No one is responsible for a great host parent-au pair relationship.
Or, rather, no one person or entity is responsible for great host parent-au pair relationship. That responsibility is shared between three parties:
1. The Au Pair her- or himself
2. The Host Parent(s), and
3. The Au Pair Agency.
Because we host parents know that the most important part of the au pair hosting journey is picking someone with a good fit at the very start, we put a lot of energy into the interviewing and matching process.
We hope that the au pairs we interview have a clear sense of the overall job, and that they are paying attention to the information we send them about our specific situations so that they can make a good choice among opportunities.
And, we count on the au pair agency to screen the candidates and only offer to us host parents those candidates that meet our criteria.
Although we’ve had mostly good au pair experiences, with the two who did not work out I wondered if they ever should have been au pairs at all. The first one who left early had a very clear sense that she was in the US for her own enjoyment, and being an au pair was just a vehicle. When her social life ramped up, she wanted out.
Our second bad au pair was completely unfit for the job, emotionally and in terms of her maturity. She didn’t understand that being an au pair was work, and that she was supposed to learn how to care for our kids in our way, not by sitting on the couch and staring at them. Especially in that latter case, I felt that the au pair agency didn’t do its job n clarifying the real expectations of an au pair. (And this issue, about whether agencies explain the au pair job honestly, in an ongoing problem for many host parents and many agencies.)
Noelle sent us this mail, with some ‘big picture’ questions about finding an au pair … She asks:
— How can you know whether its a problem with the system, or a problem with you having chosen to have an au pair in the first place?
— To fix things and have a better experience, do you examine your own behavior, or make sure the Agency is really doing what it says it will?
I am a 4 time host mom – all four experiences have been inside the last 15 months, and all appear to be flameouts. I wanted this program to work. With my husband’s travel schedule, and my working full time locally, I needed this to work. As much as I want this to work, I have yet to have a single good experience with this.
Our problems throughout these au pair experiences pretty much run the gamut.
AP#1 left abruptly, without notice, after her boyfriend went back to Europe from a Xmas visit where we hosted him. We were without childcare for ~5 weeks until the next one arrived.
AP#2 was with us for nearly 7 months, until I had to go into rematch due to continual disrespect for house and car rules. I needed support from a mature adult (23yo) and got teenager attitude problem instead.
4 weeks later, AP#3 arrived, and the English she spoke could fit on a cocktail napkin (I think she was coached through her interviews, and used a translator for the emails). That, coupled with her expiring drivers license, forced us into rematch again (she couldn’t pass the state exam).
Now we are on AP#4 – she has a license, speaks perfect English, but is afraid to drive the car. This is totally unacceptable – my kids need to be picked up, dropped off, and she was well aware of the driving expectation prior to match. This is on top of watching alot of tv with my son (great…), waking up 5 minutes before her scheduled start time and never being ready for work on time, and allowing my 3 year old to wander the house alone while she’s doing other things.
I am less than impressed with my agency, due to their poor screening of candidates, and my LCC’s ineffectiveness at getting problems resolved with the APs. I read about other people having problems – they seem to come from everywhere. They could be unhappy with the agency, the LCC, maybe they start choosing APs from different countries. Or maybe they just have a bad run of it before meeting the AP of their dreams?
I don’t know what to do, and this is why I’m writing:
How can Host Parents determine if their issue is with an aspect of the program (wrong agency, wrong lcc, etc), or if the AP program is just a bad fit altogether?
When is it time to cut your losses and go back to daycare?
thanks — Noelle
Images: you see me – 1, I see you – 1 polaroid SX-70,@Cairo,Egypt.from *Zephyrance – don’t wake me up.