Brand New Au Pair’s Extreme Homesickness — Can we turn it around?

by cv harquail on August 16, 2016

It seems like this brand new host mom did everything right (or, rather, took all of our recommendations) for getting started with an Au Pair.

Careful consideration, lots of advance learning, deep interviewing, a handbook (!), and lots of positive energy. Even after their new Au Pair arrived and presented the challenge of extreme homesick, this new CosyFarmHostMom did what I’d have recommended.

8417935780_9fcdebf551_mSo now what? Her Au Pair’s homesickness has not abated, one bit.

Here are all the details. After her email, I’ll offer a little feedback and then turn it over to you, wise readers.

First, can I just say how absolutely amazing au pair mom is?! The wealth of information is invaluable. I have spent a great deal of time pouring over the website in the last eight months. In January, we began to contemplate having an au pair join our family. My husband and I both work full time and we have two children (3 and 5.5). After a few months of reading, we made the plunge and matched with our au pair from Germany. She arrived in the US one week ago and to our home on Friday.

To be honest, I expected growing pains and an adjustment period, but I did not think I would be reaching out for advice so soon.

We went through an extensive screening process (thanks to TexasHM for all the tips). We emailed and skyped. We sent an excerpt of our newly drafted handbook. We sent challenge questions. Our au pair seemed great: engaged and excited!

Fast forward to her actual arrival: The person that we skyped/emailed with is not the one who arrived.     

The first day was great with a lot going on. We welcomed her to our home with a laid back afternoon and had dinner at my family’s home at our lakehouse (about 30 minutes away). Our second day started well with exchanging presents and showing her around the house, but by the afternoon, our au pair declined the opportunity to go out with me to buy a birthday present for our youngest. When we returned, she sent me a text asking me to come up to her room, where I found her crying. She said that she had been missing her family since her arrival. I parked the toddler in front of the tv, comforted our au pair, took her for a walk around our farm and made her tea. My husband and I asked her all about her family, her home, and her life after the kids went to bed.

On Sunday, she came with us on a hike in the morning. In the afternoon, after some driving practice, she took the au pair car to visit with her training school roommate. When she came home, she went directly to her room and later texted me crying. We tried more comforting, engaging and talking.

Yesterday, her first day of real on the job training, she was not excited to begin — at all. We went over the handbook. I showed her more of the town, with stops at the local Y (where she was able to join under our family membership), the playground (she sat on a bench most of the time), the library and our favorite specialty grocery store. At the library, I left her with the kids to use the bathroom and returned to find her crying at a table with the kids. She cried and told me she was “so sad” between the library and grocery store. She declined to even look around the grocery store when I invited her to see if anything looked great for lunch.

When we got home, she helped with lunch and as soon as the toddler was down for a nap, she went up to her room. My 5 year old went to ask her to play, and she told him to wait a few minutes. 45 minutes later, I went to her room, and, after knocking, found her sobbing to her dad on Skype. Her parents are supportive, but I wonder if they pushed her into this? She later came down to play with my son, who had been so excited to play.

We reached out to our LCC last night.

This morning, she came down at her start time (my first day back in the office) and told me she was so sad. She said she would be ok with the kids. She texted at 11:00 and asked if I could come home. I can’t; I have been out of the office for four days.

Is this the normal level of homesickness? Am I expecting too much?

Concrete Action Steps   I am preparing for a reset conversation with very concrete things we need to see: A plan for each day with one outside and one inside activity and the meal plan (I will help her with this initially); two things to talk about at dinner (one about her family and one about her day); I plan on giving her a checklist for each day.

But I’m not sure she is up for this.

  • Do we stick this out? Head into rematch?
  • Drastically change the way we train?
  • Are we not right for the au pair program?

We’d love any advice that AuPairMom readers might offer —  CosyFarmHostMom

Dear CosyFarm Host Mom

This situation sounds awful, but hold on– many of us have faced similar situations with new au pairs who are overwhelmed by homesickness.  It *is* something that can be turned around, and while you’re working on it, your LCC can be putting into place a back up plan should either you or your Au Pair want to throw in the towel.

First — know that your Agency will almost assuredly not allow the Au Pair to go straight back home.

Unless there is some kind of insanely egregious issue, she must stay with your family for at least two weeks… and since it’s the start of her year, the expectation is that she can’t rematch or leave within the first TWO MONTHS. The reason Agencies have a two-month block on rematches at the start of an au pair year is precisely to give all the parties involved a chance to work things out (and/or to set up a plan B).

You are doing the right things right now.  

Asking your Au Pair to step up and take charge of the kids is the right thing to do on many levels. It keeps her busy, gives you the childcare you need, lets her get a real sense of what the job will be like, and may even distract her from her homesickness.

Your reset conversation plan and the very specific guidelines for what she should do are wonderful. Expect her to continue to work, and **don’t come home early from work yourself**. She can handle the kids — it’s her mindset that’s the challenge.

Your next step should be: “Close the exits.”  

By exits, I mean

(1) the idea of a return to her home anytime before eight weeks are up,

(2) the idea of shirking from her job responsibilities and interacting with your family, and

(3) the idea of seeking succor from her parents or folks back home — which only enhances rather than diminishes homesickness.

Nobody works on fixing a hard relationship or overcoming a hard situation if they know that they can leave — physically or emotionally — or as long as they expect that someone else will rescue them.   As long as your Au Pair thinks she can go home immediately, not do the work and play she’s here to do, and call her parents every time she should instead be learning to be independent, she’ll reinforce her homesickness.

I could go on, but I know that other readers have ideas for you too —   cvh



Image by juanedc on Flickr




Seattle Mom August 16, 2016 at 4:16 pm

I just want to validate your feelings & experience. This is not a normal level of homesickness. I have had 5 au pairs, and they all occasionally got the blues to varying levels, but nothing like what you are describing. And as CV has said, you have done everything right- your family is definitely right for the au pair program, based on what you have written.

It’s probably good that the agency won’t let her rematch or go home right away- she has an incentive to buck up, just to get through the next few weeks as she is required to do. And once she forces herself to live in this new life and not pine for her old one, she might realize she enjoys it. But there’s not much you can do, except tell her what your expectations are and hold her to them. Do *not* give her any special accommodations for her homesickness. Do be empathetic (“I know that living in a new place far away from home is hard”) but let her know that you know she can get past this, and give her the tools (“keeping yourself busy is the best way to get over missing home- find things here that you love. I know you can do it, you are a strong young woman.”)

This is reminding me of when I joined the Peace Corps, there were a couple of girls who seemed so confident, strong, and independent in the first few days of staging (in the US, before leaving). But as soon as we arrived in country, they were a mess and within 4 days they were on a plane leaving for home. I couldn’t understand it at all- training was the easy & fun part! I think Peace Corps should have required people to stay in country for a period of time before quitting, barring extenuating circumstances (illness, death in the family, etc). They probably would have been better off if they felt forced to be there for a couple of weeks, and then maybe they would have been able to stay.

NZ HM August 16, 2016 at 5:11 pm

I agree with everything Seatlle Mom and cv have written (and I have never been in such a situation myself either)!
It might be worthwhile to get a feel for the parents’ position in all this, if you haven’t already: was it their idea for her to aupair? are they supportive? do they encourage her to put in her best effort or do they tell her she can come home if it’s really too bad?
[We had one aupair who decided we were not the family for her after 6 weeks with us and only informed us of her decision to leave rather than trying to discuss the situation and work things out. The one thing I am still resentful about is that she discussed her problems in great depth with family and friends back home but not with us and I hold it against her parents having made it so easy for her to leave instead of demanding of her to give it her vest shot. We suspected it was culture shock related as we have found with others that the 6 to 8 week mark is usually crunch time wrt adjustment]

You might be able to find out from the aupair or even talk with her parents directly – if she’s in such a bad way direct contact is certainly justified to work out a plan.

German Au-Pair August 16, 2016 at 6:20 pm

This is absolutely not normal. I personally don’t have any patience with homesickness in positive situations that you chose. Still, you do deserve a chance to turn the situation around so here’s my take.
A reset conversation sounds like a wonderful idea to me but I would NOT make her come up with a topic to talk about that includes home. In fact, I would explain to her that it might be easier for her to cut communication and thoughts about home for a few days just to leave enough “thought space” for the wonderful things her new life has to offer. I blogged during my stay and I had a whole page just with funny, weird, wonderful, strange things that amazed me about the US. Have her do THAT! Example: American covers are.the.worst. when you are used to German ones but American beds are heaven when you are used to German ones. Toilets flush differently and therefore always seem clogged before you get used to them. We have toilets with what Americans seem to call a “poop shelf” (not kidding!) Doors are so high above the ground that a whole cat’s leg can fit under it -why bother having a door at all? But oh the wonderful walk in closest. Sunsets are brighter, summers are better. Give a few of those examples to her and have her be on the lookout for strange, funny new things to present to you. Seems silly that you would have to engage a grown woman like that but finding positive things in her new world rather than dwell on the ones she now misses from her old, is basically what made the whole experience wonderful for me. You live on a farm, do you have a variety of animals? Find out if she likes them (I assume if you do you wouldn’t have picked one who doesn’t) and have her engage with them. Ask her to take the kids to an activity with the animals (because animals make everything better) and tell you about it. Do NOT ask her to talk about her home with you, in fact put a temporary ban on it. Have her write it down, tell her to take photos with her phone and make a crafting activity with the kids like presenting the fun thing to you.
Exploring, being creative, actively looking for interesting things, that’s what she needs to do. Also she should go out with other au pairs because finding people who are in the same boat makes you feel less lonely.

But, I’m no psychologist obviously, this level of homesickness does seem incredibly weird to me. Maybe she is not fit to make it through her stay and that’s at least something you need to be prepared for. Usually they say homesickness happenes AFTER the exciting period has worn of but what if she cannot seem to find anything exciting the first place? How will she handle setbacks and god beware -the holidays? Maybe she cannot overcome it with even your best efforts and while I still find homesickness ridiculous, I do know that being permanently sad can become a serious issue at some point. So it may still turn out to be better for everyone if she goes back home in the end.

Frankfurt AP Boy August 16, 2016 at 6:38 pm

The “closing the exits” advise from CV is spot on. I don’t know if your AP is like me but as a teenager I was very sensitive and nervous. If I encountered a stressful situation, and someone gave me an opt out, I would grab it with both hands! Even if the alternative was no better or it was to a big detriment to me in the long run. Maybe I am completely wide of the mark but… I can imagine if it were the teenage me in that situation the crying and texting would seem like a way of avoiding just getting on with the job and settling in. So for that reason, CV has it right that she needs to get into the state of mind where she feels she has to engage and try hard to get on with things. Calling her parents all the time is a very bad idea for her. Even now I know that if I feel homesick, speaking to my parents will just make it much worse.

I think you’re doing the right things. I do find it a bit disturbing that she is actually crying in front of the children. I suppose it depends on the individual child but young children will often feel they are to blame if someone is sad around them. It is maybe something to be mindful of. If that were ever the case, I wonder whether rematch would be necessary… but I think you’re absolutely right not to discuss anything like that with your au pair and just continue being so supportive… it wouldn’t help the situation to threaten rematch.

WarmStateMomma August 16, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Many HPs say they’ve observed homesickness in their APs – but this sounds pretty extreme. Engaging her is the right thing to do IMHO but it’s up to her to decide whether to meet you halfway or not. I’d call in the LCC, give an inspirational pep talk, and get your Plan B lined up. It doesn’t sound like this individual is ready for this experience.

If it helps, our first AP was not the right match for our family but the next two were fantastic. I text regularly with AP2; AP3 is halfway through her extension year and going stronger than ever. Like parenthood, the learning curve is steep.

HostMom (now LCC) DP August 16, 2016 at 7:16 pm

I agree with others who’ve noted that this seems to be beyond the typical homesickness experienced by most au pairs, but for purposes of addressing it with your au pair, I don’t think it’s helpful to focus on it as being beyond the “normal” level of homesickness. Instead, I’d suggest reminding her that it’s perfectly normal to feel SOME amount of homesickness, and that most au pairs do experience it to some degree or another – and that they get past it. You don’t want to put it in her head that the way she’s feeling means there’s something “wrong” with her or that feeling this way must be a “sign” that she shouldn’t have signed on for this experience.

In addition to some of the other suggestions above, I’d also recommend doing what you can to help her start feeling more invested in her life here – and enlisting your LCC’s assistance in doing the same. Encourage her to think about some of the reasons she wanted to be an au pair in the first place, and maybe ask her to make a list of some of the things she wants to do/see during her Grand American Adventure. (Even better, perhaps she can sit down with the calendar, and/or a map, and start making plans for when she can start checking things off of that list.) The LCC should be able to help by connecting her to other au pairs in the group – and this should happen ASAP. The sooner she feels like she has “a life” here, and things to look forward to, the easier it will be to deal with the very NORMAL feelings of culture shock and missing home.

NoVA Twin Mom August 19, 2016 at 3:02 pm

I really like the idea of “planning her adventure.” Maybe even find one of those kids atlases with pictures for her to look through. Or have her create a Pinterest board of ideas for her travel month (I did this for a vacation last year and our au pair was amazed because she thought Pinterest was “only for looking at clothes.”

Taking a Computer Lunch August 29, 2016 at 8:18 pm

I’d worry that by focusing on the adventure, that you’d be diverting her from the reason why YOU matched with her – to work. I’ll be offering some more advice after I’ve read all the entries, but one “closing the exit” strategy is to ask her to stay until her successor can be found. Some women find that by the time that happens, they wished they could stay.

AP in Australia August 16, 2016 at 9:29 pm

First things first – I feel like your family is definitely good for the AP program and that it’s not your fault that your AP is this homesick. In my opinion nobody can be blamed for the way she’s feeling in this situation, but i also agree with everyone here that says that her level of homesickness is not the typical kind of blues most AP’s get sometimes.

Contrary to what others have been saying though, I can only speak out of experience when I say that I believe that contact to your friends and family, especially parents, back home can give you a sense of security and ease the homesickness. I tend to contact my parents most when I’m not doing well but they always manage to reassure me that I’ll be fine and I just need to allow myself some time for getting settled in (haven’t been here very long yet). Seeing and talking to them makes me feel better because – especially at first – you usually don’t have anyone you can really confide in or who knows you. It’s a new country, you move in with another family, you don’t know anyone in the area and even if you do, it’s just not the same. Friendships and especially trust need time.

So long story short – she should maybe set up a certain time during the day where she talks to her parents on skype regularly, try to meet new people in the area, talk to other au pairs and of course you, her host family.

As far as what your email says I really believe that you’re doing everything right. Try to keep her occupied and include her in different activities you do as a family. Talk to her about her family if she wants to but don’t make her talk about it if she doesn’t want to :) and if all else fails and she is simply not ready for this journey, I’m sure you’ll find a great match during rematch!

wishing both your family and your au pair all the best b

AlwaysHopeful HM August 16, 2016 at 9:53 pm

I second the idea of asking her why she’s here. Of the 4 au pairs we’ve had, two suffered pretty badly from homesickness. The one who was here to improve her English because it was absolutely necessary for her future plans pushed through– even when her family begged her to come home, and even when a close relative fell ill. She threw herself into her work, made a few friends and focused, focused, focused on her goal. The one who was here because “it might be fun” was miserable from the start, and it only got worse. We eventually went into rematch.

I would also ask, after emphathizing with her sadness — “now, what do you plan to do about it? ” I totally agree that it would be unhelpful to rescue her from her unhappiness. Making her take charge…actually, reminding her that she has the power to take charge of her experience may help guide her towards figuring a way out of her dilemma.

One area where I disagree with others would be the idea of temporarily ceasing contact with/discussion of home. I can’t speak for others, but for me, if I am told I can’t have something important to me, that somehing becomes even more of an obsession.

German Au-Pair August 17, 2016 at 11:36 am

I actually talked to my parents every day. My schedule allowed me to speak to them at noon so it was perfect with the time difference.
But as anyone who was obsessed with something can probably tell (thinking about excessive phone use for example) it really does help to (voluntarily of course!) cut yourself off from it for a while. If all you ever do is wait for that call, how are you to enjoy other things. The first few days may be hard but after that it’s actually quite delibarating. I wouldn’t TELL her not do it, but explain to her how it might help her ans ASK her to try it out for her sake.
But everyone is different. I never had homesickness in the States but now constantly have it for my US home. I stalk instagram photos of the are and remember things and while I LOVE doing that, it also makes me sad. What makes me happy and helps with the homesickness is to think about all the wonderful things I have in my life now and to really remind myself that I wouldn’t swap even if I could.

Aupair Paris August 17, 2016 at 3:35 am

Ouf! You sound like a really engaged, really caring host Mum. You’ve been so patient! I don’t know if there’s a “normal” level of homesickness, as it affects everyone differently, but homesickness does pass, and if you can cling on with your current AP, it might go away. I’d almost suggest being less patient with her. That is to say, I have experienced homesickness and it is horrible. It feels so much worse than people imagine. I don’t mean be cruel to your AP. But it won’t pass while she’s focused on it and talking about it (i.e. agonising over it) all the time. With me, homesickness is made much worse by indecision. Should I stay? Should I go? Etc.

Your AP might come back to herself much more quickly with something to focus on. In my view, she should have been looking after the kids. That thing with your 5 year old asking to play is the worst thing in the letter in my view – she should NOT have blown off the poor kid to go and talk to her parents! That’s the opposite of helpful for her! And your son was probably upset by it too! Playing with a cheerful, exuberant kid is way better in that situation than crying to her parents.

I think this situation could turn around, but remember, you’re not there for her – she’s there for you. Let her do her job, and be sympathetically firm. Don’t be cruel or dismissive, but no need to indulge it all either – not because what she’s feeling is not real, but because it’s not helpful when you do.

Also, remember that this is not personal. She’s not homesick because you haven’t done enough. She’s just homesick an you’ve done everything you can. This is not your fault, and from now your decision needs to be about what’s best for your family.

Anna August 17, 2016 at 5:34 am

I just want to chime in about the agency waiting period. For some agencies it is one month, not two, and I have seen it not held to, I.e. it is a strong recommendation, not a rule. So she can leave soon if she insists.

Do try all the wonderful suggestions here, but to me it doesn’t look good. One has to have a certain fortitude to be a successful Au Pair and she is already falling apart so drastically. Asking you to come home from work at 11? Homesickness so bad it is an emergency? I would be concerned about how she is caring for your very young kids and keeping them safe when she is so out of control emotionally.

Do get a plan B in place in case she gets on the plane back home tomorrow. Despite what the agency recommends, she can. How are the going to stop her?

cv harquail August 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

Hi Anna- I didn’t realize that the two month waiting period wasn’t true with all agencies. If you can tell me, which agencies are you aware of that have (only) a one month waiting period? cv

Anna August 17, 2016 at 2:06 pm

I believe Interexchange (I was with them too long ago). However I do know they have put au pairs in rematch before one month – I once matched with a transition au pair who left her first family after 2 weeks.
Now I am with GoAuPair and I don’t remember their exact policy, I think it is one month and it is only a recommendation.

HMof2 August 17, 2016 at 4:59 pm

I know with CCAP, rematch can happen as early as the first week of AP arriving into HF home. I’ve read transition reports that mention about rematch after 2 days.

Full Circle August 28, 2016 at 10:00 pm

CCAP has a one month rule but that can be bent for safety reasons or if the fit is so terrible that working on it won’t help (like AP literally cannot drive and that’s the bulk of the job and family can’t wait for her to learn). I imagine other circumstances would result in them allowing an early rematch but the first thing they told us was NO and pushed for us to try to solve it but once we explained our circumstances, our rematch was approved immediately. At least the folks we dealt with at CCAP would not let her go home or rematch on week 1 due to homesickness. If she literally refuses to work then HF might have some reasoning to request rematch. Not saying that’s where this family is headed, just wanted to respond to CCAP’s position on easy rematch as far as we know.

Full Circle August 28, 2016 at 10:02 pm

*early rematch

NoVA Twin Mom August 19, 2016 at 2:59 pm

We’re with APIA and once rematched after 3.5 days. After the au pair announced she didn’t like little kids (my twins were two) and didn’t want my girls touching her, the decision to rematch was unanimous.

So while circumstances may need to be closer to safety issues (I didn’t dare leave the kids alone with her and she did NOT work during transition), rematch can happen in less than two months.

Or, depending on where she’s from, her parents might just get her a plane ticket home and she might just leave. I’ve also heard of that happening.

Now I’ll take my storm cloud away and hope NONE of this happens to the OP, who sounds like a great HM. :)

NewEnglandHF October 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

We are also with APIA and our au pair, who arrived just last Thursday, booked her flight home yesterday due to extreme homesickness.

Hope your situation turns around!

Schnitzelpizza August 29, 2016 at 4:59 am

One of the friends I made at orientation left at the end of her second week with her host family. Homesickness paired with a less than stellar family and she was gone. There is nothing the agency can do to stop an au pair from running off if the au pair or her parents pay for the plane ticket.

TexasHM August 17, 2016 at 10:46 am

Lots of good advice here. I will echo these points – don’t force her to talk about home if it’s upsetting, do ask her to come up with plans to stay busy and combat her homesickness, do get LC involved, do not ease up job.
I’m curious too why she came – I harp on that with mine when they get blue. I also interview for solid goals for that reason. Have a plan B – it’s not you!!

NY host mom August 17, 2016 at 11:18 am

You seem like you are doing all you can. This seems extreme. My current au pair had never left her family or her country and we were really nervous about homesickness, but 2 months in, she seems good. As far as rematching, we had an au pair that left after one week. She claimed it was a family emergency, but she seemed really unhappy and I thought she was not a good match at all for us. So it probably depends on your agency. I would definitely get your LCC involved.

Jennc August 17, 2016 at 11:33 am

I’m just going to go out on a limb and guess that this is probably a younger aupair . I could be wrong ! The fact she called and asked you to come home from work points to an individual who is out of touch with reality , and immature in not understanding your work and ability to provide food and a roof trump her sadness and crying . Personally I would get a little tough with her as nicely as I could . Your children deserve someone who is smiling and happy , she needs to ” get over herself ” and realize this isn’t just about “her” there is a family and small children . I might go as far as speaking with her parents if they understand English . I would tell llc you will deal with it but that if you think rematch may happen and don’t have other childcare they can put her in rematch and change dates so you can find a replacement . The agencies have the capability of keeping her with you until you can get a replacement if needed . If she doesn’t change quickly and I mean “GROWUP” id tell her to hit the road . Personally this behavior is selfish and immature , I understand some homesickness but she hasn’t even given you your kids or the place a chance , homesickness really usually occurs about 3-4 weeks in after the initial excitement wears off . This behavior honestly is unhealthy and not appropriate for someone who chose to be an Aupair . Reminds me of my toddler who gets up set about something and just cycled through hysterics ! Not a grownup .

SA_Au Pair August 17, 2016 at 12:25 pm

I agree, I also got the sense that this is probably a younger au pair (not that older au pairs can’t/don’t experience homesickness); calling the OP to come back home was very telling. I understand that moving to a different place to live with people you’ve never met before can be tough, but we all know what we’re getting ourselves into and we have to rise to the occasion. Letting yourself go like that is not okay especially in front of the children; I’ve had times when I wasn’t feeling that great but had to put my best face forward and deal with whatever I’m dealing with when the children aren’t around. I say have a plan B, it is very unlikely that this will work out in the long run.

TiredAuPair August 18, 2016 at 2:12 pm

SA_Au Pair- I have to agree with you… My tears are more of sadness as I’m leaving them in a month (after 2 years), but I don’t cry in front the kids (It is obviously different when actually saying goodbye). I don’t want them to think of the new AP as invading “our” world. I’m the first AP, so they don’t get why I have to leave. Back to the point… No matter how homesick she is, she also has to control herself, don’t get me wrong. I truly empathize with her situation, but it will affect the kids, they are all so very smart and will pick up on this negative emotions. I’m no psychologist, but I was a nanny for 2 years and AP for 2 years, the kids might even resent themselves as to why “she doesn’t want to play”. Good luck!

Should be working August 17, 2016 at 1:40 pm

All good suggestions for getting the AP engaged in her present life with you.

FYI I think there is a waiting period for applying to REMATCH but not for just abandoning the program. Our AP told us of APs who went home FROM ORIENTATION because they were so homesick there. Maybe the agency won’t pay her flight but obviously they cannot make her stay in your home.

And if she can’t make it two straight days playing with your kids without crying and calling you to come home, I would pull the plug and immediately search for a new AP, tell the agency this isn’t working, get moving on the next candidate. This is not a normal level of homesickness and you are not required to upend your life to try and help her adjust when her homesickness is this extreme. It sounds to me more like depression that got triggered with the big life change. You can do your best for a short time to see if this will turn around, but it’s not your responsibility to make her more mature than she is.

German Au-Pair August 17, 2016 at 6:41 pm

You probably didn’t mean it that way but your last paragraph somehwat sounds like she has a depression triggered by the life change and THEREFORE is immature.
Again, I know that’s probably not what you intended to say at all but since you never know you reads this and with all the discussion about not taking mental heatl seriously and so on, I thought I’d point it out. A depression is not a sign of immaturity.

DCBurbTwinMomma August 17, 2016 at 3:58 pm

You’ve received some great advice here. I only choose au pairs who have lived away from home before and who are mid-20s. I think that is why I’ve not experienced extreme homesickness. Don’t settle, your children pick up on the moods and fragility of the au pair. Have the conversation about expectations, don’t make accommodations and tell the LCC that if she does not improve in weeks (not months) you will pursue rematch. The 2-month rule is flexible as I’ve seen rematches within weeks of arrival with CCAP. Good luck. You seem to have a great approach to this. Sorry the first has been so rocky.

CozyFarmHM August 17, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Thank you all for your reassurances and advice.

The biggest shock to me is that our AP was composed and mature throughout the matching process despite her young age and yet has seemed to fall apart since her arrival in the US. I keep searching my mind and emails for a sign that I missed.

I spoke with our Program Director who suggested that we let all but the basics/ bare minimum slide for a while. I am disinclined to agree with her suggestion. The Program Director said that they would urge her to stay for at least two more weeks, but that if she books a plane ticket home, no one can make her stay.

We had a reset conversation last night. Our AP has agreed to give a real try through Sunday. I do not feel like that is a sufficient period of time for her to acclimate. On the other hand, if she is this homesick and lacking in maturity, I do not want her to stick around any longer. We discussed basic expectations and set a detailed schedule for her to follow with the kids for the next few days. We talked about how we are eager to learn about her and her culture as well and that we would welcome any questions about the kids, house, animals, town, politics, etc. I have lived oversees and we talked, again, about the culture shock of moving to a different culture. At the end of our conversation, she did not have any questions and simply went to bed.

I am hopeful that she will return to the optimistic young woman with initiative that we spoke with this Spring, but this glimpse into her inner workings has me doubting her ability to handle the program or my kids.

Fortysomething HM August 17, 2016 at 6:15 pm

I feel for you OP. This is difficult for you and your kids.

I’m sure you have already done this but I’m just throwing out one other suggestion. Is it possible to frame the narrative to make it more centered on your kids and what they need? And not on her and how she feels? And how she needs to “fake it ” a bit for their sake?

By putting the focus of the conversation on how smaller/younger humans are counting on her (and that she could really do some damage to them in the short term if they think they are making her sad), maybe she can step out of her own sadness long enough to focus on the kids – and perhaps doing that for a number of hours a day, she might eventually feel more at home before she knows it ? Sort of faking it till she makes it, if you will.

I’m in a rush so apologies if this is rambling!

German Au-Pair August 17, 2016 at 6:36 pm

The iea is good but, as German, let me say the the whole concept of “faking it” for the kids took a looong while to fully sink in and I have read many au pairs who had an immedaite negative response towards it. In those cases it was about faking not being tired in the morning,being in a bad mood etc. We feel that a child can and should know that adults, too, have issues and emotions and just like we need to take theirs into account, they should take ours into account to some extent. It also seems fake and superficial and we usually don’t like it (At least that’s the general sentiment I gathered and also used to share). It took a loooong time for me to understand that the whole superficial act of being happy and well tempered actually LEADS to you being happier and better tempered.

So yes, I would tell her to fake it but also make a point of explaining to her that you need her to do that because the kids are too young to understand her sadness has nothing to do with them and you want to protect them from feeling guilty.

Should be working August 18, 2016 at 12:36 pm

I explained while matching with German APs about “faking it”, that for us it is a matter of politeness and cultural appropriateness that they fake cheerfulness even when grumpy in the morning, for instance. I said clearly that honesty is not for us (and many Americans) the highest priority. Faking cheerfulness is for me a priority–I don’t need a grumpy au pair, I have a grumpy teenager already.

IntellectualMom August 27, 2016 at 11:43 pm

I just love this! I wish I’d thought of saying this to two of my German APs who were grumpy in the mornings. Why didn’t I ever think to ask them to just “fake” a better mood?! (But maybe I need to learn to fake having gotten a good nights sleep…)

Aupair Paris August 18, 2016 at 5:37 am

I would say when I was homesick and when I had depression – that wasn’t me. It wasn’t my inner workings. I was and am a bright, optimistic and cheerful person. I just had a few low spots. BUT that’s not important for your purposes. If she can’t come back to herself it doesn’t matter what she’s REALLY like when not living under a cloud.

I really don’t think you should let her off work. I feel like homesickness is irrational in a lot of ways – it’s not usually about missing the family at that moment – it’s about feeling like it will be FOREVER til you see them again. That’s irrational, and while you can validate the feelings – they are real – the anxiety behind them isn’t logical, and I feel like babying someone makes them feel like “oh no! There really is something wrong with me! They wouldn’t be so nice to me if they didn’t know the situation was terrible!”.
Actually, this woman’s feelings are terrible, but her situation isn’t. I hope that if you do manage to get her focused on work, things will get better.

I’m sorry this is happening to you. It sounds like an awful experience.

SA_Au Pair August 18, 2016 at 8:10 am

Sometimes you really can’t predict how someone will react once they’ve left home; and I think some au pairs feel that they’re ready only to realise that this process is nothing like how they’ve imagined. From what I’ve read you seem very considerate and have shown a lot of sensitivity regarding what your au pair is going through – but there’s only so much you can do. It’s up to her to adapt and be the adult that you need looking after your children (not another child you must worry about).

2 kids and a cat August 18, 2016 at 8:46 pm

The agency should not expect you to house, pay, and pay fees for someone who cannot do her job. A reasonable young adult should be able to “buck up” for the duration of a shift.
Our new AP is older, has lived way from home and already been to the States several times — yet has cried everyday for the 10 she’s been here. We’re empathetic within reason, but I have to be able to do my job. I talked to her about strategies to get through the work day.

f_steph August 17, 2016 at 9:40 pm

I hate to say it but I had one like this, she was a complete nightmare! To put it in perspective, I’ve had 8 other au pairs, never had a rematch. I later found out she was in a long term relationship that broke up and that’s when she decided to become an au pair. Between that and coming to our house, she met another guy and started yet another codependent relationship. So she came here, spend 3 hours a day on Skype with her boyfriend crying. I did everything I could to help, it was so bad my children didn’t want to hang out with her. She quit after 6 weeks and paid for her own flight home, best thing to happen to us.
All that to say, there may be some reasons why she’s so homesick that you cannot do anything about.

DMMom August 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm

We have had 6 Au Pairs and one did go home for being homesick after 2 months, but honestly she was no where near the level of homesick that this post is talking about. I would not have time for that.
I say call and emergency meeting with the LCC. Have a plan and communicate it clearly. “We need good, quality childcare, this is not happening currently. You have 10 days to show that you can handle this job or we will be asking you to leave.” Make your intent clear with the LCC before the meeting and make sure to have her present so there is not confusion if you were clear with the Au Pair.
After the meeting write it in an email copying the LCC. After that let it go, don’t remind her, don’t help her. She will either step up or not and she knows what will happen. I would check in with the LCC during this period and let her know if things are looking good or not so she can prepare for what, if anything she will need to do.

GitHM August 19, 2016 at 1:46 pm

I have no advice, but just want to echo how patient you’ve been with her and your plan and actions are so well thought out. Good luck this weekend!

Quirky August 19, 2016 at 3:23 pm

I think there are a lot of great suggestions for helping the AP through this, but the bottom line is that this is your childcare set-up, and if you don’t have reliable childcare so that you can be at work and focus on work without any actual distractions (i.e., calls or texts from your AP asking you to come home) or ongoing mental distractions (i.e., wondering whether it’s going to work out, the uncertainty, etc.) then this set-up is not working for you and you are not getting the childcare you’re paying for.

I’m in the harsher camp of thinking you should set a very short turn-around time with very concrete action steps and stick to that deadline. If your LCC is balking, call the front office. Make it very clear that this is an unacceptable situation and that it’s not fair either to you — or to your kids! — to have an AP in essentially an emotional meltdown mode that renders her functionally useless.

What I would not do is put off the decision because she’s making incremental progress — if she’s less bad, but still unacceptable, don’t drag it out.

I have to say, as someone who went to boarding school in a different country when I was entering 10th grade, and as someone who lived abroad after college in an era before email, texting, Skype, or any methods of instantaneous and free communications, I am not particularly sympathetic to this AP’s debilitating homesickness. Although I can certainly understand homesickness and have gone through my fair share in my lifetime, what I can’t sympathize with is her passivity and flopping around with T. rex arms refusing to engage in even the most minimal activities like choosing her own lunch at the grocery store. I wouldn’t tolerate that drama of helplessness and attention-seeking behavior in my 8 year old, let alone my AP. Some homesickness may be normal, but refusing to try to engage in even the most minimal of distracting activities and self-help demonstrates a level of passivity and immaturity that I don’t think I’d be able to tolerate, period. It doesn’t bode well for her ability to cope with new situations that may arise in the course of her AP year.

SA_Au Pair August 19, 2016 at 4:18 pm

I agree. I went to boarding school when I was 13 years old (for 5 years) and attended a university 18 hours away from home. Although I think that being homesick is a completely normal reaction; it’s a problem when you’re not fulfilling your responsibilities. There’s only so much you can do for someone – and unfortunately it seems like this au pair wasn’t quite as ready for this as she probably thought she. The OP has shown a lot of patience and kindness, but at the end of the day the au pair is there to make your life a little bit easier -and if she’s only adding onto the list of things you have to worry about then it might be time to cut your losses.

momo4 August 19, 2016 at 5:19 pm

I completely agree with Quirky.

I also want to echo the other posters: this is NOT a normal level of homesickness, it is very extreme. I’ve had 10 APs and never dealt with anything even remotely like this. OP is being very understanding and really going above and beyond for this girl. But really, you need someone who can step up and do the job they came to do. You don’t have time for an extra miserable child. Personally, although I would be kind, I’d privately completely flip out if my AP asked me to come home from work just because she was homesick. Why the heck do you have an AP if not so you can work without constantly worrying about your children?

I was a foreign exchange student when I was 13 (yes, 13) and managed to get my school work done despite homesickness. But everyone is different. Maybe this girl just doesn’t have what it takes. If so, send her home and find someone who is actually happy to be an AP. There are a lot of great candidates just waiting for the opportunity.

Mimi August 19, 2016 at 9:55 pm

I think the OP is taking a good approach to dealing with this situation. This is a difficult situation to be in whether you’re a seasoned HM or a newbie and a timely topic for those of us who work with the college crowd who are getting ready to pack themselves off to school.

Last week, I attended a work-related presentation about homesickness in this age group and how to recognize the symptoms and help students adjust. It was very interesting to hear about the studies being done about it and to learn that it’s widely considered to be a form of an adjustment disorder with mental health implications. (It sounds obvious now as I type that, but it seemed pretty eye opening at the time especially if you’ve never experienced it or only seen a mild case of homesick moodiness.)

The most important point raised was that although most students will experience some form of homesickness, it’s important to be aware that homesickness can develop into something more extreme like severe anxiety and depression disorders. Some of the coping strategies they talked to us about were to encourage students experiencing homesickness to stay actively engaged (find specific things to intentionally experience), establish a personal routine, limit social media and Skype interactions (they feed into anxiety), and actively work on positive thinking. This last one was a big one for me. They suggested using a journal to record thoughts/experiences but only in a positive way (glass half full ways) and to make a highly visible list of goals or what it was that made you leave home and/or the things that you are looking at getting out of the experience.

Realistically, an AP can’t instantly mind-over-matter themselves into instantly adjusting better to this kind of a transition and although I think it would be a shame if this AP did go home, sometimes that needs to happen. Stick with a plan that helps her adjust as well as she can in a specific time frame without compromising yourself into resentment or beyond what you can easily do and have a plan of action for what happens if at the end of that time neither party is satisfied with the situation.

Good luck, CozyFarmHM and let us know how this works out.

Aupair Paris August 20, 2016 at 3:41 am

This is fascinating. During my postgrad I used to mentor first year students who were experiencing this kind of severe homesickness (along with other issues) and no one ever told us this about it being an adjustment disorder. Although I suppose the non-judgemental ethos of the training meant that we treated it that way anyway. I’d love to hear more about this.

CozyFarmHM August 22, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Quick Update: The day after our reset conversation went great, and then she spiraled even further down. The extreme homesickness and withdrawal continued to progress throughout the week. I do not think she has set foot outside of the house since Thursday. When I checked on her prior to leaving for work on Friday, she was teary-eyed with the kids and told me that she was still so sad. Yesterday, the decision was made that she should return home. I truly think this is the right move for her and for us, and I am concerned about her well-being at this point.

So rocky introduction to the au pair program, but we are trying to be positive! Tomorrow we begin our quest to find a rematch/transition au pair!

Should be working August 22, 2016 at 5:07 pm

You will feel better when she is gone. Now comes the work: interviewing rematch APs. Lots on this website about how to do this. Try to avoid “contrast bias” or whatever it is called–when you over-worry about avoiding the characteristic that posed a problem with the previous AP. Don’t get pressured to grab whoever comes along, there are tons of APs in transition and some of them are gems, a lot are not.

If at all possible, talk to the previous HPs. CCAP will give you their contact info, for other agencies maybe ask the AP. But make your own judgments about what the HPs say, because there are people out there who care about things that won’t matter to you and vice versa. If the LCC knows the AP a bit then be sure to also ask the LCC, and also ask the LCC about the HF. Maybe they have had many APs leave, indicating that they are difficult to deal with.

But look around here, there are LOTS of commenters who have been through this. Keep us posted!

cv harquail August 22, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Maybe it will help a little to remember that this *is* extreme, and it’s REALLY NOT THE FAULT OF YOU OR YOUR FAMILY.

As so many of the commenters noted, you’ve done a wonderful, caring job with this Au Pair, which shows that you are ready to be great Host Parents. Your rematch/transition/new au pair will be better.

NoVA Twin Mom August 23, 2016 at 7:46 am

Did you say which agency you’re with? I might have missed it. Just curious so we can advise about looking at rematches.

Having sent two au pairs to rematch, I’ll offer the following additional advice, echoing others:

CALL the old HOST FAMILY. Our au pair that we had safety concerns about (but no “incident” to cite in the rematch paperwork – she just stated emphatically that she didn’t like little kids and our twins were two, but it was really the tone of voice that concerned me) was allowed to rematch. I told our (substitute) LCC that IF she were allowed to rematch, it should be only to a family that had kids old enough to report what happened during the day. This somehow morphed into a statement that she should go to a family with older kids. The new host family had two teenage boys (13 and 15 maybe?), she was 19 (was no one else thinking this would be a bad idea???). The new host mom never called me, probably told by the company that I would give a bad reference in any case (well, yes.)

What I would have told any family that contacted me was that she probably would have made a great exchange student, but not an au pair. I was concerned that the “sadness” and panic at the thought of caring for kids would continue, no matter the age group – my recommendation that the kids she care for be able to talk was to make sure they could report any strange occurrences during the day to their parents, NOT to make sure they were just older than my kids.

So – get the whole story, ideally from the host parents but from the rematching au pair’s LCC if nothing else is available. And “read between the lines” of any recommendation you see. Be aware that at least at APIA the company takes the only nice thing you say about an outgoing rematch au pair and turn it into the host family statement.

Also, if nothing else, find out if the au pair is providing care during their two week transition. If they are still watching the kids, *chances are* the rematch isn’t due to safety issues. If the au pair isn’t taking care of the kids – even (maybe especially) if they’re still in the family’s home (strange things happen), something went very wrong. Substitute care is hard to find (as you know) so the “easiest” way to transition, barring safety concerns, is to use the au pair you have as long as you can. If the family went to the trouble of finding alternate care, they are very concerned about the care the au pair was providing.

CozyFarmHM August 24, 2016 at 9:26 am

Well, she has left the country. We are with CCAP. When I search, the pool of rematch candidates seems so small (maybe 4?). I feel the need to jump on anyone who is available because they seem to come and go so quickly. I’m sitting at work and constantly hitting refresh on the “Find an Au Pair” page. This is not the way that I saw the end of this month going…

2 kids and a cat August 24, 2016 at 9:32 am

Your “matching specialist” should be able to help with profiles that might not be up on line. Also ask him/her to look through the non IQ people who may qualify but aren’t designated (or vice-versa). You pay $$$ in agency fees to have these people find you profiles. Good luck!

HMof2 August 24, 2016 at 10:13 am

In my experience working with “matching specialists”, they rarely come through finding AP profiles that work for us. During rematch, I am checking several times an hour and I may hear from the specialist maybe every other day if I am lucky. I know I pay for this service but sadly, I cannot depend on them. I was able to use the specialist in the situation where an AP is held and I am interested. The specialist can coordinate with the AP’s matching specialist to have the AP put in my account as soon as the AP is released by the current family.

GitHM August 26, 2016 at 11:44 am

I agree with HMof2 that the “matching specialists” aren’t that great at finding profiles that match our family. They are helpful for extending the official interview period and maybe giving more information about the profile than what I have available. I have a 1, 3, and 5 year old and a suggested au pair was one that prefers working with older kids. We never found a good rematch au pair and went out of country so had to bring the gap for about two months.

During rematch I am also continuously hitting refresh and when a new rematch au pair comes up, I quickly scan her profile and select her for an interview. That gives me access to her contact information where I reach out for an interview and also let her know I am going to release her profile. She can interview with more families and I can search for more rematch au pairs. People at work probably wonder why I have a website up of young women’s pictures all day long – which is also my husbands excuse for not being able to help find an au pair.

Good luck with your search, CozyFarmHM!

HMof2 August 24, 2016 at 10:00 am

Hang in there, CozyFarmHM. I felt the same way when I had my first rematch. Our AP1 never made it to our home and we were thrown into rematch without ever having an AP yet. CCAP wanted to send AP1 back to her home country directly from the training school and AP1 went AWOL. It was a nightmare that I did not expect 2 months into my maternity leave (I was planning on my 3rd month of leave with AP1 in the home to get her settled before going to work and all the planning went out the window.) I also felt like needing to “settle” on any AP. Since I had newborns, I only had access to the IQ pool and there were days when the search came up with 0 or the same APs I already eliminated from consideration. I also refreshed the screen several times an hour and became obsessed with it, feeling like I needed to pounce on the next AP that appears in the pool.

This was back a few years ago when the CCAP transition reports were offline and you cannot hold any AP in rematch by yourself. I had to email or call my Program Director to hold someone and by the time they got around to me, the AP was already held by another family. The feeling that I saw an AP and could not of my own power reach out to the AP caused me endless stress and frustration. I am so happy that we can now get access to transition reports and hold our own APs for interviews.

Not that my experience make your situation any better but I wanted to share that CCAP has improved the process by giving the HF more control over the process. I had to constantly tell myself not to “settle” for the first AP who says yes but really need to carefully screen.

I hold AP for interview and release them before matching once I made contact and continue to interview with the AP who has interest in us. This allows me to hold new AP as they appear in the system in order to make contact and not be stuck with having 3 held and no ability to reach out to any more APs. There has been debate on here about whether this tactic is fair to all families. When it comes to rematch and the limited IQ pool I had to work with, I find this necessary – I just want to contact the AP to ask if they are at the very least interested in us so I can eliminate them and move on.

Rematching in-country AP is fast pace and stressful but we got through it and so will you. Just don’t “settle”. Have a plan B for childcare to bridge the gap. In our 2nd rematch (safety issue that CCAP required the AP to be sent home – not eligible for rematch), we had to fly in a relative who took vacation time to come and help us. Your family deserves to find an AP who can fit into your family well and give you the level of childcare that you are looking for and make your life easier, not harder.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 24, 2016 at 2:33 pm

Totally agree that rematch is fast-paced and stressful, but it can work to your advantage. I personally found my CCAP matching coordinator to be extremely helpful, but I was aggressively searching as well. One trick I learned was to sign out of the website completely, and view the limited info profiles available to the public. Pretty much everyone is listed there, so if I saw someone that seemed interesting, I asked my coordinator to monitor for and hold her/him when they became available. Once I had access to their profiles, I contacted them right away, and favorited them before releasing them, to free up profile space for me and for them, but still have a way to read their info at a more leisurely pace. My LCC was also really helpful. She was in communication with me and the coordinator, as well as with LCCS around the country.

Finally, I will say, talk to the au pair, the HF and the LCC. Based on my experience, I would say you really need all 3 to have a true picture of whether the au pair would match well with your home. Ask detailed questions, and ask each one about things the others raised. You will find that there really are 3 sides to every story, and you’ll find a way to navigate through and find the au pair that’s right for your family. In the end, in spite of the tremendous stress of the fast-paced process, you’ll be grateful for the treasure trove of info available to you in the rematch process. My current au pair came from rematch, and I’m a little terrified to think into the future about the black hole of the OOC matching process!

Good luck!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 29, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Remind the agency that they work for you. You are paying them. Explain your needs, and ask them to redouble their efforts to help you make a successful match. I recommend looking at out-of-country matches, too. Europeans might be able to arrive as early as 6 weeks. I’m sorry your AP tanked on you. I’ve been a HM for nearly 15 1/2 years and am currently hosting my 12th AP (with one rematch after 8 weeks). It can be done!

SeattleHostMom August 22, 2016 at 4:02 pm

I have a similar situation with my German au pair. She has been with us for over a week and cries at the drop of a hat. We took her to Mount Rainier, fed her a number of great lunches out, showed her the city. I am at my wit’s end as I thought we were getting a mature independent person, not a teenager who needs parenting.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 24, 2016 at 2:39 pm

Seattle HM, this sounds awful! Has she offered any explanation for what’s going on? Is she able to get through the workday? How are your kids handling it? Keep us posted, and good luck!

Jennc August 23, 2016 at 11:56 am

Sorry to hear but glad she is going wishing a much moré mature Aupair! We Have he pretty good success with our rematch Aupair .

Quirky August 24, 2016 at 12:02 pm

OP, I’m glad your homesick AP has gone home, and I’m sorry that you’re in rematch crisis mode, but I hope it will all work out for the best longer-term.

I echo the advice not to settle for the first AP who comes along, and to demand that the front office move heaven and earth to find you a good rematch candidate. I wanted to add two additional suggestions:

1) Enlist your LCC and demand that she network with other LCCs to find out about good rematch and extension candidates before they necessarily hit the system.

2) Consider getting an out-of-country candidate and lining up temporary childcare in the interim. I would think you have the right to demand an out-of-country candidate if there isn’t a fantastic rematch or extension candidate available. You should not have to settle. It may take a bit longer than getting someone who’s available to start immediately, but if you start an intensive search (again without settling) you could probably have a great AP in 6 weeks or less.

Our first AP called rematch on us right before her year was up (and we had been planning to extend with her, so we hadn’t been searching for OOC candidates) and we got our best AP yet in about six weeks. It was a hell of a scramble, no doubt, not to mention not cheap for a temporary nanny, but it was well worth it both to be rid of our first AP and to have an amazing year with our next AP.

Hang in there!

Exaupair August 24, 2016 at 12:21 pm

OP, you sound lovely, and its clear that you did everything you could to help her settle in. At the end of the day though, au pairs are (usually) young people, and its hard for such a young person to know in advance how they are going to react when they are so far from home and family.
My only note of caution would be that I don’t think any host parent should try to stop an aupair from contacting their parents or from going home when they want to – even if we know as adults that constant skyping isn’t the right thing to solve homesickness, I don’t think anyone has a right to stop someone from contacting their parents (outside of duty hours of course).

SA_Au Pair August 24, 2016 at 1:36 pm

@CozyFarmHM, so sorry to hear about your au pair leaving; I’m sure that your next match will be just what you’ve been looking for – don’t be discouraged. You seem like a very kind and considerate HM and a lot of au pairs would be happy to join your happy. If you were looking at out of country au pairs and we somehow stumbled on each other’s profiles it would have been a dream to get to know more about your family. Wishing you all the best with your search.

oranje_mama August 24, 2016 at 4:43 pm

OP, yours is the most extreme homesickness case I’ve heard of . . . although I have known a few others (including another girl who returned home after 1 week).

We’re on our 5th AP, and the first was the most homesick. The key with her was that her mom told her to buck up (and then secretly contacted me to ask how she was doing). Too much Skype/Facetime does these girls in, especially if their parents are too sympathetic/telling them they can come home.

Our LCC recommended an “interruption” in home wifi for a few days to force the AP off of Skype/Facetime. It didn’t come to that with our homesick AP but I was prepared to do that. If she’s off Skype and out and about doing things, I think the vast majority are able to overcome the homesickness.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 29, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Almost every AP I have hosted has either lost weight, cried, or been extremely negative about everything in the US. All are symptoms of homesickness. Day One in your home is the second hardest day of their lives – as I tell all of my incoming APs. They’ve just left a boring orientation program full of other young women (in my agency, anyway) their age, and arrived to spend their first night in America alone with a strange family. There is nothing “easy” about it. I tell them that when they successfully complete their year, the hardest day of their lives will be saying goodbye at the airport – because in my experience, the tears are double. It will be the first time in their lives that most will be saying “goodbye” for real, and not “see you later.”

Expect homesickness, but don’t cave to it. By this I mean, expect your AP to do the work for which you matched with her. Remind her that while she was a child in her parent’s house a week ago, that she’s an adult in yours. You don’t have to be cruel in this, but reiterate that she has the freedom of an adult in your house, but also the responsibility. I recall how, as a first-time HM, I eased my AP into her schedule – mostly because I wasn’t ready to relinquish childcare myself. That changed by the time I matched with AP #2 – I didn’t have the luxury of 3 weeks off. For SAHM, my advice would be the same – allow your AP to “swim” – walk away and let her take over the childcare – don’t hover.

While clearly in this case, the young woman was not prepared to be an adult in a country far away from home, I would say that some homesickness is not only expected – it’s normal. APs are exposed to American culture through television, movies, and books and they think it’s exciting and they “know” it. They don’t. Your role as HP is to help them navigate their lives as successful employees AND as members of your family who build lives for themselves in their temporarily adopted country.

Frankfurt AP Boy August 30, 2016 at 3:26 am

I never particularly found the first day so challenging.. It is only after a few weeks that I start to feel any homesickness but even then it doesnt come close to the ‘worse day of my life’. Perhaps the trick is to screen for au pairs with a bit of life experience.

CozyFarmHM August 31, 2016 at 10:45 am

We have a rematch!! After spending the last week calling/emailing/Skyping LCCs, host families and au pairs, we have an au pair coming at the end of the week (or maybe Saturday) who seems wonderful and excited to join out family! We are now trying to recalibrate, shake off the bad feelings left by AP1’s departure and prepare for our new AP. Wish us luck!!

Seattle host mom September 14, 2016 at 9:48 am

How is it going? Please give us an update. I am considering a rematch as well.

CozyFarmHM September 14, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Our rematch AP is fantastic thus far!! She actually plays with the kids, does not watch the clock and is a great driver. My youngest (in preschool 3 mornings per week) absolutely adores her. My oldest barely acknowledged my presence when I got home last night because he was in the middle of explaining something to our AP. Most of all, she is excited to be here and wants to be doing this. She is exploring our area, and seems genuinely happy. After our prior AP (not even sure if we should call her that), our rematch felt like a breath of fresh air. How is your homesick AP Seattle host mom?

SeattleHostMom September 14, 2016 at 1:59 pm

She is less homesick, it appears, but she is still very standoffish. I find it difficult to give her any feedback or directions, because she literally pouts as I am saying it to her. She is the youngest in her family and I get a sense that this is a rude awakening to life outside her loving family home. There was a red flag when she complained of fleas at the Cultural Care training facility. CCAP sent out an exterminator who found nothing. Our AP acknowledged that she probably just had mosquito bites.

She seems to have a sense of entitlement and a bit of a princess complex. I am still waiting for a glimpse of a person we interviewed throughout the year…

HRHM September 15, 2016 at 9:18 am

Acck. Sorry this is happening to you! Just don’t tolerate it too long – frog in the boiling pot and all. :)

cv harquail August 31, 2016 at 12:01 pm

YAYAYAY! Your family deserves a great au pairing experience– let’s hope that all your work gets paid back in a great year!

SeattleHostMom September 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm

HRHM, I haven’t heard that expression too often but it definitely paints a picture. I had a heart-to-heart with the program director and my LCC (who is very much in denial and is new so she wants to will things to be just fine so she doesn’t have to deal with it). There was a safety issue that popped up on Tuesday, but we are not pressing because the au pair did seem receptive to feedback this time and acknowledged our concerns. This has been a trying endeavor so far and I do question my choice.

Now, I have to see how it goes.

DutchAP January 18, 2017 at 6:58 pm

I’ve experienced severe culture shock and homesickness myself. It is very common among au pairs. I’ve hosted au pair meetings in Sydney and you might be surprises by how many au pairs go through this. For me personally it was such a big shock that I was completely out of it, felt like I had a week long hangover. I’ve written about it on my blog. I hope it’s ok to share a link here. It might help other au pairs.

NZ HM January 18, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Thanks for sharing!! I will definitely send this to future aupairs. We do talk about homesickness and culture shock before they come out but none seem to really believe what we tell them. they usually go: whatever, I never get homesick… it’s probably age more than anything, so having a peer tell them about their experience can really be a big help in making them understand that it is normal and can be serious and – as you said – to be prepared!

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