Interpreting the Lanugage of Lag Time: Emailing Prospective Au Pairs

by cv harquail on September 27, 2011

It’s kind of ironic for me to post a query about the topic of how to interpret the lag time between sending an email and an au pair candidate responding.

As several of you with whom I correspond with on email already know– I can be “not very prompt” in my replies. What does this mean?

Usually, it doesn’t mean much. The “information value” of response time is low, because there are just too many variables.

Too much work, replied in your head, scattered attention, waiting for inspiration — all these are better explanations than “What’s wrong with me that s/he won’t reply? Doesn’t s/he like me?”

EXCEPT when it’s a prospective au pair who hasn’t replied.5073785421_6bd6874449_b.jpg

Don’t you think that if s/he was really that into you she’d reply to your host family email right away? I think so.

This HotMailHostMom, below, is right to worry that she hasn’t heard back. BUT she can’t assume anything — at least not yet. So, what should she do?

How long should you wait for a reply before trying with another serious email?

How many times should you email, before giving up?

Dear AuPairMoms —
I am a HM in the middle of the search for an au pair to replace our
current au pair who is leaving in December. I have spent hours on your
wonderful blog getting lots of advice and tips on how to match with an
au pair who works for us. We love our current au pair but she was the
first application we ever looked at and we knew she was perfect
immediately, so we have never actually gone through much of a search

My question is this – is it unreasonable to expect a quickish response
from au pairs when we email them about a possible match after
initially looking at their application? We have two in particular that
seem great on paper and we are very excited to talk to. We have
emailed with them twice and suggested times to skype, but both of them
seem to be slow to respond to us – over 24 hours between when we email
them and they respond both times so far, and we are still waiting on
both for a time to skype. I realize not everyone is as “connected” as
we are – both my partner and I have iphones, so we can obsessively
check our email – but is it unreasonable to expect a response within a
24 hour period? It seems to me if they know there is a matching
process going on they should be checking email a little more often
than every day and a half or so.

My real issue is that I wonder if we are working harder at this and
are more excited about a match than they are, and if that is the case
it doesn’t seem like it bodes well for our relationship going forward.

So, if your wise readers tell us we are being silly to expect a
quicker response we will chill out and go work our handbook. But if
anyone thinks we should cut them both loose and start over we would
like to hear that too!

Thanks so much!



Former AuPair September 28, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Relax :-)
Do you know in which situation the girls are at the moment?
When I was in the matching process I was in the last month of school and spent most of my day studying. And there it did happen that I would not check my e-mail account every couple of hours.
Another point could be that they are thinking about what to write and do not dare to sent the reply right away since they fear to make mistakes languagewise and want to be sure that you do not get them wrong, just because they did not know how to express themselves properly.
I remember how excited I was when I got mails from potential hostfamilies and spent the first 5 minutes jumpng through the room to calm down, then running to my parents and talk to them about it and then starting to think about what to answer. I was glad that the call of my hostparents came unexpectedly because my excitement would have given me a hard time the hours before. Maybe the feel the same about the skype meeting. A job interview in a foreign language could be quite scary, even though you do not wish anything but getting that job.

WestMom September 28, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I expect a 24-36hr turnaround, even if at least a: ‘Thank you for your message… I am excited about talking with your family… I am really busy with … today and will send you a detailed message tomorrow’. It’s just the polite thing to do.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm

In the old days, a mere 10 years ago, before every AP candidate had an email account, I cold called prospective APs.

Now, with email, Skype, Facebook and Twitter, we have come to expect that communication is instant. Except that it is not. APs may use Facebook or other social media sites as their primary means of communication (I know one of my recent APs did). My LCC started using Facebook as the primary means to communicate with her cluster because that’s how she got the best response (although she still sends out “old fashioned” emails to everyone – including HF).

Email has been my primary form of communication with AP candidates since 2004. However, in certain countries I would not expect that every AP has access to a computer or a cell phone that permits email access in her own home. Any time someone has to compete for computer time, there will be a lag. Not every AP checks email daily – remember there are weeks that pass between the time they submit their application and they hear from their first HF.

Over the years, I have received email responses from parents telling me that their daughter has been on vacation and will respond when she returns, I have received worried emails from AP candidates who have been on camping trips and worried that they have lost out on an opportunity to interview, and hundreds of emails that have gone unanswered. I have had several APs who have not received emails (even when we’re in the post-matching stage) – because if you re: someone too many times the spam filter goes on.

If you really, really, really like a candidate, then contact the agency if you can’t reach her – or telephone her. Be prepared for someone other than her to answer the phone. It helps to know how to ask if she’s there in her language and to understand the word no.

For me, the email is a screen. Because I’m raising a child with special needs, I understand that even the majority of special-needs willing candidates don’t actually want to care for a child with special needs. However, because I have a special needs child, I also expect to take a month to match, so a candidate who returns home a week after I sent out my initial email is not going to miss out on an interview opportunity, while the rest of you HP might well have moved on and matched.

A strategy for APs. Set up a separate email account for your AP application and don’t give it out to your friends. (With so many free accounts, this should be quite easy to do.) When you head out on vacation, or are busy with exams, set up a bounce-back email that explains your situation and when to expect a reply. That way you don’t bombard your friends with bounce-backs and potential HF know that their email has been received. And finally – it’s really OK to say no.

Gianna September 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Good idea – and it is a great idea for host parents to set up a separate AP email acoount , too. It seems obvious in retrospect but someone had to tell me about it

DarthaStewart September 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I give it 2-3 days. And usually if I don’t hear from them in 24 hours, I follow up with a phone call. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Amelie ex au pair September 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm

That can also be something cultural… Brazilians not always follow the rule that says you have to answer an e-mail within 24 hours of receiving it. I have access to the internet on my phone, so I normally answer e-mails right away (I get a lot of people asking me if I don’t have anything better to do than check my e-mail all the time… lol), but it’s common for me to send an e-mail and have to wait for a few days to get a response.

And I agree with Former Au Pair… when you are a prospective au pair, you want to be very careful with whatever you write to HFs… You don’t want to anwser right away and regret something you said… you want to ask for opinions on what to say, you want to make sure your English is acceptable, and so on… And also, most are working, or finishing college, or both… so really, there isn’t that much time to check e-mails (and believe, me, when we are waiting for contacts from HFs… we wish we could check for e-mails all the time!)

Don’t worry! You’ll get plenty of answers!!!

franzi September 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

i think 48-72 hours is a more reasonable response time, especially when you send out the first couple of emails. like stated above, you do not know how connected the APs are and if they indeed have 24/7 internet access. also, depending on where your AP is residing time difference may be an issue – you send out an email during the afternoon but the AP has already signed off for the day and may not be online until the evening of the next day.

northcalmom September 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I will not sit for more than 4 days. I had a candidate returned my email 8 days later. Major Menstrual discomfort caused her to be bed rested was the reason for not replied to any of my emails. That wasn’t the only shocker. She went on and asked me to be considerate with her monthly troubles, if I would give her a chance to be my aupair. My point is.. if the aupair doesn’t want the job bad enough, move on and find other candidates. There are lots of good candidates out there waiting for your call/email.

angie September 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm

It depends on the time of year and what you know about the au pair’s situation. During exam time for a German candidate, you are lucky to get a “can we talk next week??” We had one great au pair that went silent when she was staying with her family and not at school – we found out later they just don’t have internet access and she had to scramble to email us when there. Give them some time (2 days or so, absent other information) for the first response, and just ask how hard it is for them to get to email and skype right now.

Europhile September 28, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I agree with TaCL. E-mail is a dying form of communication for the younger crowd. They use different primary modes of communications. That said, for most host parents it remains the preferred method to establish short lists, and APs should be aware of that (and they obviously all have e-mail accounts).

I also agree that 48 to 72 hours would be the most I would be willing to wait, despite all that has been said. I prefer a quicker turnaround, as I want to see how communicative and interested they are. Sure there are circumstances that might prevent that. I tend to run a very intense search process — usually, 2 weeks total from first contact to final agreement. This way, I don’t have people dropping out left and right and trying to keep me mildly interested (which is what many are trying to do), and ongoing communications is extremely important. The girls that are unable to do that will just not make the cut.

We have found that the AP supply is far bigger than HP demand, so as HP we call the shots in the search process.

excitedaupair September 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm

I have the same question but the other way around. I recently found a host family and on their first email they seemed so happy and excited, which made me even more excited. But now, when I send her an email concerning the paperwork or having questions about the kids etc. She seems a little bit more distant and it takes her a while to respond. Does this mean anything?

JJ host mom September 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm

You could ask her. :-) Might as well start practicing communication now.

But I doubt it means anything… it might just mean that she’s relieved she found you and has now settled down to attend to the next demanding thing in her busy life.

excitedaupair September 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Thanks JJ host mom! It makes me feel better:), I was starting to get a bit worried. I think I will ask her, I guess she is pretty busy working and taking care of the kids.

Calif Mom September 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

But listen to your instinct! She could be the kind of host mom who is very attentive when she wants something from YOU but when you need something from HER it’s less important. Don’t completely ignore this concern; ask her if everything is okay and let her know that you have been waiting for her to check back in with you. See if it sparks a reaction.

JJ host mom September 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm

I’m torn. On the one hand, I do want au pairs to be responsive over email, so I use it as a screening mechanism. On the other hand, none of my 5 au pairs responded reliably to email. They all used Facebook instead. Whenever I’ve sent out emails before calling, I’d say I get about a 20% response rate within a week or so of sending the emails. A few trickle in here and there afterwards, and many just never respond. I’m sure some of them aren’t interested in running after my still-in-diapers twin boys, but I think it may be that email is no longer en vogue for Gen Y’ers. My indignant Gen X mindset thinks that they should at least be sending a prompt, short, courteous “yes let’s talk and I’ll get back to you soon with details” or “thanks but I’m not interested” mail but the reality is, they don’t.

I wonder if agencies should start making it possible to FB friend an au pair candidate from the profile page. That might result in better communication. Then again, that would also open the pandora’s box of to friend or not to friend.

Dorsi September 29, 2011 at 1:27 am

Part of me wants to email the 8 or so Au Pairs that I sent out emails to in the last go-round. Did they find families? Are they good families? Are they as good as our family? We match off-peak and need an infant qualified Au Pair. In the last match cycle we emailed 9 (or so) APs. I got a “no, I already matched” from 2 and no answer–ever–from 6. The one who responded was great and we are mid-year with her.

On the surface we seem like a bad family (or so I infer — we don’t have a car, we have two small kids who are not in school and we require 45 hours per week, evening and weekends). I think we are a great family who really treats our AP well, travels with her, includes her in lots of awesome experiences. I wonder how it turned out for all the others….

NoVA Host Mom January 1, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Sometimes I wonder this as well. While we have a car available, we otherwise have a similar situation to you (and worse, schedule is ALWAYS subject to change based on our assignments; it does not change often, but it can and has with seeming randomness). We seem to always be off-season and have not matched new APs twice in a row at the same timeframe. When we were looking for one in December while in rematch, I was in contact with a 20yo who, while younger than I usually am comfortable with, seemed like a good possible match. It does cross my mind that maybe she’d be an option for her Y2, if she matched with someone. But, I don’t want to randomly send out an email like that. Too much like cold-calling and I suck at those.

AnonHM Europe September 29, 2011 at 3:08 am

It depends on the homecountry of the candidates. There do exist countries without electricity for vast periods of the day, not even speaking of internet access. And I’m sure, it’s a cultural thing, too. Personally, I would expect an answer within 48 to 72 hours. For example, I usually don’t check emails during weekends on a regular basis. If there was no answer after 3 days I would even write another mail, not call.

NE mom September 29, 2011 at 9:08 am

I think a lot of our expectations should be based on *our* personalities as host parents. I recognize that I’m just not that laid back and I DO appreciate (and, now, EXPECT) an email response w/in 3 days. I think initial communication sets the tone for the entire match and, for what works best for my family, I need an AP who is very responsive.

In the past, I have tried to be understanding and a little more laid back about response time with candidates. For a few that sounded absolutely fantastic on paper, I even tried to track them down, contacting our agency, trying to find out if my emails reached them. None of those candidates worked out for us and the ones that did were the ones who responded promptly (even w/an “I rec’d your email and will respond within __ days”) and were courteous about that initial communication.

So, I would say trust your gut and know your personality/style. If you’re uncomfortable that you haven’t heard from a candidate within a time frame that you set in your head, I would write them off!

Tristatemom September 29, 2011 at 11:14 am

I would have to second this comment. While I do take the country into consideration, I usually assume that the AP is not interested in our family if I don’t hear from her within 48-72 hours. We have been told by our LLC that we are not “most desirable” because of the number and ages of our kids and so I assume that some APs have a hard time saying ‘I am not interested.’ I have never had a candidate email me later to say ‘sorry for replying so late …’ and therefore I think my assumption is correct.

hOstCDmom September 29, 2011 at 11:01 am

I send an initial email AND a text message to the candidate’s mobile (every candidate that we’ve ever looked at noted a mobile, and many note ONLY a mobile and no landline, so I think it is a good bet that an AP will have a mobile. Also, much of the rest of the world uses text/SMS much more than voice, and certainly MUCH more than voicemail). I keep it brief – obviously – and send about 1 or 2 texts in succession. Essentially: “We are a host family with X. We saw your profile. We would like to speak with you. We sent you an email. Please read our email and let me know by text or email when you can talk or skype. [name]”

I find the works well since it ensures that the AP gets the msg right away, as most are more connected to their mobiles rather than email for many of the reasons listed above, and it tells them to check their email for more info. But I also send the email just in case the AP doesn’t receive texts on her mobile (has never happed re 10 matching cycles and 100+ APs, but you never know…) and I can give much more information in a mobile. It also makes the AP log into her agency profile to see our HF profile. All of that gives the AP enough information to decide if she is interested in speaking or not.

hOstCDmom September 29, 2011 at 11:02 am

whoops! that should have been: “I can give much more information in an EMAIL”

OB Mom September 29, 2011 at 7:05 pm

This is an outstanding recommendation. Send a text telling them to check their email. I’ve had varied response when sending emails and susupect that the candidates just don’t check that often. School and work schedules conflict and some have been trying to match for a while. All have cell phones these days and texting is not as stressful as the cold call panic (I’ve had that happen multiple times over the years).

Calif Mom September 29, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Yes, this is the best approach with APs.

JJ host mom September 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Excellent idea to text! Thank you!

DarthaStewart September 30, 2011 at 10:47 am

Love this idea! Too bad I’m probably on my last au-pair. But who knows…

Reb September 29, 2011 at 11:03 am

As a host family, if you bare in mind that your potential au pair may lead a busy life in their home country (working, home life etc.) that is a good starting point. For example, I do not check my email every day, because I simply have not got the time, studying full-time whilst working part-time and keeping up a household takes up most of my day

I agree with alot of the other post, that states you should be patient and wait a few days and if you have not heard anything from the potential au pair by then, call her.

As many people have said, there are also different cultures to consider. Another thing which is vitally important to consider is the digital divide which is apparent both within a country and across countries. Some people may not have access to internet everyday. It may be that they only have access to internet a couple of days a week.

I do not believe you should “write someone off” just because they have not answered an email within a certain time scale. Internet access has nothing to do with the ability and passion for childcare, or even how responsive a person is.

My point with this post I suppose is, not to make assumptions about people. I know, we all do make assumptions about people at some point, but perhaps try to look beyond that. Making assumptions and “writing someone off” because of the assumptions may result in you missing out on an AMAZING au pair…

Good luck in your search, I hope you find the perfect au pair for YOU!

HotMailHostMom September 29, 2011 at 12:28 pm

HotMailHostMom here – to say thank you for everyone’s feedback! Funny story – I sent this question in to AuPairMom and when I went back to my inbox I saw an email from my top candidate responding to my request for a time to skype. She had sent it the day before but gmail was acting hinky and held the email (along with 38 others) – dumping them all into my inbox at the same time. So ironically it was MY internet connection/service causing the issue – not hers!

Moral of the story – I clearly need to relax!! Something I knew about myself already I suppose. Having said that – I do agree with most people that 48-72 hours would probably be my personal cutoff for hearing from an au pair. As NEMom and TriStateMom pointed out, our own personalities have to be a factor. If I expect a certain level of responsiveness from an au pair and they can’t deliver, we are not a good match – no judgement of either of us required.

We skyped with our potential au pair BTW, clicked immediately and have matched with her! Thanks everyone for such thoughtful responses – and for all of your input in other areas of this site!

cv September 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Hooray! May it be a wonderful match for all of you! cv

massaupairmom September 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I had it happen ONCE that a potential au pair that I attempted to reach was actually away on vacation, and unable to check her email when I reached out to her. But if you know that a person has internet access available to them on a daily basis, I think it’s fair to expect them to respond within a day. I generally wait through a morning and evening in the au pair’s country before moving on. In my experience, prospective au pairs are pretty eager to receive email from host families, and respond promptly. Those who have been slow have been slow because they were either plain not interested, or considering other families and trying to keep their options open. Of course, a candidate might also be weak with English and waiting for help composing their email, which could account for slow response times (and hesitation re skyping!).

new VA host mom September 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I read your post, realize it is not the same situation in which I find myself, but wanted to share my story as a caveat on this subject.

I e-mailed back and forth with an AP candidate in the spring, we set up a time to skype, and my husband and I thought she seemed like a good match. We were in a hurry (twins had just arrived 2 weeks before and things were a little crazed), so we sent her an e-mail telling her we wanted to match and asking what date she would be available.

A week went by with no answer. I started to interview other promising candidates. I received a call from our national placement representative asking what had happened with our first candidate. I explained our situation. That afternoon I received one e-mail from the au pair telling me that she had sent me an e-mail and I just hadn’t received it, and another e-mail from the au pair agency telling me that we had matched. I was suspicious, but figured I should give her the benefit of the doubt.

Fast forward to today, and we are in rematch :( After a month of experience with our AP, I am pretty sure that she never got around to e-mailing me back and then lied when the agency called her out on it. It seems to be her MO, unfortunately, which is part of why we are rematching.

Message for HMs: If your communications with a potential AP give you pause, trust your gut and move on. There are too many good AP candidates out there to take a chance on someone that has given you cause for doubt, however uncertain.

NonCoastHostMom September 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm

I second this. We had a candidate who was our front-runner after a few initial calls and e-mail exchanges. I e-mailed her just before a second skype interview to follow up on some issues I was having with bad phone numbers for her references. She took longer than usual to repond and I found that odd. But when she finally responded she seemed genuinely concerned that she had not had a chance to respond earlier, so she remained top of my list. Well, she blew off our second skype interview — just went incommunicado for two days. I was already reluctantly writing her off by then, but I sent her an e-mail asking what had happened and she finally answered and said that I had put her off and made her feel that I did not trust her. In the meantime we matched with a fabulous au pair (who had been a not-so-close second before this incident and before a much better second skype interview than first phone interview). This was our first experience and I feel that we really dodged a bullet. I was completely sold on “the one that got away” and her handling of that situation demonstrated that she would not have been a good match for us AT ALL and the au pair we have is just so mature and level-headed.

Europhile September 29, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Couldn’t agree with this statement more. My last AP, who ended up leaving us early, started to respond slowly AFTER we already had matched. Turns out that she’s a not-so-great communicator, which really made her time with us more difficult than it should have been. New AP is fabulous, though, so there is definitely a silver lining! Now on AP 6 and still learning….

Calif Mom September 29, 2011 at 8:22 pm

OH YES! Beware the eager-to-match but then disappears for several weeks au pair. Turned out ours who had this pattern was a selfish spoiled brat. So when she needed us, she was very responsive, but then quickly focused all her attention on herself and didn’t even respond to my advice to her about what to pack/not pack. And stupid.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm

This happened with my most recent AP. We had so many re: in our subject line, that her last reply to me was bounced by my email system. Fortunately, she emailed the woman who was my AP at the time that she hadn’t heard from me. I was able to email her with a new thread (and after that, changed the subject line each time). I had had that problem with previous APs and should have remembered, but didn’t.

German Au-Pair September 29, 2011 at 9:04 pm

It’s reasonable to expect a response within 24 hours. But I would give it 2-3 before I’d completely write off a candidate.
99% of the future au pairs I got to know checked their mails the second they entered the door and then obsessively over and over again when they were at home. Even for someone who is working, 2-3 days for a response is reasonable. If an au pair is not willing to at least answe with a little “Thanks for mail, I’m busy right now, let’s talk on the weekend” or something like that maybe she’s just not invested enough.
2-3 days would be the time in which unforeseeable events (like sleepover, weekend trip, busy after work etc) could take place.
Au pairs are told to write everything that’s longer than this in her online application.

WestMom September 30, 2011 at 12:33 pm

ITA with your comment. If I were an Au Pair registered with an agency and actively looking for a family, I would be checking my email on a daily basis. We ruled out a few candidates in the past who were just too slow to respond. The reality is: I am interviewing multiple candidates at a time (and I tell them that), so if she is really interested she needs to move at our pace. If an Au Pair is taking too long without a valid excuse, I just assume she is not that interested. Note that we specifically look for Au Pairs from specific countries in Western Europe where Internet access and cultural expectations for communications are not really different from ours. I agree with the Facebook comments though, and I use it extensively to communicate with candidates.

My 2 cents October 5, 2011 at 10:20 am

Yep. This is EXACTLY what our au pairs have reported — they checked their emails constantly when looking for a match and that if we didn’t hear from someone very quickly it was not a good sign. After hearing this from them, I don’t wait more than a few days. Those au pairs that are really serious about the program will make sure they stay connected and have a way at all times for a potential host family and/or their agency to get a hold of them. If I don’t hear from someone or they blow me off on a scheduled interview, I assume they just aren’t that into me or aren’t serious about their au pair wishes, and move on.

Think about it — if you were interviewing for a new job and had applications out would you not stay connected while on a vacation, or working at your current job ?? You would move heaven and earth to make it work! October 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm

If the match is in making you need not wait for it.You will get their response quickly.But may be we can think in this way also..may be they liked the match and so there are taking time to finalize it before they approach you.But still if one acknowledges the receipt and puts a small message that they will be back shortly with their opinion it would be wonderful know.

Josy October 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm

I think 24 hours is much too short. Calculate in the time difference (Au Pair might be asleep when you send the email and not everybody checks their email before they leave the house in the morning for school/university/work……) and the fact that the potential Au Pair might be at school/university/work for a long time every day, then 24 hours are over very quickly. And then it also takes a while to write a response and actually find the courage to send it, because as a potential Au Pair when you are contacting a hostfamily you really worry about every sentence, every word that might come across wrong. I think for the first few emails it took me easily three hours to write them, just because I kept changing them and then needed some time to think about it before I sent it. So if it takes an Au Pair candidate longer than 24 or even 48 hours to reply that does not necessarily mean that there is a lack of interest. It could even mean the opposite, that the Au Pair is extremely interested in your family and just spent hours writing an email (maybe even getting it checked by a friend/relative/teacher that speaks better English) before they sent it. Or that they just have a busy life. Or a combination of both. Plus time difference.

Plus the fact that in some countries not everybody has internet access at home but has to go to an internet café every few days to check their email.

Returning HM April 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I know this is slightly off-topic for this thread, but this one was the best I could find for my question.

I am interested in how host families keep in contact – how often and through what mode – with their future au pairs, once they have matched? Last year the au pair we matched with was a big emailer, and we continued to email and skype regularly – maybe once every week at first and then every other week thereafter – between April when we matched and Aug when she arrived. I think this was partially why her transition to us was so smooth — she already knew a lot about our daily activities and the things going on in our household from all of the regular contact. But I also know this was very unusual, and all of her AP friends thought it was a little weird as well (few of them talked at all to their HFs).

So I thought I would ask — how much do experienced HMs communicate with their future au pairs in the months between matching and arrival? In our case this year it’s going to be four full months, as it was last year. That’s a long time for weekly skype calls — but do families actually do this? Do you structure your correspondence somehow (as in, you email once a week or once every two weeks, regularly) or is it more random check-ins when there’s something to share? Is there such a thing as too much pre-arrival correspondence? I’d love to hear what other families do to keep their future AP in the loop but not feel burdened by having two AP responsibilities (current and future).

Thank you.

Tristatemom April 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm

We communicate fairly often between match and arrival, probably the same amount as you. I also email fun pictures to give the AP and idea about our daily life, e.g. 4th of July BBQ etc. Just like you said, it helps to get to know each other a bit beforehand.
Our current AP always says she feels as part of our family but that her AP friends do not have the same relationship with their families. Maybe the little to no contact before arrival is another example of that?
One funny thing that I have noticed about myself: especially in the beginning of the year, I spend more social time with the AP like having tea etc. With our bad APs, these conversations always left me feeling manipulated because they used that time to get something out of me. With our great APs, I left with a feeling of more closeness and that I actually knew the person that was living in my house. Does anyone get this too?

kat April 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm

i have a similar feeling, although from the ap/nanny side of things. with a nice family its just a nice chat whereas with a family where we dont get along any time spent together without children is awkward, having me think what is she going to come up with :D

kat April 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm

i usually dont have long before i arrive in the family’s home after matching /around a months or two at most/ but it certainly helps quite a lot when you exchange emails. quite often it also is teh only proper conversation i have with the family about their views on things and habits as there is no time once i am actually there.
i would say keep on emailing ;) once in a fortnight is enough i would say, or once in three or even four weeks is still ok and a lot better then no emails.

angie April 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm

I opt for a lot of communication but over email. Skyping all of the time gets old for me – but shooting an email with pictures is not difficult. With our current au pair I actually just made sure that either I or our former au pair (who was current at the time) had some communication every week or so – facebook or email or whatnot.

Just a note on how things are going or a pic of the kids is enough. Then if they have questions they feel ok with asking.

Should be working April 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I write a quick email every 2-3 weeks, and we have about a SEVEN month lag time between matching and arrival. It is sometimes a little annoying to add ’email future ap’ to my to-do list, but I know it means a lot to her and I want to keep the good momentum from interviewing and matching. It is very ‘us’ to keep in good contact. But skype would be too much for me.

In all that emailing, we actually had a little conflict arise. She casually asked about something that I thought was clear in the course of our matching, and it made me annoyed and even a little worried that maybe the match was a wrong choice. But we talked about it and I think having had a pre-arrival conflict and resolution was actually good practice for limit-setting on my part.

Dorsi April 19, 2012 at 10:40 pm

I’m curious — why 7 months?

Should be working April 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Hi Dorsi, No one reason, it just seems to be my rhythm, although it does mean we get the early lock-in discount with the agency. We have a late-summer arrival, a very popular time for APs from our preferred home country. It might just be luck, but so far I have the feeling that the APs who have already gotten their applications together 7 months in advance are more dedicated and more organized, and not just finished with school with no other ideas what to do next. I start looking in December, not urgently, knowing I can be very picky because I have a lot of time. I like it that I’m looking when few other families are. I think I’d be nervous if it were April and I were ‘scrambling’ for an AP.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 19, 2012 at 10:48 pm

DH and I tend to match 3-4 months out from arrival. We work hard on matching, as our beautiful special needs child, affectionately known as The Camel for her ability to spit, weeds out those serious about children from good-time party girls.

I would say, how often we exchange emails (this year will be our first venture with Skype – up until know we haven’t had a computer that could support it), is an indicator of the personality of the incoming AP. Over the years, most have emailed me with victories in their lives (a good grade on a tough exam, the acquisition of the visa, their difficulty in saying goodbye to their family and friends). The curious will ask me tons of questions – what to pack, what to bring the children as gifts, etc. The shy APs tend not to initiate contact, so I have taken to rereading my emails with the curious ones to say, “Oh you might think about packing old clothes to wear when feeding The Camel,” or “Don’t worry about bringing a hair dryer.” I warn them when we are going on holiday, so they don’t worry when they cannot contact us.

I would say that exchanging emails 2-3 times a week at first is typical, then every other week, until it’s time to pack the suitcase, and then it picks up again. I don’t think I could find time for weekly Skype calls – exchanging emails suits my style because I can write at all hours (like now when I ought to be in bed).

MommyMia April 21, 2012 at 11:51 am

TACL, it will be interesting to hear your experience with Skype, as your situation is so unique. Personally, I am “camera shy” so it’s hard for me to get used to staring at the computer while talking to someone – hard to explain, but it’s such a flat, fixed, surface (ours is on a desktop monitor and not portable like a laptop would be) and usually neither the au pair or I is doing anything but sitting there! Sort of puts me in a tense, job interview mode, even if we’re just having a casual chat; one of our former au pairs in Germany carries her laptop about with her while talking, showing us what’s new in her home or garden, her dog playing, etc. so that adds another dimension that I find much more palatable. Even if we get everyone to stop by the desk and chat, or hold our dogs up (which they hate – there’s no person there, it doesn’t smell like anything–it’s just some glass and plastic!) it’s not the same feeling. Just my 2 cents….and we thought we were done with APs, but now are interviewing again, as I just returned to my former job!

Taking a Computer Lunch April 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Up until now, not having a computer that could support Skype, I have preferred the phone. There is something about not being able to convey meaning with gestures that determines how much the candidate comprehends.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm

It was great – once we sorted out microphone issues. We actually had a longer and more comfortable conversation than using the speaker setting on the telephone. We carried the laptop into The Camel’s bedroom, so the candidate could see her in action. I enjoy it as an interviewing medium.

Seattle Mom July 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I’m now searching for AP2, and this post is really relevant to my situation. I’ve already emailed 3 candidates, and only one responded! The first two I emailed last Friday, and it’s now Wednesday.. I guess they aren’t interested? If they get back to me with a good reason and things go smoothly from there I will still consider them. The interesting thing is that the one candidate who responded within 24 hours has the best reason not to respond- she is currently working in Japan (doing some kind of youth leadership thing, she’s from Estonia) and the place where she is living has had a natural disaster- they have flooding! She emailed to say that she can’t skype soon, but she is interested in our family and will email when things calm down. She sounds great, so I am going to wait on her, though I’m still looking at other candidates. Now I face a dilemma, because this candidate seems GREAT on paper but I can’t really know for sure until we get a dialogue going, so I don’t want to rule out others.. but I also don’t want to match with someone who is not as great. So far other candidates have seemed just ok compared to this one. Although no one else has responded to my emails yet, so we’ll see :).

Anyway we don’t need our new AP until early December, so I’m not stressing yet.

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