What Are The Most Important Milestones For You and Your Au Pair?

by cv harquail on February 17, 2014

Every au pair arrives in the US about two steps into her or his adventure — with a million more steps to go.  


As they make their way on their adventure, au pairs will hit a predictable set of milestones.

Some of these have to do with becoming really competent with US culture— your town, how the grocery stores work, how to talk with people.

Other milestones are kid-related, such as when they become your child’s go-to source for fun, or when the au pair and the kids develop their own in jokes.

And of course, the milestones with us Host Parents, when we feel comfortable enough to add more privileges (flexibility, autonomy, freer use of the car, more overnight guests), when we’re able to interpret what they need without them saying it, and when the kitchen just feels happier because they are around.

I imagine that each au pair has a set of milestones for him or herself— when they realize they are dreaming in English, when the barista remembers their name, when they’ve saved enough to go to Disneyland, or when they’re no longer homesick.

What kinds of milestones have you noticed for your au pairs? 

Are there some moments when you’ve realized that you’re in an entirely new stage with your au pair?
Or that your au pair has changed?
Are any of these particularly poignant?
Or especially delightful?

Image: Journey to Midway Island, AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Kris Krug


skny February 17, 2014 at 8:26 am

The first most important one for us, is when we finally feel comfortable letting them drive. We live in the middle of nowhere (no joke) and driving is a necessity. Even with screening we had 1 good driver, and 2 terrible ones. The good driver only needed mild education on USA traffic signs, how to get around town, and was off on her own. The other two took weeks of daily practice.
With either of them, that moment when I feel I can relax and let them drive the kids around without worry is the first.

TexasHM February 17, 2014 at 10:10 am

Ditto driving for sure but from an AP personal development standpoint I always notice the shift from when they spend the majority of their free time with us to when they start having plans regularly. They start out eating every meal with us and going to every kids practice and event and then over time transition to less and less to where at the end of their term we hardly see them in their free time (which is ok we love that they flourish and have these experiences). It’s fun to watch them go from unsure of their English and often themselves to confident, outgoing, active adults in our community.
Another one I always like to point out to the APs is when they say something that sounds exactly like an American. Whether its a complex sentence structure or very specific slang that they use perfectly in context or words they would usually have an accent with and now do not, it always jumps out at me and I always point it out to them to their sheer delight. :) Over time it happens more but the first few times are such a thrill for them and its fun to see.

Should be working February 17, 2014 at 11:27 am

We have northern European APs, who “don’t like spicy food” when they arrive. And then they change. Before she left us our last AP was dumping tabasco sauce on her burrito. I loved seeing that.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm

What surprised me is for how many of my APs, their trip to the US was their first airplane ride – not to mention their first solo trek without friends or family. When they book their second flight – with or without friends, that’s a milestone.

Because we try to take only APs with driving experience, based on our experience with AP #1 (who owned a car in her native country for a couple of years, but had to bribe the examiner at the last minute to submit her application), it doesn’t take long for our APs to be independent — and in fact, the local taxi. Many of the APs I have hosted haven’t consumed alcohol either (so I always hope their friends are pitching in for gas when they go clubbing in nearby cities).

There is like TexasHM mentioned, that moment when we are their source of entertainment, to building a group of friends that gets them out of their bedrooms during the day (and often well into the night). We always forget about that when a new candidate arrives – but we’ve now hosted enough that we usually try to build in inclusion into our first month.

There’s that moment when she feels comfortable enough with The Camel’s routine, that I can stay at work later (which makes my boss happy) and we have the flexibility to go on date nights again.

My favorite milestones are the first time I realize that the AP is contributing to the family discussion rather than just scarfing down her dinner and leaving.

The hardest milestone – that trip to the airport at the end of the year.

WestMom February 18, 2014 at 9:07 am

Feeling comfortable using the car alone
Having that first important business interaction alone in English—usually at college when they register for class, or going to get SSN
Figuring out that all the food they don’t like at home, they actually like here
A good laugh from first culinary disaster (baking soda is not yeast, pepperoni is not chorizo, chuck is not good for grilling…)
Setting up that second alarm in the morning
Enjoying new holiday traditions with host family (a fried turkey, really?)
Feeling comfortable enough to add host parents as Facebook friends
5 extra kilos in three months? I guess that’s why Americans work out a lot! Better join the gym!
First snowstorm and realizing the new cute ‘winter’ clothes won’t be sufficient
Must slow down spending
Realizing that each AP is living a different situation (and sadly, many go into rematch)
Growing bored of cluster meetings
Telling a funny joke in English at dinner (my husband’s request)
Realizing English is not improving very quickly while hanging out with APs from home country
6 months already? It just flew by! Let’s plan vacation!
What am I going to do after my year? Do I want to stay? Fill out school applications in home country
Developing a repertoire of favorite recipes (and writing down the favorites to bring back home)
Using the car without the GPS
Buying the last few essentials to bring back home (usually includes some stuff from Trader Joe’s, and measuring cups)
Realizing there is no way there is enough space in suitcase to bring all this Abercrombie stuff back
Organizing goodbyes for departing friends
Last family dinner… :(

AuPair F February 18, 2014 at 11:26 am

Whoa, I think this post summarized a bunch of the milestones perfectly!! One of the many that made me chuckle, was the “Uses the car without GPS” Holy Cow, was that a big deal! At the very least it was for me and my ap friends. We used to be so proud of ourselves when we could *finally!* get around without the GPS. We lived in a huge metro area with no such thing as good public transportation so getting around in the car was a must –suffice to say eventually we all got a hang of it and once we did it was GREAT!!

“Getting” English is also a big thing. I think for me one of the coolest things was learning all the English I was never ever going to learn from books. HostFamily was a key part on that and for that I’ll forever thank them.

One last (important) milestone at the top of my head, that one moment when you as an AP realize those kiddies you look after every day aren’t just kids you watch, but little people that changed you and will be a part of you forever. Happened to me I think 3months in, and things haven’t been the same since. HostFamily became my family and so did the kids.

Years from now they can absolutely count me there for the kiddos weddings and all that stuff… :)

Momma Gadget February 18, 2014 at 11:18 am

1.Trying a Reeses peanut buttercup or PB&J for the first time.
2. Passing the written NJ diver’s license exam …in English.
3. Cooking a dish from home for “international” night.
4. When they realize how awesome our family dog is , and spoil her with rub downs, treat and even babytalk.
5. First real conversation about likenesses and differences between their home country and the US over dinner.
6. Feeling comfortable to just come in and sit down while we are watching TV.
7. When they go into the city on their own for the first time.
8. When we know them well enough to know whether they have a sweet tooth, or food preference- the excitement of being able to present them with some new food or experience that we know they will love.
9. 6 month mark…”how did that happen”
10. Decorating for Halloween and adding their name to the Au Pair gravestone.
11. Thanksgiving with the extended family, and participating in the “I am grateful for…” round table.
12. Dreaming in English.
13. Correcting the HF grammar
14. When they volunteer & grab a shovel to help remove an insane amount of snow from our scary crazy driveway.
15. When they’re not afraid to “fight” back in kind when being bombarded with snowballs from the HC.
16. Feeling enough a part of the family to come down stairs in PJs & bead head and pose the rest of us for pictures Christmas morning.
17. When they ask for recipes to take home with them
18. 3 months left what have I not done/seen yet that I wanted to, and how am I going to get all this stuff home?
19. Farewell dinner with all the APs favorites.
20 A sad ride to the airport
21. Many emails, skypes, & What’s App chats
22. Making plans to return for a visit.

Seattle Mom February 19, 2014 at 2:18 am

-Falling in love with the kids, and realizing that she can work magic with them.
-Figuring out our expectations, and being able to manage it all no sweat.
-First vacation out of town.
-First meal cooked for the family.

anna former au pair June 18, 2014 at 4:55 am

As an AP:
-feeling the trust when HM hands you a credit card and asks if you are up to doing the grocery run
-no more curfew they trust you to do your job regardless of how late you are back at night
-when the HP’s parents call to chat and The HP are out, and it turns out they just wanted to check in about the HK and think talking to you is just as good
– when the LCC calls to ask you if you would mind taking the newest AP out for coffee to make her feel welcome
-when the HK asks HP if I am working after dinner, and get dissapointed when the answer is NO

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