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Am I petty, mean, small minded and unreasonable, or justified?

28 replies

Caligula · 21/11/2004 00:12

My au-pair has been here for about 2 months. For 3 out of the last 4 weeks, he has had friends round on a Sunday afternoon where they cooked and socialised. Each time, me and the kids had some of what was being cooked.

This evening he's told me he wants a friend to come round again and cook, but that if me and the kids are going to eat, he wants me to pay half.

I don't suppose it will be very much, but it just really irritated me. I sort of feel that in a family environment, where he's having friends round in my home (and I'm putting up with them drinking and leaving cigarette butts in my garden, and allowing one to stay the night) it's just a courtesy to offer me and the kids a share of any food. Especially as we both can't conveniently use the kitchen at the same time.

And the other reason is that tbh, I don't really like what he cooks that much! It's all right, but frankly, if I'm going to pay for something, I'd rather pay for something I actively want to eat, not just because it's there.

I do appreciate that an au-pair's wages aren't high and he hasn't got stacks of money to throw around, but I wouldn't dream of asking him to contribute if I was getting in a take-away because I couldn't be bothered to cook, or if I was doing a special meal of some sort and one of his friends was round - I'd automatically invite them to join us.

Am I right or wrong about this one? Over to the court of Mumsnet!

OP posts:
JanH · 21/11/2004 00:29

um - never having been in this situation it's a bit hard to comment, but I think if it was me I'd say OK, don't bring your friends here and entertain them in my house, frankly. Why can't they go to wherever the cooking friend lives? That sounds as if it would be better all round.

OTOH might he be so pissed off he would leave? If so would that be a major problem?

merlot · 21/11/2004 00:32

Calligula, could you explain a little about your employment contract with the Au Pair. Not having much experience of this sort, dont feel qualified to comment until I know a bit more....

Stripymouse · 21/11/2004 07:19

My BIL lived with us and worked for DH in the year before we had our first child. It was all above board - he had P45, wage, NI paid etc. and free accomodation. What we never sorted out properly was the food and social aspect. Slightly different and potentially more awkward to confront as it was family but similar issues bothered me. He would eat with us all the time, even come food shopping with me but never once offered to contribute as if it were agreed that I would pay up for all food. Then on the couple of times he bothered to cook for us, he later handed me the receipt with a "no rush, but cash would be great as I am am going out later..." type comment. I was so gobsmacked and found him difficult to confront that I paid up and let it go. He never did any cleaning/houssework even though all of us were working fulltime. Despite living in our home and being related, because DH was his employer, when it came to money he was out to get everything and give nothing. It didn?t seem personal, he was pleasant enough about it just seemed to think it was perfectly reasonable and within his rights. Was very happy to see the back of him but also learnt a big lesson in sticking up for myself, thinking through any agreements and potential pitfalls first etc. TBH in his case I think it was like moving home again and he treated us a bit like parents and him the unthnking ungiving teenager. I wonder if some au pairs feel like this because they are living and working in the same environment that sorting out the boundaries of work and socialising is difficult?

I would take the next opportunity to sit down with him and ask him how he is setttling in and that you feel it would be worth reviewing your situation now you have had time to get used to each other etc. and let it lead on to what you can and cannot expect the other to provide/acceptable social limits in the house. If you don?t do it now, it could end up with him misjudging the boundaries thinkng you are cool about partying and having a big argument. Be honest with him, tell him you don?t like cig butts in the garden so arrange a sand filled plant pot that he promises to empty the next morning etc. etc. make a list of every bugging issue, however modern and thrash it out. That is presuming he is worth it and you want to keep him. I often think that if I had sat down with BIL and told him earlier that I had certain problems with his lifestyle and being taken for granted it would not have come to a huge show down with a "me or him" type conversation with DH and BIL leaving in a huff.
HTH I haven?t answered your question because limits of what is acceptable in personal. It also depends on how he said it and how embarrassed or indignant he seemed. It is ok to have differences in this type of thing but I suggest that you discuss it sooner than later. It is your home and ultimately he needs to remember that - and that you are his employer not a honey pot full of pocket money.

sobernow · 21/11/2004 08:01

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WideWebWitch · 21/11/2004 08:38

Oh I'd be irritated too, mainly at the pettiness of it. I know he hasn't got much money blah blah but yes, it's your house, your kitchen etc. I think I'd say no thanks, in that case I'll cook for me and the children but you will need to vacate the kitchen at x time so that I can. And does he charge his friends? I doubt it. Will now read the other posts.

WideWebWitch · 21/11/2004 08:40

stripeymouse is right, you need to talk to him about what's OK and what's not.

Caligula · 21/11/2004 11:03

I guess the problem is that there is this blurry boundary between being a family member and an employee. That's why it's so important to get on well with an au-pair, because where boundaries are so blurry, you need to have a very good relationship for it to work.

I do all the family cooking (he occasionally prepares DD's lunch) and the laundry, and when he's "off-duty" as it were, I do the housework. I've found this to be quite normal with au-pairs, because of their "teenager" status (although this one is 24!). When you suggest to them that as they're adults and they live here, they ought to be responsible for co-tidying up, they think you're being exploitative, so I haven't pushed it. But I guess I resent being his cook and washmaid and it being so taken for granted that if he does something, I'm charged for it. When they're using my leccy too! (Electricity for those of you not au-fait with the term "leccy" )

I think what I'm coming round to is the realisation that I don't actually like this bloke very much and am not very comfortable with him in my home.

OP posts:
cab · 21/11/2004 11:59

If you're not comfortablw with him you'll have to let him go Caligula.
For tonight I would say - look I'm terribly sorry but as you know I do the cooking in this house and provide the food. This is a family home where we all eat together. Your help now and again on that front would be much appreciated, but I do not require you to buy food for me and I am not happy with you cooking separate meals for your friends. Please do feel free to cook the meal for the family with the food I have already bought, and if you OK it with me in advance you can invite a friend round - but not every weekend. In return I expect you to at least wash the dishes, in fact if any time that you eat here I expect you to either help prepare the food or help tidy up afterwards.
Also, I'm afraid I can no longer offer any of your friends a bed for the night - I do have the children to consider.

posyhairdresser · 21/11/2004 12:05

If he is on £50 a week wages then it doesn't seem fair to me to expect him to pay for food for you and your family.

However, entertaining at length by cooking in your home almost every week seems to be asking quite a lot of you. Maybe you could cut this back to once or twice a month but pay for ALL the food from the family shop?
On the other hand in the other weeks I don't expect he can afford to eat out with his friends on a tiny income...

I think if he is on very low wages he should be treated like a family member in most repects. If however he is paid £100 a week plus or has another part time job then you can expect more from him.

suzywong · 21/11/2004 12:09

Stripymouse's last paragraph is very considerate and grown up and the right thing to do.

However my first reaction would be to tell him you'll tot up how much he used in lecky and gas take that off the food bill. Cheeky sod!!!!!!

suzywong · 21/11/2004 12:11

have read through and Cab is very grown up too

I could not handle an au pair living in my house, hats off to all of you that do.Sometimes just the sound of other people breathing makes me frenzied.

cab · 21/11/2004 12:32

Suzy there's no WAY I could cope with an aupair either - especially one who has designs on my kitchen!! Husbands are bad enough at putting things back in the wrong place and trashing the place when they deign to cook , but a bumptious wee twat who expects me to pay for the priviledge would definitely be told to go and take a flying f~~~ at a rolling doughnut!
Am assuming Caligula is a bit more measured than myself.

suzywong · 21/11/2004 12:34

Dya Know WhaddImean?

My old next door neighbours used to get through their Scandy au pairs at an astounding rate, I think the Dh must have beena bit of a doge.

KateandtheGirls · 21/11/2004 13:01

I was an au pair (and a darn good one at that), and people sometimes ask me if I ever consider getting one myself. They are puzzled when I say that I wouldn't want one and I can't imagine having a stranger living in my house. That's a whole different scenario than being the au pair in my mind.

Caligula · 21/11/2004 14:04

I think the whole problem is when an au-pair remains a stranger. I've only had 3, but one of them was so fab, I clicked with him immediately and we got on really well right from the first week. So it didn't feel like a stranger living in the house. Whereas with this one, it does. And also with the first one I had (his sister) it also did a bit, even though she stayed a year. (I was much more tolerant then!) I've realised as I've gone along that the fact that the children get on with them is not enough - you have to as well, otherwise you feel uncomfortable in your own home. I put up with that feeling for the first one because I didn't want to disrupt the children with too many changes, but I've got to a stage where I recognise that I need to feel comfortable with someone else in my house too.

PMSL at your frenzy Suzywong - I feel a bit like that myself atm!

OP posts:
Tanzie · 21/11/2004 19:41

Well, if he wants you to pay for what he cooks at the weekend, perhaps you could charge him for what he eats then? Or just say you don't want him in the kitchen between certain hours.

I'm actually quite envious. Mine can barely manage to grill fish fingers.

Ameriscot2004 · 21/11/2004 19:59

My attitude is that I am responsible for 100% of my au pair's food. If she were to buy food for me out of her own pocket, I would expect to pay for it. I would not automatically expect to pay for her friends's food, but if she had eaten out on her own expense, then she would have earned it.

Having friends over makes a big difference to my au pair's demeanor, so if it costs me a pound or two, it is well worth it.

motherinferior · 21/11/2004 20:28

My hat is off too. DP and I started getting on so much better when we moved to a house where we could be in completely separate rooms away from said breathing. I suspect we both yearn for those blissful years when nobody disturbed our single space

Incidentally, Caligula, I think you're in my neck of the SarfEast Lunnon woods, aren't you?

Caligula · 21/11/2004 20:31

If I'm honest Ameriscot, that would probably be my attitude if I really liked this guy and if he was a good au-pair (although I disagree with you about paying for food he's bought - my last au-pair's idea of food buying was to fill a trolley up with processed, packaged, overpriced junk food and fizzy drinks, with zilch nutritional value but lots of calories, salt and fat, which I would not buy for my family and don't want in my house - and which tbh, I simply can't afford to buy. We reached an agreement where I would pay for pizzas and stuff he found "staple", like mayonnaise, and he paid for pepsi, processed meals, etc.) But I think in this case, the fact that I find him lacking in other respects influences how I feel about this.

Funny how one incident can set you off re-adjusting your whole releationship with someone!

OP posts:
Caligula · 21/11/2004 20:33

I am some of the time MI! My mother lives near Lewisham, and lots of my friends are still there, so I and the kids are there quite a bit, though now I live down the A2 in Kent. (Houses are cheaper there!)

OP posts:
Ameriscot2004 · 21/11/2004 20:41

My au pair despises western processed foods (Polish processed foods are fine, LOL), so there is no danger of her filling up a trolley with that stuff.

When we went away for the weekend a couple of weeks ago, I gave her £5 to supplement what was already in the house. Given that she is almost never eats with us at weekends, this was a big bonus.

I think if I were ever in the situation where the au pair was going to prepare a meal for both family and her own guests, I would just give her a fixed amount that I considered reasonable to go shopping with.

I am by no means an expert in au pair relationships - have a pretty strained on myself - but my head tells me that communication is always the key. Tell 'em what you want and what you expect - you are the boss.

They seem to have the knack of testing boundaries more efficiently than any two-year old but are much better at taking the piss.

copey · 21/11/2004 20:49

Hello, I am new to mumsnet. Would anyone recommend a good au-pair agency?

Caligula · 21/11/2004 21:14

Copey, I'd love to, but I've never found one!

The one I used when I first got an au-pair charged me £300 and sent me 2 photos and CV's, one of whom had an unfortunate resemblance to Myra Hindley, including platinum blonde hair and thick black eyeliner. Now if I was an agent and was trying to find someone work with children, I would advise them to change their hair and make up scheme. Call me conservative, I'm sure the poor girl is blameless, but I balked at the idea of having someone looking after my children who had such a remarkable resemblance to the most famous child-killer since Herod - so I employed the other one. (Who turned out to be fine, for a year.)

But for £300, I didn't think that was very good value tbh. I've used word of mouth and the internet since, which is far more effective for me, though others on Mumsnet have had varying results.

OP posts:
copey · 21/11/2004 21:23

How did you use the i/net? Finding it very difficult to get anywhere as based in North Devon

Uwila · 21/11/2004 22:12

Copey, Good Au Pair / Nannies are sooooo hit or miss. I've had two through The first one was irresponsible, lacked any knowledge or dedication to nutrition, and spent most of her time looking for a man on the internet whilst I was at work. And, the one I have now is a dream. I love her. Her dedication to nutrition as well as education are second to none. I was so lucky to find her. Interviews are sooooo important. Check references thoroughly. And don't be afraid to ask things that you might not think are polite to ask (i.e. Do you have a boyfriend? How much time do you wish to spend with him? How long have you known him? Will you expect him to spend time with the kids?)

I think I too would be a bit taken aback by him asking me to pay my share of the food. Perhaps his friend would like to pay the hotel bill? I'm joking really. I would probably let it go. But, the idea of an au pair who sits in the back and parties and smokes cigarette would fly like a lead baloon with me. Perhaps if youput a smoking ban on at your house (including outside), you would find that he and his friends prefer to party elsewhere? Of course, I don't know. Maybe you smoke, and you don't actually care if he smokes. I would expect my au pair to lead by example whenever the kids are around, even if he is off duty.

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