Can you remember back to the first time you ever heard about the Au Pair program?
I can’t remember how I first heard about it (and I think I assumed I knew what an au pair was). But I *do* remember trying to explain the whole concept to my dad. And then to my coworkers, my next-door neighbors, my mother-in-law, and the receptionist at our pediatrician’s office.
Most people who aren’t or haven’t been host parents have no idea what an au pair is.
Because the term itself is French, people jump to two conclusions:
First, they assume that an au pair is something only snobbish people do, because who else tosses in a french term when an English one will do?
Second, they assume that simply translating the term into English explains the whole thing.
The title comes from the French term au pair, meaning “at par” or “equal to”, indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals: the au pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a traditional domestic worker.
Both of these conclusions are wrong, wrong, wrong.
The Simple, Easy Explanation
Explaining what an au pair is to other people is actually the easy part: “An au pair is a young adult who comes to the USA for a year or so on a student visa, to live with you, provide childcare, learn English, and explore another culture.”
What Some People Really Want to Know
And the hard part isn’t even telling them what they really want to know:
- Why are you doing this?
- How can you imagine having someone else live in your home?
- Why not use a childcare center like everyone else?
- Why not get a Nanny, if you want in home care?
- Are you sure an Au Pair isn’t coming here just to get around immigration rules?
The hard part is handling the judgment.
I’d gotten so accustomed to au pairs as a concept that I’d forgotten all about the judgment, until we got an email from BayAreaMomToBe:
I was just about to match with an au pair, and my father sent me a really adamant email against the idea. His thoughts:
Whether it’s for your personal convenience or some other reason, it’s not worth the high risk of future family problems or even the breakup of your marriage to invite a young woman to come live in your home. What are their immediately goals in the US:
1) to get into the country, 2) to stay in the country, 3) to find a husband, and 4) to find a better job.
If they can find an marry an American husband, then they can achieve their goals easily. … We just have seen and heard too many stories involving this kind of situation. These have a disastrous ending for the hostess.
Why can’t you find a nice childcare center near your office, and have the baby there? That’s what your sister did and it is working fine for her. Then you could go by at lunchtime, or even for a break, and see the baby when you want to. It will be convenient and you won’t have to have someone living in your house, interrupting your family life. Actually, once you understand human nature and possible human behaviors, the possibilities and probabilities on problems are all there. Don’t take the risk.
After looking through the posts on the blog, I’ve seen that many host parents have problems like the ones that concern my Father.
Are my husband and I being naive? I would love to hear what your readers think. And, I would like to have a better way to explain the au pair program for my family. ~MaybeBayAreaHostMom
Parents, how do you explain to people WHY you have an au pair?
What do you tell them about your family, about your job, about your kids, about your needs, about your dreams and hopes, that explain why you have an au pair?
Or, do you just ignore their questions and the potential judgment that’s behind the questions?