If you ever come to over to my house, our politics are pretty clear. Right there at the front door, you can wipe your feet on George Bush.
Our George Bush doormat is an endless source of amusement for canvassers from Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, Amnesty International, and others. It seems like the only person who dislikes our doormat is my dad. He thinks it’s disrespectful; I tell him that’s the point.
We’re a liberal family, in a really liberal town, in a community that thrives on political talk. I’ve learned to clue our potential au pairs into this dynamic, to make sure that they are the kind of person who is not uncomfortable hearing political talk. Even more important is to make sure that we choose au pairs who are not going to contradict our views behind our backs to our kids, since we’d prefer that the kids grow up sharing our values.
Most of our au pairs have been rather apolitical young women. Aside from conversations about politics in their own countries, we haven’t had that many conversations about American politics. When we have had political conversations, I’ve usually simplified and summarized to adapt to their level of interest and knowledge (which, frankly, have both been low).
We have had more issues regarding the intersection of politics and religion, such as whether or not evolution should be taught in schools, or whether abortions should remain legal, or whether there should be marriage equality for gays and lesbians, than we’ve had about politics more generally.
We have also had many more conversations about racism and racial dynamics, and sexism and sexist dynamics, than about issues like tax policy, international affairs, or highway construction. With regard to issues like racial and gender equality, I admit I do get a bit preachy. I don’t really see much legitimate flexibility — people are equal. If you don’t believe that when you get to our house, I’ll probably work on you until you do.
However, with a vast majority of political or politicized issues (evolution included) I hold back a bit. When these issues to come up, I put on my professor hat and get prepared to explain details fairly. I see it as part of our au pair’s cultural education (and my kids’ as well) so I will talk about the differences between our health care system and Sweden’s, for example, in a way that is fact-based. Then, and clearly labeled as such, I throw in my opinion.
Truth be told, I suspect that au pairs (and others) don’t bother to tussle with me. I’m just not the person you want to get into a political debate with, because I will crush you with my reasoning and my rhetoric.
Just kidding. But I have made concessions… our au pair car has no political bumper stickers on it. Except during an election year.
We got a request from Host Mom MC to talk about politics, and then the issue came up in another comment stream just yesterday. So, let’s talk about politics— BUT — the point is not to persuade each other to our political point(s) of view, but to talk about
How to manage political issues and conversations as part of our ongoing host parent-au pair relationships
We’ve talked about some taboos so far (religion, race) but we haven’t talked about political views. Other than during the interview phase, I wonder how HF’s and AP’s talk about politics at home.
My husband and I are pretty opinionated on the topics of policy and politics. We try to moderate ourselves in front of our AP’s but I find myself in “teaching moments” with them about American history and politics. For example, before Obama’s State of the Union speech I explained to my AP what the speech is usually about, what it’s used for, and what is under debate right now.
I feel fortunate that I’ve had AP’s who lean in my political direction or are open minded at this phase of their life to consider all views, but I’ve also had to give my children some more context or redirection after AP’s. I want peace in my household so it’s nice to have like minded people around me, but I also know that HM’s could have significant influence on an AP’s way of thinking. I don’t want to indoctrinate them into my political view.
Are other host families talking about politics? How does that work for them? MC
Anybody tried to explain what a Tea Party is? That conversation was pretty funny in our house …. And so was the one about Palins’s comment “How’s that hopey-changey suff going for ya?”
As I said, don’t tussle with me.