It’s usually a bunch of things, all tangled up in a knot, like when you put tights and long-sleeved T-shirts in the dryer.
Just as with a laundry knot, you can’t just pull on (or fix) one thing, and expect the all the little pieces to unlock, unkink, and fold themselves up into nice packets ready to go back in the drawer.
… So how do you decide where to begin? What problems to address first?
My working response is — start with the problem that has the clearest boundaries.
Usually, this would be the one where either the Host Family or the Au Pair was breaking or pushing the rules.
It’s easier to deal with “rule breaking” and its less black& while cousin, “rule-pushing” because we know what’s wrong and what’s right. Usually, the fix to this is for the Host Parents or the Au Pair to simply follow the rules.
If the Au Pair or the Host Parent doesn’t begin to follow the rules, you have grounds for a rematch.
If folks do begin to follow the rules, both parties have a “success” they can build on with the next problem or two.
This question of “where to begin” came up when I read the email, below, from an Au Pair in the southwest USA.
She’s got a bunch of problems — depression, homesickness, children who hit, parents who don’t seem to have her back, and on and on.
With emails like these, it’s really hard to know what kind of help to offer.
Assuming — and it’s a big assumption — but assuming that the Au Pair isn’t really just looking for permission to rematch, what appears to be true is that the host family has a lot of work to do before they can really host an au pair effectively.
The best way to begin is with the issues that are the most straightforward — AP program rules, family directions, and anything specific. Once you address these, it’s easier to go on to the issues that require more finesse. Issues like children’s behavior and discipline, Host Parent supporting the Au Pair’s authority, and the like are all easier to talk about when the Host Parents and Au Pair have a working relationship. (A relationship that follows the rules, shows basic reciprocal respect, etc.)
My personal default is to tell Au Pairs to make the effort to talk with their Host Parents to resolve problems.
In the best case, the conversations get people to revise their behavior, and the AP-HP relationship improves.
In the worst case, at least the Au Pair has challenged him or herself to try having a difficult conversation. This is something we all need to learn to do, so an Au Pair at least gets some life experience with this critical skill.
As you scan the concerns of Southwestern AP, what advice do you have for her? None of her problems are new to us, but oddly every combination feels unique…
I’ve been an au pair in the Southwest USA for almost two months and I feel sad.
I was thinking about rematch because I feel really depressed.
When I came here to my new house everything was happiness.
Until I saw the first bad thing:
One of the host kids hit another host kid in the chest. The host kid did that without any specific reason.
Then, the Host Parents told me that host kid 1 has ADHD. Also, they told me that host kid 2 also has ADHD. Of course, they NEVER mentioned this before I came here-I wish I knew that-.
The host kid 2 gives many problems to anyone; even to their parents. I saw her hitting her father. The parents are always fighting with herl
Host kid 2 always tells me to shut up, and “I don’t have to follow your orders. You are not the boss in this house. I am not listening to you. I am ignoring you”. The HP always say “oh. It is because of the ADHD”.
But! If they have told me she had this issue I wouldn’t have said yes and matched with this family.
They want me to clean all the dishes and messes they don’t want to clean.
I had my full free weekend and when I started to work on Monday, I saw they didn’t wash the dishes for the whole.weekend. I didn’t wash the dishes on Monday. The next day the HP told me”the cleaning lady is not coming, wash the dishes”.
I got really angry because they didn’t wash everything during the whole weekend for me to do it. It isn’t fair they are disorganized and they are not clean. They never wash the dishes and I know I have to help, and I always wash the dishes when I’m working. But..waiting for me to come home to do it? You don’t do that!
The car. They said they had 4 cars and they will offer me one. When I arrived at their home the HP told me that one of the cars is not good and I won’t be able to use it. Then, I was one month stuck in the house because they didn’t have the car insurance for me. I talked about and they fixed one month after (they just needed my personal information and that was it. They took so long and I don’t know why). Then, when I finally got the insurance, I drove one of the cars for 2 days. On the third day I noticed that the car I was using wasn’t outside. I asked the HM about it and she told me “oh. Use the black car, the HD took the car you drove”.
I just did it and then I realized THE CAR IS NOT WORKING. They left me a car that is not even working. Now it has been almost two months and I am still stuck in the house and they don’t care. I talked about it and they still don’t care.
I am sick of this situation and I know I have many things to offer. Should I ask for a rematch if things don’t change? Thank you