AuPairMom is a place where we host parents (and au pairs) can talk about issues that only other host parents and au pairs can understand. Often, these issues are tough ones that touch upon cultural differences, style differences, political differences, and deep personal preferences. Every now and then, we get a topic that we want to pretend doesn’t exist, because the most honest answers can be embarrassing. We want to be honest in our conversation, and we don’t want to be flamed by other readers. So, we start conversations like this one by agreeing up front to avoid passing judgment.
Here is a touchy issue: How an au pair’s weight influences whether or not you’d want to match with her or him.
A host mom writes in wanting to hear other Host Parents’ opinions on matching with obese Au Pairs. If some of us are honest with ourselves, we might find that we have opinions about this topic that will offend others. Please let’s create a safe space to tell the truth, and to listen to each others’ truth, without passing judgment on what others say.
In end, each of us has to match with an au pair we can feel comfortable with, and who can feel comfortable with us. Sometimes, this means choosing to fit your preferences and prejudices. If you don’t want an au pair from a different religious background, or a particular language group, or who is sexually active (or not), or is a vegan or Kosher — it’s your house and your family.
The point is– it’s best to know and understand what we want and what we don’t want, so that we give our au pairs a fighting chance to fit in, create strong relationships, and have a good year.
With these thoughts in mind, here’s the question:
How do you feel about matching with an au pair who is obese?
From a Host Mom: I am currently looking for a replacement AP. This time of year, the pool is very thin (fodder for another post perhaps? How your date of matching affects your choices.) I have actually registered with 3 different agencies in order to improve the chances of finding someone suitable. Right now, no one is looking fantastic, but at least on paper, some are passable. However, in many cases, the candidates who are otherwise suitable (swimmers, good drivers, decent language grasp) are very overweight to morbidly obese.
I am really reluctant to match with a candidate who is not a normal, healthy weight for several reasons:
1) I fear that she may not have the energy, athleticism, interest or ability to do all the crazy physical things that are involved with entertaining 2 active little girls outdoors every day.
2) I fear that she will not be able/interested to model appropriate eating behaviors (moderation, healthy food choices) that are so important with small kids.
3) I fear that she will be self-conscious about her body and this will lead to her being reluctant to get into a swim suit daily during the summer. One girl who did have a swimming picture was wearing Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt (not allowed at our rec center or the Y)
4) I fear that it may impact her ability to build a social circle. All the APs from my cluster are currently normal weights. They tend to go out together and get dressed to the 9s (think short skirts, tank tops and high heels). I worry that an AP who doesn’t/can’t fit into that aesthetic is going to be left behind a lot.
5) I worry that her weight issues, potential body loathing, weird dieting habits (if present) will be bad for my kids in general. I grew up with a mom who yo-yo’d for years and it definitely gave me body image issues. I have worked VERY hard to learn to eat right and keep a normal weight. And so with my children, I’ve been very careful about not exposing them to the same behaviors (constant dieting, derogatory comments about my body,etc) that gave me a complex. I don’t want someone else doing it.
Finally, I make my living trying to help chronically obese people achieve a normal weight. I don’t want to spend all day doing this and then come home and do it again. I know that this can be a lifelong struggle for some and coming to America is unlikely to make it better for these girls (how many times have you seen APs easily pop on 15-20 lbs?). I realize that I may miss some otherwise good Au Pairs; I just don’t think I can overcome this “prejudice”.
I’d love to hear from HMs who’ve had experience either way and from HMs who do or don’t use this as a screening criteria.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Be gentle. Off we go….