Have you ever had an au pair who was so painfully shy that she was no fun to be around? Host mom Talliecat is struggling with this issue:
Our au pair ( 20 yrs old) arrived from Finland around the middle of April. She has great childcare experience, however she is painfully shy.
My husband and I have had numerous discussions with her in regards to her happiness and well being… frankly I have no idea why she thought this would be a good experience for her.
She is afraid of doing just about everything ( in fact I just picked up her computer from the fix-it because she didn’t think she could find the place). We have a third car which is available for her to use whenever she needs it, but she is afraid to drive anywhere ( and she has a GPS). She has had numerous migranes since she has been here as well. I have discussed this at length with our LCC and she has engaged her in activities and made other plans with her.
The other au pair in the group recently left. I am also getting another babysitter this weekend so that she can visit another au pair who lives about an hour and a half away ( she is taking the bus, surprise, surprise).
Our children have developed a nice relationship with this girl and she is very sweet with them. However, to us host parents, she is really painful to be around.. no small talk ever!
There is a part of me that would like her to go home because I think she would be much happier there… but I think she is so eager to please that she wouldn’t do it.
We really thought that hosting an au pair would make our lives easier but when I am constantly worried about her happiness and lack of life skills, I wonder?
Advice please. Thanks! Talliecat
Hi Talliecat — I’m thinking that you’ve got a more complicated issue than simple shyness. You have:
1. An au pair with personality challenges that make her less-than-suited for this adventure.
- She is a shy au pair, and also
- An au pair who appears to be afraid of new experiences, and
- An au piar who who seems to lack enough initiative to get herself going.
Who knows, if she could talk with you she might also tell you that she’s lonely and/or homesick. That’s what could be going on with her as a person. But there is more…
2. A small to absent au pair community.
It also sounds like there is no au pair community in your area (unless you meant that there were more au pairs beyond "the other au pair" who left.) So despite the Lcc’s efforts, there are few to no "natural" easy friends for her to make.
3. A disappointing au pair- host parent dynamic.
A third issue is your expectations for what she’d be like, and the fact that her shyness creates issues in your relationship with her.
If I were you, I’d work on all three areas.
First, consider if you can change your expectations for what kind of interaction you have with her .
As long as the kids like her, you might try to expect less interaction with her, and to set some limits on your efforts to make small talk. Although you know it’s a personality thing, it may also be a kind of culture clash between the outgoing American and the reserved Finn. At the very least, if you cast it as a cultural difference no one is really at fault, and taking away fault may also make having her around a little easier.
Second, work with your LCC to find other easy sources of friends.
This is when you throw her into an ESL class, sign her and your kids up for Kindermusic, take her to a church with an active young adults group, and so on. Give her a list of neighbors and friends that she can call to arrange kid play dates, and so on.
Third, start to structure her tasks so that she absolutely must get out.
Make it her job to drive to the grocery store and get diapers. Schedule driving time in her on-duty hours when you or your husband can sit in the car while she drives herself to the library, mall and anywhere else she might want. If she goes accompanied once, successfully, she might do it again.
Stop doing errands and interactions for her. This is bad for her growth and frankly too it’s bad for your sanity. If she wants email, make her pick up the computer! Next time she has a migraine, drive her to the Emergency Care (doc in the box) for an appointment ($45 well spent, maybe?) Give her jobs with the kids (e.g, take them to workshop at the library) so that she has to be out and about simply to do her job.
GIven that you have already talked with her, I’m not sure if it helps to talk with her again. But… you could print out articles on overcoming shyness, developing a sense of adventure, a book on cultural exchange, etc. to expand the resources available to her. Maybe you could print out the post and comments on How Can You Get Your Au Pair to be (more of) a Self-Starter? and also Homesickness and your Au Pair: how you might help.
Host parents, what other advice do you have?