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Should the au pair stay???? Help!

(26 Posts)
Snoots Fri 08-Aug-08 18:45:44

Hi - I am 3 weeks into my first au pair experience and finding it a bitter sweet experience. Sweet cos the kitchen is clean and the help with my 18 month old is great. Bitter cos the language barrier is painfully slow and my 3 year old seems to hate her.

I caught her talking to my 3 year old today like she really disliked him and I found that uncomfortable. I haven't said anything as I don't really know what to say. I have talked through our house rules (if DS is rude - to tell me and I will dish the discipline). He is a lovely wee boy but has the usual tantrums etc that go with the 3 yr old turf.

She says virtually nothing all day, stays in her room when 'off shift' and it is very difficult to communicate with her. She eats nothing but is always happy to do anything I ask her to. Housework is no problem. Dealing with the children is more of a strain. I am a SAHM so she is never on her own and I thank my lucky stars that that is the case. I couldn't leave her with the kids. Is it normal to feel like this? I know APs are not 'sole charge' but I feel that our one is 'no charge!!' I feel that to get rid of her is to start all over again and we could get someone who is a whole lot worse. Help - any advice or comments??

evangelina Fri 08-Aug-08 19:55:58

Hi Snoots.

I've just left a long message on the other post. We are in exactly the same boat!!

My au pair is very cold and surly and she seems to really dislike my children, even the baby which I find unbearable as he has been wrapped up in love and affection all his life and he just seems so confused and terrified of her. He was screaming when I left him with her this morning when I tried to hang a wash out so I suggested that she brought him outside and watched me do it so that I could chat to him and let me see me. The whole time that I was doing this she just help him on her hip like a sack of potatos, looking the other way and saying nothing.

Every time she "looks after" the children she just sits on the sofa watching cbeebies with them. We have a large play room full of toys so I gently took her in there today and went though the toys one by one showing her how they could be used. Even then, she just pushed them in the baby's direction and said nothing. In the end, I had to say "babies like lots of chitter chatter, it helps them to learn, just say this is a car, this is a red ball and give him lots of smiles and feedback, and it will help your English at the same time" but she didn't seem to get it despite having very good English.

I tried to get her to sit with my 4 year old at the computer to help him learn the basics before he starts school but she just sort of leans on the desk saying and doing nothing.

She is ok with ironing, so I might try to expand this into more housework less childcare. I've got a week away without her next week (DH will stay behind with her) and then we are all going on holiday together for a week so we intend to both evaluate then. If it carries on like this, then I will have to tell her that it's just not working out.

TheRealMrsJohnSimm Fri 08-Aug-08 21:58:45

Oh ladies, I hear ya loud and clear!! I have just spent the last six months in exactly your position. Our AP was fabulous with our youngest DS (4) - really outgoing and fun. She was also fab at the housework she was asked to do (actually made me feel a bit of a slacker !!). HOWEVER......her attitude towards eldest DS (8) and to us was awful. Basically, we were ignored. I raised it with her several times and she told me she was shy and felt her english wasn't good enough for conversation. We struggled through as youngest DS was spending most time with her and he seemed to love her. She was supposed to stay until September but decided to leave earlier than planned as she didn't want to stay in UK whilst we went on hols for 2 weeks. However, since she left 3 weeks ago, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and the house is (almost!) tension free again

In retrospect, I knew things were not right from around week 2 or 3. My advice to you would be cut your losses and start again. If it isn't right now, it is doubtful that you will ever get it right with these particular APs.

Lots of luck to you both

pucca Fri 08-Aug-08 22:00:49

Can i just ask what is probably a really dumb question?

Why do you need an au pair if you are a SAHM? just wondering thats all, not having a dig or anything.

CuckooClockWorkOrange Fri 08-Aug-08 22:02:49

I used to be an au pair. I was paid shite and the employers expected me to be like a norton nanny. well, i wasn't, i was 21 and I was paid shite and I was shite.

I hope that helps!

whooosh Fri 08-Aug-08 22:11:06

Is a "norton nanny" one who F*cks up your computer??grin

CuckooClockWorkOrange Fri 08-Aug-08 22:27:12

Yeah, I would have offered that service except it was back in 1991!!

evangelina Sat 09-Aug-08 06:21:21

pucc, I'm also a SAHM like the op. The answer to your question (for me) is that my husband was recommended this girl by a social contact and he thought it would be a help for me around the house, a good cultural experience for us and the children and would help her out as she wanted to come to the UK. I was never very enthusiastic about it as I used to have foreign language students staying with us for short periods (we used to live very close to an English school) and I found it hard work and a big responsibility dealing with teenagers.
cuckoo, I actually think my au pair gets a pretty good deal. She gets free board and lodging in a pleasant, safe environment plus £60 per week spending money. The only concrete thing so far that I have got back for this is some ironing and a meal each evening which is something like pasta and pesto sauce (my fall back option when there is nothing else in the house). I can't really leave the children with her at all which was the main thing I wanted. The cons of having someone else in your space the whole time and dealing with their moods just doesn't seem worth it. I'm sorry if you were exploited but my au pair's hours are very fixed and limited work is conducted within those hours.

phraedd Sat 09-Aug-08 10:40:17


I had an au pair exactly the same as the ones that you are describing. I only let her stay a week before asking her to leave thouhg.

The tension in the house was unbearable and my DS2 kept asking me when the au pair could go home as he didn't like her sad

Trust your insticts....ask her to go and start again.

I have had 2 amazing german au pairs (including the one here now). Nothing is too much trouble and they really are here and enjoying (i hope) being a part of our family and not just told what to do in their working hours and then ignored.

Simply Sat 09-Aug-08 10:55:57

It is hard, especially when she doesn't take to one or more of the children. I'd ask her to sit down so that you and she can discuss some things. Tell her that the way that she spoke to your 3 year old is not acceptable to you, that she needs to be kind, tolerant and considerate. I found with my last (who was also my first) ap that she seemed resentful of what my children had (by way of parenting, home or belongings I didn't know) and from what she used to say about her previous family, she felt that the parents pandered to the children (aged 3 and 5 I think) and she felt she needed to be firm with them. Her idea of firm being far too harsh in my book, but there you go. I should have been much more direct with her from the beginning and challenged her behaviour and I will do that in future as she learnt she could get away with it and it continued. Saying that, my chidren are teenagers and could stick up for themselves and this they did. It is so much nicer now she isn't here, though the house is untidy!

Sidge Sat 09-Aug-08 11:15:49

I've never had a AP but am wondering if she feels that as you're there all the time she doesn't really need to do anything with the 3 year old? Especially as you have said that you will 'dish the discipline' if he is rude - maybe you could give her permission to gently and politely verbally discipline him if he's rude to her. That also sends him the message that he should be polite to her.

Maybe she is just unsure of her duties/boundaries?

Badpups Tue 12-Aug-08 11:10:43

Hi Snoots and Evangelina

Not sure whether things have improved with you but just to let you know that we went through exactly the same problem with an AP. She was great with DD and DS2 but had huge problems with DS1 who was 3-4 when she was with us.

I won't go into all the details but it sounds like a very similar experience to yours as she made no effort to integrate herself into our family even though we tried our best. We had a long chat with her and listened to her issues. We explained that it was important that she got on with all 3 children. Things improved for a while but then there was an incident with DS1 that I witnessed that wasn't his fault at all and we asked her to leave.

DS1 was a completely different little boy after she had gone and I wondered how much else had happened that I wasn't aware of. I was also an SAHM at the time but there were occasions when I'd leave her with the children for an hour or so.

Based on this experience I'd suggest having a long, open, honest chat with her and, if necessary, say that unless things improve you'll have to think about replacing her. Be clear about your uncertainties and give examples so she understands. It could be that she's not happy but doesn't know how to discuss her problems with you. If she came through an agency you could also call them for advice. If they have somebody who speaks her language then maybe they could have a chat to her.

Previously I'd had a fantastic AP who was with us for over 2 years and who all the children loved. There are plenty of great APs so don't feel that she is your only option. It would be better for both of you to get this sorted early.

Good luck!!!

blueshoes Tue 12-Aug-08 11:59:02

Snoots, I would incline towards to replacing your aupair asap.

The fact that your ds does not like her at first is understandable - my dcs took a while to warm up to my new aupair - especially if I was in the house. But once I started leaving the house and the children with her, they got a chance to bond. Provided your aupair remains friendly and engaged with the children. If she is already disinterested and you cannot trust her with any charge of the dcs, I don't see how it will get better on the childcare front.

If it is not going to work out, it will be apparent in the first 2-3 weeks. I have a 4 week probationary period for this purpose.

I believe this is not your first post on this particular aupair. If it is push and she moves 1 step, push again and she moves another step, I would rather her out of the house because that sort of automaton would drive me up the wall.

blueshoes Tue 12-Aug-08 12:00:42

The other thing about replacing now is that you want to catch this wave of aupairs starting in September/October. After that, it will be thin pickings. It will also be easier for her to find a new family at this time.

thefortbuilder Tue 12-Aug-08 12:15:59

pucc i am a SAHM and we have an ap. ds1 is 2 and ds2 is 4 months. we got an ap because dh basically gets up goes to wor comes home goes to bed - in the nicest possible way does nothing around the house - no bills, banking, no looking after our investments (we have stuff here and abroad as he's from NZ), we've just had a lot of building work done and i project managed that so we didn't have to pay anyone to project manage it, i've just started my own business (does this make me a sahm mum now i'm wondering grin), and above all it means that when ds1 goes to his activities, he gets my time rather than me just looking after his little brother while he sort of struggles through without mummy helping him.

Snoots Tue 12-Aug-08 15:43:51

Thanks for all your messages - pucca, I did ask myself why do I need an au pair but being 6 months pregnant it has helped. I do feel guilty but hey, why not.

We had a chat this morning and we have decided that she is going home in 2 weeks. It was a very honest and pleasant discussion and I feel like a weight has been lifted. I am now beginning the process again of recruiting. I am using AP world. Any other recommendations from anyone? Is it the best site?

blueshoes Tue 12-Aug-08 16:43:07

Snoots, glad you have resolved it with your aupair. It is best all round.

I use aupair world. I previously used great aupair as well but found I got enough responses from aupair world and no point sifting through twice the responses and pay twice the membership fees.

I believe others use gumtree and nannyjob, especially if you are looking for aupairs who are already in UK - which you might be interested in your case because you need help soonish in your advanced stage. Although I have no personal experience of using those sites, I think the salary expectations of aupairs on those sites tend to be closer to a nanny's, so just watch out for that.

In any case, if you find a candidate on aupair world or great aupair who is immediately available, they can fly out within days.

thefortbuilder Tue 12-Aug-08 17:21:24

snoots glad you got it sorted. we used APW and have had success - we needed someone in a hurry as we had been let down by another girl who contacted us from APW. I found it's worth putting in a shorter minimum time as you then pick up all the girls who say 3 months plus as a time scale.

hope you get it sorted out all ok

Simply Wed 13-Aug-08 17:34:39

Snoots I'm glad you've been able to resolve things. Good luck with recruiting your next au pair. I used the newaupair website for my first one and an agency for the second one.

nannyma Wed 13-Aug-08 19:38:06

mums ... I used to by au pair 6 years ago. I did not speak English at all and in my first family I have have been crying almost every evening (I was 26yo!). Dont forgot that au pair quite offen does not have any experiences with children, do not speak English and are so young! If you have small babies .... isnt it better to have nanny who has experiences? I know that we're cost more than £60 per week but ... If I were mum ... i will not have an aupair for babies.
Au pair need time (sometime long time) to build relationship with children age 2 -3yo. Its just special age and if mum is around its difficult for them to be with some stranger.
All agenice 've got good and bad au pair and I wish you luck to find just great one!

Snoots Wed 13-Aug-08 21:26:32

You are right nannyma - it does take time to bond with the children, esp 3yr olds. I underestimated that! Still hopeful of finding a gem in the haystack that is AP world!!

SilkCutMama Wed 13-Aug-08 21:32:50

Go with your instincts - get rid

catepilarr Wed 13-Aug-08 22:01:08

you can bond with the children in two days, max a week. never took longer than a few days for me. ( never had a 3 yo, but 1yo, 1.5, 2yo, 4yo and school aged children)

Snoots Sun 24-Aug-08 21:52:20

She's going on Tuesday and I am putting out the flags. Over the last week she has reverted to silence and glowering over the children. I am sick of making inane conversation with her, only to receive one word replies......

We have a new AP coming from Sweden at the end of September. Watch this space!!!! I have decided that if she doesn't work out - then we are obviously not AP material (maybe I'm too high maintenance!) and we won't be trying again.

imananny Mon 25-Aug-08 10:44:13

snoots - lets hope your new one from sweden isnt juras old one who went back to sweden - check if she designs space rockets? grin

dont feel guilty about having an ap and not working - it is no different from having a cleaner/ironing lady to come and help you - and lots of people I know who dont work, employ both of the above - plus you are pregnant

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