We’re a little sensitive here at AuPairMom about the subject of eating disorders among young women. Some of us Moms have struggled with them, and some of us have children who have had or are currently working through eating disorders. So, as we go forward with this conversation, please be especially thoughtful.
A brand new Au Pair writes (below) that she’s struggling with anorexia.
Her Host Family’s own eating behaviors and their commentary about her appearance (which might be neutral or unremarkable in other situations) are making the situation worse for her. She wants to leave at Christmas.
Trouble is — she’s only been with the family for one month. That would suggest that she chose to take an Au Pair year, and matched with a family, knowing she had an active eating disorder that would interfere with her ability to be a good au pair.
If an au pair is sick, whether with an eating disorder, a recurring digestive challenge, a bad back, or other chronic or long term illness, s/he should go home.
If a prospective au pair has any chronic or longterm illness, s/he should either choose not to take an Au Pair Year, or s/he should disclose the illness to the Host Family and discuss whatever accommodations might need to be made, before s/he agrees to take the position.
The fact that this Au Pair didn’t address these issues with her Host Family before matching is upsetting. If she did not disclose this situation on her Au Pair application, she misrepresented herself, and that’s also upsetting.
Regardless of the wrong decisions that led up to this situation, this Au Pair should go home. Anorexia is a serious and life-threatening condition. It requires focused, comprehensive, immediate treatment.
That said, this au pair should do everything that she can to make her departure easy on the Host Family. From their perspective, they’ve put in significant time and energy choosing this au pair, preparing for her, and training her, all of which is now wasted. Her departure will be a disruption to them, no matter how sympathetic they are to the Au Pair’s condition and needs.
If I were the Host Mom in this situation, I would be pretty angry. I would also try to be compassionate, because I want what’s best for the Au Pair’s health. But I bet I’d still be angry.
There are applicants who have physical or mental conditions that can be managed effectively enough that they can confidently stay ‘in recovery’ throughout an adventure like an Au Pair Year. Many people with food allergies, diabetes, depression, eating disorders, and more can participate fully in au pair life. They can care for kids, be dependable, and
And yes, there are some families who would be happy to match with an Au Pair who has a few needs related to his or her ongoing conditions.
For an Au Pair, the Au Pair experience is a lot about taking personal responsibility and learning to stick up for yourself and your needs.
This Au Pair needs to take care of her health– that’s #1. And, she should address this immediately with her host family and take responsibility — that’s #2.
Parents and Au Pairs, what else do you recommend?
Dear au pair mom — I have now lived with my au pair family for a month and I’m not quite sure if I should leave earlier than planned. I have anorexia, so it’s very difficult for me to eat anything in the house and in front of the family. I am worried about the effects of my actions considering the children.
They don’t understand why I don’t eat any sweets, and the mother and father say comments all the time about my weight. Since the family does neither eat that healthily, I lose more and more weight, and I think the best thing for me is to leave earlier, so I can get treatment. I’m going home for christmas and I think it’s better if I don’t come back again. What do you think?