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Au pair disaster? - advice please!

(46 Posts)
FeatheredHeart Fri 17-Jul-09 10:42:24

Our au pair has to help get one 2 year old up and dressed, make breakfast and clear away and take him to nursery on nursery days, which is 2 mornings/week. Ideally she would hang out any washing. She is supposed to play with him while i make lunch, clear away lunch and then in the evening clear supper and bath him. She doesn't have to do anything for the baby and almost never any cooking.

She is supposed to help in the house for a 2 or 3 of hours one morning a week and in the garden one morning a week. Weekends are free, Mondays are free from after breakfast til bathtime. Tuesdays she comes out for the day with us or is free. Ditto Fridays. She has everything paid for if we go anywhere and gets 70.00/week. I have a cleaner and she has her own level in the house with bedroom, bathroom, loo and sitting room.

In reality, she makes breakfast (toast and jam) and clears it and she can clear away after meals. She often forgets to switch off the oven, clear the draining rack, sweep where we've been eating etc. Besides that, she needs help with everything - I often have to walk them out the door if they are going to nursery (usually 1/2 hour late). She will help, sullenly, in the garden for a an hour or two once a week and does maybe an hours dusting (not brilliantly) on the other day she is supposed to help. On the occasional day that she does bath ds1, she uses the wrong towel for him consistently, doesn't clear up the bathroom, forgets to put his eczema stuff in the bath, forgets to brush his teeth etc. Some days like this morning, when i'm holding the baby and trying to change a bed including mattress protector one handed, and encourage ds1 to co-operate with her (he keeps calling her "baddie") she just looks on, despite my asking her to get ds1 dressed.

I have shown her dozens of times and explained how to make things like dressing into a game so ds1 cooperates and she did brilliantly one day but otherwise just resorts to asking him / telling him and then getting annoyed with him. I have arranged for her to go to nursery to see how they manage him (he is very affectionate and no trouble there) but she only stayed an hour saying there was nothing to see. I can't afford him to dislike her as he is already treated erratically by his father and needs love, kindness and stability.

I explained everything she had to do at the start. We did a review after 10 days and have another review coming up tonight. I didn't say anything negative - just highlighted the things in the routine she needed to work on (i.e. remember) and said I was getting quite tired doing both kids and was relying on her to help with the older one. (I had been ill after c-section with infection for 2 months until the week she arrived). She has a checklist to tick off - ie. sweep floor after breakfast, empty dishwasher etc. I never criticise her.

Is this normal au pair behaviour? I am getting exhausted managing two kids on my own, up at night with one or sometimes both of them and trying to teach / get the au pair motivated / participating. I quite like her outside of au pairdom and she never refuses to do anything but I am getting really tired and frustrated doing everything myself. She is 18 and doesn't have any experience of kids. She goes out every night often quite late to see her cousin and boyfriend. She has been here almost 3 weeks.

Dysgu Fri 17-Jul-09 10:59:59

Sorry - have no experience of au pairs (but urk on this thread as we hope to have one in the future) - but it does rather sound as though you are having to manage 3 children, even though one of them is 18 and supposed to be helping.

I am sure someone with more experience and suggestions will be along soon.


AtheneNoctua Fri 17-Jul-09 11:17:43

Everything I though to suggest whilst reading your post I then read you had already done.

I would write it all down and review her for a week with checklists and comment son each day where she had/hadn't fulfilled her duties to her expectations. Then I would hand it to her at the end of next week with a written warning that this is her last chance. And in that written warning, I would reference the verbal warning which you are presumably going to give tonight.

She sounds like she is making your life harder and not easier -- which is after all the whole point of having an au pair.

AtheneNoctua Fri 17-Jul-09 11:18:34

...fulfilled her duties to your expectations.

iheartdusty Fri 17-Jul-09 11:27:27

no no no.
one week to improve then ditch her.

it is not enough to be quite likeable, you need someone who will engage with your son.

look for someone who has experience of young kids. the whole package is attractive, there are no odd hours, there is private accommodation - you should be able to find someone who is really interested in getting on with your DS.

my rule of thumb is - the younger the children, the older (or more experienced and committed) the AP needs to be.

FabBakerGirlIsBack Fri 17-Jul-09 11:30:23

I used to be an au pair and have been a mother's help and nanny; I am now a Mum.

She doesn't sound like she wants to do this job to be honest and is very negative.

I would be tempted to give her notice tbh.

She might change if she thinks she is about to lose her job but what is the point if she doens't really want to do it?

mumof2222222222222222boys Fri 17-Jul-09 11:42:59

Even our worst one was better than this. Final review, one week to improve, marching orders!

not normal. i would restrict her evenings out - eg back at 11pm on a school day.

DadInsteadofMum Fri 17-Jul-09 11:43:20

"She is 18 and doesn't have any experience of kids." - where did you get her from? Have to be honest and say I wouldn't have emplyed her in the first place

"She goes out every night often quite late" is she tired in the mornings? As part of the conversation this evening I would include that whilst the evenings are her own she needs to be in a fit state in the mornings.

"We did a review after 10 days and have another review coming up tonight" - our new AP started a month ago, we have only just finished having a review every evening, want went well, what didn't go so well, where did you find it tough, what did the kids do that was unacceptable. Have you asked her what she is finding easy and difficult?

Why do you never criticise her? There is nothing wrong with criticism if it is justified and balanced with praise as well. As various threads on here have discussed before if these things are not picked up straight away they slide very quickly.

Sorry to sound so negative, but it may be too late for this one. If I was in this position I would have a very long chat this evening, I would make a list of everything I wanted to discuss so I didn't forget anything (I am a Columbo employer forever going "just one more thing" - it gets a little embarrassing after a while). I would point out that this evening was a formal verbal warning and explain at length what this meant; I would go with Athene's daily checklist and go through it with her every evening with the four questions I use above. In my experience a lot of time invested up front is needed to make these things a success otherwise you pay with more time later on.

Libra Fri 17-Jul-09 11:47:00

I agree. I would give her a formal one-week warning and then get rid.

Unless you are living somewhere very isolated, there must be better would-be au pairs out there. In your circumstances, you NEED someone who has experience with young children (having younger brothers and sisters would be enough). You are offering a good package for an enthusiastic au pair - get rid of this one and find a better one!

Julesnobrain Fri 17-Jul-09 11:51:12

I agree with Iheartdusty, if you have v young children she is too young. Your package sounds right in terms of money you should be able to get a more experienced au pair. We usually try for min 21 year, pref over 24. I was a bit surprised re the garden bit. Unless you make it clear from the start or they show a burning desire to be green fingered I think gardening is absolutley a no no for AP's to do and am not surprised she was sullen at being asked to do that. Personally If your child is calling her a baddie its too late. Get rid of her pronto, for the next au pair I would also limit hoe time during the week. We indicate 12.oopm is late enough.

Julesnobrain Fri 17-Jul-09 11:52:17

Sorry not hoe time meant HOME time

AtheneNoctua Fri 17-Jul-09 12:02:26

Athene waves to Libra

I don't think a night review is normal for weeks, unless you mean a 15 minute chat how was your day kind of thing.

This girl has been reviewed and reviewed already. Lists made, follow up conversations had, etc. It's time to consider formal procedures potentially leading to her termination (unless she shapes up).

forehead Fri 17-Jul-09 12:12:03

I would get rid of her sounds like too much hard work to me. My dsis once had an au pair who hated changing nappies which was unbelievable.
Tbh i think your au pair has it quite easy compared to other au pairs.

DadInsteadofMum Fri 17-Jul-09 12:21:23

I do a mean a 15 minute chat (longer only if needed), time invested at start works very well and saves much time later on.

I don't think an au pair should be employed to look after a child so young where they are changing nappies - I find it very believable that she refused.

FabBakerGirlIsBack Fri 17-Jul-09 12:41:12


AtheneNoctua Fri 17-Jul-09 12:44:22

What what?

FabBakerGirlIsBack Fri 17-Jul-09 12:48:03

I was asking DIOM why it is wrong for an au pair to change nappies.

AtheneNoctua Fri 17-Jul-09 12:54:57

I was kind of wondering that too, especially as there was no mention of her being sole charge all day long. And, au pairs seem to be a lot more interested in the childcare than they are the housework. So, I'd think nappies would come with the territory.

Maybe Dad had images of the au pair being treated as a nanny (i.e. long hours of sole charge).

madeindevon2 Fri 17-Jul-09 13:24:38

reading this with interest as i have an aupair starting next week.
as my son is only 2 yrs old i have gone with a 25 yrs old aupair whose english is v good and has experience as well as good references.
she will have sole charge of our son between 7am and 8.30am and between 5pm and 6.30pm (although not straight away....not until im totally happy that son is happy with her and that she is up to it) so yes she will be expected to do nappies... but all her duties were discussed at length already and she seems very happy and competant.
i didnt even consider any 18 yr olds as i thought i would just have someone else to look after which is not what i need....
I need my son to be able to sleep in til 7.30am if he wants rather than me plucking him out of bed at 630am) and to have more time in his own house playing with own toys etc.
he attends nursery full time and will be collected from home and taken home afterwards.

iheartdusty Fri 17-Jul-09 13:30:20

that sounds very promising, madeindevon2.

I don't think there is any reason why APs as such shouldn't do nappies - but I can see that an inexperienced 18 yr old who thought she would waft around a bit and keep an eye on some perfectly behaved children might balk at so much reality as a nappy change.

madeindevon2 Fri 17-Jul-09 13:45:54

fingers crossed....
i do appreciate toddler nappies arent the most pleasant thing!? and if i am there i would rather do it than leave to aupair but if she is alone with him then she will have to!
im hoping aupair will become more like big sister type (incidentally son does have big sisters of 17 amd 19 who he hoping for similar type bonding!?)

AtheneNoctua Fri 17-Jul-09 13:54:51

I used to b-sit (sole charge for a few hours here and there) and change nappies when I was 12.

madeindevon2 Fri 17-Jul-09 14:04:18

my sister too used to babysit when she was young teenager 13ish and was happy doing nappies.
i on the other hand was never interested in babies until i hit my 30's and didnt actually change nappy until then either!?
i can remember being nervous first time i changed my nephew too!!

HarrietTheSpy Fri 17-Jul-09 14:17:22

DH and I were babysitting once before our DCs arrived. I managed to wake the baby checking on her. DH put her nappy on backwards (but at least we decided to persevere and look for a smaller size - could have easily ended up in her older sister's!!)

frAKKINPannikin Fri 17-Jul-09 14:20:24

I think it depends on the au pair. Some are quite sensible and expect not-so-young children to still be in nappies. Others seem to think that they all magically come out of nappies at the age of 2.

I can see why an au pair who isn't that motivated by the childcare side and who just didn't think through the reality of caring for young children might not want to do nappies!

Perhaps DIOM is referring to the guidelines (and yes they are only guidelines) which say au pairs shouldn't be left in charge of children under 3(?). But that's more to do with language difficulties in an emergency and potential effects on linguistic development with questionable grammar/accent if au pair is the only language input for long periods of time than changing nappies. And before anyone starts shrieking about generalisations and sweeping statements I know there are au pairs with perfect English and no discernible accent but I also know a very sweet almost 8 year old who up until very recently said 'vhere', 'vhy', 'vhat' etc because she had a couple of au pairs who couldn't pronounce 'w's when she was very small.

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