Do you know what your Au Pair *needs* from you?

by cv harquail on September 15, 2017

e76008ff943c141a0539dbc33d121bd3A former babysitter and family friend got engaged last week, and to help her celebrate I bought her a few books on how to have a great marriage.

(I know, kindof weird, but I am a BIG BELIEVER in trying to learn intentionally, especially when you can anticipate how your life will be changing.)

Flipping through one of the books as I prepared to wrap them, I noted this concept of:


The Positive Need

You’re supposed to ask your partner —

“What do you need to feel loved?”

It’s important to say / ask for what you DO need, not what you don’t need.

For example, “I need you to support me” instead of, “I don’t need you to question me.”

This question “takes (some of) the guesswork out of marriage”.

It made me wonder —

do we know what our Au Pairs need from us, so that they feel appreciated? Or seen? Or understood?

What would it be like to ask your Au Pair —

What do you need from me, as a Host Parent, to help you feel appreciated? 

I wonder if we’d be surprised …..


London AP September 15, 2017 at 2:52 pm

I think it differs hugely from au pair to au pair, but for me, the feeling of REAL appreciation does not come from money..

Personally, I believe the best way to make your au pair feel appreciated is to invest time and energy in these ‘bonding activities’.
What always made me feel very appreciated in my hostfamily was being invited to their family events, such as parties and birthdays. They always made me feel like I was just as invited as the others, not as if I was ‘just the au pair who’s always in the house, or just that foreign girl we have here to look after our kids and hangs around in our house’.
Also, I really appreciated it when my host parents would ask me to come with them on outings with the kids.
It’s these types of occasions that really make an au pair feel part of the family, and that also teach him/her about the culture of the host country.

Of course, presents and extra pocket money or tips will always be appreciated by the au pair, and this is also a great token of appreciation, but it’s not money or presents that build a great host parent – au pair relationship.

Aussie Au Pair September 18, 2017 at 11:06 am

i just want my host parents to thank me often. not everyday, but maybe once a week or once every two weeks. just a simple “thankyou for all the help you give us”. just to know my hard work doesn’t go unnoticed

Spanishaupair September 18, 2017 at 11:22 am

For me what made a difference was when they showed it through little acts.
For example I found it very nice when my first Christmas with them we were talking about traditions and sweets and I mentioned I never had gingerbread man as is not typical from Spain and next day when the mum came home she brought one for me and another for my HK.

Never got money extra but of course appreciated the extra time off sometimes got

FormerAuPairNowNanny September 18, 2017 at 7:40 pm

I agree to the comments above, and want to add: it’s always nice to hear “thank you” or be treated like a family member. Some examples that meant a lot to me personally: my hostmom would always make sure to thank me for doing the dishes, or ask if I wanted to throw in some of my stuff when she did the laundry, sometimes she’d bring me something from the store she knew I liked (an avocado, a candy bar, hummus, something like that), she made sure there was some coffee left in the coffee maker so I could have one after her. Big symbols of appreciation were for example when she went clothes shopping with me to find an outfit appropriate for Thanksgiving at my (American) boyfriend’s house, or when she asked me to come to a family vacation with her, and also when she gave me a morning off to see a show I really wanted to see but couldn’t afford at the weekend. Of course, it’s always a two-way street – appreciation goes both ways. :)

Amy-AP September 19, 2017 at 10:36 am

I completely agree! For me “thank you” is one of the most important things. I feel that I do a lot for my host family (doing all the dishes, cooking meals for the whole family, being very flexible in terms of my schedule etc.) and all I want to hear is thank you. Some kind of acknowledgement, a sign that they can see that I try my best to not only make sure that their kids are taken care of but that I’m keeping their home clean, and going above and beyond for them in order to make life just a little bit easier for them. A show of gratitude every now and then, and to be asked how I am as a person (and not only in relation to the kids). I don’t care much about presents because at the end of the day they’re just things, but sometimes the little things (host family getting you coffee at Starbucks because they were there) also go a long way. It would be nice to get some comments from host families.

Hosting in NZ September 21, 2017 at 3:28 am

This is great. So good to know that au pairs may feel like this. Also funny, because you can almost switch out just a few words and make it the HP point of view :) For me, ‘thank you’ is the word I’m longing to hear most from my au pair (for making dinner, for dropping her at the airport for a trip, for offering to collect a parcel from the post office…etc). Along with ‘how was YOUR day?’, or anything else that isn’t just about my kids! Because gratitude and appreciation is important to ME, I always try to show it to my au pairs. Maybe it comes down to the love languages thing, though. I guess it’s time to ask our current au pair (3 weeks in and doing great) what it is that makes her feel valued. It’s a good and fair question, when it’s so clear that how we each express and wish to receive appreciation can be so different!

TexasHM September 20, 2017 at 9:43 am

Since you asked for a HF comment… ;)

I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the 5 love languages concept but I have started using this with my APs as well (I use it on hubs and kids too). The book basically explains that people all give and receive love differently and you can take a test to see what “love language” you speak (give) and need to feel loved (receive). I have my APs take it before they come or after they arrive and I tell them the love languages of the kids so they can use it/see it in practice here.

My last AP was physical touch. That is definitely not mine or the love language I speak (I do acts of service to show others I love them) but I was able to keep that in mind and when she did something great I would give her a hug instead and she LOVED that. She knew exactly what I was doing because I am not a hugger and we laughed about it but she said it really was the best thing I could have done to show her I appreciated her and it meant even more that I went outside my comfort zone to make sure and show her in her way that I appreciated her.

One of my APs was acts of service (doing something for her) and that was super easy for me because that is my normal love language so I tend to always be doing things for my friends and family so she ate it up and no adjustments necessary. :)

My love language is words of affirmation (praise) so all my APs have to do is tell me I am a great host mom and I will tear up with joy! My current AP is also words of affirmation so I just remind myself to tell her verbally what a great job she is doing on a regular basis and tell her outloud that I notice the little things she does and thank her for them.

The book also talks about how we can speak and receive different languages and you often tend to speak whatever language your mom did (true in my case). That awareness helps because I used to get so frustrated that my husband didn’t appreciate or notice all the little things I did for him but his language is physical touch so he was frustrated that I didn’t just come give him a hug or kiss instead! LOL

In case anyone was curious the other two are gifts (doesn’t have to be big items) and quality time (spending time with the person no matter what you are doing). Everyone tends to have more than one love language that they like to receive but one tends to trump the others. Mine is definitely words of affirmation but I also love acts of service and quality time. My husband is physical touch and quality time. My kids are two words of affirmation and one physical touch. Also – it helps with discipline. This is why my older two if I tell them calmly I am disappointed they are CRUSHED. Words are powerful to them. But my youngest doesn’t care! LOL Not surprisingly, when she is in trouble she tries to run to me to get a hug. I hold my arm out and tell her no until I explain why she is in trouble and then she can have a hug (what makes her feel loved/comforted). Fascinating to me but I am a huge nerd so I might be the only one! :)

Spanishaupair September 20, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Very interesting. Never heard of it but for sure will do some research when have time

Amy-AP September 20, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Thank you, TexasHM! I’ve read the about the 5 languages of love, I’ve never tried to apply it to my interactions with my host family and I’m going to start doing that!

txmom September 22, 2017 at 12:48 pm

I’m a big believer in the love languages. I use it in my marriage, with my kids, my au pair, and with my friends. It’s a great way to make sure someone feels the love and appreciation you are trying to share. It took me a long time to realize that my mother in law’s love language is gifts (the sentimental kind). That’s last on my list. I viewed it as her using us to get rid of crap, while she viewed it as her entrusting us with important memories.

TexasHM September 22, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Lol txmom so true! Now that I’m familiar with the concepts I see it everywhere. My dad was always shocked when I remembered a compliment he gave me a decade earlier and my brother punched me in the face once when we were kids because I said he was ambidextrous (can use both his left and right hands interchangeably) and he thought it was an insult! Lol. (He’s also words of affirmation which is why he freaked out).
A shortcut to figuring out someone’s love language is listening to what they complain about. If they say “you’re never around, we should hang out more” etc its probably quality time. “I just wish you would give me a compliment sometimes, say I’m a great mom, say XYZ” probably words of affirmation. “You used to do the dishes sometimes, open the door for me, take out the trash, clean my car, etc” acts of service…,you get it.

LeoAUPair September 26, 2017 at 10:51 am

This is such an interesting concept, I have never heard about this but I really want to read more about this! It seems like something that can help you to understand so much more about the people close to you!

Fairly new here, I have read loads of posts so far. I have just entered the matching process to be an au pair starting in Jan/Feb 2018. Very excited! :) Thought I would throw in my opinion on this subject from my years of experience with regular babysitting. For me the thing that made me feel really underappreciated was mostly how the mother of the children I babysat didn’t do what she said she would do. She was NEVER home on time, she never told me she would be late either, but I also had to remind her twice to pay me before she actually did (not to mention the fact that I was hugely underpaid). This, combined with what other people said about never getting a thank you made me feel as a simple servant. Very glad I am moving on to something better (hopefully!!)

London AP September 21, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Thank you for the book recommendsyion TexasHM! It does sound very interesting, I’ll definitely check it out!

Comments on this entry are closed.