Helping a Shy Au Pair

by cv harquail on June 18, 2009

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.

_2264_2352433575_c79f7b9e19.jpg

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.

_1370_921608700_088e73936c.jpg

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?

Little Shy Girl by Tuenmunw on Flickr
Shy Girl by Allspice on Flickr

{ 24 comments }

Anonymous June 18, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I feel your pain! Our au pair is the exact same way. I’ve done everything I can to help her reach out, make friends, and find things to do, and now I’m just resigned to dealing with it until her contract is up. She’s great with the kids so I don’t want to unmatch but she’s really uncomfortable to be around.

swedish girl June 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm

also have in mind that the american culture is very “talk active”, say in finland/scandinavia you don’t small talk with the person in the store when you’re buying your grocery, you say ‘hi’ pack your groceries, the personell gives the price amount and you give her/him the money and say ‘bye’. I understand that this particular au pair might be shy but it’s also important to remember that cultural differences is not always just the way you celebrate christmas and such things, but also the way you act with other people.

Jillian June 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I think it’s a great idea to schedule driving time for her while she’s on duty. I’d continue to talk to your Area Director too, maybe she can arrange for your au pair to join a larger group of au pairs on an outing? It may be a fair distance away from your house but that would be another opportunity for her to drive around. Have you checked out http://www.meetup.com? You can put in your zip code and find groups of people with similar interests that meet in your area. Maybe should meet other people from Finland that live in your area!
Good luck!

Calif Mom June 18, 2009 at 2:55 pm

We have an introverted au pair, too. While it does have disadvantages, and at first it was very difficult for me, because our other APs have been much more extraverted, I have come to terms with it. It required me to adjust expectations. But it is not bad, just different.

What is very funny is that when the hosts aren’t around–and it took me a long time to notice this–she is absolutely HILARIOUS with the kids. You would never guess it. This morning she was absolutely, mortifyingly embarrassed when the 4 year old asked her to pretend to be T.Rex again and eat my kid’s breakfast because I was standing there making coffee. If I hadn’t been around, it would have been a scene from a Cheaper by the Dozen, I’m sure.

What the Original Poster is dealing with is undoubtedly a combination of culture and personal temperament. These things are hard-wired into us, so trying to change them is unrealistic, any more than you would try to change your kid’s innate temperament. You have to figure out strategies to work with it. Telling someone to stop being shy, or even that “you’re so shy it’s very difficult for me” is just not going to work, and may make her even more self-conscious.

I don’t expect our introverted AP to eat dinner with us. That would be draining for her, and she needs that time to recharge. Fair enough. This was VERY difficult for me, as we love to cook and feed people good food from local farms, often grown or raised by our friends. But I really am okay with it now, though it took several months, I confess.

Also, we email each other a lot. She says she prefers it because she can go back and re-read my instructions. It’s not a way of avoiding difficult conversations, because we have (mostly) weekly check-ins, too, and those are really important.

Migraines can be debilitating, and require ongoing management. Does she have a neurologist back home? Or a doctor who she keeps in touch with for these? They can also create emotional problems. They really are not just a minor annoyance, so please think about ways you can support her on finding relief.

I agree to have her just start driving — and expect her to get lost!

I think maybe getting her a book about personalities might be helpful. There’s a book in the career section of the library that delves deep into the temperament measures of Myers Briggs, and might be very helpful to her. She could type herself from that book, it’s pretty simply written, and it might help her gain some insight.

Without a vibrant AP community, I absolutely agree you need to sign her up for classes that the kids and caregivers must do together, and send her to the library or church-based language conversation groups. Cheap and easy, and usually very nice people. Low threatening threshold.

You can’t make someone more outgoing, but you can increase the number of times they are forced out of their comfort zone –and hence talking to someone and maybe actually making a friend– by scheduling activities for her by herself and with the kids. You might also call the counselor of other agencies in your area, to see if they have more APs, rather than just relying on the “other one” who’s with your particular agency.

So I agree with CV– structure her days so she has to interact more, and adjust your own expectations. Sometimes having an AP who retreats a lot can be just fine! If she is loving and reliable with the kids and your other needs, that’s a big plus. If you really don’t want to change her out, you need to find other ways to adapt.

You really are NOT responsible for her happiness, any more than you are responsible for anyone’s. You are responsible to see that her needs are met, and because you are a nice person you want to help ease her discomfort, but you cannot make someone else feel more comfortable in her own skin. I sincerely hope this will be a growth year for her.

I hope this helps a little!

Franzi June 18, 2009 at 3:09 pm

i think there was great advice given. i have a dear friend from norway and let me tell you, that introvert cultural aspect is really something i have to get used to every time we talk! she takes these breaks when talking and i think she is done, so i jump in. but she wasn’t done finishing her thought! so to her it comes across as rude and “too talkative” when i just thought all was fine :-) oh the miscommunication :-)

your AP might be a mix of culturally shy and personally introvert. like the others said, make your AP go out, make her meet people, make her explore and cross her boundaries (in a good way).

IJC June 18, 2009 at 4:10 pm

You should have researched the typical nationality traits of Finns before hiring her. Finns (I’ve lived in finland) are VERY VERY shy and reserved, they simply don’t talk to people they don’t know unless they’re drunk (hence the extreme popularity of alcohol in Finland). Finns just don’t make small talk like that. If you are quite outgoing you’re probably intimidating her a bit, feeling like she has to act outgoing for you is probably making the poor girl feel even more shy. You say she’s good with the kids, isn’t that the most important thing? You say you’re worried about her happiness… maybe she is happy? People don’t need to be bouncing off the walls and making small talk all day to be happy. This just sounds like a big culture clash. She’s probably not magically going to become more outgoing. Is it that important to you that she makes small talk with you? Maybe if you just ease up on her, then when she feels a bit more comfortable she’ll open up. But if you’re pressuring her to act in a way that is unnatural to her, it’s just going to make her feel more uncomfortable.

Ann (from NE) June 18, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I agree both with the statements that Finns even among N. Europeans are known for their reticence; you can’t change someone’s personality; and by providing obligatory, structured activities outside the house you will stretch her comfort level. Other “non-threatening” events/organizations of interest to her might be: international students’ club at local university; book group at local library; youth group at local church; professional nanny support group; parenting classes at family network, etc. Ask her if there are any volunteer causes she believes in, maybe a small volunteer project gives her a way to express herself and meet “real” Americans.

Our first AP (also from Northern Europe) was extremely expressive and enthusiastic about everything and asked lots of questions, because this was her first time “in the world” and she was committed to staying with us for 2 years (extension) so wanted to get to know us; our current AP (from same country) has already traveled and seen a lot so life here isn’t that new; she is tired after a full 10-hour day with my extremely talkative and energetic taught, so doesn’t want to say much; and says she is a person who quietly “observes” and soaks things in. The times when we have had a deeper conversation have tended to be when she and I go out for a coffee 1:1 away from the house or in the morning over breakfast at the start of her shift. In the evening with the entire family here it’s too hectic and tiring.

I agree that writing is a good tool, for shy people, and for people for whom English isn’t a first language
* I ask my AP to keep a brief diary of “memories of the day” – what she did with my daughter, something interesting, or some cute saying or new words that my daughter said – in a paper journal I look at
* Some APs write electronic journals / letters, you could ask your AP to once a week email you some bullet points of the things she liked most about the previous week, and some questions or suggestions or new things she’d like in the future; you could email her a weekly thank you or progress note yourself
*My current AP and my daughter occasionally write emails to my daughter’s former AP in which my current AP takes “dictation” from my daughter (ie writes exactly what/how she talks or does)
*I like to sit down with my APs and come up with a weekly “curriculum” theme together / lists of words to teach my daughter (in their language or you could make word lists in English you’d like your AP to learn together with your children about a specific theme like insects in the summer) / then get books & movies from library or You Tube/ arts & crafts supplies around that theme
*When my daughter was smaller I engaged my first AP in helping write down every new words and phrases

These are all ways in writing your AP can express herself

Please remember a lot of European cultures find the easy American extroverted friendliness not what they are used to.

Dorsi June 18, 2009 at 10:54 pm

I think my situation was similar, though maybe mine was less dramatic than yours. I had expected my AP to be just like me when I was 20. Interested in the world, in people, in ideas, eager for lots of new experiences, and so on (maybe I wasn’t really like that, but I like to think I was). I was dissappointed to have an AP who wanted to spend time alone, did not make conversation well and did not seem interested in anything other than superficial American culture (think Baskin-Robbins and the mall). I found her boring, annoying and not a welcome addition to the family.

However, when complaining one day to a friend, she asked how things were going with my kid. I said, “AP is super responsible, super attentive, etc.” She said, “So, you hit the nanny-jackpot! Why are you complaining?” I kept that as a mantra — because good childcare is hitting the nanny-jackpot.

I think you have gotten a lot of good advice. I just want to share that I am now 7 months into my year, and things have gotten SO MUCH BETTER. AP’s english, self-confidence have improved immensely. She is still not the most interesting person to be around, but we have found common ground and I can enjoy her company. Above all, I have great care for my little one.

As someone else told me when I was talking about her (and her lack of interest in the world, and so on). “There are a lot of people like that,” he said to me, “but this one has left home to try to make more of herself and you have to respect that.” Your AP is one of many Finns who are not outgoing, are nervous, etc — but yours is doing something incredibly daring to make herself a better person.

CaliHostMom June 19, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Introversion is not necessarily a sign that anything is wrong. Some people are just as deeply introverted as others are extroverted. As an extrovert myself, I found it difficult to relate to my introvert APs because I always thought “there must be someting wrong”. When I let go of that belief (and reassured myself by asking her from time to time about her happiness), and just allowed myself to accept her quietness and lack of conversation, even family dinners became bearable. Other posters have already given lots of good commentary on this issue. The only thing I can add is this: don’t overcorrect on your next AP. Having a gregarious AP can be just as annoying as having a quiet one! I remember with one AP, I sometimes had to close my bedroom door late at night and turn off the TV and pretend to be asleep unless I wanted to get a bubbly 20-minute play-by-play of her night on the town (even as my husband slept at my side).

Calif Mom June 19, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Good point! It’s easy to overcorrect and find a new problem along the way.

Had another thought — fear of doing things is often rooted in perfectionism. The fear of screwing something up and being judged for it or embarrassed because of it can overwhelm people to the point of not doing anything. This is very common in young women, but can look like something else is going on (shyness, procrastination, depression).

When my APs are new, I make a big deal to show them that I don’t expect perfection from them, or me, or the kids. I deliberately tell stories about how I got lost all the time when we moved here and laugh about it, to try to reduce their anxiety about getting lost — I expect it to happen. You don’t want to completely let them off the hook on things that really are important, but set your standards so they are achievable. Dirty dishes need to be in the dishwasher, for example, but I won’t yell at you if you put the handles down (a pet peeve). I do think that there are hosts out there who would, in fact, yell if the handles were put in wrong. AP may have heard stories about hosts like these from her friends. Maybe her own mom would.

It’s impossible to know exactly what’s going on in her head, but again, recalibrating your own expectations and being careful and conscious of the messages you are sending her might be really helpful.

Calif Mom June 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm

And patience and support really works. After several months AP has plenty of friends, found a “rec” sports league that she goes to every week (with no other APs at it!) and found free conversation classes herself, as well. Some people are “slow to warm up”.

chithu June 20, 2009 at 1:21 am

Hi,
I am an au pair in London. I am an introvert, but I have always been polite and cheerful, and I have always been pretty gregarious around kids and I know that I am a great carer. Just last month, my host mom and I had a huge fall out bcos she just cornered me one day and accused me that I was just having a free ride in her house (this after 6 months of working and 2 weeks before I was scheduled to go back to my country), and that i disappear into my room as soon as they come home (at 7:30pm), and don’t bother to get involved in the family.

It was so out of the blue that I am still stunned – I thought they liked it when I gave them space bcos they are also tired when they come back from work. Moreover, I work from 7am and am brain-dead after 12 hours. All I want is to retire to my room when the parents come home, get online, and talk to my boyfriend, who is still awake and waiting for me in a country where it is midnight. I don’t understand this western mentality (I’m from asia) – what kind of talk and cheer do you expect from a person who has taken care of your 3 kids all day, cooked lunch and dinner for them, played with them, took them to/from park, cleaned up the kitchen and their rooms? How can anybody have energy to socialise after a hard day?

I mean – isn’t the emphasis about au pair on CHILD care?

IJC June 20, 2009 at 8:43 am

Perhaps if you expect an au pair to be very talkative with you, you should specify that in your application. Then au pairs who don’t feel comfortable with that won’t apply.

Talliecat June 20, 2009 at 8:50 am

Thank you for all of your responses, all helpful as usual. This is our first au pair experience and I guess in my mind I had pictured it differently. We also had a Columbian nanny before who was the polar opposite from our au pair. I guess my real worry is that she is unhappy and will want to leave… our children are becoming very attached to her.

IJC June 20, 2009 at 9:02 am

Juat because she’s quiet doesn’t mean she’s unhappy. However, having a host family who are always putting pressure on her to behave in a way that’s not natural to her, could indeed make her want to leave.

IJC June 20, 2009 at 9:06 am

Also, this bit of what you said, “My husband and I have had numerous discussions with her in regards to her happiness and well being,” makes me feel really sorry for the poor girl. I just imagine her being sat down on multiple occassions with two pretty much strangers, to discuss this. She’s probably living in constant dread of when the next “intervention” will be. Reminds me of when it was report card day at school and I got bad grades, my parents would sit me down for a “discussion.” She’s good with the kids and she’s not trashing your house… can’t that be enough?

CV June 20, 2009 at 9:31 am

While IJC may be right in thinking that the AP finds these conversations difficult, I think it is very caring of the Host Parents to be making an effort. Yes, it’s a very American thing to sit down and try to talk about an issue– but that’s how we do it here… The alternative, of not trying, can look like anything from ‘giving her space’ to ‘not giving a &^#%”, so these meeting are preferable to me. my $.02.

IJC June 20, 2009 at 1:44 pm

It’s one thing to have a conversation with the girl about it. But to keep on doing so repeatedly (especially when it’s about something that doesn’t affect the standard of childcare and isn’t making any difference anyway) is going to make the girl feel uncomfortable in what is now supposed to be her home, and probably worry her that the parents aren’t happy with her and might get rid of her. They’ve talked to her already, so she knows they care. It might be the american way to keep going on about it, but the girl isn’t american and it’s almost certainly making her feel uncomfortable. The parents chose to have a Finnish girl live with them, they’ll just have to accept that Finns don’t behave the same way as americans. If they just leave her be she’ll probably become more talkative as she grows more comfortable with them, and go out and do things more as she becomes more familiar with the local area. But if they keep putting her under pressure to behave in a way that’s making her uncomfortable, she might not want to stay.

Busy Mom June 20, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Dorsi, I wish that I had read your comments 6 months ago when I first started to be bothered because I found our current/first au pair to be dull. There are no serious issues, so it was never a question of a rematch. She is organized, a good driver, does everything we ask of her, is always on time, keeps track of the activities & needs of very active kids, etc. As you so aptly wrote, we hit the nanny jackpot, so need to reset our expecations rather than get annoyed over her personality. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Anna June 21, 2009 at 1:10 am

Shyness can be a sign of problems too. It is one thing when a person is shy, but otherwise is a fine au pair. We had an experience when shyness was a symptom of deeper personality problems, that made the au pair really the wrong person for the job. She was not shy with a few selected friends at all, but “shyness” with us was a sign of just her refusal to create any sort of a normal relationship, and being “shy” with small preschoolers made her an awful au pair. It seemed that the girl cared much more about her “staying true to herself” (in her words) and her hangups (in my words), than in doing her job and being giving of time and attention to my children. Later the communication problem – refusal to be open with us – blew up in a big way (lies) – and the rematch happened. It was not because of shyness at all, we were very accepting and understanding, but because of the deeper problems that shyness what just a symptom of .

chithu June 21, 2009 at 2:06 am

@ Anna – That’s true too… anybody who cites shyness with a preschooler should not be an au pair! That’s so unfair to the parents. But the OP stresses the fact that her au pair is great with kids, so perhaps just leaving the au pair alone to do her own thing will be the best way.

@ Tallie Cat – I re-read my earlier reply and felt that it could have been worded better! I sound bitter, but I don’t want to focus it here… since you are sharing your house and kids and life with an au pair for the first time, I can really understand this problem. If your au pair is too scared to use the car, yet knew beforehand (during application process) that she is expected to drive, then that is a problem. She shouldn’t have accepted the job in the first place if she didn’t want to drive.

Let me tell you my (an intovert) POV – Happines for you may mean talkative or active, but for me, it means a peaceful home and time for me to read books and do my own thing. I put on my joy cap for 10 hrs a day when the kids are around – and believe me, I LOVE being with children – but towards the evening, I want to go back to being Chithu, the 25-yr old au pair who likes watching horror movies online and does research for her thesis and talking to her boyfriend. It has nothing to do with being unfriendly or reserved or withdrawn – it is simply MY time.

One sentence caught my eye – your mentioned that your au pair “is so eager to please”. As some one else commented, you seemed to have hit the nanny jackpot! How awful would it be if you had an extovert au pair who would party every night and doesn’t give you any privacy? I would say – count your blessings and let her be shy or reclusive or whatever. As long as it doesn’t bother her, it shouldn’t bother you!

NewAPMom June 22, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I’m the original anonymous poster above. Sorry for that hit and run post. I’ll elaborate here.

I see two problems here – 1) the au pair is shy, and 2) the au pair doesn’t have the life skills she needs and is relying on you (the host mom) to do things that she should be able to do herself.

Being shy, or introverted, isn’t that big of a deal as long as she’s great with the kids, as you say she is. It’s exhausting to be with kids all day, and even those of us who are most outgoing need some time to ourselves in the evening. It’s especially exhausting to add dealing with a new culture, and speaking a new language all day, on top of that. And, as chithu says, au pairs (like the other members of the host family) have lives outside of the context of the host family, and need time to do their own thing. That’s actually great! At least for me, all together all the time would be exhausting and probably bad for the host parents’ marriage, as well.

I don’t know if this is Talliecat’s issue, but I would guess that she’s not saying that shyness is intrinsically a bad personality trait, or that she wants to somehow change her au pair’s personality. I think what she’s saying is that the experience of being an au pair requires that the au pair take initiative, get out to experience the things and meet the people she came here to meet, and be self-reliant. When those things don’t happen, it creates an extra burden for the host mom, who already has her hands full, I’m sure. I think that, regardless of personality, being an au pair, like many growth experiences, requires taking responsibility for yourself and going outside of your comfort zone sometimes. Relying on your host mom to do things that you could be doing is creating work for the host mom and diminishing the growth opportunities of the au pair.

(And by the way, I get migraines too. They are debilitating, and deserve sympathy. I can understand your frustration in light of everything else you’re dealing with, but I think they should be viewed as a legitimate issue and think you need to find some way of separating them from your other issues with her.)

AP Mom in CA July 13, 2009 at 2:56 am

First, it sounds like IJC may not have hosted an au pair in the past – those of us who have (or are) know that the experience is supposed to be much more than just child-care, it is intended to be a cultural exchange where someone is treated much more like a member of the family than hired help.

I think that you have done the right thing by trying to discuss this young girl’s feelings with her – for many of these girls this is their first experience in the USA as well as their first experience away from home, so of course we want them to be enjoying themselves. Also, for us (we are also having an experience with a Northern European girl who seems to be depressed and homesick – migraines, extreme shyness and anxiety) we know how great the experience can be for a young person who is open to embracing the opportunity, as we recently had an au pair who had the time of her life during her year here in the USA.

Thanks to everyone who posted helpful and constructive advice here. We too feel that our au pair is great with the kids, so we are trying to make things work, but want to make sure we are tending to her well being also. We continue to have weekly check-ins and are in close contact with our LCC to make sure she is reaching out (in case she feels uncomfortable talking with us). We are also trying to adjust to the introverted Northern European personality, but we truly sense she is not happy, so are trying to do what we can to support her and gently persuade her to take advantage of the great opportunities that are here for us – and exist beyond her tiny room in our home!!

Best of luck to you!!!

Taking a Computer Lunch June 6, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I’m returning to this thread, which I wish I had read months ago!

Having completed 10-months with an AP who is both extremely shy, and deferential for cultural reasons, I must say, the energy that I had to invest into getting her to achieve basic skills that made it possible for her to care for my children appropriately (because of The Camel it was not possible to rematch – only to wait for a new arrival), DH and I decided not to extend. However, we did add some questions to our telephone interview to determine if the AP is outgoing, and have matched with someone closer to our own personalities.

While I know it is possible to be shy and happy, I do believe that when an AP goes throw a crisis (someone is ill back home, a best friend leaves, etc.), she does far better if she has developed a support network here. It doesn’t have to be the HF, it could be friends. For me, having a depressed AP who won’t talk about her problems, but is clearly so upset that she is not functioning well with my kids, just adds to the stress of my life. Having to worry if my AP will be motivated to drive well, swim, and achieve the basic goals of the AP program, is too much for me (really, I want The Camel to be the biggest stress in my life, not the AP). For that reason, I will go out of my way to find other extroverts in the future (and yes, I’d rather have an AP who goes out all hours, invites her friends over to swim and relax, than one who retreats to her room immediately and Skypes the minute I get home – because when the former has a crisis, I know I can call her friends and get them to help her through it).

I also think one of the biggest differences between being an AP in Europe versus the United States, is that here in the United States cultural exchange is emphasized and participating in family life is emphasized. For APs working in Europe, the HF may not be interested in having them join family activities, in having more than an employer-employee relationship. While not all American families want more than an employer-employee relationship, many do expect it. For me, I don’t have an AP just to take care of The Camel, or to make my professional life easier (although that was my motivation for entering the program), it turns out I like spending time with young adults and anticipate the day when my son will be one.

We continue to invite our shy AP to join us in family activities, knowing that she won’t join us. We continue to attempt to draw her into conversation, if only to let her know of changes in her schedule. We continue to care about her quality of life, even though she will be leaving our home in two months. And while I will miss her when she leaves our home, I will also be enormously relieved.

Comments on this entry are closed.