This Is The Open Thread You’ve Been Looking For

by cv harquail on October 18, 2014

I know it’s been a while– and questions are piling up. Time for an open thread!


Keep in mind, it can take some time to clear the comment moderation gauntlet for first-time contributors. … This thread will be open until Monday. Got to it, readers!



Image: Evan Leeson on Flickr


How to Switch Au Pair Agencies, Gracefully

by cv harquail on October 16, 2014

Host Families choose their particular Au Pair Agency for all sorts of reasons.

They might choose the agency their neighbors use, the agency that has the best promotional deal, or even the agency that has a name they can spell correctly when they are googling in the middle of the night having been awakened again by a child or by their own nightmares about being unable to hold everything together any longer.

8237593710_15f7bfc3f8_zFamilies occasionally switch from one agency to another when they’ve had a bad experience, such as a relentlessly unhelpful local counselor or someone at headquarters who won’t return their calls. When this happens, host families are happy to scorch the earth behind them.

Indeed, for some, the more huffily and dramatically they can leave their disappointing agency, the better. (Not because they are mean people, but because they seek to make a point.)

Agencies, for their part, generally want to make us host families happy. It’s much easier and less costly to keep a current client than it is to acquire and ‘break in’ a new family.

Smart agencies, when they see that our contracts are at the 8 month mark, start to reconnect so that they can help us move into a new year as a host family and a client.

What happens, then, if you’re perfectly satisfied with the service you’ve received from an agency, but you’re planning to switch to a different one?

Host Mom Deirdre has this question:

What do you tell your current agency when you are switching to a new agency? I’ve been with one agency for a few years, and I just matched with an au pair from a different agency. She will come after my current au pair’s year is up.

I would rather not burn any bridges, because I might come back to my first agency again in the future. They didn’t do anything wrong, I just found the best au pair with a different agency this time (after looking and interviewing extensively with candidates from both agencies). And this au pair is from a country where my first agency does not recruit APs. I signed up with this other agency because I’ve heard good things about it (mostly on this blog) and I want to give it a try.

I would love to just not say anything, except that my current agency is still actively trying to help me match (I have an active application with them for another year). Of course I need to de-activate my application, and I guess they will ask me why. I suppose I could say that I am using a different type of childcare and leave it at that, but I wonder if that could come back to bite me.

Does anyone have any advice/experience in this area? Am I worrying needlessly?

I’d advise Deirdre to tell the agency the truth– that while she’s been happy with the agency’s service, she wants an au pair from a country they don’t work with.

By being forthcoming about the actual details, Deirdre can give the agency some feedback it can work with. The agency rep won’t wonder needlessly if they did something wrong in their relationship with Deirdre. They might also get a better sense of the demand for au pairs from this particular country.

And, the agency might realize– if their service is fine but their relationships are not strong enough that they hold on to their customer, perhaps they can up their game.

LCCs and Agency Folks, what would you wish this host mom would tell you?

Parents, would you rather not say why you’re leaving, just in case?


Image: Hawthorne drops, by Evan Leeson, on Flickr


Add one negative person, and the whole ‘psychic weather system’ of a family can become depressed.

Having an au pair who is a grump, a complainer, a depressive, a wet noodle, or a ghost can really be a drag on the family’s energy.

evening in reykjavikBut is an au pair’s impact on the family climate as powerful the other way around? Can a positive au pair — someone who’s warm, friendly, smiling, attentive, welcoming, optimistic, and more — make a concretely positive difference?

I am a happy AP that lives with the family of four.

I have noticed that when my HD goes away for a day or two the family dynamic changes tremendously. He’s the one who spoils babies so usually they eat more junk with him, they misbehave more and generally they are much louder. When he is gone and HM is fully in charge there are no screams from the kids waking me up on weekends. The seem calmer and more laid back.  

After noticing the difference that’s cause by the Host Dad being here or not, I”m wondering if this is how is it with an Au Pair? I read here on the blog about depressed AP and their mood swings. Everybody is affected what automatically changes the dynamic. I read also about AP who eat healthy and gives a good example for the whole family. If things go well and an Ap does a great job HP are more relaxed and dont have to talk to each other about how s/he failed again and how much they wish s/he was already gone. I guess what I am trying to ask you is this:

Does having an Au Pair change the dynamic in the HFs households, especially to make it more happy??

What is the difference between your home before having an Au Pair and after s/he arrived? How about when s/he is home and when s/he leaves the house for the night out for example??

Sincerely, Wondering AP

What kind of au pairs have had a palpably positive impact on your family’s emotional climate?

What have these au pairs done, and how have you responded to them, to make their impact positive?


Image: Evening in Reykjavik, by Chris Zielecki, on Flickr


3 Easy Ways to Help Your Au Pair Use Your Home Appliances Correctly

by cv harquail October 10, 2014
wash maching

American appliances have too many options. Having endless options is great for getting just the right setting for a specific task, but it becomes quite a problem when you’re forever trying to remember which combinations of buttons and levers to press. Between our vacuum cleaner (5 attachments, 3 wands and 5 buttons), our washer (23 […]

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LGBT Au Pairs: Have Host Parents’ thoughts changed on whether sexual orientation matters?

by cv harquail October 5, 2014

Given the pace of changes in the US around issues of marriage equality and the recognition of trans* people, an au pair writes to ask whether Host Parents views have changed: I found one post about the topic from 2010. I am curious if something has changed for HF’s? I am gay but none knows […]

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One Slight After Another: Can this au pair relationship be saved?

by cv harquail September 29, 2014

It’s interesting to get emails from host parents — and au pairs– where it seems that the very act of writing to us is helping them gain some clarity about how untenable their situation actually is. This seems especially true when there isn’t one prominent issue but instead several smaller ones that, when all pulled […]

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Au Pairs Should Use Language that Host Kids Can Understand

by cv harquail September 23, 2014

Many families look for au pairs who can help their children learn a language other than English. The idea is that the au pair can speak to the child in the au pair’s first language, and teach the child the second language through everyday interactions. Conceptually, this makes sense. We do, after all, learn our […]

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It’s the Parents’ Job to Teach Children Kind Behavior

by cv harquail September 18, 2014

Au Pairs can reinforce discipline and expectations, but it’s Parents who remain responsible. Many parents who are either new to parenting at all or new to host parenting specifically struggle with this issue. We all want our children to be kind. Full stop. (I’m assuming this is true. It’s true, right? We want our kids […]

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If an AuPair is being exploited, is it okay for her to disappear?

by cv harquail September 15, 2014
girl with suitcase1

We’ve heard the horror stories of au pairs disappearing while the host family is at church, or in the middle of the night without warning. Although this is often selfish behavior by an au pair and intended as a slap in the face to the host parents, there are actually a few situations where I […]

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How to Get Your Au Pair Ready To Cook

by cv harquail September 12, 2014

Once your host kids get past the ‘oatmeal and smashed peas’ phase, it’s time for an Au Pair to do some real cooking. Even au pairs who’ve cooked in their home countries find cooking in America to be a bit challenging. Au Pairs need to figure out: How our appliances work What each of the foods […]

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