Establishing Expectations when an Au Pair Has Guests

by cv harquail on November 30, 2011

There’s something about hosting a friend of relative of your au pair that can mess with the fine balance between “part of the family”&¬† “childcare provider” and between “host mom” and “house elf/slave”.

For lots of us, we forget to check our assumptions about how we should act towards other people’s guests, how much of a host or hostess we should be, whether we should treat the guest like another au pair/family member or like the au pairs’s responsibility, and so on.

Most of us host parents want to be warm and welcoming when our au pairs have guests- whether these guests stop in for coffee or spend a week or two in your host parent house. Most of us have learned though trial and error what we can take, and what we can’t take, when it comes to house guests in general and guests of au pairs in particular.

ReturningHostMom writes with a great  opportunity.

She’s hosting an au pair’s house guest for the first time — with this particular au pair. This host mom has had some good and bad experiences hosting guests, and so she wants to know–

What can she do UP FRONT to set the expectations for the visit?

I’ve dug up this thread looking for some updated advice. Our AP is about to have her BFH (boyfriend from home) visit for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, and he will be staying in our house. I encouraged AP to invite BFH over Christmas, as we are going away for 10 days and while she was welcome to come, I didn’t think it would be much fun for her to be up at my sister’s house with their family, with her not knowing anyone there and not being the sort to make friends and go out with local APs, the way some of our previous APs were. So now I’m facing two weeks with BFH (a total of five days will be with us home), and then mom and sister are coming two weeks in the spring and godfather for 10 days in May. So I need this visit to go well, or I won’t be feeling welcoming for the next visits.

I should put up front that we have had great and awful visits with previous APs’ families: Two were fantastic – parents, boyfriends, boyfriends’ families, etc all visited, lots of fun, great to have them. One AP, though, had her mom and sister for two full weeks, and for two full weeks i cooked and cleaned and waited on them – they were lovely people and we had fun but still I felt very overworked, but then on the last night, after I cooked them a big “goodbye” dinner, AP announced she was leaving the next day with mom and sister. Turned out this had been the plan all along – flight was booked – and AP’s mom and sister simply used our house as a hotel so they could visit the US before AP left with them. So you can see why I’d be a little gun-shy with the visits this time around!

So what can I do to help ensure that this first visit goes well, so that I will feel happy about all those future visits as well?

I’ve tried to set expectations by being clear and outlining my expectations in the au pair handbook. I have in the handbook now that anytime guests stay longer than 3 days, that AP should provide food (thanks to that AP mom and sister who cleaned out our fridge of food every other day but paid for nothing). I have in the handbook that no guests should drive our cars, and I told AP that there would be a mileage limit for the visit (again, from that other AP, who put over 500 miles on our car when the mom and sister were visiting). I have in the handbook that AP must take vacation day on any day that I would otherwise need her to work and so will have to get back-up childcare.

I haven’t yet approached the question of sleeping arrangements with BFH, but since AP has told me that when BFH stays at her house at home, he stays in her room with her, I was thinking I’d just put them in there. Should I set some rules about the bathroom (small house -AP shares bathroom with two children 7 and 9, and her room is on same floor as our bedroom)? What else should I be thinking of?

We like this AP a lot, even though she is young for her age and needs a lot of hand-holding. She is kind, respectful, helpful, and very much a part of our family, and I really want to welcome her family with open arms…but I need this visit to go well in order to do so with the additional guests who are scheduled to come (plus I should add that she has had weekend visitors a fair amount too).

Advice? Suggestions? Thanks very much.

{ 28 comments }

MommyMia December 1, 2011 at 12:18 am

Wow, I must say that you’re way more tolerant than we are after getting burned by our first au pair, who sounds like yours’ twin – her mom & sister also came for spring break, although ours waited until two weeks after they’d left to announce that she “couldn’t take it” anymore! Both the mom & sister smoked (OUTSIDE, since we wouldn’t have even invited them to stay with us if we’d known they smoked) and no doubt our au pair did when out with them, as they all reeked of smoke as did our guest bedroom, just from their clothing & hair. We insisted they rent a car–no way were we going to let them put all that mileage and liability risk on our shared family car that we needed on the days they were sightseeing. When the mom got sick and they had to cut a visit to San Francisco short, I felt very put upon that the two girls took off and left mom (who didn’t speak English) here – I certainly didn’t feel like playing nursemaid and trying to determine what she needed in the way of medicine, food, etc. And never once did they offer to purchase extra groceries when they ate meals here, or take us out to dinner, as parents of former exchange students always have done when they’ve visited, and as we would certainly do whenever someone extended their hospitality to us when visiting abroad. I know that some cultures feel that the hosts should do everything for guests, but the point is, they were guests of our au pair–we hadn’t specifically invited them, but agreed to having them stay for a limited time (this is also spelled out in our handbook) in our home because we had room for them. We chalked it up to another learning experience, and one that won’t be repeated. Just remember that you can always “add” but it’s really hard to take privileges/offers/expectations away after you’ve set a precedent during the au pair year.

Definitely you should make her take vacation days – with all these visitations, it sounds like either you don’t really need her to work all that much, or she’s getting 3-4 weeks vacation time instead of two that the program specifies, but that’s your call. And we have guidelines in our handbook stating that one night a month average is plenty for overnight (other au pair) guests – we want to share the experience with other host families and let ours spend the night at their houses sometimes!

Tristatemom December 1, 2011 at 9:53 am

Wow, you are very good-hearted to continue to be open to AP guests after your harrowing experiences! We shut that whole idea way down after having a bad experience.
My advice, since you mentioned that she already has a lot of weekend visitors. How is she managing that, i.e. are the visitors respectful about your home, food, etc. That would give me some idea about how she will behave with a longer term guest and where you need to set limits now. Having the boyfriend sleep in her room is what I would do too but I would be really direct about noises etc. I mean they haven’t seen each other in a while and need to make up a lot of time, if you catch my drift. I would be very nervouse about having to explain certain things to my kids.
One final thing, I don’t know if you already allowed the future guests to come but know that you can always change your mind and not be a bad person!

boysmama December 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

I think you have done a great job outlining guidelines. I wish there were a more tactful way to say “please don’t expect us to pay for all of your guest’s food, and to entertain them”, but I haven’t found it so I say just that. One of the problems we had recently with an extended parents stay – I think they felt they “should” hang out with us, and thus gave us zero personal space. I think its fine to share our food for breakfast, but I’m shocked that seemingly reasonable people truly expect to use our homes as an all-inclusive resort because they cooked 2 meals for my husband and I.

I read something just this week that gave me pause on a Facebook AP wall that I think is relevant here. An AP and her friend were planning a trip to different cities and were looking for free places to stay, as in, let us stay with your host family (as if we were close friends) and then you can come stay with my host family when you want to travel to this city. Yikes… now we really are an all-inclusive youth hostel! So guidelines for how many guests can come over the course of the year are appropriate, save your resources for her real friends and family!

MommyMia December 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Actually, our agency has a program where you can sign up to “host” travelling au pairs with the same agency & we did so at the beginning of our year. However, when one called last month to see if she could stay here during her visit to this area, my husband answered (I was away) and got mad, thinking that our AP had given out our info.He totally forgot (or was only half-listening when I asked if we should volunteer for the program – LOL) I’m sure the poor girl will never try that again!

HRHM December 1, 2011 at 10:24 am

Again, I will say up front that you are WAY nicer than I am. My HHHB states that APs may not have male overnight guests in our home unless it is her brother or father. If an AP wanted to bring a BFBH to visit, they would be paying for a hotel. (although I might be compelled to make an exception if I was gone the entire time) I have not had any long (more than the weekend) AP guests yet, but the proposition makes me nervous in general. I think if you sit down with her and explain what (in our culture and your home) makes for good house guests and what doesn’t, and then be prepared, during the visit to call her on violations of that agreement. I think if she knows in advance that this visit may affect the chances of future visits (including the on-going regular sleepovers she’s already having) it may encourage her to be on her best bahaviour.
FWIW, I would be disinclined to allow this many instances of AP house guests in my home in one year (the parents maybe, but the godfather too?) I would start to feel like a hotelier.

ReturnAupair December 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

I think its really nice that so many poepel can come and stay with you. Not every Hostfamily allowes sleep over guest in there house.
In my first year beeing an Aupair, my Father, my Mother and my little Sister (at this time 8 years) came to visit me for a couple of days, until we left to travel around. My Hostfamily told my Parents not to buy any food, because there are guest. But my parents and i decided to buy our own food, because its really expenisive. We also took the kids out for dinner and bought vine for the hostfamily so they could enjoy a day night with out them (4 Kids). Even my parents could not speak any english they communicatet well with my hostparents. I was really thankfull and was suprised that my little sister got a small easter present from my hostparents. I also where suprised how much fun all the kids had together.

So i think its not fear to let the Aupairs family stay two weeks and after that the aupair is leaving. I think they should buy there own food and at least do something nice for the hostfamily.
About rules for the boyfriend. I would suggest that both are locking the door at the bathroom and the bedroom at all the time they are inside. Maybe a rule that they will clean up after them selve (but i guess, they will do it on her own).

NJ Host Mom December 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm

You’re a saint! And very trusting. Our rule is no guests at our house when we are not home…the responsibility of that scares us to death. And regarding the sleeping arrangements, is that really a message you want to send to your 7 and 9 year olds? If that’s a behavior that your family considers to be appropriate, then fine, but if not you might want to reconsider that one.

East coast mom December 1, 2011 at 10:00 pm

We are quite busy (….hence the need for an au pair…..) so we do not have time to take care of au pairs’ guests.

Our handbook states the following:

“Family policy on hosting friends/ family from out of town: This should be discussed on a case-by-case basis in advance. We are in general ok with au pairs visiting from out of town for a weekend. We prefer that family and friends visit while you are on vacation and not working with the children. If the visit is longer than a weekend, we prefer that they stay in a hotel take care of their own transportation (e.g. car rental)”

This policy means that friends/family from back home tend to visit the au pair while she is on vacation and they usually travel somewhere else in the States. This works out beautifully.

We make sure and discuss this policy with everyone we interview so that they do not have false expectations prior to arrival. If someone is planning to use the host family as a hotel, they are probably not the right person for the job anyway.

Perhaps I would enjoy having some of my au pairs families stay longer but for the most part I barely have sufficient time for my own family so I have to draw the line at 2 days. Additionally, I am the kind of person to really go out of my way to care for guests. Knowing this, I try to stay away from such situations. The au pair guests are different from the au pair. They are more needy than the au pair who is already settled in and has her own life, friends, daily routine.

Remember that we are welcoming the au pair into our family. We did not sign up to welcome her entire family plus boyfriends and girlfriends from back home.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 1, 2011 at 11:38 pm

I trust my AP with my children, so I trust that she will behave in my house when I am not around (so far I have not been let down). Our rule is that guests are not to stay in the house when the AP is not there. If she goes out, so do they, UNLESS the AP telephones DH or I to inform us of the situation (I once came home and one of my AP’s friends slammed a door in my face when I became concerned about noises upstairs and knowing that my AP and kids were out).

The variety of reactions is really interesting, so the bottom line to you APs who read this blog – ASK YOUR HP NICELY BEFORE INVITING ANYONE TO STAY AND DON’T BE INSULTED IF THEY SAY ‘NO.’

While I don’t expect my AP’s guests to pay for food, I do expect to be thanked in person for my hospitality (whether it’s an overnight guest who has crashed at our place or a friend from home). Every guest who has come from abroad has brought a token for our kids (even the teenagers and young adults have done this) and sometimes for we adults – whether it’s chocolate, a cookbook, a picture book, or a small decoration.

I have enjoyed the company of my APs’ friends and family over the years. I’m not a good hostess – I don’t jump up and serve people, except my own elderly family members. I do, however, open my doors. In general, visiting family members have taken breakfast in our home and about 25-50% of their other meals. All have made us at least one really nice dinner and sometimes more. Many have done the dishes when we have cooked. And I admit, I’m positive about my experience because I’ve never been burned. The added benefit, as I have written elsewhere on this blog, is that I’ve come to know my APs much better, seeing them with family.

HP, when you okay a visit, it’s time to book a quiet chat with your AP about expectations – after the kids have gone to bed. Lay our your rules. If she’s not taking time off, make it clear that the kids are her #1 priority (my kids have often thrived on the extra attention – EVEN FROM VISITING BOYFRIENDS!!!) If you expect guests to help around the house in return for your hospitality, make that clear. I think being open about having this visit go well will make you feel more positive about welcoming other family members into your home.

Do expect that when BFH leaves, your AP will be on an emotional roller coaster. (I sobbed when I left DH behind in an eastern European airport as I headed off after a week together, not knowing when I would see him again. I was okay a couple of days later, but I really missed him – that’s why he’s my DH now.) The more you are open with her, the easier it will be for her to acknowledge and accept her feelings.

. December 2, 2011 at 4:05 am

Honestly, I’d feel a little upset if I had my family visiting from my home country (16h flying!) and had to put them in a hotel because my host family wouldn’t take them for more than a weekend. I guess if I was doing my best to keep my hf happy with my job, I’d expect them to want to see me happy with my family too…

AP in Europe December 2, 2011 at 5:49 am

You really can’t assume that your host family is going to agree to hosting people that basically are strangers to them for a week. You can certainly ask, but personally, I would feel awkward asking them to open up their home for an entire family for more than a weekend (a friend of the same sex might be different; [s]he could stay with you in your room). I’d rather spend a week with my family in a hotel and give the host family some well-deserved privacy. If the host family lives in a ginormous mansion with separate guest houses I guess it would be a completely different story, but for some reason I have a feeling that’s not super common. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

If your host family does agree to host your family from back home, it’s something to be very grateful for. Of course they want you to be happy with your parents, siblings etc, but I’m having a hard time seeing how that would require them to let your family stay in their home.

Anne Au Pair December 2, 2011 at 8:53 am

Honestly, you and/or your family can’t rely on having free B&B when they are booking a trip to see you. Yes, it’s a friendly ang generous offer from the HF to have them at their house but I think booking a hotel should be their first choice and if HF wants to have them at the house, great.

HRHM December 2, 2011 at 10:02 am

I think this is very much a cultural thing. Most Americans (especially those who can afford an AP) vacation out of town at least a couple times a year and almost always stay in a hotel, even if they have friends or family in the area they are visiting. We value our privacy, prefer to have our own “space” and don’t want to impose on the kindness of others, even our own parents/siblings in some cases. I know a lot of APs come from countries where if you travel to visit family, you would NEVER think of staying in a hotel AND your family/friends would be offended if you even offerred.
In the US we have a saying “House guests are like fish, after about three days, both start to stink.”

Taking a Computer Lunch December 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I think it’s a class thing in the United States. I grew up traveling only to places where we could stay with family, and even now, most of the time rely on friends and family when we head out of town. For my parents when I was younger, and me now, the price of a plane ticket for my AP & family is such a burden that paying for a hotel means staying in a hotel for vacation and not being able to afford to do exciting things in the area.

As guests, we either buy groceries or chip in for food, make meals, and definitely roll up our sleeves and wash dishes (always appreciated by every host). I’ll even throw our sheets and towels into the washer/dryer before we depart if it pleases our hosts.

My parents are very generous with their own house and often put up guests for long periods of time. I have furnished my home to sleep up to 5 additional people in our study and playroom.

One of my previous au pairs used the couchsurfing.com site to find free places to stay when she toured the U.S., which is an option open to APs when their HF says no.

Debbie December 2, 2011 at 9:24 am

I have only let one of my au pairs have a house guest which was her younger sister who was staying for the weekend. This was a perfect arrangement as we are out most of the weekend anyway and her younger sister was more than happy to fit into her routine and stay in her cramped room. I personally would never ever let a boyfriend stay or parent. I would prefer instead to find them a local bed and breakfast in london or something similar and give them a bit more time off to see them .

Melissa December 2, 2011 at 9:37 am

We have only had our APs friends stay with us, either from their home country or an AP from another part of the U.S. Most have stayed for about a week. This worked out fine and was no big deal because the friend stayed in our AP’s room and our kids were always thrilled to have another young adult around. However, I would feel very differently about having multiple family members stay at my house. Frankly, I would think they’d rather stay at a hotel. We do not have an extra guest room in our home, and although our AP’s room is nice and has its own bath, it is certainly not big enough for more than two adults. So, I don’t know where they would all sleep without having someone camped out on my living room couch, which I would find incredibly uncomfortable in the evenings/mornings. I would love to meet them, have dinner with them, etc., but I would think they’d want their privacy too.

Gianna December 2, 2011 at 10:00 am

Very interesting posts . No one has mentioned the aupair who comes to the US with a specific date in mind when her parents are going to visit. This is not always convenient or even possible for the host family to cooperate with. So I would suggest that there are many very nice host families who would love to meet their aupairs’ families/ but cannot adjust their vacations around someone else’s schedule. It is my understanding that Europeans make travel arrangements pretty far in advance. The best idea is to talk to your hosts about your vacation options before your family back home commits money or books flights.

HRHM December 2, 2011 at 10:06 am

Absolutely! I would be incredibly unhappy if my AP “told” me that her family or friends were coming to visit AFTER they had booked their travel. We only have limited dates that we can take time off (and therefore cover AP entertaining her guests) and we would not want her working while distracted with company. Please APs – always ask your HF before your guests make solid plans.

Should be working December 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Here’s my worst story:

An AP’s family was coming and had planned a hotel, I got all gracious and invited them to stay with us for the week, and then 48 hrs before their arrival she opened up to me about how she, her mom and siblings had been badly beaten up by her father, many times over her life and even right before her departure, and the mother had “enabled” that (my interpretation of her story) blaming our AP for provoking the beatings. So then I had this monster coming to my house for a week, and I was worried for our AP’s safety when she went off for some overnight trips with them as well. I hung jingly things as “decorations” all over my kids doorknobs and doors, never let that family alone with my kids for a moment, and did not sleep much for that week–just because I didn’t know how far this abuse might have gone in any other terms.

My 2 cents December 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm

You are so much nicer than me. No way I’m hosting multiple weeks for multiple stays of people I don’t know – or even ones we do! We’ve only had positive experiences with the family back home coming over for a week (max!) but even then it was so draining. And they were respectful and stayed in her area the whole time.

I’d suggest sitting down and making plans as to what they are doing, where they are sleeping, where they are eating, how they plan to get around, with her. This will tell you very quickly what her and their expectations are. If she doesn’t know or seems to think you will all just pull it together at some point, get out the pen and paper and start the planning. State what you will do and what they will do. Then tell her to talk with them so you can make sure there are no misunderstanding or mistranslations. Plan, plan, plan. Confirm, confirm, confirm. If she can’t or won’t do this, no guests.

hOstCDmom December 2, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Our AP has a small-ish room, but we have our au pair’s room set up with a trundle bed (an option I would highly recommend for any HF planning to furnish/update an AP room – IKEA has beds with this option, or one can purchase a metal roller trundle + mattress (less deep than standard) that goes under a regular bed for about $200.)

This allows us to say yes to friends/family who can stay in the room with the AP -which in our experience has been the type of guests the AP has had/wanted to have (girlfriend from home, another AP friend either in town for a “sleepover” or AP friend from another city for the weekend) AP’s boyfriend, AP’s mother (single mother, visited for a week, but slept in AP’s room). In my experience guest who stays in the room with the AP can be pretty low impact — particularly bc I’m a “bad hostess” – I work PT, and have 6 kids. I don’t have time to wait on others and make no pretense that I will cook meals or clean up after anyone. I only cook for my kids – AP is welcome to partake, but beyond that nada. I don’t even cook for DH and myself – we manage for ourselves or cook something super, super simple for the 2 of us after kids are asleep. I tell AP “here are the sheets/pillows etc for your guest. You can put them on the bed and after you have washed them post-guest you can put them back here” same re towel. I tell AP that a friend is welcome to be present during evening time minding the kids, but during her work hours friend needs to occupy herself/himself (and I make case by case exceptions after seeing how friend interacts with my kid and whether it is a net positive having the friend present – as TACL notes, some guests have been great with my kids and the extra attention and help to AP was very positive for the kids/their needs.)

We have not have guests that did not stay in APs room with her, and have never been asked about that. I would probably be disinclined to invite such guests because I simply don’t have the bandwidth to have extra people, their needs, the distraction, the inconvenience in my life — harsh as that sounds. But, I pretty much have an “open door policy” for guests that stay in APs room, and that has never been abused.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 3, 2011 at 12:36 am

When two parents visit, I suggest to my AP that she sleep on the futon in the playroom and let her parents have the bedroom. Only time a parent slept in the playroom was when a dad & sister combination came.

My handbook does state that the AP is responsible for all guest clean-up, including final sheet and towel washing.

I know I’m completely different from most HP, but I’m actually happiest when my APs feel at home enough to fill our house with their friends. When they don’t I worry that they’re not happy (although a few have been super private). The added bonus to having their friends around is that there is often carryover to the next AP.

Returning HM December 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I’m the OP on this thread. Thanks for all of the advice and feedback. I really appreciate it and used it to have a very productive conversation with AP last night about the upcoming visit, including spelling out some additional expectations and prompting her to think about a schedule for herself and her BFH in terms of meals, when she will work and when she will take vacation days, when he will (and won’t) use the bathroom to shower (esp during children’s bedtime routine), etc. We will be having more conversations as the visit draws closer and then more in the spring when the rest of her family comes, so all of the feedback is extremely helpful. Thank you again.

I should say that it actually never occurred to me, even after our last disaster, not to welcome AP’s family and friends to stay with us. Similar to TACL, I think, I see an AP’s willingness to treat our house as her home and to welcome friends/family in as a barometer of how she is feeling about her involvement in our household. Except for that one AP who used us, no one else has in now five years of hosting. And interestingly – and what I should have realized – is that that one AP who did, absolutely never had a friend over until mom and sister came for two weeks – so it really, there was no culture of sharing with that AP, no established pattern of wanting others to participate in or know her family life here, etc. Had I thought about it in advance, I should have seen that something was up and that we were likely to get used there. But we live and learn, so there you go.

With our current lovely AP, when she errs, she does because she is young for her age and naive, but not because she is sneaky or ill-meaning. She is very kind and helpful and respectful – and is used to having her friends around and sharing them with us and us with them over joint dinners and shared activities, so I do expect things to do well, provided there’s good “management.” I think, as others suggested, that the more scripted I can be with her, the more I can help her plan out almost the hour-by-hour time of her visit with BFH (when we are in the house, that is) and then when her family comes, the better all of us will be. She has been great about asking me FAR in advance for good dates, and these visits are only scheduled when the university where I teach is on break so I have some flexibility in my schedule. She knows that during the semester, I have zero flexibility and in fact require a ton of flexibility from her with schedule changes weekly, so she has been great about making sure the visits coincide with times that I am not teaching so things are less stressful in general.

Anyway, it’s been very helpful to read how other HFs structure visits, and I am very grateful for the feedback and especially to have this site this time around in hosting. Thanks again!

anonamomma December 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm

One of the previous posters made a very good comment that I think sums up the whole situation.

An AP’s guest – is just that (the AP’s guest). They are not guests of the HF. Therefore the responsibility to “host” becomes that of the AP.

I am like TACL and I have a VERY open door policy. Our AP has guests staying over nearly every weekend and some out of town visitors will be arriving for New Years but we are very clear on expectations, i.e. we are open and welcoming but we are not a hotel and do not run a free all you can eat buffet. When friends stay over with us for weekends – the girls watch movies, order in pizzas, etc. They buy their own supplies and do not use the last of the milk or bread – that’ll put you in the doghouse immediately.

For visiting out of town guests I usually go through the “visit” day by day with the AP. This ensures that she considers and researches what she wants to do (sightseeing etc) with her visitors – that they don’t get here and all look to me for guidance. During this conversation I make it clear that I am not a taxi service, tour guide, information centre, day planner etc.

I also try to ensure that their schedule works for my family, i.e. if they are taking an 8 hour sightseeing trip and are going to come home late and hungry – then that’s the day I’m doing a roast dinner – nice simple and big!

So for the AP’s out there – if you are inviting guests to stay – be ready to be a host.

Living in not my thing December 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm

In my view an AP’s visitor is a guest of the AP as far as the AP and HF are concerned ie the AP’s responsibility (the AP provides food and a bed), but the visitor is a guest of the HF as far as the visitor is concerned thus sticks to the HF’s house rules and the HF, as host, is the one to receive the gifts! As long as this is understood overnight visits can be a success.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 19, 2011 at 12:05 am

I would like to add, that the HF should be formally thanked (i.e. – in person). It is not necessary to send a note, unless the guest has been hosted for an extended period of time. Even if you hang out with a friend one night on a weekend, your presence in the house is much more likely to be welcomed again if you look the HP in the eye and thank them. You’ll be doubly welcome if you make even a slight effort to interact with the kids!

Living in not my thing December 18, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I was a part-time nanny whilst at law school in London and then spent a summer as an au pair in Paris before starting work as a lawyer. I grew up with au pairs and while I do not know my mother’s view on APs having friends to stay (although I can assume she didn’t mind enough to prohibit them as they were often there), I was never perturbed by the presence of friends. Somebody new in the house was always a source of excitement and as well as the direct benefit of added attention I indirectly benefited from the guests as they made my AP happier. Loneliness is a huge factor in APs leaving early and having friends about can really help to stop that.

I was therefore shocked in my role as an AP when I was not permitted to have a female friend to stay the night when visiting for the weekend. I had hoped that she could stay for one night, on the day which she arrived. It was a matter of practicality more than anything else as the airport and the place we planned to visit the following day were in the same district as the HF’s home unlike the central Paris hostel she would stay in the following nights. I also thought it would be nice for my friend to see where I was living and working and meet the family, the children had heard a lot about her and vice versa. Having agreed to this when asked, my HF subsequently requested that I make other arrangements for her – on the day that she was arriving!

Setting aside the issue of the very short notice, the refusal seemed to me unreasonable. I have read a lot on this blog about “picking your battles” and I agree this is an important thing to do. Like a lot of things in life a cost-benefit analysis is a good way to proceed.

Not allowing friends and family of the AP into the home implies a lack of trust; that the visitor will not behave appropriately in the home, that the AP will not conduct him/herself as they normally would, that the AP will not temper any unreasonable behaviour of a visitor and significantly, that the AP’s choice of visitor is unsuitable. Not allowing friends into the home makes the HF house solely a place of work and not a home for the AP. This one incident really did make me feel like an outsider and very lonely in the house, unable to bring anything of my life in.

That is something I struggled with in general whilst being an AP. My London life which I left behind to care for the children and family was great, yet it was entirely forgotten and forbidden when staying with the HF. Not only was it rarely talked about but the refusal to let my friend stay for the night was the final illustration that my life was subsumed by theirs. My room didn’t feel like my own either as my friend’s were not invited to stay in it.

azmom December 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm

We allow other au pairs pretty much unlimited. We allowed AP to have her sister (teenager) come for three weeks (two of which we were gone). The expectation is that guests of theirs shouldn’t increase “my” workload unless she’s taking a vacation day. Things worked out well and we’d allow extended visits again, though we’ll be more upfront about food in case there is an issue (this time there was not). We took AP and sister out to dinner (with another AP whose year was ending and she had spent a lot of time with our AP at our house), and we paid, and advised in advance we would. Love restaurant dot com for finding deals when you have a large group going to dinner!

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