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The au pair 'employers' thread

266 replies

boo64 · 07/11/2006 15:35

As discussed, here's our new thread to swap advice on finding an au pair, keeping good ones, giving them feedback, what works with APs and what doesn't, what are appropriate duties etc!

Note the word employer is in quotes as they aren't officially employees but I couldn't think of anything better to call the thread!

OP posts:
BrummieOnTheRun · 02/06/2007 08:15

to clarify wrt boyfriend, it's whether 'they will be visiting each other'.

milkchocolate · 02/06/2007 09:28

My AP did not have a boyfriend when she came, but she got one fairly quickly.

He would come visit with her the occasional evening (actually, sometimes 3 times during one week, but more like twice a month), she would heat up some left over dinner, make him an omelette or something pretty cheap and easy, and they would withdraw to her room with a cup of tea. He never stayed past midnight. However, I sometimes found it tiresome to come down after putting the kids to bed to find my newly cleaned kitchen in a mess of pots and dirty pans again, and have another stranger to chit chat with politely, at least for a few minutes.

I was not comfortable with an unknown stranger in such close proximity to my sleeping little boys. And I would not myself go to sleep with him still in the house.

Now I was lucky in that my AP was very religious and her boyfriend a youth preacher, so the issues of sex under my roof never came up, and she never went to stay the night at his house, or even visit in the evenings as that wouldnt be "decent".

If her boyfriend is in her home country, she would have to go visit him on her holiday time, you wouldnt let her have time off to visit with anybody really, unless it is Easter, or Christmas etc. As for families and boyfriends coming on holiday to stay at your house, no no. However, if your AP arrives, you like her, she is nice, and it is working out famously, the offer of a loved one, mum/sister/bf for a long weekend would be highly appreciated by the AP. Your home is not an immediate holiday home for APs friends and family. But the stories my AP has told me about other live in nannies/APs that she has gotten to know, and how they have parties and guests when the host family is away, and how they sneak in their finances discussing how much they earn and decisions regards to expenses, etc, I think I have been very lucky, LOL!

Do you actually have to state upfront in the application papers whether bf is allowed to come and holiday (stay as guest at your house) or visit in the evenings if he is in the same country?

milkchocolate · 02/06/2007 09:34

Actually Brummie, come to think of it, if he is in her home country, and she is to go for a year/three months as aupair, it is just part of her decision making process. Boyfriend vs Aupair time. If she knows upfront she cant, it will be her decision if she wants to come and leave him behind. TBH, I wouldnt want an AP that had a boyfriend at home and she was already considering visiting with. Imagine the time spent on the phone, on msn, on texting, writing emails......

You will also have to consider getting her a mobile phone. I dont know the age of your children, but if she is to go anywhere with them, it is in your interest that she can easily call an ambulance, or just call you, or you have a way of getting in touch with her. I got my AP the phone (an old of mine after upgrade) a sim card an initial £10. Thereafter it was her responsibility to add credit. She would give me a "missed call" and I would call her back.

BrummieOnTheRun · 02/06/2007 10:08

That's very helpful, milkchoc! thank you.

So that'll be a:
'No' to the one with the boyf.
'Yes' to the evangelical christian

goldenoldie · 02/06/2007 11:21

Can I echo MC - I had an au-pair who was a Jehova's Witness - we were a bit worried - thought she might be a bit weird and would might spend all her time trying to convert us.

She was a dream. Polite/tidy/hard-working. Only ever left copies of the watchtower on the table - never tried to 'convert' us.

No problems with boyfriends/drinking/anti-social behaviour. She went to church about 4 times a week and was always with a group of other very nice JW young people.

We would def have a religious au-pair again.

caterpiller · 02/06/2007 11:37

Artist, as far as the computer goes, all you have to do is put a password on it. However, the fact that you have to do this bad. It means she is not trustworthy. If she worked for me, she would be asked to leave. You do not have to tolerate this. ( I have had 2 au-pairs btw)

artist67 · 02/06/2007 20:18

Milkchocolate ? I agree it is definitely a balancing act with Au pairs. We have also given new Au pairs a very detailed list of the schedule, A list of house rules ( that gets longer after each Au pair) and information about the children.

I must say that this Au pair is great in every other aspect and gets in very well with DC and has endless patients and enthusiasm when she not plugged into her MP3 player. She usually follows every instruction to the last detail. Although I was annoyed at the time, I have not yet put a password the computer, but I feel I should give her the benefit of another chance. If it was password restricted from the very beginning it would have been a lot easier, and I know she like to chat on the computer with her family in her free time when I?m not here.
She is very lonely and not yet made friends in the area, I have notice that she has started to isolate herself and sometimes spend the whole weekend in her room listening to music, and playing her guitar.
Apart the the safety issues with the MP3 player, what I find most irritating is AP has started plugging in her headphones when helping to tidy the kitchen, or playroom, or just after we have finished dinner. I asked her the other day ( half joking) if she has an outlet on her body for some speakers, so we could communicate back to her instead of doing animated gestures. Althgough she has removed her headphones when with the children after I pointed out very disaster that could happen.

artist67 · 02/06/2007 20:58

Caterpiller ? Your right about being trustworthy. With regards to computer AP did explain that we must be able to trust her 100% if this is going to work out. She is completely obsessed with the computer and music. I will just have to see what happens.

About BF?s, Its also a no no for me, it is something I have not discussed with AP, at the interview she said would meet up with once a month at the nearest town. We have never met him and AP has never asked if he can visit.
We have just booked a holiday and now wondering about the BF and AP and if I should mention it before we go, or wait and see it AP mentions it ? TBH I don?t like the thought of AP?s BF staying when we are not here, because we have not met him and will see it we can trust AP with the computer.

mistletoekisses · 28/10/2009 13:04

Hi - have decided to 'bump' this thread as have found it very interesting (albeit old), but a lot of advice on here is great and some of the situations encountered have made me

From my one experience of having an au pair, one piece of advice has stood out from everything else said as it totally reflects my own experience - especially based on what has come out of the woodwork the last two days!

Posted by Golden oldie on Sat 10-Mar-07 13:22:50

I never, ever, take girls who have not been au-pairs before/not been au-pair in the UK. Always check refs with current/last family.

Asking a list of questions is meaningless - they say what they think you want to hear, even the good ones, afterall it is a job to them and they want to do their best to get it.

MrAnchovy · 28/10/2009 16:58

Well first of all this thread is over two years old and predates the court decision that confirmed that au pairs in the UK are employees.

Secondly, if you only look for those who have previous au pair experience you are ruling out 'gap year' boys/girls who IMO are the best au pairs. Someone who is willing to work for years on end for £75 a week is unlikely to be able to offer your children the same breadth of care.

Thirdly, interviewing is an art. Asking questions is not 'meaningless'. Of course they are going to tell you what they think you want to hear, but you need to follow up their answers until you have worked out whether they are bluffing,

The one rule I have made (I broke it once, and regretted it) is if they are overseas, fly them over for a weekend before you offer a job. This is not a guarantee of success, but for the price of a flight these days it is worth it.

mistletoekisses · 28/10/2009 19:26

Fair points Mr Anchovy. But I simply speak from my recent experience.

Despite providing my au pair with a lot of information about the family/ the role before she accepted a job. A month into the job - those very things are a problem for her and she has given notice.

She knew we only had one child. She has problems with how quiet the household is (she herself comes from a large family)

She knew DS went to nursery on the 3 days a week that I work, now she says she doesnt get to play with him enough. She plays with him 2 hours on the days he goes to nursery and 4-5 hours on the 2 days he is home. She isnt contracted to work more than 5 hours a day.

She knew that our mealtimes were the same as DS's - we dont like him to eat alone, but that obviously means all main meals are much earlier than most adults would normally eat. Those mealtimes dont work for her and she feels excluded.

She knew DS wasnt potty trained, however has not once changed his soiled nappy.

So IME, despite my asking plenty of questions and getting all the right answers at the time of interview, they have not mattered one iota. She simply either seems to have paid us lip service/ used us as a barometer to see what she is looking for in a host family.

Granted, I too was finding it difficult to adjust to having her in the house since she too was our first au pair. But I was willing to try and make it work. She has not been.

The impact to me has been huge. I have lost my substantial agency fee - as I simply dont have the energy to go through this again with another au pair within the space of 6 weeks. I took 2 days holiday when she arrived to show her round/ get her sorted/ settled - so they were a complete waste.
And I have had to move my maternity leave forward by 4 weeks so as not to be completely stranded for childcare.

So i stick to the advice being sound of using someone who has au paired previously, simply because I dont fancy being someones test case family again.

Millarkie · 28/10/2009 20:42

The stinky lazy ap who is currently dossing in our spare room was previously an au pair for 2 years! So I would not hang my hopes on previous experience being a good indicator of a good fit with an au pair either.
I think a lot of it is luck to be honest.

mistletoekisses · 28/10/2009 20:52

Gawd Millarkie, is she still there?? You deserve a medal! You answered the question I put on your other thread.

DadInsteadofMum · 29/10/2009 10:13

I agree with the fishy one. I have never employed anybody with AP experience, and have found the best interviewers are the kids who can ask some very direct questions.

The only correlation on previous experience = good au pair I have found is those who have worked on summer camps have been our best au pairs.

Questions are not meaningless if you follow up and explore their answers. Tell me about your experience with children, is an opening bland question but when they answer you need to dig deeper to find out what that really means, the "meaningless" questions go into the emails, their answers then give you material for the telephone interview where you can explore further and they don't have time to research the perfect answer but have to rely on what they know, you can usually pick out those with genuine experience.

DadInsteadofMum · 29/10/2009 10:15

And Ihave never used an agency as I don't understand how they can justify their fees as I don't believe they employ particularly robust interviewing techniques, in the worst examples their is a risk they will collude with the AP about her experience in order to ensure they get their fee.

mistletoekisses · 29/10/2009 11:30

Dadinsteadofmum, I live and learn! Right now - this au pair experience has put me off for life!

The part that makes me the angriest is that this au pair has absolutely no consideration in how she has tried to make us look to the agency. Or how much cost - both monetary and emotionally has gone into us entering this agreement with her. I get angrier when the more I look at what is coming out of the woodwork. It appears more and more that she really did not enter into this agreement in good faith or with the aim of making it work.

I am even more mortified to think about what rubbish she has been telling her family at home!! Such lies!

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