Hi AuPair Mom and other other host moms (and dads),
Our situation is confounding us! Please help us understand…
We have had an absolutely bright, lovely, and energetic 20-year-old Swedish au pair for two months. We had a great first month with her and couldn’t imagine getting along better with anyone! We had a great relationship with her as host parents and she with us.
She struggled the first month developing the relationship with our boys, ages 2 and nearly 4. The four-year-old was “testing” and he took a bit of patience and work. The younger boy was the challenge for her, as she had lots of changes she wished to make with his behavior (help him become more self-reliant, independent, use a fork when he eats, etc.). After month one, things really started sailing smoothly between them and his behavior improved dramatically.
Then, two weeks ago, she sits me down during one of our weekly talks to tell me that even things have improved with the boys, she just isn’t feeling “comfortable”. The only thing she can specify is that in Sweden she is used to a “higher standard of living”, “spoiled”, and used to more privacy and space. She has a 12×12 room downstairs with her own bathroom and off hours certainly hears the kids during the day, although they nap in the afternoon and are in bed by 8pm. She says she has too much time on her hands, as she works three full days and two half-days/week. The two half-days are in the afternoon when the boys are napping or resting.
She says she wants to busier and perhaps would enjoy being with older children who she can take to sports games, etc. in the afternoon. She says that she can’t imagine staying a year and in fact, within the next few days she makes a formal decision to “transition” to a new family. She doesn’t know if the au pair program is right for her, but she wants to try one additional family before deciding against it.
We are so incredibly disappointed, as the children have really bonded to her now and we are so trusting of her competence and caregiving.
We are of course respecting her decision, but I do remind her that one of the key things to a good year is the host-parent/au pair relationship!! And, she will interview a family in our town in two days -a family with five children and a stay-at-home mom, so a very different experience for sure! We wish she could tell us more specifically so that we could really understand why she is leaving. Others I’ve talked to think it’s because many of her au pair friends are from a wealthy neighborhood a bit further south where they have their own granny units, wings of houses, BMW’s to drive, etc. She just seems so much more down to earth than that!
Anyways, we have been lucky and found another au pair (Brazilian) in transition who will come next week.
We know that we have been flexible, supportive, and interested in her well-being and happiness, so at least feel we’ve done all we can for her. We are left with a feeling, though, of just not understanding the situation, which is upsetting. We are also not sure of what to tell the kids about her impending and abrupt departure, especially as they may see her in the neighborhood with other children!
Any advice would be awesome. I look forward to having this site on my bookmarks!! Thanks, Stacey
Oh Stacy, where to begin? First, let me tell you– many of us have ‘been there’. Things seem good, and the out of the blue, she wants to rematch. Sure, she may have good reasons (or not). And you may be disappointed (or even angry, which would be fair). I must be feeling a bit grouchy, b/c my own thoughts are:
1. Even though you might want to work it out, don’t bother. She has shut the door already.
2. Even though you you might want to figure it out, don’t bother to try. She won’t be able to give you accurate information, since everything gets adjusted once she decided she wanted to leave– post-hoc rationalization, it’s called. Anyway, would she be able to give you reasons that felt okay? Would that really help?
3. I’d be pretty irked that your agency would let her be re-matched so soon, without a long enough adjustment time (6 weeks is really short unless the situation is completely dire– which yours is not).
4. I’d be pretty irked that your agency& LCC didn’t intervene and help you try to work it out. Just because she thinks she might ‘prefer’ something different does not mean that, after matching with you and agreeing with your situation, she can just decide it’s not good enough.
5. I’d be pretty irked that your LCC would allow her to be re-matched in the same community. (Our LCC would not allow that, for good reason.) It is not really fair to the kids for her to be around… what are they supposed to think, that they weren’t good enough? Kids often/always think things like this are their fault (or at least the 4 yr old might). Plus, it’s not kind to you and your spouse to have to see her and be reminded of the effort that you put in that has gone to waste.
6. We had several Swedish APs in our cluster, and my sister did also in her cluster, and most of them (like, 8 out of 10) left early. Is it a Swedish thing? Was it a bad agency liaison in Sweden who didn’t tell them accurately what to expect? I don’t known the cause, but I do know the outcome– lots of girls with an insufficient commitment to making it work.
7. You are probably a nicer person than me… but in this situation, grumpy, pissed off, tired, overworked and under-appreciated me would be pretty resentful. Actually, when I think about when something similar to this happened to me, I really struggled with resisting the temptation to hope that her new situation sucked so badly that she rued the day she said my house wasn’t good enough!) (ooh, getting steamed now).
8. As long as you know that you and your partner were kind, fair, welcoming, supportive, and generous where it matters— burn a little sage, swish it around the AP room, and then open the windows. It’s nothing you did, nothing you can do. It’s her. Chalk it up to immaturity, or lack of self-understanding, or lack of whatever, recognize that you liked a lot about her but that when it came right down to it, she was not committed to your family or your kids. Thus, you don’t want her. She is wrong for you.
I will leave it to other parents to offer ideas re: telling the kids. I need to go off in a huff and be mad on your behalf. < she stomps off to the laundry room >