Deciding whether to extend: The Au Pair’s Point of View

by cv harquail on April 11, 2010

When we have an au pair we really like, and even sometimes a so-so au pair, we start to think: Hey, maybe we should extend with this au pair… another 6, 9, or 12 months with the comfort of knowing what we’ve got, taking advantage our mutual investment in the relationship, keeping things stable for the kids, and avoiding the hard work of finding another au pair just as good.


We’ve also learned that deciding whether or not to extend, for both the host parents and the au pairs, includes a wild range of considerations, not just about family life, work load, and relationships with the kids, but also about education requirements, seeing the US, and fulfilling the au pair’s goals for her or his experience.

Since we’ve talked a bit about extensions from the Host Parents’ view, let’s turn it around and think about how an au pair might make his or her decision.

Here’s an email we got from an au pair, who has a great situation, and yet…. could use some thoughts on her decision-making process.

Should i extend?

People always tell me to listen to my gutfeeling.. but what if your gut lost its voice?

I’m an au-pair and have been with my family for 7.5 months. I love them. Most of the time.

Today they got a letter about searching for a new au-pair or extending with me. I know they want to extend. They say I’m the best au-pair they ever had. They have had 4 au-pairs before. They are just waiting for me, giving me time. I know the ball is all mine.

The thing is that everytime I start to think about the situation my tummy starts to hurt and I feel like crying. One thing I know for sure is that I want to work another year as an au-pair. But I’m not sure I want to stay here.

My family is great and my girl with special needs loves me so much! I have a great room, great car that I can use when ever I want. No curfew. Great counsellor, Great food situation (buy my own and give the family the receipt). Not many families would do that and be so okay with me experimenting in the kitchen. (I love to cook).

The only thing is the area where my host family lives. I hate it. I can’t get anywhere without a car, and there is no fun places to go. I live near nyc but that city is too big for me. My two friends are leaving and there are not so many au-pairs here.

And, I’m also curious how it would be in another family, with different kids and parents that are both at work (I have a stay at home mum now).

201004111032.jpgI know I would still enjoy it if I stayed. The family situation would be great, but I don’t know how my social life would be.
If I try to extend with another family I might end up with the worst hostfamily ever. With curfews, no friends and bad area as well.
Or I might not find another family and end up going back home. It’s a big risk. But still.. it could be perfect…

I don’t know if I should tell my host mum about my thoughts. Once I tell her I would feel weird if I changed my mind and decided to stay with them. Like they were a second choice or something. But I also feel bad not telling them. And If I said I want to extend, but not with their family, I know they will get hurt. This has been on my mind several month now. But now time is running out and I know they want an answere.. soon.

If only I knew what I wanted.

See also:


Angie April 11, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I think it is really a choice between two good things. Choosing to extend can deepen the bond with the host family and bring greater comfort in exploring areas around you – like NYC – what is intimidating in au pair year 1 is often not in au pair year 2, and it often depends on the friends you make.

Rematching with a second family can give you a new experience in another part of the country. If it really is the worst host family ever then you can rematch.

I don’t think the decision is one that should stress you so much, realize that you have only good options here. If your host family did not want you to extend you would only be able to choose between going home and finding a new family. You are lucky enough to have a hf that you like that wants to keep you – so you have more happy choices.

Our au pairs have struggled with the go home/extend decision, because of friends leaving, etc. All of them were happy with new friends found in their second year. None of them rematched in another part of the country – but all of them had the chance to travel with us to different parts of the US during their first year.

The worst stress struggle was actually for our current au pair who has decided to stay in the US and get an F-1 visa and study in the US. I think the more choices you have causes more stress in making the decision – it seems strange that when other au pairs need to go home at the end of their stay (or stay illegally) and you have a choice to stay legally, that this good choice caused incredible stress.

If you came to the US because you want to see the country and feel you won’t see enough of it in your current host family, and don’t have the ability to travel yourself on the weekends, then go ahead and rematch with another family for your second year. Your host family will be disappointed but they will find another au pair and will be ok.

If you came because you want to improve your English and form a tight bond with a host family, stay where you are, and use your second year to explore new friends and new opportunities that you didn’t in your first year.

Whatever you decide, do it quick, stick to the decision, and don’t look back. Good Luck!

AnnaAuPair April 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I have to say, I wasn’t in that position, because I didn’t want to stay for a second year.
But I can understand how you might feel.
I agree with Angie, that your decision depends on why you came to the US: getting to know lots of things or settling down and having stability.
I was “lucky” that through my rematch after 3 month, I got to see the Eastcoast as well as the Westcoast and got to know two very different lifestyles. And I have to say that I’m really happy about it.

If you’d tell your hostfamily, that you love them and that it’s a really hard decision for you, but that you would like to experience something else – then I’m sure they will understand.
Sure, it makes it a lot easier for them if you’d stay. But there are times during the aupair-experience, where you have to think about yourself in the first place.

Calif Mom April 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I agree with Anna–this decision is *yours* and you should not make it out of guilt. I imagine this is especially hard for you because you know that finding someone who can handle a special needs child is especially hard for the host parents.

I also agree that you should really evaluate your goals for the next year. Not necessarily evaluating them vs what you thought at first, before you arrived, because you have grown a lot since then and in some ways you are probably not “the same person you were” when you decided to come to the States on your big adventure.

I sit down with paper at times like these. Write a list of what you want to experience before you go home at the end of Year 2. And then put a weight these things, from 1 to 5, and see if the numbers tell you anything or make things more clear. For me, sometimes just the process of being analytical helps the answer emerge when you are deciding among things that are not easy to measure, or are very emotional (like this situation!).

These are the hardest choices–when they are all pretty good options, but nothing is a clear “home run”. There is no ‘perfect’ to be found in life, and no do-overs, which is hard. Get used to that! :-) We all have to grapple with our “roads not taken”.

You are right that it will be hard to tell your host parents what you are thinking, but this is indeed one of those time when you really do have to do the right thing even though it might be the harder thing to do. You don’t want to be packing your bags to go home at the end of Year 2 and have big regrets. That would feel terrible. Your hosts are adults; they will be able to handle the disappointment if you decide to go, and you really are not responsible for their emotions.

Being in a place where there is nothing to do and you end up driving all the time does suck. Not living near a lot of other au pairs is a totally different experience than the world our au pairs have known, so it’s hard for me to shed any light on that part of it, sorry. It probably does make it harder for you to leave, though, because you know your hosts will have a hard time recruiting a special needs AP to their area.

Having an honest talk with them right now, even if it’s just to say “I know you are waiting for me to decide, and this is the hardest decision of my life! Here’s what I’m thinking about….” might help you figure out your answer, and might even offer them an opportunity to do things differently that would improve your life even more if you stayed.

That you are “the best they have ever had” must make this even harder!

(Only one thing I disagree with: I don’t think you will have a hard time finding another family. Great APs are still hard to find, and you wouldn’t HAVE to go with a family with special needs kids unless you wanted to. That would be a totally different AP experience.)

Janet April 11, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I think your host family will support whatever decision you make. We had an au pair who wanted to try a different family after the first year with us. My initial reaction was to be hurt, but I was glad to know sooner rather than later so I could start matching with a new au pair.

Our au pair wrote up a very nice letter saying how it was such a difficult decision and she liked being with us and being a part of our family but that she wanted to try living in a different part of the country.

Good Luck!!!

HRHM April 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm

My only words of caution here are – don’t abandon “great” in search of “perfect”. You may find that you end up with neither.

A lot of APs find that they live in areas that are not walkable to do things. In fact, in the US, with the exception of some very large cities (NYC, DC, SF) most places in the US require a car on an almost daily basis. If you live close enough to drive to NY, I find it hard to believe that you can’t find things to do. The whole area surrounding is one contiguous suburb/city with malls, restaurants and movie theatres. In addition, if you live in the city, you likely won’t have a car to use (our AP didn’t when we lived in DC – too dangerous traffic, too expensive to insure and no excuse for not using buses/metro)
I know that lots of APs look for a working (outside the home) HF, but remember, this will likely require you to work more hours, and give you much less flexibility about when you can have off.

Our last AP was in your situation and decided to find a new family. We started looking after she told us (we weren’t mad, we just needed to know ASAP) and found someone almost immediately. She had a hard time finding a family (only wanted to be around DC) and I eventually had to intervene to help. She is now WHERE she wanted to be, but she is a worker in her new home. She packs a lunch, drives her HC and makes sure he doesn’t watch tv after school. There are no family dinners, no one asks her about her life or her friends and no one hugs her and tells her she is loved. I don’t think she is as happy with her choice as she thought she’d be.
Nothing is “perfect”

The Au-pair April 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Thank you so much! I agree, nothing is perfect and maybe I shouldn’t try to look for it… I live 1,5h with train from nyc but thats the mayor city nearby. So I guess I do have things to do, but I’m having a hard time finding someone to do it with. I would rather not want to do it by myself so therefore it feels like I have nothing to do. Latelty I have found two good friends.. unfortunatly they are leaving and knowing how much trouble I had finding them I’m scared I’m going to be lonely( something thats never been an issue for me back home so I don’t know why I’m having a hard time klicking with people here)

My real mum told me, “You love au-pairing, Its kinda your work now, so see it from our perspective, we don’t change work, we stay because we like it and its good. If you like it you should stay with the same family.”

My response was. ” in a normal worksituation you go to work and then you come home and have your “life”. Here I don’t have my “life” I just have the family and being with the kids. Is that a life?

Sometimes I feel very happy having it like that.. sometimes I feel extremely lonely. Maybe I can’t have both?

I think I came here wanting a change, and yes I did think about being a part of a family. But how much.. should I stay another year with this family get even tighter just so it would be harder to leave.. I am going to leave eventually. So i have 1 more year I can spend in the US. What do I want. I want a new challenge. Like I felt when I left home. I want something new.

But still ! I don’t want to be replaced. I can’t handle the fact that If I go somewhere else a new au-pair will come here and live with my family, in my room.. and I would miss out on the progress the girl are doing and everything thats going on. and like HRHM said. Your au-pair had problems getting a new family while you already found your new “perfect” au-pair. A situation like that. Not finding a family that you want, always comparing to the old one and then maybe starting to “change” your mind and wanting to stay – and its to late. Horrible!

And the hard part is also that you have to make the decision so early. My year is not done until almost 4 month. Maybe things will be differend then.. But I can’t know that now..

Like Angie said.
do it quick, stick to the decision, and don’t look back.
Who doesn’t look back…

Anonymous April 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

We, too, live 1.5 away from NYC, and I have found with a little self exploring you may be able to find more social opportunities than you know. If this is your main concern, I understand how important a social life is to a young woman. However, if you enjoy your work and the current host family, you may find yourself unable to compare things with the next family, if that is what you choose. Als,o, you never know, you may find au pairs in your area that are with different agencies. A couple of our au pairs met others with a different agency at the park, or starbucks and formed friendships that way. Another thing that you can consider is signing up for a gym, or a continuing ed class such as volleyball., etc at night so you can meet other young people. If this is your main concern, perhaps you can ask your LCC to see if she is friendly with any other LCC’s from other agencies about other au pairs. Also, you never know what au pairs may arrive in the next year.

Good luck in your decision. Life is all about the choices we make!

maleaupairmommy April 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm

As I can see it now you like you host family you don’t like the social situation because you don’t have friends to do it with. I just feel making friends and getting to know people that is easily doable finding a good family is a gamble. Our first au pair his dream was always California and he was close to extending with us but didn’t want to give up his dream. We supported him wished him well and kept in close contact with him. Guess what we both went into transition at the same time. He would have came back to us but he had met a girl and didn’t want to leave her. In the end it worked out well for us we got a great au pair who stayed with us for two years and now he and the girl are living together in Germany. Things happen for a reason. You host family seems really accomdating in the little things and trust me it’s the little things that matter they add up good or bad. Go out there try to make friends there are tons of au pairs on facebook on blogs. There are ones from New York City from PA who you can meet up with. As we get older its hard to make new friends and than top it of with being in a different country doesn’t help either. Good luck with your choice and keep us updated. It’s not an easy one but I can tell you my au pair we have had for two years he is like a true family member for us. He decided to stay and live nearby and now he is “Uncle Carlos” feel blessed to have him in my life.

NjMom April 11, 2010 at 7:08 pm

My only word of caution is that it seems, anecdotally at least, that the families have the upper hand now because of the economy (lots of layoffs, not as great a need for AP’s) so I don’t think you will have as many choices and as much control over a rematch as you may think. my AP has a new friend in the area who left Texas after one year to extend near NYC and she ended up with only one family option and there are a lot of things about the new family she dislikes: Stay at home mom, three kids, three dogs, etc. The previous family treated her really, really well and she is sad. If you think you will have a lot of control over where you land next then you should go for it but you could end up in a tough situation.

Anonymous April 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I agree with the idea of not giving up good in search of perfect.
I suggest you choose between staying on with this family or not extending. One great idea given above is to make a list of the things you want to do and or accomplish in the second year. Maybe a different kind of class or area of study would be on that list. Maybe you could make a list of specific places to travel that you did not cover in your first year. Don’t overlook travel within the US. More people are doing that now, too. I think the selection/rematch process is grueling for both families and aupairs. Since this is a lovely situation, why subject yourself to the uncertainty of rematching with another family rather than extending with this one.

The Au-pair April 11, 2010 at 8:55 pm

But even if this is good can I stay forever? I have to move on eventually. Make new experiences. Au-pair in a new family in a new place, with new kids and different tasks. Wouldn’t that “give” me more?

They got the letter 5 days ago.. I got it 4 days ago. We havn’t said anything about it. Should I or should they bring it up?

NoCAMom April 12, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I strongly recommend keeping your communications open with your HF. This is a big moment for you, and the HF, to treat you like an adult. I speak from experience, as we just had our au pair decide to extend with us (yay!) – but I know she was very torn about whether to stay with us or try a new family.

One of her priorities was/is to learn English well, so we talked a bit about how in my view (biased, I know!) – she would be able to continue to focus on practicing her English without the stress of a new family, community, etc. if she stayed with us.

The hardest part is – especially since your family has had au pairs previously – they know you need to consider all of your options, and they are probably wondering what any concerns are that you have, and if there is anything they can help address.

Now – where they live probably can’t be changed much. We are fortunate to live in a remarkably nice area. BUT – we did inquire with our au pair what she might need, to see if we could help anything – and help her want to stay with us more.

If she had chosen to move on to another family, I would have been disappointed of course – but also supportive. I know it’s incredibly scary for you to think about starting over, and being “replaced” (although you will always be YOU in their hearts, I promise).

Take care of yourself – think about what is most important for your 2nd year, and if there is any way your HF can help. If there isn’t, and you need to choose to make the move – I will share one of my favorite sayings with you — “Leap – and the net will appear.” In other words – go for it! You will embark on your next great adventure, with a great 1st year experience and a wonderful HF with whom you can keep communicating in the future.

Good luck!

maleaupairmommy April 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Also is there something you really want like an extra week of vacation a special trip. We let our au pair go to Vegas and paid for the trip. It was so worth the 350 dollars to me.

ArwenAuPair April 11, 2010 at 9:35 pm

If you like being an au pair, if you like to be an au pair for another year, if you feel comfortable with your host family, if you love your children… THEN I WOULD STAY!!! Is it really only the area or because you are afraid of feeling isolated that makes you think of re-matching? Even the busiest area will not appear enjoyable if you do not feel comfortable with the host family! I was an au pair in Florida, directly on the Gulf Coast, and, believe me, I saw several au pairs come and go because they did not like their host families, palm trees and beach could not make them stay – and it shouldn’t have!And if you are changing host families, then you also have to find new friends. I think it is too easy to always see “the greener grass on the other side of the fence” and forget to appreciate what is good in one’s life and one’s privileges (and it sounds you have a lot)! I still regret that I did not extend with my host family, I went back home, but I should have stayed. They were not ‘perfect’ but neither was I, I mean, WHO is?! But they were the best family for me. I would make sure that your host family really wants you to stay and then I would stay!

The Au-pair April 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Well maybe its not just the area. In the beginning I liked the fact that I had a stay at home mum. and I do sometimes now as well. Its very flexible. But Its also very hard sometimes. She is always around, She does the fun things with the kids and I do the rest. If the kids want something they run to her.. not me. I think I would like to try the solocharge life because the times when the mum is away I don’t feel as much pressure. I love my hostmum don’t take me wrong. But it is always easier when you are alone with the kids. So being an au-pair in a family with both parents at work and me in solocharge. I think that would give me a whole new experience.

StephinBoston April 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I think you should talk to your hostmom about this if you decide to stay. I’m also a work at home mom and when my au pair is on duty, she’s the boss. I stay out of it, my kids know I’m in the office and I’m working and they should not come and ask me, they ask their au pair. If I happen to be around and he’s asking them to do something, I will only reinforce it, I will never get between her and the kids.

Angie April 12, 2010 at 1:17 am

Your reasons for rematching sound less realistic to me now. If host mom is hovering, have a talk with her about it and see if you can work something to make you more comfortable.

I’ve been a work at home and a work outside the house mom and I really think the au pair job is much easier with a work at home or stay at home mom. Unless you are only taking care of a baby or a kid in school so you have time to yourself during naps or school time, being with active children needing constant attention for 9 hours straight with no one to watch them if you need to use the bathroom or take a short phone call is a really hard thing. I know the pressure can be less without another adult around, but the work is actually much, much harder.

If you are thinking of rematching because you think it will be easier to work in a house with a work outside mom, you might regret it when you find that your hours are longer and not flexible at all, with sudden unexpected demands on your time, and no one to help out if you get a stomach virus in the middle of the day.

Nina from France April 12, 2010 at 4:09 am

I disagree with you Angie. I was an aupair twice, once with a work at home mom and once with a word outside the house mom and I foud it much harder to work when the mom was at home. In England (with the work at home mom), the children juste kept wanting to go and see their mom which wasnt nice at all. Whereas when I aupaired in germany, I had much more authority over the children since they knew that nobody else was in the house and that I was the boss. But it does also depend a lot on how the mom behaves when she’s working at home: the mom in England, when the children were crying or anything like that, she would come downstairs and ask what happens and if I did put the children in a time off (on the naughty step or so), she told me I was too strict….
So I think that if you choose to stay one more year in the same family, then you should definitely speak to the mom and tell her what you think of the situation.
I hope I didn’t make too many mistakes … My english ist getting worse and worse !!

Calif Mom April 12, 2010 at 10:08 am

(Your English is fine!)

It’s much harder to supervise someone else’s kids when they are in the vicinity. You feel watched. You know you aren’t the ultimate authority.

I have been host mom who works from home and host mom who works out of the office. I taught my kids–even when 2-3 years old–that “Mom’s working, go ask Au Pair. She’s in charge right now.” And closed the door to my office. It takes that kind of clear boundary setting to make that situation work for everyone. The kids actually respond to it well, too. They don’t like ambiguity any more than anyone else.

Is she joining you for lunch, too? If your current host mom isn’t doing something similar, I can see where it would be hard. You would always feel ancillary, not in charge.

(Geez, come to think of it, I hate it if my boss tags along to meetings about my projects, too! Same dynamic. Rather than feeling supported, it can make you feel more anxious about being second-guessed or havnig your authority undermined subtly. It depends on how good your boss is at handling the situation.)

Angie April 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Your English is fine! I HATE bosses who sit over my desk and need an update every 10 minutes (why I’m working on my own now) so I can completely understand why a mom who hovers could be a real pain in the neck.

I guess my view is different because my kids don’t come to my office when I’m working, but my au pair can (and does) call up when she wants help with something.

Maybe I’m deluding myself. Wouldn’t be the first time!

Dorsi April 11, 2010 at 10:26 pm

I think it is a good idea to extend with a new family. I think this is a time in your life to try many different things, and see as much of the world as possible.

1. A whole new series of events: a different kind of holiday traditions, a different set of family traditions, different daily activities with the kids.

2. New location — America is such a big and diverse country. The landscape could be very different that what you live in now, and the people to. (Suburban Arizona would be a whole different experience than Suburban Connecticut, for example — even if you were staying with the same family).

3. New family — Most families are good and want to have a good Au Pair year. You would get a chance to be more in charge of the kids if you didn’t have a SAHM (for better or worse) and you might get to work with totally different kids. One special needs child has its own joys and challenges — two rambunctious preschoolers would be totally different.

You can love your family that you are with now and still decide to go onto another family. When I asked my last AP to extend, I was very open about giving her a good recommendation if she chose to extend in a different location — you have your whole life to stay in an “okay” job for year after year. (She chose to go home). As we say: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Ann from NE April 12, 2010 at 12:29 am

I always find it difficult to focus on the long-term if too many immediate things around me are changing. I don’t know what your previous education/work experience are, not your academic or professional goals when you return to your country, but now that you are in a stable HF situation, perhaps this 2nd year you can focus on activities, reading, or classes (even if not for AP credit, there are many inexpensive online classes) that will help you long-term when you return home. Volunteering in a certain type of organization in your free time, for example. Online accounting or business English courses. Writing essays for further study etc. And in terms of young people to meet, American church youth groups and English classes or book groups at local libraries are good options. You are in a rare situation, where you don’t have the worries of most single working people (paying for housing, food, etc.) that you will have when you return home, nor the responsibility of raising a family. You can either just have lots of good fun and enjoy your youth or also enjoy this precious free time to invest in your self-development and future marketability. Also intentionally list new experiences that would be hard for you to get at home or challenging and “force yourself” to go into a zone that is not so comfortable for yourself. Good luck!

Taking a computer lunch April 12, 2010 at 7:30 am

I think Calif Mom offered you great advice – analyze the situation. As a HM, I would say that if you’re unhappy with your personal life, then that is reason enough to change venues.

One of the things you might want to ask potential HF is whether or not their previous AP had a lot of friends, whether she was welcome to bring friends into their home, whether friends are permitted to stay the night, etc. You might also ask them some of the questions we HM have posed here on this site (e.g. do they want an AP who is more like a roommate, a family member, etc.), and other questions like, “Do you invite your AP to join you when you take a vacation?” so you can get a sense of what your relationship will be like.

We had a fantastic AP with whom we pleaded to stay, but she was determined to spend only one year in the US. While it made us sad, we were never angry at her. We remain on great terms with her. Our current AP has never really integrated into our family and so we’ve chosen not to extend with her. It’s a hard conversation to have, but we did it face-to-face.

If and when you’re ready, look your HP in the eyes and tell them how much you’ve loved being part of their family, how important they are to you, but how you want to try a new area of the country and experience other things and have new challenges before you return home. Tell them how much soul-searching you had to do to make your decision. And then look them in the eyes and ask them to support you in your decision. Tell them that you would be happy to speak or email with any AP candidates they will be interviewing to tell them what a great family they are. They might be hurt, but they will get over it.

I will add one thing. As an AP you deal in loss much more than most young adults – you leave your country and come hear. You form strong bonds with other APs, hopefully with your HF, with new friends you make. People come and go. Unless you’ve moved around a lot as a child, you’ve not experienced this change and loss before. As an adult, you will form close relationships, but it takes more work than in childhood, because of the fact that adults come and go. If you are a relatively shy person, then reaching out to find new friends is difficult. I always tell my APs, remember how hard it was when you first arrived and how relieved you were when someone called you to go out for a coffee. By reaching out to others, you will have the opportunity to develop new friendships. It might make your personal time in the remaining months with your current HF much more enjoyable.

Calif Mom April 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

Taking a…–brilliant points. If you want a friend, be a friend.

We have an extremely introverted AP, and I am amazed at how many friends she now has as a result of finding a church with an active ministry to young people (and who happen to be from her country). But she also has AP friends with whom she must speak in English, because they are all from different countries.

To “The AP”–Is there any way you would feel comfortable talking with your counselor to see what the host family pool is looking like for the time when you will be switching? I agree, we are presented with this decision-making extremely early! It is jarring for both hosts and APs. But people are starting to plan for Summer arrivals.

I did hear from our (new) counselor (because we’re leaving APIA) that the agencies are not doing well yet, have not seen an increase in their revenues. That means there really are fewer families hosting APs than a couple years ago. (Which I confess is puzzling, because if this is the case, why is it still hard to find great au pairs?! And why won’t APIA match other agencies’ fees? [but I digress]).

To me, you have a ‘unique selling proposition’ as a Year 2 au pair with special needs qualifications and *experience*.

After reading your responses above, I think there are a number of factors that are not great for you. You have made the best of it, but you are pretty disappointed, even while loving the kid you take care of and the family you are with. There are probably ways to address some of the issues you are having–working harder to make new friends, talking with your host mom about stepping back a bit when you are on duty. But I’m not sure if you could improve things enough to be satisfying to you. (And I absolutely commiserate with your not wanting to take a 1.5 hour train into NYC by yourself. Big cities are very cool, but feel very lonely if you are there alone! I go through this experience on every business trip. Who wants to choose where to eat and have your meals alone? Who wants to see fabulous art or even a movie but have no one to discuss it with? And if you aren’t a confident navigator, forget it.)

But at bottom, I think you DO want to leave, but you (intelligently) recognize that it is not a risk-free option, and that’s why you posted here for advice. Some people have more tolerance for risks than others.

And while I have no doubt your mom has nothing but your best interests at heart, being an AP really is not like other jobs. You aren’t talking about rematching now because you are unhappy; you’re talking about switching families after you have fulfilled your one-year commitment. And while she may not approve of it, sometimes (perhaps especially in the States) people DO just leave their jobs! And sometimes they are much happier because of it! ;-)

Midwest Mom April 12, 2010 at 10:27 am

Our current au pair struggled with that same decision. She did love her prior host family and the little girl she was taking care of. She ended up extending with a different family (us) in a different part of the country, older kids, etc. Sure, she misses the old host family, but she said we are even more perfect for her than they were (that was nice to hear!!).

I know it was very hard for her to do, but it ended up great. She was also very picky about finding a new host family and got us when we happened to be re-matching with our prior au pair. She had a great reference from her prior family and I talked to them on the phone and they couldn’t say enough good things about her. I personally prefer an extension au pair for that reason. I haven’t seen as many of them this time around, but it is helpful to have a prior family to talk with for a reference.

Anna April 12, 2010 at 10:39 am

I am a host mother, and I think you should switch to a new family. You seem like a great au pair, great at your job and great to get along with, so I think you can make yourself happy and make the relationship work well even with a less-than-perfect family. You just have to choose carefully and decide what you really need.

We were in a similar situation, with a great au pair (one of our two best, I cannot really rank within them), who was thinking of extending for the second year in the same area. I thought that with circumstances what they were (our family situation changing drastically, her personal situation changing, and one weakness she does have), it might be difficult for her to extend with us. I shared my opinion with her and offered my support in whatever she decides, but left the decision up to her. If she decided to extend with us (if she thought over everything and decided she was up to handling it), I would gladly do so.
In the end she decided to extend for a second year, but with another family in the area. I have no bad feelings about it and think it was the right decision for everyone involved. Although it did make me sad when she told me about it, momentarily – but its normal, we really like each other.

Every year family needs change, and the same great au pair may no longer be the same great match. And if the only reason for the match not being so great is your isolation and your continued dissatisfaction with your social life, and your thoughts of “what if”, this is reason enough. It will affect your relationship with the host family. You have to be happy and excited to be where you are.

Anna April 12, 2010 at 10:49 am

Another advice I gave to our au pair this year when she was trying to make a decision (extend with us, extend with someone else, or go home) was this:
Imagine you have made a decision one way, and live with it a few days. See how it makes you feel.
I think that should help answer your question.

Deb Schwarz April 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Sounds like you want to try out a new part of the country – and I say – GO FOR IT! Explain why to your host family – and I’m sure they will be sad, but will understand. Tell them that you would like to visit and will stay in touch with the children. (the the host families’ biggest fear is that their children will feel abandoned). Every part of the country is different, and host families vary greatly, so be sure to pick the best fit for you. Do more than just talk to the host family – some host families look GREAT on paper, but once you get there, life is different. INSIST on talking to at least one for their former au pairs, and their local coordinator. You will only get a true picture of what that host family is like from talking to several people confidentially about them.

I am a local coordinator, get many 2nd year au pairs in my area (I actively place them) because many au pairs want to come here (San Francisco Bay Are). But having said that, there are all types of host families here, so I first talk to the second year au pair that wants to come here to find out what they are looking for. I always insist that they talk to another au pair about what it’s like to live here – and to talk to a former au pair of the host family. I advise the same thing to the host family (that they talk to/grill the former host family and local coordinator of the 2nd year au pair) – and have at least one Skype video call.

I think if you do your homework, you can find a great fit for your second year.

Host mom to 15 (16 next week!) au pair
Local Coordinator/Multiples Specialist for Cultural Care

KittyGirl April 12, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I am a host mom too and I believe you should switch! GREAT AU PAIRS are in demand :) Keep what you want in mind and you can switch to what you want … locale wise. You may have other items that do not meet your expectations (like car/room/ even fam). .. but you came to USA to experience that and you will have a great many more benefits by switching and at least getting a chance to experience those other items. It is hard for host fams but afterall its your life and you should do what makes you happy, though you should clearly and kindly communicate your thoughts to your current family – this includes sincere appreication for a great family and a polite decline.

Hula Gal April 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm

My husband and I are going to be needing a new au pair in July and we found our current au pair through the in-country pool and she was an extension au pair with a great reference from her host mom. We snatched her up after having two unsuccessful matches within just six months of joining the program. She has been great. So now we really hope to get lucky again with another extension au pair with a great reference. I suspect we will not get lucky twice like that though.

You should consider switching families not to improve on what you have but to have a different experience. If you leave to find something better you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. If you leave for a different experience to further your growth and exposure to different parts of the country than you will be more open to the highs and lows of the new family and location. There is no perfect situation.

Good luck with your decision! and I wouldn’t worry about finding a family. If you are not too selective in where you go and your host mom is willing to give you a good reference you will find a new family with no problems.

OB Mom April 12, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Reading your comments it sounds like you really do want to change, but are afraid of hurting the HF feelings. I think “taking a computer lunch” gave the best advice … look them in the eyes and talk to them. Thank them, tell them they have a been wonderful to you and that their kids are great, but that you want to experience another part of the country that may have more AP’s that you could relate with. I would understand if I were them. I also like the idea of offering to give feedback to new candidates (and help you figure out who would be good with their kids … you know them very well by now). Also, ask them nicely if they would provide you with a reference to a new family … that is always helpful to get feedback from another parent. Dont’ worry too much because it is a choice between 2 good things. Good luck!

The au-pair April 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I have decided not to extend with my family. I want a new challenge and a new adventure. I havn’t yet told them though. Im just waiting for the right time.. Should I bring it up? I guess they would ask me soon too.. They are always so busy.

Now Im searching for families in London :-) which is closer to home.. But I’m also going to search within the US. Im excited about what kinds of families are out there. And when I find one I like I will take it. wether its In the UK or US. I’m not going to look back.

Mimi April 12, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Please let me know if you have already decided on what you would like to do, we are in the process of looking for an Au Pair and had a couple that we have been e-mailing back and forth, but not so sure what we are going to do with their visa situation.

Let me know if you are interested in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Thanks,


The au-pair April 13, 2010 at 12:07 am

I am keeping both options opend. The right family will make the decision for me. Which agency are you with? I am with au-pair in America.

Taking a computer lunch April 13, 2010 at 6:43 am

My advice, is bring it up. Ask your HP if there is a time that they would be free to talk this week when the kids are in bed. You don’t want to have this conversation when the children could be listening. You should ask the HP when it is a good time to talk to the children. Little kids don’t know from four months away, while older children understand. Whenever they are told they need to know that they are not the reason you are leaving, that you are simply doing what APs do, getting on with “the rest of your life.”

We decided not to extend with our current AP and our 9-year-old figured what was up in a casual conversation with my parents. He wants to be involved in the selection process and generally asks candidates a question or two during the telephone interview. He understands that our AP will be leaving in August (as he understands that because of the severity of his sister’s special needs it takes us a long time to match). If he were 4 I would not have told him until a few weeks before her departure. He would be too anxious about it (or like an impending birthday, he might ask for weeks on end if she were leaving today).

The au-pair April 13, 2010 at 7:32 am

Kids can be so smart sometimes! I guess I could tell the oldest here too but not the girl. She wouldn’t understand. I know it can be harder with a special needs child. But you will find your perfect one. Working with a special need child can be both lovely and giving at times and to see the progress the person are making. Just make sure you find someone that are up to putting alittle extra effort in this child but in return get lots and lots back.

Nina from France April 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm

It sounds great but be careful, a lot of families in the UK see aupairing just as a job and you might be treated like an employee. I’m not sayin that only from the experience I had (I’ve stayed in a HF in Windsor, near London, for 7 months) but also from other experiences from aupair friends! But if you find a great family, then you should definitely go for it … :)

I’m sure you current HF will understand your choice !

OB Mom April 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I think it is the most respectable thing to do to tell them rather than wait to be asked. Arrange for a time (after kids asleep) to talk with them. You can and should tell them it is about next year and you want to have time to discuss. They will be disappointed, but will respect your decision if you present it properly.

One request as a host parent, please continue to be committed to the family over these next few months. The “short-timers” attitude that some AP’s get the last couple months is almost as hard as the first transition period.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk with the HF about the excitement (and scariness) of the decisions you have made. Since they do truly care about you they will be excited to see you on your new adventure and want to help you make the best decisions.
Good Luck!

OB Mom April 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

oops, I meant “respectful” not “respectable” :-)

Soccer Mom April 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Good luck “The au-pair!” I can’t top all the great advice you got from HMs and APs on here, but I wanted to add that your experience will always be what you make of it, so wherever you end up, just make sure you invest time and effort right away into seeking out friends and that “life” you are looking for. Don’t wait for it to come to you. You probably realize now (but not at the beginning) how quickly the year goes by! I have had APs who complained alot about their “available” friends because we have a small LCC group and they never made an effort to expand their options. On the flip side, some of our APs attended meetings for a few different LCC groups in the beginning of their year to expand the friend options, and those adventurous APs who put in the work in the beginning had a very busy social schedule and lots of friends the rest of the year. I would imagine that if you are within 1.5 hrs of NYC that there are loads of LCC groups within a half hour of you. Even with your decision not to extend there, maybe you could challenge yourself to see how many great friendships you can make in your time left there?

Mimi April 12, 2010 at 10:27 pm

We need a reliable and trustworthy Au Pair if you decide not to stay with your host family, you can contact us. :) We are located in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Let us know…

The Au-pair April 15, 2010 at 11:08 pm

I just wanted to thank you all for the great advises you gave me. It really helped alot. I just talked to the parents for (15min) everybody was really uncomfortable and didn’t really know what to say. I hope they are not too dissapointed but it didnt seem like it. As a matter of fact I had made so much process with the girl that they now decided she is going to start going to preschool. And then they probably wont need anyone for 45 hours so if i wouldn’t extend they where thinking of maybe trying an educare. So we both saw these as signs that we are doing the right thing.

It feels good now. I just hope that everything will stay good with the family from now on too, them knowing im leaving to go to another family.

Thanks again!

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