Don’t Fret Over the One That Got Away

by cv harquail on July 14, 2015

It’s easy to obsess about the candidate or host family that seems perfect for you. missedconnections2

We each have an idea of the ‘perfect’ au pair, the ‘perfect’ family, that we conjure up from our imaginations. Sometimes these images are based on previous experience

“She’d be just like Elrina, tall, outgoing, fun, thoughtful…”

or from a quick view of their profile or letter

“That Brown family in Ct, with the 2 toddler, fluffy dog, doctor mom, and ground floor au pair space is exactly what I’m looking for!  And they like Asian food too!”

In every case, they hook into two myths about Au Pairing:

Myth 1: There is a ‘perfect’ candidate/host family for you.
          (myth 1.1: … and you know exactly what that type is.)

Myth 2: There is only ONE candidate/host family of the type that will fit for you.

If we ever did an empirical study on it, I’d bet that over the course of a three month search a host family could find at least 4 au pairs that fit their critical criteria and would make a good match– if only the host parents could let go of some criteria that didn’t actually matter.

pro tip: There are lots of outgoing, sporty, cuddly au pairs out there, especially if they don’t have to be tall or from Denmark.

Au Pair candidates have it even better, I’d argue, because they have fewer time constraints and are more able to interview with a bunch of families before feeling pressure to match. Au Pairs just need to stay calm, return emails promptly, and be prompt, open & forthcoming when families contact them.

The One That Got Away

We’ve heard stories on this blog of families who thought they’d found the ‘perfect’ au pair, only to have him/her flame out quickly.

We’ve also heard stories of families who thought they’d lost the perfect au pair, learned that au pair was instead with another and very different family they knew. The au pair they’d missed out on was nothing like they’d thought s/he’d be and instead just right for that other family.

I understand the fantasy that there is a ‘perfect’ one out there, that these perfect ones are SCARCE, and that if we aren’t careful, we’ll MISS THEM.

(Maybe I should have a ‘missed connections‘ section of this site, where you can ‘re-find’ each other if your actual match doesn’t work? And I could charge a fee for that and pay for a blog redesign? Hmmmmmm…..)

If you’re a host parent, it’s okay to take your time and consider a few different au pairs. There are lots of candidates out there and several that will feel like good matches. Especially for repeat families, it’s possible to learn how to choose better without presuming there’s a “perfect candidate” out there if you only plow through enough applications.

If you’re an au pair candidate, don’t freak if the “perfect” family passes you over after seeing your application or talks to you once and then moves on. Instead, use each contact with a family to learn more about

– what families and kids in general are looking for in an au pair,
– what concerns they have about au pairs and/or your profile, and
– what qualities you bring to the job that might not have occurred to you when you described yourself in your application.

Of course, it’s easy for me to write this post and suggest that you take your time— I’m not pressed to find an au par before my spouse deploys/ my new job starts/ summer camp ends.

And, I’m not hoping that my wonderful host family will defy all those Facebook horror stories and help me feel valued and happy even while I work hard in a foreign country.

But — whether it’s overly optimistic thinking or the actual truth — it’s easier to find a great match if you believe that for every ‘one that got away’ there are several more who are simply wonderful.

What thoughts do you have about the idea of “the one that got away”?
How about the advice to just take your time?


Here’s the email that prompted this post:

Hi Au Pair Mom, 

I have just recently been accepted to become an Au Pair and I am currently looking for a HF. Within an hour of my profile being live I had an interested family. I was told to reply pretty fast and not to keep them waiting as there could be other Au Pairs too.

Because everything happened so quick and reality had emerged I declined the acceptance thinking I should wait and not rush in. But ever since I have regretted it and wished I had of found out more about the family. I’ve had a few families since then but i dont get the same feeling or excitement compare to the first family.

And i’m sacred i’m not gonna find one close to it. I was wondering if any body else has experienced this?


See also:

Choosing the Right Au Pair, Expert Advice from CalifMom
Reading the Tea Leaves to Find Your Perfect Au Pair

Want to find a fabulous Au Pair Host Family? Reply to our emails promptly
Interpreting the Lanugage of Lag Time: Emailing Prospective Au Pairs

missedconnections2Image from Sophie Blackall’s iconic collection of Missed Connections. Some images available for purchase in Sophie’s Etsy shop. 


Returning HM July 14, 2015 at 11:51 am

There was a post recently on DCUrbanmom from the opposite side – a HM afraid that “the one” was not going to pick her family. What I and a few other more experienced HMs responded to her was the same as I would say to this AP: gently, please get rid of the notion that there is any such thing as “the one.”

We have been a HF for going on nine years. We have had seven excellent au pairs. I can say with confidence that if you lined them all up in a row, there wouldn’t be a lot of obvious things in common: We have had tall/short, heavy/thin, beautiful/not so beautiful, male/female, outgoing/shy, confident/somewhat insecure, rich/financially struggling, ambitious to get ahead/gap-year-ish, party-hearty/ homebody, South American/European, on the older side/barely of age to be an AP, you name it/we have had it. There are, however, a few things all of our excellent APs have had in common: 1) desire to be a truly excellent AP for our family; 2) willingness to hear and act on constructive feedback; 3) genuine interest in others and in the world around them; 4) ability to see my children for who they are – with their strengths and challenges – and to love them anyway. Oh – and 5) careful driver. That’s it.

So no, there is no one type of person who is a good AP for our family. And no end to the kind of person for whom we would be a great HF either. I encourage all HFs and all APs to be open-minded. Our current AP thought he wanted a family with older children in a warm place and that he wanted a big house and a lot of the trappings of a fancy life. Instead, he ended up in the snowiest region of the country (this year anyway), in the smallest house in the neighborhood, taking care of a 10 year old who acts three years younger than he is, in a family who pretty much never goes on vacation. According to him, we are great. And he is great for us too, even though he is totally different (and in some ways opposite) from our other great APs in the past.

I hope this AP finds herself a great HF, in whatever form it may come.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 14, 2015 at 12:56 pm

My advice to the OP would be – don’t rush – it’s okay to put a family on hold. AP #3 did exactly that with us. We were the first family she interviewed and while she liked what she had heard about us, she had to know we were the right family for her. She told us she wanted to interview three other families and would get back to us. She returned and said she was ready to match if we were still interested. Since our goal is to interview 5-6 candidates (although now that the The Camel is a teenager we feel lucky if we can get 3), we knew that when she returned she was still the best candidate for us. Don’t match with the first family that interviews you until you’ve had a chance to hear about a couple of other possibilities (I know this won’t necessarily work with every agency). Moving halfway across the world to live with a family that you haven’t met in person is a huge commitment.

My advice is the same as CV’s – don’t rush, don’t panic, take your time and think about what you want and with what can you live! Because no one is perfect. Even my favorite AP had flaws that I overlooked because she did such a fantastic job – flaws that would have caused many other families to go into rematch.

I have hosted 11 APs from quiet introverts who really fell in love with my family, but just didn’t know how to show it to extroverts who required constant job coaching – I wasn’t happy with all of them, but 10 out of the 11 completed her year with our family and three extended. I have learned that while there are personality types that I prefer, I can happily live with a variety. Some were neat freaks that organized stuff that I’m still trying to find while others left their belongings all over the house. It turns out I prefer someone not equal to my family in slobdom just as much as I also prefer not to have someone try to organize us out of it – and yet I have loved many of those who represented the extremes as well as those in-between.

Be flexible. No match is perfect and the one who got away would not have been perfect. No one who looks for ideals finds the perfect match – APs or HF. Look for someone who will meet your needs (APs too), but don’t be too picky about minute details. Now that’s really funny coming with me – since I lop off 99% of available candidates by demanding that they have real practical experience with children who have special needs, don’t smoke and that they have held a valid driver’s license for more than a year – and yet every year (with one exception) I make an okay match – and usually a great match.

If you are not happy with the candidates who are available, then push HQ to send you better candidates. If you’re like me, and have stuck to one agency over the years – remind them of the number of APs you have hosted and your need to see better candidates. I’ve even reminded them that they are working for me – their job is to help me make a match for a successful year – not to rush me into bad decisions. APs, my best advice to you is to be honest – don’t copy a template in making your application because you’ll just read like a cookie-cutter – don’t be afraid to show your true self.

Take a deep breath. A match is a really important decision, but there isn’t one perfect match out there – there are many.

Host Mom X July 14, 2015 at 2:33 pm

I echo TACL’s advice on the “don’t copy a template” front. Host families have to sort through soooo many applications, and they almost all read exactly the same. We get so discouraged not being able to tell the applications apart. Take a chance and put something interesting or different or quirky on your application (must be true, of course!) – even if your agency is telling you not to – and you will be that much easier to find for the right family for you.

Example: One of our best APs had a short career as a fashion model, but her agency told her not to mention that on her application because host families wouldn’t like it, and would think it meant she wasn’t suited to take care of children. We felt the opposite: it showed she knew how to work hard at a young age, in a critical environment, and she had travel/living away from home experience and experience with a lot of other cultures and new situations due to her modeling career. (And our little girls were fascinated, of course.)

Should be working July 15, 2015 at 3:05 pm

As a HM when I match I fantasize about getting me a vibe that tells me “this is the ONE”, but I also have to willfully discount that vibe, because it blinds me to real flaws or question marks. To “go for it” and match with someone (or even for me to put them in my account and commence interviewing) requires I feel really enthusiastic and good about an AP. But it’s not necessarily that my enthusiasm corresponds to how great the AP will really be. I think the investment of choosing one demands that I be pumped up about it, but I can’t trust that my sense of “fabulous” will be borne out in everyday life with the AP.

WarmStateMomma July 15, 2015 at 6:48 pm

I would try not to let myself alone how perfect that family might have been. Imagine they lived on the beach in Hawaii or the USVI. Exciting, right? But then you get there and realize everything is expensive, it costs a fortune to get off the island, there is little to do if you don’t enjoy the outdoors, the bugs are everywhere, the stores contain little you’d want to buy, and there is a lot of crime, poverty and drug use.

Seriously. There will be situations that look perfect at first blush but they won’t actually be the perfect match for you. Odds are, the interview process would have revealed many ways the match was not ideal and actually living it would reveal even more.

We as repeat HPs have a different sense of what we want in a match than the first time around. APs likely would have different criteria if they could do it over again. The one that got away probably wasn’t the perfect match.

Good luck matching with a great family!

Anonymous in CA July 15, 2015 at 7:04 pm

I think it’s worth having a brief e-mail exchange or conversation with most if not all of the families that contact you…for two reasons. First, you really never know if a great match is obscured by features that at first blush aren’t your ideal.

Second, and maybe more importantly, the more families you talk to, the better informed you are and the more reference points you have on which to decide when you finally do decide to match with a family. You gain practice in responding and interacting and maybe you’re not as nervous after conversations with a few different families. Sometimes people go on interviews thinking or knowing it’s not quite the right fit to gain experience in the process of interviewing….and sometimes those experiences reveal that the position is in fact a good match.

Experiences all add up and allow you to make more informed decisions. Just my two cents. (but don’t beat yourself up over this first family that contacted you! Just chalk it up to experience and move on! :-) )

WestMom July 15, 2015 at 7:26 pm

This is so timely. I just met a great candidate today. I love that feeling when I think I might have found my unicorn (we do have a lot of requirements, sometimes I wonder how we will ever find another one!). I do a lot of the early exchanges by email. The excitement speeds up the interview pace and keeps me sharp in my questioning. It also puts in perspective the ‘meh’ candidates I might have been holding on to ‘just in case’. In a way, I think it’s important to have that feeling before I decide to match with an AP. When I have the feeling, I know I am not settling.

Texas5TimeHostMom July 15, 2015 at 7:26 pm

I absolutely agree. It’s kind of like buying a house – easy to get emotional and attached very early in the process but there are many great options out there! That being said, the au pair perspective may be different. For example, my agency has SO many candidates from countries like Brazil, that some may never get many interviews, despite decent profiles, etc. In these cases, they may need to be open minded about the families who do interview with them, be responsive to interview requests and those who potentially make offers. I matched with our current au pair in 2013, and TWO years later was looking for my next au pair and some of the same ladies on my favorites list were still in the pool. That is a very long time to wait!

Didi July 15, 2015 at 8:28 pm

I agree with all comments above! There is time and you will find family that will give you that feeling again.

Make sure you are flexible and open to different cities or families than what you think it’s ideal, but also don’t settle and rush into something – just out of fear right one will never come. :)

Good luck!

Third time ap August 5, 2015 at 9:17 pm

I am an repeat au pair and talking to hostfamilies at the moment. There are 2 families I talked to. Both seem really nice, but just aren’t a “perfect” match for me. I never felt excitement talking to them and I just can’t see myself living with them. There are a few other reasons too, but I don’t want to go into details. It had nothing to do with a car/curfew/schedule or the city they are living in ;) So a few days ago I sent both an email saying that I don’t think we are a “perfect” match, with an honest reason. I am sure both will be great hfs, but just not with me as their ap. Here is my dilemma. Both families are not accepting my decision. One actually begged me to reconsider and the other one is blocking my profile as well again. I have no Idea what to do. Should I write them another email with more reasons or simply just write that I am sorry again, but haven’t changed my mind ?! I don’t want to hurt their feelings (even more) and I am also not planning to involve our agency just yet since there are still months until my matching deadline left. Any advice?

Taking a Computer Lunch August 6, 2015 at 7:11 am

I would contact your in-country agency representative and explain what is going on. If their intervention does not result in your application being unblocked, then contact the American headquarters.

Speaking from experience, it can be difficult for potential HFs to accept rejection from a great candidate – but we’re supposed to move on. The one time I begged an AP, it was a disaster – we were in rematch within 6 weeks. (I also know, from experience, that when HF see a great candidate, they just want their search to be done already! Reviewing applications, scheduling interviews, are time consuming.)

But if they’re not the HFs for you, remain firm and polite. What I tell APs that reject me (because I am so picky about sending out an initial email) – “You are such a wonderful candidate that I’m sure you’ll make a great match and have a wonderful year.” Keep it on a high note, but if they persist, then use other means to insure that your application may be seen by HF with whom you think you’d be more compatible.

TexasHM August 6, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Agreed. Tell them “you are a great family and I really appreciate your consideration and I have no doubt you will find a great match with another AP. I wish you the best in your search and please release my profile” and move on. Short and sweet, no additional reasons (they might end up trying to argue with you about your reasons which is not constructive). They might think they can change your mind right now so you just need to be very clear that the decision is made and the way to do that is to not give them any additional information and ask them to release your profile every time they reach out. Be professional as if you were declining a job offer and do it all via email so that you have the documentation in case the agency comes back to ask you about it but you should be more than fine. For what it’s worth you are doing the right thing. You will be so glad later that you decided to wait it out for the better match. Good luck!

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