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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:
Tan1959 · 23/11/2006 23:56


If you go with your gut feeling and offer AP job before contacting her current employer, you could insert wording the the effect 'subject to satisfactory reference' then you are covered aren't you?

happynappy · 24/11/2006 19:21

MizZan - if the potential AP goes behind her current host family's back to secure a better position then how do you know she won't do it to you and leave you in the lurch? I wouldn't hire AP who was going behind present family's back. It would make me think her comms skills, ie social skills rather than language, weren't too good. Could make things pretty awkward at school for you son and you too.

happynappy · 24/11/2006 19:23

Bienchen - am going to CAT you but have to sign up to it first!! But would love you to give me some hot tips on interviewing. I've got a pretty good feeling about AP already but would like some tips on how to bring out the best and find out the not so good. She arrives tomorrow for an overnight stay.

artist67 · 25/11/2006 13:39

I would certainly try to speak to her current family. Last year i interviewed an AP who wanted to change families for location reasons and to go to another college. However, it turns out she had changed families 3 times in one year, and always seemed to be looking for the best deal!!

Mzzan - family might be a bit miffed but hopefully, you might get the relevant info about good and bad points.

artist67 · 25/11/2006 21:13

Coudberry -thanks for advice. I would love to have live out help but I have some early morning starts 6.30am and DH is sometimes for a few nights in the week. So the hours are sometimes varied. Before I agreed to new AP, I did advertise locally for a live out early morning help but not much luck!!

However another AP ( with English AP experience in the UK not too far away and sound fab in a e-mails) has applied to one of my old Ad?s and available from end of Jan. I have not took it much further as yet, but not sure if its better the devil you know rather than start the process again ??

AP was undecided about going home for Christmas and kept hinting at the expense of travelling, but I didn?t feel like forking out £300 for air ticket for someone that?s only been here for a 4 weeks( and not that good, either) To my relief AP is going home for Christmas by cheaper option of coach?Yippee I get a break and she not invading my social life for example I was going to a new restaurant with a few of my friends that AP has met, and she asked If I minded if she came too, because AP friend was busy. so I was put on the spot so I lied, and said BF?s treating us as special occasion.

She?s has now given up even trying to bath 3 year old, or doing anything for him? she find it all too much. She told me it was a shame 3 year old DS didn?t like her and that?s end of that. I have asked her to try to divert him and make it a bit more fun. It took her 15mins to get him dressed and a further 10mins to put his shoes on. Yesterday after several feeble attempts by AP, I ended up asking 5year old DD to help 3 year old to get dressed, then AP asked DD is she would mind putting his shoes and coat on as well !!!!

MizZan · 27/11/2006 11:20

hi - thanks for advice everyone. Actually the au pair called me herself and said she'd now told her family she wanted to leave and they were happy to talk with me. The mom actually called me on her own today and gave some useful information. Basically the AP is nice and honest, but it sounds like she's been mainly doing housework for them - AP has been helping look after 15 month old but mum does not even ask her to change nappies ?! And she has never once, in 6 months, had to look after the two kids together. Not sure how that would work, really. Family were planning to change childcare arrangements anyway as their work patterns are changing and they felt they couldn't leave the AP at home with the baby for extended periods, so at least they aren't too unhappy.

So now we've made a tentative offer to this au pair, but it seems like her childcare experience is not as much as she claims - either she or the mum is exaggerating. I'm looking into some other options too, but the cost of a nanny is crippling (and I don't feel we really need one as I'm around most of the time, though working), and childminder and nursery can't take my older child during holidays which makes them pretty well useless for us. Hmm.

Bluebear · 28/11/2006 18:43

I was thinking about moving from a nanny to an au pair next year but am getting worried reading your thread! Do any of you use the au pair to provide childcare cover whilst you work outside the home ( I will need someone to pick 3 and a half year old dd up from nursery at 1pm and keep her safe until 3pm ) or would I be asking too much in terms of reliability etc. Am I more likely to end up with big gaps between au pairs with no childcare cover than if I employ another nanny?

Pollyanna · 28/11/2006 18:47

artist67, my ap is the same with my 3 year old. To be fair to her, the 3 year old is pretty difficult with her, but she has just given up on her (face like thunder everytime she has to do anything with her).

I have got a job outside the home for 2 days a week and am trying to work out whether the ap can look after the children (including my 3 yo!) from school pick up time to the time I am back again. The baby will go to a nursery.

artist67 · 28/11/2006 20:29

Blue bear I don?t think that beyond the capabilities of an AP. Our last long term AP could do this no problem (even the one I sent home!!), and be 100% reliable. I would be inclined to look for an AP with at least 1 year?s pervious experience living with a family and looking after a toddler, as I wish I have done.
We had a long stay AP who has been with a family with children similar ages to ours, so the transition was very smooth.

Our new AP and toddler are not doing very well, even after 4 weeks. Pollyanna ? I?m in the same position and need her to pick 3 yr old at 1pm, and deliver home safely, and she CAN over come this if she would bother to listen to me, and follow a few simple techniques and bit of diversion instead of giving up instantly. I think the truth is AP doesn?t want to but we are also having conflicts with discipline and levels of what?s acceptable with AP.

DS bought a new DVD (star wars) which I thinks is age appropriate (7rys) and he was sooo thrilled he couldn?t wait to show her and he started to talk about it and AP. replies
?I don?t approve of this and I don?t think you should be watching such violence?
DS asks ? very disappointed
?Have you seen it??
AP ? ?well actually no, but we have similar things in my country?
AP then refused to play card games because it had characters similar star wars in it.

So then I have to end the day by asking AP not to undermine my decisions, and think carefully before making such remarks and explain how she possibly made DS feel, and have gently reminded her of our last conversation on following our example, and how I didn?t want to hear anymore about AP?s ?ideal world? or it won?t work out. It was such a pity as there have been vast improvements, in other areas.

Sorry for long post

Bluebear · 28/11/2006 20:45

Thanks Artist - I am gathering as much info as I can before I make the leap! Very sorry that you are having such a battle with your AP at the moment, hope it gets better soon.

MizZan · 28/11/2006 21:24

hi bluebear, we use our AP for some sole charge care of both baby and 5-year-old and it is absolutely fine (she is leaving, but that is nothing to do with her childcare abilities). I think you have to be quite confident in the person though, make sure they have some experience, train and observe them for a while before leaving on their own with kids, and also make sure their level of English is reasonable enough that if anything goes wrong, they will be able to cope in your (temporary) absence.

With our previous au pair, she was lovely but her level of English was initially poor, so I did not feel confident leaving her in charge of the baby while I was out until she'd been with us for 6 months, knew the kids and their routines very well, and I felt she would be ok in case of emergency. With current AP, level of English (and her own confidence) were both much better, and I felt comfortable leaving her after a much shorter time.

I'd think doing school pick-ups for a pre-schooler would be well within the scope of most au pairs' duties. Just don't expect them to be the same as a nanny - they generally will need much more explicit instructions, and to have things explained/shown several times, and are unlikely to be as familiar with things like what kids like to eat, to do, etc. They certainly cannot, as a rule, hit the ground running the way a nanny would (or should). They generally stick around for less time too, though nannies don't always hang around for the long term either, so no guarantee there.

Bienchen · 29/11/2006 18:58

Happynappy - are you sorted yet?

sashycat · 30/11/2006 17:05

Does anyone have any advice on male aupairs? I have been asked by the agencies if I would consider a man and, to be frank, can't really think of a reason (rather than an excuse)as to why I would not - at least one would not have to put up with PMT!

Bienchen · 30/11/2006 19:04

sashycat - we last had a brilliant male au pair to look after my then 10 yr DS. I had to sack the previous au pair as she was just totally unsuitable... It completely depends un your circumstances but I found that a male au pair was more in tune with a 10 year old boy (AP had younger stepsiblings). He happily played football, took DS swimming, was happy to cook the odd meal and never complained about the mile walk for the school run!

totallyfloaty35 · 30/11/2006 21:23

I had a male AP for a while,he was very sweet and great when the computer crashed etc but not very gd with my DDs,but i think if you have boys they are pretty handy

happynappy · 01/12/2006 00:31

Hi Bienchen, kind of sorted...AP came for an overnight stay so we could size each other up. Would still like to talk to cat, apologies as have been not firing on all cylinders this week and doing the minimum. Her present family don't sound too nice, she's contracted to do 25 hours and host mum happily admitted to me that the AP does double that for no more pay. They've given her three days off (xmas eve, xmas day and boxing day) and made it clear she's not invited to stay for xmas but not enough time for her to go home to germany. Any tips on what to put in the agreement before I finalise it? Do you have any sample agreements I could crib?

Bienchen · 01/12/2006 08:10

Happynappy - feel really sorry for this au pair. I think her current family is really mean. She is expected to be treated as a member of the member so should either be given off a week over Christmas (with plenty of time notice so that she can plan her trip) or be included in all Xmas activities of her family (dinners/presents/panto).

I never did a proper agreement with AP, just a list of terms and conditions, a schedule of work and a general description of life with our family. The t&c would have covered that she has to have medical certificate and police check, her wage, notice period and hours contracted to work. The schedule of work would describe her duties such as school run, clearing up DS room with his help (she is no servant!!), general tidying, cleaning bathrooms and ironing as and when needed. I also agreed two nights babysitting a week but did not always need them. Make sure you cover items such as use of phone (I got mine to ask for long distance calls and calls abroad but you can get cheap phone cards as well), use of internet, and who she can bring to the house (I generally liked to meet her friends). Only had problems with one girl in that department. The key is to have someone whose general philosophy is close to yours, ie if you love junk food and she's a health nut then you are not a good match even if she looks fab on paper! Unfortunately many families see AP's as cheap labour. I never saw it as such more like a grown up daughter or younger sister who happens to live with us for a while and on the whole we had lots of positive experiences.

sashycat · 01/12/2006 16:50

I think I must have misunderstood something - I thought that aupairs got to choose their holiday too - I hear what you say about the family being less than charitable in not inviting the aupair to Christmas with them, but what about the other side of the story? Surely she had the choice to take more time and go home if she wished? Having just parted with a very manipulative young lady, I now find myself very cynical and always trying to see the story from both sides.

Bienchen · 02/12/2006 08:19

Sashycat - or maybe I misunderstood something. What I meant to say is that I recommend a family discusses holidays early with the au pair, so that both sides can plan. What Happynappy wrote was "They've given her three days off (xmas eve, xmas day and boxing day) and made it clear she's not invited to stay for xmas but not enough time for her to go home to germany" - that's how I came to my conclusion.

happynappy · 02/12/2006 11:41

I see both of your points, Sashycat and Bienchen, but I think on this occasion it's the host family. They've told me that they need her around in the festive period but don't want her there during those three days. She's had no choice about those days off. We've invited her to spend Christmas with us, which she's accepted and seemed incredibly surprised that we've asked her. Her room isn't ready yet otherwise we'd have asked her to start sooner, but it's being decorated at present. The guest room is a bit of multi function space so unsuited to use as an au pair's room. Anyway, we couldn't bear the thought of her being alone at Christmas (she said she was going to go to Manchester to have 'a look' by herself during those three days & doesn't know anyone there) but jumped at the chance to stay with us over Christmas.

MizZan · 06/12/2006 11:45

happynappy, I think you may have hired an AP we were talking to as well (the thing about Manchester at Christmas rang a bell...) - is her name Olya? She sounded very nice and competent, I really hope it works out for you. We've found a new one ourselves who we got to meet since she lives locally (with another family who she's leaving because she doesn't want to live in a small village any more), so we're keeping our fingers crossed. She got a rather lukewarm recommendation from the current host mum, but I'm hoping that's just down to a different set of expectations - time will tell. I could live without having to go hunt down another one three months from now, again.

happynappy · 06/12/2006 18:53

Wow, the power of the internet or should i say mumsnet. yes her name is Olya! thanks for the good wishes, we're hoping all goes well between us too. am starting out with the view that we will treat her as i would hope someone would treat my DDs in the distant future if they decide to similar.


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happynappy · 06/12/2006 18:56

MizZan - also totally agree about the laborious process of hunting for a suitable au's not easy. did you go for the girl that you wrote about in late November or did you find someone else?

MizZan · 07/12/2006 19:41

Hi all - I need some impartial advice. We've had a major incident here with our au pair (who's due to leave in a week and a half anyway, by mutual agreement). Apparently on bringing DS1 home from school, she left DS2 in his pushchair at the bottom of our front steps, without the brake on, so she could go up the steps to unlock the front door. Our house fronts onto a small road and the steps are fairly high, so it's not like you can reach the pushchair from the top of the steps (where the front door is), to hold on to it.

She went up the steps with DS1 to unlock the door, and the pushchair, with DS2 in it, rolled off the pavement, into the road, and fell over, just as a car was reversing down the street. Thank GOD the car stopped and the woman got out to make sure he was ok, and he was.

The worst part of all this, is that the AP didn't even tell me. I just heard all of this from DS1. AP is out at her English course right now. DS1 said he was the one who alerted AP to what was happening - she wasn't even watching DS2. He also said the car was right next to where ds2 was, so it's not like it was halfway down the street or something. I feel sick just thinking about this.

I don't know what to do. Half of me wants to put her out on the street tonight.

artist67 · 07/12/2006 20:27

Oh no you must feel terrible, angry and very disappointed that she didn't tell you herself !!

As hard as it may seem, try to stay calm and ask about the incident as soon as you get the opportunit.

I would listen carefully and see what she has to say, I would ask her why ( the bloody hell) I she didn't tell you immediatley did not occur to her your poor children may be traumatised. I guess she didn't tell you because a) Selfish fear of being told off and not taking responsibility for her actions or b) She has little insight into the seriousness of the situation. Then tell her how irresponsible, dangerous how annoyed....

Do you still need her to pick up your children? Honestly, If it was me, I would have lost all confidence and trust in her. Not putting the brakes on the pushchair? and leaving a young child unattended?

Although this is not as serious our AP got a phone call from school yesterday requesting for someone to pick DS up as he was unwell. AP took him home, left him on the sofa watching a DVD shivering and drifting in and out of sleep no water, never thought to even called me. I got home 3 1/2 hours later to find him really unwell with a temp of 41c and eventually needing a doctor as he had developed an infection. I was also annoyed that the school did not call me and AP is not on their contact list.

Our AP is 30 and works with children.. no excuse

Lets us know how you get on,

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