Does your Au Pair attend kids’ school celebrations?

by cv harquail on June 8, 2011

I got this question, from OBMom, just after I sent my DH yet another email with the details of daughter #2’s school dance performance and implored him (okay, nagged him) once again to make sure he gets there on time . We are overwhelmed by end-of-school events. June is the née September, I’ll say, and I’m not sure that even *I* want to go. But I do go, as a show of love and support.

From OBMom—

How involved should we expect an AP to be in all the celebrations at the end of the school year?  Those of us with school-aged kids know that this time if year has lots of events that the kids are involved in during or after school.  Awards ceremonies, band concerts, drama presentations at school, etc.  How much enthusiasm about these things can we hope our APs to show?

Personally, we’ve had the whole spectrum, the ones that I know I can send with a video camera and the kids will be just as happy to see, ones that give up their Friday nights to stay for the middle school talent show to those that seem to run away as soon as a parent is in the building.   Or if we ask her to stay, she looks incredibly bored or texts the entire time.

I think that how involved APs are in these events correlates with how much they connect with and love the kids … And how much a part of the family they want to be.

Unfortunately right now we have the latter type.   She stays at baseball only until we arrive, and then goes home to her room even during playoffs … And didn’t show much interest in thevoutcome the next morning.  She saves us seats for band concerts, but then leaves ASAP when we arrive.  Isn’t school life part of the cultural exchange? Or is it “work” time?.

I’d love to hear how other families approach this —

Not sure how to pose this, but something to consider if you are short of ideas…
Thanks, OBMom


HRHM June 8, 2011 at 11:31 am

I know that each family has it’s own level of tolerance for the “AP as a family member” experience, so this is only my two cents. The reason to have an AP in my mind is to have someone who wants to spend some time with us in family pursuits outside of her work hours. Our first AP did EVERYTHING with us for the first 6-8 months and I never really minded although I know others (Grandparents, mainly) minded. Second AP was a better balance, doing some stuff with us and respectfully declining when she had other plans. Our third AP was like your current one and I really couldn’t abide it at all. If I wanted a detached caregiver, I could have found something way more convenient than moving a total stranger into my house! So, if we ever rejoin the program (out now since March) it will be something I interview more agressively for.

Amelie - ex au pair June 8, 2011 at 11:42 am

I must admit that when I was an au pair, I took every opportunity to go out with my friends and explore the US. So, I wasn’t really envolved in a lot of family activities.

But there were some that I just couldn’t miss… like when one of the kids had a ballet recital. It was on a Saturday evening, and I rescheduled a trip with my friends so I could attend. In the end, it was very fun, I was really proud of her, and my HF was very happy thatI joined them.

Looking back, I think I should have spent more time with my HF, and I really miss them now that I’m back to my country. But on the other hand, I was really eager to take advantage of my year in the US, so I don’t know…

I think the key is to let your ap know that her attendance to certain events is appreciated!

Indi Au Pair to be June 8, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I can only apport so much as I’m yet to be an Au Pair but I think Au Pairs and Host Families should try to keep a balance. For Au Pairs that means being iterested and involved beyond “work hours” and “on duty” time ie schools celebrations, ballet recitals, etc. But also letting the Host Family to be well, a FAMILY! sure I expect to be treated something more like family and less as an employee but it’s something it’searned. ANyway, back to the subject, I agree a lot of it has to be with the level of conection and compromise from the Au Pair towards the Host Family, I know there’re girls who envision a year of traveling and hanging around without the “family” figure and do so as soon as they’re off duty. IMHO, it’s really a shame she’s not getting involved as I’m sure it’ll help to increase the level of conection between the children and her.

Hope it gets better!! Maybe next time it’d be good to remark about that specific issue during the interview process, something like “we’d love and expect the AP galdly joins us in extra activities like… …. and ….”.

PA AP mom June 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I schedule baseball games, soccer games, karate tournaments and concerts as “working time”. I know that not everyone has the flexibility to do that, but because both of our boys are in school, it is easy for me to do so.

Our first AP never attended anything unless forced to. The kids weren’t close to her and I grew to resent her. Now we have a much better balance for all involved.

ScandiAP June 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm

A good AP should WANT to attend some of host kids’ events. Not all, but maybe get some hints from the kids and see what are the most important ones for them :) I went to see a kindergarten concert/graduation and I don’t think the girl was expecting me to, but since I mainly cared for her little brother I wanted to go and make her feel included in the whole AP experience, too. I still think that I should’ve made some more effort including her in other stuff, but that was the least I could do…

NJMom June 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

All of my AP’s participated happily in at least some of these events especially if I couldn’t make it or had conflicting celebrations: preschool Halloween parade and grade school parade at the same time, for example. While we rarely used the full 45 hours, I never had to discuss with the AP whether this was work time or not. They just knew they were welcome and that the children would be really sad if they missed the concert or recital or whatever. It never really added up to that much extra time (what, 4 or 5 hours total in a year??) yet it meant a lot to the kids and enriched the AP’s understanding of American life. We also included our AP’s in many of our vacations, all of our holidays, and tried to be as accomodating as possible in other area so it was part of this give and take. I would not be crazy about an AP who preferred staying in her room to a ballet recital if she were the one who had been driving my daughter to her lessons all year. That just seems sad and weird, IMHO!

Amelie - ex au pair June 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm

NJMom… that’s what I felt… I took my oldest host kid to her ballet classes fo a whole year… It just made sense that I was there to see her. And it was totally fun!

My 2 cents June 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm

We’ve run the gamut with the ones like your current one, to the total opposite who look at us like we are insane to suggest they don’t have to come to all the games or to the birthday parties and stay the whole time.

My expectation is only that they make an appearance at the big stuff – like the birthday parties, or the dance recital. I make my expectation clear by telling them directly I want them to come and giving them all the salient details and then emphasizing that they are only expected to make an appearance. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way I had to be this direct after AP1 didn’t even make an appearance at a birthday IN OUR HOUSE and she was UPSTAIRS the whole time.

I’ve yet to have an au pair ask me if the time is covered by work hours, probably because we have at least a few hours extra each week so it’s accounted for anyway. If I sensed that was an issue or they begrudged it, I’d do what PA AP Mom does and just schedule it. Beyond the appearance, I don’t expect or demand anything else. It’s nice, but I also understand why they cherish their “off” time, especially if it’s somethng occuring right after a long hard working day.

Gianna June 8, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Has anyone had an aupair who was in a play or recital or maybe ran in a marathon ?
I’ve been thrilled when aupairs sang in the church choir or took a ballet class on her own time. Don’t famiies usually attend these kinds of events, too ? I should say that I have been hurt on occasion by an aupair who declined to attend a family event even if the refusal was nicely put.

Calif Mom June 8, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Yes; our new au pair has joined our church choir, even though practice is on a different night from my kids’ choir practice (we have an amazing music director, so it’s essentially getting free music lessons and a new social network of nice people, because she isn’t expected to donate the way the rest of us are, though I suspect she does donate anyway because she’s a good egg). Another au pair took dance lessons at the same studio our girls go to (but during school day).

Our best au pairs have been mortified at me for suggesting they didn’t need to attend certain events — they wouldn’t miss them for the world.

I think we have soooooo many events, though, that require adult participation/admiration/celebration that the au pairs don’t realize just how often this happens.

One thing I do NOT do is fib to the kids, though. If the au pair can’t make the dance recital because she had been planning a weekend in the City, then that’s what I tell the kids. And then we will make plans to watch the dvd of the show later on, with popcorn. If a (lame) au pair is begging off one of the important events, I don’t give her cover with the kids. I tell the kids that I’m disappointed too. It’s one of those learning opportunities that let’s us remind the kids that Family is Family always and forever.

Ex AP June 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm

During Christmas time I attended my HP’s church’s orchestra, plus rehearsals.
the orchestra played at the service on December 24th.
Since I’m German, the 24th is when everybody attends church and gets the presents etc. So it was a really important day to me. Especially as my family wasn’t there. I asked my HPs if they would come, it was about 3 weeks before said service. They repeatedly told me over the 3 weeks they would come. I personally tried to not hope for it, as my HD liked to say “Yes” and in the end not making it…
And, sadly, that was the case. They had some spontaneous thing and I went all alone. I didn’t know anyone who attended the service nor did I really know the orchestra members. It was a sad evening. =(

I tried to attend my host children’s events- but there weren’t all that much and I liked to go. :)

OB Mom June 8, 2011 at 7:39 pm

I don’t want to make it REQUIRED because making them sit there with a “hummppff” body language (crossed arms and pouting) and total boredom in their eyes. I was just reminded by it when my DH was reviewing photos from Xmas time where the AP attended a play at the local church and was visibly uncomfortable. At the time I hoped it was the discomfort with the evangelical nature of that particular church, but I really think she didn’t care about seeign the boys do things that were important to them.

How do we think one would interview for it? “Tell me about a school or sports event you attended for someone you babysat?” or “We hope you want to participate in some of the kids extracurricular activities, do you?” … the latter seems like a leading question rather than an interview question. But they just may not have had an opportunity for the former?

Sigh. OB Mom

Calif Mom June 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I was pondering this question myself. Not sure how you check for it. Maybe it’s through questions about what their parents did–did they come to every event at school? Maybe you do ask about how they participated in the lives of kids they nannied/babysat, if they ever went to their birthdays. That could be a very good question.

Also, I agree with poster who doesn’t want Sullen AP sitting exuding horror and boredom at the school event. For one thing, even if the kids don’t notice it (because au pairs like that probably don’t hold back from that attitiude very often around the kids) but it’s HORRIFYINGLY embarrassing when sitting amongst the parents that you’ll be seeing at these events and fundraisers for years to come, until the kids go to college. I’d much rather set the kids’ expectations that “this au pair prefers to do things with her friends rather than us” and cut her loose than subject myself to that attitude. I don’t want to force anyone to pretend to be happy because they’re ‘on the clock’ unless there is a seriously important issue going on in which appearances/perceptions on the part of kid are more important than honestly presenting the sitation. Because the kids are taking their cues from us, right? If they sense that this au pair never wants to spend time admiring their karate skills or piano prowess, how do they reconcile that with fakery presented by her attendance and Mom saying lamely that “oh of course she loves you — she wouldn’t miss this!” or whatever. see what I mean? The kids need to learn when you open yourself to being hurt by others, and when you decide the other person is wrong, and when do you force people to do things for social reasons and tolerate that they don’t like it because it serves a greater good.

obviously, much of this doesn’t apply to the tiniest tykes, but all children pick up on vibes, and it’s important that they vibes they pick up mesh with the explanations they hear about how the world works. Otherwise you may set them up for big mental health issues later, or lack of social skills that really serve THEM well, and by this I don’t mean knowing how to make small talk at parties, but really understanding what they need from relationships and how to handle relationships that disappoint them.

kat June 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm

please bare inmind that not in all countries birthdays are celebrated teh same way as in the us or uk and school event might not exist or are not for the parets to attend.

Steff June 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm

I think I somehow worried a lot about this even before entering the matching process. and it’s not so much the part when *every* second of my so-called free-time is so valuable & cherished that I’d rather spend the day upstairs in my room rather than in the kid’s birthday party– not at all, but I was still worried about where the line was, when you were ‘hanging out’ *too* much with the family, or too little; enough, not enough, etc…I think it’s hard to draw that line where you “are” a part of the family and when you are just the caregiver of the children. Of course I actually love to see all those activities of the kiddos, but then I think the family will think I’m a nag if I attend to each & every one of them. I think that’s complicated, but at least in my case, as long as I’m ‘invited’ (or expected to show up- i.e. big events, birthdays etc) I’ll be more than happy to go :)

In the Hostparent’s application APs get to see with the agency I am, there is this questions HPs answer:

– “How often will you expect your au pair to be involved in family activities outside of her/his scheduled time?”

and so from the start, before even doing the match, I also knew what my host family was expecting from me in that aspect. I knew I was welcome to any family activity, but was never ‘required’ to attend. I come from a very family-orientated culture, so really going to those activities is something I like & actually enjoy joining the kids in, but then again, I can also understand why some APs rather decline the activity, and too why some HFs rather keeping those events just for them :)

Carlos June 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I’m not really sure but I think this is something that you can’t ask your au pair…
One of the things that you’re told, or I was told when I wanted to become an au pair is that some families want you to actually become a member of their family and to be part of those things like school events and ceremonies… When I was told that I made the proper changes to my application to search for a family whose looking for an au pair like that, because I come from a close and supportive family and I somehow want the same.. but I have au pair friends who doesn’t do that, like OBMom said, the au pair that waits for the parents to be home and then she leaves. I thing host families should know already what type of au pair you’re requesting… it’s really sad though.. :/ I volunteered at a kinder garten to make hours of experience and I still go visit them after I finished volunteering because I miss them…

It’s a decision that the au pair has to make… I suppouse you can tell her that you’d love if she shows up to the ceremony for the kids to feel supported but only if she wants but you can’t expect her to do that by herself… that’s not her job… :/

Personally I think it’s very sad that she doesn’t go.. spending so much time with kids makes you love them as if they were yours.. IDK! what she’s thinking… OH YES! I KNOW… herself… LOL

Taking a Computer Lunch June 8, 2011 at 10:09 pm

In my experience, some APs need to be invited to attend family events – either because they feel shy, or because they feel like they ought to be invited, or because they aren’t sure whether the family wants their own space or not.

Personally, it’s great when one has an involved AP. I have loved it when APs root for my son’s sports teams (even if it’s just once during the season), see what The Camel does in her special swimming class, and attend school events. I will say that the majority of my APs have not watched the sports, or come to the swimming class unless I needed them to work while I had other commitments. However, every AP has come to school events – whether it’s a recital or a talent show. But we ASK. “X is performing on Thursday at 12:30. Would you like to come?” Not one has ever said “No.” All have taken photos or shot videos.

One AP made it clear in her culture everyone received a birthday invitation, and so since then, if the party is at home, an invitation has been issued. We often invite our AP’s friends to help with party activities (and make it clear that a gift is not expected).

We don’t expect APs to come to every last thing that we do, and we expect that they will want to be with friends and travel. But there will always be those who feel like part of the family and want to join in family activities and those who don’t feel certain and need an invitation issued.

And for those who look like they’re being tortured when they attend events, make it clear (later, alone) that they are hurting the child’s feelings. It’s natural for children to strain their next to see who’s watching them, and no child wants to see an angry and bored AP next to his or her parents.

Long Island Host Mom June 9, 2011 at 6:27 am

During the matching process I make sure that the au pair knows I want someone to be a part of our family…that just works much better for us. The au pair we have now is the best we have ever had and we will be sad to see her leave…that is because we strike a balance with her. She is invited to ALL family events – that includes extended family…since this is mostly on her own time – its her choice whether to attend…some she does and some she doesnt…this is fine for us and she does split her time pretty evenly. When it comes to attending events for my daughter – there is no question that she will be there unless she will be out of town due to a school committment or she made plans to go someplace before our event was finalized. She even replaces me when I cant attend something due to work…there is no question that we know she is committed to us and our daughter and makes every effort to attend (even during non working hrs and she helps me still) even if it is part of the time- she is there…and I dont have any problems with this at all…as she attends most evening events at school…Since my daughter is in school this is her work time – but I still feel she would attend alot even if it wasnt since – she attended and hung with us many times when it was past her 45 hr working limit…She spends alot of off time with us and she helps out – so I know she is not a clock watcher too (something I really dislike) Her explanation is – if I am to be part of the family…I wouldnt be telling my mom I cant make lunch for my sister cause I am there – its part of being a family member) She even explained this to the au pair that will come in August when she leaves…She told her – if you see something needs to be done…dont wait for someone to ask you to do it – you are part of a family…just use your instincts…BOY am I gonna miss this one !!

momto2 June 9, 2011 at 6:44 am

Like most folks, we’ve hosted the spectrum. The best AP we’ve hosted just felt like family. The way she got to know us, talked with us, laughed with us, got to know our extended families, and the way we got to know her family via Skype, she was just one of us. She attended school events, festivals, spelling bee’s and school picnics with us because she wanted to and she was genuinely excited about it and had a great time. She didn’t need an invitation. She attended soccer games on weekends when she didn’t have plans. She helped decorate and host kids’ birthday parties. She was awesome! She was certainly an anomaly b/c the other AP’s we’ve hosted have not taken this approach. When the kids were younger, it was hurtful when an AP told them she wouldn’t be at their soccer games b/c the games were on her day off and she didn’t want to “work”. She clearly viewed any time with the kids as work. Sure, we could have scheduled her, but it was clearly something she didn’t have the desire to do, so we decided it was best not to force the issue. We didn’t need them to work since we were there, and I guess we figure the AP’s will get back from the kids whatever they put into the relationship. So far, the AP’s who make the effort to share these experiences with the kids are the ones they have developed the long lasting relationships with. The others have been forgotten as soon as we drop them off at the airport.

Former Au Pair June 9, 2011 at 7:27 am

It still strikes me how some american families still want their au pair to be a substitute mom. I tell that to my friends and they dont believe it!!
I took part of everything on my boys life. They WERE my life, when I talked about them to my hostmom, I always said “our boys” and took pictures of his first piano lesson at home, his school play and everything.
Regardless, I think its hard for the au pairs to GUESS what the family wants: some family time with their beloved ones? Some moments with their son/daughter to always remember? Or time with the au pair? How much involved should an au pair be, not to disturb the family bondaries? I mean, that’s a girl who spends ALL of the kids’ free time with him. HE MISSES his parents.
Have you ever consider that THE KID WANTS THE PARENTS THERE, NOT A NANNY?
How much OF THE KID do you think?

If neighter can you stand to be around your own kids a whole day, shoving the poor little one into the nanny’s arms even on weekends, when you suposedly have time off work (dont you blame work for all?), how can you expect a nanny to do that, if she’s not even the mom, didnt give birth, or anything?

So again… it strikes me everytime…

HRHM June 9, 2011 at 8:01 am

We are not talking about you taking our place. We are talking about you attending events WITH US THERE. I love to be with my kids and although I have a very demanding work schedule, if given enough advance notice, I take time off for things during the day like the holiday parties, etc. If I can’t, and I need a representative there, I’ll ask the AP to do it and count the hours towards work.

But, what the question of this post asks, does your AP willingly and happily come to kids’ events as a family member. If we had one older child (say a teenager) and her younger siblings were doing a dance recital or having a birthday party, in our culture, unless there was some other pressing event in her life (like a sports competition) we would expect that she would attend the event WITH us, to cheer on her little sister/brother. This is the relationship MY FAMILY is looking for in an AP. I can’t speak for others, but by the tone of the HM posts, I seem to be in the majority.

As an aside, I think your post is unneccessarily rude. None of us have indicated that we can’t stand to be around our kids or are shoving them into anyone’s arms (BTW we are talking about APs, not nannies – there is a HUGE difference) It strikes me that this is the attitude that leads to the AP who walks out the door the minute the parents are home and does nothing but the minimum required to avoid a rematch. Been there, done that – will rematch quickly next time.

German Au-Pair June 9, 2011 at 8:30 am

I guess you missunderstood (or if not, then *I* did). It’s not about the au pairs participating INSTEAD of the parents, it’s about an au pair joining the parents to watch the kids’ events.
Some hostmums here have stated that sometimes the au pair EVEN replaces them when they cannot make it so that clearly says it’s not how it’s usual done.
Maybe it was in your case and that’s very sad, I agree, but to me this accusation is not in the right place here.

If the issue was that the au pairs had to attend an event instead of the hostparents, this discussion wouldn’t even occur because then it CLEARLY would be work time, wouldn’t it?

CO Host Mom June 9, 2011 at 11:01 am

I agree, this is totally an unnecessary comment. A previous posted mentioned that there were times the au pair went to a child’s event because she was unable to attend. I’ve had this happen many times. Our school often schedules music concerts, band concerts and plays during the school day. I get there as often as I can, but with three kids at three different schools, I realistically can’t attend everything. I’ve been incredibly grateful to our current au pair who happily offers to go when I can’t.

This has also happened where there are two different events on the same night. Again, our kids are at different schools in different school districts – so sometimes this happens. In that case, I’ve gone with one kid to one event, while the au pair has taken the other kid to their event.

That certainly isn’t because I “can’t stand” to be around my own kids, or that I’m “shoving” them off on the au pair – but the fact is that I’m a busy mom, that’s why I need an au pair in the first place. I have three kids of three different ages, and a busy professional career. And I am very lucky to have a great au pair who understands that and works hard to be there when I can’t be.

So sorry you had such an awful experience that has made you so bitter.

Calif Mom June 10, 2011 at 11:05 am

Another issue that au pair should be aware of is that some schools don’t even tell parents about activities to which they are “invited” until a few days before them. The school then tells *the kids* about this event to which “your parents can all come”… but parents who work have their meeting schedules and deadlines set sometimes 3 weeks in advance. So we have the kid asking us if we are coming, knowing full well that the stay at home moms will be at every event, all year through. (The kids don’t know that the stay at home moms often ask wistfully about working moms’ jobs, admitting that they miss the mental stimulation of work!) and all of this puts a lot of pressure on working moms. We have to try to find a balance between our obligations at work and where our hearts would rather be (most of the time, anyway!) with our kids on every field trip and standing around the back of a stuffy classroom watching the kids’ presentations on ancient Egypt. And sometimes, when we don’t get enough notice, we just aren’t going to be able to attend a school event and really are going to need you to go and take pictures and “wave the flag” for our family. If you are an au pair for a family with school-age kids, I think you have plenty of hours available for that…and the best au pairs are HAPPY to be included. They recognize that they hold a special place of honor in the hearts of their kids.

Carlos June 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I think OBMom meant that the kids love their au pair and they’ll love to spend those special moments with her and obviously with their MOM… their OBMom.. LOL..
OK. I’m sorry you happened to be with a family like that… I know there are families like that for what I’ve read on this blog..

German Au-Pair June 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

Sorry, HRHM was faster. But so I obviously didn’t missunderstand.

Au Pair in Fr June 9, 2011 at 10:15 am

(Old reader, first time commenter)
There are out there host families and au pairs seeking different levels of relationship. So, IMHO the best would be both being upfront about their expectations. In order to make it clear for a potential au pair that she would be expected to take part in the family activies, during the interview process she should be told for example, how much your family (specially the kids) appreciated the fact that your former au pairs joined you for recitals, visits etc. It should give her (him) a hint : )

OB Mom June 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I guess the key here is “expected” to take part. I don’t “expect” it, but I’m really disappointed that she doesn’t seem to want to. Perhaps that does mean that I “expect” it??? I “expect” her to empty the dishwasher; I “expect” her to keep my kids safe; I “expect” her to make sure that the homework gets done. But I don’t “expect” her to love my kids … I just hope she does. I do like your comment that I should tell the next AP how much I (and more importantly the kids) appreciate having their AP’s attend events like recitals, awards, etc. My boys are old enough now that I can even have them thank the AP for attending the first few events so she knows that from them directly. For us it is too late in the year to fix the current situation.

Amazing how I learn new things with each AP that I didn’t know I would at the beginning of the year.

ex au pair June 9, 2011 at 10:27 am

It is not always easy to know whether the family wants you to come with them or would they love a time on their own, “just family” w/o the au pair. Ok, they’ve invited you…but what if they were just being nice and polite? As an au pair, sometimes I said “no, thanks” because I thought they would appreciate their privacy…
How to find the balance? That is the question…

HRHM June 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm

In my case, I can’t see inviting an AP to anything that didn’t actually want her along on, just to be “nice” and I don’t know too many other HMs who would either. If they invited you, it’s likely because they wanted you there for sure, or at the least, wouldn’t mind if you came along.

I have taken an AP along when I wasn’t originally planning to (and would have preferred not to) when she has invited HERSELF after hearing of some fun thing we were planning with the kids. In that case, I said yes because I was being nice and thought it would be rude to say no. And really, unless she’s inviting herself out on my and DH’s date night, it’s never that big of a deal! LOL

German Au-Pair June 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Yeah but that’s exactly the point! She invited herself and in a way that was inconvinient for you. I think that’s exactly the insecurity that au pairs experience. When does my hostfamily expect me to join them without inviting me and when don’t they?
I most defintely will adress this issue with my hostparents because I really do want to be enthusiastic and join them without them having to invite me but I also get that people need some alone time with their kids every once in a while.
So how would someone know when it’s okay (or let’s go with “appreciated”) to say “Hey, I’d love to come” and when it’s not?

I love this topic!

OB Mom June 9, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I love that we are getting (constructive) opinions from both AP’s and HF’s!

Honestly, the only time I would probably say it was not “appreciated” to ask to come along is if there were problems with space in cars (e.g. long trips with luggage), something that we were invited to by someone else (and even then I’d probably say yes since they are part of our family too) or something that was expensive and required advanced purchase tickets and the communication was late.

MommyMia June 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Ah, glad you brought up that tricky aspect – when others invite our family to events. Even people we know well and know our au pairs, don’t explicitly include the APs in some invitations, so I feel the need to check with the hosts to find out if it’s OK if we all come, or if they’d rather just have parents & kids. It has led to some awkward moments in the past for both us, them, and the APs, especially at “family” holiday events where there are lots of elementary-aged children and over-30 parents, but no one else in the 18-26 range. Some APs are more social and mingle with the adults, especially those wanting to practice/perfect their English, while others seem to like taking on the supervising of the children’s play. Only a couple have sat all alone, texting their friends – I’m sure the messages were pleading for a ride to get them out of there! We’ve often told our APs it would be nice if they came just to eat, for example, and then politely excuse themselves for some “prior plans” with friends – that way they get to experience a bit of the fun without being bored. We’ve also had them follow us in the AP car to some events, specifically so that they could see part of a sports tournament or recital and then slip away after seeing “their” kid perform. It’s the ones who decline every offer without once coming with us if it’s their non-work time, yet claim to want to be a member of the family that irk me.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 9, 2011 at 9:55 pm

In my experience, if a middle-class American says “I’d love you to come,” most mean it from the heart. The grey area might be the “Do you want to come?”

That being said, we have immediately family that do not think about including our AP in family holidays and those that do. My parents would always buy the AP a few small gifts at the holidays – my in-laws never. My parents would think nothing of picking up the tab for an AP’s dinner if they were paying for the entire family, my in-laws not. (I remember one Passover when my in-laws wanted to seat my AP in the kitchen with another family’s nanny – I made it clear my AP was part of my family and I wanted her to experience the Seder. The nanny came out, too.)

The times I haven’t wanted to include an AP, I have been explicit. “We would have loved to include you in our family vacation, but we are sharing a bedroom with the kids and the family who is hosting us is not offering a second bedroom for you. I’m sorry.”

On the contrary, if I issue an invitation, it means “I want you to come.” (But as other HP have expressed here, the unsaid coda would be: Please decline my invitation if you can’t at least feign interest.

Calif Mom June 10, 2011 at 11:22 am

the common solution here is in host parents realizing there is an event of some sort that they need to proactively manage, and doing that in advance in order to prevent hard feelings or au pairs having a miserable time.

When an event comes up, my hub or I finds a private moment and simply tells our AP what we expect: we want you to come, we need you to come for X amount of time, it’s totally up to you but you are welcome to join us, or I’m sorry, this time we can’t bring you along because X. (And if she comes to an event we invited her, even if it’s just outlet shopping and Costco on a Saturday, we buy her meals, BTW, since the fridge is not an option.)

(Now that I’ve got some distance, I need a moniker for the au pair we rematched out much too late a couple months ago…Bossy Pants doesn’t quite capture her secondary characteristic of utter incompetence, but it will do, because “AP WHo Didn’t Actually LIke Kids and Couldn’t Find Her Backside With Both Hands But Had an Overinflated Ego Anyway” is just too long…)
Bossy Pants would invite herself along All The Time, even when any other normal person would pick up on the social cues. The solution was for my hub to just be overtly blunt with her (because she didn’t understand my direct statements) and tell her NO, she couldn’t come. She never seemed to get hurt feelings.

There is a way to be direct without being hurtful, and for me, mastering this skill has been a big part of being a better host mom.

Better still is finding an au pair who really ‘gets you’, but if you don’t have such a blessing this go-around, you have to manage the situation.

I think that if the au pair is unsure of whether she should join a family for an event, then there is a good chance the host isn’t proactively managing the situation early enough. (Unless she’s one of those hopelessly clueless au pairs, of course.)

Ideally, I talk to the au pair about the event before we even talk to the kids about it, so we are all on the same page and I spare the au pair any awkwardness.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Agreed. I learned a long time ago to do my best to manage expectations, and that includes not only attending family/school events, but also “the summer schedule will be different” (which means for APs with lots of friends – no we won’t change our vacation plans to match those of your friends’ HP), or what will happen on Christmas Day. And yes, it gets tiring to do it year after year with yet another AP, but we made the decision that APs are the best model of childcare for us, so I commit to the energy that goes with it.

My advice to those that have expressed concern – just because a favorite AP wanted and knew when to come, don’t hold all other APs up to her standard. Everyone’s different. Manage expectations by issuing an invitation “We want you to come and see X’s performance” or scheduling it as part of work. If you’re going to be disappointed when your AP who works a 10-hour-day or 45-hours a week on weekdays says no to an evening event or weekend gathering, then make it explicit that you expect her to attend and manage your expectations of that attendance.

We often bill school performances as a “cultural experience” and then are explicit about what to expect to see (like the variety show next week that will be full of lip-syncing hip-wiggling pre-pubescent girls).

NJnanny June 10, 2011 at 9:49 am

I will preface my response by saying that I have a unique working situation as a nanny vs. an AP.

I work a lot… like, A LOT. I care about the boys I nanny and am especially close with the younger one, but I really can’t stand going to school concerts and the such. They’re so boring! After a long day of normal duties, the last thing I want to do is go sit in a plastic folding chair in a hot gym/cafeteria/auditorium for an hour (and often longer!). This has nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t birth these children; I expect to feel the same way about my own child(ren)’s activities some day. I go when the parents are unable to attend in their stead or when specifically asked. More often than not, though, I don’t attend and the family (I think) is glad to have some time together. The parents see their kids so little (and vice versa) that it’s nice for them to spend time as a family, just them.

Maybe it’s just the way I was raised… my parents both worked and, as a result, were never able to come to anything. In 4 years of high school, I’m pretty sure my parent(s) only made it to 1 golf tournament and 1 or 2 games to watch me cheer. Besides that, it was one musical (in which I was the lead) and graduation. I’m so independent that I only cared about their absence twice, and those were more because of the way it reflected on me. who knows…

My 2 cents June 10, 2011 at 11:43 am

This is exactly why I have the “just make an appearance” suggestion and expectation. I tell them flat no one expects them to stay the entire time and, in many cases, am direct with the fact that the event will be a chore or long or boring. In fact, I usually suggest they take a separate vehicle so they can cut out early and leave and not be “stuck” all night or what have you.

NJnanny June 10, 2011 at 9:54 am

and I think there needs to be a time limit for events your nanny/AP is expected to attend. I have gone to several swim meets for my younger one that have lasted several hours. The term “cruel and unusual punishment” comes to mind… lol

Calif Mom June 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

HA! And THAT’s why my kids aren’t on swim teams. I’ve heard too many tales…:-) If I’m not willing to do it myself, I’m not going to require my au pairs to.

Former Aupair June 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm

ThMy first year as an aupair, I was helping a father to take care his 2 girls 2 and 4 years old while the mother was deployed in Iraq. I did everything for those kids just like if they were my own and I did attended every single event they had! I developed such a love for these family and their situation that I was actually very excited to go and register the whole event! On the next day I would go to walmart and get my pictures printed and send it straight to Iraq, so HM wouldn’t miss anything! I did that with all my love and all the love I had for this family.
My second year however, I spent taking care of a 8 year old boy that hated me and hated everything related to aupair/nanny or having someone on his house other than his parents. When I started attending his school events, he would clearly ignore my presence there and pretend I didn’t exist. It was the water drop for me to NEVER ever again attend any of his school events. Besides that, I still was a great aupair on the parents point of view, responsable, on time, etc..) and i did last the whole year. I never kept in touch with the second family though after the year (thank God) was over.

AuPairPoint June 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I am currently an Au Pair in Paris, France and coming to the end of my year as an au pair. I love my host family like my own family, and like my own family sometimes too much is too much. That said today after 3 weeks of working non stop I was ready to shut my door and sleep. However it was the youngest child’s end of year play and I said I would go. I had been asked to go and I already assumed I would be going (this due to the relationship I have with the family) before the invite. And I had the best time. It was amazing, brilliant and something I will never forget seeing that little boy waving at me from the stage. I think it should be up to the au pair which events she attends but I am super lucky that I dont have to make that choice- I wouldnt have missed it for the world.

NorAupair June 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm

In my humble opinion it’s very simple.As a part of the family this is what I do,like a big sister,I’m always there and having great time with my wonderful host family.Of course from time to time I ask them if they would like to be only the 5 of them(mean only the real family,without me), but we really enjoy each other.I don’t consider it as work time,it’s quality and absolutely fun time with my HF,as we’re bonding this way and also it gets me more into the culture.Except one time that I wanted to attend a rock festival at our town and one of the girls had a musical event, but that would be the settlement anyways in between members of a family (big sister scheme ;-) ).I had a very special National day 17th of May,where I wore the bunad (Norwegian traditional costume,that goes from mother to daughter) of my HM, and we attend all the celebrations at school/kindergarden and the parades and everything,and I even had the chance to dance Norwegian folk dances.It’s was really a day and night to remember as I am part Norwegian (my grand grand mother was from Norway), and finally I live my culture,as for a very strange reason I always felt that I belonged to this country,this is where my hearts beat. :-)))

I have also friends,we meet at outdoor activities during the day while the kids are off home, or in the evening, for example in the pool,gym,library and on the language courses, and on the weekends also. Just as back home.

I think that if you’re happy with your HF and close to the children then you really want to be there,because these are important events of their lives as they grow up. I really love my ”kids” and during the weekends I always do activities with them, (this way my HP have time to be alone as a couple, since their life is quite hectic),or do every little extra I can think during the week days to make life easier.To me this is what I used to do in my family, from popping in to household chores (no matter if I’m working or not)-I mean come on,if you were on your own home wouldn’t you help your mother out anytime? to do more than the ”basics” with the kids.But I guess it depends a lot of how your HF treats you.With my first HF I felt more like an employee,kind of isolated.

Don’t settle for anything less,than a really caring loving and pro active au pair,because it’s your children,your most precious treasure ever.And to au pairs, if you don’t really enjoy kids and family life maybe it’s better to find another way to work abroad, don’t use it as an opportunity to see the city lights (or the countryside) on a cheap.It doesn’t work,guaranteed.You’ll be miserable and unhappy,both you and your HF.

HRHM June 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm

NorAuPair, I think I may love you. LOL I wish this was the attitude that all APs had.

NorAupair June 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Thank you :)))
I wish the best match to everyone,both Host Families and Au Pairs!

Comments on this entry are closed.