Au Pair "Training" During Quarantine

Hi All, 

Would love your advice on the following matter. We have an AP who has been with us for 2 months (this is our 5th AP). I had concerns early on but was willing to give it the 60 days to get to know each other, etc. Long story short, we had a plan to rematch (unbeknownst to her) and that fell through due to Shelter in Place. While I am SO grateful to have childcare, wondering thoughts on either a) best approach to bringing up our concerns and training her to our level of expectations OR b) if we should just let it go since this is literally during a global catastrophe and she is able to more or less care for our children while we work. 

Would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks so much! 

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Hi! This is such a tough question. We are on our third au pair and have also not been totally satisfied with all her choices. But I think for everyone involved this may not be the time to rock the boat. She is probably feeling a lot of disappointment about her experience abroad not being what she expected. And your kids are probably feeling some sense of the world not being normal, no matter how old they are. If she is giving you what you need to be able to work, I would try to make the best of it and keep the relationship as positive as possible. Maybe choose one or two areas to provide guidance as gently and positively as you can?

Let it go and be thankful that you are so privileged! 

Oh, my. Unless she’s literally setting the house on fire, I’d sit tight, be cool, and thank my lucky stars for the extra support. It’s hard to overstate the difficulty of WFH full time without the benefit of an extra pair of hands. 

I have never been in your shoes to be able to afford an AP.  However, it seems if you've been through "5" already you may want to rethink what your expectations are. In these times, compassion and kindness go a long way.  To let someone go right now without giving them the opportunity to "improve" is unjust.  What about writing things down? Giving gentle reminders about how you want things done? Employing management strategies that any company would expect of a good manager. Let go of controlling EVERY aspect of your child care.  Unless you are willing to be a stay-at-home parent you might want to consider being a bit more flexible.

Sorry things are not going as smoothly as you would like with this AP. Having an upfront conversation about whether she is motivated and wanting to make this arrangement work is an important first step. If she is open to improving her approach to childcare, it’s important that you give her resources and feedback to enable her to perform to your expectations. For us, this meant having a weekly meeting where my partner and I provided feedback about what she was doing to our liking and where we wanted to see improvement. I emailed her articles and video on a weekly basis to draw a clear picture of what we were wanting. I’m not sure if your approach lines up with Janet Lansbury, but she has a very reasonable philosophy towards interaction and connection with children. Sending our AP articles from her blog, podcasts, and video helped a lot. Within a couple of months of providing resources for her development and lots of feedback, her skill greatly improved and we were able to ease away from our weekly meetings. We spent the time and energy supporting this growth because our AP said she was open to it and wanted to make the arrangement work. This is a particularly hard time to be an AP. Social outlets are likely non existent, she may be worried about family far away, and feeling pretty isolated. All of these factors combined can be very stressful. If you haven’t already done so, a check-in around her desires and level of motivation would be an important next step.

Let it go. Your kids are being cared for. You have more than most.

If you have the bandwidth, definitely offer training. You're doing her a favor, as she doesn't have to guess how you'd like things done, and you're helping every future employer. I still remember my first employer decades ago, teaching me how to photocopy properly - I'm still not detail oriented, but much better as a result.

Hi there -- I have hosted 7 APs, so I feel for you.  I think you should try to do both (give feedback and set clear expectations), and then decide if the trade offs are worth what the AP can do.  If she can more or less care for your kids without driving you absolutely batty during the process, might be worth it.  We have no AP now (had planned to bring one on for the summer but couldn't once SIP was established) and I while I wish I had the help to homeschool my K student while I work an essential health care job, I also cannot fathom some of the emotional support needs some of our not so great APs have had... 

Try to let go most issues. This is not a good time for an au pair to begin her experience in another country and with a new family. We had our 6th au pair arrive just as SiP began and she flew home within a week because she did not want to be away from her family during this and I understand that many au pairs have done the same. Count yourself as lucky that you have childcare when so many do not and be empathetic about the experience she’s having.