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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:
totallyfloaty35 · 31/01/2007 10:37

i have had some lovely au pairs,several who still visit and who we still visit,but have had my fair share of fruit loops! but really think of all your friends,then imagine living with any of them, even your mates can have habits that drive you crazy.Its a leap of faith having an au pair and involves give and take on both sides,some of them just take more than they give

cloudberry · 31/01/2007 22:58

Hi artist. I'm so glad to hear that you have a new ap who is a success! God what a difference it makes doesn't it? and such a relief too. Our ap is still just fab. She's been with us for 4 weeks now and I pretty much can't fault her and even better, she's getting me organised too!! A feat which my poor long-suffering dh thought he'd never see and the lack of which was seriously driving a big wedge between us. She gets on fantastically with my dd and ds. When I have to go out I can do so without any worries. In fact I think she's better at entertaining my dd than I am, particularly with painting and glitter and glue which I loathe. I am going on a first aid course on Friday morning and am leaving them both with her for the first time and just know that they will be absolutely fine, I never once left them with the last one on her own, always sent them all down to my mother because I just didn't feel comfortable about it. I don't think I have had to tell her something twice and she just gets on and uses her initiative. We will be very sad to see her go at the beginning of April. I have got another ap coming when she goes (I told you she's helping me get organised ...!) who's also from AP World and is from New Zealand and sounds lovely. She's full of ideas about what she wants to do here so it sounds like she'll be busy at weekends which i love, means we have the house and children to ourselves. Regarding car insurance boo, we have bought a banger for our aps and insure it 3rd party fire and theft as it works out cheaper for us to do it that way. I asked around locally and it seems that's what most people do round here. I don't want them driving the dc anyway and the car is for the ap to get to school and go out in the evenings and weekends. They pay for petrol. Mizzan, I'm sorry to hear about your redundnacy, hope that's not bad bad news for you and also how irritating about your ap, just when you hope it'll get better with a new one.

indiajane · 01/02/2007 20:15

Hope not gatecrashing but I've had several aupairs - most got from aupair world and have arrived at the conclusion that it's pretty much pot luck! My last one came from Germany with great references, went to Church 3 times a week. Got sent home when I found her ("red handed")stealing stuff. Only found out later that she also had stolen my wedding ring which I hadn't worn for several months due to swollen fingers as pregnant Not given up with them though - have an Australian starting in 4 weeks but think that you can swap all the emails you want, ask all the questions etc but at the end of the day it's pretty much down to luck

MrsRecycle · 01/02/2007 20:20

Hi Indiajane - congrats on getting an Australian. I was interested in a few on Aupair world and they are just so unreliable. Say they are interested and when it comes to the final offer they back down - so frustrating. So I've given up on Aussies. I'm back to square one now and still looking.

indiajane · 01/02/2007 20:33

Well, she isn't here yet so perhaps I'm counting chickens and all that! Another Aussie was due to arrive in January but stood me up and didn't even bother to email me to let me know! Hope this one is better - currently living in Austria and have tempted her over with tales of snow and skiing. Sadly it's not snowed for days!

indiajane · 01/02/2007 20:37

Out of interest, do you find it's best to give them a kinda written timetable to do stuff ... like downstairs by 7am, unload dishwasher, get kid's breakfasts etc etc or to be more flexible and tell them what to do on a daily basis? Also do most people mind if they help out at breakfast in their pyjamas or do most people make them get dressed first?

boo64 · 01/02/2007 21:46


Mine will definitely be encouraged to get dressed first as I have a thing about people not coming to breakfast in their night clothes - totally irrational but there we go!

My prospective AP sounds fab and has been working for a very good friend whose view I trust but she has said a few times that she is slow to get started in the morning unless she has tons of coffee so maybe she will be wanting to come down in pJs

Mizzan - she sounds incredible! God how can she possibly think it's ok to be like that.

OP posts:
MrsRecycle · 01/02/2007 21:50

Oh Austria - watch out - I had an Australian in Germany who wanted to come here but, on looking into it, she'd have to go back home to get a visa to come here. I'll keep my fingers crossed for yo.

I do have a schedule although I am a very flexible person. It really does help, especially if the APs not around as my dds seem to be very apt at keeping to it (in fact do I really need an AP??). The PJs don't bother me as long as the tasks get done before I get home.

MrsRecycle · 01/02/2007 21:53

Personally, I'd love my APs to be showered, dressed and ready for the day before 7.30am but seeing as I'm not, I can't really expect it off them. We are dealing with teenagers here (well I am)

indiajane · 02/02/2007 19:10

Have spent the past hour reading all the messages in this thread, and want to say (belatedly) thanks for starting it off - it's SUCH a relief to know that I'm not on my own with issues such as internet usage, DH's (unreasonable?) irritation with all AP's, how difficult it can be to ask them to do stuff (honestly thought that was JUST me) etc.

Of course I've now given up on Aussie AP arriving as we haven't even discussed visas for UK let alone Austria....niave of me I guess

sashycat · 08/02/2007 20:26

So know what you mean about thinking you are the only one when it is all going badly, but the consolation is when it goes well it is fantastic. Lately experience had taught me that you should go by first impressions. If you don't like the "attitude" at the beginning don't be tempted to think it will get better - my experience tells me it only gets worse - a bit like any relationship the beginning is the honeymoon! You are right about "no amount of emailing helps" as ap before current, I ended up asking her who she had got to write them for her as she just was not the same girl who had been writing!!! And don't end up thinking it is your fault, just ask them to leave and get someone else - so much easier in the long run.

sashycat · 08/02/2007 20:36

Any news from Mizzan? Re the watch - is it because she does not have one? If not then give her a clock to carry around (as opposed to a watch) and say it is a requirement for whenever she has the children and stipulate what you want her to record time wise (lengh of baby naps etc) and tell her to write it down, and if she refuses tell her to find another position. It is no excuse anyway, I don't know what your house is like but there is a clock of some sort in most rooms in ours, eg video, microwave, mobile phones, computers... But more importantly, are you ok?

northernfrozenmama · 12/02/2007 07:05

Have been lurking on this thread a couple of times now. Sorry if I'm crashing. Looking into options for care when I go back to work. What is an au pair exactly? What is the difference between an au pair and a nanny? I can't believe I don't know these things already...

sunnyjim · 19/02/2007 13:24

Well we're staring our search for an Au Pair to start this autumn. I cna't believe some of the stories on here though - how on earth do you take on someone who at age 19 needs you to cook their meals for them and who can't tidy up?

I suppouse I find it hard because at 19 I had a job and a mortgage and DH was running a business whilst looking after a 14 yr old sister.

I want a young adult not another child and certianly nto a sulky teenager!

boo64 · 20/02/2007 12:32

I know it's kind of obvious but maybe you could put a minimum age in your ads or even just make it blunt that you'd expect them to be able to look after themselves e.g. cook meals etc a little?

Do any of you ban overnight guests and if not, how often do your APs have mates to stay over - I don't really like the idea of others staying in the house (although this I guess will happen a little when ds is a teenager - that's ages off!)

OP posts:
sunnyjim · 20/02/2007 13:59

nfm, an Au pair is usually a younger girl (although males are starting to do it too) aged 17-23 - they can be up to 30 and still get Au pair visa etc.
They are live in and come for 3-12 months to learn new language, experince life in another coutrny and help you out around the home in return.
An au pair shouldn't have sole charge of children under 2 and really shouldn't be expected to do full day childcare with any children. They work 20-25 hrs a week for about £60 plus bed and board. They will be expected to attend a language class as well.

They are best if you have children in nursery/school and what you need is someone to do the school run, light housework (ie stick a load of washing on while you are at work, take in a parcel, pick up odd bits of groceries, water plants, walk dog.) They will also do 1 or 2 evenings babysitting a week.
A good oen should be like a competant big sister/ young aunt. A bad one will be a stereotypical teenager.

A nanny can be live in or live out and they woudl usually have qualifications and childcare experience, they will take sole charge of all your children, they are employed on a professional basis whereas an au pair should be treated more like a family member.

MizZan · 05/03/2007 12:27

OK, ladies, help me out with your collective wisdom here. We have a Czech AP who started with us in early January. She had already APed for another family in the area for about 6 months, and came to us because she was looking, she said, to live in the centre of town rather than in a village where previous family lived. Mum of previous family, whom I knew slightly, gave her a fairly lukewarm recommendation, but I put this down to her being annoyed AP was leaving more than anything else.

So - AP is sweet, kind to kids, honest, but really lacks energy and positive attitude, and has been ill nearly the whole time she's been with us. Ongoing coughs, colds, flu, etc. As I was made redundant about 2 weeks after she joined us, this hasn't been an enormous issue, since I've been flexible about time and therefore able to cover for her as needed. We also cut down her hours from 35 (as initially agreed) to 25, since she seemed so exhausted all the time - she seemed happy about this.

She's said she wants to stay on with us and that she'll have more energy once she's done with her English course (at end of March), and I am due to start a new part-time job at that time too, so we'd agreed she would go back up to 35 hours a week then. However, she continues to be ill all the time and I'm wondering whether she will be reliable enough to count on once I am back at work. On top of this, my husband is going to be working away from May through July, and we have no relatives around, so there's no backup if she can't work.

We are then emigrating to the US at the end of July (AP does not know this yet), so ideally, I don't want to have to switch childcarers before then, since the kids will have enough change to deal with. In the meantime, though, I've just discovered that AP has posted on looking for a new family starting from March. I am annoyed she hasn't been truthful with us but also feeling like we may have driven her to it, since we've been increasingly unhappy with her ongoing illnesses and I'm sure she hasn't missed that fact. Just last week, though, she was asking if she could have a friend to stay from the Czech Republic while our family's away for a week over Easter...just not sure what to think here?

Long, I know, and thanks for reading. Any thoughts or advice for me? Not sure if I'm clinging to a sinking ship here - also I'm reluctant to just ditch this girl and potentially end up with another dud, at a time when I really won't be in a position to deal with the consequences (new job, DH away etc.).

MrsWobble · 05/03/2007 12:37

You've got less than 5 months to go - unless you feel that there's no way this girl can be relied upon I wouldn't want to go through the recruitment hassle.

Do you think an honest chat with her would help? Depends on what you feel about her but would you be prepared to give her a leaving bonus if she stayed until July?

In your circumstances I think I would want to try and make the current situation workable and if the problems are related to energy and enthusiasm the prospect of a bonus might cure them.

Eleusis · 05/03/2007 12:50

Mizzan, I think the fact that she is looking for another job is quite frankly a blessing in disguise. From what you describe, your relationship is going downhill. And it's better to end it and have another good au pair even if temporary than it is to put up with the struggle -- five months can be a long time.

So, confess, what is her locator number?

MrsRecycle · 05/03/2007 12:50

Definitely clinging to a sinking ship. I think you've come to that conculsion as well. Don't worry about the kids adapting to changing childcare - they are remarkably robust. We had to sack an AP after 7 weeks with us and we struggled (I too started a highly pressurised full-time job just after we had sacked her) but we managed.

We've had APs since who have been excellent - ill ocassionaly but able to cope with English Courses/Exams and the 25 hours childcare (even more some weeks). If she can't cope now - with less hours, how is she likely to have more energy in the future?

Stop blaming yourself - you didn't register her as available from March on greataupair - she did it herself. Shame she's not on as I am registered as a family and I could get her to apply and see what she says .

Re: ending up with another dud - my particular questions seem to iron these out and I've never had a problem with our APs. Mind you, I have been looking for APs that were in the UK recently, as an easy way out of the constant emailing/webchats etc, but was astonished by the lack of quality/suitability. So I went back to my original recruitment process and now have another wonderful AP that, again I have never met before, who is starting in less than 3 weeks.

MrsRecycle · 05/03/2007 12:51

hello eleusis!

Eleusis · 05/03/2007 12:57

Hi MrsR!

Oh we think alike. I am on greatuapair at the moment.


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MrsRecycle · 05/03/2007 14:32

Go-on MizZan - give Eleusis her locator number and see if she applies and what reason she gives for wanting to leave! Aren't we nasty???

Eleusis · 05/03/2007 14:43

How is DS, MrsR? Are you coming out to play on Thurs?

Eleusis · 05/03/2007 14:44

So,MrsR, have you ssettled on a au pair yet? Whom have you hired?

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