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Tips needed on getting the best out of AP.....

(39 Posts)
booreeve Mon 14-Sep-09 17:41:40

I'm an AP virgin, and finally took the plunge. Our new AP started on Saturday, she's 21, French and has looked after kids before, and comes from a large family. She was super shy, and has slowly been coming out of her shell. Her English is ok, but I'm billingual French English so communicating hasn't been an real issue.
I've given her a manual which she went through, have shown her round, gone and registered at language school, and she seems fairly happy - BUT doesn't seem remotely interested in DS who is 2.
I work from home, so I'm around much of the time so I don't know if that's not helping. She just doesn't seem to engage with him at all, doesn't seem terribly willing to play with him etc...and I'm not sure what to do. She's previously been looking after 2 little girls who are 4 and 6 after school everyday for a year, so I thought she might be a bit more clued-up about how to play with kids.
I'm not too sure what to do about it. Am I just being impatient, and will it just get better over time? Am just worried that she'll never bond with him, and he'll just take advantage of her and be a terror.
Any advice? I've tried to encourage her to play with him, and set-up the train set so they could play together - tried to do puzzles etc....but she barely speaks to him or anything - help!

dal21 Mon 14-Sep-09 18:05:34

Hi -

Do you have french childrens books/ a french nursery rhyme CD for her to read/ sing to your DS to? Our au pair (also french ) is starting in a few weeks and I have got both.

I have also spoken to the nanny who helps three mornings a week about the initial settling in period. Initially, I plan to be around for the times she has DS (first thing in morning and 5pm onwards), but after a while, I plan to make myself scarce at those times - go to the gym and have a swim/ work a little later because I dont think they will have chance to bond if I am at home. And she totally agreed that was what I needed to do.

Have you told her what you think? Have you asked her if she is ok?

bruxeur Mon 14-Sep-09 18:11:08


limonchik Mon 14-Sep-09 18:44:37

If she's a bit shy anyway, could she be feeling a bit self-conscious about playing while you're there?

booreeve Mon 14-Sep-09 18:48:37

Thanks for the responses! She seems really happy, and was even saying that last night she'd checked her emails and that all her friends were saying how jealous they were of her, so I'm presuming she can't be too depressed! I've tried encouraging her with French books, and stuff but she's just not "getting it" I suppose. DS is a sweet boy, he can get a bit busy with his running around, but he doesn't play up I'm not sure if it's because she's used to being around slighly older girls and finds DS 2 scary!
I haven't said too much yet as I don't want to push her and put her off if she's about to feel more confident. I wonder if it also because I'm around, all be it in a different room, and she's being put-off. The only thing I said was that DS was a busy little boy who needs a bit of dynamism.......

DadInsteadofMum Tue 15-Sep-09 11:25:50

How are you feeding your concerns back to her?

During the first two or three weeks I will sit down with a new au pair every evening to debrief on the day. I explain that I do this for all au pairs, that it is as much a chance for them to ask questions, it is about me wanting to help them settle in and understand the family and not about being controlling and critical (well maybe just a little).

Its a bit labour intensive, towards the end of the settling in process its usually just 2 or 3 minutes, but I have found that this up front investment sets expectations very clearly.

booreeve Wed 16-Sep-09 12:24:57

Thanks - thus far I've been more asking her how she feels about everything, and DS, but I thought we'd maybe have a bit of a de-brief tonight at dinner. She seems to be slowly improving - she just started her language course, and I think once she finds her feet she'll be fine, I just don't want to be too hard on her in case it goes the other way and jeopordise the little glimmers we have!

MarmadukeScarlet Wed 16-Sep-09 12:33:42

I generally, during first week settling in period, go through the toy cupboards with AP and play all games DS likes with AP/DS so they know how to play.

I find the imaginative play bit comes later and often find myself making suggestion as to what they should do for first few weeks.

'Perhaps you could play instruments now and listen to some music', 'perhaps whilst it is sunny you could play outside' 'perhaps DS is tired right now and would like to just read books with you'...etc Generally I have found they get the hang of it soon enough.

Good luck.

booreeve Sun 20-Sep-09 13:14:07

OK - Advise needed please. Our AP has been here for one week, and is still not engaging with DS who is 2. She doesn't really speak to him, or play with him, and I'm at a loss. She seems absolutely disinterested in him, and unable to remember to hold his hand when I'm getting the buggy out of the car I'm a bit worried about safety, and don't particuclarly trust her. I work from home, so just need an extra pair of hands, and have asked her to "entertain" DS in the mornings. I thought she might improve once settled-in, and more confident - but there's been no difference. I've introduced her to some other local APs, signed her up for language classes, and done my best to show her round, and show her and suggest to her what she should/could be doing with DS. But nothing. I took the week off last week so she could settle in and in theroy "work" starts tomorrow, but I know in my heart of hearts she's not right. I've asked her if all is ok, and have told her that she needs to be more proactive with DS, but no change thus far. Last night was her first night to bathe and put DS to bed, as she was supposed to be babysitting, and arrived home 30 minutes late which was not good.
Want to sit her down this evening for a chat....should I give her a week to buck up or should I just get rid now. I doubt, that with a warning chat this evening that anything will change.....HELP!

Totallyfloaty35 Sun 20-Sep-09 13:30:07

Get rid,they rarely improve,its not difficult to read a book or wander round the garden looking at bugs(all things brand new aupairs have done,the good ones)And turning up late for a babysitting session is not on,although sometimes cant be helped,was she sorry? Did she have a good excuse?
I once had a hungarian aupair who had no clue how to act with kids,she used to barricade herself in her room(push chest of drawers in front of door)with the ironing rather than be with them...she went after a week,although i really missed the perfect ironing when she left wink

booreeve Sun 20-Sep-09 13:37:19

Thanks for the reply - I'm just so annoyed about it all! She's perfectly nice, well with us grown-ups, but is hopeless with DS. She said she had transport problems, which may or may not be the case. She was due home at 5:45, and sent me a text at 6:10 to say she was running late (well clearly!) and came in at 6:20.
I'm just not sure if I should give her the opportunity to fix it, or should we just get rid this evening? In the meantime, should we go for another AP or just try and get a part time nanny?

dreamteamgirl Tue 22-Sep-09 22:23:29

Hi there

Did you use an agency or just get through a website? If an agency enlist them of course- mine have been ace and helped iron out our teething problems (I take back everything I said about them!!)

If you just got her direct then I guess its 2 things

Are you expecting of her what you would do?
eg Would you normally play with DS2 or leave him to it? If he is used to be left to it, she maybe finding it hard to engage him, but if he is used to be entertained (as my DS is blush ) then he is likely to revolt if not given the attention he feels is his due. How is he reacting to the lack of input?

I think you need to leave them to it for a few days- even if you just go for a lie down upstairs but dont go to sleep and use the time to listen in. If there is no improvement after your chat and giving a chance then terminate

Re getting home late. I would forgive in first week as it takes a while to get your head round travelling in a strange place

I would consider another AP tho as it sounds like the right sort of job for an AP. Mine is getting heaps better at playing with DS (4.5) after 2.5 weeks now and they seem genuinely fond of each other smile

What did you decide to do?

booreeve Wed 23-Sep-09 11:30:15

Hi - well we had the chat with her on Sunday, and while there's been a tiny bit of improvement, it's proving to be a bit of a nightmare TBH.
DS has a mix of play normally I would play with him 50% of the time (playdough, setting up train sets, drawing, reading) and then leave him to it the other 50% of the time. But she doesn't seem to have any initiative and I find myself constantly having to suggest games or activities (which is ok, but it's starting to clock up) Having taken a week off to show her everything, she is still asking what time DS eats, naps goes to bed once or twice is fine but this is daily, but she has his timetable and it's the same everyday!
Added to that the never helping out (will never offer any help with dinner, or laying the table, or washing-up) and never saying thank you for anything......I just don't want to constantly have to keep telling her!
Oh well, I'm finding it infuritating - we will have the final chat later this week and get rid.
I may have found another AP who is already in the UK, and if we go down that route, I'll set a firm 2 week trial period and then we'll see.........

Minismama Wed 23-Sep-09 12:09:07

It doesn't sounds like it's going to get much better any time soon. I am sure you thought about this but could you try and put an advert on say gumtree because then you will get a reply from APs already in the UK and you can interview them in person before making a decision? I know it is a long and laborious process but that way you can meet them face to face and then decide. Often when you meet someone you have the gut feeling one way or another.
Good luck!

booreeve Wed 23-Sep-09 12:31:34

Yes definately will do face to face next! On paper, she was fantastic, seemed nice on the phone, references checked out......but you can't tell until you meet them.
Feel terrible about looking for replacements while she's still here, but I'm sure if she was unhappy she would do the same.....

Totallyfloaty35 Wed 23-Sep-09 12:49:26

The problem with aupairs already here is that they have already(usually) been with a family and not got on....i find that some have several families for a reasonwink never employ one who wont tell you why they left last family,or let you talk to that family.

HarrietTheSpy Wed 23-Sep-09 13:03:44

The other scenario is that they've had six months au pair experience and now feel that they're ready for a full-time nanny job on the same salary (i.e. four hundred plus a week) that a trained nanny with a couple of years sole charge experience would be getting.

Millarkie Wed 23-Sep-09 15:30:44

In defence of some au pairs already in the UK, I have one and she is fab - best au pair we've had. Moved from her old family to see more of the UK after a year there. We have also known au pairs to be 'let go' by local families after changes in circumstances (e.g. redundancy) although in those circumstances you would expect the family to be bending over backwards to recommend them.

Totallyfloaty35 Wed 23-Sep-09 16:06:26

Yes i agree if they moving from previous family because contract ended or another good reason they usually pretty good,also they are happy for you to speak to old family anyway.Its the ones that dont want you to that are the problem.

Dacs Thu 24-Sep-09 12:49:28

Hi, my advise, get rid. Normally it does not get better. Just had a completely useless au pair who left after 1.5 weeks. We had several au pairs in the past and they all had the same briefing. 2 were excellent, 2 were ok, 2 were a disaster. The last one was supposed to look after our 3 year old boy 2 days a week during the day and 3 days a week from 3-5:30pm after his nursery. During the 3 days while he was at nursery she was asked to clean his room, her bathroom, help with ironing and hoover once a week - this was made very clear in the job description and I talked her through it during the interview. The good au pairs finished these jobs in less than 2-3 hours and had the rest of the time of. This one already broadcast on the internet that we were keeping her as our slave!! She treated our house as a hotel - never offered help with anything, did not clean and tidy up after our son and when we asked her to do so she did it badly and took clearly no interest and pride in her work. Luckily she did us the favour and left otherwise she would have been fired at the end of this week.

We (my husband and I) obviously discussed were it all went wrong because we had a good interview with her in person. My experience is that they may read the job description but don't really understand what it means. They want to be treated like adults but they really are kids. We are quite pragmatic about APs now. You cannot look into their heads and hearts and you don't really know until they live with you if they are good or not. But when they do not work out and do not fit in with the family we do not loose too much sleep over it anymore and move on. It is of course always a hassle but that's our experience.

Totallyfloaty35 Thu 24-Sep-09 13:55:21

Dacs,is she looking for another family? what nationality was she? I ask because i been approached by a couple of girls saying they left last families as they were treated like slaves,i am always dubious about these girls as i find that the family usually has good reason for asking them to leave.
I have also recieved applications from aupairs asking for £120-£180 per week recentlyshock for 25hrs a wk i think its a little excessive,told one girl for that i could hire a part time nanny with training,plus she has put herself in tax bracket,she got quite cross and told me she was experienced as she had been an aupair before in usa.Am i right in thinking they work much longer hours in usa?

Julesnobrain Thu 24-Sep-09 15:56:10

Floaty - yes they often work more hours and get less!!. A daughter of a family friend has just come back from 6 months doing pretty much full time child care for 2 under 5's whilst M & D worked. (7.30am - 7.30pm 5 days a week) She is 22 years old and has no qualifications, although a v nice girl. She was paid $90 per week. I was a bit shock when I heard what she had to do

dreamteamgirl Thu 24-Sep-09 16:04:02

Blimey £120-£180 if they live out and dont get fed maybe?

But for live in no way!

booreeve Did you tell her you are considering terminating? TBH if you did and you have been very prescriptive that you want her to play and engage with DS- maybe along with a list of suggested activities typed up- and to help out more and she simply isnt then I would terminate

My agreement suggests that I give 2 weeks notice unless gross misconduct which would give you some time to look for a new one. Maybe try an agency?

argento Thu 24-Sep-09 16:12:01

In America au pairs are more like low-paid nannies I think - the official programme is 45 hours a week for about $200, so it tends to be fulltime childcare for working parents rather than just school runs and ironing.

booreeve Thu 24-Sep-09 17:31:58

Thanks dreamteamgirl...we were going to wait until tomorrow evening to have the chat, but the way this afternoon has gone, I've simply had enough and we'll have to tell her tonight.
I've been a prescriptive as I can but she seemingly has no brain at all! Today DS was having his lunch and got all upset because his food was too hot, which turned into a complete meltdown - all the while she is sitting across from him chowing down on her own food, doesn't look at him, try and console/distract him etc just sat there and ate.....I was very suprised seeing as she was "on duty" shock all very strange. She then went to her english lesson while I took DS swimming, she's supposed to help out on my return - so I left them to continue building a train set and I went to have a quick shower. All I could hear was him really really crying for me (this has never ever happened) I wanted to go to him but I thought, I'd give her the space to try and deal with it. This resulted in him climbing a flight of stairs unsupervised to come and find me - while she vanished to make a cuppa shock Maybe I should have gone to him, however if this is how she is going to react every time there's a blip then at least I now know.
We may have found a replacement, but I will look into an agency.....

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