Au pair's Nightmare

Almost 2 months ago, I relocated to a new family as a live-in nanny after a HORRIBLE 2 months with another family (wasn’t getting fed, wasn’t getting paid, was working almost 24/7 with no free time even though the parents were often at home, was viewed more as a maid, the youngest had autism which the family did not tell me before I came and I was not qualified to care for her properly, et cetera).

At first, this new family seemed like everyone’s dream family. When I interviewed, the mum claimed that the kids picked up after themselves, that they were very easy to handle, that the youngest with ADHD was medicated, all sorts of wonderful things that seemed like such a 180 from the family I was coming from. I also got 2 weeks of every month off, which I was looking forward to. Plus, the kids 3 are ages 8-14 which I assumed would be much easier than the 3 and 7 year olds I was looking after. Since coming here, however, things have not exactly turned out as planned. The kids have openly told their mum that they don’t like me (which shocked me because I thought we were getting along well), they refuse to listen to anything I say- *ever* which makes almost every minute of every day that I’m with them a struggle, they lie to their mum and say that I allowed them to do something they are not allowed to do when I don’t, they have no respect for me, and they’re absolute pigs.

My favorite moment of the day is when they walk out the door and leave for school, because it means that I will have about an hour or so of peace to myself before I start my duties. I was under the impression that I would only be working an hour in the morning (before school) and a few hours in the afternoon. However, the work load that is expected takes far longer than that, and I usually spend my “free” time cleaning and cooking dinner for the family. But, regardless of how nice the house looks after I clean it all day, a few minutes after the boys get home it is trashed, and I have to juggle supervising them (they need far more supervision than the mum thinks, seeing as they will go off and do something they know they aren’t allowed to do the second I turn my back) and trying to reclean the house before their mum gets home. As a result, she comes home and thinks I have done nothing all day, and has criticized me for my “time management” issues.

The youngest one is no longer on his ADHD medication, which makes him very very difficult to handle. I also cannot drive stick, and while I was willing to learn, I do not make in 1 month what 2 hours of lessons cost, and had assumed I would be able to sort of teach myself… the mum won’t let me, so other than a bus that costs $10 round trip I have no way to get anywhere, so even on my off weeks I do nothing but sit around the house. I don’t have friends or anything, so it is very lonely. The beach is only a short drive away but I can never go, and on top of that, I am a vegetarian and am not receiving adequate meals. I cook all the meals, but have found that the vegetables the mum buys for a week only last a few days, and she has mentioned several times that she goes over her budget as it is, so I feel uncomfortable asking for more money to buy food. Food is included in our arrangement and while I understand some people thinking that the mum should not have to buy me food to accomodate my special diet, it was discussed that she would before I arrived and, in my own experience, it does not cost much to feed me.

The place I have chosen to be a live-in is very very expensive, and the wages I get are very low (well below the monthly average) so as a result I do not have the money to travel, buy food when necessary, or anything else. I just feel miserable, and I believe it is affecting how I deal with the kids (I am more irritable with them). The stress of all of this has really begun to affect my job performance. I have started to forget very basic tasks I am supposed to do, like wash school uniforms on Thursday, and as a result I think that makes the mum’s life more difficult and makes her frustrated with me. I try, I really do. Every day I flip-flop between putting in 3 weeks notice and trying to stick it out for just one more day, but then something will happen and I will screw up in a major way and I will be *convinced* I should leave, and the next day everything will be wonderful and I will be *convinced* I should stay… The mum is lovely and, even though she makes me feel like I am not living up to her expectations sometimes with the things she says, I would feel really bad to leave her. I am *not* on a set contract, although we had talked about me leaving in December but seeing as her situation could change in October, we hadn’t really decided anything. Thoughts? Should I try to stick it out or should I just admit that I might not be cut out for this job? :/ - Anonymous Au pair


ericsmom said...

If you are miserable I would leave. Life is short, why be miserable. Find a different job, or a different field, different state or area that is more reasonable to live. If you are able can family lend you some money? Maybe, look for a one bedroom to rent with another young girl. Split the cost

Lyn said...

Have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?

ericsmom said...

Good point Lyn.

You can see this in the OP 100%.

a mom said...

You need to leave there NOW. You are being taken advantage of. Why would you waste a year of your life with these people? Stick up for yourself and don't waste another minute of your life in that job. The AuPair experience is supposed to be mutually beneficial and there doesn't seem to be any benefit for you here. And if the mom constantly seems disappointed in your work, then she isn't going to give you a good rec don't waste your time anymore. Get out now!

ericsmom said...

I feel bad for you OP. You need to listen to us and LEAVE!!

RBTC said...

stockholm syndrome is where you are beaten down/ threatened by bad people and this results in you losing your perspective and taking their side against you, it's kind of like brain washing

if you can get out - do - you are not being treated right

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

OP you are miserable in this job and I think the kids are sensing it as well. They are taking it personally that you do not like them, etc. Kids have great intuition.

I think you were intentionally misled about the job and this family is crummy for not being honest and upfront w/you prior.
They just waited until you were already moved in and settled to show their true colors.

Shame on them.

Anyway, life IS too short to stick around w/this family.

Give your notice TODAY and move on.

I wish you only the best of luck w/your next family.

Finding a decent family to work for is tough these days, but not impossible.

Village said...


You don't have a job. You have been enslaved.

Melanie Raye Castor said...

you need to get out of there. This is not a healthy arrangement!

anon poster #2 said...

re-post for Anonymous...
As an au pair in the past, I have an advice for you. Ask your counselor for a rematch with a new family, and if it's possible for a family with kid from 8 to 15 years old. Your main job will be drive and maybe cook and you will have most of the day time for yourself. I did rematch in my 3 weeks with the first family and than I was feeling like a slave for them, beside i was always hungry because you gotta eat whatever they feel like and whenever their food. It was the best thing for me.

Flic said...

Two things number one get out now that's not a good situation at all!! Get rematches with the counsellor/company.
Number two:
Au pairs are here to care for children monday-friday( just an example) take an evening class or two and enjoy there time off.
Now if you showed up at my house unable to drive stick I promise you your not driving my car even more do with my children. It's a safety issue. Also a car issue I wouldn't want to replace my clutch or my gear box due to someone learning. That's too expensive.

gypsy said...

Please leave & find happiness elsewhere. This is your life & you deserve to find peace & happiness. This awful situation has no hope. Take better car of YOU. The first step is hatching your exit plan. No second guessing, just do it! Ask yourself, what would you tell a friend, should she express what you just did? Treat yourself as you would your bestie. You deserve better. Yes, you do! You can do this! We are all behind you cheering you on!!! ;-)

ericsmom said...

Good points Gypsy

gypsy said...

I totally agree with you, ericsmom. <3

an ex-Au pair said...

I understand your situation, I used to be an au pair, the same as you the first family i was matched withy, sounded great and they turn out to be not good at all, the dad will hit the mom, scream in the middle of the night, have friends over and expected me to clean everything.

Having abuser employers is the worst thing, not being good enough is something you shouldn't feel like when you know you are being your best.

I re-matched and ended up with a lovely family that I love and they love me back, taking care of children is a handfull, having employers that see you as a slave, is not worth it.

You should move on, they are great host families out there, you learned from this experience. You are not making anything good for an unappreciative family, the children won't remember you and you still have a chance to have a great year!

robinsparkles said...

I think you might be in Europe, right? (stick shift, expensive vegetables...) It so sucks to be far away from your family AND in a terrible situation that, as other posters have pointed out, bears no relation to actual au-pairing, in which you're supposed to get language lessons and a minimum of spending money (350 euro in Germany) per month.

If your parents can buy you a plane ticket, or even if you can put it on a credit card and pay it back later... bail. This won't get better, and I'm sorry it's sucked so much.

nycmom said...

As a former Host Family, I believe that expecting ridiculous amounts of cleaning and/or hours beyond the maximum is the most common reason au pairs rematched. We occasionally helped an au pair in transition and let them stay with us for the two week rematch period and the stories were horrible. As many terrible au pair stories as I have, there were almost as many terrible host family stories.

In the US, however, the State Dept laws are very strictly laid out. This includes duties, required room and board, weekly pay, educational stipend, etc. Any good AP agency will do their best to enforce those rules on both sides. It often comes down to the quality of the Local Coordinator/support person. A good one will advocate for the au pair, since they are in a more vulnerable position.

If you are not a legal au pair, become one. If you are, rematch is clearly the right choice. Insist the agency enforce the rules in your country and review them with any new family before accepting. No AP should be abused or mistreated and no good agency should tolerate that from any Host Family. In fact, I would suggest you document all the violations in an email to your Local Coordinator and the various corporate heads of the agency so this family can never have another au pair again.

Dory said...

As always, excellent advice nycmom! You're truly awesome! :)

anon reader #3 said...

re-post for anonymous...
As a former Au Pair (though my experience was different from yours) I had three friends that were dealing with the very same situation you are in --- here in America, somewhere in the east north part.
1. You are a Human Being who deserves respect.
2. Leave from that house and never ever come back.
3. If you have a counselor, let her know about this situation. I hope the counselor will be helpful too. (The counselor in my group tried to be "fair" and convinced to one friend to stay longer, just because they did not want to loose the family -- all about money, and did not really help to my friend. If your counselor acts the same, be firm and claim your rights). Plus, if there is a contract signed given by the agency, those rules must be followed by the host family too. If they fail, it is their lost, not yours.
I hope you will take the only right decision. Be strong as you have been until now, but do not stay longer there. My best wishes.

ZQ said...

I totally agree with the other posters. Please get out of there as soon as you can. You deserve so much more than this, you are so much better than they deserve. They should have so much more respect for you. Plan your escape, get rematched, and find something better! Find a place that makes you happy.