Gentle Ways to Let Go of Your Departed Au Pair

by cv harquail on October 24, 2015

Letting go of an Au Pair you’ve loved having as part of your family can be really, really hard.

Really hard. Of course, it’s a nice problem to have … but it’s still a challenge. 474086212_0e7074a103_mAfter all, you’ve had a wonderful year with your Au Pair — s/he’s been happy, the kids have been happy, you’ve been happy.  You’ve bonded like family. You’ve all worked hard to create the strong relationships that you now treasure.

You’ve wound down the year, thrown a good-bye party, and cleaned out the Au Pair room.

You’ve explained to your kids that your Au Pair has departed for his or her ‘next adventure’.

You held back your tears at the airport, but you had to have a sob in the restroom at Starbucks on the way home– it was just too much. Now what?

How do you stay connected with your Au Pair in ways that let her go?

Here are three things to consider–

1.  Find Connections That Have A Light Touch

Staying connected needs to be easy. Lighthearted. Positive.

You should have ways to say “We’re thinking of you!” that aren’t too demanding of your kids, your time, or your au pair’s time.  Light touches are photos, status updates, and postcards,  contrasted with more weighty touches like gift boxes (and any present that gets mailed), Skype calls, or long handwritten letters.

(Yes, letters! I still get and send these! So old fashioned!)

I’m a big fan of the light touch of social media… you could loop your Au Pair in to your ‘family’ conversation on Facebook, or create an Instagram account that you can *both* post photos to, so that you can share thoughts of each other and pictures of what you’re doing now, in a way that keeps in touch and creates a shared conversation/memory.

Light touches are just enough to send a warm feeling but not so much that you (or your au pair) get overly invested and/or emotional.

2. Accept the The Natural ‘Titration” of Interaction

Consider connecting more in the first month or two after your Au Pair’s departure, and then slowly reducing the frequency of your connections. Also make them less intense — it’s okay to tell her how much you miss her for the first few weeks. Then, however, you need to stop talking about what you miss and start talking about today.

It’s perfectly natural– even desirable — to find a regular and infrequent rhythm of checking in with each other.

Your au pair needs to be independent in her next adventure, to know s/he has a secure place in your family’s heart, but not a place that’s demanding or that keeps her/him from focusing on what’s right there in your au pair’s life.

3. Plan Ahead for Certain Times of Connection

It helps everyone to know that there will be some times when you’ll definitely connect in a deeper, more intense way. Not only are these good times to feel connected and share memories– more importantly, these are times when you can move the relationship forward into a new place.

One of the more surprising things for me is how fun it’s been connecting with a few Au Pairs about current stages in their lives-

With one, I talk about babies and being a parent (she has two girls, too!).

With another, I ask serious questions about her family situation, how her parents are holding out, what’s up with her brother. I care (and can be a confidant) in ways that her other friends cannot.

With yet another Au Pair, I take a role as a cheerleader & witness– she’s such an adventurer, doing things I’d never imagined. She needs someone to say “What? You kayaked across Quebec eating squirrels you killed with a slingshot? (She did! I’m not making this up.)

[[ There are other things you need to keep in mind if you have a new au pair while you’re letting your former one go.  That’s the subject of an Open Conversation Post, here:  Welcoming Your New Au Pair While You Say Goodbye To Your Former Au Pair.]]

What have you learned about letting go gently?

474086212_0e7074a103_m See also:

“Her Next Adventure”: Telling your kids that your Au Pair is leaving
Checkout Task List: Back by popular demand
Ending the Au Pair Year on the Right Note, by Host Mom TACL

Image : Letting go, by Roujo


Boy Au Pair Spain October 25, 2015 at 4:13 am

I hate good-byes I am just terrible at them. Luckily in with both families I have been with in Spain we kind of made it more of a ‘see you later’ as I plan on staying in Spain for many years and will no doubt visit them. We generally stay in touch via text.

Texas6TimeHostMom October 26, 2015 at 10:11 am

I love the ‘light touch’ suggestion! Skyping is not light touch with a 2 year old and 5 year old who also need to Skype with out of town grandparents…

Old China Hand October 26, 2015 at 6:48 pm

AP1 recently moved back to our area and we see her fairly regularly. We hadn’t kept in touch much but had seen her once when we were in Hong Kong about 5 months after she left. My mom saw her regularly before she moved back here (since she was in China just across the border from Hong Kong, where my folks live). I was worried that ap2 would be jealous but they have become good friends.

I recently discovered the china version of whatsapp and have been using it to keep in touch with ap3 between matching and her arrival. I hope to do the same with ap2 after she returns to China this winter. In case anyone else matches with people in China, the app is WeChat and it works well with crummy Chinese Internet. We share voice messages and pictures with ap3. My son loves sending her messages and getting them from her. My daughter is too young to understand yet.

TexasHM October 27, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Our APs actually created their own WhatsApp group called “X Family APs” and our current AP and AP1 (married and lives here) post photos and updates of our family for the two APs that are not in the US. We are very lucky that all four APs get along GREAT and they have their own almost sorority! Right now current AP(4) and AP2 are learning French because they are making plans to visit AP3 in France sometime – likely her wedding in the next couple years that we have already committed to being in (who knows if this will actually happen but it’s fun to watch them interact!). I send random emails, WhatsApp messages (like international free texting app for those that don’t know) etc to them individually as light touches as CV mentioned. IE – It’s State Fair time! Can you believe it was a year ago? They have red velvet fried oreos this year! with pic included. ;)

We have not been able to Skype regularly with them. AP2 is international flight attendant and AP3 is ER nurse so their work schedules plus time differences make it very difficult to connect live (plus as others have said – kids and Skype can be torturous).

Good timing on this – I was just agonizing a few days ago about not messaging AP3 as much as I should (Oct is crazy for us so I basically went dark) and so I sent her a link to our most recent snapfish album and got this response:
“I know it’s hard to keep a real relationship so far from you, but I want you to know that there is NOT a single little tiny day I don’t think of you. You are always with me ! I miss you and I love you as hard as my french heart can ;)” I couldn’t have said it better myself and feel exactly the same!

Ok CV now we are even, now you got me crying!

Mimi October 29, 2015 at 6:22 pm

These are all great suggestions and ways we keep in touch with our APs, too. We talk about how we will keep in touch before the girls leave and make plans to reconnect at certain points when they get home. I’m not sure if this is a bigger deal for our kids or the APs, because I think it’s often harder for the APs to go than we realize. We usually ship a package home for them after their travel month and often include something extra special to remind them of us.

I also find that the APs often have some initial need for help in readjusting to life back home and I know that previous APs often have kept up a flurry of contact with our outgoing APs as a way to help them readjust to life post APing.

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