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My aupair is plain lazy.... help

(173 Posts)
Horseymumjo Sat 29-Sep-12 00:50:47

Hi! Am in need of advice from other mums with au pairs.

Our au pair joined us a month ago, and the first week with us I took a weeks holiday to help settle her in, show her the ropes and the local area, etc.

We live in a rural location so have provided her with a car for school runs and to be at her disposal for her weekends off. I have also provided her with a sat nav.

Now 4 weeks on, we have a major problem. Her car broke last weekend (fan belt) so we have spent all week trying to get it fixed. We have had to resume doing all the school runs and juggling the children as a result. Midweek she came down with a cold, as did I, and she has barely left her bed since. I had to take the whole day off today to do the school runs, washing, cleaning, cooking etc. I am self employed, so it cost me hard cash.

She spends all evening and most weekends in her bedroom, posting on Facebook how miserable she is and how much she misses her family and friends. I have tried to talking to her, inviting her to sit with us in the evenings, but she doesn't want to.

in the last couple of weeks I have asked her to cook meals, tidy the children's bedroom, Hoover in the hallway. She has not done any of these things. It transpires she does not know how to cook. Yesterday she was asked to cook pork chops, nd had to call her boyfriend at home to find out how. This was checked in the initial interviews, and is an integral part of her duties. I have shown her where the cook books are in case she needs inspitiration, but as yet she hasn't used them. I have cooked more meals in the last 4 weeks than she has. In fact I think I have only eaten 1 meal that she has cooked. I have suggested she cooks meals from home, that she is used to, we are happy to try new things, but she doesn't seem to know how to do anything.

in addition she has the use of a private bathroom. She has been using it for the last 3 weeks and hasn't cleaned it once. I only discovered that this evening.

I am beginning to think she thinks she is just on holiday, staying with us for free, and being paid too. Feel like I am being taken for a mug.

so do I sack her? Help!?

J x

Julesnobrain Sat 29-Sep-12 07:55:33

Op there seem to be several things going on here. Firstly the cooking. If it was specified at interview stage there would be cooking for family and now you find she can't cook then you have every right to feel duped but presumably in interview you asked her what sort of dishes she typically made so why not re visit that conversation and start with those, maybe she just needs to get confidence

If she is feeling ill, that can't be helped but if she is lonely have you tried to get her to log on eg aupair groups in Facebook to make new friends? most young people don't usually want to sit with host family in the evening. When you were a teenager would u want to spend every night chatting to your Mum? I find (circa 9 AP's on) the quicker they make new friends, the happier they are and happy AP's then tend to knuckle down and do the jobs needed.

Finally i think you need to be very directive with AP's . Mine have a daily schedule that lists jobs eg 7.15 empty dishwasher 7.30 am dress children Hoover hall and sitting room, 2.30- 3.30pm ironing etc etc. I also specify their free time so for instance mine are free from 9.00am to 2.30pm every day. They can sit and watch tv / go to class/ do coffee with friends guilt free knowing I am not expecting them on duty. The advantage of this is that then you do not have your bathroom problem as you will have scheduled her to clean it once/ twice a week and you can inspect it has been done.

Unless she is not a nice person. I would make her a more specific schedule and try her on cooking dishes she is familiar with. Give her verbal warning and say these measures are designed to help. If after two weeks there is no improvement then I would terminate her employment.

Horseymumjo Sat 29-Sep-12 08:34:09

Jules - thanks. Sometimes it's hard to know if you're being reasonable or not.

I don't think I did ask about specific dishes she's cooked at interview stage, so can't go there. I have however drawn up a weekly schedule broken down by hourly tasks, and we plan to talk to her today. As there are 7 of us in the house, I have suggested we each choose a favourite meal, and then there will be an evening meal for every day of the week. I can then go through recipes with her and make sure she knows what she is doing, how long each dish takes, and that I have grocery shopped accordingly. And that way she will learn to cook our favourite dishes, and we can have her speciality or favourite dish once a week.

I know she can't help being ill, but I too have been ill and haven't taken to my bed for 2 days. I am aware that AP's are meant to live with you as part of your family, but I was hoping that at 22 she might have a bit more self discipline and get up and go. I have four children already, and another sulky moping lazy teenager type, who I am paying £80/week, and funding a car for (which incidentally hasn't met with approval, she keeps eying my Audi an making comments about how rubbish her car is) is tipping me over the edge.

I have nursed her through being ill, bought her a hottie bottle, and soothers, stepsils, olbas oil, balsam tissues etc. I gave her last Monday morning off bc she wanted to stay out overnight with her step family. I have supported her joining the local gym to make friends , and applying for bar jobs for the weekends. I have made endless suggestions about how to make friends, as she really does need her own social life, and we need space too. I have tried to be a good host mum, but my patience is wearing very very thin.

Def verbal warning today, with positive guidance on how she can improve and see how we get on from there. I am back on aupair world looking for anther in case it all goes wrong, jic.

Julesnobrain Sat 29-Sep-12 08:52:01

Good luck sounds like you are doing all the right things. From experience I think early on you get a feeling if things are going to work out or not. I terminated an AP once after 6 hours. I was furious as it takes along time and a lot of effort to recruit. (basically despite me going through our schedule about 3 times in interview stage) she turned up and said she did not believe eating hot food after lunchtime was healthy and thus not only did she only want to eat sandwiches/ salad for dinner ( I have no issue with that each to their own) but she was not prepared to re heat food or cook for the DC when they came home from school!!

Aghhh DH and I long for the time when the children are in secondary school and we can live AP free

Horseymumjo Sat 29-Sep-12 10:40:13

No hot food after lunchtime huh? Take it she came from a hot country and had not experienced a British winter then. Yep, I think you did the right thing.

I hope we can make this work, but she is very opinionated, keeps telling the children off in front of me for doing things i dont consider to be wrong, has made remarks about my youngest being "such a little darling" and not in a good way. So, the kids haven't really warmed to her either. dreading having to go through the recruitment process again, you're right, it takes a lot of time and effort.

Well, here goes nothing, going to have the talk shortly.

ProudNeathGirl Sat 29-Sep-12 11:15:08

Unless things have changed in the last 10 years, I think that au pairs are not expected to cook as part of their duties. Just light cooking occasionally. And I think they are supposed to only do about 20 hours of child care a week, with a bit of light housework.
Did you find her through an agency? If so, it would be a good idea to discuss with them what you expect the AP to do, and see what they say. They will act as intermediary. There is probably a six week trial period on both sides, so act before this is up, and ask the agency to find you someone more suitable if needs be.
Do include her in family stuff though - she is supposed to be a "big sister" for your kids.
She's bound to be homesick until she's settled in. Have you helped her enrol in English lessons, where she could make some friends? Or the Agency could put her in touch with other APs.

LadyHarrietdeSpook Sat 29-Sep-12 13:48:40

The posting on FB about how miserable she is would bring things to a head for me.

I would be saying to her, we obviously don't want you so unhappy and (in a diplomatic way) it's worrying you are using FB as an outlet for this...but we need to be working together to find a solution urgently if this is going to continue. I feel like we've given xyz's also down to you to engage. What do you suggest would make things better for you? And give her a timeline by when you both need to agree it is or isn't working.

Actually I've just seen your last message...her attitude sounds like it needs a big adjustment....

For the future though...

Regarding the cooking, imo trying to get an AP to do the sort of cooking that calls for recipe books could end up being very frustrating for all concerned! I also wouldn't expect them to cook for the whole family either. Our APs cook very simple meals for the girls - grilling meat, making mash, boiling veg, pasta dishes. That sort of thing. I agree that if she can't do this much it's a non starter. But are you sure that you're not asking too much of her? Fine for her to help you prepare meals though and also with the clear up.

metrobaby Sat 29-Sep-12 15:31:52

HOw did the chat go HorseyMum?

APs duties can be broken down into 3 main areas:-
1) Childcare
2) Cleaning/Tidying Up
3) Cooking

IME - it is impossible to find someone who excels in all 3 areas. I often I find I have to make concessions in at least one area. For me, however, the childcare is of paramount importance. My last AP was a useless cook but fantastic with the children. SHe had a lovely personality too. We got around the cooking issue by only expecting her to cook very very simple meals for the children - eg pasta + ready made sauce, ready made meals, frozen chicken nuggets/fish/chicken, jacket potatoes, rice, sausages etc.

However, it sounds as if your AP is not great in any of the 3 areas and is rude and miserable too. It sounds as if she is not very happy.

If you have already put your profile up on AuPairWorld there is a danger she may have seen this which will dent her confidence further

bran Sat 29-Sep-12 15:56:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Horseymumjo Sat 29-Sep-12 22:57:59

Thank you all so much for your comments - it s helping to put things in perspective.

I appreciate that cooking isn't something that many au pairs do, but sitting down together as a family for an evening meal is a really important part of our day and I would really find it an enormous help for her to prepare an evening meal for us all. The other options are that the DC eat separately to us, which I hate the thought of, or that I rush home from work and start frantically throwing together a meal for 6 people, also not great. Thinking back to when I was 22 if someone had asked me to prepare an evening meal for 6 people it would have been terrifying (and the result probably inedible) so I am prepared to help her wth this. If she can walk away from this being able to cook, then she will have gained an important life skill, I think?

The housework element is the bit I am least fussed about. If she can run the Hoover round the communal/heavy traffic areas once a week, flick a duster about a bit and do a bit of washing up I'm happy. I'm not a clean freak. I too would rather she played with and engaged the DC, than worry about cleaning too much.

She is from south africa so English is her first language, therefore no language classes required. She has joined the gym and is working on relationships through that, I think she is going for a Chinese with a group tomorrow. I will suggest fb AP groups, have found one for our area so that may help. We took a trip out this afternoon, to the beach with the kids and the AP came, and had fish & chips and it was lovely, so she is included as a family member, very much so.

I have yet to have the talk, we have now decided to postpone until tomorrow. My DH was out most of the day today, and I needed to discuss it through with him, as he is the voice of calm and reason to my exuberance. I also want DH present at the talk to keep things calm, reasonable and positive. Didn't want to do it before beach trip and spoil it, and when we'd got home, got the kids to bed, and had a conversation about it with my DH it was too late, don't want to go to bed on an atmosphere, if that should happen.

I will update you all tomorrow. Thank you again smile

chloeb2002 Sun 30-Sep-12 04:36:22

It did make me ap's are yet to cook..
I make food in advance if I am on an evening, for the whole family and ap.. so learn to be inventive. I use a slow cooker to produce good food in advance.
All my ap's spend time in their own rooms. I don't have an ensuite for ap's but will have at some point maybe. I am more than aware that they will not clean it! Are you in the UK? I find my ap's quite often come to Aus (where we are ) and think we are all lazy bums who do nothing... they have a shock!

Frakiosaurus Sun 30-Sep-12 06:19:36

How did you get a visa for a SA AP? Or does she have dual nationality with an EU state? I'm assuming you have checked her right to work carefully but if you haven't that may be an 'easy' way to make the decision.

Re: cooking it isn't reasonable to expect her to do all the cooking all the time. Light cooking for the children (pasta and sauce as has been mentioned) and maybe one family meal a week would be about right.

As it is I have to say this AP sounds a non-starter and you're better of getting another.

Horseymumjo Sun 30-Sep-12 08:57:49

The au pair has British dual nationality, so no visa problems there.

I recruited specifically for an ap+ to work 8 hours/day. I am a hard worker, and always strive to give extra, to give more than expected. It's the way I was raised, and I frequently work 12 hour days. I think maybe I do expect too much of her?. Many of you have posted that APs don't cook, are fairly untidy and don't do any cleaning shock

I have tried to not push her, and have only suggested she tidy the children's rooms, or Hoover the hallway, but it just hasn't happened. Now I am feeling frustrated and disappointed. I find it hard to believe that all everyone else's APs do is the school runs, an hour of laundry hanging and breakfast washing up in the morning, then spend the rest of the day skyping, reading, taking long showers, and lying in bed, only emerging to consume the food you have prepared, then disappearing again as soon as the table is cleared, while your own children wash up. That's what is happening in my house.


Julesnobrain Sun 30-Sep-12 09:02:55

Horsey - having read subsequent posts I think u are wanting the AP to cook the family meal every night? I would echo other posters and say you are extremly unlikely to find an AP who can do that unless you select one whose hobby is cooking or given the current circumstances in Europe has a main career as a chef ( my friend has one:-)).

Most AP can only re heat via microwave, do basic put in the even ready modes plus chips, or make pasta. I had one who mistook chineese noodles for spaghetti and boiled 2 min noodles for 10 mins and mixed with Bol sauce.. Yuk.. Learning from that nowadays I even get the packets out for them!

remsby Sun 30-Sep-12 09:11:24

My sister has used aupairworld twice. She's deliberately chosen au pairs with interests eg: horseriding and who show evidence of previous work with children. Both have been hard working and connected well with the children. I wouldn't rely on an agency. Is pick ny own au pair.

forevergreek Sun 30-Sep-12 09:17:40

An au pair should be part of the family to help with a help with a bit of childcare. This will include feeding them easy food and cleaning up after themselves. It does not include a full day of cleaning and cooking for everyone. Around £90 a week average for 20-25 hrs max ( that includes babysitting, so if she works one eve it leaves you with 4hrs per day mon-fri)

And au pair plus can work max 35 hrs a week ( 7 hrs max a day, 6 prob if she babysits one eve) this is more like £120-150 a week.

I'm afraid if you want all your meals and cleaning done you need a housekeeper/ cook. This will be about £450-500 a week plus tax

I'm afraid you can't ask for everything, for paying peanuts. Make some sauces / bolgnaise etc and pop in freezer. She may then make some pasta and reheat what you have already prepared.

8hrs a day is really not on for an au pair and if you need his much childcare you need a nanny. An average au pair will take kids to school. Have 9-2.45 free, go to pick up from school and watch until 6pm ( so 4 hrs)

Horseymumjo Sun 30-Sep-12 09:22:03

Jules - no, not every night, but on maybe 3-4 weekday nights. And meals required are typically chicken casserole from a packet mix, grilled pork chops, sausage&mash, fajitas (dinner kit), bolognese (have offered ragu type jars to simplify it but she has said no, she can cook from scratch). I am not xpecting her to rustle up a beef Wellington, nor decide a menu herself. At 22 I had lived away from home for 4 years, and could cook more than packets, tins, jars, ready meals and microwave. I wasnt cooking for a family of 6, the organisation wasnt there, but the skills were. I can organise it, she just needs to cook it.

I have friends who have or have had APs and theirs just seem to do more.

Maybe I should let things carry on as they are and say nothing?

solittletimeandsomuchtodo Sun 30-Sep-12 09:41:59

Op - I font think you are asking too much. I just think this one is not right for you.

Flumpy2012 Sun 30-Sep-12 09:42:05


I'm a qualified nanny. I've never been an au pair but I've known quite a few and to me it's all in the job description. Au pairs take on jobs in the full knowledge of what is required of them and if she didn't want to cook she shouldn't have taken the job.

When I started out I was doing 10 hour days, cooking and cleaning up from all 3 meals. One child at nursery so doing the runs to and fro and other at home. Did ironing, online shopping, washing and light cleaning and hoovering whilst he slept in the pm. Always made sure I left the place tidy. I didn't work weekends though and they paid expenses on my car rather than giving me one. I was not live in either. I was paid £250 a week plus tax and NI. I was 21 so not far of her age and I lived alone and cooking etc was no problem. I spent evening at home planning stimulating activities and games and days out for the children and teaching them new things. Tbh I think my heart was in it but I'm not sure hers is.

I'm not sure if this helps at all. But I do know au pairs who do much much more than you are asking her for for similar money.

Horseymumjo Sun 30-Sep-12 09:47:08

Forevergreek - you're rates are far more generous than any we researched when looking for an ap. I am quite shocked. And dismayed.

I am not, let's be clear, expecting her to do all the cleaning and cooking. Not even close. 3-4 evenings to prepare a family meal. Run the Hoover round, tidy children's toys away, wash up breakfast things, do some laundry.

Her proposed schedule is
8am -10am get kids ready for school, do school run, return home, hang out laundry, wash up breakfast things. We do kids breakfasts and make pack lunches. I have suggested this time to include thinking about the evening meal, ie prepping in her mind what she needs to, read the packet mix etc.
10am - 12noon own time/off duty
12noon - 2pm collect DS2 from nursery, sit with him while he eats lunch (that we have prepared for him in the morning), then engage him an activity ie painting, play dough, reading, den making, baking, go to the park etc.
2 - 3pm prepare dinner, from ingredients left out and according to instructions provided and discussed.
3 - 4pm collect DS1 from school, return home, prepare a snack for the DS's (ham/cheese/cucumber/breadsticks/grapes on a plate)
4 - 6pm do a little light housework (as necessary) ie run the Hoover round communal areas, or dusting or clean bathroom (different days, different tasks), finish dinner, play with the dc, on 2 evenings collect dd from dance class.

My DH is usually home sometime around 5pm although its not guaranteed, and the DS's usually want to go and do horses with him then.

Is this too much and how would you amend it?

SoldeInvierno Sun 30-Sep-12 10:24:19

so, she's really needed about 8 hours per day, which is much more than most aupair, if I am reading that properly. Right?

and then she supposed to do the cleaning while the children are already at home. Rigth?

Sorry, but I think you are expecting too much for your money. Heating up dinner for the children or boiling a bit of pasta would be fine, but preparing the family dinner, on the top of all the rest is far too much in my opinion.

Rubirosa Sun 30-Sep-12 10:38:05

I think forevergreek's terms sound unusually generous and have not personally come across them - maybe she is talking about remote rural places where recruitment is hard/top earning families?

Generally au pairs make £65-£75 a week pocket money for 25 hours work PLUS one babysit a week. Au pair plus is more like £90 for 35. And of course use of a car or a travelcard.

However, your schedule sounds quite intense - I think you are looking for either an experienced au pair or someone who was a nanny in their own country, or a newly-qualified/junior nanny.

If you were paying someone live-out to do that job you'd be paying at least £250-£280, so maybe think about whether what you are paying is fair?

forevergreek Sun 30-Sep-12 10:51:25

Far too much. Occupying a nursery and school age child and two hours cleaning at same time isn't on. The time between 3-6 should be used to help with homework, read with children, puzzles/ arts crafts. Then reheating a meal.

Yes from the age of 18 I was living alone, feeding children etc. but different people do diff things. As a nanny myself I understand fully what childcare and everything alongside it involves ( personally work 12-16hr days, but I'm paid for that), I do child related things. No cleaning bathrooms and cooking family meals ( sure il make a large lasagne if making and there will be enough but I don't plan there meals to include parents every day)

So she only has max 2 hours free in daytime hours (10-12), an au pair if supposed to have time during the day to study ( usually English), but she could do something else. She takes to school ( so expect starts work around 8 and works until 5) so that's max £1 per hour if you aren't paying between 10-12 and even less as you live in country so 2 hrs honestly barely gives her time to go anywhere and get back in time

I would personally to resolve this
A) increase wage- you say she's an au pair plus ( which is basically the same as a full time new nanny), yet she is being paid bottom end of a basic aupair. I always thought au pairs in country def got higher wage as encouragement to start with a family as its remote from places/ people

B) get a cleaner also. They can do anytime between 9-12.

C) is she needed for school drop of every day? If not I would start her at 12. If so she needs to start last poss min ( 8.30/40), then not come home to do things but be completely free until nursery pick up. That's still min 6 hours a day.

Personally I would be doing all of above. Only child laundry, only child's bedrooms hoovered/ tidied. Only basic cooking/ reheating.

Also you say she should finish around 5 but sometimes your dh goes out to horses?? She that means she continues work? Would you agree with your employer to gt paid until 5, but poss everyday ( not knowing until 5), you might stay until I fancy. That's unexceptable frankly. What if she want to meet someone at 6, or start a class at 6? She can never plan as has no idea when she is free

Sorry to be blunt but you asked

forevergreek Sun 30-Sep-12 10:54:28

Rubriso, sorry your figures are low. Someone living out found the same job would be asking £8-10 net ( so you need tax ontop- £11-13 gross) per hour. So 8-6, 10hrs x 5 days. Is not £240 a week

StillSquiffy Sun 30-Sep-12 10:55:03

Some thoughts:-

1) £80 a week in the UK comes with an expectation that AP will do 25 hours a week - maybe 30 hours in some parts of country. Sounds like she does 8 hours per day for 5 days per week? Totally unacceptable IMHO. Especially as those 8 hours cover a 10 hour period, so she is effectively tied to the house for 50 hours a week?
2) You say that your DH is out till 5 and that you run your own business too, so am I correct in reading that between 12 noon and 5pm she has sole care of at least 1 child at a time, and is expected to do housework, and make family meals at the same time? Totally unacceptable IMHO

APs can do whatever hours/care that you and they agree to do, though most people hesitate to give them sole care of under 2's. But you really do need to balance your needs with an APs expectations. My AP does housework and looks after kids but never at the same time. And I pay him £100 for what can be 35 hours a week but is in reality more like 28-30. I agree that if your needs exceed 35 hours a week then you need more than an AP. It's slightly different in the US but here in the UK it's never more than 35 hrs - not least because once you go over £100 you need to register them for tax and NI, which brings with it a whole headache of paperwork/insurance/costs.

The fact that you did X, Y and Z and had loads of responsibility as a 22 YO is irrelevant. You won't find APs like that. Or, if you do, you need to thank your stars and cherish them.

You need to rethink your options. I would suggest you look at an au-pair couple who could do this between them for £150 a week. Or see how you can scale the work back into a more manageable chunk (increase nursery hours/get a cleaner??). You will probably need to do this soon, though, because if she is personable she will find herself an easier job soon. As it stands there is nothing in it for her to make more effort, is there? If you work on lightening the expectations on your side then she will probably be willing to up the game on her side.

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