Different Defaults for Deciding When an Au Pair is “Part of the Family”

by cv harquail on July 27, 2017

Who decides, and how do you decide, when an Au Pair should be included in (off duty) family events?

Nearly all of the time, my default has been to invite the au pair, unless its a private event (e.g., friend’s kid’s birthday) or a boring-to-an-au pair event (e.g., company picnic where family is invited).

PicnicAs the Host Parent, my default is to extend the invitation, and then let our au pair decide if she wants to participate.

Oddly, though, and as the email below points out, I didn’t expect our Au Pairs to check with us about what they were doing on their off-duty time. For example, if they were planning to go on a hike with friends, I didn’t feel put out if they didn’t invite me or bring one of the girls along.

Is this how it works for your family?

From Optout Host Mom:

Here’s a significant recent struggle we’re having with the program. I feel like “family” to the Au Pairs and agencies means dedicating a blank check and endless time to the Au Pairs, inviting them to everything, etc. etc., and letting THEM decide whether or not they want to participate. If I just want to spend Saturday, or even a quick overnight with my kids, I’m being a bad host.

Yet, the Au Pairs can make their own plans without consulting us — we are very happy to have independent Au Pairs, but we  feel like we can’t make family plans that involve just us.

It’s gotten to where I have a mental list of things we’re doing on weekends when the Au Pair has other plans so it doesn’t look like we’re excluding her. This may well be a problem with the attitude my particular LCC is cultivating in her group, but it’s exhausting me.

Is it just me, or is this a challenge that’s built into the Au Pair program?

Image: Picnic, by Rich Brooks on Flickr


DMMom July 27, 2017 at 10:17 am

Generally we do invite our Au Pairs to join us whenever we go out and do something, especially if we feel that it is a culturally specific activity, something that she hasn’t done before, or some thing that her friends wouldn’t do. This means that we continue to do what we would do independent if she is joining or not and we don’t change our plans around the Au Pair.

We also expect that the Au Pair would go to the girls school concert or softball game, or sit and have dinner with us without being on duty as something you do to support your family.

That said, if we see that the Au Pair is gone with her friends all the time and only accepts invites that are $$$ we will reduce our number of invites as she has not demonstrated that she really wants to be part of our family.

Dina Pradel July 27, 2017 at 12:03 pm

We tend to invite our APs and BPs to everything for the first couple of months, but find that they quickly have their own thing going on. But I also set this expectation during the interview process and training…that we see a lot of our APs during the week and prepare a family dinner M-Th, and then don’t see much of each other during the weekends as our APs are busy exploring the city with their friends. Of course we invite them to all holidays and seasonal or New England things we think they might be interested in — apple picking, camping trips, Thanksgiving dinner at Plimoth Plantation, etc. We have season tickets to a sport and we make sure they can join us for some games, or gift them tickets so they can bring a friend, but the expectation is not that they will join us every time. We need time as a nuclear family as well, or to feel like we can have dinner at a friend’s house without always asking the AP along. When it comes time to take trips, we always lay out the info and options. “We’re skiing this weekend because we got a last minute deal on a room, and it’s not set up for more than 4 people, so we can’t bring you, unfortunately” or “We’re renting a ski condo with friends. You’re welcome to join us, but you may have to share a room with the kids. We’re happy to buy you a lift ticket, but you’d have to pay for your ski rental and that would be about this much.” I think the key, as always, is just communication so there is no hard feelings when you don’t issue an invite. And also so they recognize the costs involved for you to bring them along and have some skin in the game once in awhile so you don’t feel taken advantage of.

optout July 27, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Thanks for posting my quandary! I want to add that we became a family of 5 last year – not only is inviting the au pair is now logistically challenging (and we have to be sure to be able to accommodate her if she says yes), my husband and I want to have some dedicated family time with our kids on the weekends since the work week is so busy and we’ve grown our family. Historically, we invited the au pairs to everything generally saw a decline in participation as the year went on and they found their own things – and this all seemed fine. Our last AP, however, declined to participate in a major family function. We asked a second time, letting her know that this was important to us, and the response was that her time off was her time off. The whole thing made me resentful of all the time I had invested in her after my kids went to bed when I would have rather enjoyed my “time off”, too! We love the cultural exchange of the program, and our profile says that we want an independent family member, but we haven’t seemed to be able to find the balance.

massmom July 27, 2017 at 5:07 pm

We’re pretty boring, so I never assume the AP will want to hang out with us on their off time! I’m probably strange, in that I don’t expect APs to attend birthday parties, kid’s concerts, etc. I’ve been pleasantly surprised the few times they have voluntarily decided to attend. Don’t get in the habit of entertaining your AP after the kids are in bed! We all part ways after dinner…the AP goes to the gym, her room, or meets up with friends, and we head upstairs to put the kids to bed and watch TV in our room. Just start setting that expectation…”We’re heading up to put the kids to bed, see you tomorrow!” I still have great conversations with my APs, while we’re making dinner together, or when we run into each other in the kitchen for a late night cup of tea, but we all need our own time to decompress, family and AP alike!

MoreCoffee July 27, 2017 at 6:13 pm

I feel that some APs veer towards being more “part of the family” and some towards “employee” just due to their personality. We are like massmom — we’re very honest with what our limits are and don’t expect much hang out time. We’re also a family of 5 and we were pretty upfront in matching that we wouldn’t be able to include AP on a lot of trips due to space or cost. I’m also upfront that we are boring (it is in our family essay!) and that we get burned out during the week, and so we expect the house to be in “quiet mode” by 8 pm. But even though we tell our candidates the same thing, AP1 was super excited about every birthday, concert, bbq, extended family gathering, etc., whereas AP2 is busier away from us with her (long) bucket list, boyfriend, friends, etc. Both were/are invested in us, but express it differently.

But I’d be disappointed if an AP declined an invitation twice when it was made clear it’s a big deal. Her response sounds like she just wants to be an employee…which begs the question: next time, if you want her somewhere regardless if she’s happy about it, could you schedule her to “work” during that time?

optout July 27, 2017 at 8:22 pm

This pretty much describes our family, and I am candid about it in matching. Every email we exchange I include a “day in the life” blurb so they can see the monotony of preschool children. But, our last LCC told me that I should plan more hostMOM-AP bonding experiences and outings just for her like I do with my own kids. I am overwhelmed with what feels like pressure from the agency to up my hosting game, while the AP can cherry pick family events as she sees fit. We feel like we have a lot to offer as hosts even if we’re not in the running for family-of-the-year, but I’m not a SAH mom looking for an extra young adult child.

NoVA Twin Mom July 28, 2017 at 8:05 am

Our 9th AP is arriving in about two weeks. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone on a specific HM-AP bonding outing – and the one time I can actually point to specifically was when the AP paid for my pedicure as a birthday present so she and her friend came along. We left the twin four year olds at home (this was a few years ago).

I think your LCC has confused your AP with an exchange student.

I have, over the years, planned family outings that I thought the au pair would enjoy as well. We invite our au pair when we do local “touristy” things, but that’s not every weekend. We heavily encourage our au pairs to make friends and GO OUT and do things – they didn’t come to the US for a year to only see the inside of our house.

I can’t tell how long your current AP has been with you. If you’re in the first month, then I might plan something “easy” (since you recently became a family of 5, I realize nothing is truly easy) once in a weekend. Or – better in my mind – help her think of something to go to with a friend. Do you have a local baseball team? Major league games are fun, but minor league games are more fun. Is a college in your area going to have a football game soon? (Remind your au pair that she’s there for the experience, not to watch/understand the game). The big thing, though, is for her to go out and do something with a friend.

Spanishaupair July 28, 2017 at 8:26 am

Wow i wouldnt expect my HP to take me on outings for bonding.

I think the only time i have ever done something with my HP without kids and that was really dinners, birthday parties and trips to city centre; was when my HM invited me to her hen party and was very surprised she did specially because was two days after my arrival, and absolutely wouldnt be offended if she didnt

NoVA Twin Mom July 28, 2017 at 8:34 am

Let me clarify – when I say plan something once in a weekend I mean Once. Not every weekend, just one time during her first month.

DMMom July 28, 2017 at 10:00 am

OK, with all my agencies (6th Au Pair here) they have never suggested 1-on-1 bonding time with the Au Pair. I have 3 kids I rarely get 1-on-1 bonding time with my own children or my husband.

I talk to my Au Pairs a lot and they have access to the whole family schedule, including weekends at all times. We generally always have room for the Au Pair during activities, but check for bigger items to see if she wants to be involved.

I do plan Au Pair kid activities for the Au Pairs to bond to the children and I do buy her favorite treats or flowers or a gift card once in a while to show appreciation.

MoreCoffee July 28, 2017 at 10:47 am

Yikes. If our LCC tried to pressure us like that she’d be getting some major pushback from me and a terrible review to the agency at the end of the year. (Which actually works! Our last LCC was replaced after 2 years of endless complaints from all the cluster HFs.)

Emerald City HM July 31, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Years ago we had an au pair that should have never been an au pair. When we ended our relationship with her the AD suggested the au pair wasn’t happy because I didn’t do enough bonding with her. She told me she used to take her au pairs shopping and wine tasting.

We left that agency. We have invited and had our au pairs join dinners with friends that we have (when our children go too), but I have a hard enough time getting in time with my husband, sufficient alone time, and not to mention maintaining my own adult friendships.

Amy-AP July 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm

From an au pair’s perspective I’d rather my host family didn’t invite me to do certain things with them if they don’t want me to be there. I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted, it’s as simple as that. Both my host family and I appreciate spending time apart, they understand that after spending so much time with the kids (especially now that it’s summer) when I’m off sometimes I want to go off on my own and recharge and they want to spend time together as a family. Time apart is important, otherwise the kids end up getting annoyed, parents get annoyed and I get annoyed. I hardly interact with my host parents during the week and that’s fine, we check in for our weekly meetings to find out how everyone is doing/talk about the next week’s schedules/ any concerns etc. it’s all about communication! If my host family wants me to attend an event with them, they ask me and it’s then put into the schedule (so I know not to make any plans with my friends during that time) and if they want to go to music recitals without me that’s fine too. It’s all about communicating and letting your expectations be known. I know that when the family invites me to do something with them it’s because they genuinely want me to be there and not because they feel obligated.

Frankfurt AP boy July 27, 2017 at 4:39 pm

The 4 times I have been an au pair, I have always been invited to everything unless it is very expensive – like for example when one family went to Asia! It is funny because I think I would be like the OP: if I had a family I wouldn’t want to spend all my time with an au pair. I have often thought though for that reason I would never be suitable host for an au pair. It is certainly the expectation of most au pairs and it isn’t at all the fault of the LCC for cultivating this idea – it is what the program is based on. There are other childcare solutions for people that don’t want another family member.

However, as others have said, the natural thing is that even though you always invite your au pair – treating them as a member of the family – in reality they will often want to do their own thing and more so as time goes on and they make friends. I, for example, have rarely spent weekends with the families once I got settled. I would give it time and see if things improve. If not, perhaps consider next time making it very clear that you require alone time with the family without the au pair and perhaps you can find an au pair that is happy with that arrangement.

WestMom July 27, 2017 at 5:54 pm

Honest question here…
What are y’all doing that is so exciting?

Our weekends look like this:
Mom and dad work out, we go food shopping, we make food, we drive kids to soccer practices and games (AP welcome!- might attend once per season) or to rehearsals, we drive kids to playdates, we have friends over for dinner (AP welcome!- but usually declines) or we are invited to someone else’s house (AP usually not invited), we fix things around the house, once in a blue moon we do a family activity like a movie, theater or museum (yes AP welcome!- but usually declines unless we plan in advance and around her schedule).

You guys mush have much more exciting lives than we do to ave this dilemma, lol!

BTW- Since all the kids activities are in a Google calendar that is shared with the AP, I don’t feel like I have to ‘invite’ her every time, because she can already see in advance if we have something special with the kids on the weekend… (say a concert or a game). If she really wanted to join, she can plan for it.

NZ host fam July 28, 2017 at 3:45 am

Wow, OP – you’ve been asked to ‘plan more host parent/au pair bonding experiences and outings’?! How would you fit that in? That seems like a lot to ask of a host parent and I’d feel a heap of pressure if I was asked to do it!

We’re also a family of five and I reckon when we had child 3 is when we became a lot less exciting at the weekends. Our time together at weekends is so precious and sometimes spontaneous events or outings do come up, and we don’t invite our au pairs.

I love it when we reach that ‘sweet spot’ of understanding each other’s habits and expectations and everything becomes easy and natural… at least I’m sure that’s how it works from my perspective! We are three weeks in with AP#5 and I have to keep reminding myself we will get there… in the meantime, ‘bonding’ means 15 min chats over cups of tea at night, or maybe during the day on my work at home days. First couple of weekends we invited her along for coffee out or a walk on the beach. We haven’t had an au pair yet who has expected (or wanted?) to hang out with us in their free time beyond their first 6 weeks and that’s fine. For special events like birthdays, they’re always welcome but no hard feelings if they choose not to be there.

Still, reading other people’s thoughts around this has made me question whether we are way less of a ‘part of the family’ host family than I thought.

Abby July 28, 2017 at 4:34 am

I’m currently an au pair in australia, and I feel that sometimes that the family and au pair, need time apart from each other. When I first arrived they did invite me to everything, whereas now I usually have plans with my friends but they still ask me if I want to join them.

Host mom of 3 + AP July 28, 2017 at 9:33 am

Thank you all! I have been feeling so guilty about not wanting to spend time with our current AP. In the past, we have had AP’s that have their own life and don’t want to hang with us and others who I genuinely like spending time with (and the feeling was mutual). Our current AP seems to be great with the kids but is so socially awkward with me and HD (they don’t even talk) that it’s exhausting just having dinner with her in the evening and I definitely do not want to spend time with her on the weekends. I have purchased a dance class pass, gym pass, college courses, etc to try to get her “out there” but she hasn’t established her own social circle yet. I definitely want to spend time with my kids doing fun stuff on the weekends but do not want to invite one more especially when it detracts from the fun for me. I feel a little better about how I’ve been feeling but am still struggling as to how best to communicate to her that she needs to do her own thing. Any suggestions?

txmom July 28, 2017 at 11:28 am

We invite our au pair to everything, well at this point, she knows there’s a standing invitation. She has a ton of friends and a boyfriend here, so she doesn’t come along as often as she used to. I’d say that she comes to about 25% of the kids soccer practices and games because she has nothing else going on and enjoys hanging out and cheering the kids on. DH travels for work, so she will frequently hang out with me in the evening. We’ll watch a movie or both read in the living room after the kids are in bed. A few times a month she’ll play cards with DH and I or we’ll all watch something together.

As for what we’re doing, idk, regular family stuff I guess. Sometimes we’ll go to the beach, we have memberships to the zoo and science museum, we’ll go to a shrimp or crawfish festival, etc. We gave her the choice of coming with us to Puerto Rico over spring break or staying home. She almost stayed because it was the Houston Rodeo and she had concert tickets with her friends, but ultimately the lure of Puerto Rico won and she sold her concert ticket.

An LCC asking me to plan a bonding activity would rub me the wrong way, although I do occasionally go to lunch or shopping with just the AP (I don’t work a traditional schedule and sometimes we’re both home when the kids are at school). Family bonding time? Yes. HP and AP alone time that is “planned” and doesn’t just happen based on being home at the same time? No.

Aspie Mom July 28, 2017 at 11:57 am

I would not let the LCC’s approach dictate how you have things work in your household. The only rules you need to follow are the rules set by the State Department. It is good to know how you would like things to work before you go into the interview process so you can choose an au pair whose desires match yours, but I have found I understand my needs more with experience. If you have decided you need to make a change, just sit down with your au pair and let them know. Your au pair is supposed to make your life easier. not harder!

L. July 29, 2017 at 10:23 am

I never plan one on one bonding with my au pair. Our first au pair was a TERRIBLE driver and I had to teach her. I really resented wasting my weekend time taking her out driving instead of spending it with my baby and toddler. Our au pairs have a standing invitation to anything at home (game nights, dinner parties, holidays, and of course family dinner), but after the first au pair skipped our fancy Easter brunch to go to the chili’s with other au pairs she didn’t even know, my expectations dropped to 0 that an au pair would ever appreciate being included in any special cultural exchange activities. Now it’s just a bonus if they do, but I don’t consider it my duty to push it.

Elizabeth July 29, 2017 at 2:01 pm

When our AP isn’t working I feel like if I asked her to come to a kids concert or any kid central outing (and inevitably help me with the other kids, i.e., “work”) she would not want to come but would feel badly saying no. No one likes to have to decline an invitation and I REALLY want APs that are interested in doing their own thing when not working. If I want the AP to go to the kids concert or kids type of outing then it is part of her working hours and subtracted from the 45.
I was a live-in nanny in law-school many moons ago and I did not want to have to hang out with the family more than the casual interaction.
I laughed at the AP-Mom outing idea, of course the first few weeks we spend time together but as a working mom I’m going to use any free time to bond with my husband, kids or god forbid actually be ALONE! It’s just important to be upfront. I love my AP and want her to be happy but supporting her independence and adventure is my responsibility, not babysitting her. I would tell that LCC to do her job and lower the AP’s expectations regarding entitlements and help them get out there and involved in the country they chose to experience.

TexasHM July 30, 2017 at 9:09 am

Agreed with all great points above. Only chiming in to add that we are very on the family member end of the spectrum of hosting and we don’t even do that!!! (Plan AP-HM bonding time).

Like others we have standing open invite and communicate if they need to cover a more expensive item or if I need to buy tickets in advance but our joint time is either end of the day overlap or a quick chat when she’s in the kitchen grabbing a bite etc.

We have watched the Bachelor together on occasion, more often we watch it separately due to schedules (her while kids are in school me before bed with DH) and text each other about the latest scandal or laugh about it for a minute while I’m packing up to walk out the door to meetings.

This week there’s a women’s entertainment night at our church and I’ve had APs tag along with me to that. Not sure at the moment if current AP is planning to go or not but as others said I’m going regardless whether that means alone or with my other friends.

As all said, I’ve got a full time high stakes career, a husband and 3 kids to invest in so yes, I care deeply about our AP and I invest but I just dont have the bandwidth to plan bonding time let alone do it! If she wants to bond she can tag along on the crazy train that is our daily family life! ;)

I’m assuming your LC has either never hosted or was an AP previously?

Frankfurt AP boy July 30, 2017 at 9:21 am

I feel my reading comprehension skills are failing me! The LCC hasn’t suggested that the host mum spends time alone with the au pair have they? It is just the host mum wants to spend time alone with her family without the au pair by not inviting her.

optout July 30, 2017 at 4:22 pm

It’s both — and it’s not that we don’t want to spend time with AP, we just want to have some family time. Since we’ve added an extra being this year, logistically we can’t take the AP anywhere without two cars and it all gets complicated and I am still in the stage of unprecedented newborn exhaustion. We’re in a homegroup that puts a lot of pressure on HF to do things with AP and we’re afraid of coming off as un-family-like if we just do our own thing so we make up for it by giving AP as much time as we can during the week. AP seems to feel no such compunction.

I appreciate the suggestions to set better boundaries especially after dinner — the “see you tomorrow” in a way that suggests SHE has something better to do. I am also going to let AP know at the beginning of the month about a seasonal tradition that happens at home (ie holiday cookie decorating) that we’re doing regardless and she could drop in if she’s around.

Lastly, I’m not sure I can let go of birthday celebrations. We’d definitely get a call if we skipped her birthday, and I feel like someone who’s coming to work with my children should be able to give up an hour of a weekend 3 times in the year to have cake with my kids (I’m talking about the family dinner, not the classroom birthday party!). An AP who can’t do that isn’t the right one for us.

TexasHM July 31, 2017 at 10:19 am

On the birthdays – we make it clear during matching what “family member” means to us. We explicitly say that if our kid invites AP to their birthday party we would expect them to want to go because its important to the HK – like a family member. Same goes for football superbowl and dance recital (each once per year). We have never had to schedule an AP for any of those (I am assuming because we were clear in matching and because they wanted to be there – so they said).

The one time we had an AP that was super homesick and wheels were coming off we scheduled her so she would be there for Christmas morning festivities and we swore we would never get in that situation again (where we felt like we had to convince AP it was important and she needed to be there).

So yes, if you think they won’t attend then schedule them but I would discuss in detail during matching – also discuss that you are tired and need some husband and kiddo time too so you want her to go out and make her own friends and do her own things as well – balance.

Our APs have historically spent a ton of time with us upfront, then flipped and spent a ton of time with friends and then settle into a balance. It’s healthy for the relationship to have separate interests (just like a marriage!).

We also try to do kiddo 1:1 time when we can – daddy/daughter dates, mother/son etc so you could do that as well. Like so many things in this program its all about communication. Our first AP broke down to LC complaining that we invited her to everything at the same time we were wishing she would opt out on occasion! Even though I said she didn’t have to go, she felt like it was expected for some crazy reason so that LC conversation helped get that out and resolved. Set some boundaries, keep encouraging her to get out but don’t feel obligated to “make” her year or experience.

Schmetterfink July 31, 2017 at 1:38 am

“I feel like “family” to the Au Pairs and agencies means dedicating a blank check and endless time to the Au Pairs, inviting them to everything, etc. etc., and letting THEM decide whether or not they want to participate.”

Yes, I feel that too. However, if that was my 18/20/22 year old living with us, would that be any different? When I was 20 and home from college for a few weeks in summer, I was always invited to join my family for everything but I still got to decide if I wanted to participate or if I had different plans. The only activity I had to participate in was family breakfast on Sundays (if I didn’t have a good reason not to be there).

I have cousins and younger siblings that are our AP’s age. I invite our APs to the same activities I invite my cousins/siblings to when they are staying with us and don’t usually expect them to say yes. I enjoy having my youngest sister at toddler gym with us, just to chat in the car or while the kids have free play… but if she has other plans (even if that’s watching tv), fine with me. If I was her, I wouldn’t want to come either.

Why would anyone in their late teens / early twentys want to sit through a three year olds “ballet” lesson? Or suffer through a first grade school play? Heck really? If those weren’t my kids I wouldn’t even want to be there. Just as I don’t want to go out to party with my AP (or my 22 year old cousin) and wouldn’t tag along when she is invited to a birthday party. If I wouldn’t expect my own ya relatives to join us – I don’t expect our AP to do so. If I wouldn’t expect my own ya relatives to invite me to something – I don’t expect our AP to do so. I doubt my kids will want their mom around when they go for a hike with friends in 15/20 years time, I wouldn’t have wanted my mom around, why would our AP? And why would I (or an LCC) expect her to?

One on one bonding time with our AP is a glass of wine after dinner, when the kids are in bed. Or watching Game of Thrones together. We are boring. I disclose that at matching. I don’t get pedicures so my AP and I don’t go and have pedicures together. We aren’t usually doing “fun” activities on the weekends, I don’t want to do “fun” things every weekend, I want to have family breakfasts and go for a walk and do the weekly shopping and some laundry and a bit of cleaning. No 18/20/22 year old I have met so far wanted to spend her weekend like that (unless she was hung over from Friday night).

There are things I want her to be around for, in that case I don’t invite but tell her she is expected to be there (and schedule her) – kids birthday parties and Christmas. I am sure as the kids grow older the list will grow longer. But no, she is not “invited” to the kids birthdays, she is expected to be there and to pretend to enjoy herself, she may hang out with the adults rather than with the kids (though I understand if she’d rather be with the kids than the moms) but she has to be around and smile. Just as we expect her to celebrate her birthday with us. We won’t invite ourselves to the party she will have with her friends but there will be a birthday brunch/dinner and presents with us.

DCmom July 31, 2017 at 11:41 am

I love this post. I’ve been feeling pressured with the “part of the family” rhetoric that only seems to benefit the au pair too. I’m happy to see that others don’t invite their au pair as a tag along to other kids’ birthday parties… Our crowd seems to do some cool stuff like bouncy places/trampoline parks for the kids and I feel bad about even asking about siblings (offering to pay of course). Sure, it’s a cool experience, but we’re talking about another family’s 5 year old’s birthday party. It’s really not a matter for inviting our au pair to come with us.
Like another poster, we’re boring. We do not do things that toddlers aren’t interested in. The DC area has a ton of cultural experiences that we just don’t do except for the interactive kids’ wing/childrens’ museum infrequently. Our AP is welcome to venture out on her own, but expecting us to go to a fine arts museum and take her with us is simply ridiculous. Also, we hope that any expectations of taking our kids with her to said fine arts museum gets laid to rest after meeting them. Our kids would rather be wild hellions on a playground and getting a phone call from museum security that our toddler ran under the velvet rope barrier to touch a priceless painting is entirely a possible scenario. While it would be great to have kids that “behaved” well enough, we think it’s perfectly age appropriate for our toddlers not to appreciate these experiences until MUCH older.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 31, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Don’t overthink it. Communicate.

1) You want her to participate in a family activity – whether it’s a child’s family birthday party, pumpkin carving, or a school play – if she’s a little stand-offish when it comes to her free time, then schedule her to work. APs who are members of the family get it and will come, those who are employees won’t unless scheduled. Don’t get miffed at the AP if you haven’t come right out and said that participation was important to you or the child. (AP #1 expected to receive an invitation she could scrapbook, so sometimes it’s a cultural expectation that isn’t communicated both ways.)

2) You’re being nice and offering to include her on an outing. Be explicit, “We’d really love to have you join us, but won’t be mad if you want to do something else.” It is natural to start an AP year with lots of these types of invitations, or for them to decrease as the year progresses. Warning, if you have a classic introvert who has only made one or two close friends and they leave or get boyfriends, don’t be surprised if you have an AP willing to play Sorry! with you and the kids during her free time all of a sudden.

3) You have planned a family outing and you’re not inviting your AP. Don’t agonize, don’t over-explain, just make it clear that you have an event, you’re not including her, and you hope she has plans for that time.

4) Bonding time – my best bonding time was over tea after an AP had returned home from an outing, or sometimes we’d chat after dinner. I totally understood that they went from being a child in their parent(s) house on a Sunday to being an employee “family member” in mine four days later. It’s a hard transition. Be sympathetic without treating her/him like a guest, but don’t feel like you need to book a spa treatment together.

Exaupair August 1, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Au pair to me means being part of the family, in the same way as being a young and fun auntie to the kids. When I was an au pair, I wouldn’t have dreamed of not attending my host kids’ birthday parties, and when I was there I helped out – not as an employee but, again, as a young auntie might have done (handing out cake, calming squabbles rather than washing all the dishes). I didn’t expect to be scheduled for this time. I did lots of things like this, and helped out in the same way – not as a “worker”, but as a family member.

In return, I was invited on all the trips that the family made, including Disney, and was given a ride pass again in the same way that a young auntie would have been. I wasn’t princessy on trips like this – I was invited and could choose to decline, and it was made clear that if I accepted I would have to share a room with the older hostkid, again just like family. (When I accompanied my hostmum when she worked away and I was there as a worker, I was given my own room as per the regs).

To me, it cuts both ways. Having an au pair shouldn’t be a cheap way to get a nanny for the family. Likewise though, being an au pair isn’t a way to get a paid-for holiday. It is a cultural exchange programme with family life at its centre, where a young person gets to live like an extended family member for a year with all that brings – good and bad – for both host parents and au pairs. Au pairs who won’t attend birthday parties without being on the clock shouldn’t be on the programme. Parents who don’t want to invite the au pair to trips etc should get a nanny instead.

NZ HM August 1, 2017 at 8:26 pm

We usually find that we try to do more core family activities (without the aupair), sneak out early on a Sunday morning when AP is still asleep, get nice take out or go out for dinner while she is away for the evening/ weekend, when the relationship is already strained/ sub-optimal in other ways (and we don’t feel like spending more time and investing into this relationship).

Saying that I also need alone time with my husband, my kids and myself and I am not prepared to have the aupair be there for EVERYTHING. This is not how family or relationships in general work for me/ us. We are supportive and always there for each other (incl. our AP) but we all need me-time and we make this quite clear during matching. We have different hobbies and interests as individuals within a family and therefore need an adult, who is the same; happy to organise and make plans for their own spare time and doesn’t expect us to be their entertainers, tour guides or activity planners. It drives me mad, and leads to the quick deterioration of the relationship with our AP, if they just sit at home and wait for us to do or plan something (and mope – if they are happy at home, just hanging out – that’s all fine). It might rub the AP the wrong way if the family always goes out without her but having more people than seats in the car is a good reason why it’s not always possible to bring her. At the same time, I always find it easier to justify not taking her along if I do something with just my husband, or just one child (or even both of them) – because it’s clearly about having special one-on-one (or -two) time with mum not doing a family activity.

We expect them to join us for dinner if they are home but more importantly, we expect them to WANT to join us for dinner (birthday celebrations, school concerts) and not see it as a chore – this is what the family part is about for us!

Ex Au Pair August 3, 2017 at 5:07 am

Absolutely love this post!

For me, it is clear that Au Pairs come to the States with wrong expectations, which are made by the Au Pair agencies at home. They mainly focus on the ‘being part of the family’ aspect rather than on the job aspect. That said, they are giving a picture of being like another daughter or something – just like it would be at home.
But this is certainly not the case.

For me, as a former Au Pair, being part of the family meant, being accepted and valued as a person, not being treated like just the employee. Thus, being invited for meals, having the chance to talk to the family not only about kids related stuff, being included for holidays and for special outings.

Being part of the family as an Au Pair does not mean being included to everything! As we as the Au Pair need our alone time, so does the family! Au Pairs already spent up to 45hrs with the kids and i believe it can be hard for the parents spending less time with their kids, so i can’t believe that the parents want to have the Au Pair around all the time if they are at home. I always tried to be out on the weekends, also because i wanted to hang out with people my age and experience something. However, of course, if there was a dance show of my hostchild or something else they invited me for or is just felt like i can’t miss this kid activity i went with them! I also joined them for meals, which was our “bonding-time”. If they went to a friends house or friends birthday or something like that i never came with. Like why? Not only i would feel awkward sitting at the table with people talking about their private stuff!

An advice for hostfamilys out of the au pair perspective: open communication is important in this point. If you like your Au Pair to join, tell her, no matter how long she has been with you!! If you don’t want her to be with you, tell her, too – better than not telling and just leaving, because then the Au Pair will feel even more left out! You are a family and you need family time, we won’t blame you!

Lina August 8, 2017 at 2:38 pm

I think you should talk to the Aupair to know what she likes and programming ahead some trip, or party or stuff. I knew many Au pairs they went to amusement parks, traveling, or do some extreme sports, event other kind of sports that we have never done like paddle boarding, kayaking, and others. So if the activities really dont engage the aupairs really I prefer spend my time doing other stuff.
So my 1st family never told me I could not do anything but also they took to me to nice events even if i was working, they dont wait for my time off to invite me to do something and take care the children for more time.
The 2d family I got their plans where go grocery shopping, or buy an ice cream or go for activities for the children. Just one time we went to traveling for 2 days. But the first day I was basically in the hotel with the kid because they have things to do then they take me to the university fair for their oldest girl. So I have to hold the baby for the other half of the afternoon while he was sleeping. The second day we went to Montreal and they were waiting that I share with them so this day so early I grabed my purse and I went to take a look. For me it was amaizing city but at night they told me I was missing the trip to the donuts store. So I think to myself I took the right decision to go an know the city by myself, because the family was really boring.

I think my experience as Aupair could be better, but well I am proud of myself that i didnt need a family to have fun. So I think if i were host mom I do not fell frustrated, many aupairs are so independent others are more familiar just look for the right moment to enjoy things with your aupair, or plan ahead some nice plan with her.

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