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. After 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 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?
Image : Letting go, by Roujo