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?