Life brings us wave after wave of change. To move forward, we have to adapt to changes that happen to us and to changes that we make ourselves. And, as parents, we have to help our families anticipate and adapt to the changes we see coming, and to all the surprises we’re not quite able to anticipate.
Sometimes, we are able to see a change coming, and we’ve already experienced something similar. We have a good idea what we can expect this change to bring to our family. So, we try to explain the impending changes to our children and our au pairs, in the hopes that some advance notice, and some anticipatory suggestions, can help them surf the waves instead of flounder underneath them.
Host parents have written about changes in host family life due to to work schedules, moves to different cities, divorces, surgeries, and even ‘personal issues’. With any and all of these changes, we have to
- Help our au pairs anticipate what to expect, and plan ahead
- Help our au pairs experiment with how to adjust
- Create space for our au pair to adjust
- Respect that adjustments may be difficult for him or her (and may even precipitate a rematch), and
- Help our au pair continue to have a good relationship with our children and our family
TakingAComputerLunch has a big change ahead: The Camel is having some serious surgery. Caring for The Camel will take almost all the host parents’ time and energy, leaving them little for their son, and very little for their au pair. TACL asks: What can we do to prepare our au pair?
Most of you have read about The Camel, as I affectionately refer to my adolescent special needs child (I find that a good sense of humor goes a long way in maintaining my equilibrium).
We have just learned that The Camel will require another invasive surgery. Our AP knows that The Camel will have the surgery, but she has little idea what this means for her as the au pair. Back during the Camel’s first serious surgery, our first AP #1 was brilliant. But the host parent stress in the aftermath of that surgery ultimately brought an end to our host parent- au pair relationship.
Because The Camel cannot advocate for herself in the hospital, DH and I will split her care, so that she is never left alone in hospital. Depending on her recovery, which could go on for weeks, we work tirelessly on her behalf. We will probably end up beyond tired and cranky ourselves. Our typically developing son gave our lifestyle the right metaphor (during a subsequent surgery): “It feels like you are divorced.”
While our AP’s childcare tasks may be easier during this time when The Camel is in hospital. Emotionally and in terms of family relationships, it will also be harder for our au pair. We HP will be stressed out, inattentive, distracted, and exhausted. In addition, extended family will be in and out, and although they might help with child care or housework, it will still be disruptive. And, HD and I have switched off our duties, so the night parent is able to come home and rest, but we also have to focus some of our attention on our typically developing child, who once said, “Just because my sister is in the hospital doesn’t mean I want a play date.”
To complicate matters even more, the surgery will also coincide either with her countdown mode or preparations for extension with us. Our AP has been fantastic to date — so we want to do our best to prepare her and make the experience as positive as it can be, given all the stress.
While I’m sure most of you have not been through what I have described perhaps someone else in your family had a surgery that required juggling an AP schedule and more than her fair share of family stress. So I’m hoping you have some ideas:
How can we prepare our AP for this surgery, and for how it will impact her schedule, family mental health, her responsibilities, and her experiences?
Taking a Computer Lunch