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Starting off on the right foot (APs)

(60 Posts)
Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 09:07:20

I wish there was a AP host family forum so I could let rip about current AP but anyway......
Tips required for how to start off on the right foot with next AP..please.

I have handbook - with info on house, routines of all of us, local info etc.
I have 'duty list' - broken down into jobs which happen at a certain time (ie. child watching 4pm-5.30pm) and jobs that need to be done by the end of the week (dust living room shelves).
I pay generously and the jobs add up to fewer than 25 hours.

So, without writing down all the niggles which we have been through and making me look like an obsessive nightmare - how do I get through the first few weeks without being a pushover and ended up in the situation I'm in now???

Unfortunately I also have an overlap between current AP and new AP (which is good if current AP introduces new AP to some friends but not so good if she also hands over her bad habits), but I"m taking off a few days to show new AP around the area etc.

When I'm back at work should I schedule nightly chats with new AP and question her as to what she's done or not done? Should I create a tick-list for jobs?

If anyone wants a laugh I can list the things that current AP has done that is making me so paranoid about the next one

ilove Fri 01-May-09 09:09:32

I need a laugh...

Rebeccash Fri 01-May-09 09:25:52

Make me feel better....... tell us

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 10:02:02

Hey I was hoping someone would wink Although some of it is a 'laugh or I would be crying' thing!

Disclaimer: I know I have been useless but I'm fed up with having 'chats' with her all the time and ds takes a long time to get used to people hence she is still here and will remain til end of contract..besides you got to give her some allowance for youth

Food/Exercise
This is the AP who doesn't eat - first couple of weeks barely ate a thing but turned up my heating to the max 24 hours a day (I was sweltering it was awful), cost us £125 in heating oil in 2 weeks!..was very worried she was anorexic..she then started eating but only low carb stuff, so chicken, fish, veg, salad, protein shakes, and vast amounts of exotic fruit (about £10-15 a week just for fruit). To some extent that's all well and good (if very expensive) but then she started on my family's diet (vegetarian, no junk food, cooked from scratch most days (occasional quorn thing)). Ds has (amongst roll, fruit, yog etc) a cake bar in his school pack lunch - AP was taking it out every day (after dh/i made the lunches and left for work)..took weeks for ds to tell us. Last week AP hid the chocolate biscuits (ie. went into the biscuit barrell and took out every bourbon/choc digestive and hid them, from me, kids, everyone!) She also goes to the gym every day (at least once, sometimes twice), and (although I go to the gym 4 times a week) is constantly telling asking me to go to the gym more often. (Yes, I am overweight, but still!)
Ds has started a new club (Karate) after school and she has refused to take him/pick up (or to stay at home with dd whilst I take/pick up) because it clashes with a gym class she like to go to (booked each week so not paid in advance)..so I spend one afternoon a week entertaining dd in a leisure centre cafe whilst ds does karate and AP is in her class, and then we all have to wait (past tea time) for AP to finish so we can drive her home. (I know, the tail is wagging the dog but by now I have given up!)

'Gardening'
Gardening is not part of AP's job - so why oh why, when we were away on holiday (she was at home on full pay and had her mum/sister stay with her) did she take large lumps of tree which were sitting on the patio awaiting dh's chainsaw and place them 'artistically' around the garden in 'stonehenge' type formations..thus killing off parts of lawn, making mowing difficult, and meaning we have to collect them all for chopping (oh, and my neighbour laughed at them).

'Choosing her own jobs'
So, AP has been given a list of jobs to do, dust shelves/piano once a week, wipe windowsills, etc. but does she do them...no..not at all for first 6 weeks and then only with nagging gentle persuasion from me in any week after.
But she does do stuff we haven't asked for including...folding up the washing (not just the kids..I am coming home to folded pants shock), creating flower arrangements/decorating easter eggs and dangling them from twigs 'artistically', and this week she rearranged the (folded) clothes in the kids' drawers (and then asked me why dd had so many long-sleeved tops - um...because I haven't bought her any summer ones yet!).

'Breaking the law/social conventions'
She regularly parks in the mum+toddler spaces at the gym (I have a really distinctive car so have had text messages from friends asking about it!)
She is open about speeding (in my car!) and has been caught by a speed camera.
She is open about not buying a train ticket unless she has to (has barriers)
She is studying from a book marked 'Do not remove from XXXXX library'
And she picks flowers (either 'wild' or from verges - which in our village belong to the house behind) and uses them for our 'flower arrangements'. I have always told the kids 'take nothing but photos' but she refuses to see it as wrong.
This is also reflected in the way she interacts with us - she pushes everything to the limit. We said she would have to pay towards fuel if she did a trip over 50 miles, so she does several trips of 40+ miles a week. We say ok her family can stay when we are on holiday, I fill the house with food and leave £40 for emergencies/food top ups/taxi to supermarket...come home to empty cupboards, no milk etc, and no change from my £40..we fed/housed her family for a week and didn't even get a thank you from her or them!
Talking of shopping, she also waits until I get home from work and then informs me that she needs something (agar flakes, or something obscure) for the next day and expects me to jump into the car and zip off to get them for her (rather then her get them during the day and me re-imburse her).
Oh, and I've just found out that she's been encouraging the dog to go upstairs and into her room (dog was trained not to go upstairs at all). And she walks the dog off the lead when she is on the road (also, after I have repeated told her to use the lead until she is in the fields).

Argh....ok...I know..she is young (20)..I am useless... but I really want the next AP to do the 'jobs' and to be better at recognising a 'clash' and getting rid sooner...

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 10:04:06

I'm now waiting for everyone to say - that's totally normal for an AP and I am an obsessive nightmare

SimpleAsABC Fri 01-May-09 10:32:19

Sounds like she has issues with listening, i.e. she doesn't!

You do not seem like an obsessive nightmare, you sound like you've been quite patient and now, quite rightly, have had enough!

mummydoc Fri 01-May-09 10:52:17

oh Mllarkie, you are not beign an obsessive nightmare, tis a strange thing this au pair arrangement, but hte bottom line is she is not your guest or house share or child, she has come to do a job ( albeit as part of the family) and reall yif you tell her not to walk dog off lead for instance she should do as told ( rather like children - so actually that might be the key treat ap liek another child ) I was horrified by some people who replied to my questions about AP's who said they have detailed spread sheets of jobs, expect things ticked off etc and be tough on perks - but i think now hearing from you that maybe you have to be really clear and firm at the beginning and then you could lighten up if they are fab...

HarrietTheSpy Fri 01-May-09 10:56:23

Millarkie
You are a saint. I couldn't carry on, I couldn't carry on. There are many things on this list I would feel the need and very able to sack her for (speeding, walking the dog w/o a lead - freely admit I'm animal crazy but it's unsafe. How does she plan to explain it to you/your children if the dog gets hit??) What a lunatic with the Stonehedge arrangements?! DH would have gone into SPACE if we had a nanny/au pair do that.

Don't even think of going back to the store for her bits. Please don't do that.

Her exercise class has to wait. Just say no. I'm usually a push over, but do it.

I could go on. I feel for you.

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 11:03:19

Thanks Guys

I feel better for the rant

I admit I don't go back to the shop to get her 'urgent' bits unless I think it's going to affect us (ie. sometimes she uses up all the veg in the house so I need to get some for our tea)

The no-lead dog thing I only found out through having time off work for some reason and being here when she took the dog off down the lane, bouncing about (the dog that is) with no lead..have spoken to her but she really does whatever she feels is right so I don't feel confident that she will change.

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 11:09:49

There is also the time when it was snowy and the school bus company said that they couldn't pick up the kids from our lane (has a steep slope that was too icy for the minibus) but was picking up children from the next lane in the village. Despite dh (who drives a car that can cope with snow) telling her clearly to 'Ring him' if there was any problem with bus she decided to drive the kids herself, in my car (fiat multipla, not a car for snow) rather than speak to him (so he could collect them) or walk them to next lane (3 min walk). That was scarey.
And she has this weird thing where if I buy something different eg. a hot choc sachet or a packet of pistachios for a treat (for me!), she eats it before the shopping's been put away..even 'special' food for the kids when I have told her - that pizza is for ds because he won't eat any other type (but we have lots of others to choose from), she will preferentially choose to eat it..once I noticed the habit it became really obvious.

Simply Fri 01-May-09 11:25:34

Hi Millarkie. This reminds me of my first ap and my second also did some of the things from your list (despite me having tightened up and having a comprehensive ap handbook). I hated having to ask for say the 4th time for something to be done or not to be done. I feel sad that we're not having another ap but we've a nice home (that we've worked 20 years for) and good kids and the stress that a poor ap can cause in the household is just not worth it.

Can you list the things you've written here and discuss them with her, telling her that she has a week to show a definite and continued improvement otherwise she has to leave? I know that's not what you're asking for in this thread but to be honest a bad ap in your house is worse than no help at all. I was overjoyed for days when our first one left and relieved after the second. It makes me sad that they were here for the full time they wanted but I made so many concessions in order to keep them here for the time they wanted when really I should have been much firmer and asked them to improve or else leave. I went with an agency for the second one and did get pointers but tried to handle it myself and really I should have let the agency person have a word to ask my ap to buck up her ideas or else leave.

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 11:38:41

Thanks Simply, to be honest I have just written off this AP experience and will tolerate the remaining few weeks (unless she hides the biscuits again )..Our first AP was totally lovely (except for her final week when current AP was here too and they went teenage on me) and we really missed her when she was off on trips etc so I know there are good ones out there.
We used to have nannies and our first nanny was also a bit of a nightmare, but our second was wonderful so even my daydreams of giving up the AP and getting a live-in nanny again is tainted by memories of first nanny.
And we need live-in help since I am off to work at 6am and dh goes abroad for a few days on business every 8 weeks or so, so before/after school clubs won't work.
The next AP is already in this country and by the time she comes to us she will have been with her current family for a year, so I hoping that is a good sign. I am very worried that we have a 4 day overlap though and that new AP will be 'corrupted' by the old one.
How do people manage to recruit without having overlaps??? Or shall I put ex/new AP up in a BandB until exAP flies out??

Simply Fri 01-May-09 11:54:31

I can quite understand you writing off the experience and looking forward to a better outcome with your next ap. I remember you saying about your up-until-then-excellent first ap changing during her last week when there was an overlap with the second ap. If you can avoid the risk of this again then I'd suggest you do it. My first ap left at the beginning of the summer hols and the second started at the end as we didn't need childcare during the 6 weeks. My children are both mid secondary school age so I don't need much childcare now. Going back to your OP, my advise is:- ask ingles. smile She was a godsend to me on and off board. With her advice (and others on MN) I was able to decide what to do next. The only trouble being whether I had the bottle to carry it out!

HarrietTheSpy Fri 01-May-09 12:04:14

Put her up in the B and B - great idea. Don't think you'll regret it.

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 12:18:38

Will discuss B and B idea with dh - it will seem a bit strange since we have a guest room here. The overlap is Sat pm to Tues pm but even if I take the mon/tues off work there will be exAP here and potentially disagreeing with my way of doing things.
One of the things that happened last time is that first AP and next AP compared handbooks (which I tweeked between APs for little things like whether the kids had to get changed out of school uniform as soon as they get home) and then argued about the changes..
So votes for whether I ask exAP to spend her last few days elsewhere or whether I offer new AP a few days 'holiday'..

And at 'ask Ingles' Hopefully she'll be around later

Some more questions whilst I think of them (can you tell that I have the day off work, AP is not here for weekend and I am meant to be revising for an exam????)

1. If you recruit from AP World do you expect an AP who has accepted a job with you to de-activate her profile..would you get worried if you notice she is still logging on even though she has accepted your job??

2. If you have previous APs do you always offer potential APs the chance to email/chat to them (I do, and offered nanny's email to first AP). If so, how do you deal with changes in the job description (ie. I have added a bit about 'must be available for after-school activities' after the Karate fiasco - am I heading for trouble with next AP telling me that current AP could refuse to do that)?

Thanks everyone, by the way

Simply Fri 01-May-09 12:30:29

Can you tell that this is my day off work, too! No exam revision that I should be doing, though. I'm sure you'll do some straight after lunch though, won't you Millarkie? <<narrows eyes>>

Wow, arguing about the changes between the handbooks! That's not on.

1. I used to check potential ap's profiles to see if they were still logging on despite being at a far along stage with me. Sometimes aps change their minds at the last minute and sometimes families do. I think I'd keep several irons in the fire if I was an ap, too.

2. Other than a quick phone call when potential ap (who then became our 2nd ap) rang here and spoke to 1st ap, that was the only contact they had and I deliberately didn't encourage contact, quite the opposite. I'd say that you should specify when your ap is required for childcare otherwise you might be in the situation I was in with the 2nd one that her social life came first and she'd quickly say "Oh, but I was planning to go out then" if I said I wanted to go somewhere. She even wanted to go on trips with dh (when he was visiting another town or area during the day with work) rather than me go with him and her stay to be available for the kids after school. I got really ratty inside when he went on a long haul trip and all I kept hearing was "I wish I'd been able to go with him", I can tell you!

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 12:43:51

I have done a little revision honest Exam isn't til the autumn but I'm on placement next week and I don't want to look too stupid so I'm sure the adrenaline will kick in soon!

Simply,you are right - your 2nd AP does sound just like my current one!

Have been thinking that it would probably be cheaper and easier if I pay for current AP to go for a couple of long trips (say, a matinee in London type thing) for the Mon/Tue as a 'treat before she goes home' so at least I would get the bulk of the time alone with new AP. Then current AP will be around in evening so might be persuaded to take new AP out to meet the local AP crowd <crosses fingers>

MrsWobble Fri 01-May-09 12:53:37

not APs but we used to change our job description between nannies - to avoid repetition of irksome niggles. we were always upfront with the new girl that we had taken the opportunity of the change of person to rethink what we/our children needed as they had grown older and that they should check with us if anything was unclear. this also avoided the children using the opportunity of a new nanny to tell them things like "we're always allowed to stay up late on babysitting nights" etc.

we used this approach to make some reasonably large changes - eg adding in all the family's ironing but as long as the new girl knew what she was signing up for and agreed that the pay was fair for the duties expected it isn't (or never was for us anyway) a problem.

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 13:21:18

Thanks MrsWobble. I have emailed nextAP and said much the same as you ' the children are older and therefore the duties may be slightly different...'

mumof2222222222222222boys Fri 01-May-09 13:52:10

We've had 4 APs over the past 15 months - not because we're awful, that has been the arrangement. Current girl is due to stay a year.

I can honestly say that if one of ours had been like yours, I would have lost it totally. I can't believe how patient you have been. Breaking the law (btw, who paid for the ticket? My last AP got 2 parking tickets which she paid), and directly contradicting you is just not on.

Please be stricter with the next one - but I can't believe you would be that unlucky twice.

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 14:09:03

Thanks Mumoflotsofboys .
Will be less tolerant with the next one - but it's not as if I haven't spoken to this one (we have had some improvement, mainly on the way she was acting towards the children).
I felt over a barrel a bit with this one, since dd was diagnosed with a medical problem after AP started which meant that I no longer had the back-up option of afterschool club. It's looking like dd's condition is improving though so hopefully by the time the nextAP arrives I can threaten to terminate her contract and mean it!

DadInsteadofMum Fri 01-May-09 14:40:34

First a confession - I did have a bit of a laugh - some of the things are funny in a Fawlty Towers sense (funny to watch but you wouldn't want to stay there).

I do make clear on day one that anything I feel could potentially out the kids in danger (e.g. speeding) consitutes gross misconduct and could lead to being out of the door within 24 hours. Its sounds a nit harsh and it is intertwined with lots of welcoming stuff but it sets the tone. Anecdotaly, current AP told me of one local AP who got a 30 day ban for drink driving, but was kept on by her family, made it clear I wouldn't be so generous (apparently AP was complaining that her family were giving her a hard time over it!).

With regards to shopping, if it ain't in the weekly Tesco's delivery you get it yourself is a very simple rule to live by in our house, but then Tesco is virtually next door to the gym she uses so not too much of a problem.

I do have frequent chats in the first few weeks, but as a two way conversation picking up on the little things before they becoming annoying but too late to deal with, but also asking her opinion if there is anything I can do to make her life easier (within acceptable limits).

Reagrding contact between APs. Not an option to me, as a single dad I have to prove that I am on the level and therefore encourage this contact. (Incoming AP - June - asked me to provide a reference from an appropriate member of the community!).

I did notice that I was deactivating my profile quicker than they were deactivating theirs. My response was rather to worry about their, leave mine open and process one or two down the pipeline "just in case".

Millarkie - I don't think its about being less tolerant, the nature of the realtionship is one of give and take, its just about making sure the give/take balance is, erm, well balanced.

[Minor hijack - somebody in the village has asked me on top tips for recruiting and employing an AP for the first time, I am just printing out key threads from here, think I might add this one to the list!]

Millarkie Fri 01-May-09 16:56:26

Oh No DIOM - you'll give APs a bad name! (My first was really wonderful - honest!) Glad I made you laugh though.

My 'Woodhenge' in the garden is impressive - I should create a profile and put some photos on it

Can I make it clear that she was speeding but not with my kids in the car - strictly speaking she does not need to drive my kids (they have a school bus pick them up and drop them back), although it is an option in emergencies. If she were driving the kids regularly I would be less chilled about the speeding fine (she has offered to pay and at least confessed before the notice came..I was more concerned about her feeling that speeding was perfectly acceptable because 'it was late and I wanted to get home'.

She's also told next AP that I post on Mumsnet so I'm likely to be being stalked anyway (but what the heck, I give up )

OK, so with next AP, how about I do the few days induction (me hanging around), then a few chats about any problems over next 2 weeks but if she ignores me - then this time I will get rid! That's the plan....I might write a probationary period into the contract to make it a bit more official.

Julesnobrain Fri 01-May-09 23:39:08

Millarkie. You are v patient. I would have lost it totally. Actually I think the AP role is really hard, your supposed to be part of the family but your not. I have found the easiest balance is to treat them as a working student and not even 'pretend' their part of the family but more a paid extra pair of hands who is welcome in our home (provided they are helping ) and we help them with their language etc.
I give them an AP pack, the usual. I have hardly any house rules. I got them off Mumsnet, basic common sense stuff really. I take 3 days off work to be the AP myself along side them and I follow the schedule which itemises what they do when. I outline from the go get what food they can eat (everything except the kids chocolate and any item especially marked with DH name or saying kids only). That would avoid the your pizza problem, further whilst I do buy the AP's some special AP food (current AP Mexican and I get Jalapeños and tortillas) I tell them I do my main shop once a week, if they run out before that tough.
When I come home I can tell instantly if a job has not been done because of the schedule and I would immediately ask why hasn't XYZ been done. I find it easier that way as it lets you constantly pick up on little bits rather than letting yourself stew and have a big 'blow out' IYSWIM
Finally (sorry for the long post) the more AP's I have the stricter I get. Both DH and I loath having live in help but because of work hours we have no choice. Our copying mechanism is to be very controlling, very strict but equally scrupulously fair to the AP so that if they work hard for us... we work hard to ensure they enjoy their time here and we make it very clear that is a reciprocal arrangement!. Fingers crossed seems to be OK so far and only major problem I've had is with an excessive eater !!! ... but who knows what my next post will be .......

Millarkie Sat 02-May-09 10:26:03

at patient...you mean 'pushover' don't you

I can label food for kids only - maybe I need to take a pen to the check-out though because she is swift in getting to the goodies

Have spoken to dh about the overlap issues..he thinks we should offer to pay for current AP to get a flight out on the Sunday. Also mentioned that our bedroom needs decorating (vast understatement) so perhaps we could move our stuff into spare room thus negating any arguements because there won't be space for 2 APs then (and I might get a decorated room into the bargain).

Current AP has also stuck a load of photos directly onto the wallpaper in her room (we put a corkboard in there but she's ignored that) so god knows what state the wall will be in when she takes them down..might have to redecorate for new AP.

On the funnier side, I have had an email from next AP who was talking about the differences between her current role (has been AP for almost a year with another family) and ours...she says that our AP told her that she looks after the children for 4 hours a day!! (is actually 20 mins each morning (max), and a further 1.5 hours on 3 afternoons a week).

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