Thursday, October 09, 2008

Au pair nightmares

I have learned a lot about being a host mom. I think it's not for everyone. It is hard - it is a weird situation - you are the employer, but the employee lives with you and they are supposed to be a part of the family.

Some families do it once and swear "never again" - why, I am not sure what it is that has made us a successful family, but it might have to do with good communication skills or being open to talk to. We try to treat them with respect and be kind, but also to give out clear expectations from the start. And accept that no one can 100% replace me - everyone is different. Each girl has had to find her way to be with my kids. Following my directions and yet, being who they are .... well they can't BE me so I can't expect that.

Night mares I have heard of:

* A girl drove HF car to a mall. Left it running with the keys locked inside and went off with friends in their car. HF gets a call from police asking if the car was theirs. She went back home to her country. HF got a new au pair.

* An au pair wanted to go see a local tourist attraction and HF said she could take the car and she went with her one page Map Quest directions. She returned home 2 hours later - having never reached said destination. She stayed with HF for a year and was not very happy. HF did not repeat.

* Au pair criticized her HM for not working outside the home. HM gave the girl deodorant and told her to use it, never took the girl to get her drivers license, and never paid her the full amount each week (a wage set by the State Dept). Both were happy the year was over.

* Au pair arrived for her extension year and was surprised to find that the HM's mom lived with them. Gramma was retired and stayed in the house "supervising" the au pair: asking her how long was she going to be in the bathroom, how many times was she going to go to the bathroom that day, telling her the baby was crying. Au pair rematched.

* Host family wanted to control the cell phone that they provided their au pair. They were paying for it. They feared she would spend too much time on it (chatting when supposed to be watching kids) or run up a high bill. They programmed HF work and cell numbers plus all other family members and close friends who would be able to help in case of an emergency. The phone would not call anyone else or receive calls from other numbers. The phone has some sort of tracking device so they knew where the phone was at all times - and they found out the girl was not taking the phone with her to drop off and pick up the child at school. Their complaint: anyone who can help her if she ran out of gas, got a flat or had a wreck is programmed into the phone. Her complaint: I can't call anyone I want so why take it with me.
When she was driving 45 minutes away to go see a friend, my au pair asked if I minded if Soni took her (Judi's) cell phone in case she got lost (because the HF wouldn't have known how to tell her where to go to how to get unlost- me and my au pair knew the home she was going to but she wouldn't have been able to call us with her cell phone). Neither very happy all year. HF did not repeat.

*HD spoke condescendingly to au pair - why do you care? why is that so important to you? Putting anyone down is in general not very nice. Both were sort of unhappy for a year. HF did not repeat.

*Au pair was vegetarian. HF said "Oh good - we won't have to cook any different for you." (That made me think they were vegetarian too.) In reality they didn't cook at all - living on take out and pizza delivery. Au pair complained about eating pasta all the time - that was all they had for her to eat. She asked HM for eggs and HM returned from store - having forgotten eggs. She offered her some cookies and doughnuts instead. AP said she was eating nothing but cereal for dinner. Neither happy for year. HF didn't repeat. AP extended with another family and they gave her a food allowance each week so she could buy the food she wanted to cook for herself.

*Au pair wanted to rematch after 2 weeks and wouldn't really give the HF any reasons - said HF. AP said she was freezing in their AC, didn't like her schedule (3 to 10 pm when the child was crying for mom all the time - and the HF made child stay up late to see them). AP rematched but didn't complete her year in US. HF successfully rematched.

*A HF communicated with AP for 6 months prior to her arrival via webcam. They got very close and liked each other very much. When girl arrived she turned out to be lazy with her duties and not as exigeant with discipline as the HF wanted. Didn't clean up after herself or help in general around house. AP returned to home country and HF rematched.

*AP dropped off child at school at the moment the school opened, but due to inclement weather the school staff were late and AP left the child on the street by school door in the sleet waiting for the school to open. AP went AWOL to marry American.

*AP ate a banana at lunch and fed child one too. That night HM told AP that there had been 12 bananas that morning and now there were only 10 and asked why she fed the child 2 when they said he could only have 1 a day. AP rematched. HF was not allowed to get a new AP since this was the 2nd one they had had in a year and they both complained about food.

*AP came from a poor country and part of her house had a dirt floor. She compulsively cleaned the HF house all the time. The mom felt guilty and we are not allowed by law to pay them extra for any extra work they do. So HF bought her a laptop to thank her for the house cleaning. A great year for all.

*HF wanted to be nice and gave the new AP a new MP3 player. AP left 3 weeks later to rematch and she did NOT return the MP3 player. Same situation, different family - gave her a nice gold charm bracelet thinking they would give her a charm for each month of the year she was there. Girl left and took it with her. HF mistake: giving teh 2nd girl the same kind of bracelet - she took off after a week - awol. Family did not stay in program.

*AP went online to listen to home country radio station. The website said that you could text in song requests and shout outs for free. Well they meant for free if you texted from the country. So after 33 international texts at $3 each she had a huge phone bill, which her HF paid for and forgave in exchange for a few hours extra work. Both enjoyed a good year.

*AP would make the kids beds with the wrong and or mismatched sheets and when corrected by HM she argued with her that it was ok and asked why couldn't they change now and then. Neither had a great year.

*AP left cup of water by lap top and kid spilled water on it. Instead of turning it upside down to let it dry, she plugged it in and turned it on to see if it still worked and it was fried. AP went home. HF rematched.

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