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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:
MizZan · 07/12/2006 20:46

hi artist, thanks for the sympathy! sounds like your situation there with DS was bad too, I am sorry. I hope he'll recover quickly.

DH just came home and we had a big powwow about what to do. He informed me I could not just put her out on the street. His view is that accidents happen (!) but that it's inexcusable that she didn't tell us. My view is that, like you, there's no way I can trust her now with the kids. I'm in the midst of trying to arrange alternate childcare cover for some of next week and I'm basically going to make sure that I'm around and keeping a very close eye on things, and giving extremely explicit instructions, for those times when I have to work and need to use her for a few hours here and there.

And, I will confront her about it, as DH suggests, by just saying "Can you tell me what happened with DS2 outside the house yesterday when you were coming home." But since I think her primary interest is covering her own back, I doubt I'm going to hear the truth. Sadly, as long as she's living under our roof, we're only going to hurt ourselves and potentially put the kids at risk by having a huge confrontation with her. I'm going to try to encourage her to leave earlier than planned.

I'm now wondering if we should go with a part-time nanny rather than another au pair - I suspect we just got very very lucky with our first, wonderful AP, and maybe this girl is more the norm?

happynappy · 07/12/2006 21:28

How terrible for you MizZan. If I were you I would definitely not trust this au pair to do anything for the children. It's an unforgiveable error that simply should not have ever occurred as it was totally forseeable. Your DH is being very reasonable considering, I am with you on this one.

Mojomummy · 10/12/2006 13:52

Hi, can I join please ? I have signed up with aupair-world & am currently talking to an aupair from Spain.

We are both new to this & wondered if I could get some advice.

  1. how do I know if she is ok - ie safe & my girls will be safe with her

  2. do I have to pay a fee to aupair world (yes should have read the t&c's, but too much to take in)

  3. do I have to pay for her English classes ?

  4. do we agree how much to pay ? She is 28, says she has the english of a 2-3 year old & has little experience with children. But is hardworking & keen to learn.

    I like the look/sound of her, & I am a SAHM so just want an extra pair of hands whilst hubby is working away. Also want my 3.5 year old to get a grasp of the language.

    Thanks !
whatwouldjesusdo · 10/12/2006 14:17
  1. how do I know if she is ok - ie safe & my girls will be safe with her
    Your personal instinct. Its a good idea to agree a fortnight's trial period, and that gives you an excuse to get rid of her if you dont like her.

  2. do I have to pay a fee to aupair world (yes should have read the t&c's, but too much to take in)
    No, you just pay the membership fee.

  3. do I have to pay for her English classes ?
    English classes are free in our area, so you shouldnt have to pay.

  4. do we agree how much to pay ? She is 28, says she has the english of a 2-3 year old & has little experience with children. But is hardworking & keen to learn.
    Pay the minimum for the job you are describing, which is about 250 a month in UK, I think? It is a good deal, with board and lodging thrown in.
basbury · 10/12/2006 16:33


I am having a terrible time with my au pair. She spends her weekends at her boyfriend's place in Norwich and comes home and sulks all week until she sees him again. She is from Hungary and so is her boyfriend. She has been with us since July 06 and her English is really bad. She will not cook for our daughter and says she can not understand us when we try and talk to her. She steals food from the kitchen and hides it in her bedroom.
Has anyone else experienced similar problems ? We have au pairs for many years but not like this one.

whatwouldjesusdo · 10/12/2006 18:11

just to give an outsiders perspective on what you posted:
ime, its great when APs clear off at weekends and leave you in privacy! Is she bankrupting herself with the fare to be with her bf though?
She has right to as much food as she can eat, within reason - Id only be concerned if she was smuggling food out to her bf wholesale. And even then, I would probably turn a blind eye for a bit if she is absent at weekends.

From the sound of it, she isnt v happy in your family either. Does she suspect that you arent happy with her?

I recently had an ap that was sulky. She wasnt actually v good with children, and it turned out that she thought I was judging her badly. Things improved a lot when I made it clear that I was happy and wanted her to stay (desperation, actually, but fortunately she didnt realise!)

What sort of things does she have to cook? Can she not even manage spag bog? fish fingers, oven chips and frozen peas? heating up something that you leave for her?

whatwouldjesusdo · 10/12/2006 18:12

oh, and does she go to English classes? Do you have free ones in your town?

Mojomummy · 10/12/2006 19:23

thanks - she will be able to go to English classes. I need to find out about costs, times etc.

artist67 · 10/12/2006 20:51

Basbury ? Try and have a chat with your AP to find out the reasons why she not happy and see if you can work it, sometimes APs need a bit boost, ( or has she always been like this) tell her what she?s good at and then say ? I really need you to TRY and cook something for DD dinner and you can suggest something very simple, that she could hardly refuse to do it without sounding totally incapable and useless.

With regards to storing food in her room ? I would find that unacceptable, one of our AP use to do this, as soon as the weekly shop arrived, she would take a weeks supply of fruit and breakfast cereals, un open cartons of orange juice, and cream cheese.. I explained that all these items were not just for her but for the family and not to take to her room in future.

artist67 · 11/12/2006 11:42

BTW Mizzan - how did you get on with AP ?

With regards to Part time nanny Vs Au Pair I guess it depends on what you need help with. I have had both in the past, but for dropping off at play group and doing school picks up, with the odd hour sole charge I find AP usually the best solution. I have had more good experiences than bad! I was spoiled by a last long term AP, she wasn?t the most outgoing and naturally smiley, but she was 100% reliable very kind, capable and loads of common sense.

Our current AP, I would just describe as generally o.k., but very odd and not easy to talk to - a lot of things don?t come very natural to her, useless with the toddlers but o.k. with older children. Housework and Ironing no problems, but she still very slow and last week she suggested that she works too many hours. I gently explained to her that if she did far less than any other of our AP?s, and if she actually did anything less, then she wouldn?t be much help to me, and I wouldn?t feel the benefit of having an AP. AP then burst into tears (I felt really bad) saying it was her natural speed and doesn?t like to feel rushed, everything was resolved, I think!! DH finds her very irritating and a bit pathetic and believes the tears were just another manipulative tact to get her own way.

AP seems happier, she now has a BF!! and some friends of her own. BUT, she has still been ringing up some of my friends and neighbours (she has only meet on the odd occasion) inviting herself round for coffee and not really sure what I should think about this?? I suppose as long she is not inviting her self out with me or turning up on my evenings out ? which I couldn?t cope with, as I see too much of her as it is?.

MizZan · 11/12/2006 12:35

hi artist, well, I confronted AP about what happened with DS2 and she turned bright red, denied that there had been any moving cars in the vicinity, and said she hadn't told me because "nothing happened". Uh huh. DS1 does not tend to be untruthful about these things, but I think just the fact that I'm not sure whether to believe my 4-year-old son or my 23-year-old au pair pretty much says it all.

Anyway, I've now arranged alternative (and hopefully more responsible...) childcare cover for the last two days of this week, when I have to work/will be taking DS1 to London to see the Nutcracker, and otherwise she's only going to be doing bits and pieces of helping out in the mornings, and then she's leaving next week (and I've now told her we don't need her after the weekend so she can leave earlier if she wants, and she's said she'll go to a friend's house).

So we are not going to be leaving on the best of terms, but at least I feel the DSs are safe. Clearly she was never going to tell me what had happened, and that just scares me, because what if DS2 (into everything at the moment) fell or got dropped on his head or something - I have no confidence she would even tell me.

Still thinking on what to do next, as far as childcare. Have interviewed some part-time nannies, but along with the cost, our issue seems to be that no one really wants to do part-time, and so we either have to find a share, which has its own issues, or risk having someone leave as soon as they find a full-time job instead. We need more than just school runs - at the moment I work 2 full days and 2 half days a week. We've been using nursery for DS2 in the afternoons on the days I work a full day, but the nursery isn't open the same hours in school hols, so it's always a palaver trying to arrange things. Also DS2 doesn't like it, but that's another story. Am also talking to a local student who could do one full day a week and seems great, and experienced...may try to combine that with au pair if all else fails.

hope you get things worked out a bit better with yours - have you considered trying to get a new one? Must say I don't think I could be doing with an AP bursting into tears on me or calling up my friends, but then, if she has a boyfriend now, maybe things will take a turn for the better?

basbury · 11/12/2006 21:47

hello again

I have tried talking with AP who says she loves living with us and finds us very kind. This was at 9am this morning, Ap then got her coat on and went Christmas shopping, I didn't know what to say as I was going to my office and didn't have the time or to be honest the confidence to say that I pay her to help out with some light chores. In case I upset her!!! as for cooking, normally our previous ap's would prepare something as simple as beans on toast due to our daughter being on school dinners. Ap said she didn't feel comfortable with this idea. The other thing is, she has been bringing her boyfriends washing home to do...........I know I sound picky, but I really can't afford to employ someone who basicaly treats us so strangely.
I can't afford to let her go either..

whatwouldjesusdo · 11/12/2006 21:52

hmm. read, she's scared of not being able to find another job because her English is crap, perhaps. (Have you checked to see if she is looking on Au Pair world?)

boyfriends washing is well out of order. Also is refusal to cook beans on toast. Also is sloping off during duty hours.

I would be looking for another one, at this point, I think. It is beginning to look as though she is "winning" the power struggle.

basbury · 11/12/2006 22:08

Yes you are right, really I need to be stronger with her, but don't want all the tears.
Wish I could replace her now, but not pratical at this time of year.
Do you know how much a nanny costs ?
This maybe another option, as long as not too expensive. Also not sure what a nanny would do that is different from an au pair.

basbury · 11/12/2006 22:12

Oh and by the way, she attends English classes twice a week. Her tutor said she is not any further forward and feels that she maybe here to be close to boy friend.

All I want is for my daughter to be safe while I am at work.

whatwouldjesusdo · 11/12/2006 23:57

Is AuPair world really so bare??? There is usually somebody already in the UK who is fed up with their current family.

A nanny is a fair bit more expensive (c 17 000 pa outside London? or am I out of date?), but you can ask her to do childrens laundry and take them swimming, without fear or guilt.

MrsSchadenfreude · 12/12/2006 22:50

Basbury, your AP is taking the piss. Ask her what she thinks her chores should be as an au pair - ie if she doesn't think she should make beans on toast, what might she do instead? Boyfriend's washing is way out of order, as is going out when she should be on duty.

There must be someone more suitable out there...

feelingfedup · 13/12/2006 08:53

Basbury - There are loads of really nice AP girls/boys out there, plenty of choice. TBH I would be putting out feelers for another au-pair ASAP. I bet you she is looking for another job - 'Christmas shopping?' - or signing up with agencies for a new job? Bet you she dumps your family like a hot brick as soon as she finds another family.

In the meantime sit down with current AP and work out a timetable - she is paid for 5 hours a day (or whatever you have agreed), so you should write down when her 'work' starts and ends and what tasks she is expected to do on a daily basis.

You should also clarify house rules, i.e. no hoarding food in room and no boyfriends washing.

Good luck

artist67 · 13/12/2006 21:27

I have finally reached the end of the road with AP.
I have paid her today for the week just gone, then AP remarked that I still owe her for evening babysitting!!!! (This is the first time ever that she has babysat for us).
I said ? we don?t pay extra for babysitting as per agreement, did you not read it? AP- said yes and fully understood it? and is outraged that she should not be paid for babysitting on a Saturday evening. I explained that it is clearly stated in our agreement two evenings babysitting ONE of which is a Saturday.
We pay her £60 a week for less than 25 hours a week, and TBH some weeks its 16 hours a week. We are also outside London, and it is the going rate in this area. We agreed prior to her arrival that we would pay her and extra £25 a week for looking after a toddler in the afternoons from 13.30 ? 17.00 twice a week and ONLY IF I think she is capable. After the first 5 weeks it was apparent she was not capable, she can?t even bath DS let alone have sole charge. It has not been an essential requirement so I have made alternative arrangements and now she wants to look after DS.

AP has said she can?t survive on £60 a week and has ran-out of her reserve fund and not using her credit cards any longer. AP said she needs to buy winter clothes and do some sight seeing. I said it?s not my problem and she should have thought about that before she arrived or perhaps get a part time job babysitting or cleaning, but her first loyalties is to us. AP is outraged at this (P- T jobs should come first) and has given me a list of her expenditures. I have said that from my observations she is very extravagant, spends loads is café?s, organic health shop (which I can?t afford) she didn?t like the mobile phone we gave her, so she bought a better one?..

I was so pissed off, I told AP that I can?t be arsed with all this hassle, and its better that she does not come back after Xmas and find another family AP is now DEVESTATED ( as she now as a BF) and has suggested that we try and works this out as she pointed out that she feels there has been a vast improvement with older kids and housework. not sure I even want to hear her out.

Am I missing something here??? Is this not a fair agreement ? BTW we pay her bus travel. Phone cards and fill the fridge with food specially for her

RnBee · 13/12/2006 21:33

Artist67, she is being terribly unreasonable!! Get a new one.

MizZan · 14/12/2006 13:17

artist, oh my goodness. please, get a new one! this kind of attitude is not what you need from someone who's supposed to be living in your house and helping you out.

if it gives you any hope, our new one came to stay with us last night (she's now en route home to the Czech republic for 3 weeks), and while her English is bad, she seems lovely. The kids really liked her and it was such a pleasure for me to see a smiling happy face this morning and hear "Is there something I can do to help you?", in contrast with outgoing AP who is sullen, sulky and really can't be arsed to do anything unless I stand over her and demand it (not to mention the wee child safety issue that came up last week...).

So - there is hope! Find a new one. There are plenty of people looking at this time of year. It's a pain, but you can't go on like this. And for heaven's sake don't feel bad just because she has a boyfriend, if she's so keen on him she can go stay with him while she finds herself a new job that pays more in line with her expectations - certainly what you're offering her is absolutely standard for an AP, as she'll find out soon enough.

Mojomummy · 16/12/2006 22:01

Hi, have been getting great advice from Mrs Recycle (thanks ) & have now got my eye on a couple of spanish au-pairs. Haven't quite worked out how many hours she should work or how much to pay.

What are the average hours au-pairs work ?( I am currently a SAHM on maternity leave with DD1 who is 3.5yrs & DD2 almost 5 months) and how much should I pay ? Do I pay monthly in advance or weekly ?

Thanks !


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boo64 · 18/12/2006 22:06

I think it's the done thing to pay weekly in advance?

Anyone else shed light on this?

Also what are you all paying and do they have sole use of a bathroom etc

OP posts:
whatwouldjesusdo · 18/12/2006 22:55

do not pay in advance! you are asking to get robbed.

I pay monthly, in arrears, but will advance a week at the end of the first week.

My au pairs do not have sole use of a bathroom. We only have one bathroom.

MizZan · 19/12/2006 12:11

Another one here who does not pay in advance - why would you do this? If AP were demanding to be paid in advance, I'd be concerned. We pay weekly in arrears.

AP has shared use of bathroom with our DS1 (who is 5) and any guests who happen to be staying.

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