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?
Host 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.
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.