Au Pairs and Host Children need consistent expectations from Parents in order to do well.
In families where both Host Parents have a similar parenting philosophy, or where one parent takes the “lead” and makes all the parenting decisions, ‘doing a great job’ is easier for Au Pairs. AuPairs need to adapt to only one parenting style, and things are simple-ish.
However, when there are two parents giving different directions, Au Pairs get stuck between the two. This happens in families with divorced parents and two households, and in families where both host parents are involved in childcare. Often, changes can occur during an Au Pair’s year — such as when parents split up or when the second parent suddenly is home more often (e.g., now working from home, between jobs).
How can Host Parents manage situations where their Parenting Styles conflict and send contradictory messages to the Au Pair?
It’s up to both Host Parents to set a consistent tone and set of expectations — for the Au Pair AND for their child(ren).
It’s too hard to do a good job as an Au Pair when you’re trying to follow two different sets of expectations, sometimes within the same household. And, it’s impossible for children to feel confident and secure when expectations are around them wobble from one style to another.
A conflict in parenting styles is a conflict between parents.
Our parenting styles reflect our values, our beliefs about what’s right and wrong, and our understand of how best to lead our families. When parents disagree and these disagreements are based on philosophical differences or style differences, one or both of the parents must adjust. This means that parents have to have a heart-to-heart about how to raise their children (easier if they are partnered, often related to the cause of separation if the parents are split).
We can’t leave it up to the Au Pair to find the ‘middle ground’. The Au Pair will then always have her/his authority undercut by one parent or the other.
- What should a Host Parent do, to resolve this sort of conflict?
- What can Au Pairs do, when they discover that they are getting different messages from different Host Parents?
My current AP and I have a great relationship and rapport. She is older and very responsible, takes great care of the kids and is well organized. She knows the rules (for the kids and herself) and follows them while exercising reasonable flexibility. I trust her judgement and have not been disappointed so far.
My DH on the other hand, is “permissive Dad” who rarely says no to a treat, screen time or a disarrayed schedule. He explains that his parenting style is a way of showing his kids how much he loves them. I also believe that some of it comes from an unwillingness to deal with the consequences of telling the children “no”.
Until now, the differences in our parenting styles has had little impact on my life or that of my AP, because my DH has travelled a lot and is only home on weekends. However, he is changing jobs and will now be home every evening, in time to interact with the kids and the Au Pair. This is great for the kids, obviously, but will be tough for our Au Pair. His parenting style will make her job (and mine) MUCH harder.
I’m worried that our Au Pair will end up rematching. I don’t want to lose an amazing AP because DH turns her calm world upside down.
~ NeedingEveryoneOnTheSameTeam Host Mom
Image by Brett Jordan on Flickr