Bad Behavior by Disrespectful Young Aupairgirl - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 02-28-2014, 03:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello everyone!

 

Recently our 18 years old live-in aupairgirl arrived. She does some work here, and I'm pleased with her in general (and my 8 years old daughter likes her). However, there is one thing I dislike:

 

Even when there is a special event in our family, our aupairgirl seems to show up wearing just ordinary clothes (sweater, sweatpants, jeans, t-shirts, shorts), which I think is totally OK for ordinary time (as long as it isn't revealing, controversial or whatever), but not if we're about to eat a meal together, go to restaurants or if I have people over here (but even otherwise if it's just we, but I think it's a better event than ordinary day). I don't require formal dress, but. I told her to wear a nice white, long-sleeved blouse with a middle-length black skirt, or sometimes a long-sleeved uni-colored buttonshirt with better pants. She said she dislikes dressclothes. I said it's OK that she dislikes it, but must learn to accept it.

 

A young woman from an aupair agency once recommended that the girl shall eat at least one meal together with the family every week. I thought that was a great idea. Also, I hold work-related meetings with her in my hommeoffice on Thursdays and I've told her to dress in such clothes (like blouse) even for them.

 

What can I do? I know there are many different opionions about it, but to me, it looks very disrespectful by a young teenagegirl to show up for better events in ordinary clothes. When I told her this, she started to talk back, shouting and ran into her room. When she came back, I told her that I want her to show a good behavior, not act like this. (I know she's still a teenagegirl, but if she can take as much response as being an aupairgirl, I can require far much better behavior from her side than this.)

 

I've told her that if she goes with me and buys some blouses and such, following my recommendations, (including similar extra outfit if one gets dirty) I can pay for the clothes (but she must wash and iron them). But she still refuses.

 

 

(I knew I did a misstake but not telling her this before arrival, but I had so much in my mind back then. It is, however, written in the houserules.)

 

Again, what can I do?

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#2 of 19 Old 02-28-2014, 08:03 AM
 
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My recommendation is let it go.  I have a part-time live-in nanny, and the situation you have doesn't sound functional to me. 

 

My live-in nanny has good clothes that he wears for his own formal occasions (he's a student), and perfectly fine clothes that he wears while working with my kids.  If I want him to help me take the kids out for dinner, he is welcome to say things like "I don't want to have to dress up."  He's home for the evening meal on a fairly frequent basis, and he comes to the table in the clothes he's been wearing all day (assuming they're reasonably clean), just like everyone else who lives in my house.  He's invited to my family events, but they're optional.  If I need him to dress formally, he picks his own formal wear.

 

One of the reasons some people prefer not to have live-in childcare is that the childcare provider becomes part of the family, for well or ill.  Treating your live-in like a barely tolerable intruder doesn't make the live-in not part of the family, it just means that you have a de facto family member who you're treating really badly.  This appears to be what you have in your house right now.  Of course she threw a tantrum.  She's a legal adult who came to this country to work and experience the culture, and you're taking advantage of the adult part (she's taking care of your kids) while otherwise treating her like a cross between a child and an employee you're planning on firing.

 

This young woman is your employee, hired to provide childcare.  She is dressing appropriately to provide child care.  The "business-related" meetings you are having with her are, frankly, really strange.  Her business is taking care of your kids, and she lives in your house.  Why does she have to dress up to come to your home office to talk about that?  It comes across as really weird and controlling, like you're demanding that she acknowledge your power by changing clothes before engaging you in conversation.  (Why don't you just talk to the au pair about whatever you need to talk to her about, whenever you run across her, or drop her an email or text message if you think of something you want to be reminded of later?  Why can't she just knock on the office door or shoot you a text if something comes up on her end?  Why does it take special weekly meetings?)

 

If you're going out to a nice restaurant or a place with a dress code, it's reasonable to ask her to put on something nicer, but she gets to choose that something nicer.  It doesn't have to be a button-down blouse.  I have a collection of "nicer" t-shirts and sweaters for going to good restaurants with kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#3 of 19 Old 02-28-2014, 11:51 AM
 
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Please consider the following issues:

 

- While she is younger than you, your au pair is an adult.  Referring to her as a girl is a linguistic choice that harkens back to the days when household help was considered to be under the paternalistic care of the employer.  Your au pair is a young woman who you employ.  Your daughter, who your au pair cares for, is a girl.

 

- As a person who was, in the eyes of neighborhood critics, raised by au pairs, I cannot imagine my parents having a meeting with the au pair on a weekly basis.  My parents scheduled meetings with the au pair only when they were planning to terminate the au pair's employment.  All other matters were handled on the many occasions when they spoke to the au pair, you know, around the house, every day.  Casually.  You may be creating an anxiety-inducing situation for your au pair and then asking her to dress up for it.  I note that these weekly meetings take place at the work site, with your au pair wearing her work clothes.  This seems reasonable to me.

 

- Do you take over child care 30 minutes before these "nicer dress" events so your au pair can freshen up and change her clothes?  Because she is dressed practically for her job, which is child care.

 

- Your desire to see your au pair wearing nicer clothes sounds intrusive.  There is no work-related purpose for this.  If she is not dressed formally enough for you, I guess you could offer to not bring her to your dinner at a formal restaurant, but otherwise, this seems to be about what you want to see, not about what is appropriate to the occasion. 

 

- Please consider what it looks and feels like to a young woman who is visiting from another country and culture and living with you to be told that for certain occasions she must dress the way you want her to for no other reason than because you want to see her wearing certain clothing and styles.  Consider how awkward and uncomfortable she might consider an offer to go shopping with, and try on clothes in front of, her employer, who will then choose and purchase items for her, disregarding her preferences.  Consider how much worse this must feel if you are male.  It is not appropriate for men to tell child care providers how they should dress, beyond "inoffensively, and appropriately for caring for an active child."

 

- What is your 8-year-old daughter wearing on these occasions?

 

- You only eat dinner with your au pair once a week?  Where does she eat the rest of the time?  She provides care for your dd on a daily basis and lives in your house, and you aren't eating most dinners together?  Is she eating with the rest of your household servants, or do you expect her to take a sandwich to her room?  Dinner gets eaten every night - she should eat with your family unless she has other plans!  She's visiting from another country, and you're concerns about clothes are making her feel uncomfortable and weird, plus she's only allowed at the table once a week?  Back off about formal dinner clothes, Lady Mary, and let the au pair relax at family meals!

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#4 of 19 Old 02-28-2014, 12:27 PM
 
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- Please consider what it looks and feels like to a young woman who is visiting from another country and culture and living with you to be told that for certain occasions she must dress the way you want her to for no other reason than because you want to see her wearing certain clothing and styles.  Consider how awkward and uncomfortable she might consider an offer to go shopping with, and try on clothes in front of, her employer, who will then choose and purchase items for her, disregarding her preferences.  Consider how much worse this must feel if you are male.  It is not appropriate for men to tell child care providers how they should dress, beyond "inoffensively, and appropriately for caring for an active child."

 

It's really not appropriate for women to tell child care providers how they should dress (beyond the broad guidelines specified), either.

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#5 of 19 Old 02-28-2014, 07:40 PM
 
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I completely agree with all of the above. And heck, I can't remember the last time my iron got used.
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#6 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 09:27 AM
 
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I remember the last time I used my iron! One of those leaves and waxed paper craft projects.
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#7 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 09:52 AM
 
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Not trying to be mean here, but I can't for the life of me imagine telling someone else what to wear. If she is following basic dress guidelines that a care-provider should follow, then I see no problem. I am personally a very casual person and would only dress differently for a wedding or funeral or something like that. Even at the most recent funeral I went to I have no choice but to wear jeans and a nice-ish shirt because I had just given birth and had no other clothes that fit. Come to think of it, I still don't own any fancy clothes even though I've been at this weight for a while...My home church is on the casual side, and every once in a while we visit another church that dresses super fancy. I mean, the men wear dress shirts and most of the women wear skirts and head coverings. I just wear jeans, converse, and one of my nicer shirts. I also have purple hair and stretched ears Haha! Come as you are, right? I love attending that church, but I'm not about to change my comfort for other people. Not that they really care how I look anyway, they are a pretty loving bunch of people. The way people dress is part of their identity!


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#8 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 10:59 AM
 
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I think you should give her a giftcard for a nice clothing store so she can go alone. I also suggest you drop the requirement to wear them around the house. A written note to explain why you need her to wear nice clothes when holding business meetings with clients in your home and when going to high end restaurants may go over better than a discussion.
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#9 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 01:22 PM
 
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On the off chance that this is a serious post and not someone posting such a ridiculous first post for kicks, contact the au pair agency, and release this poor girl. Your expectations are not reasonable (dress up for an hour long office meeting? the au pair only eats with you once a week?). Black skirts and white shirts don't make it easy for her to care for your child when there's company over. Saying "this restaurant has a dress code, so you'll need to wear something that passes their dress code" = OK. "Please wear a button down shirt and black skirt to a one hour meeting with me in my office about your au pair job" = weird, bordering on creepy.


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#10 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 01:34 PM
 
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I'll take a crack at this and try to  be as open minded about the various standards of dress in the sub-cultures I'm familiar with. I was also a nanny so I can answer from that perspective a bit. 

 

I suppose my first question is whether she is from the same culture as you. I think that could make a big difference in how this should be handled. If it's a matter of a education about your greater culture (assuming your expectations are in line with your culture), I think you could go that route. Something like, "When people in X country/region go out to restaurants they do not generally wear jeans because going out is seen as a special occasion and people generally dress for a special evening out. Also, restaurants sometimes have dress-codes so it is best to dress on the safe side."  

 

If the two of you are from the same culture and dressing up a bit for outings is the norm and your nanny just doesn't want to participate in the cultural norms, I think you have a pretty big dilemma. I'm not quite sure how I would handle that. I'm trying to imagine myself in that situation with someone. My city is relaxed about clothing in restaurants but not so much in the theater. If I were going to take a child care provider to the theater and she really wanted to wear sweats even knowing this is not normally done, I have no idea what I would do. I think I'd probably just bare my sole and hope for the best. 

 

If your nanny's dress is typical of your culture, I think you need to back all the way off of this and consider adding a note about you being on the conservative side of dress codes when hiring a next nanny. In this case it would be you with the unreasonable expectations and you really need to plan differently if you hope to find a nanny who is willing to accept your unusual requests. 

 

All of that said, you can not dictate what colors she wears - not matter what. I think it's within reason to ask that she dress withing the cultural norms for certain settings (restaurants, parties and etc.) but it is not reasonable for you to dictate the style she wears. I agree with others who do not think dressing for meetings in your home is reasonable. That seems overly fussy and totally impractical.  

 

I do commend you for keeping your nanny relationship fairly professional. IME nannies are often treated poorly on the other end of the spectrum - folded into the family to the extent that it is hard for them to have an independent life or treat their job as an occupation. 

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#11 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 06:01 PM
 
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ICM, the au pair/family relationship is different than a nanny/family relationship. It's as much a cultural exchange as a child care solution. Au pairs are generally included as part of the family they live with.
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#12 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 06:10 PM
 
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ICM, the au pair/family relationship is different than a nanny/family relationship. It's as much a cultural exchange as a child care solution. Au pairs are generally included as part of the family they live with.

I was a nanny (live-in) so I come from this at a different angle. I do think that folding nannies/aupairs to the family dynamic can have some negative results (it did for me and for the other nannies/aupairs I knew). I'm sure it works just fine for families that are inherently respectful of the nanny's time and boundaries. But, for the ones who aren't, including a live-in CCP as part of the family can mean that the the CCP is working 24/7. 


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#13 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 06:17 PM
 
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It occurs to me that I may not really know the lingo. I called myself as nanny but I think I may have been defined more accurately as an aupair. I wasn't into it for the long-haul and I relocated and lived with the family. It seemed to me at the time that the goal of a lot of families was to fold the aupair into the family dynamic. From my perspective (and that of a lot of the other aupairs I knew), this seemed far more advantageous for the employer than it was for the aupair - most of whom would have preferred their nights off. ;-)  So, at least for me, dinner with the family once/week seems like a sweet deal. ;-)  

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#14 of 19 Old 03-01-2014, 06:53 PM
 
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I'm just curious, where is she from, and where do you live?  It sounds like there are different cultural expectations, so that might be part of what is going on.

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One of the problems is that, legally, an au pair has really limited options.  We use the term pretty loosely in conversation, so it's hard to say whether the OP is dealing with a live-in nanny of the kind that Identity Crisis Mama was (and is evidently thinking of), or an au pair as defined by the government, which would mean that she's a young person from a foreign country, doing childcare while technically on cultural exchange.  The second kind of au pair is not a free agent in terms of jobs.  She can only work jobs through the agency that brought her to the U.S., she's supposed to only work 45 hours a week, she must have two days off a week, and she must be enrolled in some kind of classes while she is here.  Au pairs of this kind don't, technically speaking, receive pay for hours worked, they receive a stipend from the families they live with, and the amount of the stipend is set by the government, and remains the same regardless of hours worked.  If she works five hours in a week, she gets the full stipend.  If the family is exploitative and she works 80 hours a week, she doesn't get additional money.  It can be a great situation, but it can also be awful, and it's extremely difficult for an au pair to quit.  She'd have nowhere to go, she wouldn't be legally able to take another job (she'd need the agency to find her one, and agencies can be awful to au pairs whose placements don't work out), and she probably doesn't know a whole lot of people in this country.

 

I am very aware that folding a live-in nanny in as part of the family can be exploitative, and that it's imperative to treat CCPs like professionals.  The problem in the OP is that the OP's approaches to treating the nanny professionally aren't approaches that address issues of potential exploitation.  Having the nanny dress like a caterer and come to a weekly meeting doesn't help the nanny control her hours, or maintain boundaries concerning her personal life.  It seems far more as though the employer wants to run right over the nanny's reasonable personal boundaries (like her preference to wear appropriate clothing of her own choosing while on the job). 

 

It's also a problem that the dress code expectations here are hard to predict, and impractical for the nanny's work.  Yes, there may be occasions when nicer outfits are required, but those should be clearly delineated - "We're entertaining some business associates on Wednesday, so we'll need you to help with the kids that evening, and to dress for a formal dinner" - OK.  "I want you to wear a shirt that needs ironing on 'nicer' family occasions, which I will define at whim"... no.  Pirate Queen was correct to ask whether the OP plans to take over childcare half an hour before those weekly meetings so that the nanny can freshen up and change, and also right to ask what the child usually wears. 

 

It is my opinion that when you move someone into your house to help care for your children, you should start building a relationship in which you are cooperative equals, because that's the only kind of respect that can survive the exposure you are going to have to each other.  The pose that the employer is superior and the employee is an inferior dependent will gravely embarrass the employer as it decays.  And it will decay.  Anyone who lives in your house will see all the embarrassing moments you're glad not to be having elsewhere.  Your nanny is going to know when you are hungover, and when you are really sick.  Your nanny is going to know when the toilet overflows, and when the kids have head lice.  Unless formality assures thoughtfulness and consideration, it's nothing but an exhausting pretense.

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#16 of 19 Old 03-02-2014, 05:02 AM
 
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The problem in the OP is that the OP's approaches to treating the nanny professionally aren't approaches that address issues of potential exploitation.

 

I agree.  I commented on the weekly meetings and the nights off to add another perspective to what others have said about the OP not inviting the aupair to dinner - depending on the situation that may well be very welcome for the aupair. But, the dress code certainly does not indicate any extra layer of professionalism. At least not from my perspective. 

 

I also agree that the language is fuzzy.  American use of the term may well not be very informative and I suspect that's a big part of the discussion - if the OP comes back I would be curious to know what the cultural expectations/norms of aupairs are in her area. 

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#17 of 19 Old 03-02-2014, 07:16 AM
 
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My concern about the "nights off"/dinner with the family once a week is a concern about what the arrangements are for the au pair's meals.  Expecting her to buy her own groceries and/or eat separately can be as problematic as insisting that she eat dinner with the family every night.  Anyone who lives in my house is welcome to eat meals with my family.  If they want to eat something else at a different time, that's their lookout (I'm assuming adult here), but particularly with a legal au pair, it's important to make sure that the nanny has good access to food, and doesn't feel excluded.

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#18 of 19 Old 03-02-2014, 08:00 AM
 
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My concern about the "nights off"/dinner with the family once a week is a concern about what the arrangements are for the au pair's meals.  Expecting her to buy her own groceries and/or eat separately can be as problematic as insisting that she eat dinner with the family every night.  

Sure!  I suspect that if it's the American culture of having an aupair eat dinners with the family and this OP was advised to eat once/week that she is hosting an aupair in a culture with a different set of norms. If the OP is not clear on standards for hosting an aupair for things like wardrobe, it's possible that she isn't quite up on expectations for other things like meals. 

 

OP, to be clear, if your aupair culture is to eat with your aupair once/week, that sounds fine to me. I had a negative experience with the American way of doing it so that's informing my opinion. But, if you are not clear on how your aupair eats and gets food and the ways to include her in your family functions, I suggest you find some resources for figuring that out. Talk to some other parents who have hosted aupairs in your town. Or call the agency. Keep in mind that aupairs socialize and talk to one another in similar ways that parents do. For the sake of harmony you want to be sure that your relationship is at the very least in keeping with the norms of where you live. 

 

I think clear boundaries can be a very good thing in this type of arrangement but clear boundaries are no substitute for reasonable accommodations and expectations. 

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#19 of 19 Old 03-09-2014, 09:06 PM
 
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Keep in mind that in other countries dressing like Americans often do (flip flops and sweatshirts, sneakers on adults) is downright offensive. Since OP could be from anywhere, I hope other people replying to this keep that in mind, and respect that not everyone has a taste for American-casual. In Latin America, where I am from, it is very normal for maids, cooks, and housekeepers to wear a uniform when on the job, and people do dress up for small events, like a movie. So I guess that doesn't faze me like it did other posters.

 

 

Still, I wouldn't ask my American baby-sitter to dress up for me because that's just not the norm here, and I wouldn't be comfortable with such  a tangible difference between us. I would only be ok with asking her to match my level of dress, and I wear jeans and tshirts mostly, with a handful of nicer blouses thrown in when I want to feel pretty. 

 

I think if you expect an employee to wear a uniform, then it should be said before you hire them, and the rules should be clear. But keep in mind that that might not be a reasonable expectation. I don't think I've ever seen a nanny in uniform here EVER. Or a maid. 


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