Candid, awkward issue: Choosing Au Pairs who are obese

by cv harquail on January 26, 2011

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.Purrette hamsterandhippo.jpg

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….


DarthaStewart January 26, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I’ll jump in. First of all- I’ll preface it from my perspective- I am obese myself. I’m not great with it, but I never let my weight get in my way.

1. I’ve got 4 kids, a full time job, 2 girl scout troops, an I exercise faithfully several times a week. IN fact I’m scheduled to run a 5K in August. — You have to look a the individual. Maybe look harder than you might otherwise, but I do get into a bathing suit and head to the pool with my kids. This has only been an issue with 1 of our au-pairs.

2. I’ve seen some of the worse diet patterns out of the thinnest au-pairs and some of the best from the au-pairs who were heavy. I’ve had discussions with my current au-pair to encourage her to eat more than 1 meal per day, even though she’s trying to lose weight- trying to help do it sensibly- i.e. all the fruit, veggies, and such that she can handle, with small portions of lean meats, and whole grains. So, size doesn’t seem to matter there- sorry.

3. I’d ask them point blank if they are okay getting into a swimsuit to go to the pool. Not by the pool, not in shorts. In a swimsuit, in the pool. If she even hesitates, then pass to the next candidate.

4. Honestly, if she grooms herself nicely, and stays neat, clean, well made up, etc, do you think it will really affect her ability to go out and do stuff with other au-pairs? I doubt it. Never been a problem for me.

5. I hate to break it to you, but even very thin people can have a lot of these issues. Why don’t you ask her lots of questions about who she is, where she is going in life, and what she’d like to do? I have known some amazing women who were coincidentally obese, but they ran circles around me, and I run circles around most people.

Finally, look at yourself. Decide if your own prejudices will get in the way – or not- I’m guessing from your email that you are scared, and worried about the way you perceive people. How about if you give one or two of your top favorites the benefit of a full interview and see if you get the “warm fuzzies”? Do you feel that she is the right match for you? If not, keep on looking.

BostonMom January 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I would not match with an obese AP, for many of the reasons brought up in the original post… I want my daughters surrounded by women who are comfortable with their bodies, make healthy choices, and have lots of energy. Our previous AP was the other extreme – thin, and only ate one meal per day, and drank coffee constantly. My girls were too young then to notice, but I would not want them thinking that was a healthy lifestyle!
My opinion… keep looking!

Southern Host Mom January 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I would not dare generalize about Au Pairs or folks of above-average weight. Once upon a time we were very opened-minded about this issue. We had an Au Pair who was described by her interviewer as “overweight” (this issue was not mentioned anywhere else in her application), and we only saw face shots of her before her arrival.

Unfortunately, the year was disasterous. In retrospect, I think her plan was to come to the U.S. to lose a significant amount of weight and surprise her friends and family back home. I would characterize her weight as a reflection of poor decision-making skills and her inability to prepare healthy meals for herself. Other indicators of her poor decision-making skills were the frequent overdraft notices that arrived in the mail from the bank, her incessant use of MySpace to meet men (it was a few years back), and her inability/unwillingness to tell the whole truth about many issues that arose. About half-way through the year, she had a car accident (her fault) that sent two people to the emergency room.

While she seemed to have a very positive self-image (e.g., going to the pool in a swimsuit was never a problem, she never mentioned “dieting”, and did not discuss her weight even when I tried to gently broach the subject), this Au Pair was uncomfortable eating with our family. I once discovered food stashed under her bed (no, I was not snooping; we had an issue that required us to go into her room with her knowledge). It didn’t seem right to make an issue of it because she needed to eat something, and she was not eating with us.

As a result of this experience, we would not again choose a signifcantly overweight Au Pair for our family.

Hula Gal January 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

We decided to match with an obese au pair and every concern you mentioned in your post absolutely was an issue with our au pair. She was very self-conscious, a poor eater (hot dogs and hamburgers were routine meals for her), had very low energy, was very lethargic, was not very outgoing and had a limited social circle. She lasted three months with us. We rematched for reasons not related to the issues I mentioned above but my husband and I did find those issues to be an annoyance. But she lacked childcare skills which is obviously the most important issue. If she was excellent with our daughter and had an engaging personality everything else would have been tolerable.

Attybernie January 26, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Wow, Hula, I could have written that post. I am a first time HM and I chose an AP who I knew was obese but on paper had all of the childcare experience that I was looking for. However, she lacks LIFE experience and maturity (which, in my opinion is a direct result of her obesity – that, or it is the proverbial chicken and egg which came first scenario). I thought we could make it work, but I should have known when she arrived to care for my 4 kids all under age 6 and told me that she’d never owned a pair of sneakers, boots or any other type of “sporty” footwear, that it wasn’t going to work. I was right – after “chasing” the kids through the house in a game of tag one night for ten minutes total, she was laid up for two days with a pulled muscle. I then started to wonder whether she’d be able to spring into action if my two year old darts into the street etc. In any event, we are currently in rematch. She is a sweet girl and I feel terrible having to rematch, but in the end, I have to think of my children. She does not exert any physical energy whatsoever. She spends her weekends literally laying around the house. I’ve tried to cut her a break, since it has been a snowy winter and we’ve all beed holed up inside, but the bottom line is that I’ve worked hard to instill healthy habits in kids and I don’t want to confuse them by virtue of her inactivity and food choices. I don’t like to generalize and this is my first go round with an AP, but I think I’ll be reluctant in the future to consider another obese au pair unless she can prove that she is confident and assure of herself both physically and emotionally.

Hula Gal January 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I should add, in support of Dartha’s comments above, that she had a friend (my au pair, see my above comment) who was an au pair in our cluster, whom we liked very well. This girl was very obese but lovely, took care of her physical appearance, had an engaging personality and most importantly, was excellent with childcare for her family. So if the candidate has great qualifications you should interview her and get an impression of her personality and self-care.

Mom23 January 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm

We once had an au pair show up who was quite a bit heavier than her photo. At first I didn’t think it would matter. The au pair thought of herself as “active” but she had such a bad image of herself that she would not get in the pool with the kids (she had told us she loved to swim), she drove the kids 6 blocks to school (I believe that the kids should walk because morning exercise has been shown to help kids concentrate better in school), but it was too hot or they were running late. Food choices were also an issue. I don’t mind an ice cream or slurpee once or twice a week, but not every day (but if she was getting them for herself, how could she not get them for the kids?). Finally, she also made some bad personal choices that I believe were related to a poor self image.

I don’t think that obesity would necessarily equal a bad au pair, but it would definitely signal a need to ask more probing questions and set expectations about the amount of walking, exercise and food choices that you want your children to have.

I also agree with Dartha Stewart. I have seen some horrible eating patterns with some of our skinnier au pairs.

AmandaAP January 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Reading all these topics and comments for a while in this website, makes me think that you guys want someone perfect to take care pof your kids. it seems to me you want someone that is everything your deepest wishes hope for and if this person dont fit a bit or dont agree with you it’s not the right au pair. And now Au Pairs can’t even be fat. REALLY? REALLY?

I am very sorru to say this but, if you are looking for someone who doesnt want to drive, who can;t make any single mistake, who cant marry, who can’t be honest, who cant lie and now someone who have to be thin and healthy and into sports you are all going to end up like one of the host mom here who was sooo maaaad because the au pair left and never said the reason why. Come on women, I think you are a little bit passing the limits here.

If you have someone who love your children, who take care of them well, who follow the rules of your house and your demands about the childcare, why, why this person has also to be skinny?
By the way, most of americans are fat and not au pairs.

I think the host mom here already made her mind up. She wont hire someone who is fat which for me has no excuse and IT IS prejudice. This sounds beyond absurd to me.

Eurogirl January 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm

It’s not about how you look, like no one is saying “I don’t want an overweight au pair because I think overweight people are ugly”, they are asking about this because to look after children, particularly small, active children you need to be fit, and more often than not, severely overweight or obese people are unfit.

Some times as an ex-au pair, I think the complaints posted on this website are ridiculous, unsympathetic or too demanding as well…but asking that the person who takes care of your kids be capable of running after them, playing physical games/sports with them and if necessary lifting them up/carrying them is actually one of the most reasonable demands.

Hula Gal January 26, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I realize this is a sensitive topic and the truth will be hurtful to some au pairs. But it is important to read carefully and separate emotion from what we are saying – it is not about vanity or wanting a trophy au pair. It is about wanting an au pair that is fit and healthy – NOT skinny, beautiful, an olympic athlete etc. We are not expecting perfection just good childcare and a member of the household who is pleasant to have in our home for a year (or two). If she is obese but is great at childcare and is has a pleasant personality than there is no problem.

Eurogirl January 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm

In all three of my au pair experiences, I was asked about my weight and height during the interview process. Being very short and slim this never bothered me, but several bigger au pair friends told me that when asked that question they moved on to interview with another family, as they thought someone who asked this was weeding out overweight girls on purpose. Maybe you should ask about this at interview. Give the girls a chance to think about it- if they are uncomfortable sharing that information, it’s a red flag about potential body issues. If they happily share their weight, then you could go on to ask about how active they are – since, like other posters have pointed out, some people just naturally carry more weight than others and can be extremely fit despite being technically “overweight”.

I’ve also found that running about after two/three small children and making a greater than normal effort to eat healthily to be a good example has dropped a couple of kilos for me each time – and when I lived with the vegetarian family, following their diet brought me down to mildly underweight and severely aneamic! The other au pairs I knew mostly found they had lost weight being an au pair too (although many of them were American girls moving to Europe, which is perhaps a different case than what most of the other posts here are about)…

Taking a Computer Lunch January 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I am obese myself. That being said, I get in the pool with The Camel once a week for an adapted aquatics class, play softball, walk 1 1/2 miles a day, and coach my son’s baseball team. I am not inactive. I do eat too much. DH is also obese and rarely exercises.

This year we matched with an AP who was considerably heavier than the photos she provided of herself. While some of our APs have been slightly overweight, this particular AP is as heavy as I. Yes it has an impact. But is she a bad AP? Absolutely not! She is a great person. As an AP, she does what is asked of her, which includes getting into the pool with The Camel when it’s hot, and taking The Camel for a stroll around the neighborhood when it’s not (unless it’s way too cold or snowy). Yes, she is less physically active with our typical child than our previous APs (but that cycle had already been set in stage with the last AP who was passive in engaging him), but does play Wii games with him. I would never describe her as a lazy person. She has a small group of close friends. They invite her out, she invites them out. She has not been left out of the group because she has a good personality.

Yes, my son sees that she eats less than healthy things but he knows they’re not his. Once she fed him a lunch that made me blanch, but I let pass as a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for him. (He also got a football-sized chocolate egg from a slender AP when he was 2 — and told me “I’m not eating anything nutritious today,” so obese people don’t have a lock on unhealthy habits.) My son is an adventurous and healthy eater who enjoys a wide variety of veggies. He is physically active. I’d say, in the long run, his parents are going to have a bigger impact on the choices he makes than any one AP.

However, if having an obese AP is going to make you miserable, don’t interview one. For my money, anyone who answers “yes” to the question “Are you willing to pick up and carry a child that weighs 25 kg?” deserves a second look.

BLJ Host Mom January 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm

In the car, our AP often has to get crunched in between two carseats to go on outings with our family. Now she doesn’t have to do that to WORK, but to be part of our family, that’s where there is room for 6 of us to ride in the car. My mom is obese, when she comes to visit, she takes a separate car if we all go, and when my mother in law visits, she rides squished with us. There IS room for a non skinny person, but it’s tight. Too tight for say, a two hour drive to the beach or the mountain, and certainly too tight for a longer driving vacation.

Here are types of comments I give potential matches, regardless of size about our family, I think that they know themselves well enough to know if they fit with us. I also speak in length about this stuff when interviewing, because I think getting someone like minded in as many areas as possible makes for the best match…

We are a healthful family, we love to do activities outside and are very active, we would love an AP who prefers the same. You will need to bring a swimming suit you feel comfortable swimming at the pool or playing outside in the sprinkler (ha, I know that’s another popular post entirely!), as this is something that you will do every single day in the summer. We have two young girls, and you will be a role model to them in so many ways so we have several things we prefer to do and talk with them about, that includes things like, no talking about body issues, and preferably not spending hours in front of the mirror (in front of them) each day. We teach inside beauty, humor, and intelligence are most important, but of course we also have fun painting toenails or playing dress up. Occasionally we eat junk food in our house, but USUALLY we do not. That means when we grocery shop, we will not be buying it for you to eat, and we won’t want you to eat it while working or in front of the kids. Again, we aren’t crazy about this, but we make healthy stuff the rule and fun treats just that, a treat. Family exercise is important to us, and even if you never have in the past, it is important that you take walks, play sports, and do active things every day with the kids. It rains a lot here and you will go outside each day with them for at least a few minutes.

Things we don’t say in our family, “Fat, ugly, hate, stupid, diet, Oh my God”. We talk about being healthy and STRONG.

When I am skyping with my potential AuPair, I look them in the eye and say, “I want you to know that you will be a role model for my young girls. All of us have issues with ourselves, but my girls don’t yet, and I want to teach them that they are wonderful just as they are. You will be helping me teach them that, but in front of them, you must treat yourself like that too, even if you don’t always feel that way.”

Our AuPairs have been average sized, one a little bigger than the other. One eating much more than the other. When they have friends over for movie night they buy Doritos and chocolate pudding and diet coke, but never at work. Because I set the expectation from the beginning.

So with all that said, my ONLY reason for not choosing an obese AuPair (who agreed with me and committed to all of the above) would be because of fitting in our car for family outings. But I would let her know all of the info above, and weed herself out after she knows what was expected of her. That also gives me a good foot to stand on when/if she didn’t want to get in a swimsuit. Chances are as a 20 year old girl who is heavy, she is used to a lot of the girls her age getting dressed to the 9s and it already equipped to handle that. An AuPair who isn’t interested in being healthier, probably would not be interested in my family, and I feel that the way I lay down the expectation, I don’t allow for her to act some of the ways the OP is worried about, so if there is someone you really like, maybe you could try setting out some of those fears into expectations of what not to do.

For us, I think if she is able to do everything we need her to do in the being active, eating, talking, and treating herself right, then we are just practice what we preach about body image. It shows the kids that you don’t have to be skinny to do all of the things we like to do. Though I would have to give the disclaimer about her “spot” in our loaded car.

F. Au Pair January 27, 2011 at 9:01 am

Wish I was in your Host family when I was an AP. That way I wouldnt gain 15 pounds on my au pai year. Good job with teching your kids howto love themselves no matter what!

NE mom January 27, 2011 at 12:57 pm

BLJ Host Mom, so well, and thoughtfully, put. I am adapting your body image commentary for my handbook right now! Thanks again.

Calif Mom February 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

LOVE this language. Stealing it! Thanks for sharing :-)

Busy Mom February 1, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Me too! Thanks!

AnnaAuPair January 26, 2011 at 3:46 pm

When I was looking for a new AuPair for my hostfamily, I saw several AuPairs who were overweight.
They didn’t fit because of other criteria (experience with infants, …), but if I had interviewed one of them I sure would have asked some questions I guess I wouldn’t have asked the others (“Do you think you could run after her and catch her if she runs away?” “Are you able to lift her up and carry her up the stairs?”). But generally you could ask ANY AuPairs these questions, because a “normal” person could be quiet weak or lazy or else.
I think that the pictures they post give a good view of the way they handle kids (And videos even more).

(BTW: When I think about it, almost ALL of the AuPairs in my Cluster where pretty slim. I would consider myself as “normal” and I was one of the curviest in my Cluster ^^)

hOstCDmom January 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I wonder what APs think about matching with obese HPs and/or obese Hkids? A reasonable risk with the state of “American weight” these days….Would a slim/healthy weight AP be hesitant to live with a “fat American family”? Would she think only junky food would be available to her? Might she worry about putting on weight herself in an obese family? Might she extrapolate that the kids sit around all day playing video games and watching Telly? How would HP feel if a prospective AP asked if they were obese, or for HP height and weight…..?

PA AP mom January 26, 2011 at 8:17 pm

We have multiple pictures with our application and the AP candidates can also see my FB. They have a lot of pictures that they can look at to see what our family looks like. If they don’t like what they see, they can decline our family.

hOstCDmom January 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm

PA AP mom – I completely agree! Matching is mutual, and if an AP doesn’t like what she sees, she doesn’t have to match, just as a HF doesn’t have to match with an AP if they don’t like that she is obese. I was more positing the question because it is the logical inverse of the “Would you match with an obese AP” question, I’m genuinely curious about what APs think about this, and I was actually hoping some APs would respond and share their thinking on this….

PA AP mom January 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Sorry DCmom! Didn’t mean to butt in. I would also like an AP’s perspective.

Former Au Pair Dee January 27, 2011 at 9:08 am

I would match with a overwight family as long as they promise I would be able to have my own healthy food. Otherwise not.
The house I was an au pair he parents were all healthy and had a gym in their basement and really liked to work out. to be honest not really healthy because they were kinda anorexic. Host Mom wouldnt eat more than a banana for lunch and salad for dinner and used to come home on her work break just to work out. She was sooo skinny like a 14 year-old.

The bad thing is that they only bought junk food for the kids. They did not care at all about what their children were eating and than they used to call the little girl fat for eating those stuff they bought theirselves. That used to make me very sad.
As soon as I got there I started to go to the Gym and exercise. even so I have gained some weight in the USA because that food just wasnt right for me. Back to my country I lost 6 pounds already. But never gaining weight was a issue. I used to play outside wuth kids, went to the pool whole summer and it never kept me from exercising.

Indiana February 14, 2011 at 4:01 am

Hi! I am an ex Au Pair, since I was like 12 y/o I started having weight issues, Ive always been an athlete and moving into the city made me a little more sedentary, I am still and athlete but I guess the whole city life affected me. Said that when I applied to become an AuPair I had regional recognition, national, and super engaged in sports. I am also an artist (no recognition yet lol) before becoming an AuPair i lost almost all the extra weight I had, when I applied I was about 5-8 kilos over my ideal weight. I applied as a strong swimmer, strong driver, super active, super creative, etc and lied about my smoking habits.
I didn’t want to go to a fat family because that wouldnt help at all with my weight struggle. So I focused on regular size- slim families and preferably active or young parents, I turned down a lot of parents who werent physically active. I assumed I would get bored if the kids were like their parents.

But HF should also be real!!
The first house I went to, was crazy I lost over 10 kgs, got sick with anemmia and I only stayed there for a week, the host mom claimed to be very active well she wasnt, she was slim because they didnt eat lol. The portions were crazily small, and no protein, milk, etc at all..The kids WERENT active, so the host family basically described what they wouldve want the kids to be. The oldest son (7) didnt like sports, all he wanted was READ and play the piano everyday was a struggle to make him close a book, not to mention how frustrated he used to get because he wasnt good at sports so everytime I convinced him to join the game and play and whatever it always ended up with a fight against me or his brother. the second kid (5) was active, sportive and what she described mainly, the third kid (3) was scared of balls, running, etc etc since was the little baby was untochable. So although some families would love to have a super athletic nanny to give the best example to their kids….are you aware of your kid personality? what if your kid is an artist? or a scientist whatever and instead of helping those skills with an aupair with the same interests or patience to explain and plan and help with that gift, you only stop the kids skill? by forcing him/her to become an athlete?

You are totally right with the running behind the tike thing. But I dont agree with the rest. I met an aupair who was VERY fat and had 4 host kids all of them under the age of 5, she was dull, boring, she used to dress up like a nurse lol with animal print shirts and that. She never had to run behind ANY OF THEM she was so nice, smart, patient and such a good aupair with great control over the kids that she never had to.
When I was my second family the oldest girl was a football athlete, we NEVER had time to play because she was always in practise in school 1 or school 2 and if she was finally at home her dad was teaching her how to become the best football player lol!…we had some time together at nights when it wasnt ok to play football outside lol, I taught her some drawing tips and some songs on the piano. She loved them, she started taking piano lessons after I left.

Jenifer February 8, 2011 at 1:42 am

I am an au pair and I am obese so I guess I am the right person to answer this question, I understand the point of view from the host families and their concerns< i always wondered if that was a problem for me or not and I guess I have my answer now. First of all if a hf is worried about me being not able to take care of their children because of my weight I would definitely not want to spend my year with this HF. I love children, I chase them on the back yard playing tag and lifting them up. I take care of a 22 mo old baby, a 6 years old girl and a 9 year old boy, everything I do with the baby the 6 years old wants me to do with her, so of course I do. I play basketball with the boy and I also play outside with all of them when the cousins are here, we made up a game where I basically chase them most of the time unless their are on their base. As I said before I understand the issues the host mom brought up and I am sure there are several people like this, but there are several people slim like this as well. The most ridiculous issue I found here was that an au pair must be slim so their children have a good example, that is not right, it is important for a child to know and love different people, fat, black, indian, mexican…whatever, it develops their character, makes them a better person.

HRHM February 8, 2011 at 9:27 am

I’m not sure what country you come from, but if you have been here a little while, then you must have seen that we are in an “obesity epidemic”. It is a big problem with children and they are now appearing with diseases normally resered for full-grown adults, like type 2 diabetes. So HPs want a “good example” for their children to follow. This has nothing to do with not wanting their children to know and love the obese. In fact, most host families will have plenty of obese family members! My kids know and love their obese grandmother and obese Aunt. But every time they visit I have to spend a week doing damage control because of the terrible example they provide. I would hate to have to spend all year doing that with an AP.

Eurogirl January 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm

It wouldn’t be my first choice. I like to be around people who keep me motivated to be the best person I can be. And that includes fitness-wise. I don’t like to spend too much time with slobby lazy people who don’t eat well, because I can be a bit lazy myself and have to make an effort to keep eating well and keep going to the gym and cycling and so on. If I lived with people who didn’t care about that, I would be afraid my standards for myself would slip. Also, when looking for an au pair experience, you want to be doing interesting new things, seeing new places and taking part in something exciting. If you are just watching TV with the kids and eating too much, you could have done that at home!

To be honest, I see the families who chose an au pair as childcare as mostly being very against “TV = babysitter” and favouring active or sporty pasttimes with their children and to have a slightly alternative lifestyle, which mostly means health conscious eating, not a slobby lazy diet – although I’m sure there are some out there, I really like the way most are not like that – they are more interesting for it!

Steff January 27, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I stand with all I’d said already; I wouldn’t rule-out a family based on their pictures alone (unless they seem *too* darn gloomy and sad, which thankfully, has never been the case) If they are obese (I already got the difference between chubby/overweight/obese btw, thanks a lot for that) I’d still like to talk w/them. In my interview questions, I did ask what is usually eaten in their home. What the kiddies are allowed and not to eat, if the answer to all that would have been junk food only and very little concern in eating veggies and keeping a healthy enough diet overall, then I don’t think I would have match with that family. Not because they were obese per se, but mostly because I do believe children should ‘learn’ to eat healthy early on, and have that not be the case with the HF, then we just wouldn’t have been a good match :)

Steff January 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I would say that any Aupair should be “dismiss” only because of her weight. I’d known “chubby” girls that have ten times the energy I have and play a whole lot more sports than I do. On the other hand, I also know many girls that really give much, much more importance to her appearance and to those “extra” pounds. I’m small myself, always been but had never carried that to the extreme. I try to stay healthy without starving myself or anything like that. Some girls, chubby or slim, DO carry sometimes those thoughts to the extreme, and some times that is not something you can ‘get the feeling’ of from reading her application but from actually *talking* to the AP (chubby or slim!)
I know a lot, and I mean it, a LOT of people in my college (AP ages-type) who are “normal” weighted to slim, and are darn lazy and couldn’t chase a child to save their life. And they really simply don’t do it because there are lazy. I think you could find a GREAT AP who is great but that is also chubby. You’d only have to make an extra effort at screening there. Talk about the weight topic openly and try to get a sense of how SHE seems herself. Then again, maybe that’s an effort you are not willing to do because all sort of reasons (for the record, the ones you give in the main post for me are quite valid) In any case, I’d dare to say, that not because the AP is slim that means she’s not going to have self-consciousness issues. APs are young women, and one way or another, those ages are special target of all those eating-disorders drama.

I for one, would try to get a sense of how good (or how little) the AP thinks and feels of herself. Maybe with the right questions and comments you could get that much while you interview her.

All in all, I would do that. I will at least give her a chance to prove my stand right or wrong. Maybe there is a girl out there that can surprise you :)

Anna January 27, 2011 at 1:29 pm

There is a difference between “chubby” and obese.

Fleear January 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

First time I write here, so bear with me. I’m a girl who is 21 years old and currently looking for a family.

1) My advice is to look at the person and not the weight. Like some people here already said, just because you’re skinny doesn’t mean you’re athletic and just because you’re obese doesn’t mean you’re not athletic.

2)Some people are fat because they eat too much; some people are fat because of genetics and so on. I have a friend who exercises every day, eats healthy, she looks fat, but in reality it’s mostly muscle and it’s also genetics. She is definitely not lazy and a lot of people get surprised by her energy. Besides some people can eat anything without gaining weight and some people can hardly eat anything without gaining weight. Some of the unhealthiest people I know are skinny.

3)Ask about it, because all 3 agencies I have been in contact with don’t allow you to upload pictures in which you wear a bikini or a swim-suit. They don’t get approved if they’re not “suitable”. If you want a picture of yourself at the beach, showing you like to swim, wearing swim-shorts and a t-shirt might be the only way.

Besides I know a lot of girls who wears shorts and a t-shirt when they’re going to the beach and have a bikini underneath. Yes, sometime they don’t take the shorts and the t-shirt off when they go into the water, but mostly they do. Also, especially people from colder countries are not used to the exposure to the sun as much as you’re in most parts in the US. Thereby they, in some cases, burn easier than you. I mean when I go to a warm country like Spain or Italy (I’m from northern Europe), I have to wear a t-shirt to protect my shoulders (in the middle of the day) and sometimes I also wear it in the pool, because I spend most of my time in the pool.

Besides sometime the unwillingness to wear a swim-suit have other reasons. For example: 4 years ago I was involved in a car accident (I was NOT driving) and was left with 4 rather big scars on my body. 2 of these scars are located on both sides of my hips (think seatbelt), 1 just above my knee and 1 on my mid-thigh. This causes me to feel comfortable wearing a bikini or a swimsuit in front of strangers (people who knows about the accident I have no problem with, because they know the cause, but I not going to explain this to everyone by the pool/beach and trust me people are very judgmental about scars). Luckily I can hide the scars with a pair of swim-shorts and that goes down to my knees, together with a bikini top (NOT a t-shirt). I have never had a problem with this because where I come from (northern Europe) they don’t tell people what to wear while swimming, as long as it’s clothes made for swimming. And let’s face it I’m using regular swim-shorts a lot of guys are wearing, so I really don’t see the problem.

I love to swim and I would never stand by the side of the pool while the kids are in it. I definitely don’t have anything against going to the pool or beach everyday during the summer, as long as I’m aloud to wear my swim-shorts.

4)I feel comfortable with my body in general, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing a short skirt, but I didn’t before the accident either. And I have never owned a pair of high heels, so if that is a requirement I would never match with you. Some people like to dress like that, some don’t and I’m one of the later.

5)Not all fat people have problems with their body, the only opportunity to know is to ask (either her or one of her references). Besides the “constant dieting, derogatory comments about my body,etc” could happen with a skinny au-pair as well.

It feel like you this is a very big thing for you, my advice is to ask the candidate about these things, since they’re so important to you. If the candidates don’t like the questions, she/he is probably not the right person for you.

By the way, how common is it that pools don’t allow girls/women to wear swim-shorts?

Steff January 26, 2011 at 8:41 pm

@Fleear said something I totally forgot to say but that is so true; some girls aren’t fat precisely because of bad eating habits, sometimes it is really just the way they are and all the exercise in the world would never made them seem size-zero (NOT that I believe that cr** at all, but so to say)

Australian Nanny/ Ex au pair January 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Just to put this out there- I babysit for a 9yo boy who likes to have ‘skinny and pretty’ babysitters. I don’t think he is being rude, he doesn’t mention it, but his mum told me that he tend to prefer babysitters who are not fat

MommyMia January 26, 2011 at 9:13 pm

I will agree with many of the posters above and just add that our previous obese au pair (a rematch, whom we were told was “overweight” but the pictures must have been taken long ago!) did have energy to keep up with our younger child, made friends easily, loved to dance, got into the pool with our kids, albeit not in a swimsuit, but actually we didn’t mind that she was more covered–but the biggest problem was that our older child was embarrassed to be seen with her at school or in public. We emphasized healthful eating and exercise, but we couldn’t influence her fast food/junk food dependence and mostly “couch-potato” lifestyle when she was off duty.

MommyMia January 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm

For the record, this AP was about 5’6″ and well over 300 lbs. The slats supporting the springs and mattress on her bed were broken during her stay with us, as were two chairs! Just sayin’, I know the difference between (morbidly) obese and overweight!

an ap January 27, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I´m very sorry to say that there was no problem with this au pair, according to how you described her she sounds great, there seems to be a problem with your children…or must i say, with you, allowing this type of prejudice against this girl and thinking it´s ok for your children to think it´s ok to be embarrased of a fat girl. I hope that the rematch had nothing to do with it. hum…

Should be working January 28, 2011 at 5:07 am

My 4-yr-old boy whispered to me, after we explained to him that we were getting a new (rematch) au pair, “I hope she has lipstick and a ponytail!” Don’t know if this is a result of Barbie-fication from his older sister or what!

Eurogirl January 28, 2011 at 7:21 am

A 3-year-old boy I au paired for in Austria told me I had nicer boobies than his last au pair… Hahahaha.

CO Host Mom January 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I don’t think anyone raises their kids to be “embarased of a fat girl”, but I’ll admit that this factored in to a decision not to match with an AP that was quite large and had very manly characteristics. To put it bluntly, she looked like a man. One of my kids is a 12 year old boy, and he attends a school where many families use APs for childcare. The result of this is that at the end of the school day, there is always a large group of APs waiting to pick up their charges at the school. They all stand around and talk to each other until they’ve all collected their kids.

I was picturing my 12 year old son, having the AP in the group that looked like a man. Yes, he would have been teased by his friends. I’ve worked hard to raise him not to be bothered by teasing like that, but the fact is, kids are kids. And no matter how well you raise them, kids (especially at that age) are sensitive to teasing.

Now if she had been a substantially better AP candidate than the others we interviewed, her physical appearance would not have stopped me from matching with her. But with everything else being equal, the fact my child probably would have been teased by his friends was something I considered

Europhile January 26, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I agree that this HM is prejudiced and probably won’t do well with a very overweight AP. My husband is equally prejudiced, and I would therefore never hire a severely overweight AP. We don’t ask these questions, but we get pictures and we skype a couple of times.

One last note — my current AP has a slight disability which prevents her from running. We knew this from the beginning, and it really hasn’t been an issue at all. My kids are old enough to follow instructions (and know that they can’t run away, have to wait when they cross a street, etc.). They are 5 and 3. She is still very active and does stuff with them and it’s worked out really well.

You can camouflage your prejudice about weight by saying that you think the AP might not be able to active enough, but I think many could (see e-mails above). I myself wouldn’t be against hiring an overweight AP. All people are different.

E2 January 26, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I never thought weight would be a problem until we matched with an obese au pair. In her case, I believe her weight issue reflected other issues she had. Everything in our house was sticky, she had an invasion of yellow jackets in her room (open bag of candy from home), her room was an absolute disaster area and she was generally rough both physically and verbally with the kids. We rematched.
So, yes, we do look at the medical form on the application and find the weight and rule out some candidates.
This does not mean that I don’t have heavy friends, family or otherwise. But I do see how a weight issue can affect a teen’s self-esteem and how perhaps-related behaviours interfere with our household & lifestyle.

Dorsi January 27, 2011 at 12:18 am

I think a lot of people here are not distinguishing between obese and overweight. Not having a perfect size 6 (8, 4, pick your number) is not the same as being obese. People naturally come in all shapes and sizes. However, there is a range of normal and obesity is outside that. It is very rare that someone is incurably/genetically/hormonally obese. Obesity is 200lbs on a 5’7” frame (or for all you APs out there: 88kg on 170cm). Obesity usually means being unable to shop in a regular store (depending on how your weight is distributed). Obesity is (supposed to be — the definition isn’t perfect) the dividing line between when health and ability to function becomes threatened by the excess weight that is being carried around.

Also, like many Americans, I am overweight (though not obese). However, I was much thinner at 20. I imagine that is true for most of the HMs out there. Most people have the metabolism and activity level at 20 years old that makes it pretty difficult to be obese. An obese 20 year old is living a very different lifestyle than an overweight (or even obese) 35 year old mom.

CO Host Mom January 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

I was going to mention exactly this point as I was reading through the comments. There is a big difference, IMO, between carrying some extra weight and being obese. I don’t need someone to be thin or some perfect size – but I *do* need them to be able to chase around three active kids all day and to be able to move quickly if an emergency should arise. I know many people who are somewhat overweight would be quite capable of that, but an AP who was truly obese just wouldn’t work for me.

Should be working January 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Big difference between overweight and obese indeed. I would take a slightly overweight AP, but not obese. I would not take an AP who was even the slightest bit UNDERweight, out of worry over eating disorders and obsession with calories and weight loss.

I also agree with Dorsi that weight is so easy to put on later in life, and relatively easy to keep under control in youth, and an obese (not just overweight) teenagerish type is likely someone who has very unhealthy habits.

I’m putting on my flame-retardant suit here, but I admit to just not feeling comfortable with a very heavy AP, and I’m guessing there are other HPs who consider ‘cosmetic’ issues as I do. For instance, I also would reject an applicant with severe acne, for example (not just a few zits, but scarring, widespread acne). And I know that acne has no bearing on childcare. I guess if pushed I could think of other ‘cosmetic’ issues that would put me off (totally brown, missing and crooked teeth? alopecia [baldness]?) If I were hiring for a ‘regular job’ this would be different, but we live with the AP. She doesn’t have to be beautiful, nor skinny, I would say that we just want a normal-looking AP–like we are, i.e. not skinny, ok-looking, normal, big smile. I can see why this might seem very offensive to some here, but again picking the AP is more a personal choice than just hiring someone for a job, so I give myself that leeway.

Maybe the smile is a good marker here for what I mean. I honestly do pass over APs who don’t have any big smiles in their applications, just little tight-lipped ones or forced smiles. Big genuine smile (perfect teeth not required) is a criterion. It means she is like us, in a way that is superficial but still somehow important. To me.

anoncontributor January 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm

This is my assumed name for my assumed name; I am a somewhat regular contributor and I have to agree here, and do it in hiding in the very slim chance my AP were to run across this, because I know she was self conscious about the acne.
I wouldn’t match with an AP with bad acne again, either. Our last AP had noticeable acne (and bad “bacne,” which made her self conscious at the pool), and she had a very unsettling habit of picking at her breakouts until they bled, often while sitting on the couch talking to us. Which I see as a huge, huge foul, kind of like cleaning your ears or picking or trimming nail sin front of people. I am the kind of HP who is on the cusp of discomfort with hosting someone full time in our small house anyway, and this was really hard for me to deal with. Yes, it’s small and very superficial, buit it’s honesty, and when its in your face on a daily basis for a year, litte things compound. The most frustrating part was that it was a nervous habit so she would do it especially while we were having already tense/difficult conversations, and I usually wanted to scream.

Steff January 27, 2011 at 8:23 pm

The ‘big smiles’ comment also caught my attention this time; if well it’s true I spend the better part of my day laughing at pretty much everything, I do believe once upon a time I skipped the class when they ‘teach’ you how to smile to the camera. If I’m not ‘posing’ (which I rather don’t like for some reason) you can well catch of me a ‘big smile’ kind of photo, but aiming for it, usually big fail heehee ;)

Then again, this year I was also carrying around braces at the time of application photos (i kinda did wanna have the perfect smile for my year in the States heehee) so I guess that also had something to do to me being more reluctant to big smiles…it all worked out in the end, so I won’t complain :)

Should be working January 28, 2011 at 6:11 am

Good point about the cultural differences regarding making ‘big smiles’. And in fact thinking about it, I did consider some APs who didn’t have toothy smiles, but instead just big-hearted smiles, including smiling eyes. Maybe ‘laughing faces’ would be a better term, even if the teeth weren’t showing or not much. Cheery and sparkly are important to me, and showing teeth are not the sole measure of that. Thanks for the correction.

About the ‘bacne’ (and I love it that we need pseudonyms for our pseudonyms to discuss this!), I even wondered, with our very scarred, acne-faced first au pair, how I could bring up the option of a dermatologist. We would have been happy to pay for it even. But no, I couldn’t figure out how to bring it up, she was depressed and glum anyway and we rematched. And also she was clearly an acne-picker–gross. It made everything worse. And also led to her smearing on TONS of makeup every day at all times to cover up the acne (unsuccessfully, of course), to the point that I was embarrassed at her picking up kids at school. Another flammable assertion, to be sure, but yes I am embarrassed to have a way-too-made-up, obviously acne-covering (and also belly-dancer-dressing) young woman pick up the kids at school.

For all the posters who say that HFs should focus only on the person–yes but looks ARE a part of a person. Impressions ARE a part of who we are, especially because we have some choices as to what kinds of first impressions we make. Compatibility of values is sometimes (not always) reflected in some issues of appearance (as in, how much makeup? how low-cut the outfit? how tight the jeans? how skimpy the bathing suit? how much is terrible acne left alone to scar someone? and also to some extent how extremely under- or overweight?). So some reflections on appearance are about making a genuinely good fit between HFs and APs in my view.

Eurogirl January 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Very well said about the difference between overweight and obese. Weighing a few kilos more than ideal is (hopefully) not an issue when you look for an au pair. But weighing twenty or thirty kilos more than ideal… VERY understandable if that is a deal breaker!

Can I just add to what Should Be Working said about big wide smiles…in a lot of European countries it’s not that common to smile for a photograph with teeth showing. I think it’s interesting that that would rule people out. I was actually warned when on a work trip that to Americans I look less approachable because of my photo on my ID pass – because whilst I thought, I’m smiling and looking friendly…my teeth are not on show!

NJnanny May 3, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I had several people remark on this when I went backpacking in Europe! They said they thought it “fake” when Americans smiled with teeth showing and I said that we see it the other way around. People always give me a hard time because I’m a closed-mouth smiler; my mom always had bad teeth as I was growing up and so I learned to smile from the way she modeled: tight-lipped, but happy all the same. Having given it some thought, I think I just look weird showing teeth after so many years of not.

OP January 27, 2011 at 3:45 am

As the OP of this topic, first off, let me thank you all for respectfully addressing the topic. I knew when I sent this email it would touch on some strong emotions and I appreciate how balanced the responses have been.

For the sake of clarification, let me say that I am not against a “chubby” AP. Our current AP is probably 20 lbs above her ideal body weight and if I calculated her BMI would probably fall right on the fence between normal and overweight. What I am referring to is APs who are Obese. This is defined as a BMI >30 (if you are unfamiliar with BMI, you can see great information and a calculator at For example, 170cm and greater than 90 kilos would be obese, not chubby. These numbers were arrived at during a very long, high-powered study of life-expectancy versus weight and give us a guage for healthy weights based on how likely you are to die from having excess body fat.

As a scientist and medical professional, I also need to address the “old-wives tale” of hereditary or medical obesity. With RARE exception the vast majority of obesity is a result of excess calorie consumption. Multiple studies (some very recent) have shown that exercise plays almost NO role in weight loss. This is because it takes an hour running on the treadmill to burn 200 calories and it take 3750 calories burned to lose one pound of fat. So you would have to spend >18 hours on the treadmill to lose one pound. Additionally, metabolic studies and twin studies have both shown the the hereditary difference in metabolism between 2 individuals amounts to about 250 calories per day (for example, the person with the slowest metabolism burns about 250 calories less in one day than a “matched” (for size, age, gender) high-metabolism person. This obviously is not enough calories to account for obesity and is easily adjusted for in a normal diet (equal to about 2 cans of coke). Sorry for the science lesson, but to those of you who think that APs can’t control their weight due to hereditary issues, it’s just not true. Not saying it’s easy, but it is possible.

Again, thanks for all the input, especially from the HMs who have had direct experience with this. Lots of food for thought (no pun intended!)

anonmom January 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Oh well, then there goes all my excuses! I am clinically obese, yet exercise and work out frequently, and still compete. Due to numerous illnesses and medication, I have gained far more weight than I would like! And to think, I blamed all this on my biological parents- since as an adoptee I was the only ‘fat’ kid in the family!

DarthaStewart January 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Well, I think you have your answer then.

Au-Pair from Germany January 27, 2011 at 9:25 am

I am overweight myself and I never had a thought about having problems finding a family because of this. And don’t get me wrong, I do get your opinions, I know a lot of girls who are overweight, who are lazy and aren’t happy with themselves. But I also know girls, like me, who know that they are overweight but aren’t lazy or unhappy. I go to the gym 3 – 4 times a week and I babysit at a family with 4 kids. And they are a handful. And I can handle it. And we do not just sit at home and play board games, we do stuff, like go to the playground or the swimming pool or just play in the garden.
I am, and I think a lot of other overweight girls are, a person, who just needs to look at a cupcake and I gained a pound. Whereas friends of mine, who are of course skinny, can eat 10 cupcakes and loose a pound, just because.
I do like to eat (seriously?! who doesn’t) and I like to cook and bake and I put this (that I like to cook and bake) in my application. Do you think host families will reject me because they think I just like to cook and bake because I am overweight. I like to cook and bake, because I am rather good at it and not because I love to eat.

I think it would be fair, if you do not just reject overweight girls, just because you saw the profile picture and saw that she is overweight. Look at her profile, her video, her childcare experience and interview her. I know, it is hard for overweight girls to talk about their weight, but if a family would ask me, if it affects my work with kids and to be a role model I could easily deny it and wouldn’t have to lie at all. Ask what she does while babysitting and if she does any sport. If she just reads all day or watches TV, I would reject her, too.

NYaupair January 27, 2011 at 9:45 am

Well what can i say that this is a touchy subject, I myself is overweight but not obese,I didn’t make myself overweight ,i was diagnosed with PCOS – Polycystic ovary disease affects hormone cycles. Hormones help regulate the normal development of eggs in the ovaries. It is not completely understood why or how hormone cycles are interrupted, although there are several ideas.
Follicles are sacs within the ovaries that contain eggs. In polycystic ovary disease, there are many poorly developed follicles in the ovaries. The eggs in these follicles do not mature and, therefore, cannot be released from the ovaries. Instead, they form cysts in the ovary.
This can contribute to infertility. The immature follicles and the inability to release an egg (ovulate) are likely caused by low levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and higher than normal levels of male hormones (androgens) produced in the ovary.
Women are usually diagnosed when in their 20s or 30s. Women with this disorder often have a mother or sister who has symptoms similar to polycystic ovary disease.
Symptoms If you have polycystic ovary disease, you are likely to have some of the following symptoms:
•Abnormal, irregular, or very light or infrequent menstrual periods
•Absent periods, usually (but not always) after having one or more normal menstrual periods during puberty (secondary amenorrhea)
•Acne that gets worse
•Decreased breast size
•Development of male sex characteristics (virilization), such as increased body hair, facial hair, a deepening of the voice, male-pattern baldness, and enlargement of the clitoris
•Increased hair growth; body hair may be in a male pattern
•Poor response to the hormone, insulin (insulin resistance), leading to a build-up of insulin in the blood
•Weight gain, or obesity

But thank goodness i don’t have Diabetes. I’ll be honest i did growing up have self issues but not from my friends but from my grandparent and mother drilling it into my head everyday “look at your cousin and all the boys she gets BECAUSE SHE IS SKINNY”, well did they know that she has a eating disorder NO but i did, so from the age of 13 i’ve been fighting them about it until i turned 26 years and had to go to the gynea because i had 2 1/2 cm cycst on my ovaries and the doc explained it all to me.The point i’m getting at is when i was being interviewed by alot of family’s they knew of my condition but that wasn’t a problem with them.I had the experience that they where looking for. I run,roll on the ground ,make funny faces with the kids etc….Just because i’m overweight doesn’t mean i’m gonna teach the kids to eat take aways ,give them unhealthy food.
For all the host mom’s out there and are worried about what there au pair’s give them why don’t you and the au pair come up with a meal plan together for the children. I put on my bathing suit and go swimming with them. I treat my host kids as my own because ummm ( holding thumbs) i’m hoping to have kids one day and praying everyday that i dont become Infertile. So before you all jump on the issue about au pairs that are obese they just might have the condition that i have and they don’t know they have it yet. NOT all overweight au pairs are couch potatoes and watch the babysitter ( AKA .TV ) while the kids are keeping them selfs busy. And besides doesn’t america have the most obese people in the world and how would you like it if the au pairs are looking at your application and saying that no she’s ugly,no she’s fat,no she’s too skinny etc…. come on people we overweight/obese people want to experience the american culture and travel the land of the free.

Aupair Jimmi January 27, 2011 at 10:26 am

I think that the main problem here is the view of society to a fat people. Everybody thinks that they are lazy, eat a lot of hamburgers and sweets and drink a diet coke thinking that it will magically make them thin and they stink – is this how you see us? Because my life experience says so.

I am fat, my BMI is 41,95. I won’t lie here – every evening I go to a local shop and buy a lots of Ice cream, not forgetting to add few chocolates, crisps or a jar of Nutella, and I eat all of it within minutes. I spend every Sunday in bed, not leaving the room.
I know that my eating habits are bad and I should stop, but somehow I can’t stop myself.

However, I do all of this when the kids can’t see me. I know what my parents did wrong with me, they didn’t mind me eating tons of food everyday, well, they did, but they couldn’t say no. I don’t want this to happen to any other child because I suffered a lot when I was in high school.
That’s why I am the kind of aupair who doesn’t like seeing the kids watching tv all day and eating biscuits, but honestly, I am a little bit hopeless in my current family.
If the parents let them do all this and they are giving them the sweets, if the parents are ok with their children not eating their lunch or dinner and give them even more of rubbish after that, aupair can’t do anything.

The aupair can see and knows what your kids are allowed to do and eat. I really think that if you are a good parent, the aupair is not such a big influence here.
I would be honestly more worried about other things. For example, beautiful thin aupair (she was a model) in my neighborhood. She was from my country so we spent a lot of time together. One night she was babysitting and her hostmum said that I can sleep in their house that night and she let us have few beers, she was ok with it.
And what did this thin girl do? It was just after midnight, when she told me to get dressed and we’re going to the pub. When I asked here what she’s going to do about the children (twins 5yo!) she said that they’re ok and asleep and nobody will know. To my question what if one of them gets sick or something she answered that one of them can drive a tractor.

So, maybe, instead of worrying about your aupairs weight, I would worry about her IQ.

Steff January 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

This is also double standard and I really don’t think you should have said it! (Not at all!) You don’t want “heavy/overweight/obese” APs to be labeled as bad aupairs, but at the same time you are implying skinny aupairs are dumb, Come on!

Every person is an individual and crappy APs can well be thin or fat, my point is not to “judge” based in first impressions I guess…

Jimmi January 28, 2011 at 5:42 am

I didn’t say that all skinny aupairs are bad. I just wanted to show that it really does not matter if she’s fat or slim, as long as she knows what to do and how to behave when she’s with children.
That’s why I said “Instead of worrying about your aupairs weight, I would worry about her IQ.”

If it sounds like I consider all skinny aupairs stupid, I am sorry, that’s absolutely not what I mean.

Steff January 28, 2011 at 10:40 pm

I get that, for some reason however (nothing personal) your comment simply rubbed me up the wrong way. When you said things as if “if the parents are good then the aupair is not such a big influence” Really you think that??
Those parents spend the better part of their days working (most of the times, at works that are not precisely at home) YOU are with their kids for the better part of the day, each day, do you really think what they see in you *every* day doesn’t matter?? Sorry to break it to you, but children aren’t silly.
& without trying to tell you what to do (I hate when ppl do that with me) but I just don’t think you should settle with things like “I can’t stop myself” if not for yourself and your future, but for those kids you are looking out for, because though maybe you don’t see it, they do *in fact*, look up to you. You are the grownup after all, and the person they *should* be able to (in a perfect world, perhaps) model themselves too…

Just my $0.02…

Eurogirl January 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I really don’t think it’s an “either or” issue between IQ and weight…surely you would want both to be firmly in the brackets of NORMAL…

Southern Host Mom January 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

Reading many of the posts above, I am reminded of the obvious . . . as a Host Mom, each year I try my very best to select an Au Pair who will be a good fit with my family. This is a difficult decision and is one that significantly affects each member of my family (and of course the Au Pair) for an entire year. My purpose is not to judge Au Pair candidates or other Au Pairs. In fact, if I match with an Au Pair who is not a good fit (for any number of reasons!), the year may well be very frustrating and difficult for the Au Pair as well as my family.

Having been through the Au Pair matching process many times now, I hope I have learned some lessons about the type of Au Pair who makes a better fit for my family. I understood the purpose of this topic for Host Moms to share their thoughts and experiences. I would expect them to be different . . . that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?

There simply is no “perfect Au Pair”, just as there is no “perfect host family.” Heaven only knows that my family and I are NOT perfect–we are what/how we are (as I tell every Au Pair candidate I interview). But in my several years of experience in the Au Pair world, we have had “great matches”, “good matches”, and “NOT good matches.”

Seasoned Host Mom January 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I suppose I shouldn’t “weigh” in here, since all three of my au pairs have been slim and petite. However, before I returned to the full-time workforce and had au pairs, one of my first experiences with au pairs in person was at a gymnastics class for 2-3 year olds and their parent or caregiver. There was one young woman at the class who was always in a great mood and very hands-on with her kid, and I found out that she was an au pair about halfway through the class. I was so impressed with her that I think she was one of reasons I chose to have an au pair when I did return to work! Did I mention that she was probably bordering on the overweight to obese scale? But yet, she remains one of the best au pairs I have seen.

AZ HM January 27, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I think this issue is more about our individual prejudices and stereotypes. People typically find support for their beliefs and rationalize why they are “right”. My personal experience with two aupairs that would likely be categorized as at least overweight is that their size had nothing to do with their activity levels, interest in swimming, chasing/playing with the kids, etc… Both of these women have had active social lives. Both of these women ate well and supported our healthy food choices for our kids.

My children are exposed to unhealthy ideas of female beauty all over the media, unhealthy food choices at school and friends’ homes, unhealthy eating habits by extended family….and our family isn’t perfect so they get some of this at home as well. But as a family we mindfully try to balance all of this by eating healthy, promoting physical activity/play and fitness, and just focusing on our kids inner talents and beauty. If our aupair can work as a team member and support our ideas of a healthy family then I don’t think it matters at all if she is thin or thick, tall or short, black or white. In fact, I think the more variety in looks can actually teach our children that it is less about what is on the outside and more about how someone thinks, behaves and treats others.

I absolutely think that some aupairs aren’t interested in living an active or healthy (by my standards) lifestyle, but I don’t think I could pick these people out by how they look. My suggestion — discuss these issues and make your decisions based on the interview — not on first impressions with photos.

igelwelch January 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm

We have had 3 au pairs, all different sizes, but within the normal range. For us, though we want someone to fit into our very active lifestyle, it was more a practical matter. If we all want to drive in the car together, the au pair has to fit in the middle. I’m sure we’re missing out on some great au pair options who are overweight (though we wouldn’t chose someone who is obese, given our activities), but we can’t buy a bigger vehicle just for an au pair! It is a touchy subject, yes, with a lot of strong emotion, but in the end, it comes down to who is the best fit (no pun intended) for the family.

attybernie January 27, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I forgot to mention the car situation. While I don’t mind so much, my husband is not happy that I have to sit in the back with the kids and our AP sits up front with him because she can’t fit in the back. She’s also in denial about her size. Everytime we get in the car she’ll say “oh I’m just too tall to get back there.” However, I have 5 inches on her and don’t have a problem – thus, her comment tells me that she is ashamed to acknowledge her obesity and, unfortunately, that shame is imparted into her glum personality. She seemed happy when I interviewed her, but having lived with her for a few months now, I’m afraid she may have some depressive issues. Not sure if her obesity is the cause or the effect, but either way, sadly, its there.

anonmom January 27, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Wow- lot’s of varying opinions! But, the one thing that is common, is that everyone carries stereotypes, good or bad, about every type of person, whether fat or skinny. The one thing that is most important, is what kind of person are they? My skinniest au pair, ate the worst! As a HM who is considered ‘obese’ by medical charts, etc. I can tell you, that I get into a bathing suit all the time, and can outswim most people half my age, as I swim frequently and have competed as a ‘fat adult.’ I have more energy than skinny people. Now, I understand we want our au pairs to convey great body images, and be this perfect package. That is unrealistic.

Our last AP was very petite and skinny. And, she had an AP friend who was tall and obese. That AP was phenomenal. Fantastic sense of humour, very energertic, and would do whatever the host family required. She has extended for another year. I wish I had her as my AP now. She is a phenomenal AP. But, if the family declined her due to her weight, they would have missed 2 years of an awesome AP. Whether they are skinny or fat, the reality is you have to assess the person. In my opinion, may bad matches can be avoided simply by being more vigilant in the interviewing process before matching. Often, too many families focus on what they want, and hearing the ‘right’ answers they want to hear, rather than on determining what kind of person they are. And, yes, ask those questions about being active, when they say they swim, ask them the last time they were in a pool. All of them put on their applications that they do great things, just like our resumes, we try and portray ourselves in tge best light, and maybe we did something once, so we put it on the resume saying we have ‘experience’ in it, when that is a stretch of the truth.

Take the time to talk with the AP’s about who they are first, rather than being all business and asking all the questions. The rest will come, and you may find that you get a better feel for the veracity of their answers on the things that matter most to you, than jumping right in and asking your ‘business’ questions!

attybernie January 27, 2011 at 3:11 pm

forgot to mention the car situation. While I don’t mind so much, my husband is not happy that I have to sit in the back with the kids and our AP sits up front with him because she can’t fit in the back. She’s also in denial about her size. Everytime we get in the car she’ll say “oh I’m just too tall to get back there.” However, I have 5 inches on her and don’t have a problem – thus, her comment tells me that she is ashamed to acknowledge her obesity and, unfortunately, that shame is imparted into her glum personality. She seemed happy when I interviewed her, but having lived with her for a few months now, I’m afraid she may have some depressive issues. Not sure if her obesity is the cause or the effect, but either way, sadly, its there.

AFHostmom January 27, 2011 at 7:21 pm

I am an obese HM too. :) I can give my litany as well, but I walk a lot (“incidental”, not intentional exercise–right now I’m barely hanging on with my work schedule as it is!), am always out with the kids, have seen the world on muscular legs covered in a too-thick layer of fat, have no issue at all getting in a swimsuit, and make the right eating choices 75 percent of the time. Could I do better? Sure. My weight is an issue for me, hasn’t been an issue with my kids yet (knock on wood, I may cry in my room if one of my kids is embarrassed to be seen with me). Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this question since it was posed yesterday and I don’t honestly know what our answer would be. Despite the fact that I know part of my issue is crappy genes and the luck of the draw(I believe I may be the first person in the history of the world to gain weight from a months-long case of amoebic dysentery), and yeah, it stings that I know that some people judge me automatically cause of my size, I don’t think I would want to match with an obese AP either, without meeting her in person, which is normally not possible with the AP interview process. For a host of reasons, all of which have been covered here. I feel horrible, and hypocritical, admitting that, but it’s the truth.
Oh, and as for the would an ap match with an obese family, I have to say (another double standard; I am full of them today)I would be a little irritated if an AP asked me if she’d have healthy food in my house. But my husband is in the military and very fit with little effort (lucky *insert expletive here*), and my kids eat well and it shows, so I’m the anomaly and I don’t know if it would occur to an AP to assume we eat like crap cause of me.

Anonamomma January 27, 2011 at 6:20 pm

We have the most amazing AP ever – the kind everyone wants.

She does activities with our child every day who is extremely active and must be out of the house but is not yes in school so she has it tough. We do not provide a car so she walks at least 2/3 kilometres per day sometimes up to 5km a day to get to the activites pushing a stroller and then returns home (sometimes stopping at the shops for groceries), does whatever cleaning / tidying she was asked to do and then cooks the (a low fat health) family meal.

She loves to swim (in a bathing suit) and also visits the gym regularly when not on duty.

She makes friends easily and has a great social life. She is part of our family but is completely independent in the best possible way. She joins us for dinner but leaves us for alone time!

She is caring, mature, responsible, energetic, pretty, a funky dresser and also very obese but she is all those other things first.

AFhostmom January 27, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Wow, that’s quite a leap, on a little bit of information.

HRHM January 28, 2011 at 1:28 am


Not sure how you came to that conclusion (walking =slavery) but it was completely out of line and uncalled for.

Nikki January 28, 2011 at 11:09 am

I really like this post, I bet your AP would be very happy to read that :)

azmom January 28, 2011 at 11:49 am

I walk my own kids to the park at times. I’ve done a 5K with a toddler in a backpack/sling, am I slaving myself as well? 5km to walk in a day is not slavery by any means, especially if the AP is not able/willing to drive. Plus some people like to walk. I’m overweight/close to obese post 2 kids, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t or shouldn’t walk at times. Our family walks in the evening are around 2 miles (3.5km), we do this for fun and relaxation.

Also, many families who have young kids do not let their blood family members drive their children, so not having an AP drive is some-what common, especially in areas where there is plenty to do within walking distance :)

hOstCDmom January 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm

WALKING FOR TRANSPORT IS NOT SLAVERY. It is a lifestyle choice!!

My AP *and I* walk our 5 children EVERYWHERE, 365 days/year.
In hot, cold, rain, snow.
We live in the center of a New England town and pretty much everywhere my children need to go is 2 miles or less, AND THEY WALK. If it is farther than ~2miles, and if the weather permits, we will bike rather than drive. Children are 3 to 11 years. 3 year old walks everywhere, no stroller . My children will walk for miles and not complain; they are fit and healthy. They are safety conscious on the road and our older children and pre-teen have much independence since they can walk and bike to friends’ houses, library, school by themselves. They don’t need to be driven everywhere, their transport is their sneakers or boots. They (+ HM or AP, bc there are younger children) walk to and from schools every day that school is in session. (school is 1 mile away). They walk to soccer practice, they walk to the drugstore, they walk to the YMCA and they walk to the library. We walk to the grocery store. We can walk to church, bank, schools, parks, grocery, restaurants, cafes, myriad shopping, police station, fire station, library, town hall, YMCA, boys and girls club etc.

Our motto is ther is no “bad weather” — there are only the wrong clothes!

And yes, we tell prospective APs this — we are super, super clear that they will be walking 3-6 miles (5k-10k) a day, sometimes more, *in all weather*. Not one prospective AP has expressed a problem with this (and we have interviewed dozens), and none of our 6 APs, and before that 3 live out nannies, have had a problem with this (nanny #1 stayed for 7 years, nanny #2 for 2.5 years, and all APs have finished their year and some extended. I presume if they felt like slaves they would have quit/rematched).

We probably put only 3k miles/year on our family car. (2nd car is for HD’s commute)

And, yes, our APs do have driving privileges, no mileage restriction, don’t pay for gas (shared car use, but car is available every evening from 7.30pm and probably 75% of the time weekend days, and 100% of weekend nights.) So, AP can drive to university, other APs houses who are not walking distance, shopping malls, clubs in nearby cities etc. And our APs do drive on a regular basis, but when it is to places in our town, they also walk.

So, while I could certainly see our walking lifestyle not being for everyone, it is most definitely NOT slavery or any form of abuse, taking advantage of AP, unfair etc. APs who live with our family often remark that they leave in better shape when they came, and contrast us with their previously held notion that Americans only drive everywhere.

Amelie ex au pair January 28, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Simone, I did a lot of walking when I was an au pair, most of the time pushing a stroller, and some of the time having two kids walking by my side. The family didn’t have a car for the au pair, and that’s one of the reasons I matched wirth then (I don’t drive). I’m pretty sure I reached 5k in a day more than one or twice.

Didn’t feel like slavery at all (in fact, I could take the bus instead if I wanted). It was good to get some exercise during work. I think that’s one of the reasons I was the only one of my friends who didn’t get fat in the US.

Be Careful What You Wish For January 27, 2011 at 8:45 pm

When (and if) we return to the AP program, we’re matching on the basis of personality and interests, not weight. I’ll tell you why.

If you automatically assume that a particular attribute brings an associated set of guaranteed assets or troubles, you might get complacent and completely miss a whole host of problems you might have caught had you not been blinded by your preconceived notions.

The AP that was the scariest, most screwed up and unhealthy was our bulimic AP. She fit the profile in that her application embodied all the things we thought we wanted. High achieving academically, athletic (competitive dancer in a dance troupe), glowing references, bubbly outgoing personality, licensed driver, and a ton of good child care experience.

But we learned the hard way all that can come with trying to be perfect.
These folks statistically speaking, although normal weight range, bulimics are much more prone to terrible eating habits , bad body image, depression, body system break down, substance use, self mutilation, and even suicide, than their higher BMI and even HIGHEST BMI counterparts.

And believe me, even though she passed all our screenings, and passed the psychiatric exam through the AP agency, we found out within a week that, although “picture perfect”, she was one sick pup. We found food with one or two bites eaten in the garbage, found food stashed about the house. That was our first clue. We thought, given her ability “to get dressed to the 9s” and given a those photos with her being “kissy kissy” with friends, that she was sociable. Nope. In fact, she said she actually didn’t like most girls. Sure enough, at her first cluster meeting she had only complaints about the other APs.

Nope, AP preferred men. And she was seductive with both my husband AND my father. She would even change into a slinky outfit and proceed to do yoga poses in front of my husband that would make a pole dancer blush. She even edged out grandma at a restaurant and stroked my father’s thigh!

And all that energy? Yes, she went on long strenuous stroller walks with our kid daily. Turns out, she was walking a few miles to her favorite bakery and binging. Then, she would stick her finger down her throat and force vomiting IN FRONT OF OUR CHILD.

We figured that out when our little one ( almost a year old) started pulling herself up to the commode and sticking her finger down her throat!

We mandated treatment, but AP left with less than 12 hours notice on a fake family emergency.


So we started asking directly about eating disorders, attitudes about food and views on physical activity. From that we chose an overweight, possibly obese, AP who was a rematch. Yes, she ate more, but she went to the gym, was actively engaged with our child and made friends ( level of anger at old HF was another matter, though).

And BTW, BMI is not the whole story. Fat distribution, fat versus muscle mass (which BMI does not account for) and family medical history also play a role. Although I am of normal weight (BMI=23), my husband is genetically BIG (think Tony Soprano, 6′-2″ BMI=34). He grew up active (football, baseball, golf,competitive sailing) was popular and has no health difficulties. No high blood pressure, no high cholesterol, no diabetes, no heart attacks, no cancer. Neither does anyone in his family. They live til their late 90’s.

Thin people can be sedentary, physically unfit, insecure, socially awkward, depressed and most definitely eating disordered. If you interview carefully, and confirm the skills and personality attributes you need in an AP, then TAKE HER/HIM. Obesity is not a contagious disease and does not necessarily result in a life sentence of ill health, rejection, depression or doom and gloom.

But obesity is epidemic in the US. Ironically, the US has the least fat acceptance and some of the most prejudiced attitudes in the industrialized world, yet we are the fattest by far.

Perhaps if we acknowledged that stigma and discrimination against otherwise healthy, happy, competent people brings us all down, maybe we’ll make progress. But I for one would never allow my child to internalize the negative stereotypes voiced here. What kind of parent would I be to encourage my child to make assumptions about someone’s capabilities or character based on a physical attribute?

From the posts submitted here, the only generalization I can make is that we are a bunch of Ugly Americans.

Shame on all of us.

belief that FAT equals anything but FAT. And fat people, does

So come on people, own your own biases and insecurities around weight, seek out the AP with the qualities you need, and lose the obsession on size.

You run a much higher risk of getting a self-absorbed, perfectionistic, but CRAZY bulimic if you get too focused on externals.

JBLV January 27, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Great post! Thank you.

AFhostmom January 28, 2011 at 7:35 am

Surely you’re not suggesting that the US has the market cornered on judging people based on weight?
I can tell you my size was more of an issue in Thailand, Egypt, Holland, and a bunch of other places than it ever has been at home. Obese girls can be bulimic too, you know. I would never want the cover-model-stereotype-gorgeous AP, but I don’t think anyone here is obsessed with size. Just honest that it is a factor.

Eurogirl January 28, 2011 at 7:55 am

At 150cms and around 50 kilos, which is a normal BMI (about 22, I think), I was actually told I should lose weight in Germany, by my host mother and by a friend of hers. I consider myself healthy and they both weighed less than me despite being a LOT taller. I can’t imagine being told that in America, granted I’ve only visited a couple of times but I certainly don’t feel that people are judging overweight people…because forgive me, but there are a lot of them about and there aren’t the same stares and bad attitudes that very overweight people unfortunately get in Europe from some people…

JBLV January 27, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I read this post the yesterday and have been thinking about it. Much of what I’ve been thinking has been posted, but I’d like to summarize and add some new points.

If OP is asking us for permission for her to discriminate against potential employees based on the stereotypes of overweight people, I don’t think we should grant it. Stereotypes should be avoided for good reason. In our case, we can easily say that for every obese person who is lazy, ignorant, lacks the ability to choose the right type of food, and lacks self control, there may be the counter example of an obese person who is industrious, intelligent, who consumes too much of the right types of food and may simply overindulge because of cultural, familial and societal influences. I’m no scientist, but I’ve read the NYTimes articles about studies that show exercise has does not have as much bearing on weight than was previously thought. I’ve also read articles that discuss the fact that nearly one-third of Americans are technically obese (and Europeans are not far behind) due to a combination of factors:
1. increase in portion size
2. subsidies of fatty and sugary foods, making them less expensive to buy
3. to a lesser degree, more sedentary lifestyles (less walking, more driving)
4. and for other reasons OP is probably more qualified to discuss

The point is, obese AP’s didn’t spring out of nowhere – many are the result of society, cultural and familial influences. Thirty years ago obesity wasn’t as much of a concern, but influences on food consuming have changed dramatically. And if we were to discriminate against obese people, we would be doing so against a large portion of America and Europe.

That said, being an AP is not a tradition “employee.” In fact, an AP is not an employee at all. It may be wise for host moms to acknowledge our prejudices so that we do not make ourselves and our AP’s miserable. If OP looks at a capable and good, yet obese, AP and only sees obesity stereotypes, OP needs to take her prejudices into consideration.

I will be the first to admit that I discriminate based on age. I will not consider an AP under 21 unless she is in her second year and has glowing recommendations. Are there AP’s under 21 who are mature members of their households? Absolutely! Would I potentially be overlooking a great AP because of her young age? Again, yes. But in the back of my mind, I am think that perhaps statistically I’m more likely to get a mature AP if I only look at those who are 23, 24, 25, and 26. Will discriminating against obese AP’s in the matching process be statistically beneficial if OP’s concern is having a AP who will have a positive impact on the food choices on the family? I do not know for sure, but one could take an educated guess.

In a perfect world, I would be willing to help someone under 21 gain life experiences and the maturity needed to be an adult member of my family that includes two very small children. In a perfect world, OP would be willing to help an obese AP make better food choices. But we are working moms with limited time and who who are under pressure to make the very best decisions for our families.

Discrimination is not acceptable, but (sadly) no host mom is perfect. We have time and energy constraints, not to mention an awful lot of societal pressure that require us to do some kinds of discrimination. For OP, that means no obese AP’s. For me, that means no one under 21. Others have different criteria.

Dorsi January 28, 2011 at 11:44 am

Just because there are two possible scenarios (obese person who is lazy, obese person who is active) does not mean they are equally distributed. I don’t think it is true that “for for every obese person who is lazy, ignorant, lacks the ability to choose the right type of food, and lacks self control, there may be the counter example of an obese person who is industrious, intelligent…” Just in the same way the age correlates with maturity (though we all have lots of counter examples), obesity does correlate with lack of activity/poor food choices.

Also, I think discrimination is fully acceptable — it is defining which characteristics that one discriminates on that is tricky. I discriminate based on family size (I won’t take a only child), child care experience (you need to have spend 8+ hours a day with child for a period of time or I won’t consider you), educational aspirations/achievement, stated food preferences, English ability and more. Sometimes we need to use surrogates markers to discriminate for the characteristics we are looking for. Some people use age = maturity, years driving = high quality driver, younger siblings = childcare experience, etc. This is not perfect, but it is how one sorts people when you can’t meet them in person and get to know them.

The question here is whether obesity is a valid surrogate marker for anything.

Of note, exercise has not been found to be a key factor in weight loss (as mentioned above and in many recent mainstream newspaper articles) but it is a key factor in weight maintenence. Active people tend not to go from normal weight to obese, though obese people who are very active do not usually obtain a normal weight without making other changes in their lifestyle.

JBLV January 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Agreed. The problem, of course, is the English word “discriminate.” Discrimination in popular vernacular implies unacceptable bias. When hiring a traditional employee in most fields, it would be entirely unacceptable to discriminate based on appearance with regards to weight. Nearly 1/3 of Americans are obese. Surely not everyone who is obese is bad at his/her job or lazy, etc.

But an AP is not a traditional employee. “Discriminating” would perhaps be a better word in our situations. If we were all Superwomen, we would hire based solely on the AP’s capabilities regardless of appearance, age, etc. If, for example, OP got an obese AP who did not impact her family’s healthy choices, then great. OP would need only look past her own prejudices. If, however, OP got an obese AP who needed help making better food choices, as Superwoman OP would have the energy and capability to help the AP. But there is no such thing as Superwoman. As working moms and host moms, we have too many demands on our time and energy.

Ana January 28, 2011 at 12:32 am

I would ask you HMs please not to judge your potential au pair only for what they look like in the pics. I can talk for myself, who has always been overweight – now only a bit, but actually obese until 18 or 19. I am very active, love skating and biking outside, eat very well and hate junkie food (and can cook healthy food for myself, actually, eating healthy food was a concern I even stated on my application). Of course I often allow self-indulgences with food, but I am very concerned about eating healthly, my mother raised me that way. I love walking, for instance, better than driving. So I’d say, talk to your potential au pair first to see what is she actually into, and how self concious about her body she is, and of course if she’s honest about this issues, everything should be fine.

I can understand your worries – for instance, some years ago, as a teenager, I was really self-concious about my body and probably would not wear bikini to go to the swimming pool. And of course that would be an issue if I had a job offer who requested me to wear a bikini and swim in the pool, but then again, I’d not get the job if I wasn’t able to attend the expectations by then. Anyway, that hasn’t been a issue for me for years now, even though I’m still overweight. So the key here is actually talking and getting to know the girl – because you might find a lazy, inactive, self-conscious about her body Au Pair who’s skinny, too.

Chev January 28, 2011 at 3:31 am

I don’t know that i have anything more to add to this discussion but i just want to urge the OP not to decide against an obese/overweight AP just because of the fact that she’s obese/overweight.
I’m a 2 times AP – I’m also obese, on my way down to overweight and i’ve looked after host kids from birth to preteen and was extremely active with all of them. I’ve always been a chubby kid, then overweight teenager once i stopped playing sports, and now an obese adult who exercises frequently and has never had any problem running around after my host kids or striping down to a bathing suit to go swimming with the kids. In my application photos you wouldn’t have seen any of me stripped down to a bathing suit because i’m an extremely pale Australian and i prefer to be sun smart and cover up with boardies and a tankini top when i go swimming rather than just use sunscreen and hope i don’t burn, but if the swimming pool rules say suits only then ask your prospective AP if she’s comfortable running around in her swimmers with the kids 3 months of the year.

I think the only way to find out if she has the same healthy ideals as you and your family is to ask her. Ask her about the meals she’d prepare for the family, the activities she does now and would do with the kids, if she likes to dress up and go out with her girlfriends.
And try to avoid the word normal – i think it sends a not so nice message. What is a normal size anyway? I’m 5-5 and obese and yet i wear Old Navy large and American Eagle XL. Which means i can shop in ‘normal’ stores and yet i wouldn’t consider my weight/size ‘normal’ since it’s not an average healthy size – at least not in my country.

Eurogirl January 28, 2011 at 7:42 am

I was asked to provide a sample of meal and snack plans I would prepare for the kids before getting one of my au pair jobs. Maybe that’s a good question to include in the interview, but of course, the au pair before me at that family (overweight, but very sporty, active and by all accounts a fabulous au pair) had provided a very healthy meal plan…and then the kids later revealed that she fed them take away pizza every week… So I suppose that even though it was a very good question to ask, you have to remember that just because someone knows how to eat healthily and cook healthy meals doesn’t always mean they will make the right choices.

First Time Au Pair Mom MA January 28, 2011 at 9:58 am

We matched with our first au pair last summer before the birth of my first child, and she is obese. We didn’t want to discriminate against her based on her weight when everything else seemed so perfect. However, looking back, I wish we had chosen differently. Her lifestyle is so different from my husband and I that it is creating a lot of conflict living with her. She is just lazy. She watches much more TV than we do. I’m glad that my son is still young so that her off-work activities and eating habits don’t make an impression on him.

That said, she hasn’t had any problems meeting other girls, and her biggest self-conscious issue is her command of the English language and not her weight. Our main problem with her is that her lifestyle is so different than ours, and I believe that she mis-represented herself to us in the interview process. We were led to believe that she liked to go hiking and for walks in the woods in her spare time, that she’d rather spend a weekend at a lake instead of at a city pool, and thought that she’d be a great fit for us because we’re both huge outdoor people. Turns out that she’d rather spend her evenings and weekends on the computer or watching TV. We practically have to beg her to go outdoors.

nyaupair January 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

I just want to stay something as well ,when we are applying to join up to the agency we have to submit pic’s that are presentable, so you won’t see any pic’s of the au pairs in bathing suits that show too much skin.

HMom of 2 January 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Along the bathing suit lines, an interesting take on one of the worries listed above about an overweight or obese AP being reluctant to wear a bathing suit, is that we had an AP who had no issues wearing a bikini but, in my opinion, didn’t at all have the body for it. She wasn’t obese, but I would say overweight by about 20 pounds. On one hand and in light of the current body issues dialogue, I was happy that she didn’t seem to feel inhibited or worry about others’ judgment of her in a bikini. However, on the other hand, I was taken back by her lack of awareness of matching clothing appropriate to her body type. And this was not just a bathing suit issue – we had lots of cleavage, lots of shorts skirts and tank tops with belly hanging out, etc, to the point where I eventually had to have an uncomfortable talk with her about it, since I didn’t want my girls to start admiring that type of dress. So, maybe it’s not such a bad thing that some APs want to cover up a little bit at the pool. :-)

momto2 January 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm

* Our first AP was considerably obese and had zero energy. She was significantly more heavy when she arrived vs. her photos, (…..which is why we discovered “Skype” for all future interviews). This AP was physically very lazy, refused to go outside and play with the kids, and she threw a fit if we told her the kids needed exercise. She ate nothing but junk which is what she spent all of her stipend on, since we wouldn’t buy the garbage for her. Didn’t end well.
* Our second AP was also obese, but was full of energy. She actually had a very confident self image, which was awkward at times since she often dressed in very tight and revealing clothing, that usually didn’t fit her size, but that was not a deal breaker since it may have also been somewhat cultural. She was a good AP, loved the kids and did what we asked of her.
* Next AP was very thin. She was bulimic but functional. Our best AP overall, but we have 2 young boys, and they were unaware of her food struggles. We may have felt differently if we had teenage girls. The AP did overcome the disorder, and learned better eating habits and exercise, which is fortunate.
* Next AP was a mega-athlete, demanded health foods commensurate with her European pantry, but was obsessive about fitness and food. Didn’t end well. Kids hated her, and we didn’t find much to enjoy either.
* Next AP is well proportioned, eats healthy and exercises. Good AP.

Bottom line is, we’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover. Thin AP’s could be healthy and energetic or dealing with issues, and larger AP’s could be healthy and energetic or dealing with issues. Everybody gets a fair opportunity to interview and compete for the job, regardless of what they look like.

Former Au Pair D. January 28, 2011 at 7:52 pm

There are a loooot of comments and I am sure OP has her idea set since the beginning when she posted the issue here. I have the opinion she wont hire a obese or overweight Au Pair.
I just hope she realizes by all the posts, and I believe most of us agree, that the main line is that it doesn’t matter if she is obese or skinny, if she is lazy and self conscious it’s gonna happen either she is fat or thin.

CaliDad January 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm

My wife and I found an excellent obese au pair but finally opted out for a different reason–one of our daughter’s best friends isn’t allowed to play in homes / environments that do not, in her parents’ estimation, provide a good role model. My apologies to her, as she was quite nice on the phone and had credible, glowing references… but our kids come first.

HRHM January 31, 2011 at 5:18 am

So am I to understand that if you or your wife was obese, then the child would also not be allowed to play in your home? Kinda wierd. I don’t think I would allow my kids’ friends’ parents to choose my AP.

AFHostmom January 31, 2011 at 9:55 am

I had the same reaction. And frankly, that’s not a friendship I would encourage for my daughter. But different strokes and all.

UKAuPair April 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Firstly hi everyone, this is my first post so I will get that out of the way.
Secondly I value everyone’s opnion, and of course everyone has predjudices, but I am just going to tell my story.
I am overweight.
I have struggled with my weight since I was 8 years old, it in no way has ruled my life but I have always known it was there.
I used to be quite quiet and shy but at the age of 17 everything changed. My first trip away from home I decided I was going to be go to Ghana in West Africa.
I LOVED it! It gave me immense amounts of confidence, taught me about another culture, and gave me the travelling bug!
I have no issue with my weight what so ever. Don’t get me wrong it would be nice to be several sizes smaller, but it certainly doesn’t make me who I am.
I consider myself to be a very good au pair and being overweight has certainly never stopped me doing anything. I have as much confidence, in fact more in some cases, than my skinny friends. I even teach in front of 12-18 year olds everyday!
My first experience of being an Au Pair was in Italy, and I’ll admit I was worried at first; what with Italy being the fashion capital etc etc. I was probably the only overweight person in Lecce, but did it bother me? No. I went to the local uni and made friends, spent my nights off out with them and walked the 4 mile round trip to town every day. I took the girls to the local market (walking) and never drove.
I got on with the whole family and they all accepted me for who I am, as I did them. I am still in touch with the girls and we write to each other regularly, they and there mother have even begged me to be there au pair again.
Now this whole business about wearing a swimming costume. I was on a beach, the most beautiful beach in the world infact, and surrounded my woman in bikinis (even 70 year olds!). I was the only british person and the only person in a swimsuit on the ENTIRE beach, but it just didn’t bother me. I was too busy having the time of my life playing with the girls and there friends in the water. So some people were probably looking at me and thinking I was ugly and I shouldn’t be so fat, but thats there problem not mine.
As for being a good role-model. I ate what the family ate, I never gave the kids junk food and as for spending my money on junk food, I wouldn’t dream of it, I had far to much travelling to do!
To be honest Italy was a god-send for me, I lost 6lbs whilst I was there; despite all the pasta and have lost 20lbs since I got back, it was the kick up the bum I needed. I still have about 70lbs to go, but I will do it before I come to America in September (that’s if a HF will want me!). I’m not doing it for my new HF, or my parents, or any body else; I am doing it 100% for me.

Tristatemom April 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm

That amount of weight loss is a major accomplishment – congratulations!!! Please keep going because if you still need to loose 70lbs to be in a healthy weight range (I am assuming here you are not going for skinny model stats?!?) then you are giving the gift of health, quality of live and longevity to yourself.
I don’t know if you were asking for advice or just giving your perspective but have you thought about putting some of the above in your host family letter? It will not reach people that judge by pictures alone but it shows that you are goal oriented, hard working and active – nice attributes in an au pair!

UKAuPair April 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Hi Tristatemom,

Thanks for the positive comment. I am not aiming for skinny model status, just something I am comfortable with (around a UK size 12/14).
I have put it in my HF letter, and what you have said makes me feel a lot more positive about it. To be honest I wasn’t sure whether to put it in or not at first.
Thanks! =D

Va aupair August 1, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Seriously? Is that a big deal?… do you want miss universe taking care of your kids….as long as your kids stay with a thrust worthy person who loves them and protects them the shape of the body is the less important thing…I am not fat but one of my friends au pairs is.However, she is so responsible, active, has a lot of energy and gives healthy food to the kids. You have also to stop to think if her fatness is because of bad habits eating or maybe because hormones condition.

Anonamomma August 2, 2011 at 6:33 am

VA Aupair – most HF’s do understand that there may be a hormonal problem – but it is more likely that there is not – and that the real issue is in fact a lifestyle one.

And the truth is that most HF’s need high energy Au Pairs to look after high energy children. Therefore we search for someone who is physically fit (not necessarily thin or slim).

This criteria does not rule out overweight au pairs – but it will rule out obese au pairs.

coolmom August 2, 2011 at 9:10 am

so if the mother of father are obese? are not they good enough to look after their own children because they are not fit?

Anonamomma August 2, 2011 at 9:31 am

@ coolmom
I think you misunderstood my comment and therefore I will explain it again.

The topic of the post is whether HF’s see obesity as a reason not to match with a candidate. I stated that some (and indeed most HF’s that I know) need high energy Au Pairs to look after high energy children and will therefore search for someone who is physically fit and this (for the most part) rules out obese Au Pairs.

I hope this helps.

toobusy September 19, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Late on this thread, but we just matched with an au pair who told me during our interview that she is “corpulent.” My reaction was to laugh really hard because the word sounded so funny (and she had taken a while searching for it though her English is very good – I explained that it is an unusual and formal word in English).

We talked for a long time about her feelings about this, and mine. Philosophically, I am 100% non-judgemental about body size. I believe that, just as you can never know the inside of somebody else’s marriage, no one has any idea what goes on in a person’s life that has made him or her fat.

I also believe that our culture is SO screwed up about body image and floods our lives with horrible messages: watch t.v. and eat this crap; hate yourself; if you buy this and this and this and this, ad infinitum, you might be beautiful and thin like Cindy Crawford and people will love you – or, at least, stop hating you; you’re an awful person if you don’t work out for an hour every day; in the end, you might as well let yourself go if you can’t be super thin; better to be anorexic than fat (admit you’ve heard women say this – I know I have). And then we go around letting ourselves think that being fat is a moral failing. I think our culture is cruel and hypocritical.

That said, feeling happy after getting off the phone, I paused for a moment and thought, “ok, HOW corpulant?” I laughed at myself, but then I really began to wonder. Her weight is not stated on the health form. Are we talking 165 pounds or 300? Most of her photos are either dated or her body is obscured. I really wondered if I should change my mind. (She had assured me she is fit and used to carrying, handling, and running like crazy after many children.)

BUT then I talked to her on the phone again. She is so cheerful and funny and sweet and wise that after I hung up I said to myself, “Toobusy, if this wonderful girl is obese, then this is the year that you are going to learn about yourself, your hidden prejudices, your ability to truly accept difference and what it’s like to be fat in this crazy world.” Host parents know that having an au pair is a cultural exchange. This year I will learn more than just how they celebrate Easter in Germany. I’m looking forward to it.

PS. if it matters, I’m thin – luck of the genetic draw.
PPS. our current au pair is thin and obsessed with her diet and exercise and won’t eat our food and spends tons of my money on organic vegetables that she blends into wild and disgusting “cleansing” smoothies – every day (her food takes up both of my veggie bins in the fridge plus another third of the other shelves- oh, and veggies in the meat drawer – we’re constantly jockeying for space). That’s all she eats – only raw. We’re healthy and active, but budget conscious* (organic when possible) and reasonable. Her diet needs drive me crazy. Oops, she’s blending up a bright green smoothie as we speak!
* I’ll be talking to the next au pair about reasonable grocery bills. Only one more week and it’s just not worth it with perfect-body-or-bust AP.

AFHostMom January 9, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I’m smiling at your post, toobusy. Did you match with the corpulent AP? I’d love to hear how it went, if you did and you see this.
Oh, and since I’m commenting: in the medical info included with applicant’s paperwork; I believe our agency requires the physician to list height and weight, and there is always a blurb in the interview about the AP’s appearance.

Returning HM January 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm

We have had two “corpulent” APs. One was one of our best APs and the other we had to rematch with. The difference? Physical fitness. The first was a very large woman – of medium height but easily 200+lbs – but could hike, swim, play, roughhouse with the best of them. She could hold the rambunctious dog by the leash in one hand, push the toddler on the trike with the other, and carry our then-five year old on her back, all at the same time. As a very small woman myself, I found it awe-inspiring! Our second AP, though, was also corpulent, but in her case, her weight and general lack of physical fitness meant that she could not go on a walk around the neighborhood without needing to rest afterwards, could not keep up in the pool with our then-six year old, and could not react quickly enough to grab our then-three year old as he ran in the parking lot. Our LCC met her at our two-week check-in and advised a rematch that night, after watching how slowly and with what difficulty this AP carried her weight around. It was clear she could not do the job we needed her to do, given the ages and activity level of our children.

It’s important to tell that this AP went on to be a fantastic AP for another family — one with brand new infant twins who were in no danger of running away from her. And by the time they could walk, she had been there nearly two years, and so they knew and would not run away from her. We kept in touch with her, and she ended up being a highly successful AP…just not for our family.

Weight doesn’t matter one whit to us, but I now ask questions about physical fitness and general exercise level, because we’re such an active family that we need an active AP to fit in.

Should be working January 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Cultural Care stopped putting height and weight in the application that HFs see. You used to see the actual medical report, now there is an agency-created summary of any health issues. I would actually like to see the real report. Probably it’s a confidentiality issue, but I do want to see height/weight. NOT to screen for obesity, which is pretty easy to see, but instead to screen for too-thin/anorexic, which is more easily hidden.

FWIW I had the agency put in my file that I want “relatively physically fit” candidates, so that I don’t have to go through the moral dilemma of whether to nix an obese candidate who is otherwise good. For us obesity is a criterion for exclusion from consideration. Overweight is not.

MommyMia September 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Kudos to you, Toobusy, for laughing at yourself (not always easy to do!) and for your attitude and open-mindedness. We had a “corpulent” AP a few years ago, and she was very able to run after our then-toddler. But one caveat if you have older children is that they and their friends/classmates are not open and welcoming of differences in appearance – it was very difficult for my older child, who did not want to be seen in public with our AP, be picked up by her after school, etc. We all learned a lot about ourselves and our prejudices, which it sounds like you’re willing and able to do, so more power to you and best wishes for a successful year!

love being an au pair January 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm

hey all
just saw that topic and would like to add some thoughts from myself as an au pair.
i came to the US 1.5 years ago. I was obese! but still active! i love to swim being outside etc. the swimming concern was not an issue for me because before you come to the US we all thought americans are all fat:) well that wasn’t the case at all! my hostfamily eats very healthy! i did exactly what my hostmom wanted me to give their kids to eat. like fruit for B and Lunch, veggies for Lunch and Dinner etc. we have almost NO candy or other unhealthy stuff in the house like chips,fries,hotdogs etc. so i couldn’t get them anything unhealthy to eat:) the good thing about that whole thing was i started picking up things my hostmom did! like doing sport! she went on a run at least 5 times a week! i started to eat how they ate and look now, i’m so happy with my weight:) last fall i finished a half marathon with my hostmom:)) what i want to say is, not everyone who is obese is not able to be active! i have had lots of au pair friends thin ones who were so LAZY with their kids! watching TV all day not going outside etc. But from the first day i was here i spent every minute i could outside at the park, bike rides, swimming, tennis, basketball,soccer etc. i even asked my hostmom to give the kids less TV time ( they were allowed to watch 1h per day now since i’m here they watch 30 min. not more) i did that because after TV time the kids didn’t want to do anything! they were just borred because of the TV watching all the time. My hostmom was so happy i got them to watch less. and the kids are happy too:) winter is harder but still we spend at least 4 afternoons a week at the pool at our GYM! if you tell your au pair what you want and what you don’t want i think it should work! it did for me and the only thing my hm said was: be active and no candy or fastfood for my kids:)) good luck!

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