What Kind of Role Model Are You For Your Au Pair?

by cv harquail on July 31, 2015

The most wonderful thing a host mom or dad can hear from a former au pair is

“You taught me how to be a good parent.”

I will confess that I’ve heard this myself, from the two au pairs we’ve had that we’ve stayed in touch with and that have become parents themselves.

It was immensely gratifying to hear, especially since I know I’m not the perfect parent, not the perfect host mom. And, because I know how hard my husband and I try to create a loving, nurturing, positivelyrole model challenging environment in our home.

An an Au Pair Host Mom, I never set out to be a positive role model for parenting in general.

My objectives were much smaller scale, more local:
I just wanted to show my au pairs how I wanted my children to be treated, and how I wanted my children to treat other people.

It’s surprising what can happen, though, even when you’re paying attention to other things.

When I shifted from being a full time faculty member to a part-time professor with a consulting & research practice, I engaged a career coach to help me with that transition. As one of our early exercises, she had me brainstorm a list of what I wanted my daughters to learn from me.

At the time, I thought this exercise was irrelevant to what I was doing and where I was going. I was more focused on setting up a side business, managing my time better, and crafting a different “career path” outside of full time academia. I had no appreciation for an exercise focused on my parenting.

I completed the exercise, and filed it in a drawer.   When I began to Kon Mari my professional administration papers, I came across my typewritten list in response to this exercise– and was stunned by the kinds of things I’d articulated nearly ten years ago that had absolutely come to pass.

It made me wonder– what if we had this sort of clarity for ourselves as host moms and dads?

What kind of role model do you want to be for your Au Pair?

What would YOU list, even just two or three things?

The role modeling doesn’t have to be about parenting, of course. If I’d had an au pair who went on to be a professor instead of a world-explorer/ flight attendant, or a manager in an office instead of a golf pro, some of the ‘career-y’ things they’d seen me do might have had an influence on their work-work. Luckily, at least two so far have become moms themselves. I’m honored and gratified that they are approaching motherhood differently because of the experiences they had in our family as au pairs.

If we’re to have any lasting impact on this world, we need to do something positive that extends outside our own family circle.

When we help a young adult learn how to be a better, more loving, more engaged parent, we’re making a real difference.



When Your Au Pair Connects With Everyone But You

by cv harquail on July 30, 2015

Not every Au Pair hits it off with every family member.

Sometimes there’s a kid or a parent for whom the Au Pair’s personality is a perfect fit.

3507408739_4131fde899_zSometimes the Au Pair is ‘primed’ to listen to one parent over the other because of the Au Pair’s own family history.

Sometimes the Au Pair’s home cultural norms can influence the strength of different relationships, such as when s/he takes directions only from the male or female parent because that’s what happens back at home.

And especially when Host Parents split the Good Cop/Bad Cop roles, or when one parent is the Default Parent and the other more detached, these patterns will influence the Au Pair to connect with each parent differently.

It doesn’t matter how normal it is…

When you’re the parent who’s NOT the one in close contact with the Au Pair, it can feel awkward.

Who wants to be the less-liked person in her/his own home?

What can you do, if the less-liked parent is you?

What can your spouse do to help you?

Ideas wanted!!


Hello CV,  I have been following your blog for a few months.  I wish I had found it before we looked for an au pair!  There is so much great information here.  

I currently have my first au pair and I need some advice.  I am having trouble connecting with her. She has been with us for 3 months now and has avoided talking with me. Instead, she seems to feel more comfortable interacting with my spouse, who works at home.

At first I thought the issue was with her English: It’s worse than I thought in the pre-match interviews. She has said I speak fast and so I have tried to speak more slowly but it doesn’t make a difference.  

She has connected quite well with my husband. She speaks with him about everything and not me. She comes out when she knows my husband is the one she might run into and not me.

I feel like she has been colder to me than to my spouse. She doesn’t make any effort to speak to me when I am home and the kids are asleep. I work very long hours including early mornings and late evenings.

When I come home at the end of the day, I like and need to to spend time with my children alone.  

I have a 3 and 4 year old and they tend to talk through dinner so it is hard to carry on a conversation with anyone else and I don’t want to cut them off when I haven’t seen them all day.  Our Au Pair stays for dinner and generally doesn’t speak.

I don’t feel like I can/should mandate that she come out of her room in the evenings to speak to me when I am home, but I am not sure what else to do.  I am beginning to be jealous of the relationship she has with the rest of the family.

At the root of it, I am having trouble balancing the guilt of being away with trying to feel comfortable with this person in my home.  

 Any thoughts/advice you can give to help make this go smoother? HostMomInRichland


See Also: Struggling to Communicate With Host Dad


Photo by Jessica Wilson on Flickr


… at least while s/he is On Duty caring for your kids.

harry-styles3-460x407-300x265SmartPhone addiction isn’t a metaphor– people actually get hooked on the physical rush of receiving a text. Like Pavlov’s dogs, a simple ‘ping’ starts them salivating for a connection with another person.

Another person on the other side of the smart phone, though.

Not that other person sitting in the high chair right in front of them, or on the swings across the playground, or patiently waiting– picture book in hand– for just one more story.

Not that other little person whose safety, comfort and growth they are in charge of.

Too much text-straction erodes the connection between a child and a caregiver.

We know this, and so we parents do our best to be good role models and look at our phones only when necessary if we’re otherwise supposed to be face-to-face engaged with our kids or other adults.

(Right? We all start there, with being a good role model? Okay then, moving on…)

Here are Three Ways to Help Your Au Pair Break a Texting-While-On-Duty- Addiction:

1.  Clarify your rules regarding Texting While On Duty

It’s probably not the case that your au pair is texting away because s/he’s unaware of the rules. Still, this is a place to start so that s/he has no excuses if her or his texting habits don’t change immediately.

Make sure that your rules are sensible and concrete–

e.g., “Check your texts “on the hour”, not endlessly through the day.  Tell your au pair friends to telephone you in an emergency, but to expect a text exchange only on the hour if you’re on duty.”

“We will always telephone your cell and the house phone if there is an emergency or we need to reach you right away. Expecting a text from us should never be the reason that you look at your phone any other time than at X o’clock.”

2. Change Your Actual Physical Systems

Sometimes we focus on changing a person’s behavior when instead we should be changing the systems that support or encourage their behavior.

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Countdown to One Thousand Posts on AuPairMom

by cv harquail July 26, 2015

Some numbers are big. Some numbers are significant. Some numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. And some numbers are just around the corner. For me here behind AuPairMom, one number– One Thousand — is rapidly approaching. One Thoushand is big, significant, and just the tip of the iceberg all at the same time. “One […]

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Responding to Surprise Request From Departing, So-So Au Pair

by cv harquail July 24, 2015
hope abrams

Speaking of Au Pairs and a sense of Entitlement, Washingtomom writes:  Our Au Pair just sprung what I hope will be her last ‘surprise’ request of us. How should I respond? We are at the end of our AP’s year, final date is August 7th. She extended with another family and the supposed start date […]

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What About Being an Au Pair Host Parent “Sparks Joy”?

by cv harquail July 20, 2015

Sparks Joy? If you aren’t one of the three million people who bought this book, or one of the 17 million people I’ve talked to about it, then you might not have thought about a possible link between being an Au Pair Host Parent and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you are one […]

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When Your Previously Swell Au Pair Starts Acting Entitled

by cv harquail July 18, 2015

Earlier we had a conversation about whether or not au pairs in the USA were, as a group, starting to act more entitled than in earlier times.  By “entitled” we mean, dissatisfied with a situation where the family follows the rules, offers the au pair a car, feeds the au pair well, and aims to […]

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Don’t Fret Over the One That Got Away

by cv harquail July 14, 2015

It’s easy to obsess about the candidate or host family that seems perfect for you.  We each have an idea of the ‘perfect’ au pair, the ‘perfect’ family, that we conjure up from our imaginations. Sometimes these images are based on previous experience “She’d be just like Elrina, tall, outgoing, fun, thoughtful…” or from a […]

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How to improve your Au Pair relationship in just one minute

by cv harquail July 11, 2015
cat in hat saying WORD

If I told you that you could improve your relationship with your au pair in just one minute, would you try it? Sure you would. You’re a busy host mom (or dad), juggling many demands and competing priorities. And, you’re a busy host mom who wants her au pair to know when she is doing […]

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Au Pairs, How Did Your AP Year Improve Your Job Prospects?

by cv harquail July 9, 2015
great au pair, perfect au pair

Inquiring moms and dads want to know– How did your Au Pair year help you find a job when you got back to your home country? How did what you learned and experienced as an Au Pair influence your outlook about what was possible for you? We Host Parents would love to believe that being an […]

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