How has being an au pair Host Parent changed you?

by cv harquail on December 15, 2011

Last week I met a woman who’s editing two books on parenting. She was intrigued by the AuPairMom community and the kinds of conversations we have here, and she peppered me with questions. One of the questions she asked was a tough one– I could answer it for myself, certainly, but I was unable to say what was true for most, or even just many host parents.

So let me turn the quesiton over to you:ciaobambino etsy.jpg

How does being an au pair Host Parent change you?

Not just as a parent, but as a person?


Posie December 16, 2011 at 1:26 am

Wow! Great question! I think it’s changed me it lots of ways (and we’ve only had 1 AP!) but the biggest thing for me has been that I’ve learned so much in the value of direct, open conversation. I am by no means a perfect example, but I’ve learned to speak my mind about things that really matter (sunblock) and ignore things that don’t (drinking the last diet coke!!!!)

Anna December 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm

As Posie mentioned, it it teaching me to let some things go. I don’t think I ever needed to be taught to speak my mind. :)

It is also teaching me to appreciate things about my kids through another person’s eyes – for example, I take my second grader’s reading prowess for granted (I was the same as a kid), but my au pair’s awe at it makes me more proud of her.

Another thing that I have noticed, is that with every new au pair I can literally feel my brain gears screeching – my brain is exercised with every new yearly (or even more frequent in some years) adjustment to a new person, new quirks, new personality, new understanding. This is genuine getting to deeply know and understand someone else, and it stretches out my brains, heart and understanding in a new way every time. As I am getting older, this is a very valuable exercise for me, that I feel keeps me young and at the same time growing wiser.

Hula Gal December 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm

It’s improved my management skills and made me better at seeing another person’s point of view. It has also given me some great stories that my husband and I love to re-live and get a laugh over. Truly, some of the stories are almost hard to believe.

LuvCheetos December 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm

It has made me a better manager, but also made me realize that I don’t like being a manager. :)

Taking a Computer Lunch December 17, 2011 at 12:22 am

It has taught me that I have room in my heart — and my house — for all sorts of differences (although I’ve also learned that I eat passive aggressive people for lunch – and need to avoid that type of au pair – wish I could avoid it with work colleagues as well…).

As someone who enjoyed world travel pre-kids, I really enjoy welcoming people from different cultures into my house – and try to ask them about theirs (I have found it’s the best way to get quiet au pairs to open up). I really like sharing what I have.

I hope it will make me more patient with my typically developing child when he’s their age – having been through that separation and growth so many times. I know that the moment it clicks for each AP that my special needs child is the “easy” child (and she really is!), that my heart instantly grows fonder of them.

I have a bigger family thanks to my APs. And it’s not just them, it’s their best friends, their immediate family. While many of you might not feel this way, my favorite APs are the ones who brought their friends into my home – I hope my son fills the house with his teenage friends in a couple of years. I’m having a good time, and it makes the 4-6 weeks of the steep learning curve of each new AP totally worth it.

NoVA Host Mom December 18, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Wow, great questions. As with Posie, I’ve learned to let things (some) things go and I tend to be more careful picking my battles (unless that’s all there is, of course). I have also found mysef incorporating my professional training into the “management” side of being a HM. Of course, the training I sometimes use here is more for when I am “handling” a potentially explosive situation/people, but hey — if it fits, I guess I should be using it.

I’ve also learned more about myself about just what is actually important to me and what I can and cannot live with or let go when someone is living in our home. It’s not like we can just “put up with it until visitor goes home” as you do with some of your less-fun relatives or something. They live with us, so if it’s not something I can let go of or be comfortable with in the beginning, it is unlikely that will become any easier later in the year.

OB Mom December 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I know it has, and I think it has made me a better person. Like the others above it has strengthened some aspects of my management style. It has taught me tolerance of differences between people (you can’t just leave them at the office at night) … I work hard now to look at each person’s strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses. With our AP’s, this is sometimes the only way one gets through the tough times, but I use it in all aspects of my life from my workplace to my best friends.

Having an AP has also strengthened my relationship with my DH. While sometimes I get frustrated that he wants me to do all the “managing”, having an AP forces us to discuss which aspects of our home life and parenting are most important (like Posie, drinking the last diet coke is not THAT important, while not allowing the TV to become a substitute babysitter is). He and I have more meaningful discussions about our priorities that encourage communication on all sorts of topics.

The corrolary to the question could be how does it make our children better people. I think they will be better able to build strong relationships with a wide range of people. As they grow up and enter the workplace I’m sure it will make them better team players and may also build their leadership skills. I am also happy that having “friends” all around the world will spark their interest in the world beyond just our 50 states. They they will have a more international perspective which will be an amazing value as our world continues to become more diversified.

DarthaStewart December 22, 2011 at 1:29 am

I’ve had au-pairs for 13.5 years now – with just a single break of a few months almost 2 years ago now. My current au-pair is my 20th. We started getting au-pairs when I was 25, and had a single preemie. We’re up to 4 kids now who are a rambunctious lot.

I’ve learned to be a better manager.
I’ve learned interviewing skills, and reading between the lines.
I’ve learned to be far more direct in asking for what I need, and that I still have a ways to go to be where I need to get.
I’ve gained family members all over the globe.
I’ve learned to let go, and delegate things.
I’ve learned that different people have different styles of communication- many times verbal communication isn’t the best.
My au-pair has also been a bit of a guinea pig for management skills I’ve learned, and for the things I’m learning while getting my MBA.

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