Dear Au Pair Moms,
What is an acceptable way to act around the host family? is it more like a work environment, or would, for instance, an au pair treat the host mom like a real mom, and tell her most things about her social life outside of the au-pairing job?
Is it common for families to hang out with their au pairs after dinner time as a family on week days or weekends, watching TV together or playing cards, etc.? What kind of situation should I expect?
Dear Au Pair-
This is exactly the kind of question you need to ask potential host families when you interview each other during matching!
Every family has a different definition of what it means to be “part of the family”. Every family has its own set of common behaviors, expectations, and ways of treating each other. And, every family will have its own set of preferences for when they will want you to join in actively, when it’s up to you, and when they might need some time alone as a family and as individuals.
Before you ask these questions of a family, ask them of yourself.
Keeping in mind that you’re only guessing about what you might like, and there may be a wide range of families you’ll feel fine with, take the time to imagine what you think would be a perfect kind of interaction with a host family.
Talk to other au pairs about what they expected of their family, what they liked, and what they didn’t.
Think about how you’ve been when you’ve gone over to the homes of your friends and hung out with their families. What kind of environments did you like or not, and why? Allow yourself to consider what you might like, and then talk to families to see what their ideas are… only then can you make a good match.
Being part of the family and being an employee in a work environment are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
A family can be very warm and loving to an au pair and still expect her to work hard and try hard when s/he’s on duty. A host mom can feel very close to you and still five you direct and specific feedback about when you need to bay your phone bill or use the washing machine. So, think about the kinds of employment situations you’ve had that you’ve liked– do you like getting specific directions? Regular feedback? To-do lists? Or do you like going with the flow, figuring things out by yourself, working independently unless you are told otherwise?
When you match with a host family, you need to match on both “family environment” and “work environment” because you are working in a family and living with people who you also work for.