Two difficult challenges have hit my friends this past month. Last week a friend’s BIL slipped off a ladder, and is now in an intensive care unit coping with serious head trauma. His recovery will be long, difficult and uncertain.
Earlier in the month, a friend’s sister was diagnosed with cancer, for the third time. She has no idea what the specifics will be, but her prognosis is grim.
As it happens, both of these families have live-in childcare. One has an exchange student, the other has an au pair. In both cases, the caregivers have to face a very different physical and emotional situation than they originally signed up for.
When there is a serious and dramatic change in a host family’s situation, both the family and their au pair need to find ways to adjust to the new reality. We’ve already discussed situations like surprise host mom pregnancies, divorce, lost jobs, abrupt moves, and the serious illness of a host child.
All of these changes upset the delicate balance of the au pair and host family’s ‘psychological contract‘. A situation that was perfect for a family (or an au pair) changes on a dime, but we are still locked into our commitment to each other.
We generally assume that, as thoughtful host parents, we can find a way to talk with our au pairs and renegotiate what to expect of each other. But what about when the abrupt change happens to you? What if you, yourself, are having a hard time handling the situation?
How can you even begin to think of helping your au pair — not to mention your kids, your friends, your partner, your family — get adjusted to what’s coming?
Making things more difficult is that when the change happens so abruptly that we are unable to plan ahead or take time to change. We may have so little understanding of what to expect that we might simply be unable to predict, or to plan. Then what?
Both families above are blessed with large and strong networks of friends, and getting lots of help and support.
If we could offer them some suggestions about addressing the situation with their caregiver, what would we recommend?
Share your thoughts, below.
When Your Au Pair Breaks Your Psychological Contract
Having another baby? How to tell your au pair
When your personal, private challenges affect your Au Pair relationship — emotional challenges of one host parent
How can we prepare our Au Pair for significant disruption? — serious change & challenge for host child
Image: Hopeful Morning from Dead Air