Be a Wiser Host Parent in 2012: A Dozen Questions for Reflection

by cv harquail on December 30, 2011

What has happened in the last year that’s helped you learn to be a better host parent? Or if not “better”,  just a wee bit wiser?

if you’re like most of us, you’ve felt delighted, relieved, frustrated, annoyed, grateful, and more — all because of your relationship(s) with your au pair(s). sometimescrafter owl pillow.jpg

As part of our families and as members of our households, but even more as partners in caring for our children, au pairs see us as we cycle through our worst and our best. And, our relationships with them influence how we experience our children, our parenting, our homes, and our dreams.

Our relationships with our au pairs can be windows into our understanding of ourselves as parents, spouses, family members, friends, and sojourners — if we choose to make them so.

Given that our host parent – au pair relationships influence us anyway, we can get a little extra insight about ourselves by reflecting on how our relationships unfolded over the year. While for so many of us it’s important to set new goals and strive to do better, it also helps to spend a little time understanding what’s already happened so that we might learn from it.

In that spirit, and with personal growth in mind, here are some questions to help you capture some insights from this past year with your au pair(s):

1. What was the most challenging part of your host parent- au pair relationship this year?

2. What caused the single biggest positive energy boost in your au pair relationship?

3. What was the best way that you used your one-on-one time with your au pair this year?

4. What were you able to let go of, and feel okay about letting go of, to improve your host parent – au pair relationship?

5. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally through your relationship with your au pair?

6. At what point(s) did you consciously reassess your expectations of your au pair and of yourself? (How) Did this help?

7. What was the biggest change in your relationship with your au pair over the year?

8. What was an unexpected delight regarding your au pair this year?

9. What was an unexpected challenge for you as a host parent of this particular au pair?

10. How did your experience as a host parent contribute to your relationship with your child/ren?

11. (If you’ve been a host parent before:) How did you put into practice this year your experience as a host parent with previous au pairs?
      (If this is your first time as a host parent:) What was your first surprise about how having an au pair *really* works?

12. What was the best thing that you did for yourself to improve your host parent – au pair relationship?

I hope that you can take a moment or two or three just to think over this one relationship over this one year, and see how you’ve grown as a result of it.  If any of your responses tickle you, or generate some insights you’d like to share, please add them in the comments.

Have a happy and sweet new year.

Image: This sweet owl pillow was made by The Sometime Crafter from a pattern by Badbird. Check out The Sometime Crafter blog for project ideas, patterns and tutorials — especially if you have a crafty au pair.



JJ Host Mom January 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm

This year I’ve been working with a difficult situation with a great au pair. (Basically helping her protect herself, and our family, from her stalker ex-boyfriend.) It helped me realize how much I’m willing to go through for the right person, and how much she means to us as a family member. Through this situation, I want to help her to learn her rights as a person and gain confidence so this kind of thing doesn’t happen to her again. On the flipside, she’s been so great to our kids and I can never properly express my gratitude for the guidance and love she’s given them. Plus she’s just a nice person to have around.

The situation really hit home to me how much more this is than just childcare, and how wonderful it can be for everyone, when it’s the right match.

NewHM January 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm

“Giving kids the love and guidance” – that’s exactly what our (now ex) AP lacked. She was with us for 4 months and at the end she didn’t even say good bye to the kids or even ask how the kids are the last time we saw her. I hope we can find great replacement. I will screen them very hard.

CalifMom January 5, 2012 at 11:34 pm

My best rematch advice from the Queen of Lousy First Matches (I am at least 0:3 on first matches but an overachiever at wonderful rematches, with all but one extending): Meet the candidates in person if at all possible. Don’t rush the process or let your desperation to get childcare settled cloud your judgment. Roll your backup plans and trust yourself.

It will be SOOOOO much better next time you will feel a fool for not pushing rematch sooner.

Best of luck!

Calif Mom January 4, 2012 at 2:50 pm

We have had our best 9 months ever.

Realizing just how important it is to me personally that our au pair and I share deep-seated values is really important.

Now that we have had that sort of an au pair, I am even more aware/horrified at how incredibly difficult it is to identify those shared values up front and screen out the “so-so” matches.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm

For the past 3 APs I have had young women who have not asked endless questions (and I’m not justing talking about the routine – I’m talking about American idioms, best places to eat, places to visit, when to take holidays, when to enroll in classes, etc.) I suffered through the first one, getting short-tempered when she did not act in a timely matter (taking that English test to place in that college English class, book her holiday time, etc.). In the past year, I have learned to be proactive – to preempt inaction, indecisiveness, shyness, hesitancy, but having conversations up front. I’ll call them: What the holidays will be like, I’m not scheduling you for the second half of January until I know what class you’re going to take, Time to talk to your friends about vacation before it’s too late, It’s almost summer vacation and your schedule is going to change, and Gee – your year is almost up and we still need you to work.

I have found that I am less frustrated having the talk outright, then having my AP get into a position where I a) threaten to book her time off because time is running out before summer vacation starts, b) find my blood pressure rising because I’ve booked events that directly conflict with her last-minute class enrollment, and c) have to say no to a vacation she’s planned to take with her friends because she hasn’t told me until the last minute and I have to jump through hoops to take extra time off.

I’m happier, and if I’m happier, believe me, the AP is happier.

CalifMom January 5, 2012 at 11:40 pm


YAY! This is so true. When you start managing the au pairs a tiny bit more, you realize you are not insulting their maturity or independence. It helps You, Host, when your au pair has her act together and knows what to expect next. That long-term planning thing really is about brain maturity and may not be connected totally until 25 or later.

Au Pair Australia April 27, 2012 at 3:03 am

In the last year, I learned that communication between au pair and host family is very important, and if we follow this tip we can solve any issue whatever it is, as well it helps to improve the relationship and therefore ensure she stays longer, if we show her we care about what she feels and thinks, then we can be sure she will care about what is important for us as well and our priorities. For more tips visit Au pair agency in Australia

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