

Squeakypop, I don't really want to leave any of the children with her as they are very young (6 and under) and she is a virtual stranger.
catepilarr, I would be out from about 10.30 to 3ish. I wasn't planning on leaving her any housework, but having thought about it if I am supposed to be paying her for 5 hours work a day would it be totally unreasonable to ask her to do a couple of hours ironing as part of that or would it be too soon? I thought perhaps she could go on computer, in garden, local shops etc.
BTW, are you responsible for making their lunch every day?
It's all very confusing, the mix of mothering them/making sure they are happy plus actually getting something concrete in return for their living with you.
Thanks for advice.

Simply Sat 02-Aug-08 19:58:55

I think she's likely to understand and be fine with it if you explain and she has been an ap before iirc hasn't she, evangelina? I wouldn't leave a child with her yet. As you say, they are pretty young and don't know her and you don't know how capable she is yet. I think if you're going to pay her for the day then you should perhaps make half of it working time and the rest can be getting to know the area and getting paid for it time. I didn't make lunch for the ap unless I was eating with her and often she'd make it for both of us and I'd count that as working time as she was saving me a job. Hth.

evangelina Sun 03-Aug-08 06:26:02

Great thanks, I have this image of mentally trying to work out every minute if she is "working" or not which seems a bit of a logistical nightmare- just shows how much of what a mother does every minute of the day can have an economic value!

catepilarr Sun 03-Aug-08 11:13:30

you are not responsible for MAKING her lunch. you are responsible for having food in the house. its nice to ask what she likes or take her shopping.
dont see a problem with couple of hours of ironing. she might even do some housework herself, i myself would in a situation like that.
ad counting hours - when the arrangement works, you'll soon stop counting the minutes as you'll work as a team.

Weegle Sun 03-Aug-08 13:36:31

I make a point of not making lunch - I'm not a cafe! I make evening meals but everyone gets their own lunch.

I also think it's fine an acceptable for you to go to visit friends without her. And to set extra tasks for whilst you are gone. I do this probably 1-2 times per week. My friends have invited me and DS over, not the AP who to them is just an unknown teenager. If we are going on a trip out with friends, I would take the AP (more because I need the help). I think this is all quite reasonable. I only have one other friend with an AP - when we go to her house I'll take my AP and the two AP's together entertain the children and we get a coffee in relative peace!

SqueakyPop Sun 03-Aug-08 16:44:02

I think lunches are one of those sensitive moments if you are around. If you are cooking for the children, then you should give her lunch too - but then it might become an expectation. I think the best way to handle lunches is to be totally chaotic and have no discernable routine in the first couple of weeks.

I think that most of our aupairs have valued having leftovers from the previous evening meal for their lunch. I don't think I have really had any aupairs that have been willing to do much lunchtime cooking beyond making a simple omelette.

In the first few weeks, I would endeavour to have 'normal' lunchtime foods in the house - bread, cheese, ham, tins of soup, and lots of fruit - and see what actually gets consumed.

evangelina Sun 03-Aug-08 17:39:39

Thanks again for advice. I will stock up on lots of tins of soup in case I run out of fresh stuff, and will operate a total chaos regime at first which shouldn't be too difficult!

DH and DSs are on their way to Heathrow now to collect her. I should be doing lots of preparation housework but seem to have logged onto MN instead...

Simply Sun 03-Aug-08 20:12:00

I hope the travel arrangements have gone well evangelina. My ap's flight was due in late evening but was delayed so my dh got home with her around 4.30am! I don't think he got a thank you for that, either at the time or later. Still... Yes, I used to always have salad stuff, cold meat and cheese, bread, eggs, pasta, soup, fruit, yogurts etc available and she used to get her own on days that I was working and would often make a salad for both of us when I was at home.

catepilarr Mon 04-Aug-08 23:30:38

just as a bottom line - normal lunch in many countries doesnt mean bread and cheese but a cooked meal.
hope the new ap will turn out nice.
and i think it is too much to expect a new ap to say thank you for getting her from the airport. i guess it did not occure to her she should have.

Simply Tue 05-Aug-08 23:11:52

catepilarr I don't think a thank you is too much to ask from a 19 year old when you've put yourself out to fit in with her plans (she'd already booked the flight to fit in with her previous family who didn't need her any more as it turned out so she came to us at short notice). It was a 2 1/2 hour drive in the early hours for dh. I thanked him several times, I must say as I was very grateful to him. Still, by the time she left us she did thank us for meals out and I received a thank you e-mail for the present she received from us after she'd gone home, so perhaps we've made some impression on her! smile

evangelina Tue 05-Aug-08 23:50:59

Hi ladies, I'm afraid to say that I am not very keen at all on our new au pair sad.

I know it's only been 2 days but so far she has been moody, sullen, totally uninterested and even rather unpleasant towards the children and has quite a sense of entitlement.

I have 3 little boys under 6, and they are noisy, lively little monkeys. I haven't heard her have one conversation with them yet (except to tell them off about something stupid) or even crack a smile in their direction. They ran into her room yesterday and messed up her bed linen for which I had a massive go at them, but she had a complete over reaction and burst into tears about it, flinging her arms about saying "all my private things are in here-what I am going to do if they keep coming into my room". I put my arm around her and asked her if she was just homesick or missing her mum but she kept ranting and raving. FGS, they are too little to understand and I did tell them off.

Today she told me she wanted to speak to me. She started saying things like her last house had been clean shock and her previous children well behaved. She explained that in Switzerland children were never allowed to leave the table without cleaning their plates whereas my lot just left what they liked. She then burst into tears again! I tried to gently tell her that she was only going to be here for 6 months and if she got upset over everything that we did differently to back home she would only upset herself.

I feel really quite depressed about it. She told me that she had been "on duty" for 9 hours yesterday whereas I spent the entire day ferrying her around showing her the sights and sorting out her mobile phone for her. She seems to regard being on duty as sitting on the sofa watching TV with the children while the baby cries hysterically for me. Her one big thing was to cook the evening meal but so far this has been a "potato special" consisting of potatoes, cheese and a stock cube and today was pasta in pesto sauce and nothing else.

We are paying her for this. Help!!!

MrsRecycle Wed 06-Aug-08 09:24:06

oh evangalina sorry to hear about this, so now you have 4 LOs to look after eh? Sounds like she was looking for an easy ride but one thing I've learnt is that if you give in now you will end up resenting her for sitting on her bum watching tv whilst you feed her/clean for her/show her around.

Define your expectations now - if she is not happy, then tell her you are not happy. Tell her the role was explained to her and you expect her to meet the requirements of this. An Au Pair is about living with a family so if she is not happy with your ds' going into her room, then why did she look for an Au Pair role? Yes sometimes, she will need privacy but initially it is about the LOs getting to know her,

Also, it's all too easy to take the side of the older child in all of this (ie the AP) but you must consider your dss and if she is not communicating one bit with them then you must see it from their side (easier said than done when they test the water, initially). All of my xAPs at least had a relationship with one of my 3 LOs (even if it was the baby). I always find an opener as to what they are like with LOs is whether they bring a gift for them. All my crap APs didn't, all my brilliant ones did.

Don't give in to her now. Be strong and intollerant and say if she is not happy, then go. Do not worry about paying her flight, all APs have to have enough money to support them for 6 months and money for their flight home if they come to the UK.

annh Wed 06-Aug-08 10:43:54

MrsR, who says APs have enough money to support them for 6 months and money for a flight home? How is that checked? I've never heard of that before and most APs I know seem to have very little money. However, regardless of her financial situation, things do not seem to be working out well. Evangelina, as she spoke about her previous family she must have experience - did you get a reference from them? What did they say about her?

I think it's time to sit her down and have a clear discussion about expectations. If I was an AP, I would hate to have children running into my room but it was a one-off, they're little and she needs not to dwell on it. More concerning is her attitude of things not being done how they are in her country - part of being an AP fgs, is to experience another country's culture. How is she going to do that if she is continually comparing it to home and finding your home coming up lacking?

MrsRecycle Wed 06-Aug-08 11:34:25

Oops blush should be 2 months - according to the WHM scheme " working holidaymaker must be able to bear the travel costs and must have enough money for accomodation and living expenses for the fisrt two months or for the first month if he/she has arranged a job in advance to cover his/her living expenses." I certainly know that it was checked for my Canadian AP, before she was granted a Visa, she had to provide bank statements.

But for EU they are free to come to this country to work (not as an Au Pair) and they most be able to support themselves and not rely on public funds.

How's it going evangalina - has she perked up a bit?

catepilarr Wed 06-Aug-08 12:38:47

i think although she seems to be deep in the cultural shock she is weird. not bonding with the kids of even trying is not a good sign.

if yo want her to cook, then you need to show her/give recipes what you normally eat as meal expectations can be quite diffrent even amangst people of the same country, let alone foreigners. how is she to know what you consider a descent meal??

it is also quite often for an aupair to be surprised by the behaviour of the children and not clearing up after themselves etc which is common in other countries. and children should be explained that they are not allowed to go into ap's bedroom by themselves. perhaps she feels totally overwhelmed by the kids and therefore not talking to them? but that is just an excuse... hope she'll settle quickly !

is she from switzeland or has been working as ap in switzeland? i think you should def tell her that she has to try not to compare the life in the uk to whereever she's from. things are just different here and she has to learn that.

how can she say she was on duty for 9 hours when you were spending your time to show her around shock. i guess unless she is on her own she counts it as work?

ps. with the aps noone checks the money they are coming with. def not the eu ones. perhaps those still coming on the aupair visa but as far as i know agencies recommended (as required by the immigration officers dept??) a return ticket and 50pounds for the first week back in 2000.

catepilarr Wed 06-Aug-08 12:42:56

ups, just reread that you already spoke to her about the different aproach to things. you seem to be quite caring as opposed to her...

evangelina Wed 06-Aug-08 20:54:30

Thanks a lot. I thought the comment about au pairs who bring a small gift for the children was quite a good indication of how they view the role and good they might be (she didn't bring any kind of gift).

Yes, I think she does feel that unless she is completely on her own then she is "on duty" whereas I feel that she should not just be sitting on the sofa watching TV with the children, but should go out into the garden, play with toys, do puzzles etc. I'm going to leave DH to explain that to her because he was the one who organised it all.

Things were a little better today however. She worked an exact 5 hours of which one consisted of a big stack or ironing whilst I took the children out to the supermarket. This was useful to me so I felt a bit better. Dinner was a bit poor again (spaghetti with cream)- I'm going to have to explain about vegetables. The reason that I thought she would be good with meals is that she said that she cooked for the entire family every day as part of her previous au pair position and that they were vegetarian (which I am) so I thought that she would be good at providing simple, healthy meals. She has brought a cook book with her but doesn't seem to refer to it or remember to give me her list of ingredients. The main reason that I actually wanted her to cook for us is that I am paranoid that I am not a very good cook and I didn't want her to complain about my meals!

BTW her previous position was with a family of 2 girls in Switzerland (she is Swiss) and she used to go home every weekend. So this is completely different for her and must be quite a shock to the system.

She was a bit nicer with the children today although still not exactly warm. She bristles whenever they interrupt a conversation or don't say "please" which I guess is just a cultural clash, although I am trying to be positive and think that I can also learn things from her and her own standards. I think she is extremely patriotic rather than thinking she has got anything to learn from the UK, as she said that her and her mother had gone on a cruise around 10 different countries and after each one they said that Switzerland was much better.

Next week she is having a whole week off while I go on a pre-planned break with my mother and brother. She is going on an intensive English course, which I think will be good for her as she might make some friends and get out a bit. DH is staying behind and will have sole charge which will be interesting! (I had a bit of a moan at him yesterday about it all). After that we are all going away together for a week so DH will get a chance to see how she is with the children. We said that we would appraise everything after this.

Thanks a lot for the support and advice.

squiffy Thu 07-Aug-08 09:57:10

I had a friend who lived in Switzerland for 3 years and I visited their house quite a lot. There is a huge cultural gap between us and the Swiss I think. I'm not sure they 'get' chilled as a concept, and 'haphazard' may be a criminal offence

Try laying down rules. The more rules you lay down the better. Pointless ones are the best of all. Ban her from putting the washing out on the line on a Friday. Ask her to put the bins out at 10.15 on a Tuesday. And no carrots on a Saturday. Then she'll cheer up.

On a serious note I think it will be very difficult for her for a while. Be gentle with her as it is a big gap to bridge.

evangelina Thu 07-Aug-08 12:07:46

oh dear squiffy, I wish I'd known that about the Swiss before! Our house is complete chaos, there is no routine and whilst it's not dirty it certainly isn't sparkling and tidy (except her room). I think you are right about the order thing- she much prefers a big pile of ironing to doing anything creative with the children so I will focus on these types of jobs.

catepilarr Thu 07-Aug-08 13:02:16

well i think there is a big cultural gap betwen the uk and a lot of countries in (central) europe either the the swiss are even more different or she is just one of these people who find it difficult to deal with it. good luck

Simply Thu 07-Aug-08 13:34:34

I loved squiffy's pretend rules! It is hard evangelina with your first ap I think. My house was when the ap first came (and some parts are still) complete chaos due to me being ill for several years and everything that could be left, was. The ap's room however was lovely so you and I are alike there. smile I'd suggest that whilst you ask her to focus on jobs she is suited to (in my ap's case, general tidying and sorting out paperwork for me and before anyone says that's not what aps are for, she found she not only didn't like younger children but she didn't like teenagers either but she liked it here and wanted to stay), I'd suggest giving her an hour a day or something of other things otherwise she will get bored. Mine couldn't cook and didn't like childcare so she did housework and pet care but became bored of these day after day, though lacked the incentive to learn to do other things or get out and about to have something different happening in her week. I hope things start to improve for you.

Snoots Fri 08-Aug-08 18:56:49

Hi - I totally understand. I am 3 weeks into my first AP experience and it sounds like our APs are cut from the same cloth. We had a chat last week and (after making her cry) things improved. She still makes no effort to interact with my older son but obviously likes my 18 month old. Hard not to, he smiles and laughs all day and hasn't learnt 'no' yet. It is a double edged sword - the help is great but the cons sometimes outweigh the pros. I am still wrestling with whether I could cope better on my own without the help but with our 3rd due in October I may need more help then!!!

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