A Good Au Pair Relationship Requires Your Emotional Investment

by cv harquail on April 2, 2010

Regardless of the type of childcare your family chooses for your kid(s), there is always some work involved in maintaining your relationship with the actual caregivers.

With a daycare center, you need to communicate with the staff members and with the administrators on things ranging from schedules to toilet-training strategies. With your mother, mother-in-law or other family member, you have to manage social (power) dynamics of the basic relationships while you try to get things done the way you want them. With nannies and au pairs you need to negotiate everything from care use to playdate arrangements
With every form of childcare, you will intentionally or unintentionally make make some kind of emotional investment in your relationship with the caregiver. At the very least, you’re bonding with them over how damn adorable your kid is. In the best case, you’re creating a partnership with them so that everyone thrives– you thrive, your kids thrive, and your caregiver thrives.

With au pairs, in addition to establishing a relationship around caring for those adorable little(r) people, you have two extra areas where you need to make an emotional investment:

(1) as parents sharing their home with another adult person, and

(2) as grown-ups working with someone who’s still actively growing up.

Au Pairs fall into that weird grey area of being ‘adult’ enough to leave home, to be trusted with the care of children, to drive, and to make important social and financial decision for themselves. They are adult enough to have signed a contract to be an au pair for an entire 12 months.

And, at the same time, au pairs are often having their first experience with living away from home, establishing themselves socially in a brand new group of people, figuring out a new culture/language and sometimes even having their first full-time job, with serious work demands.

About your home

With au pairs sharing a home with us, we have to learn how to manage our privacy, our emotions, and our openness to another person’s social and emotional needs. You have to figure out what you have to offer, and what s/he needs, and what you can give, every day all week long. I don’t know about you, but I am not always ‘on’, or even pleasant, 24/7.

But I have had to learn how to manage that, so that our au pairs can feel welcomed and at home.

You also need to help au pairs learn to live in your house and home. You can’t expect an au pair to know which is your favorite coffee mug, or to realize that you can hear her Skyping at 3 a. m., or to know when to withdraw from the room when your sister calls to talk about your mom. These are things that you have to teach your au pair, gently. And, before you can even teach him or her how to respond, you have to become aware of what bothers you and what you’d prefer.

About her or his adult-ness

Au pairs are usually still at an age where they are going through a lot of emotional and social growing. They don’t have it all figured out, and most of them haven’t figured out how to deal with not having it all figured out. They’re going to do things like get drunk, overspend, stay out overnight, smash up your car, overuse the phone and the interwebz, be clingy, misread your social cues, get homesick, argue with their parents, and break up with their BBB(G)Fs.

And you are going to need to be willing to help them.

That’s part of the deal, of having ‘live in’ childcare, of having an ‘on par family member‘, and joining in a ‘cultural exchange’.

So how do you approach this emotional investment?

I know that each time we’ve had a new au pair, I’ve been aware that I need to start all over again– not just in teaching them our family systems and how we parent around here– but in creating a relationship with our new au pair herself.

This has sometimes been pretty hard for me– I’ve been burned out from the high maintenance au pairs, or irked after the really crappy au pair, or heart-broken at the departures of the wonderful au pairs. I’ve found that I almost start out begrudgingly, because I want to spare myself the work and the disappointment if things don’t go well.

I think that other host parents feel this hesitation too, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum of ‘au pair as employee’ or ‘ au pair as family member’.

rabbit pair in teacups.jpgAnd this doesn’t even include anything about your kids!

Things I have tried to remember:

Every relationship deserves its investment. You never know what this au pair relationship is going to bring your family. Although any au pair relationship will always be work, and always have some challenges, the chances are that your au pair relationships will bring you enough family happiness that it will be worth it.

We can’t really guard against being hurt or disappointed by an au pair who disappoints us by not making an emotional investment in them, in their well being, and in their learning.

We have to make that investment, right at the start, rather than withholding until they prove they won’t disappoint. Because, you know, if we withhold at the start we make it more likely that they (and we) will fail.

It is especially crushing when an au pair ‘dumps you’, disappears on you, turns out to be a spoiled brat, or for some other reason goes into ‘transition.’ What a colossal waste of time and energy!

It even hurts when she goes home or transitions for reasons that have nothing to do with job performance or your relationship (like when one of our great APs went home early b/c her father died).

When you start to feel weighed down or apprehensive about the emotional energy it takes to have a good au pair relationship,

what do you tell yourself to help yourself rise back up to the challenge?

{ 76 comments }

Southern Host Mom April 2, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I try to remember the lessons I’ve learned the hard way. For example, when our Au Pair asks a simple favor like for me to copy a document for her when I am a work, I try extra hard to remember to do it. This is especially hard when it isn’t “important” compared to the other things I have to do at work! When I arrived home once and saw the Au Pair’s face when I said, “Oh, I’m sorry I forgot to copy that for you. I’ll do it tomorrow,” I made a mental promise to myself never to do that again! These small favors are important to the Au Pair; and I realize they are even more important for our Au Pair-Host Mom relationship.

Soccer Mom April 2, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Emotional energy is a perfect description of what, among other things, goes into building a good relationship in the beginning. Each year I am extremely optimistic about the prospect of a great incoming au pair. It is hard to get “up” for the process to start again after a less than optimal AP experience, and I have experienced burn out. A combination of things have motivated me to forge on, including some fear of another bad experience like one from the past. I know that no matter how hard I try, there is still a chance it may not work out, but for me it is really important to feel, believe and know that I put everything into it that I could. Not sure if that makes it more painful or less painful if things don’t work out, but I know I would blame myself endlessly if I didn’t put in the effort and then things didn’t work out.

Calif Mom April 3, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Soccer Mom makes a really important point here. I felt like I made at least two big mistakes at the beginning with our very first AP (Pointy Boots of Insta-Rematch fame) and not only was that feeling very hard for me to deal with, but it absolutely colored how I dealt with a later rematch situation (the Princess for whom I bent over backwards for many many too many months instead of just pulling the plug early).

Do I think that we would have ended up in rematch even if I had bent over backwards for Pointy Boots at the very beginning? You betcha. Will I make those same mistakes out of the gate with a new AP? Nope. Nor will I cling onto a relationship that isn’t working, either, thinking that if I just try harder it will get better.

Alma April 3, 2010 at 7:59 am

What a thoughtful, thought provoking post. Having someone , anyone, live with you and take care of your kids is such a complicated situation and your tips are very important to make the process run smoothly. Issues/problems are inevitable and kindness can go a long way to alleviate a lot of the stress.

Jeana April 3, 2010 at 9:35 am

If a person comes to this site, this is the most important article they could read, of all the articles that has been shared. I think that some people considering an aupair might not realize that this is part of being a host family. If people don’t want to invest in a relationship with an aupair, this isn’t the childcare option for them. This is the very least that we can give to our aupairs. They’ve left their country, agreed to match with our families, and now they’re in a new country, dealing with a new language, where they can communicate, but may not have the language to express really intimate feelings. By intimate feelings, I mean the ability to say in English that they feel conflicted; they’re so happy to have the opportunity to come to our country, but it is hard that the people they love are on the other side of the world. There are so many feelings that our aupairs may have, but not the vocabulary to articulately communicate with us. They need TLC, and chocolate, in my opinion. I’ve tried to schedule the arrival of our aupairs at a time when I can give extra time to help her get settled. I give priority to helping them obtain their social security card, state ID or DL, bank account, library card, etc. I remember what it was like to be a young woman with a dream, and I want our aupairs to continue their relationship with us years into the future, and always be glad they chose us. Our aupairs have dealt with family members being very ill, unexpected deaths of family members, and the horrible earthquake in China, that was very near where she lived. These are young women, away from home for the first time, needing to be treated as an adult, but also needing a host parent to watch out for them, and gently impart wisdom as they go out, independently. I’ve had many conversations about holding onto drinks when they’re out, even though none of my aupairs have been drinkers. I’ve showed them stories on the news, to help them understand that while I consider where we live safe, there are instances when bad things happen. This has been to help them understand how important it is for doors to always be locked, and not opening the door unless they know who is on the other side. Building a relationship is the least we can do, and it is so incredibly worth the time and feelings that we invest.

aupair April 3, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I agree with you. This is exactly what we feel and we need. Thank you!

Calif Mom April 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

This post puts a finger on exactly what I’ve been mulling over lately. Uncanny, CV! And I agree with Jeana that this is the missing piece that the agencies don’t really explore with prospective hosts.

I had a drink and dinner the other night with three other moms I like and respect, all of whom have hosted au pairs. We all work in the same field, have at least two kids and two-career families. (This dinner was like spa day for the soul!)

We all have demanding careers, and all have had more than one au pair. But those three other moms with whom I share so many common experiences have all stopped hosting. Being an over-thinker in general, and being in the midst of our search for our next AP and so in a window of oppty for choosing a different caregiving arrangement, this conversation made me revisit my family’s own choice of continuing to host. Like we nag to the kids about math homework, I needed to “check my work”.

First, I must point out that all four moms at our table had hosted APs who were fantastic. We all also had first-person “crazy au pair stories” (not just myths or apocryphal stories–I checked) which included a lawsuit, a pregnancy, a disappearance in the middle of the night, and a suit of armour–I kid you not!

APs, counselors, and other host families all took their hits during a rollicking conversation. But out of my own selfish need for reassurance, I wouldn’t let them off the hook, and pushed to delve further into why they have stopped hosting, and, importantly, whether they are happier now that they have stopped hosting. I also pried into how they are juggling childcare and jobs. (I must observe that we all look rather tired and run down! This working mom thing is exhausting, no matter how you divvy up the workload.)

Why they stopped? “Having an AP changes the family dynamic.” “It’s just not worth the emotional turmoil.” “Too much crazy #$%* happens.” “I don’t need another person in the house to worry about.”

So what are they doing for childcare instead?

One has a nanny who isn’t great, is the kids’ doormat (which drives the mom crazy), but is stable. The mom is trying to find a part-time gig for the nanny because the cost is killing them and they really don’t need full time care. She is an effusive, lovely, generous mom who felt personally responsible for her APs as if they were her own adult children. It was too stressful when she hosted a partier, because she worried that the girl wouldn’t return home alive on the weekends she didn’t return home at all. She doesn’t want that level of responsibility again.

The second mom is getting up at 5, trading early morning before-school program drop-offs with dad. She is lucky to have real flex in her schedule, but she does travel on short or day-only trips. When one of their kids is sick, they practically arm-wrestle over whose meetings that day are more important and the other one stays home. This puts strain on their relationship, but also on Mom’s relationship with her boss, who doesn’t have kids. They do have a PT sitter for drop off and pick-up on some days. I get the impression this mom is doing a LOT of juggling, and each week’s schedule seems to be different. I am not that good at logistics and organizing such things–it’s very draining and distracting for me–so I don’t see this as a better alternative for my family. I only have flex time in theory, and neither me nor dad are morning people.

The third is partner at her firm. She had told herself that she would invest in her career while the kids were in elementary school, since their needs are easier to “outsource” at that age and we’ve all read how the real time when the kids need a parent around in the afternoons is middle school. Her plan all along has been that when the kids got to middle school she would start leaving at 3:00 in order to be the Carpool Mom who gets to listen in on their conversations and really know her kids’ friends. But of course she hasn’t started leaving at 3:00, it’s too hard to get away from work, and I could feel her pain when she told us this. She hires local university students to do afternoon pick-up and is quite happy with that. But she is unhappy that she isn’t around more.

For summers, all these families put the kids in full day camps and seem to travel a lot, taking 3 weeks of vacation. I don’t have that luxury of time off, and I think week after week of camps really wear the kids out. We do sprinkle camp weeks throughout the summer to give our AP a break.

From the bottom-line perspective, I added up the cost of summer camps for two kids on top of the cost of after-school care during the school year, and it was more than hosting an AP (even budgeting $1,500 in car damage, plus costs of food and taking them on trips).

While these 3 other moms don’t have the emotional mishegoss of having a young woman trying to Find Her Way in Life living amongst them, neither are they enjoying some of the perks I’ve got. I still really appreciate the lovely flexibility of hosting APs. Mine stayed home with a sick kid last week, leaving my own time off account intact. My friends stress out on all those nutty days the schools are not in session that don’t coincide with work holidays, which add up to a lot per year. Plus hub and I enjoy the added bonus of a date night without forking out $100 for a sitter.

For us, the stress of transitions between au pairs and even the stress of going through a rematch does not outweigh the benefits. When you find a sympatico au pair who offers the added bonus of being a fantastic role model for your kids, day-to-day life for everyone in the home is just so much more balanced. I love having young women around to mentor, and they are a huge help when my hub is on travel for a week. I shudder to think how I would deal with rushing home from work and then having no second set of hands during dinner/homework/stories/bed.

I also know two host families that are never quite happy with their APs but continue to do it because it’s cheaper. And their very unwillingness (or inability) to invest emotionally (or financially) in their relationship with their APs is at the root of their unhappiness. They overreact to slight missteps by imposing tougher house rules, or by pulling back perks, and then have an increasingly unhappy AP on their hands. The distances creep until they are even farther apart emotionally. They stick with APs because of cost but complain bitterly. They openly admire our APs and wonder how we find such happiness with them, but I know that if we traded places, our APs would do some of the same things they lament in their own, because it’s a two-way street.

So…I am feeling better than ever about hosting APs. And crossing fingers that the next one will bring the same equanimity to our home that our current one has! Hope springs eternal.

My 2 cents April 5, 2010 at 9:34 am

Amen to all of the above!

I have a number of working mom friends that would “never” have an AP. They all run around like chickens with their heads cut off and manage to pay more money to do it! But, on the other hand, my family “pays up” for the flexibility and assurance of a steady and responsible care giver but doing all of the many small, more personal things, all of which add up and do put you a bit more at an emotional risk.

Jane April 6, 2010 at 1:48 pm

This is a great post–so many things I found myself nodding along to. I’m getting ready to stop hosting this summer in favor of school with before/after care. My work schedule truly is flexible so I think I’m going to have an easier time than most making the switch. I loved having consistent, stabel care from au apirs, but at the same time, I find the emotional investment you need to make to be extremely high, and frankly, I’m a little worn out. It’s not fair to me or to the next potential au apair for me to host again until I’ve built up some energy for it again. I find you do get what you give, and I always aim to give a lot. As a result, I’m worn out. I’m looking forward to picking my kids up from school and focusing on just them for a few years. For me, I’ve found the au pair experience to be like adopting an extra child. Many good things have come from such strong family relationships that have developed, but it’s also exhausting.

HMinPNW April 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Agreed. Thanks for the informative post, as I’m on the verge of a transition point (in career and with APs), and I’ve been starting to think about what to do.

And Jane– I agree; any future AP I have needs to wait until I can build up some emotional energy.

TX Mom April 12, 2010 at 11:14 am

Thanks for sharing, Jane. If we are worn out host moms, it’s not fair to the AP or to our households. I tell everyone we are “taking a break” from hosting soon. After a summer of day camps and a few months of school holidays, sick days, early drop offs, etc. hosting an AP may look ENJOYABLE again. Until then, however, I only want to deal with the drama of my own children. In today’s work environment, I’m beat by the end of the work day and only have enough patience and energy for my own children; I don’t have enough emotional IQ for mentoring and managing a young adult. I think I would be more energetic about the idea if we had a higher success rate in finding AP’s that matched our values.

Tristatemom August 1, 2011 at 9:11 am

I came across this post because it was tagged to TACL very great post about how to end the AP year and wanted to see if I can elicit a few more thoughts.

We’ve had 4 APs, 1 great, 1 good, and 2 bad. I promised myself that I would do things differently with the new AP: I interviewed extensively and early, I have a Rule Book, I communicated often prior to arrival etc. Our new AP has done great things already that no other candidate has done. My problem, I think our personalities clash and I find myself butting heads with her. I have never experienced this before. Please don’t laugh but I feel, based on her comments, that I am not handling the kids right (am no lenient and/or kids are too much). This is really hitting a spot with me because I already put a lot of pressure on myself that I have to do a great job in raising my kids.
To be honest, if my AP was a date, I would not go out with her again just based on the fact that our personalities do not mesh. She is very condescending and I think she is not even aware of it.
So, what can I do because I really want to give this a fair shot?

Taking a Computer Lunch August 1, 2011 at 10:47 am

How long has she been with you? If she’s a recent arrival, see if she’ll calm down. Many APs do come with their own cultural attitudes toward child-raising, and quite frankly, the agencies explicitly warn them that Americans have different attitudes (they don’t quite come out and say our kids are spoiled brats – but quite frankly they set APs up for that expectation).

Is your AP saying the kids are too much for her? Then give her some tips on how to control them? Is the AP saying you are too lenient or not lenient enough? (not clear from your sentence).

I tell my APs outright that they may discipline my kids differently from HD and I (we’ve never had any outrageous disciplining) and that if they feel the need to take away a privilege (TV time, hanging out with friends) that we will reinforce it. Most APs take their cues from HD and I (to the point that I see where I need to change my own behavior).

However, if your personalities remain in conflict, the year will be miserable for both of you and rematch is sometimes the best option. I would not call for a rematch meeting out of the blue. Have a chat when the kids are in bed, give her a week to calm down. Call for a second meeting in a week. If she’s still chafing, then use the rematch word – as in “I think you are unhappy in our family. You and I need to decide whether or not rematch would be a good tool for you to find a family with which you are more compatible.” Don’t lay blame. Try to keep your voice neutral. If she basically does her job well, then offer to provide her with a good reference. And then, start looking!

Tristatemom August 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

Thank you, TACL! Sorry about the typo, I meant to say that I am too lenient in the eyes of the AP.

Its been less than a month :( so I need to give it some time. I wonder if it is better for me to spend more time with her (take her out for ice cream) or less to just let her be.
I cannot even fathom the rematch idea right now – memories are still raw from the last – but I really appreciate your thoughts!

Should be working August 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Another idea is to help the AP build loving relationships with each kid, so that it’s not just a matter of discipline and ‘her job’. Schedule the AP, if you can manage the childcare for other kids, to do some truly fun (for her) activity with each kid separately–ice cream with a little one, wall climbing with a bigger one–so that she comes to actually LIKE the kids and that might help her enjoy them and not see this as just a matter of ‘child-raising’ but of a happy way of being together.

Keep us posted–I’m always curious to hear how these conflicted situations play out.

Anna August 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I think she also might be very frank, so I would use a very frank approach with her.
I would tell her exactly this – that her remarks feel condescending, that she knows better than you.
That you are the mother and you are raising your own kids the way you deem best for you as a family, and she is there to work for you. If she cannot keep up with your requirements, or if she cannot treat you with respect, she should readjust her attitude. This is what being au pair is about – not only about being a confident and capable caregiver, but about coexisting respectfully with another family, this is the whole cultural experience part. It takes a certain kind of personality to be open to the cultural experience, and something she should’ve considered before signing up for the program. But since she already did, she should rise up to the challenge. While for other girls full time childcare might be more of a challenge, for her – respect, acceptance and adjustment might be of a bigger challenge. Maybe frame it as a learning/growth experience for her. Good luck.
I had a similar experience, but I really liked the girl and it didn’t rub me the wrong way. But after she broke her commitment to us before her year was over, I rethought that and I think I learned from that experience. She might not be able to change what she thinks, but she might be able to change what she expresses, and the way she expresses it.

Calif Mom August 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Good advice — meet blunt with blunt.

BUT, if it has been a month already, and if you are a person who hates going into “blunt mode” — I know I sure am — this mismatch of personalities may not be the right thing.

I know you don’t have energy for rematch, but it’s so much way way way better than sticking with something that drives you, host mom, crazy! Please — fear the misery more than you fear the rematch. it’s a good time of year to find rematch candidates….

Good luck! keep us posted!

StephinBoston April 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Calif Mom, oh that was a great post! I am totally in agreement with you, there is always the bad apple, the crazy girl, the partier, etc but… In the end, it’s mostly about the relationship.

I invest a lot in my relationship with our au pairs, I match early, I talk to them on the phone, we email back and forth, we are friends on facebook, I share my handbook during the interview process, I try to be as transparent as can be. Even when things have been tough, I’ve been able to draw from that relationship and it sure helps put things in perspective. HD is by no means as involved but that seems to also be a good thing, he has the less emotional view when the going gets tough.
Having hosted three au pairs, I’ve gone through my share of “crazy” but when I look back at my days of having a nanny or when I think about dropping off my kids in full time child care (while I work at home), it makes it all worth it.
My boys are 3 and 5, I’ve got many years of childcare left and I can’t see any other way for us, au pairs it is with the good, the bad and the ugly (hoping for more good than anything else).

Honestly, it’s also nice to have another woman in the house, the female dog just doesn’t cut it in terms of female relationships :-) I also find that it keeps me young, I know the trends, what’s hot and mostly what’s NOT! I hope I am able to help these young woman in their lives as much as they help us survive the insanity of the working parents life.

Thanks CV for bringing this up, it’s so easy for us to forget how emotionally distressing this experience is for our au pairs. Thanks for the reminder.

Soccer Mom April 3, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Thank you sooo much Calif Mom. My hub & I constantly discuss this – he wants out of the AP hosting business ASAP (he thinks in 2 years when both kids are in full day school we won’t need the coverage), while I think an AP may still be our best option. I just handed him my laptop and made him read what you wrote. He of course mentioned that he thinks you’re taking happy pills, but it makes perfect sense to me. We already arm wrestle over whose meetings are more important when conflicts arise, and I know those instances are relatively rare currently because we have an au pair. Maybe in two years I will be in his camp, or maybe we will be finishing a year with a wonderful AP and he will change his mind… I think I will need to refer back to what you wrote Calif mom to support my case that we should continue with APs.

Darthastewart April 4, 2010 at 10:13 am

Soccer mom- we’ll have all kids in school full time in 2 years, and are already debating what to do in the next phase. If it weren’t for all of those sick days, weird days off from school, track-outs, and other stuff, then we’d be just fine without an au-pair. But, we’ve not had an au-pair for a couple of months now (we’re in transition, and have gap coverage until our au-pair comes this summer), and it has really brought these issues to the forefront of our minds.

Calif Mom April 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

It’s true that when all the kids are in school it feels like you’re not really getting the ‘value’ out of the AP program. But the summers are the deal-maker.

I LOL’d that your DH thinks I’m taking happy pills! Tell him I’ve been through 3 rematches and plenty of PO’d phone calls with our counselor. I’ve seen both sides, believe me. When my AP emailed me the grocery list at work the other day when hub was out of town, I wasn’t whistling her tune exactly! :-)

HRHM–after we were burned, what happened is that my criteria for what counts as a ‘great’ AP changed. There certainly is no perfect. Our first “great” AP could barely communicate with me on the phone. Our second “great” AP washes all the kids’ clothes in one load, on hot. She barely does the room pick ups. They both had a couple scrapes while parking our car. But these are no longer deal killers, and in spite of these foibles, they WERE both great. Because the other things–managing my disparate kids’ needs, not being a total pushover, enforcing our family’s screen limit if not the cookie one–are done so very well. If the AP is responsible and doing the best she can, is happy to get hugs from my kids and is respectful of *both* of them, then they count as “great”. They add new things to the family you won’t expect, including new family idiom. HRHM, you will find such a relationship too. I know if I had had the interview advice I now do, I would *never* have matched with two of our three rematch girls. (The first one was a con artist.) The kids will only outgrow or wear out the clothes anyway, doesn’t matter if they fade. What’s so terrible about an extra cookie? they are making good childhood memories.

StephinBoston–I let my hub get a male dog this time–a mastiff. With us having daughters, it helps. :-)

StephinBoston April 5, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I like the fact that you “qualified” the great au pairs, same here, my great au pairs haven’t been perfect, but all brought so much to our family. Our first one barely spoke English (and totaled the car) but she loved my babies as if they were her own, she was what I needed at that time, a nurturing, loving and always patient young woman, she saved me from losing it with 2 kids under 2 and a full time job.
Great au pair #2 came with big shoes to fill and did it with ease, she had my kids laughing, running and entertained from day one. She was the daughter I’ll never have, really a perfect match for our family, not sure I’ll ever find a better match.

Great au pair #3 had a rocky start but you know what? She’s growing into it, making it work for us and her, I’m happy to include her in the great au pair list :-)

HRHM: Sorry I don’t have great advice on matching, I’ll tell you that the one thing that seems to work for us has been to go with my gut, you will know, don’t let a nagging thought stop you from moving to the next candidate, you know.

CalifMom: I actually LOL reading about your dog, my DH is NEVER getting a male dog, he’s got enough buddies in the house as it is!

Katie April 4, 2010 at 9:49 am

Treat your au pair how you would like to be treated.

Janet April 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

Or how you’d want someone to treat your daughter in a similar situation.

Katie April 5, 2010 at 9:01 am

exactly!

Anna April 4, 2010 at 10:10 am

I am about to welcome my fifth au pair in a couple of months. The easiest welcome was my first. Every time after that it felt somewhat like a burden, and last year, after a bad au pair year that really scarred me and the kids, I was not looking forward at all to the whole new orientation and welcoming phase. But, the au pair herself was so wonderful, with such an easy and sunny personality, that she made this period not only easy, but enjoyable for me, from our first hug in the airport!
I am hoping this year is a repeat, it appears that we matched with an energetic and positive girl.
I think that the new au pair herself, if it is a good match, can make this period easier for the family, and infect the family with her energy and excitement.

HRHM April 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I think for me the biggest challenge has been not really having the “great” AP that I keep reading about here! So, going from immediately disappearing girl to crazy, anorexic thief girl, to dependant, winey liar girl has made keeping my openess and warmth fairly tough. I just keep trying to remember, each one is new and deserves the benefit of the doubt. I think (hope) that the third time is the charm. And I know that if I don’t give, I can’t expect to get.

Katie April 5, 2010 at 6:03 pm

That sounds like it would be tough and it must be hard to keep trying to let people in when they just disappoint you.. Just hang in there and im sure the right girl will come along.

MommyMia April 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Hang in there, HRHM. It took us 4 tries to find our “perfect” match. I love the names you come up with for your former APs – nice to know that we’re not the only ones who do that!

Taking a computer lunch April 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm

I took a long-delayed business trip (delayed because my DD had brain surgery, then my DH burst his appendix and to top it off I developed pneumonia – it was a tough year) within two weeks after my 2nd AP arrived. I returned home, in the middle of Passover, to find her in tears. She had just finished high school, and had celebrated her 20th birthday within weeks of her departure to the US and she was homesick. I sat her down, and told her of the time when I was first living in Ireland and my host mom sent me off to try jeans because she could get them at a discount if I could tell her my size. I arrived in the store and realized that Irish sizes and American sizes were nothing alike and I walked out and sobbed. And then I jumped back into the store, and asked for help, and eventually had a blast. It turned out that it was exactly what she needed to hear — that someone had been through her experience and promised her it would get better. We ended up recommending her for “AP of the Year” and she won it for our cluster and had her name forwarded nationally.

This is a long introduction toward saying, having an AP is a relationship – not quite family and yet family, not quite employee and yet employee, not quite guest and yet guest.

I get a kick out of watching young women find themselves, because quite frankly, with the exception of those who come to immigrate, most are coming because they haven’t quite figured out what to do with the “rest of their lives,” and the idea of being far, far, far away from family, earning money and having an adventure seems like a good idea. (The trick is to find someone with that mindset who also loves children.) If I were a male, then I would say I feel avuncular toward the APs, but I’m a woman, and I’m not sure “auntlike” works. I want them to have the time of their lives (second to looking after my kids, of course!).

Anonymous April 5, 2010 at 2:27 pm

The primary reason that most of my friends do not get aupairs is exactly because of the importance of the emotional investment. Most of these women feel that they barely have enough energy left for their own kids at the end of the much less another , older child.
The investment is well worth the effort but it is very, very difficult.
I used to find the transition very difficult but have grown past that.
There is no easy answer to childcare.

Calif Mom April 6, 2010 at 10:03 am

Exactly! Everyone has to figure out to juggle their particular elements, resources, and styles. Knowing that those will evolve helps. I figure we working moms have the whole “change or die” thing covered! No wonder we are good leaders of staff.

Jane April 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Yes, so true! I’ve been in situations where my au pair is crying because her best friend back home dissed her while my toddler is crying for my attention too–makes it really hard to juggle the family sometimes. I may have the kids covered while I’m at work, but when I get home, I often feel I have more work than I otherwise would because of helping our au pair. When my au pair goes out right after work or has class, I have so much more time for my kids. We’ll see next year how I feel after trying school with before/after care.

Jennifer April 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm

This is a great post and wonderful timing. We are in rematch now and just got out of a bad situation. I have been trying to remind myself to stay positive while I am interviewing potential AP’s. It is alot of work and I am really hoping our next AP is wonderful and I need to make sure I don’t carry my baggage onto the next relationship.

JJ host mom April 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Wow, this is such a great post, with great responses from Jeana, CA Mom and others. I agree – if people could read just one post on this forum, this would be it.

To those who are matching, I’d say that the choosier you are during the matching period, the better luck you’ll have with the au pair. If you really take the time to figure out what you can live with and what you can’t, and ask interview questions to back that up, and check out references, you’ll greatly improve your chances. We had one awful au pair but our current au pair is just wonderful. And yeah, like CA mom points out, she’s not perfect, but goodness knows neither am I! There are great au pairs out there and I hope all of you find them. Likewise to the au pairs reading – there are great host families out there too, and I hope you find them as well.

Katie April 5, 2010 at 6:09 pm

I agree with what your saying! except I was an au pair aha I wish I had researched and asked more question during the interview because when I travelled all the way from australia to Holland to find that me and the family didnt click was upsetting. I tried for 7 months and dont get me wrong there were good moments but I just wasnt happy and didnt trust my host family as they did a few things which sent alarms off in my head. I think however if I had looked a bit more and not just jumped at the first host family I could have had an entirely different experience..

Taking a computer lunch April 5, 2010 at 10:18 pm

One of my APs liked the way my husband and I communicated by email, liked our house “rules”, but wanted to be really sure we were a good match. She decided to interview with 3 other host families before she agreed to a telephone interview. Did we think she was jerking our chain? Not at all! It sounded like a really level-headed approach to me. We continued to go through applications, but in the end, we decided we were the best match for each other. We had a really great 15 months with her.

My advice to future APs reading this site – interview with more than one host family. Ask us questions when we contact you! You are also going to be emotionally committed to your HF (if you “click”). Think about what you want, too. A good question to ask is about parenting styles (not just about what we’ll let you do in your free time).

As the HM to 5 APs I’m constantly learning and fine-tuning. If AP relationships weren’t growth and development for me and HD, then it would be our loss, too!

Darthastewart April 6, 2010 at 11:52 am

I agree that au-pairs should ask questions. Not just questions about car use… But they should ask lots of questions about the family personality, and dynamics.

I do think that au-pairs should clearly ask questions about things like car use, cell phones, car insurance, vacations (and how they will use theirs), if there are any rules about food, what chores they are expected to do, and more. I have seen so many au-pairs that are promised a car when they get here, and then they get here, and it’s not quite what they thought. I’m pretty sure that had they asked more questions during the interview, they would have a better idea. (Just don’t make the car one of the first few questions!)

Calif Mom April 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm

The AP we just matched with asked us how we would want her to respond if our eldest daughter asked her about “the facts of life”. Wow! That impressed me!

Should be working April 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

These days I am on the fence about whether we will have another au pair after this one, for exactly this reason. The emotional investment is something to reckon with. I THINK about my au pair so often; when it’s going well I think of how to keep it going well and try to identify (for future reference) how we picked her and why it works; when it is so-so I think about what I need to do; when it has been bad I think about how to manage transition.

It’s not just emotional energy, it’s mental-emotional energy. With daycare and nannies I have thought about it to begin with a lot, and then been simply satisfied (because those were good situations). I’m finding with an au pair (our first year doing this) I am in an ongoing evaluation and fine-tuning process.

I am hoping this is just a first-year (including a transition) phenomenon. But from what I read here, it sounds like the mental-emotional investment is ongoing. These days I’m thinking I’d prefer less investment, although the returns are substantial.

Calif Mom April 6, 2010 at 10:08 am

I hear you; but I had a similar experience of constant evaluation with the nanny before we went to APs. Our very first nanny (ten years ago now! sniff!) was unbelievably wonderful, but also demanding, just in different ways. (Asking for raises and making us feel held over a barrel, needing a sabbatical to go visit a dying father overseas, etc.)
There’s no guarantee you get a nanny who will as fabulous as your first one.

Jane April 6, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Nope, the investment is not a first year phenomenom at all. For me, the emotional investment has only increased with each au pair, maybe because they’ve all formed friendships themselves and so they know a lot about me and my family coming into the situation. They know what I’ve done for past au pairs, and they expect that and more. When I don’t deliver, boy–is that hard.

I too find myself thinking about my au pair way too much to make sure the relationship is just right. I probably spend more time thinking about her than anybody else. That’s not her fault, but it has made me reconsider the overall benefits of the program. I want to be putting more of that emotional investment into my kids and husband, and if there’s any left over, my friends.

Calif Mom April 6, 2010 at 3:02 pm

This is part of why we’re switching countries this time. Less chance new AP will become pals with her predecessor. I make really clear to them that each will have a different experience because the kids are different now, our schedules change, and we really don’t expect them to be the same, either. No one takes over a job and does it exactly the same way as the person who had it before them. They are not “the New Whoever” (egads, I hate it when bosses introduce new staff that way!).

Once our new APs get their new friendships with young people established, I don’t spend as much time worrying about them, because things get settled more.

Mom23 April 6, 2010 at 9:20 am

This is such a great topic and one I have been struggling with. Having an au pair can be so helpful, even with school aged children. All the extras that an au pair does, meeting me at the doctors with the kids and taking them to school afterwards, running to the store for milk if we run out, etc. is great.

We had such an emotionally draining experience with our last au pair that we are taking a break for a year. At this point, I am not sure that we will go back to hosting au pairs. A lot of it has to do with the emotional energy. I think a large part also has to do with the fact that my husband and I have been too gullible when reading applications and talking to au pairs (I have learned a lot from this site so hopefully, we will be better next time?). We always start out so optimistic and have about every au pair we have had. We have always let problems go too long before addressing them or in initiating a rematch. Financially, for us, an au pair costs more than having a nanny, but when we have had great au pairs it has been worth it.

I have had several friends who have hosted au pairs as well and then stopped. In every case, it seems the emotional toll after having bad au pairs has been the major issue and we have all had great ones in the mix as well.

Anonymous April 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm

This is also the reason that this will be our last au pair. When she leaves in August I will be changing my work schedule to part-time and using after school care 2 afternoons per week.

Our current au pair is very good, but it’s still such an investment. I have 2 children who need me and now an au pair who, despite taking excellent care of the children, needs my help for a lot of things. It’s just too much. I am worn down.

VA Au Pair/MAID/NANNY April 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

TO ALL THE HOST MOMS AND DADS OUT THERE……. a few of you that are dedicated readers would of read what i posted a few weeks ago about my experience so far and some gave advice anyway ,i need some advice from you all yet again , Yesterday my 4 yr old bit me in the face for no freaken reason, it took alot of my strenght not to show my hurtful expression to her but i wasn’t going to let her get away with it,so i put her in to time out and while i was putting her into time out and explaining to her why it’s not nice to bite people my host dad came downstairs and i know he heard everything ,the little girl from seeing her father tried and thought she can get out of it and begged her father that she didn’t want to be in time out. Now what hurts me the most and brings tears to my eyes is that the only thing he can say to her is ” i told you not to bite” ,and he turns on his heels and walks out the door end of story. From all the topics that i read on this blog and see all of your point of views of how hurt you all get from au pairs that have walked all over your families ,Where’s the topic about physcial and metual abuse the au pair goes thru with the children ,and when mentioned to the host parents what happened they just look the other way. What more do i need to do or show the parents to discipline the kids , i know for sure that when i have children i wouldn’t want my children going around biting people. Please any advice would be apperciated.

A Host Mom April 6, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I may be wrong, but I view his response to be that he was supporting your discipline of the child and that he was trying not to interfere.

PA au pair mom April 6, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I agree. Seems to me that he thought you were handling it well and he was supporting you. He didn’t let her out of time-out. that would have been a definite undermining of your authority.

I don’t interfere when my AP is disciplining the children. I want them to know that she is in charge and that they must respect her and be obedient.

Katie April 7, 2010 at 6:06 am

Im considering au pairing in the US
Im an aussie and american citizen.
I aupaired in the netherlands and hated it. As you can see me post above. Just wondering what being an au pair is like in the US and how they are treated because I really dont want to commit to something like that again if I’m going to be treated like im underneath someone and not equal and with that invisible gap. should I just accept its not for me and move on?

maleaupairmommy April 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Each family is different there are some American familes I’m sad to say that do that. I was an exchange student so I kinda know what it’s like to live in a different coutnry and what you guys are going trough. We try to treat our au pair like the member of the family. Invite him to special occasions. We take him out 1:1 to things like concerts, hiking, dinner, movies, games,etc. Though in the same respect we want him to be there for important occasions like holidays and birthday help us pick up even on his off time. Our current au pair does this and it is such a breath of fresh air. The other three didn’t not would make messes and they were “off” so why would they have to etc. Good luck do some reseach go on the boards of facebook and the company you want to go on and see for yourself.

Katie PAP April 13, 2010 at 9:06 am

Thanks for the advice well in my previous host family I was always present for important functions even if I wasnt working its just common courtesy and a nice thing to do with the family you are living with :)
I think I will do some more research if I consider being an au pair again.

Anna April 7, 2010 at 7:27 am

If you hated au pairing, you shouldn’t repeat the experience.
You have to really LOVE kids. It is hard work. From your comments on the earlier thread, you also seem not to be willing to take responsibility for dealing with kids’ behavior when on duty. Many american parents work full time and an au pair is in charge all this time, it is a lot of responsibility; it requires confidence, independence, ability to deal with tough situations, etc.
Also I hear that American kids are spoiled compared to kids in other countries. It will be tough. You are an american citizen, you can come and go anytime you please, why in the world do you want to come as an au pair?

Katie April 7, 2010 at 7:41 am

dont get me wrong I love working with kids. I worked at a preschool and loved it. However being around 24/7 and not having the right fit with the host family which I was matched with is the reason I hated my au pair experience.

Katie April 7, 2010 at 7:54 am

actually no your right.
I have better things to do in life then look after someones kids in another country. I’m only young. I am planning on going to the snow with a normal job and then I will be going to university.
I suppose au pairing is just for certain people.

Katie April 7, 2010 at 7:56 am

p.s thanks for making me realise again that this job is not meant for me :)
I think I needed it from someone

forex robot May 17, 2010 at 1:54 am

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

potential AP in match process June 10, 2010 at 3:16 am

Hi DHM&DHD! My name is Karelin & im a potencial au pair in the match process with 7120hours of childcare experience, I trully love kids so Im looking for a lovely family which would love to spend an incredible experience with me, Im with Au Pair In America & I did a page about me & my environment & my skills specially for you, dont hesitate in call me or ask me anything. Good day! http://karelinyourbestaupair.blogspot.com/

some Au Pair July 15, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I am so… angry, sad, frustrated? I dont know. I am living in this family since more then 6 months. I have a car, a cellphone, free weekends. I should be superhappy, right?

But I am thinking about just giving up. My hostfamily does not speak to me, does not look at me, does not care for me.
They dont care that they leave me every weekend alone in a house without food, the dont think about the possibility to even tell me that they are going out for dinner again as a family (of course without the Au Pair), they dont try to give me a nice room, …

Sometimes I want to shout at them: I am not a Nanny!!! I am an Au Pair!

First Time HP July 15, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I’d suggest, if you haven’t done so already, to just be honest with them let them no how you feel. Its unfortunate that they are treating you this way and maybe don’t realize how much it is affecting you. Its a shame that some HPs and APs don’t look at this as anymore than a boss/employee relationship which I just don’t understand. We try to include our AP in almost all of our activities and I just couldn’t imagine going out to dinner regularly with her there and not asking her. I will say the only times there have been small problems are when we just didn’t know something was bothering her but once she talks with us we do our best to help fix the situation maybe that’s the case with your family. I hope it works out for you.

Anna July 16, 2010 at 12:21 am

I really felt bad for you when I read the beginning of your post. You seemed to be not into material things (car, cell phone…) but thirsting for a real relationship with your host family.
Until… I came to the sentence about a “nice room”. ????? If the room was approved by the agency coordinator (and it has to be, they visit the family home before accepting them into the program, and every year after, and check out the room) it is good enough. You can’t expect to have the best bedroom in the house.
So, decide what do you want. A nice room or a nice family. Seems like you have neither unfortunately, but sometimes you have to choose. We are a nice family, but we are not rich and our au pair’s room is small.

some Au Pair July 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

I can understand that the “nice room”-thing sounds confusing.
The thing is, my room has never been checked by the agency. My hostfamily moved already two times (with me) and the third LCC just told me that she is sure everything is alright and that I already have all informations that I need. (even after I ASKED her to visit)

The thing is, I dont have real privacy in this room. The window has no curtains or blinds and the door does not close proberly. (and I am not allowed to put anything on it because when I leave they are going to redecorate the room and dont want holes in the walls or anything)

I have a small closet (that totally works for me), a bed and a nightstand. I am not allowed to put pictures onto the wall or something like that.

It just gives me the feeling that they are just waiting that I leave in 5,5 months so they can make a second living room or sun room or whatever out of “my” room.

NewAPMama July 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

Your door doesn’t shut properly? That is not okay. I can understand your disappointment regarding the bedroom. I allow our aupair to put pictures, or anything else she wants to hang up, on her walls. It is not that big of a deal, in my opinion. Now, if she wanted to make drastic changes, that would be different. What about possibly changing families? If you truly feel ignored and unappreciated, you shouldn’t have to be upset or miserable for the remainder of your time.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 16, 2010 at 9:36 pm

If your counselor doesn’t respond, then go higher up the chain of command and complain. After all, the agency does not exist just to protect host families from situations when APs don’t follow the rules – they’re supposed to be there for the APs, too. Our agency requires that the AP has a door that locks (although every AP who has ever locked it has locked herself out!).

Anna July 17, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I think that the fact that the door doesn’t close and you cannot put anything on your window are real problems. You should complain to your counselor about it, if your family doesn’t fix those things when asked. But this is not about the room being nice or not, it is just lack of privacy that is an issue… And it is the job of the counselor to make sure you had those things.

Putting things up on the wall – I am going to side with your host family about it. I don’t have such a rule, but one of the au pairs really damaged the wall finish with tape that took off top layer … and it is not paint, so it is not something I can really fix, so my next au pairs have to live with those defects… It might be nothing for a handy family, but for folks like us who cannot fix anything themselves, to refinish that room completely (and thats what it would take to fix those traces on the walls) is a few thousands $$$ expense… with me on maternity leave (mostly unpaid) and my husband between jobs at the moment, it is out of the question.

CS Nanny July 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I can’t believe you don’t think not having privacy is okay. An aupair DOES deserve a decent room. If you can’t see that, maybe you shouldn’t have one.

CS Nanny July 17, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Excuse me. I read your response wrong. I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions. No disrespect meant, Anna.

Anonymous July 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I find it odd that you wrote a whole paragraph about 2 words in her posting. The poor girl is obviously have a difficult time and is asking for advice and help. I’m not sure why she can’t have a nice room AND a nice family, I guess I didn’t realize these were mutual exclusive things.

darthastewart July 16, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I think that it’s insult to injury- The room is blank, and not very nice, and then they don’t treat her like a member of the family. I can see where the AP is coming from. – Like, it’s easier to overlook small stuff, especially if things are going well. But when they’re not, everything becomes a problem. So, things that might seem petty become significantly less so.
I get that the HF doesn’t want to do much with the room right now, but there needs to be some compromise.

Your AD should take your concerns seriously. – I’ve heard of families being removed from the program who failed to give their AP a proper room. (Similar situation to yours)

some Au Pair July 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

I also would be surprised if the LCC ever MET my hostparents.
She invited them two times to come to the Au Pair meetings and told us once that she is going to visit us. (be she never showed up) O.o

StephinBoston July 16, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I think you need to call the LCC and demand that she visit your home and address this with your host family (especially the room with no blinds and the door that doesn’t shut). We have a lock on the APs room, although most haven’t used it, it’s there if they need it. You shouldn’t stay in a situation that makes you that unhappy.

some Au Pair July 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Wow, thank you all so much for the replys!! Its good to let off some steam.

Beside all these problems, I know that my hostparents are great people and I think they would be wonderful employes for a live-out-nanny. They are organised, the pay on time, … They are good people. I dont want you to think I live with horror-monster or something.

Its just (at least it feels like that to me) that they just cannot understand/feel that an Au Pair needs a bit more attention then a nanny or live out babysitter.

I came to the USA to make new experiences. Maybe this family is not what I was hoping for, and sometimes it makes me sad, but I am in this country to learn something new. I am not going to leave them, but I have to grow up insinde myself a bit more, and talk to them.

I am going to my own country in about 5,5 months. Thats not that long. After that, all there kids are old enough to go to school and afternoon care. It feels wrong to leave them just because I did not understand in the beginning (before my arrivel) that they need more privacy and are not interested in a deep friendship.

*deep breath* Thank you again for your wonderful replys and your compassion.

They only thing I know is, that after my year, I am going to write a letter to my agency to tell them that some (!!!) of theyr LCC´s are friendly and nice, but not very well trained.

Host Mommy Dearest July 16, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Why wait until your year is over? Call or email your LCC’s boss ASAP and let her/him know that you have some needs that are program requirements that your LCC has not been able to meet. If you are afraid of LCC retaliation then say you want this taken care of in a way that will not make it look like you went over your LCC’s head – even though you did. If any HP on this board were having LCC trouble we’d all say go up the chain. It’s no different for an AP.

Jan July 16, 2010 at 6:01 pm

It sounds like you’ve really thought through what you want to do and that’s stay here with your family. I think the first thing I’d try is to approach them and see if they can get some curtains or blinds and fix the door. You might say “We’ve been here 2 months and I was wondering if you knew my room had no window covering and the door doesn’t work. I know you want to use my room for something else after I’m gone, but I don’t really feel comfortable changing my clothes in the room.”

Two moves in 6 months makes my head spin. They may not even realize that you don’t have any window treatments. Unless my au pair tells me that something is wrong/out of place/needs to be fixed I may not realize it and can’t read her mind. I have to warn you that the window curtain may end up being an old bedsheet duck taped to the window.

If they are unwilling to fix your room, I’d go to your LCC. She should respond to you w/in 24 hours and help you to address the bedroom issue in 2 – 3 days. If she doesn’t, go above her. Please keep us updated!

MommyMia July 16, 2010 at 8:16 pm

To add to the excellent suggestions above that have already been proposed, you might ask if you could purchase an inexpensive window covering yourself. WalMart or similar stores have “temporary” fabric shades that attach with a sticky foam tape to the window frame and can be raised and lowered like a regular blind. We used these right after we moved into our new home, until permanent window coverings could be purchased and installed. Later when our third au pair was always leaving her shades down during the day and we asked if she didn’t want more light coming in, she said yes but that she was uncomfortable leaving it up (even though there was no other house or access on that side, except one day per week for an hour or two when the gardeners came) we found some inexpensive semi-sheer curtains that could be pulled across with the shade up that allowed the room to not be so dark and dreary!

Anna July 17, 2010 at 10:16 pm

I agree with other host parents here, if the LCC doesn’t respond to you, call the agency. Don’t take it so passively! 5,5 months is too long to let the unhappiness built, and you deserve to have your own room; that’s the point, it has to be a private room, and if the door doesn’t close well, it is not private.
But first, address it with your host parents. Maybe one conversation with them is all it would take to make you a little happier with your room. If they are nice folks like you say, maybe they don’t even realize that you have no privacy, and would be horrified and eager to fix things once you point them out (no window shades and no lock!)

Calif Mom July 19, 2010 at 12:19 am

My thought is that perhaps if there have been two moves in 6 months, there’s something odd going on here and the parents aren’t focused on the AP at all because they’re dealing with other stuff.

And it sounds like there is that classic misfit between the types of relationships desired.

Absoltuely agree that half a year is WAY too long to stick this out. If you really want to grow during your AP year–and you have a lot invested in this!–take that deep breath and stick up for yourself!

You could switch families and maybe extend with one you really love and who appreciates you as more than a service provider, but a member of the extended family. At least ASK your counselor. This is not good the way it is, and there is no reason for it to continue. If they are “good” people, and a good fit for you, this would not be happening.

You do have power to change this. Be bold, girl! Let us know what happens.

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