Au Pair Appreciation Week is our chance as host moms and dads to celebrate what we enjoy the most about having au pairs in our family lives.

il_570xN.743839982_6uxjAlthough moms and dads who ask for advice here on AuPairMom are occasionally accused of being grumpy, demanding, and/or hard to live with, we all know that we wouldn’t even BE host moms and dads if we didn’t believe that having an au pair could be a great experience. After talking with and hearing from so many host families, I firmly believe that behind every bad au pair story there are dozens of happy au pair stories just waiting to be told.

Au Pair Appreciation Week is your chance to share those stories– to tell your own and to hear those of other host families.    [click to continue reading ...]

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One in an ongoing series of posts on very specific information to include in your AuPair Handbook…

HostMom MeanwhileInCanada writes:

I am currently in the process of revising the section of my handbook on give-and-take & related attitude (it’s in the section on “being part of the family”).

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I know there have been multiple discussions on AuPairMom about this issues, but I’m having trouble wording it for handbook purposes in a way that might not be misinterpreted as me trying to take advantage of an au pair.

I would love to read some examples from actual handbooks so I can adapt it. I feel like I can’t get it not to sound petty.

Any advice & wisdom appreciated.

Image from Meg on Flickr

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Once you’ve had your first Au Pair, you become wiser and more effective as a host parent.  We think.

We’ve seen the cycle of the au pair year ebb and flow. We know, individually, that we’ve gotten more savvy and more organized year after year. We’ve gotten less patient — or maybe more patient?– with each new au pair.

I’d argue enthusiastically that thoughtful Host Parents get better with each Au Pair relationship.

But what about Au Pair Host Parents as a group? How are we changing?

2997128547_e3cd753efd_mHost Mom KLG suggested in an email that she wondered whether host parents as a group have gotten more lenient with late night driving and car use, leading au pairs to feel more resentful of the fewer and fewer families with car curfews.

This made me wonder– have we, as a group of host parents– changed our views and our practices over time? When I was preparing my presentation for the Int’l Au Pair Association Conference in March, I spent some time reflecting on what’s changed in the Au Pair Mom community.

Are there any trends that we can see, looking over 7 years of conversations on this blog?

This blog isn’t a perfect reflection of trends in the Au Pair industry, to be sure.

AuPairMom readers are a relatively select subgroup of the au pair community. People come here to share advice on creating strong relationships, not just to vent about au pair problems. We’re a ‘pro-au pairing’ group.

Even though we do a lot of rehashing over the repeatable, predictable questions that most Host Parents have sooner or later, we have amassed a strong foundation of shared knowledge.  That means that our group can be helpful over and over as new host families and new au pairs enter the conversation with the same old challenges.

It also means that we as an AuPairMom community have developed a shared approach and a shared vocabulary that support us as we work to have great relationships without au pairs.

At the IAPA conference I also learned that many employees at Au Pair agencies are avid readers of the blog, even though they usually don’t feel it’s their place to comment in the conversations. Surely these individuals– and the Agencies they work for– have learned a lot from the 900+ posts on the blog.

But the question remains….

Has this lead to any collective learning by Host Parents? 

Two places where I think Host Parents as a group have changed their expectations of au pairs:

Au Pair Handbooks

Host Parents are now much more likely to have Au Pair Handbooks. Handbooks were more rare back in 1998 when I first began sharing the one that my DH and I had put together. Our agency at the time had a brochure with some suggestions about how to manage you au pair (e.g., using a time sheet, giving receipts for pocket money, etc.)  But there was no full-fledged, independent handbook.

When I first posted my sample Handbook here on the blog, it got hundreds– hundreds– of downloads.  In addition, we Host Parents have shared digital Handbooks directly with each other. These digital handbooks are easy to adapt to our particular families and also easy to modify as our kids get older and our concerns change.

Downloads of the Handbook samples here on AuPairMom have tapered off over time, in part I think because it became so much easier for Au Pair Agencies to publish sample handbooks to share on their own sites.   Agencies no longer had to consider the cost of printing and mailing paper books to host families.   Online, the costs of sharing downloadable templates and examples of Handbooks are minimal– so it’s easier for Agencies to recommend that Host Parents create a handbook.

“Reset” Conversations 

The second change I’ve seen is with the concept of a ‘reset conversation‘.  That’s a term that I first introduced back in 2009, and it’s proved a helpful way to label the specific kind of conversations about au pair- host family expectations.   I think that Host Parents are much more likely to have ‘reset conversations’ than they might have been 10 years ago, because we’ve made it such a normal part of the host family-au pair relationship, too.

More Realistic Expectations? 

One question that I wonder about is whether we parents have more or less realistic expectations of our au pairs these days. I know that our community on AuPairMom has gotten increasingly knowledgable about challenges in au pair-host parent relationships, even when we haven’t faced these challenges ourselves. We have a lot more to rely on that our own experiences (the “n of 1″ problem of anecdotal research).

Has the Host Parent Community as a whole gotten more sophisticated? Shifted its concerns?

I’d love to hear from Host Parents about this question.

And, I’d especially love to hear from LCCs and readers at Au Pair Agencies to get their perspective on the families in their clusters over time.

 

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Night Owl Au Pairs: Should You Give Them a Bedtime?

by cv harquail May 19, 2015

Dear AuPair Mom,  I am always delighted and relieved when my AP makes friends and starts spending time with them. I have never set a curfew since it seems to me that if I expect them to be responsible for my 4 children, I ought to reasonably expect them to be responsible for themselves; they […]

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When Au Pair Candor Hurts Your Host Parent Feelings

by cv harquail May 18, 2015
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We Host Parents want our Au Pairs to be truthful with us. Whether the topic is homesickness, feelings of depression, concerns about children’s behavior, or even our own emotional situations, we want our au pairs to tell us how they see things.  As Americans, we believe that candor (being forthcoming) and honesty (telling the truth) […]

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Au Pair Handbooks: Instructions about Child’s Allergies

by cv harquail May 16, 2015
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As part of a series of posts on very specific information to include in your AuPair Handbook… One HostMom writes: I need to update our handbook to for our incoming au pair with details on our child’s allergy. I’m not sure what level of detail would be helpful, or how to make the issue serious […]

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Does Your Au Pair Car Have A Curfew? (poll)

by cv harquail May 14, 2015
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 Back in 2010, we had poll to see what percent of au pair blog readers had a curfew on the car that the au pair uses.    60% of host families  who responded to that poll had a curfew on their au pair car [ Check out that post: Au Pair Guidelines: Does your car have a curfew? (Poll) ] […]

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Why Have a Curfew on Your Car and not Your Au Pair?

by cv harquail May 13, 2015
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Some readers have wondered why a family might put a curfew on the au pair car, but not have a curfew on the au pair him/herself. They point out that if au pairs are dependent on the au pair car for transportation during their time off, then having a curfew on the car is effectively the […]

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Massachusetts’ Domestic Workers Rights Bill. Time to write letters?

by cv harquail May 12, 2015

Massachusetts Host Families with Cultural Care Au Pair received the email, below, from their agency. As with so many forms of ‘official’ government communication, it’s hard to understand exactly how this bill might affect Au Pair Host Families and what any Host Family ought to do about it. Here’s the letter, please share your thoughts […]

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Helping an Au Pair with Depression – without Rematch

by cv harquail May 11, 2015
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It’s more than homesickness. It’s more than a bad day, or a bad mood. It’s depression, and it’s a serious disorder. Is there anything a host parent can do to help? HostMomInParadise writes: I am a host mom in transition. My au pair had been here 8 months and left suddenly, stopping work abruptly and […]

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