When Your Au Pair’s Parents Come to Visit

by cv harquail on January 23, 2014

Dear AuPair Mom–  We have a lovely, responsible Au Pair whose parents miss her dearly. They have decided to visit twice (twice!) during the year and want to stay with us in order to maximize their time with their daughter. 

I’m apprehensive about the whole thing, because hosting parents is not the same as hosting a sister or a friend.


In the past 5 years, we have welcomed sisters, brothers, and best friends, most without hiccups. Our home is modest in size, so we do feel the extra bodies around.  That’s why, when a previous au pair’s parents came to the USA, they preferred to find their own accommodations.  Whenever our au pair has someone visiting from home, we host a dinner one night in our house so that we can get to meet each other.

But the thought of hosting her parents staying in our house is worrying me.  

I feel a lot more responsible for making her parents feel welcome and comfortable. Even with other kinds of au pair guests it has inevitably ended up feeling like an imposition. I’m concerned that with her parents visiting, my sense of responsibility combined with the feeling that it’s an imposition will make this difficult for me.

In our Family Handbook, we have clear guidelines regarding Out Of Town guests, devised from some suggestions from this board as well as personal experience.

Typically, we accommodate up to two people twice per year for a maximum of one week each time. We also specify details around transportation, food, sleeping arrangements, etc. to make sure these visits go smoothly and don’t impact our family life.  It’s begun to feel like a bit much for me to handle.  Since it’s in our handbook I don’t think I can take away the privilege this year, but I am considering not offering the option to host Out of Town guests in the future.

I would really love to hear from other host parents who’ve hosted their Au Pair’s parents for a visit.

How have you handled visits from parents?

What should I expect?

How do you host Parents in a way that feels reasonably welcoming but isn’t overwhelming?

Thanks a bunch,  WestHostMom

See also:

Establishing Expectations when an Au Pair Has Guests

Your Au Pair’s Guests: A few guidelines….

Setting Guidelines when your Au Pair has guests

Your House is Not a Youth Hostel 

Image from Flickr:AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by pellethepoet


Emerald City HM January 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm

So far only one au pair has had a parent stay. Her mom came to visit and stayed with us about 3 days. They both stayed in the au pair’s room, so it wasn’t really an imposition at the time for us. We also didn’t feel obligated to entertain her mom since she didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak much Spanish.

For us, right now, having parents visit isn’t a big deal because we now have a guest room. So I probably wouldn’t give it much of a second thought. Our own parents stay with us when they visit, but we also have 3 bathrooms and aren’t stepping over each other all the time. Sometimes 1 extra person in a house isn’t a big deal, but 2 can start to get overwhelming. It also depends how long they are planning on staying. There’s not way I could handle my parents or in-laws staying in my house for more than 3 days, and certainly not someone else’s parents.

Should be working January 23, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Here’s my bad story for this one: We had an au pair whose family was coming to visit, people of modest means. My husband was going to be away during their visit. I (foolishly) assumed, “well, our au pair’s family is like our family, they should stay with us!”. Then 2 days before they arrived the AP told me about terrible physical abuse she had suffered from her father–beatings, kicking, threats of worse, and the mother had told AP it was her fault for being too provocative. All this including incidents soon before her arrival in the USA. I was a bit worried as to whether my own children were in any danger and the AP also confessed some sexual abuse by a grandparent. AP was actually not at all concerned because she said there was never any violence “when they were traveling” and he would never touch anyone else’s kid.

I hung noisy, jangly beads and bells all over the kids doors and doorhandles so that I would hear every coming and going into their rooms. I told the AP that she could be sure I would call police, and she could tell her father so, if anyone lifted a finger or made a threat. Her parents were in the end polite and reserved. The father was macho and only helped out when it came to grilling and moving heavy things. Once they got into a fight with AP in the morning and I sat them down later (a little afraid) and told them if they wanted to have any kind of difficult conversation with AP it may not happen in my house, they have to go somewhere else, it upsets AP, me and my kids. And then when the whole crew went off to a national park for a few days, I gave AP $300 and said if anything bad starts to happen, she should remove herself and her little brother, and I would come get her absolutely.

I talked to her a lot in the next months about domestic abuse, the risks that she might inadvertently end up with an abusive man, and that none of it was her fault. She had trouble taking that in, esp. since the mom told her it was. We are still in touch. But it was all very sad.

Host Mom in the City January 23, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Whether this is a correct assumption or not, I think hosting parents for two weeks feels like more of an imposition to me because they are fellow adults who could presumably afford to stay at their own place for anything beyond a couple of days. When you host another young 20-something, I get that they wouldn’t be able to come at all if they had to pay for a hotel for a week. I would also assume that someone that’s never had their own place and long-term visitors might not quite grasp how challenging it really is. But two parents? I would assume they would be able to (and even prefer to) get their own place for the week and understand that having guests for a long time is difficult.

That said, I could see sucking it up happily for a beloved au pair. We’re sort of “the more the merrier” type people anyway, though I would lay out clear rules that basically amount to “you [au pair] are playing host for these people – we’re just providing the beds.” I would happily have a dinner together one night at home and provide some bagels and such, but would not be making dinner nightly or planning activities, etc.

I also think you would be well within your rights to say no to one of the weeks or to redefine your allowance to, say, 3 days, in this case. Frankly I don’t understand that they would be spending that much more time with her just because they’re staying at the same place. She could spend all her off-duty time with them at a hotel or in your city and could even sleep at their hotel if she has off. So I also don’t really agree with the whole premise.

We had a situation where we pulled back on a handbook statement because the situation was different than I imagined – four friends from our first au pair’s country wanted to come for a week. I said they could stay for three nights, but any more would be too much. My au pair completely understood and they got a hostel in the city for the other four nights. I have my au pair (who was awesome) two extra days vacation so she could go to the hostel with them. Completely worked out fine.

Really I’ve learned more and more as a host – you need to know what you yourself are truly comfortable with and, within reason of course, just say no without emotion it – just say that doesn’t work for you ad why, and offer an alternative.

Host Mom in the City January 24, 2014 at 11:02 am

I do want to be clear that the au pair in my example did have her boyfriend stay with us for two weeks and a friend come for a week too, so it’s not as if we have a no-visitors policy. I just knew that four additional people for a week was going to be too much for me. Our second au pair also had her boyfriend come for two weeks. I’ve learned about myself – one week was actually easy and kind of fun, two weeks was way too long and felt like an imposition.

Although we have in our handbook that we will require our au pair to take vacation time if she has visitors staying with us, we’ve never actually done that, but I’m going to start enforcing it unless it’s someone like a sister or friend with childcare experience. I get that au pairs don’t want to burn their vacation weeks not traveling, but particularly with the boyfriends, it was already overwhelming enough to have a visitor, then I had to be worried about whether my au pair was going to still be a good care provider for the kids when the friend was around on top of it. I imagine also that saying vacation time when friends stay would be a way to keep the number of visitors in check – I was more than fine with two visitors during the year, but I couldn’t handle visitors every couple months throughout the year.

We’ve been lucky to have very appreciative visitors, all of whom have made us dinner one night and who have gone grocery shopping for basics (bagels and cream cheese and fruit, for example, for their breakfast). We do have in our handbook that if guests stay longer than a night or two, we expect that they will purchase and/or replace food. I’m happy to have guests included when I make dinner, but I think I’d be pissed if someone was staying with me for a week, ate three meals a day, and literally contributed nothing.

A big thing I’ve learned – I have added to the handbook that our au pair must ask us before the trip is booked and I need full details. Both of my au pairs that had guests waited until the trip was practically booked to ask if their visitors could come and both of them have been squishy on actual dates of arrival and departure. It made it really difficult for me to have any “negotiation.” I can’t think of a circumstance where I’d say no to a visitor, but it made me uncomfortable to hear “my boyfriend/friend/sister has a flight for [whatever date], ok if they stay here?” And it starts out a week and then all of a sudden it’s ten days or more.

Elsewhere, we have a statement that our au pair is responsible for filling the gas tank at appropriate times when she uses the car for personal reasons. We don’t track this, but expect that she’ll just top it off if she feels like she’s been driving a lot. I would expect this to stay the same if she had guests.

Really, just decide what you’re comfortable with (and this will vary considerably based on how flexible you are and how comfortable you are with opening your home to a stranger). I really don’t think anyone needs to feel guilty about setting limits and sticking to them. So for me personally, guests up to a week are welcome but I must be consulted beforehand, generally will ask au pair to take vacation days while they are here, I expect the au pair to be contributing to food and gas appropriately, and a big talk about all of this prior to the guests’ arrival. Has worked for us so far :)

Returning HM January 23, 2014 at 4:19 pm

We have hosted the parents and friends of most of our APs over the seven years we have hosted, and nearly all of them have stayed with us. Along the way, I learned to set up some pretty clear expectations for while they are there, including about food, use of bathrooms and showers, speaking English in front of family members, their use of public space in the house (this in particular with big groups of people), etc. It sounds like the OP has done this regarding food and transportation costs, and this is helpful. One additional thing we have learned to be clear about is that the AP should expect to take vacation days when there are out of town guests there. We had one AP who didn’t want to – she wanted to save her days for when other friends visited – and this led to a lot of resentment with her family, who wanted her to travel and sight-see with them, rather than making only short morning trips to be back and available for pick-up at school for our children at 2:30pm. Also, I should say that when APs are off during the time of their family and friends’ visits, they often do end up traveling or at least taking long daytrips, so it means that everyone is home and in our small house and in our space far less, and that helps too.

We also have learned to be clear that one week is the max we will host people. We had one AP who had her mother and sister stay with us for two full weeks – eating absolutely all of our food without ever going to the grocery store (after that, I learned to clarify about purchasing food for any guests who stay longer than two nights) and in general just being in our small house, speaking Spanish the whole time and not talking to us at all even when we tried with high school Spanish, and just in our space the whole time. Of course on the last day, this AP also announced that she was done with being an AP and was going home with them, so I this perhaps colored my view of their long visit, but I do think that after a week, “fish and guests both stink,” as the saying goes (actually, the saying is three days, and it’s probably true, but I don’t think you can limit an overseas visitor to just three days!).

We have also learned along the way how hard it is for our APs themselves to host visitors for long periods of time. It is disruptive to their own schedules, to their classes, and to their routines, and sometimes, they don’t really want their family and friends in our home and underfoot for as long as said guests want to stay. So one thing you might want to do is have a quiet conversation with your AP and find out how she is feeling about her parents coming twice. It could be that the AP feels she has to allow them to come since they want to, but she might admit to feeling some sense of being smothered that they’re coming again, and this could give you a stronger leg to tell yourself that you don’t want to host them in your house again.

Even if the AP is excited for them to come again, I do think that another discussion with the AP about what the visit will mean and how it will play out is in order. Does she plan to take vacation during the visit? How often will she plan to have them have their meals in your house, as opposed to going out? What is her plan for them during the days? I think just laying it all out and pushing her to really plan things might let her see what a big imposition this SECOND visit is. I know with our AP who had her boyfriend for two weeks, her friend for a week, her mother and two sisters for 10 days, and then her uncle for a week, I was DONE by the time the friend left, and it was only because I had already said yes to the others that I ended up being welcoming (and the latter visits went really well because her mom and sister and uncle were all very aware of what they were asking/getting by staying with us, whereas the boyfriend and friend were not so much). It turned out, though, that AP too was DONE having all this company and just wanted to get back to her routine. It was a good lesson. I’ll never again say yes to so much company, as much for the AP as for our family.

Anyway, good luck to the OP, and I’ll be interested to hear what you decide and what happens, so please share back.

German Au-Pair January 23, 2014 at 8:10 pm

My mom and brother came to visit and because of my schedule and the size of the house that worked out just fine. Both don’t speak any meaningful English but they tried and we all had fun with it. My HP didn’t have all that much contact with them but we did have a nice dinner once. Other than that it was clear they were MY guests not theirs and my mom helped out in the kitchen because it’s just the normal thing to do. We even took the kids out to do something and of course we talked German in front of them but also translated back and forth and just had the funniest talks with their broken English. I honestly don’t think my HP minded.
You should make sure to tell her about your expectations regarding food and time spent and so on, but I really don’t see how parents are different from friends. Just because they’re closer to your age doesn’t mean they’re YOUR guests.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm

My LCC sends out an email to APs in her cluster once a year reminding them that while it is very generous when HPs permit them to have guests, it is not normal and to be gracious about permission or rejection of any request.

That being said, in following this thread so far, it is clear that the willingness to host long-term guests varies so much from family to family that it is a good topic about which to converse before family and friends purchase their tickets. Guests are part of our handbook guidelines.

DH and I are now hosting our 9th AP and over the past 13 years we have hosted lots of parents, siblings, friends, and APs exiting the program on a sour note with their families. We encourage our AP to vacate her room when parents visit (for many parents it was their first plane trip just as it was for their daughters) and sleep on the guest bed which is in a playroom. We don’t charge for guests, but for anyone staying for more than a week, we encourage them to make us a traditional or favorite meal. But we also invite them to eat at our table while they’re here. Frequently, they have helped with the evening dishes, too, which is great for us. We do encourage our AP to take some time off and travel with them – after all there is far more to the USA than our community! We’ve meshed with some parents more than others, but all of the visits have helped us to understand our AP much better.

We have hosted a lot of friends and most of the time we’ve had a blast. Some of the friends have become close enough that we’ve hosted group goodbye parties. Over the years some APs used our house as a means to escape HF who didn’t arrange their schedule in advance, and upon sight would ask them to care for the children at the last minute. Our favorite frequent guests occasionally brought flowers or candy as a thank you.

We’re also one of the few HF who don’t mind hosting male guests overnight. Some of the boyfriends have been really great with my son. However, when one lackluster AP basically announced her boyfriend was moving in, we responded with “Great, light a fire under your ass and do some work or forget it!”

In my experience, APs have been grateful for the opportunity to help friends and family save money. We’ve warned all of them that we might just descend on them sometime!

Gretchen January 23, 2014 at 10:57 pm

We have hosted family and friends of all our au pairs to date. The first time it was a little rough because we didn’t clarify expectations for food, car usage and refueling the car. We have since made certain that we state what level of hospitality we are comfortable providing and there have been no issues since.

As this is your first time hosting parents, it is natural to be a little nervous. I suspect it will go easier than you think!

Aussiemum January 24, 2014 at 4:57 am

Wow, that’s a big ask. Say no politely and offer a list of nearby services apartments. If she is in duty they are a major distraction, plus let go already!

Skny January 24, 2014 at 8:05 am

Gretchen, returning HM, and TACL

Would you mind sharing how did you word the whole food / transportation thing in your handbook?
We are in a no-debt program. Meaning we own nothing but our house, we own no credit card, we save a lot for retirement, college, etc…. And have a budget.
While we budget enough to feed all of us (and Au pair) for the week (with quality, healthy, more expensive food), and believe we’d be fine feeding friends for a meal or two, feeding 2 extra adults, for all meals, for a week would certainly affect our budget. But I would feel very uncomfortable asking them to go eat out…

Taking a Computer Lunch January 24, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I can do that when I return home this evening.

TexasHM January 24, 2014 at 9:12 am

I second that please share! We haven’t had parents visit but have had friends and when it comes to time off we have said “you’re an adult, you need to consider if their visit will interfere with your responsibilities and if so, you should take vacation. If you think you can manage it we expect you to clearly explain to your guest your hours and availability and if your responsibilities are affected we will intervene and it will be counted as your vacation”. One AP took one day of vacation to do a long weekend trip but previous day her friend helped her work. Other AP took no vacation and friend helped her. No issues.
I can see how parents would be different. It’s not because they are older but because expectations are different. Think about your friends and parents. My friends are just happy to get whatever time I have available, they pitch in and keep it light.
My parents expect more of my time, they also pitch in but have higher expectations (mom will likely cook, dad will want bed in the gameroom instead of guest room) and honestly sometimes there are power struggles and guilt trips and emotional blackmail that you don’t traditionally have to deal with from your friends.
To OP, you have to do what is best for your family. I would just be honest and change the handbook. Tell her you try to be as generous as possible but unfortunately, those before her have made you have to reconsider the offer. Maybe you say your kids are bigger now so you don’t have the same space, one guest is all you can comfortably handle or whatever other honest reasoning and give her a list of suggested alternatives close by and give her a copy of the revision or new handbook. As far as time off or not I have our schpiel above, it has worked for us but we haven’t had parents visit.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Hosting family and friends doesn’t have to be a one-way street.

Most of the visiting parents have seen first-hand what a big deal it is to care for The Camel. One Mom (a butcher by trade) fell in love with her and started holding her hand while they walked around the neighborhood. It led to one neighbor saying, “Your APs have gotten much older!” Another AP’s mom actually ended up babysitting our kids one night – the AP had a planned activity and we didn’t want to say no, but DH and I had paid money to attend an event. It worked out perfectly (we took care of The Camel’s meds and fortunately once she’s asleep she stays asleep). We didn’t feel bad in asking since we were providing food & board. Another HM was too shy to talk, but thoroughly cleaned our messy house (at a time when we had 2 preschoolers). Another sent us all beautiful hand-knit wool socks after a visit.

But it’s true – there is a reason why we have thoroughly enjoyed the stays of our favorite APs’ families – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

German Au-Pair January 24, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Actually, for me it was vice versa. I always felt obligated to stay every possible second with my friends, they needed and wanted much more attention than my mom. She was fine with just relaxing in the sun while I was working and just enjoyed her vacation without her own houshold to keep. My FRIENDS came there to do more fun stuff, for them I had to take more days off, they wanted much more entertainment. As for the power struggle, there was nothing. Usually we are not that close but having her there, being totally dependant on me, seeing how I have to manage the kids and the day, it was all good. Very interesting.
My HP were very different in many ways -good and bad- so they didn’t mind me having a lot of visitors and were very flexible in giving me days off or adjusting my work day a bit (just as I would take the kids for days at a time if they needed me to) so it was all good. I see why that wouldn’t work for everyone of course.
But I think if hp clarified the rules and then tried to not consider the parents their business, it could all be pretty relaxed.

BostonHostMom January 24, 2014 at 9:59 am

This thread hits close to home right now. We just finished our first year with an au pair, who is now on her travel month. Our new au pair just joined us and overlapped with the old one for 2 weeks. We didn’t know any better so with her we had more or less an open door policy. That resulted in her parents coming for 2 weeks, her sister coming for one week, and her 3 friends from Europe coming for nearly one week before they started their travel. We vowed we would do this again. With a newborn baby and a toddler, it was just too much having so many people. And the parents visiting was the WORST. They were nice people, but we ended up waiting on them hand and foot while I was 8.5 months pregnant. And we were shocked that while we live spitting distance from Boston with lots of great things to do, they spent most of their time sitting around in our house. With two working parents, a toddler, and me pregnant at that point, it was just insane.

So fast forward to a few nights ago – the new au pair, who knows we hosted all these people for the old au pair, asks us if her family (4 people) can come for a week in June and her friend for a week in July. Ugh. This was a very awkward conversation because a) she has been with us only for two weeks so we barely know her and b) her English is not that great. We told her we would think about it, but there is NO WAY I am hosting 4 people for a week after our last experience. And that experience, by the way, was with an au pair that we adored. We barely know this one.

So now have to figure out how to gracefully say no. I’m actually okay with her friend coming for a week, but the family of 4 is just absolutely not happening. Would welcome any advice here given the fact that the new au pair knows that the old au pair got to do what she wanted in this regard (our fault) and we don’t want a sulky teenager around the house for the next year. My assumption is the family has limited means so a hotel for a week in Boston is likely not possible.

Momma Gadget January 24, 2014 at 11:25 am

The biggest issue for us it the back up childcare when friends/ family come visit. Our first AP felt she was entitled to take her vacation anytime she wanted at a drop of the hat. Being new HPs we were so concerned about accommodating her that we stressed ourselves out finding back up some how she managed to eek in 2 weeks vacation in before we finally decided to go into rematch at 4 months.We never met her parents or friends, they stayed in a hotels in the city.
Our 2 APs from South Africa never had visitors from home because it was too long/expensive of a trip for them.
Our last bro-pair’s sister was also an AP. She was charming, and ended up spending every holiday with us. She was a huge help, and was extremely patient/gentle to my teenage son’s ego in light of his CONSTANT, blatant flirtation.This BP also had a friend come for a month-his friend rented a studio apartment just outside Manhattan. We worked it so our BP could leave Thursday PM and return Monday noon. When the friend wasn’t sightseeing on his own, he came stayed with us and watched his buddy work- he wasn’t any help, but he wasn’t a hindrance either.
Both this BP and the last BP had their parents visit. Both Made arrangements to rent a place in the city. We made it clear that they we would very much like to meet their parents, but if they wanted to stay with us it was up to the BP to prepare (ie CLEAN), plan their meals/activities and play host. We did host each family for a day of sun/fun and extreme BBQ at a nearby lake. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting both families- Even with Language barriers, it is plain to see that parents all over the world share the same pride and worry over their kids. One BP did have this parents stay with us a few nights and do laundry etc, before they set off on a road trip. I will say he is a bit clueless about being a host…or what “company quality clean” means. ( I was proud of myself for being able to let it go).
We let the BPs Use the cars for touring around locally,under the same rules they usually have.For the longer trips they both rented cars.
The parents that stayed with us made a trip to the grocery store, to get the ingredients to make our BPs favorite dishes, and stock up for their road trip. I’m sure if they were staying an extended amount of time, the parents would have insited on being considerate about contributing to the food consumed.
We tend to be the more the merrier type people for events/holidays. Yet,with both we parents working, the little free time and respite we have is highly valued. I am happy to host a day or a dinner, but the AP needs to contribute and take responsibility for the rest. Even though we have the space,when it is multiple guests, more than a few days would feel like an imposition to us. When there is a language barrier, I think it is just as tiring for the guests to be constantly “on”.
For a beloved AP- we would be more than happy to accommodate their parents for an extended amount of time. For a so-so one, the answer for an extended stay would be no.

Host Mom in the City January 24, 2014 at 11:58 am

This is a lot of what it boils down to for us too – I think you can safely assume that whatever personality your au pair has on regular days will be magnified on special days (e.g., when she has visitors, when you take her on vacation, etc.). Is she helpful and appreciative? With some limited boundaries, you’ll have no issues. Does she act entitled and does the bare minimum at her job? I’d suggest not allowing any visitors at all because you will most certainly end up feeling completely resentful and angry by the time her mom, dad, boyfriend, and best friends back home all stay their two weeks, trash your house, and eat all your food.

For a great au pair, I’ll basically be happy to do anything. For a not-so-good au pair, I’m comfortable having a lot more boundaries. Although frankly, for a not-so-good au pair, I’d also be a lot more comfortable just rematching rather than struggling through the year like I did last time. So it would be a non-issue :)

Taking a Computer Lunch January 24, 2014 at 1:16 pm

My handbook says I need six weeks notice for time-off (I’m juggling time off with everyone else in a shrinking office) and it’s no joke. It also says APs must ask in advance for any guest wanting to stay more than one week.

My first LCC gave great advice – “You may be generous and let the AP select one week off of her choice, but be firm when you’re juggling childcare about the second week.” Now that my kids are in school full-time, we’re clear that the vacations must be taken when they’re in school or away at camp.

Boys Mama January 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Wow this is a great post with such valuable advice. Our 7th is coming this summer and we don’t have this in our handbook… I’ll use your advice to put it in prior to her arrival. Thank you all.

We have had three family visits through the years. I find that the better the AP, the better the family visit goes. A responsible, energetic AP will anticipate the needs of her family and respect the HF’s generosity. A lazy AP becomes lazier when her parents come, especially if she’s used to her parents doing everything for her. I was horribly stressed out dealing with my three little kids before school while miming instructions how to use the coffee maker to a woman whose language I don’t speak, all while the AP slept in her room waiting for her mother to make her breakfast and coffee. They rarely left the house in 9 days, ate all but 2 or three meals out of our refrigerator with minimal grocery contribution. It was awful.

I have to say that the other two visits were absolutely lovely and we got so much closer to those APs and their families while they stayed. They cooked for us, prepared their own meals, got out and saw the town. As long as I’m not responsible for them and they aren’t literally underfoot in our already overly busy home, I’m happy to host.

I will make it clear in the handbook that the AP is the social host, not us. That our space needs to be respected, the AP understands how crazy the house is even without guests. Outline food rules while still being warm and friendly about it and suggest they take some time off while guests are here. Some of my favorite memories of families happened when they were so excited about our kids that they wanted to take them to the beach and just play with them around our house and neighborhood… we are happy to pay her for on duty hours for time spent with family doting on our boys. When guests behave that way, we certainly don’t mind hosting and feeding them for a week.

Should be working January 24, 2014 at 3:50 pm

My best story was that another beloved au pair asked if a sister could visit for about a week, we said ok, and later it came out that the sister would be with us 2.5 weeks. I was annoyed–but then the sister came and she was so wonderful, it was like having 2 fabulous au pairs. Same thing happened a few months later with the brother. He really did make me want a “bro-pair”, I definitely invited him to be our next au pair, but he was busy studying medicine. :)

Julia January 24, 2014 at 4:05 pm

When my parents came to visit I offered to get a room at the local motel and if just saying it my hostmom felt offended. I have to say from my point of view it was hilarious all the preperations she done before my parents got here. She had the carpets steam cleaned, she scrubbed oven like a maniac ( i told her my mom wouldn’t look in there). They drove me to the airport to pick them up ( my parents got a rental car at the airport) and they surprised as all with a german dinner when we got home. We spent the first night at home and the next morning I had made reservations for all of us to go for a brunch thing. It was great and my parents english isnt great but we all tried. I wanted to invite everybody but my hostdad went off to the bathroom and when I asked for the check I was told it was all taken care off. Monday I still worked but my hostmom told me I could take my hostchild with us to the city. She does trips with him all the time so he was fine and happy about it. Next morning my parents were supposed to go on a trip till Saturday but my car broke down so instead of my hostmum driving 2 hours to get us my parents offered to pick us up. They got back on Saturday and we all had Easter together. Monday My parents and I left for a trip till Friday and on Friday night my parents invited my host to their favorite restaurant. My parents left the next day to go home and my hostmom has packed them food they had enjoyed here. (My dad had fallen in love with gold fish so she gave him like 5 bags of them).
I think my parents have left their unopended leftover water battels But besides that big dinner my parents did pay for food. But the day we spent in NYC they paid for everything.
My hostparents would have been offended if my parents went to the grocery store and would have bought food.

Julia January 24, 2014 at 4:08 pm

oh I forgot the best thing was: I had told my hostparents that at home we would eat dinner at the table. My hostparents would have every meal in front of the TV Like normally they only eat dinner at home and they would eat dinner in front of the TV to catch up on NEWS and stuff like it but when my parents where with us they would sit down at the table and have dinner there

Host Mom in the City January 24, 2014 at 5:31 pm

You just have been an excellent au pair! I’d be happy to do the same for an au pair who would truly appreciate it.

Long Island Host Mom January 25, 2014 at 8:59 am

We recently hosted our AP’s parents and it worked out just fine. AP had the entire weekend off so they stayed with her at a hotel close to NYC. The other time they slept on the floor in our basement with a blow up mattress. AP did fine working her normal schedule but spent time with them during her time off daily instead of her friends. Surprisingly, we had a great time with her parents. They didnt assume anything, helped where they could and my husband and her father are actually now good friends and communicate in emails and voice texts. We realized they are very much alike and into alot of the same things…we now all kid them about their “bromance”….so it can sometimes work out better than you could have imagined. We spent a lovely night setting up the holiday tree – and we decorated with Hanukkah and Christmas decorations, shared small gifts and pizza dinner and it was a very memorable lovely warm evening…just like our AP. It was a wonderful memory and a true cultural exchange !

Former Au Pair January 25, 2014 at 11:42 pm

After reading most of the previous posts I have to say I am glad I had an awesome host family. My host mom admitted she didn’t like to have visitors staying at home, but she loved me so much that she allowed me to have my family stay.

The first year my mom stayed for three weeks. She was very helpful with everything I had to do and the kitchen was extremely clean all day thanks to her. Sometimes she even took care of the girls when I couldn’t do it, like when I had to renew my driver’s license and when I went to class.

The second year my mom came back with one of my brothers, his wife and their baby, they arrived the day after my last day as an au pair and were allowed to stay for three weeks. We slept in the basement, on inflatable beds because my room was already being used by the new au pair.

In both cases, we bought all the food we needed, we used the fridge that they had in the basement. We always cleaned up our mess, we tried to left every place as it was when we arrived or even better. My family got along very well with the girls who knew spanish because I taught them.

During the second visit, we could use the car they had for the au pair whenever she didn’t need it. We had a plan for almost every day so we didn’t interfere with the new au pair’s job.

My host family was happy to have dinner to welcome my family and another to say good bye, they did it in both opportunities. My host dad was very friendly, he also learned Spanish from me (it was easier because he is french) and was able to talk with my visitors. I translated every conversation between my host mom and them.

My family was very grateful after their trip and bought presents for everybody. We come from a family with few resources so we could have not afford a hotel room for so long. I think they were great visitors, they followed the home’s rules, they were clean, quiet, friendly and never took anything without permission nor even the vacuum cleaner.

When I left my host mom even asked me to bring my dad and my other brother in the future so they can meet them. I am very lucky they let my mom stay for so long and they even let me have visitors when I was not their au pair.

She didn’t know English so I would translate conversation between my host mom

Lena January 26, 2014 at 11:11 am

We’ve had both positive and challenging experiences with au pairs’ family visiting. Now, here is what we put in our family handbook regarding guests from abroad:

We are happy to welcome your family or friends to visit you, and we would love to meet them. If they would like to stay at our house instead of a hotel, we ask a few conditions: 1. We must plan together the dates before flights are booked. 2. You must take vacation days to spend time with them if they are here on weekdays (we can also arrange partial vacation days). 3. We are happy to host two visiting groups of up to 2 people at a time during the year. 4. Anyone who smokes must stay at a hotel and not our home.

We’re happy to welcome your guests to eat meals with us, and they should contribute to making and cleaning up just as all adults in the house normally do. Anyone who stays more than two nights should replace the groceries they eat, or buy some of their own.

If your guests will stay at a hotel, we can help you choose a good one. It is also possible to rent a room nearby for the same cost as a youth hotel, or even a whole house for the same cost as a hotel room – just ask and we can help you make reservations through AirBnB. (We say this because one au pair arranged for her guests to stay at a nasty hotel in a bad part of town that was 45 minutes from us with no public transportation! With a little help from us they could have rented a pleasant clean room in our town for half the price.)

Ali January 29, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I’m a host mum in London, UK so maybe it’s a bit different here. We have a spare room so I always say family can come for up to 1 week, most our au pairs have been from Europe so its not a long, expensive trip for them. We had parents and 2 siblings once which was actually fine as they were out all the time sight seeing etc.

However, one au pair’s parents came for a week and they just stayed in all the time which we thought was quite odd, especially in a city with lots of public transport and free things to do. I found that quite an imposition as they were constantly sitting at my kitchen table for the week and when I came home from work I felt I had to entertain them.

Now I always ask the AP what her plans are for the week of the visit, and if necessary give some ideas!

Usually though, I have not had an issue with it and have even had old APs come and visit with family, and get along fine with the current AP .

Ex²Aupair March 5, 2014 at 6:32 am

While I was in the US my HF would have loved for my mom to visit – unfortunately, she is afraid of flying and detests ships which made her trip from Europe impossible. Plus, we weren’t really as close as we are today (15 years later and after not having lived under one roof for more than a decade) and I am sure having her over would have been more difficult for me than for my HF.

My mom visitied me while I was an au pair in a European country four years later. However, she never met my HF on mutual request as I had just decided to leave my HF early due to unbridgeable differences in how to raise children (and my host children getting hurt due to decisions their parents made that I didn’t want to support). She had decided to stay in a hotel closer to the city early on plus she had come with a friend as my HF didn’t agree to let me take vacation while she was visiting (Thu/Fri) even though the trip had been agreed upon even before I arrived in their country. Still she brought presents for the kids which she left with me. The HP’s threw them away without even waiting for me to leave (a week later) or the kids opening them. Oh well, talk about hurt feelings (I gave four weeks notice instead of two because I knew it would fit their schedule better but I guess my reasons for ending the contract early didn’t sit well with them, especially as I know they gave different reasons to their family).

Eventhough my mom didn’t visit while I was in the US, we had friends of mine visiting and staying with my HF a few times. One of my friends was an au pair two states over and just happened to end up in my city on Thanksgiving, visiting her HM’s brother. I don’t know who was more taken by surprise – her (ending up in the city where I lived), me (getting a phone call saying “Guess where I am!”) or my HF (“Hey, a friend of mine is currently in suburb x… mind if I drive over, pick her up and ask her to come over for dinner?”) but it worked out wonderful, she spent the night and it was great fun (I hope for everybody).

Also, I had a (male) friend visiting for what in the end amounted to nearly six weeks – by my HP’s fault :) and the kids loved having him over. A male in his early 20s can be so much more fun for two (pre)teen boys than a girl that also takes care of their two younger sisters. They played every ball game imaginable, jumped on the trampoline, played flash tag, wrestled, played video games, made music together, went to the cinema and shopping – it was just like having two au pairs around. A bro pair for the boys (11 & 13) and the usual old (boring) au pair for the girls (9 & 1). He was included in all family activities and trips and even got a balloon for Valentine’s day, just like everybody else.
The plan had been for him to stay for two weeks (12 days), then we’d go on vacation for a week (9 days) and come back for a day for him to do some laundry before he’d get on a Greyhound and travel to the west coast to fly back home from there two weeks later. The first half of the plan worked out great but then my HP’s asked him to stay with us for another five days, we traveled to see the grandparents together with my HM’s brother and my little one for a week before returning to my HF so that he could fly home from there. It really surprised me but I really, really appreciated it and even to this day I don’t think my HF understands how much I needed those weeks and how much their trust in me (and my ability to work even with a friend around) meant to me.

WestMom May 16, 2014 at 10:54 am

Update. Thanks everyone who contributed to this post. It was very helpful.

Let me start by saying that AP is a rock star this year. She is responsible, generous, flexible, and very well integrated in our family. We love her dearly and do many extra things to keep her happy. The story below is really just a small blemish on our year but a good learning experience nevertheless.

So the family came and went. We went about our regular life, and they went about theirs. We had dinner together once. They came bearing gifts. They took us out to dinner. All in all it went well.

A few things didn’t though. Firstly, the parents didn’t verify their dates with us, and booked an 8 day stay (our guidebook states one week). At the time, it seemed petty to object (what’s an extra day in the dead of January?). Before the parents arrived, I sat down with AP and reviewed a few points with her (they are your guests, no one but you drives the car, let’s pick a night to eat together, etc). Knowing that AP’s mom also wanted to come back a second time, I also mentioned that the next time they should verify the dates with us before booking plane tickets.

Mom is back this week. To my surprise, she did not verify the dates with us, and booked another 8 day stay. I spoke with AP as soon as I found out to let her know I was disappointed they had not verified the dates with us, and planned a stay longer than our guidelines allows. AP told me a strange story about why mom booked without telling us and mentioned that she could stay at hotel if it was too disruptive. I think she was trying to cover for her mom’s insensitivity.

Turns out that the timing is pretty bad for us so I have asked to have AP + mom to go away during that weekend so we can accommodate visiting family. I have offered AP an extra Friday PM and Monday AM (no vaca days left) so they will be traveling during the weekend while my brother and his family are staying with us.

Based on this experience, I have decided to change a few things next year:

Our basic “out of town guests” rules still stand, but I will ask that if parents/grandparents are coming, they should arrange for their own accommodations. I feel weird about having people (strangers, really) of my generation and above living with us. Parents are clearly concerned about their daughter’s wellbeing and will judge us differently than any sister or friend. I find that it causes me more stress than I want to handle year after year.

I also feel that after 5yrs in the program, I don’t necessarily want to develop a close bond with APs’ families. I want to know about them, but I don’t need to develop a relationship to the extent that we should remember each other at Christmas, or birthdays. With a new AP every year, this is exponential, and more relationships than I want to maintain… (I can see how this could be different for the AP parents though, since we are the only host family in their eyes…).

Thank you for suggesting that AP should take vacation when guests are in town. AP didn’t want to take all her vacation during that time. I get it, she wants to use her time to go visit other parts of the country, not to be the tourist guide for her parents. But it makes complete sense. Not sure how we can accommodate next year because we already have a long summer vacation planned, but we might end up having to give extra vacation to make this happen.

Finally, I want to point out that in our 5 years hosting, I have often found AP to be sort of stuck between her visiting guests and us the host parents. We communicate the rules to AP, but I think sometimes the guests get over excited and forget that in the end, their travels are an imposition on us, the host family. They may dismiss our request for verifying dates or sticking to 7 days for their own convenience, or for cheaper tickets because they don’t think it’s a big deal.

I also think there is a cultural component to this, which I will share with APs in the future. My own family never stays with us for more than a weekend, and I know few Americans adults who would invite themselves to stay at the home of people who are basically strangers. It doesn’t make us bad people. We just want our privacy and don’t want to impose…

Thanks again for all your input!

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