In a world where most AuPair-Host Parent relationships are just “fine”, are those of us who’ve had terrific Au Pairs simply lucky?
Or have we forgotten the hard parts –as we’ve forgotten the pain of childbirth, or the sleepless nights of new parenthood– and just held on tightly to the good?
I’ve forgotten my own short temper, my chronic disappointments, and my own awkwardnesses. I’ve forgotten the scratches on the car, the using of my favorite coffee mug, the clomping up the stairs to the third floor.
Or wait, maybe I haven’t forgotten them. Maybe I’ve pumped up the happy memories so that these have ultimately overshadowed the constant grind of Host Parenthood?
The disappointment in this Host Dad’s email, below, rang true to me.
How many times did I start off promising to be my ‘very best host mom’? To let the dumb things slide? To focus on the good?
To play the year like a DJ at a dance party, pumping up the beat till everyone in the room was having fun?
Is there any way to change the arc of the Au Pair year, so that there’s a better chance of a truly *happy* ending?
The HostDad writes:
It always seems to happen this way:
We start off great. But after about six months (and a few times even earlier), our relationship with our Au Pair seems to falter. Towards the last month or two they grow distant. They start counting the days until the end. And everyone is relieved to say goodbye. A week later, we’re making a fresh start, welcoming a new Au Pair into our home.
Sometimes I think the whole experience is doomed from the start.
Naive young adults looking for freedom and adventure soon figure out that the work is tough, the pay is too little, and they begin to resent their situation.
I am growing discouraged… I used to look forward to meeting a new Au Pair arrival…But not this time…I know how this movie ends.
We have a happy family and a typical suburban life: School, weekly after-school activities, mostly consistent 6:30 family dinner time. We’re busy with parties or other events on most weekends and holidays. Once a week we have Ice Cream night.
Our schedule is very regular and the Au Pair ends her day at 4:30pm. Our Au Pair always has Saturday and Sunday off. There is an express bus to an exciting city 300 feet from our front door.
On rare occasions something happens and the Au Pair has to work later. We pay her extra for the time and thank her, feeling relieved that these situations are so uncommon it’s clear we’re not abusing the system (like the time I got a kidney stone and needed to be driven to the hospital.)
I know its not the kids that tip things downhill. Quite often at restaurants people stop and tell us our kids are so well behaved! And they are well behaved at home too. We have 4 kids and teach them to be respectful. There’s a lot of laundry with 4 kids, but we also have 3 washers and 3 dryers so it goes quickly.
I occasionally give the Au Pair extra money when I have it just because. I often give my credit card to the Au Pair so she can go buy whatever food she wants at the super market. Our Au Pair suite is 300 Sq/ft with 2 skylights, has its own thermostat, a full size bed, a desk with scanner/fax/printer and a pull out sofa for visitors. The cleaning lady does the bathroom once a week. There is also a large walk in closet and semi-private bathroom.
There are No Curfews on non work nights and the Au Pair has a car with common restrictions. We have never had an Au Pair extend with another family and 1 of our 2 rematches went home 2 weeks in because of a dental problem…the other couldn’t drive and went to a non driving family.
We don’t discuss politics, divisive issues or discuss religion but we do all pray before each meal. We try sticking to family business and goings on. With 3 kids in school there is always something to hear about.
So…Its not the kids, its not the rules, it’s not the living arrangements.
That leaves just host mom and / or host dad. Is it us?
We do our best to connect with an Au Pair less than 1/2 our age…we try but it seems to eventually go south. Resentment seems to set in over small things like meager pay and food habits, even though we follow the rules AND try to be generous.
I don’t know what we could do differently. Anyone?
~IsThatAllThereIs Host Dad
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