Ending the Au Pair Year on the Right Note, by Host Mom TACL

by cv harquail on July 29, 2011

SuperHost Mom and contributing AuPairMom Advisor TACL (Taking a Computer Lunch) noticed that the blog has been rather quiet of late. Using her Masterpiece Theatre Poirot and Holmes skills, she correctly deduced that I’ve been overwhelmed enough by work that I haven’t been able to keep up. As always, lots of work is good for me and my consulting, but not so good for AuPairMom.

As is her style, TACL has jumped in with a terrific contribution:

Ending the Year on The Right Note

Having hosted APs now for the better part of 10 years, I know how hard it is to say goodbye.

Sure, your AP said goodbye to her friends and family before she came to the U.S., but it was more of a “I’m off on an adventure, see you later!” goodbye.

Having watched 6 au pairs say goodbye to us, and countless of their friends say goodbye, I realize what an emotional roller coaster it is very everyone. For those of us with school-age children, we watch their anxiety and separation. As host parents, if it’s not going well, we find fault with every little thing our AP does until we reach the boiling point. My own mother had a theory that it was easier to say goodbye to us as we went off to college if she was mad at us – same may hold true for APs.


And, I think it is worse for the APs. Of course they’re going home to see family and old friends, but they are leaving you behind, your kids, and their new friends. For the first time for many of them it isn’t “I’m off on an adventure, see you later!” — they really don’t know if or when they will be able to return. (And if you’re mad at them, of course they won’t be able to return and it really is goodbye – how isolating.)

DH and I hosted a barbeque for our AP and her best AP friends. Although our AP doesn’t leave for a month, my own children are heading off to sleep-away camp and the number of free days was running out.

We asked them the same questions we ask at similar events every year: What do you most miss about home?, What meal are you going to ask your mom or grandma to make? What surprised you most about the U.S.? What will you miss most? And I will tell you, if you’re an AP at my table, you’re a very thoughtful young woman who speaks almost fluently in English (especially compared to the first time you showed up in our house in September). Going clubbing and partying were not among her answers.

I realized that as much as the bbq was a means for me and my family to say goodbye to my AP’s friends, it was also a goodbye for my AP and her best buddies.

They all met at orientation – they’re not even from the same cluster.. One is going to hit the road while her HF goes on vacation and will be gone before my AP returns from her own travel month. Another will head home almost immediately after her last day in the U.S., as her family needs her to use the money she has saved to pay for some university expenses at home.

And the 3rd? Her HF is leaving on vacation soon and ordered her not to be in the house when they return home, so her last goodbyes to her HKs will occur before they leave on vacation.[how cruel, says cv]

201107290748.jpg(And yes, she will arrive at our home just before her HF returns because our AP asked and we said yes – she is a sweet girl, perhaps still immature, but of all our AP’s friends, she is the one who is most communicative with us when she is our guest.) Personally, it makes me sad that she is cut-off from her year in the States. If she is to return to visit, then she is more likely to stay with us than her HF.

Why do I write this? Because I know how hard it is to stay on an even keel as HM as your AP does the count-down.

As they get ready to depart, APs need to have one last party, one last good-bye, while we as HMs still need the childcare. But think of this – not only is your AP an ambassador from her country – and her behavior will shape whether you say yeah or nay to a young woman (or man) from that country again — you are also an ambassador.

Have a final relationship-building check-in meeting

I’m not advocating bending over backward, or even giving in to every request. I’m advocating taking a deep breath and sitting down and having an honest conversation about what you want from her in the last 4-8 weeks of her year. Do this without getting angry or cutting her off from the rest of your life. Do this with the idea that it’s a chance to reinforce all the good things she’s done with and for your family.

Acknowledge that she has some very emotional goodbyes of her own to share.

My AP’s best friends are all from her country, but that doesn’t mean that it will be easy for them to get together. Each young woman has her own course of study at a different university in mind. They will move on – they are all adults now. From this point onward, friends will come in and out of their immediate lives and they will have to work hard to remain in contact with those with whom they had a close emotional relationship here during their AP year, at university, in their first job, etc. Just as we HMs and HDs do. However, at this point in their lives, it’s very hard to say “goodbye” and really mean “I don’t know when or if I will see you again.”

If you have less than 4 weeks left – it’s time to have one final check-in.

See also:
The 2nd Best Goodbye Gift You Can Give Your Au Pair (also by TACL)
“Her Next Adventure”: Telling your kids that your Au Pair is leaving
Saying Goodbye to an Au Pair you Parents really love
Goodbye Gifts for Your Au Pair
Phases of the AP Year
A Good Au Pair Relationship Requires Your Emotional Investment


Images: Kathi ci marcherai (we will miss you) cake, by electricblue86


Gianna July 29, 2011 at 9:26 pm

What a beautriful post, TACL. Thank you for sharing that. Under the best of circumstances, the AP will form a very intense bond with her friends here in the US.
Leaving the intense community life of college is very hard , too, and in this case, the APs are so far away from home ! I have heard wonderful stories, though, of APs getting together for reunions back home but again, like college, it will never be the same ever again. You know, we digital immigrants sometimes trash social networking but I think this is an instance where it is a great grace. I wonder if military families have any special tips for the trauma of saying ” goodbye and I don’t know when I will see you again “. Once again, thank you for this thoughtful post – I love it.

Calif Mom August 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Social media is indeed a great grace — having moved from one coast to the other, I take great solace in knowing that my friend has checked in at the gym, or one of my favorite restaurants. (Well, no, that just makes me jealous, but you know what I mean.) Just as FB and Skype helps APs stay connected to friends and family back home, it softens the blow of going back home, too.

TACL, hat tip for the article! Very well done, and so important.

AFHostMom January 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm

As a lifelong military dependent, I can tell you that it’s so, so much easier now than ever before. When I was a kid, goodbyes meant exchanging addresses and writing letters until most relationships finally dwindled to nothing, and you found yourself wondering “what ever happened to….”, or the letters started to get returned because of another move. No more, thanks to email, facebook, etc. I didn’t move as much as a kid as we have since my husband joined the military–we’ve moved 13 times in 14 years, and we finally pulled the plug and got the kids off the roller coaster this year, when we bought our house. My husband is still active duty but we’ll geo-separate if he gets orders away from the DC area next time. Not an easy choice, but the best one for us. Anyway, we don’t say goodbye….we say see you later. The amazing thing is that we have friends stationed on 5 continents, and you really never know when your travels as a military family (or member, or DoD employee like myself) will take you back to a place that was once home, or is a new home to a friend. I travel a lot for work and almost everywhere I go, there is at least one friend to have lunch, spend the night, or otherwise catch up with. And now thanks to the AP program, we’ve got friends on a 6th continent and are definitely planning to visit them at some point.
But my attitude toward moving was cultivated over 30-some years of upheaval, sometimes multiple (international)moves in the same year, and always having a partner. It’s often harder, I know, for APs, who do a really brave thing picking up stakes and moving, alone, to live with and work for a strange family at such a young age and often without having ever left their home country. Nonetheless, like every worthwhile experience, it tests a person’s fortitude in the best possible ways.

anon for July 30, 2011 at 4:01 am

What a timely post – we have just said goodbye (last night in fact) to another wonderful au pair – and there are still lots of tears – my teenage daughter in particular is inconsolable as the two really bonded and the only comfort I can offer (and it really is comfort) is that visiting is not an issue as we are both Europeans. I could not imagine how heartbroken she would be if I could not offer her that.

I totally agree with TALC on the pre-departure meet. In the past I’ve tried it without too much success – lots of last minute “I gotta do’s” but this time I put a section in the handbook about leaving and said that there would be a meet and what to expect – because my last experience finished in me cleaning my AP’s room the day she was leaving and the two of us being really frustrated with eachother and she was a wonderful AP also but I didn’t appreciate cleaning her room.

This time my AP & I sat down about four weeks ago and planned what she wanted to do in her last few weeks (not everything was feasable) but it gave me a clear understanding of what was important to her. She understood that although her focus was changing from my family to her departure – I still needed her to provide the same level of childcare and support to my family.

During the meet I brought out the handbook and went over the “Departure Section” – and went over the little things that make or break a relationship at the end. I expected her room to be cleared (i.e. lots of the packing done – all the trash/clutter removed) at least one week before departure. I want the room completed cleaned (properly) before the last day (which is when I become the bad-guy for insisting the room gets cleaned when all the other AP’s are meeting for a last goodbye).

And it worked amazingly well – AP got to do 90% of what she wanted and was still excellent an AP right up to last and her room is a joy to behold!

I miss that girl :)

anon this time July 30, 2011 at 11:42 am

I gotta say how I liked reading this post especially today…I have not yet say goodbye, nor will do any time soon from my host family, but in the last few days I indeed saw a glimpse of what it was like to say goodbye to a dear au pair from my host family side, and what it was like for the au pair to also say goodbye to this family/ I gotta say…that one has been one of the saddest goodbyes I’ve ever seen in my life. She was their first au pair who got to the family soon after their first child also got to their family so of course the bond all 4 of them formed was big and I guess this one was a different situation than when you are a host parent who has said goodbye already to a few au pairs. In this case however, it was for me the saddest thing ever to see them all saying goodbye from one another and everything feeling so heartbreaking from both sides; au pair didn’t want to go, hosst family didn’t want to let go either. it was not a perfect relationship but it was one where everything simply just worked….

I think the fact that there was an overlap of au pairs made things a little bit easier in the sense that old au pair could actually get some “free” time or at least, a more flexible schedule in her last couple of weeks since there was already a second person in the house who could also provide childcare and do all those chores and ‘not-so-convenient’ work hours old au pair honestly rather not do anymore as her year was almost finished by then….
& at the end everything worked out fine with the overlap (that was very very tricky, but in the end it was also an experience I wouldn’t change for the world lol) and hostparents/aupair relationship was seemingly amazing till the last day when everybody cried and said their goodbyes. It was surely an emotional time, still is, for everybody, but I guess the fact that everything was spoken seriously in the right timing, helped so at the end HPs nor AP were worrying about messy rooms and job not done, but instead in what really mattered and that was in this case the awesome relationship they formed in the one year they spent together :)

{kind of like a side note, I’d like to add how TACL pointed out so well the difference between the time when you are saying goodbye to your family back home and then when you say goodbye to the friends and new family you made while in that au pair year. Maybe we take them for granted sometimes, but one’s family is always going to be there, you left the country, left home, but they are still going to be there when you come back….saying goodbye after your au pair year is saying goodbye sometimes forever to the people who where there & give you comfort in one of the hardest years of your life……i guess all that adds up to personal growing at the end of the day, but it still is hard…& sad….}

maleaupairmommy July 31, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Excellent post and thanks for making me think of things. My last ap he was great and the best. The last two months were hell as he had a girlfriend and was distance from us. I know part of it now looking bad it was his way of letting go and not being so sad to go. We are still good friends and he just posted a video for the kids of a dinosauer he found in the part. It was cute and glad 6 months later he is still thinking of us. I was so mad and horrible sad the year ended that way but now I know better and remember the good times and the many and there were many great things he did for us and the kids especially

Taking a Computer Lunch July 31, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Thank you. I generally have a reel-it-in conversation when things go awry in the last month, while at the same time acknowledging to my AP that I understand how hard it is to say goodbye to everyone all at once. (I didn’t with my first AP, and it was a disaster – I learned with AP #2.)

My current AP has one friend who seems particularly needy right now – requiring more time & energy than my AP wants to give, and I reminded her that it is an emotionally tough time for everyone. While my AP may have a tendency to pull away because goodbyes are tough, this particular friend is hugging tight.

It’s always tough to figure out who needs what. I find that by laying the cards on the table and being open and honest, I can move forward during the last month or two, when my APs are being pulled in all directions, and still receive quality child-care. The trick, I find, is to acknowledge that it is a very tough time and really listen to what your AP needs (as opposed to what he or she is saying). If your AP is leaving a boyfriend or girlfriend, as well as your family, and new friends – then the anxiety level will be much higher than an AP who doesn’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

Calif Mom August 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

So very true–it can be surprising how different people react to upcoming departures! Sometimes, because the AP has grown so much during her year, she may not know what she really needs. Compound that with the kids growing and changing, too, plus the way the departures of previous APs may have resonated with the kids (unbeknownst to you, perhaps), and it’s one of those times when “emotional intelligence” is the most important strength a host mom can have.

Don’t underestimate how much the kids change in a year — I just learned that our eldest, now 11, reached out by email to a former AP to tell her about a traumatic event that she was still processing. I LOVE that this is happening, because I trust the AP and still miss her, even though we have a wonderful au pair now, too. Wow– look at that! A long-term relationship really was built, just like the brochures say! :-)

Gianna August 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm

That is a wonderful thing to hear Calif Mom. We just can’t know the wonderful things life has in store until they happen or until we look back and say ” when did that happen ? ” It is a great thing to hear this sort of thing from parents who
are very experienced and are willing to share their good experiences.

Ex AP August 1, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Great post TACL!
Especially the last paragraph was just simply true!

OB Mom August 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Very timely indeed. Our current AP leaves in just a few weeks and the kids (and I) are getting excited about our next AP (who seems fabulous over Skype). The current AP has been adequate, but nothing every really clicked with the kids. One of my kids commented recently that she has been our worst AP (other than the one we rematched with). I told them that they need to realize that we’ve been extremely lucky with the people that we have had sharing our lives and that they need to be nice to her as she gets ready to leave. I will spend the next couple weeks reminding them of her strengths and what she has done to help them grow (in subtle ways).

I really enjoyed the questions that TACL suggested we ask … what will they want to do first when they get back? Meals from parents and family members? Things to help them reconnect with their family and friends rather than miss their lives here in the US. Each of our former AP’s have indicated that they are excited the first few weeks after they return, but then things are different (but not). I always tell the AP’s my story about going back to work after having my first child … I had changed so much, but the company had not. The AP’s will probably feel much the same … they grow so much, but it can be hard for their parents to see that (and unlike me who got a new job, they can’t “move on”).

It is our responsibility as a good HF to acknowledge their strengths and what they added to our family, no matter how small. I think these experiences will eventually make my kids better managers … realizing that life is made up of many different kinds of people with different strengths that need to be capitalized on in their work environment (ok, I guess you can tell it is time for mid-year reviews).

Busy Mom August 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Lovely post, TACL. Lots of great ideas.

Va aupair August 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm

This does not have to do with the topic but I really need advise, I am about to finish my first year and I was supposed to extend with my host family, then they told me that they are gonna leave the program. Then I want to extend with another family for 9 months, I already paid the fee, submit all the educational component, I can drive, I can cook I have plenty of experience with children, and I KNOW THAT I AM A GOOD AU PAIR, I always say yes to what they ask me to do and even help them making extra things that I am not supposed to do as cleaning the kitchen, organizing the living room and cleaning the basement ( i dont do that because they ask me to but because I live here and I hate messy places) However, the only missing stuff is that they submit my reference…they take forever, I have been asking them for that 3 weeks ago and they say yes now we do it but they just never do that…I do not know what t do and I am desperate because I dont wanna lose my money neither my time….and indeed my deadline to find a family is getting closer…HOW CAN I GET THEM MAKING MY REFERENCE!!!!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 18, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Talk with your LCC.

HRHM August 19, 2011 at 10:11 am

You need to ask your self if you honestly think you are a great AP and they are only not extending with you now because they have a sudden reason to “leave the program”. I know several families who didn’t have the guts to tell their AP that they changed their mind about extending, so they make up a story about no longer needing an AP or being unable to afford one, then when she’s gone, they get a new AP. Not nice, but an easier way than telling an AP to her face that your work has slipped and we decided we can’t spend another year with you.

My advice is to not push then to give you a reference. If you do, they may write something saying you are not a very good AP and that would be worse than if they write nothing at all.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 19, 2011 at 10:45 am

While I agree, it might be that, it could also be that they’re just plain busy. My outgoing AP has asked me to write a letter of reference for her to use when she returns home, which I’m happy to do. Have I done it? No. I’ve been busy cleaning my house in order to put my best foot forward for her successor, getting my kids ready for school, and working full-time.

But I will repeat what I posted above, with elaboration. If your HF won’t fill out the form, then contact your LCC. If you’ve attending meetings on a regular basis, fulfilled your education duties, and she hasn’t heard negative comments from your HF, then she should be willing to help you find a new HF. Our LCC has routinely asked us to serve as a telephone reference for friends of our APs who live with us while they are in rematch (we won’t talk about their childcare duties, obviously, just how they behave in our home).

The bottom line – if you want to stay in the U.S., then you need to be proactive.

Va aupair August 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

well the reference is not because I want to have it done, is because it is a requirement to extend with another family, the do not even have to WRITE about me, they just have to fill in the blanks if it is true that I drive, cook …etc. The reason why they leave the program is not because of me is because my host mom lost her job and my host dad by himself can’t afford the costs of the program. I know that I am a good au pair because they (my HF and family friends) always tell me that I am the best au pair that my family have had, and that they are so sad to let me go. The thing is that both of my HP are always distracted and they forget things easily…I do not even have an schedule because they hate to follow it..THE POINT IS…i really need my reference done…my lcc talked to them and still i do not have it

hOstCDmom August 19, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Print out the reference form (or get from LCC by email if you don’t have a copy). Fill in your name, date, town (any parts that are not a review of you).

Have it in hand and approach HM or HD when kids are in bed, or they are otherwise available for 2 min (you are correct – these forms really don’t take much time unless the HP *want* to append more info). Ask very nicely –

“I know how busy you are, and I hate to trouble you, but the agency has really been pressuring me and asking each day where my form is. I printed it out for you and filled in my name etc. I think it will only take you 2 min to fill out – could you possibly do it now and then we can scan it to the agency?”

It would be hard to say no to that…

And, if the HP say, sure, give it to me and I’ll do it later –

“Thanks, can I get it from you at 8.00pm — I told the placement coordinator I would get it to her before the close of business today, so I really need to send it. If you don’t mind, I’ll come find you/knock on your office door at 8.00 to collect it?”


Va aupair August 20, 2011 at 12:34 pm

thank you hostdcmom I actually did what u told me to and guess what…IT WORKED. they already submit it and i am in matching process finally :)

NJMom November 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Our Au Pair is leaving soon and she is our second Au pair. The first only lasted 2 month and then we went into rematch. We are only overlapping for the weekend with the new Au Pair. We are hoping that that our current Au Pair will show her the ropes in town, show her the mall, introduce her to her friends etc. I will be training the new Au Pair in all her work duties. The only thing I am worried about is that one of my daughters has bonded with her and is very attached to her. All of my children are young and not even in preschool yet. My daughter is a little over two and it is hard to explain that our Au Pair is leaving and that a new girls will be here soon. I’m not sure if she is old enough to understand. What do people with little children do? Do you just not mention it and just have a clean break or do you try to explain that someone new is coming to live with us. I am not sure how much they understand. I just am worried that my daughter is going to be asking and asking for her and she won’t be here anymore. She is a good Au Pair and we’ve been happy with her, so we are all on good terms. I am just worried about the transition with the new AP.

NoVA Host Mom January 3, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Kids are more flexible than you think. I think some of their stress during this last rematch was feeding off the stress we had looking for AP4, cleaning AP3’s room (which was left a sty), and worrying about holiday season coverage. But after AP4 came and settled in, it smoothed out quickly. They will ultimately like who you like, and they will be happier when the stress they get off the grown-ups is gone.

We have a 3yo and a 22mo. Our 1st rematch, we had only 1 and she was 6 months old, so it was a no-brainer. But since then, we have had one leave at the end of her extension and 1 rematch 10 months later (last month). For the first one, since we knew she was going home (she spent nearly 2 years with us), we were just very clear and spoke in simple terms. It was AP2’s time to go home and live with her mommy and sisters and brothers again, and a new person’s turn to come and stay with us. We keep in touch with AP2, so the girls see her on Skype and hear her voice. We also have sea shells that AP2 collected at the beaches on vacations with us. The 3yo is very aware that those are “AP2’s sea shells” and will ask now and again if she is at home and when they can talk.

For the rematch, since we did not (and do not) know if she found a new family, I simply explained it was someone else’s turn to have AP3 live with them, and someone else’s turn to come and stay with us. When AP4 arrived, and of course moved into AP3’s room, there were a few days of unsettled with the girls, but now they have not said anything about AP3’s absence. I did not want to lie and say AP3 was going home if she was possibly matching in the cluster, because I did not want anyone to be upset if they saw her around town. So, explaining in the terms of a preschooler (taking turns, just like with toys or the swings) made it easier for them both to understand.

And you don’t say why you went into rematch after 2 months, but be cautious about the overlap. Sometimes a clean break and you starting over is better. While we were offered the same by AP3, I thought better of it and learned later for very good reason. I really doubt that outgoing AP will be happy to show the replacement around town, and since they might be very different people, what is important for the leaving AP may be not the new AP’s cup of tea. I’d rather have the LCC set up a buddy system or set up introductions to APs in the cluster (maybe from the same country) and let them get to know things that way. Just my personal experience. Hopefully it worked out for you as you intended.

Comments on this entry are closed.