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How long before you know your AP is a good 'un?

(56 Posts)
Metrobaby Sun 06-Sep-09 21:17:21

I guess I am asking as what is the reasonable length of time you would give for your AP to settle in??

I have a new AP - she has only been here for a week but I am getting the impression she is very homesick plus a bit reluctant to do her household chores (eg I have asked her twice now to ensure the childrens uniforms are ironed and they are not done which means I now have to do it in time for tomorrow angry). I am also trying to figure out whether she does not understand - even though she says she does undestand...

DrEvil Sun 06-Sep-09 22:42:54

Our AP was fab from day one (she's only been here 3 weeks) very jolly, easy to live with and helpful but she doesn't have the problem of language as she's Australian.

She doesn't have much in the way of housework to do (I dont iron anything and am a bit of a slattern tbh) but is fab with the kids and takes the initiative on activities etc.

Maybe yours is still in the homesick phase? Or as you say not wanting to admit that her English isn't as good as she thought.

Millarkie Sun 06-Sep-09 23:01:14

Our good ones we could tell by the end of the week - generally to do with their attitude, our bad one we had a good idea she wasn't great after her second week (rang me from a coffee shop when she should have been meeting the school bus) but it wasn't really obvious until a month or so in.
If you think there may be a language problem (all of ours have spoken excellent English) then you could try writing requests down -gives them a chance to get a dictionary out or phone a friend if they don't want to admit that they can't understand.
Have you given her a written list of jobs/time table? Some people swear by them. Is it a reluctance to do all chores or just ironing (does she know how to iron?)

dreamteamgirl Sun 06-Sep-09 23:48:49

Interesting post- I will be watching it with eagle eyes as I wonder the same!

Metrobaby Mon 07-Sep-09 08:36:08

Yes Milarkie - I have written everything down, and also gone through everything with her in person. I took 2 days off work in fact to show her our routines, show her our town, school, facilities etc etc. I even emailed her list of duties with a suggested timetable so she had the chance to run it through a translation programme.

There really isn't much ironing - just the children's uniform - nor much housework as we have a cleaner. However a couple of times when i have reminded her - in the nicest possible way - to tidy in the kitchen after breakfast and to put the laundry out - she replied "later" - and then went back to watching TV or surfing on the net.

ingles2 Mon 07-Sep-09 08:41:01

If she's saying "later" to your requests in the first week then you need to put your foot down now.
Does she have set working hours? If not do it asap, and tell her no tv, surfing, chatting during that time. She's there to work fgs, not for a holiday at your expense. Later!... cheeky mare!

Metrobaby Mon 07-Sep-09 09:59:04

Cheers Ingles - I did think that her response was rather cheeky - but was too shocked at the time to respond myself back. I then wondered if I was being a bit harsh as I thought as long as she does the job evenutally maybe it was not worth pulling her to task over. However - she does has set hours which is detailed in her list of duties.

Also over this weekend - she joined us for every single meal but did not help in setting the table or clearing up afterwards. I know the weekend is her days off but am I being unreasonable to expect just a little help in clearing away after meals where she has eaten with us?? She does the same thing in the evening too during the week and tbh I am beginning to feel she is more like a guest rather than part of the family. I also thought it is common courtsey to help out if she shares a meal with us too.

StillSquiffy Mon 07-Sep-09 11:22:32

If it was me I would get rid, based on both your posts. She doesn't have the right attitude to be an AP IMHO. I have had au pairs start brilliantly and then slowly go off the boil (I wear them down grin), but I have never had the opposite happen.

Metrobaby Mon 07-Sep-09 12:37:27

would you seriously give your AP marching orders after 1 week??shock I am hoping that it is a case of misunderstanding or naivety and that she will improve in her attitude and duties. Just not sure how long to give her to settle in. Also she is on a 3 week notice period too so am conscious that if I give her notice she may end up doing nothing including picking the children from school which would make my life a bit tricky.

StillSquiffy Mon 07-Sep-09 13:54:36

Metro - yes, I would. I have had AP's arrive that I have not been impressed with in the first week, and they have only ever got worse.

Would you ever start a job and not spend the first week throwing your all into it? In your first week of work, would you ever just 'not do' something? No. Of course not. But some AP's do seem to get into their jobs for all the wrong reasons (wanting to get away from home life/parents/job in McDonalds) and then when they are faced with the fact that they actually have to do some work they discover that they (A) don't like chores, or (B) don't like children.

I spent ages umming and ahhing last year about one of my AP's and ended up with weeks of dithering whilst it got worse and worse and worse. People who are hopeless byut cheerful and enthusiastic you can work with, but not people who don't have their heart in it.

ingles2 Mon 07-Sep-09 14:10:19

Squiffy is right MB, they very rarely improve significantly , much more likely to go downhill.
If she's on a 3 week probation, sit her down now and tell her you expect her to be working during her scheduled hours, you don't appreciate jobs not being done and if she is joining you for dinner, she can be courteous enough to help, like any other member of the family.
Remind her she's here to work and this isn't a holiday. That she's got plenty of free time in which to watch tv/surf/study.
She's got 2 weeks to buck her ideas up, but if carries on in the same vein I'd get rid too.
Again, as Squiffy says (you are wonderful Squiff grin ) if they are polite, cheerful and trying their best, you'll forgive them the earth.

Metrobaby Mon 07-Sep-09 14:20:24

Arrrrgghhhh - I didn't specify in the contract though that there was a 3 month probation - only that there was a 3 week notice period. However, neither of us have signed the contract yet so i am not sure how on earth to play this.

I am so so so nervous of giving marching orders - I really am. DH thinks we should give her at least until the end of this week to see if she improves. Interestingly DD(8) was so annoyed her uniform was not ironed she actually told me that AP was lazy. I guess out of the mouthes of babes truth speaks?

Metrobaby Mon 07-Sep-09 14:21:33

Sorry - forgot to preview - meant to say didn't specify in the contract any probabation period only that there would be a 3 wk notice period.

frakkinpannikin Mon 07-Sep-09 15:09:58

If you've not signed the contract you can reasonably change it.

But she doesn't sound any good!

limonchik Mon 07-Sep-09 15:32:30

I'd sit her down and outline the problems - at least give her a chance to improve.

DadInsteadofMum Mon 07-Sep-09 17:49:55

I think it is unreasonable to give anybody there marching orders without first giving them a chance to improve. The stuff you have outlined is not gross misconduct stuff - which is the only reasonable grounds for instant marching orders.

When eating with us a the weekend the au pair is expected to do as much as the kids, I do the cooking and the clearing of the kitchen, kids (and au pair if eating with us) are expected to set and clear the table.

Sit her down talk to her, if you think it warrants it make it clear that this is a formal warning that could lead to dismissal but that you want to work this out.

[And slightly smug, yet nervous as not yet had a bad 'un]

Millarkie Mon 07-Sep-09 19:09:32

I would be fuming at the 'later' comment as she has set hours! And I agree that if they have the wrong attitude they will only get worse. I truely wish we had parted company with our bad one before she registered with language school etc and I felt that I ought to let her finish her course.
I would sit her down and tell her that her attitude must change, she must prioritise her jobs in her working hours or she is no help to you and you will have to look for a new au pair.
For what it's worth, at weekends I or dh cook and lay table, kids and au pair eat then carry their plates to dishwasher but don't clean table etc. The thing is (and this was said to me when I had bad au pair) if the au pair is generally good and useful then you don't mind the occasional small thing...but when they are not helpful/stressful to live with then every little thing starts to annoy!

Metrobaby Mon 07-Sep-09 21:43:56

Well today seems to have gone better for her. When I returned from work she seems to have done her scheduled chores and looked after the children well. She actually looked a bit happier and said that she had had a good day today. smile

I did ask this evening if the kids uniforms were ready for tomorrow, and she said that she wanted to do their ironing every morning instead. So I told her she had a choice either a) wake up earlier in the morning and do it or b) do it all at once during her allocated time in the evening which should take no longer than 1 hour per week. I told her the 1 hour she is needed in the mornings is to help DH with the children at breakfast and get them ready for school - not to do ironing. I hope I was being firm but reasonable. I really am not sure why she is trying to change things as I have already clearly outlined her duties and hours and if anything specific that needs to be done on particular days.

Thanks for the advice re: clearing up after meals too. I don't expect her to fully clean the kitchen but would like her to put her things in the dishwasher at least (she tends to dump her dish on the side).

Her complete change today has thrown me somewhat so I am inclined to see how this week goes. However I fully agree with Squiffy - that in a new job you would want to make the best impression possible.

Any advice on when to sit down with her ? Should it be every day or at the end of the week. I don't want to be nagging her, or seem to be getting at her but at the same time I want to get started on the right foot.

Millarkie Mon 07-Sep-09 22:27:40

Glad things are looking up Hope it continues. Did she say why she wanted to iron in the morning? (I know our first au pair was so overwhelmed to see her favorite tv shows in English (rather than dubbed in her language) that she would disappear at odd times to watch them..but we didn't need her to do certain things at certain times so didn't bother me!)
In theory we are meant to sit down and talk to our au pair every friday evening (I put it into her handbook this time after letting things slip too far with last (bad) au pair). In practice she's a marvel and so far we have nothing but praise which we try to throw in at regular intervals rather than wait til Fridays

blueshoes Mon 07-Sep-09 22:55:49

Glad your aupair had a sudden change of attitude. She would have been a whisker away from a first warning.

I don't sit down with the good aupairs much, just sort of weave stuff into conversation.

But with yours, I reckon Tues and Fri? I tend to be quite straight with aupairs, if I need them to do something different. Real time guidance. Don't like to store it up.

StillSquiffy Tue 08-Sep-09 08:06:23

2 days a week sounds about right.

Format to follow should be....

1) Things that you are really pleased with
2) Things were you think AP needs to pay a little more attention (use those kinds of words, even when really you mean 'you are crap and it annoys me when...')
3) What does AP feel about last few days?
4) Anything unusual required in the next couple of days (works both ways - they may ask you for example to call local sports club etc).

Every now and then you should add on the question Is this role what you expected it to be and is it turning out as you expected? But don't ask too often because then it turns the role into being all about them, rather than their work. It is only fair though to touch base with them now and then to explore any deep seated unhappiness or loneliness or whatever. Also, making their first friends always has a dramatic effect on them and if they don't make friends quickly they can start to get down, so keep an eye on that, too.

dikkertjedap Wed 09-Sep-09 14:59:54

Maybe you are giving her too much choice??? When we employed our au pairs we did not allow any TV/internet surfing/phone during working hours (they did get a 30 minute mid-morning break, one hour lunch break and nid-afternoon 30 minute tea break, plus they started work at 08.00, finishing at 17.00h) unless they had completed their tasks (they had a check list and had to tick them off) and child was asleep. I had something similar once with one of our au pairs - We have breakfast every day at 08.00h and I leave for work at 08.30h, the au pair was expected to clear the table and load the dishwasher before playing with dc. I was about to go and helping dc to brush teeth and au pair was still sitting down, so I asked her to clear the table. She said, in a minute, I am still drinking my coffee. I told her to get on with it and that breakfast was finished but that she could for this time finish her coffee whilst loading the dishwasher. I found her behaviour unacceptable and did tell her that and that I am not late for work/meetings saying sorry I am late I had to finish my coffee.

It has to be clear who is in charge. I would also advise regular feedback in form of weekly meeting initially, she can say what she enjoys/not enjoys/finds easy/difficult and you should give feedback on what you think goes well/not well. With respect to homesickness, it would be good if she can meet other au pairs, ideally from same country. Which country is she from?

Please be clear with her, hopefully it improves, but it is no good the children getting attached to her, and you being unhappy. Good luck.

Summersoon Wed 09-Sep-09 15:25:19

"She said, in a minute, I am still drinking my coffee. I told her to get on with it and that breakfast was finished but that she could for this time finish her coffee whilst loading the dishwasher. I found her behaviour unacceptable and did tell her that and that I am not late for work/meetings saying sorry I am late I had to finish my coffee." shock
That seems pretty harsh and unfriendly to me. Sure, if you were going into a client meeting, you would not delay to drink your coffee but in a home environment? Does 5 minutes really matter so much?
And I must say, that as a relatively young girl, I would be very, very unlikely to speak my mind if asked to by someone as apparently rigid and strict as you, for fear of having any grumbles or concerns thrown right back in my face.

catepilarr Wed 09-Sep-09 22:22:24

omg at the coffee situation - i would not want to work in a family who does not allow me to finish my breakfast in peace!

nbee84 Wed 09-Sep-09 22:40:34

Understandable if you wanted her to take over the childcare so you could leave for work, but unreasonable not to let her finish her coffee so that she could load the dishwasher shock and to let her 'to get on with it and that breakfast was finished but that she could for this time finish her coffee whilst loading the dishwasher' That sounds more like slave than AP to me!!!

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