As host parents we feel responsible for keeping our au pairs safe, since they are under our roofs and with our families. However, we recognize that what they do on their own time is (largely) their own business.
Au pairs deserve social autonomy, privacy, and the chance to experiment with new things and new relationships. But, these same au pairs who want autonomy can be a little naive about the ways of the world (or even just the ways of the USA). Many are simply too starry-eyed to make consistently good decisions, especially when it comes to dating.
Add to these concerns the horror stories we hear about “guys you meet online”, and concerns about cyber-safety, and we are understandably cautions about romances that au pairs strike up with people they meet online.
On the other hand, purportedly One in Six marriages in the US these days is between people who met online. Sure, that figure comes from Match.com, but even if it’s inflated, it’s still supports the competing claim that you really can begin a healthy relationship online.
- So, what advice do you give an au pair about relationships with people s/he’s meeting online?
- What kind of behavior do you approve of? What limits do you set? How do you help your au pair navigate the world of online relationships?
Here’s the story that prompts the topic:
Let me preface this by saying that we have a nanny, not an au pair. Our nanny is a former au pair, but since we are in Canada and there is no comparable program, she is a nanny here. That said, throughout our communications before she came to join us, we mutually decided that we preferred the au pair format (care-giver is more a part of the family than an employee) over the nanny relationship. Our nanny lives with us. She is our first experience with live-in care.
Our nanny has been with our family for approximately one month. So far we really like her! Our children adore her, she does the household tasks she is supposed to and is easy to get along with. We’ve had the occasional language issue, and a couple of smaller issues, but nothing serious.
Three weeks before she came to Canada, she met a her “boyfriend” online. He is a student in the US on a student visa. Since my spouse and I are both school teachers and have Spring Break off, we asked if she would like that week for travel or vacation. She declined, but in that conversation it came out that she had invited her “boyfriend” (someone she has known online for approximately 2 months and whom she has never met) to our hometown for the week before Spring Break.
She let it slip that while she didn’t plan to have him stay at our home, she planned to have him meet with her and the children at nearby parks. I immediately let her know that under no terms were my children to meet with a man we had never met. Period. She agreed and that has been the end of the having him come to our hometown idea.
She now wants to fly to another city to have a romantic weekend with her “boyfriend.” While I understand that I am not her mother, we have had a hostmum relationship (in our short time together).
Frankly, I think that it is a stupid idea to meet a stranger in a strange city for a getaway. The safety implications are clear to me, but seem inconsequential to her.
What role is a hostmum to take? Were she a nanny, I would treat her like an employee and say, ” See you Monday!” She has introduced me as a hostmum and has encouraged the relationship as a “hostmum” over that of employer… What are we to do?
Image: bear chat rooms from jenny downing