Au Pair Issues & Problems

Parent Q&A

  • Au Pair "Training" During Quarantine

    (9 replies)

    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! 

    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. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions & Advice


New au pair not connecting with kids

April 2008

We just embarked on our first experience with an au pair through Au Pair Care. She has been here for five days and I just don't feel the ''click'' yet. Her first day was awful. She didn't even look at my children. I spoke with our regional coordinator and told her I wanted our au pair to leave. The regional director spoke with our au pair and basically told her to ''get with the program'' otherwise, we won't want her to continue with us. She really has been trying since then, but it seems like it is SO MUCH effort for her to be with my children and that it isn't genuine. She doesn't seem to have an innate maternal side to her and I have three little little kids (3 yrs, 22, months, 5 months) and I feel like I need someone who will love my kids as if they were her own. Our nanny of three years is moving back to Poland this June and we LOVE her and are devastated that she is leaving. When we hired her, we loved her immediately. She is SO wonderful with my kids. And it was an instant connection with my kids. So... for those of you who have had experience with au pairs, here are a few questions:Can an au pair be amazing? How much time does it take for them to show their true self? IF she doesn't seem maternal and it seems like a lot of effort for her to be with my kids (I really give her credit for trying), do I just wait and see what happens? When and how do I know if this au pair match is going to work out? Any advice is appreciated!! Stephanie

Hi, we've had three au pairs. Two have been fantastic. and one was horrible (similar to what you describe). The bad one was bad from the moment we picked her up from the airport. Negative, not engaged, not interested in the children. It never changed. We went thru 6 weeks of hell, only to finally get rid of her. It was the best decision we ever made. Because I had had a good au pair before, I knew this was not normally. I say get rid of her asap and work on getting a new one.

The thing is, there IS a normal adjustment period with an au pair. But with a good au pair, she will be engaged and at least ''trying'' from the get go. It is worth it to spend as much time with her and the children together as you can the first week. It might take the children awhile to get used to her, but if she has a natural way with children, you will know it from the beginning. We finally fired our bad au pair and got a new one. We were much more careful about making sure that the new au pair was mature and had child care experience. Also we chose someone who had lived away from home before so the adjustment was easier. Also, make sure you are really clear while interviewing a new au pair that the job is really HARD. Don't sugarcoat anything. Tell them it will be 9 hour days with your kids and that the house will be a mess and you will want help tidying, etc and make sure they are OK with that. Exaggerate how hard it is to be a nanny so that they are prepared when they come. Now we have our third and totally amazing au pair. don't waste another second on the bad egg. anon

I'm sorry you are having so much trouble with your new au pair. We have had two au pairs and I have found that they immediately clicked with my children and sometimes it took a little longer for them to click with me. So, I would keep on this and see if you can work this out but if she isn't good with the kids, you should insist on having her placed elsewhere (they can do that) and find someone new. There are really great au pairs out there and if yours doesn't turn out to be one of them, don't despair. host mom

An au pair can be amazing. But it sounds like yours is not. I would stop now and insist she be replaced (if that's possible). And if she can't, then find someone else anyway. You don't want someone caring for your kids and living in your home without a good feeling. Really, you don't. The kids will totally pick up on it. been there but with a nanny

I'm an au pair and I have to tell sometimes it's difficult for us to be natural at the beginning. We are afraid the children won't like us, the family won't treat us well, we won't make friends, etc. It's also a great pressure to us, really. My family is wonderful and my twin boys are adorable but it was hard at the beginning! They were 2 1/2 years and when I was left alone with them they cried the whole day, really (for a whole week). But my host parents did not give up on me and now we are a great team!

It's just a matter of understading we all (family and au pair) need a time to adjust. Even when I wanted to kiss and hug and play with my boys they'd ignore me and it really hurt us, to be sincere, because we feel we are doing our best but that's not enough. Please wait more time and if she truly likes children she'll, in time, show herself a wonderful nanny.

Now I'm leaving my family and they're already crying because we are wonderful together. I'll miss and I'll alwyas love them.

Hurt 'cause I'm leaving au pair hucastil

I have had an au pair since October of last year. Although there have been some challenges, her caring, warmth and effort to bond with my son were evident from the very first day. She has grown to be a loved, trusted member of our family, and I am thankful every day for her help. I would trust your instincts and demand that the agency give you a new au pair. The fees you pay them are very high, and that's what you're paying for. Many times the relationship doesn't work out - our au pair has had five of her friends change families or decide to go home, and knows of several other families that demanded to switch. Don't wait until it gets even harder on everyone - you'll be much happier with someone who is a fit with your family and there are so many wonderful au pairs out there. Blessed to have a great au pair.

After being a nanny for many years, I will admit there isn't always an instant connection and I'm vaguely uncomfortable with new children (and I've worked for many families). Basically, the rapport and love just take some time to develop.

That said, I always take good *care* of them from the first moment. If the au pair could barely look at your kids? No, I don't think so. Your kids are young enough that they need to be held and loved, quite a lot - and to be emotionally neglected is quite dangerous from a very young age in terms of how your children turn out; there are studies on this. The worst sociopaths were not held as infants. Is your 5 month old going to be loved and held when you're not looking, 1 week, 1 month from now?

I can understand if it takes time to develop closeness, but is this girl even into it? Some au pairs only do it as a free pass to see another country. I could never be comfortable with this situation - I would always worry my children were neglected. These are your precious babies; there is no room to say ''well, it doesn't feel right but maybe I *should*''. NO. You are their mother and who is going to protect and provide for them if not you? Trust your gut - get rid of her as soon as possible.


2 yo not bonding with au pair

Sept 2004


We switched from a home based day care to live in child care about 6 weeks ago. We are expecting another baby and wanted both the children to be cared at home. However, our 2 yo doesn't seem to be bonding with our au pair. She rejects her when she sees her and wants either me or my husband. We have given her the time it has taken to adjust -- but we are over six weeks into this and she is still screaming for me or my husband.

We thought somebody living with us would make it easier, but for some reason this has been harder. Our daughter is usually very easy going and happy, and usually bonds with care providers very easily (this is her third transition since starting care at 8 months.) What I'm not sure of is if my daughter simply doesn't like this woman or if the fact that there is a new baby coming in the next week or two is making her feel more in need or me and my husband -- which I understand to be a common and normal reaction. It is really taking its toll on my daughter, my husband, me and the au pair.

From what I can tell the au pair does engage with her and play with her, but she is clearly inexperienced at taking care of children. There have been a few times I have walked in unexpectedly, and she was sitting away from our daughter kind of staring off into space. When we all go out together and she often sits to the side and doesn't interact with us. It is frustrating since she knows we are having problems bonding. I've asked her to be more interactive and told her I thought that would help, but I don't know if she gets it or will ever get it.

Any advice?
at my wits end

After six weeks, it sounds like you should get a new childcare provider. The au pair sounds like she is not that good with children... and it is likely she will not be good with your newborn either.

There are so many wonderful caregivers in the Bay Area. Look in the Childcare digest and I'm sure you will find an absolutely ideal person. It is so important to have a caregiver you trust absolutely. If you have any problems whatsoever it's best to move on. Your au pair can't be too happy with the situation either.

Regardless of the cost, or if you have a contract, I'd break it and find someone else. You don't want there to be even a slight problem between you and your caregiver. Especially when there are so many wonderful people out there. Sometimes it's hard to fire someone (I've been there), but you will feel so much better afterwards, and it will be better for both your children. Good luck!


Visa for Au Pair

Feb 2004


I located an au pair (canadian) on-line and she tried to enter the US and was turned back at the border. Does anyone know the least expensive way to get an official au pair visa? All the agencies cost between 5-6,000 for their services. I'm not too hopeful but thought I'd ask. thanks. anon.

We've had 4 au pairs, and only gone through an agency. This year though our au pair, from Germany, did have problems receiving her visa on a timely basis. The agency stated that they had had problems since 9/11, based on increased security and visa changes, but it all ended up okay. She got her visa 2 days before she arrived in the US. I know the agency fees seem steep; but there are payment programs and you don't have to worry about the legalities, etc. If you include the up front fee, and the stipend, you are still only paying about $250/wk for 45 hours of care. The other au pairs that we know that didn't come through an agency have come illegally (on tourist visa and never left)...and two have since been deported. Good luck. Melissa


Helping au pair find friends

Helping our Au Pair meet Friends to Explore With


Feb 2011

We have a lovely 22 yr-old Korean woman who has been living with us for 6 weeks now. She is attending ESL classes and helping us out as a part-time au pair. Many of her ESL classmates are married w/ young children or working full- time, so she is having a harder time than expected meeting people with whom to explore the Bay Area with. If there are any international students &/or au pairs who live nearby who are looking for someone to meet up with, please let me know. We live in N. Berkeley near the Rose Garden. Or if anyone knows of any social clubs for young adults that would be a safe place for her to meet new people, that would be helpful, too. Thanks!

I am the local Area Director for AuPairCare. I'm not quite clear on your situation, but if you are with an au pair agency, your coordinator should provide your au pair with a list of the other local au pairs. Au pairs are required to meet monthly for a ''cultural event'', some agencies make sure that happens and others let that slide, but it is a great way to ensure they have a supportive network of peers. If she is over on a tourist or student visa, then social connections are a little more difficult. Kim

I suggest she attend the Korean Church that meets at Willard Middle School on Sundays. Lots of UCB students go there. She may meet people she can befriend there, or they may have suggestions on how to meet people. anon

How can my au pair meet other au pairs in Berkeley?

October 1998

A friend of mine is hiring a 21-year old Au Pair from Sweden and she was wondering where she could meet other Au Pairs in Berkeley. What are the preferred cafes and playgrounds or other hangouts? I'm sure some readers have Au Pairs at home. I'd appreciate it if you ask them and e-mail me. If there are any other Swedish Au Pairs out there, maybe we can connect them. Heike

Regarding Au Pair hangouts: Lots of Au Pairs take their children to play at Codornices Park across from the Rose Garden in Berkeley. Nancy