Notes About The Blog: What’s been happening behind the scenes at AuPairMom

by cv harquail on March 9, 2014

You might be wondering what’s going on here at AuPairMom, what with the revised blog formatting and my efforts to post more often.  I’ve finally put the wheels in motion to ‘upgrade’ AuPairMom so that it works more effectively for you and for me.

mail2AuPairMom has got itself a consultant, Shawn.  Shawn is an undergraduate who’s taken on the task of establishing an upgrade strategy for the blog. Not because I can’t do this myself, but because I never seem to get to it. With Shawn willing to do the hard work of putting ideas into action, I’m feeling inspired. Our overall goal is to understand what you host parents really want and need, figure out what we can provide so that I can prioritize my efforts effectively, and figure out a way that the blog can be self-sustaining.

Shawn is working on the blog as part of class where students use projects to learn how to analyze, test for, and satisfy the needs of users/customers, using what are called ‘Lean Startup’ strategies. These strategies focus on cycling through investigations, experiments, and revisions,  to unfold gradual yet meaningful change in a product. Any changes we make in the blog will be gradual, and some might even be wrong, but we hope you’ll bear with us.

Shawn’s first goal was to analyze the other resources are available to you Host Parents. It’s amazing how many blogs are out there now for both host parents and au pairs, especially with US Agencies ramping up their efforts and international agencies/websites using English-language content to attract new clients. It’s a different world from seven years ago, when AuPairMom was the only game online other than the DC Urbanmoms forums. If there are some sites that you want to recommend we look at more closely, please let me know in the comments.

Shawn’s second goal was to analyze what content (topics) are drawing the most interest.  (Our favorite topic? Interview questions. Next favorite: Random, Crazy & True Stories.) Shawn’s amazed by the blog’s traffic– we get 30,000 visits a month, from 16,000 unique visitors.  But what amazes me is the sheer amount of time you spend on the site.  Some of us really *are* ‘taking a computer lunch’, so to speak. 

Now, Shawn’s moving forward with a few surveys, one for ‘first time visitors’ (not you all, obviously, since you are already reading this), and then in about three weeks, another survey for current readers.

When/ if you see a survey invitation pop up on an AuPairMom page, we hope you’ll jump in and give us your feedback.  Once we’ve gotten enough surveys done and analyzed the basic results, we’ll share this back with you.

In the meantime, if you have questions about what we’re doing, topics that you’d like us to add to a future survey, ideas about what you’d like to see, or even some tough-feedback-offered-tenderly, please share it in an email to me at mom at aupairmom dot com, or in the comments below.



Momma Gadget March 9, 2014 at 8:19 pm

I thought something was up. It is great to see a new topics appearing more frequently!
My wish list would be:
A forum section.
A”like” button to easily acknowledge some of the great contributions.

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:29 pm

“Like” button… that I’ll pursue!

Forum… likely not. I have shied away from the forum idea because I haven’t found a software tool that I can connect to the blog that keeps a forum warm and friendly. Forums are searchable (and that’s a good thing) but they also disperse the conversation and split up the community. The only thing that I’ve seen that holds a community together across a forum is real-name profiles– which we don’t have for obvious reasons.

I’m not closed to the idea, just very wary.

Momma Gadget March 10, 2014 at 6:03 pm

The best forums I frequent (for hobbies) have been on are the ones that require a registration, and a dedicated screen name in order to post because it allows both anonymity and accountability ( much like on here). They also made some of the trusted long time contributors have “moderator” status so that they can pull/hold for review posts that are not in the spirit of the forum.

I don’t know if a forum is the answer, it would be nice to have a place to post immediate concerns,and get quick info/advice.

Momma Gadget March 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm

yeah that edit your post feature is a really go idea .

TexasHM March 10, 2014 at 7:14 pm

If we had a live forum I would have to go to APMom Anonymous as I would get NOTHING done at work!!! ;)

Should be working March 10, 2014 at 7:36 pm

TexasHM, have you noticed my name?? :)

I have the software program “Anti-Social”, which is a tool to block yourself from social-networking sites plus any other sites you have “problems” with (and optionally email). This site is on that customized list!

Momma Gadget March 11, 2014 at 10:11 am

I need this… especially since I am reading your post when I should be answer the 100’s of work emails I have. LOL

TexasHM March 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Yes and I laugh every time I read it – along with TACL – describes me perfectly! I wish I was witty enough in the beginning to have come up with something like that! Maybe if one of you witty gals will come up with one for me I will reinvent myself. ;)

Should be working March 10, 2014 at 12:06 am

I spend a loooot of time on the site. I love this blog. I’m glad you have consulting, but don’t change the voice and community please! It just feels so genuine and focused and intimate somehow. I hope you don’t test-market-survey too much, I like the randomness that happens in the course of our ‘conversations’.

My faves are the posts with plain old problems, or outlandish versions of plain old problems (won’t swim with period!!). They sort of get rolling for a few days and then fade away but I come back to those posts frequently when an issue with our AP comes up.

The only improvement I would feel strongly about is having some graphic identifier for all the regular contributors, an avatar or design or cartoon-self, because I lose track of who is who. So many names end in “host mom” that I lose track of personalities and their individual stories. Like CA mom and Calif Mom (where is she?) and so on.

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Identifiers and avatars… noted!

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Hi SBW– CalifMom was struggling recently, b/c her IT department had blocked access to many/most outside sites. It seems that Calif Mom was usually reading AuPairMom WHILE SHE WAS AT WORK! (the horror!)… but she’s sortof come back. I’ll email her and tell her she’s missed.

TexasHM March 10, 2014 at 12:55 am

I’d love to see follow ups on what the OPs do after getting all this rockin advice – like a “where are they now?” and what did they learn in addition to the advice – agency info, was it the right decision etc. I would love to be able to reach out and communicate with each other offline ex: if someone wants a part of my handbook or lives in my area and wants to introduce our APs or whatnot without posting my contact info for the world to see. Actually that could be a great way to do regional forums and *nerd-alert* APMom monthly lunches or HF networking/support groups. :)

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I’ve just begun to put in place a vague ‘reminder’ system, so that I follow up on original post-ers… which is harder than you’d imagine! With fake names, altered details, etc. I sometimes even forget who wrote the question in the first place!

OHM March 10, 2014 at 6:40 pm

I think this could be built in … when an original post is posted maybe a reminder could be scheduled to the poster 30 days out to post an update? Computers should be able to do this these days (I think).

TexasHM March 10, 2014 at 12:55 am

Oh yeah – and world peace. ;)

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm

World peace… noted.

Boys Mama March 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

See!? Right here we needed a Like button

Not yet hp March 10, 2014 at 5:04 am

I’ve been grateful to come to this site for insight. My ap AU pair arrives in a few days and I’ve used this blog to help get me ready.

Topic idea:

How to introduce a second language in our home. I’d like to go the immersion route and I think it should work. I have very young children. But are there any specific tips people can give me to get started.

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Hi NotYetHM– I’ll set that up as a topic for next week! cv

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2014 at 8:09 am

Looking forward to it! Thanks to Shawn! I will echo previous host moms – I hope a lot of the same character will be retained. I have enjoyed the conversational and respectful approach we’ve been able to maintain. I have frequently used the “categories” to find posts about things I’m struggling with in the moment. I always use the “recent posts” list to catch up on what I’ve missed.

I think improvements for me would be:

(1) make it easier to follow the conversations under a thread, maybe some kind of forum format instead?. Sometimes there have been so many posts that they pass right through the “recent posts” list without me seeing them, so I miss a lot. Also, there are times when I’ve posted a comment and then totally forgot about it and see a few months later that posters have responded. Probably not being clear, but essentially – a better way to follow the discussion under each topic.

(2) more au pair input! Honestly, this is my #1 desire. I imagine au pairs don’t post frequently because we’ve slapped down a couple in the past – but truly, if au pairs can post in the spirit of this board, that is learning from and being respectful of each other, then I would love their input. That’s the main thing that’s missing from this board. I often feel like we’re spinning ourselves all up about something and it’s possible that there’s a simple answer or that it’s something that au pairs don’t actually really even care about it. I’d love to hear from the “other side” as much as we do from host parents.

Looking forward to the changes! Thank you!

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm

More from au pairs? I’m surprised by that, since I was under the impression that host moms would prefer to have less (or the same) rather than more AP input. Also, I should confess that about 1/3 of the au pair input never gets included, because I don’t release rants or post that many au pair complaints– relative to the number I receive!

But finding a way to invite more au pair input… noted.

Also, I could add a ‘subscribe to comments’ feature so that you’d get the comments that follow yours on any given post…

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Well I don’t want rants and complaints :) If that’s all au pairs have to offer, then forget it. But I’m sure there are mature, thoughtful au pairs out there (I know at least three of them myself!) that could offer a great perspective. It appears I may be alone in this desire though.

Would love a subscribe to comments feature!

Emerald City HM March 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Yessssss! Subscribe to comments. I find that sometimes the 10 most recent flies by too fast if I don’t check it in time. (I tried to find a way to see more “recent comments” bout couldn’t figure out how to get around the filter of only 10.

TexasHM March 10, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Yes!!!! Agreed! Sometimes I see a week later someone asked me a question or I had a question for someone but they don’t see it.

OpinionatedHM March 11, 2014 at 10:48 am

Subscribe to Comments would be great but it seems that would only work for replies to my comments. I was also thinking that maybe you could make a “posts recently commented on” list instead of/in addition to most recent comments. Then you could click on that post and find the most recent comments for that post. It might be a way to keep track of a post you have a particular interest in. Even if you haven’t been able to check back for a week. Right now, I have to wade through everything to spot recent comments on topics I’m currently interested in because the comments are not sorted by date first but by their relationship to other comments. okay, just saw the subscribe without commenting option. Will this accomplish the same thing?
I guess I’ll find out. ;-)

cv harquail March 11, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Thanks for testing the feature OpinionatedHM– let us know what you think. This execution is just a small ‘plug in’– the simplest thing possible.

Beth March 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

I’ve been a voyear reader for about 4 yrs. So my situation and needs have evolved from infant needs to now school age needs. An interesting topic was started last week but not necessarily in line with what I’d want to see discussed. I’d like to see how parents have flushed out au pairs that can help with homework even with English being their 2nd language.
Keep up the good work. I really enjoy reading you blog on my train ride to work.

Should be working March 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Beth, my APs have been fine helping my kids (now preteens) do homework. They help make flashcards and all kinds of things. They maybe can’t do as well as I could proofreading kids’ written work–but I think that is a good thing, it keeps my kids responsible for their own work (not like the recent post about the HM who wanted the AP to write for her!!).

My kids also go to a school that is mostly in another language (not English and not our APs’ native language), and while I prefer APs who have some knowledge of that third language, things have gone well even when the AP didn’t know it at all.

Probably the younger the kids, the less perfect the English would need to be.

hOstCDmom March 10, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Wow SBW – your kids school sounds fab! Do you mind sharing what language their school is and what (different) language the APs speak with your kids? (I’ve noted your posts re APs and languages, and we also have our AP as a huge part of language instruction (we homeschool)). Are these languages your/HD’s first languages?

If you prefer to do so via email (for privacy/anonymity reasons) you can email me at my aupairmomusername(above)

WestMom March 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Hi Beth-
Our kids are in a French/English bilingual school and all our APs have been native French speakers. The first few years work out ok with English homework help, but around 3rd grade, the homework was starting to be too hard for our APs to provide any substantial help. In our case, the AP really only assists with French and the kids are on their own for English. She only provides supervision (and some nagging to get it done…), and it’s been ok for the most part.

5kids=aupair March 10, 2014 at 8:41 am

Definitely a forum!

Host Mom X March 10, 2014 at 9:22 am

Kudos! This site provides such a service to us all, I do hope you can not only make it self-sustaining, but if you can monetize it even just a bit, great!

I echo those that say it’s so important to keep the tone of respect and community that you and the long-time regular contributors have grown here. The “forum” idea worries me a little bit, only because that just makes me think of the DCUrbanMom AP board, which is quite often mean and nasty. I got frightened away from posting questions on there long ago….

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm

It’s not only the DCUrbanMom forum, but also the two that are on agency blogs, where it seems like the tone gets out of hand …. and also the activity gets hard to track.

Seriously, the better alternative to a forum is a ‘community’, like with mightybell, or ning, but these take $$ and also a dedicated person to manage the conversation. I know that the moms who run the closed FB communities spend a. lot. of. time. managing those.

Multitasking Host Mom March 10, 2014 at 9:03 pm

I second that worry. I use to follow that board also, but the negativity and down right unhelpful mean people there really turned me off. I like the fact that even when we disagree here on aupairmom it is done with respect. Just don’t want to lose all the good constructive vibes here on aupairmom.

Tristatemom March 10, 2014 at 9:43 am

I also appreciate this blog a lot and have gotten good advice. Contrary to a PP, I wish there were less posts by APs, especially from non-US-based APs. Being totally selfish here but APs seem to have a lot of internet support groups (down to sites advising on how to be a “bad” AP – :() and we HFs don’t have much in terms of feeling situations out.
I would welcome a change in how topics are listed so that a topic with a new comment moves to the top (similar to dcurbanmoms, I am not affiliated with that website but many HF refer to this blog and vice versa).

Should be working March 10, 2014 at 9:54 am

For me, au pair input is fine but not a priority here, I agree with Tristate Mom on this.

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I wish I could find all these au pair sites – I’ve googled before (and I think I’m a pretty good google-er), but can never find anything. Either way, I agree with you (and I know it’s selfish) that I wish this were just a US-focused au pair site. Unfortunately, I can rarely really weigh in on the experiences of au pairs and host parents in different countries because it’s so so so different – from expectations, to regulations, to duties, to norms, to alternatives, I just really have no idea what to advise posters from outside the US.

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm

That is, “I CAN’T really weigh in on the experiences…”

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm

I know, the US vs non-US issue is challenging. It makes such a difference to have program rules!

I’ll make ‘amt of ap participation’ and ‘non-US queries’ topics for a future survey.

Seattle Mom March 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm

My own concern about increasing AP involvement would be that it might increase the chances that either my current or one of my old APs would find this blog and figure out who I am.. that would just make me nervous.

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2014 at 2:14 pm

That’s a totally valid concern. I have changed many identifying details myself, but I think I could probably be ID’d. But it is a public forum after all and I’ve seen it mentioned all over anything having to do with au pairs. I always assume anything I write will be viewed by my au pair (my first and current au pairs would be thrilled by what I’ve written…).

WarmStateMomma March 10, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I agree with this. I’m looking for advice from other HMs and I’m not going to get it if my APs are on this site.

It’s nice to get an AP view on things, but it’s less helpful than HM views because APs don’t always understand the constraints HMs have. For example, some of the APs commenting on the situation with the AP who broke her arm didn’t understand that the HPs have to go to work even if the AP cannot work. Some of the APs thought the HF should keep their great AP no matter what, even though that would likely require paying for a second person to do the AP’s job or take 6 weeks off work, but the HMs know those aren’t realistic options.

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm

It sounds like I’m alone in this, but I think it would yield the best results on most situations to have input from all sides. Obviously with an anonymous message board, some of the advice and/or information will not be useful or feasible from other posters, au pairs and other host parents included. There have been times that I’ve posted something that other host parents weighed in on that I didn’t really agree with, but in those cases, I was always happy to have the input even if it didn’t work for my issue. Similarly, and as long as they are presented in a respectful way that recognizes the host parents perspective, we can choose to ignore au pair input that doesn’t work for our specific situations.

Your example of the AP that broke their arm is a good one – obviously, anyone that came on posting that the host parent should just keep the au pair and take off of work for six weeks isn’t going to be well-received, but it would have been lovely if an au pair had come on to make some useful suggestions or at least offer some guidance about how the au pair himself may have been feeling. That would have really rounded out the discussion for me.

One of the great things about the long-term posters is their ability to see the situation from the host parents and the au pair’s point-of-view, or at least consider how the au pair may feel in the scenario. I’d love posts from au pairs that similarly consider the host parent’s point-of-view too. I think German Au-Pair has done a great job of this lately – she offers her perspective, while also being respectful of the host parent perspective. I’d love more posters like her.

hOstCDmom March 10, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I agree – I like having au pair input. Even the “less helpful” input is helpful to me, because it shows how au pairs may look at things. The fact that the AP doesn’t see it like HP is the point, in my view. And when we get AP input that seems “strange” or “missing the point” to us as HP, that is an indicator that APs might view a situation that way, and thus when we are explaining to our AP our view on something, we need to consider that the AP might view the situation completely differently and we might need to back up 5 steps to offer context on why *we* as HP view a situation in a particular manner.

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2014 at 1:40 pm

EXACTLY. Thanks!

German Au-Pair March 10, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Thanks for the nice comment. I think what makes this side appealing to au pairs is precisely that: HP input. I don’t participate in a single au pair blog because it is exhausting to me how many people just want to complain. I am done with the whole au pair thing but still like to gain more perspective and always thought it might help the HP side to gather some insight into our POV just like many au pairs come to this blog to get some realistic input on how the HP think.
I actually never considered that some HP would dislike that.

WarmStateMomma March 10, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I’ve been a big fan of this site since finding it in January, in no small part due to the thoughtful nature of the comments. It’s obvious that most HPs posting here give a lot of thought to how to treat their APs fairly and respectfully. The AP perspective is interesting, but it’s mostly from Western European APs and not necessarily transferrable to APs in general. The practical solutions/tools are usually provided by the HPs and they’re the main reason this site is so useful for me as someone finishing her first year as an HM and looking to improve. I love this site and would like to see any changes focused more on usability than content.

Despite everything I just said, I would be very interested in a post where the APs offer their thoughts on what kinds of information they would find useful in a family handbook and how they’d like to be welcomed into a new home.

AussiePair March 10, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I agree and mimick German Au Pairs words exactly. I like this site 1. Because you get host parent input and 2. It doesn’t have all of the au pair drama that I’ve found on many of the au pair blogs/sites.

I wasn’t aware that some host parents might find the au pair input irritating or unhelpful, but maybe a fix for this could be an option to hide posts from a certain demographic? I guess this would only work if people had profiles with avatars and had ticked a box sayings if they were a current au pair or host family etc. or perhaps this option could be included when you post?

Otherwise keep up the good work! I really enjoy reading all the host parent advice. And I must say most of you sound like beyond excellent host families, the fact alone that you participate in this blog shows that you’re constantly trying to improve and evolve as a host family.

Posting from my phone, sorry if some things make no sense!

Momma Gadget March 11, 2014 at 11:41 pm

If the whole point of this forum is to strengthen HF and AP relationships , then to discourage AP postings is counter productive. We are 2 sides of the same coin.
I like seeing clearly thought out posts from APs, because it does force you to consider the issue at hand from another perspective. I think the respectful nature of this blog allows for honest, and productive discussions even when participants have opposing views.

WestMom March 12, 2014 at 7:34 am

I really do appreciate AP input because it gives us a good perspective we might have not previously considered.

But I can do without the rants. There are plenty of Facebook groups for that out there– which by the way limit their membership to Au Pairs only– Like the infamous ‘Warnings against HostFamilies USA’ group (

AussiePair makes a great point… If members were required to register and disclose a minimum amount of information before posting, it may discourage the one-time disgruntled poster…

I wish there were more AP sites out there that were as open to our comments as we are to there’s…

German Au-Pair March 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm

@West Mom
You don’t. Believe me, you don’t. All I ever read from other au pair’s is condecending complaints, which is why I am here. I loved reading different perspectives and still do and sometimes think about what I could have improved.
But just like the contributers to this blog are rare among HP, it is rare to find au pairs who actually want to find a solution instead of just whining. I think most au pairs who take their problems to social media just do so to blow off some steam and not for constructive criticsm just like I have heard of many HP who don’t seem to be able to handle criticism.
The other thing is that most au pairs go to forums in their native tongue. I am part of a big German au pair forum and technically HP could register and particpate there, too, if they did speak German. This blog is in English so the target language of all au pairs coming to the US…that’s a big reason why your options of seeing the other side are much more limited. But again: you’re missing nothing.

OpinionatedHM March 11, 2014 at 11:01 am

I like getting the AP input because it gives me perspective on what my AP might be thinking, which might help me tackle the problem from a different direction. In the example of the AP who broke her arm. It would never occur to me that my Au Pair wouldn’t automatically understand that paying her and nursing her through an injury would be a burden. After reading an AP comment that she should be kept on and paid even when a second person has to be paid or the parents have to use precious vacation days, I’d be able to include those reasons in my discussions with my AP about whatever our decision was.
It’s the same reason I tell my APs to read this blog and tell all their friends to read it. Not because it will change how they feel, but because it will help them understand how their HP’s might feel. This leads to a more productive discussion of the problem.

Host Mom in the City March 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

Thanks for this. I appreciate the posters that have “defended” au pair input because they’ve put it more eloquently than I was able to. I completely agree, and that’s why I like the au pair input – this is what I meant earlier when I said sometimes I feel like we’re spinning each other up on a solution to an issue or just agreeing with each other about how bad something is without considering HALF of the issue (i.e., the au pair’s feelings and perceptions about what we’re discussing).

To reach a good resolution for all parties, I need to consider my audience. I could simply tell my au pair that broke her leg that I can’t keep her on anymore, but if she’s thinking “you take off or work from home other days, why can’t you just take off a few weeks while I recover?” or “You just said you spent $2,000 on summer camps, why can’t you spend another large chunk of money to get backup care while I recover?” then the problem will not be solved. Having au pair input, whether it’s truly understanding of the host parent’s POV or not, helps me to decide what my plan of action will be and reminds me that I’ll need to explicitly clarify cultural (or simply life experience) differences.

Knowing that au pairs might truly not understand that taking that many days equals literally losing my job, or that just because I spent a bunch of money on summer camps doesn’t mean I have another big chunk of money lying around to double-pay for childcare, helps me to craft my response.

(obviously I’m talking in hypotheticals here – fear not, I am not the third host mom on here with an au pair-year-ending injury!)

Didis March 11, 2014 at 8:17 pm

as au pair I struggle actually to find a good support group, so for me this website was the best thing that happened to me.
I understand that HM would love to have that little something that is just yours, so you can feel free to say what is bothering you, but I wish all of those as cv said 16,000 visitors a month and frequent commentators would knew how much help, support, advice and calm I got from reading constantly this blog.

I am not saying I want this to turn into au pair blog, but there is lot’s of decent, normal girls here who feel bad in their host homes, who are treated unfairly, who are homesick, without any benefits, working more than allowed, etc..and when we come on this website with a question and there is 10-20 HM with different perspective on our problems that helps. We don’t have anyone who will stick for us without agenda on back of their mind. LCC, agency, friends and family home, friends and hist family in USA, who ever gives you advice and perspective first thinks about benefits of the outcome for them, and in this website we find true, honest, sometimes brutal advice that can stir us in right direction.
So occasional email from au pair means a lot and advice from all of you means a lot

Host Mom in the City March 11, 2014 at 9:17 pm

What a lovely post. Thank you for posting it!

This raises a good question for me – really what we’re struggling with is the “mission” and “scope” of this website. CV, you could certainly take on the au pair world here and be everything to everybody, but could also limit the mission to helping US host moms only, for example. Maybe defining this focus would help. Or maybe it would just be limiting and it’s better to keep it open to whatever.

And wow – 16,000 hits a month! I had no idea.

Should be working March 10, 2014 at 10:02 am

Um, what is a forum? I guess I’m a Luddite.

WestMom March 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

A forum is a real time meeting place where people can post their own questions (as opposed to this site, which is curated and where questions are only posted by CV). You could picture another page, with different discussion categories, and where people would be free to initiate discussions.
Here’s an example on TripAdvisor:

Should be working March 10, 2014 at 11:50 am

Ah thanks. I see the appeal of this but I worry it could reduce the sense of focus and intimacy here, plus also the tone of the contributors might be less uniformly constructive. But I would have to see how other fora (8 yrs of Latin) work.

OpinionatedHM March 11, 2014 at 11:06 am

Yes. “Like”
possibly reducing the sense of focus and intimacy. right now we all turn our focus to the “topic of the day” and occasionally get redirected by comments renewing other posts when someone has a need. In this way, our community efforts are focused rather than scattered.

WestMom March 10, 2014 at 11:10 am

Welcome Shawn! Here are my suggestions…

A forum—Because this is a curated blog, the current format is not always ideal to get ‘just in time’ help for a timely problem. I think a real-time forum would be helpful, assuming there are enough posters participating. I have the same concern as HostMom X though, that it should retain the spirit of cooperation of the site, and not turn into a drunken HostMoms or disgruntled AP meeting spot. It may require real time moderation (perhaps some of the veteran posters would not mind taking turns at moderating?)

Optional profile—It would be great to see a poster’s underlying situation: Avatar/photo, which part of the country, age of kids, agency, and number of previous APs, etc. I find profile info tremendously helpful when looking at reviews on Web sites. I think this would be the same here. Also an optional link to email participants directly would be great (maybe with an anonymized address?). There are plenty of opportunities to follow up, or thank someone personally for their advice. And who knows, maybe try to connect in person if we are in the same area?

Like button—Love the idea. Simple way to acknowledge support/agreement.

cv harquail March 10, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Hmm… a way to follow up person-to-person…. noted.

Emerald City HM March 10, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I’m kind of split on the forum idea.

I have felt that my questions have gone unnoticed or unanswered sometimes (cough… cough…), but that can happen in forums too. I’ve been unsure in the past if CV has even seen my email. I’m not sure if forum moderation would be more or less time consuming for CV, but I’m kind of guessing more.

I also would like maybe a way to contact other host moms individually. I would love some idea for handbooks and how to change mine as my girls get older.

I also try to look for other sites, like on FB, but usually all I can find from there are au pairs looking for host families (or venting about hostfamilies), rather than actual communities for support and feedback for hostfamilies.

I also would love to know if advice and input was well recieved or ignored and how things ended up being resolved, but I also know that’s not always feasible.

Multitasking Host Mom March 10, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Optional profile…I second that. One of my favorite posts was the one awhile back (at least a year I think) when we all introduced ourselves. It was nice to get a few details about others so you got a feel for where they are coming from. It can give perspective on their advice. Plus, it just fun to get to know you all a little better. But not too much so I can still feel free to vent if need be;)

German Au-Pair March 10, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Not sure if that is possible on a blog, but a function to edit posts would be awesome. A forum I know has a 15 minute time window in which you can edit your spelling mistakes. That way no one can remove comments later and on and destroy whole threads.

Host Mom in the City March 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

I like this. I always catch my spelling mistakes after hitting “submit.”

Emerald City HM March 10, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I second (or third rather).

Seattle Mom March 10, 2014 at 2:52 pm

I completely agree! You would eliminate those follow-up comments people make to correct their spelling or grammar, or add that extra thought they had just after hitting “submit.”

Seattle Mom March 10, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I also like the idea of a forum!

I think you should take a look at how Carolyn Hax of the Washington Post uses a forum along with her regular advice column and weekly live chats. You probably wouldn’t want to do the exact same thing, and her readership is undoubtedly larger, but it might give you some good ideas.

One thing she does, to keep the forum from getting too crazy, is not allow people to start their own threads. She has a new open thread every week, where people can post whatever they want and have conversations. So it follows the same blog format- it’s not technically a forum the way other forums allow people to start threads & conversations willy nilly. Maybe an open conversation, “how are you all doing this week?” would be a way to give people what they want in a forum, without requiring extra software and without allowing things to run amok the way forums sometimes can.

Seattle Mom March 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Another example of a blog with a weekly open thread:

AlwaysHopeful HM March 10, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I love this forum! I’ve been following it for more than a year, but only recently posted. I definitely appreciate the AP feedback (even reasonable complaints), but I’m wary of some prospective AP posts that seem to be simply looking for a placement. I would not be in favor of too much identifying info because I am nervous about being recognized by my au pairs. In my view, too much of that info would chill folks’ (okay, my) interest in posting real questions, and/or the questions would be sanitized so much that the responses would be of limited use. I would like a way of “saving” my screen name so I don’t have to enter it (remember it) whatever I want to post. Or maybe I can…I just don’t know how to navigate the site. That’s probably just my own technological inadequacy!!

It may be useful to have areas on the site targeted to certain interests, such as issues for new HMs, single parents, HMs abroad, etc. I understand that the posts are broken down and generally searchable that way, but having areas on the site may lead to move frequent posts in a category, with less duplication, and a sense of community for some of the subgroups as well.

OpinionatedHM March 13, 2014 at 11:41 am

Yes re:saving screen name so I don’t have to type it and remember it! I’m busy/lazy and sleep deprived/can barely remember yesterday. I’m always thinking, did I capitalize the HM in my name, was it abbreviated or not? Etc. then there’s also a minor panic that I might brain fart and accidentally use my real name. Having it auto fill every time would be great.

Should be working March 13, 2014 at 11:55 am

Mine does auto-fill, but I have no idea how it happened.

Old China Hand March 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm

If your computer stores cookies it will auto fill in.

Dorsi March 11, 2014 at 11:29 am

One of the things that makes this place great is that the vast majority (90+%) of participants write thoughtful, informed comments (so different than vast swaths of the internet!). I love that there are a group of regulars who reliably contribute — but I do wish sometime there was better backstory and better name differentiation.

I am a regular commenter on a similar blog ( and think that there are a few lessons that could be transferred. The Totebag grew out of dissatisfaction with a work-life balance blog that was run by a national news site. The site did not run it well, and a group broke off. What the group wanted (among other things) was a regular posting schedule. There is an involved moderator, but the majority of posts are written by members and appear at exactly the same time 5 days a week. It really enables focused discussion, but also creates a space where you can diverge from the topic. I also know that if I comment in the evening, someone will see it in the morning before they switch to the next post.

I wish the posts were more frequent (and predictable) here. While I think CV’s carefully crafted posts really set the tone for thoughtful discussion, I think there could be some simple posts — links to relevant articles, letters/questions posted without comment. I also think we could have a regular schedule of topics. We could talk about food once a month and never exhaust the discussion. I get the sense that some topics are avoided because they have been talked about before, but we can always find some new angle. Also, regular posting will lead to more regular comments and better community.

Thanks for all you do, CV. This is a really amazing resource.

Dorsi March 11, 2014 at 11:37 am

Also, less Au Pair dilemmas, and less non-US dilemmas — I don’t feel that I get that much out of it. Even thoughtful AP dilemmas are kind of like drive-bys — the AP gets her answer, argues with it a bit and never comes back. With few (or one? German AuPair) exceptions, they do not become meaningful contributors to the blog.

Host Mom in the City March 11, 2014 at 11:41 am

This is a good point. Even though I’m in favor of more thoughtful and regular au pair contributions, you are completely right that I don’t get a whole lot out of the au pair posts, particularly since, as you say, they tend to come back once or twice and then that’s it.

Should be working March 11, 2014 at 11:58 am

I agree that the au pair dilemmas don’t give so much back, or pay anything forward, to the regulars. I like reflecting on the HF dilemmas that reflect who most of us are, I.e., HFs trying to do the right thing by our families and APs.

Host Mom in the City March 11, 2014 at 11:40 am

Here here. I know we’re all throwing out suggestions right and left, but I do have to say that if the blog remained exactly as is, it would still be perfect. I credit my success in the au pair program directly to this blog (and frequently spread the word to others – it’s the first thing I tell anyone that asks about the au pair program). I literally cannot understand how au pair host parents could possibly function in the program without the resources herein.

Seattle Mom March 11, 2014 at 11:46 am


Should be working March 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I don’t know, either, how anyone could host APs without this blog. Selection, management, etc., it is huge.

OpinionatedHM March 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm


Momma Gadget March 11, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Hear hear!

Emerald City HM March 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

No doubt!

Should be working March 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm

More concretely, actually, I would say that without the blog I would be taking everything personally and assuming there were personal reasons that things don’t work or work–like the particular way I communicate, or the particular AP slacking off, or the communication in matching feeling a certain way. Some of the other HMs here are managers but I have no managerial experience. This really has been transformative in terms of learning how to manage a person.

Multitasking Host Mom March 11, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Like!!! CV’s insights into the management of au pairs has been so helpful to me. I really appreciate the posts which are teaching those skills and would like them to continue. (CV – if I remember right isn’t teaching management related to your “other/real” job? My mind is a little fuzzy right now on that detail.)
And I also agree that this is such a unique and special forum for those hosting au pairs. I have not had the most supportive LCCs and do not know anyother hostparents well, so this blog has been invaluable for me. I would not be the host mom I am today without it.

cv harquail March 11, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Hi Dorsi- thanks for that suggestion, I’ve just opened up the Totebag and I’ll tour around to see what they do!

What I’m hoping to get from Shawn’s and my surveys is a better sense of which topics matter the most– right now I only know from reactions to what’s been posted, rather than from an assessment of all the possible topics. With this info, I’ll be able to target my time and focus on what people want as well as what comes in over the transom.

Once we have a clear (data based) view of interests, I can test out an editorial calendar that will let us know when certain topics are coming up. I’m also trying to set up an ‘upcoming posts’ box for the sidebar, but so far the tools I’ve tried don’t look very nice.

I do struggle with topics that we’ve done before…so in one of the surveys I’ll ask how people feel about that.

Should be working March 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Small comment: I worry the new pink format might put off HDs. We had a few along the way. If the choice is to focus on HMs that’s ok, but if that’s not the goal then pink might be reconsidered.

Emerald City HM March 11, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I also noticed that (new?) the title says “Strengthening the relationships between host parents and au pair moms”. Who are au pair moms and how often do they visit the site?

Should be working March 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I liked the original title: “Changing the world, one host family at a time”!

OpinionatedHM March 11, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Good spot. Maybe it is supposed to read “Au Pairs” rather than Au pair moms.
I love the color but agree that it might imply that a certain audience is desired.

cv harquail March 11, 2014 at 2:48 pm

That’s a typo…. haven’t yet fixed it. I’m experimenting with letting things not be prefect. hahaha. ;-)

Host dads … they come and go, and there haven’t been many of them, afaik. As for the pink, it’s driven by the owl logo. I can’t seem to find another owl I like as much.

What do you think, though, about a slant towards moms vs dads vs parents? Are there any dads out there who feel awkward on a pink-ish site?

Should be working March 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

I think Moms is fine. HDs are few and far between, and it’s your favorite owl!

WestMom March 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I have to laugh, because I can’t imagine my DH coming here! The extent of his efforts with the Au Pair program is showing up for the Skype interview, setting up the online payment for the agency, picking up AP at the hotel, and doing the first few driving tests. The rest is pretty much up to me. He probably wonders what we could possibly be talking about day after day!!!

WarmStateMomma March 11, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I married the same guy! :)

Momma Gadget March 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Are we sister wives? Sounds like my DH too!

TexasHM March 11, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Ditto this! Although I do regularly read him posts and funny comments or ask him for his perspective. It’s like how he supposedly doesn’t watch the Bachelor/Bachelorette and yet leaves the bathroom door open so he can see the TV and peppers in comments about how crazy one of them is and happens to know all their names… :)

EU.AP March 12, 2014 at 6:00 am

Like the other APs here, I also found this a really useful resource during my year, pretty much for reasons they’ve already said.

One thing I would add is that when I first started coming here, there was a section called “Au Pair? Start Here”, while that page still exists, it is less clearly marked. Not only did it provide an excellent mission statement and emphasizing the constructive and respectful tone of the discussions, it also served as a place where APs would occasionally post their problems, and receive some feedback. This doesn’t seem to happen anymore, and wonder if it’s because APs visiting for the first time aren’t directed there anymore. Maybe that would create less of a need to dedicate whole topics to AP problems (I also don’t get much out of them).

Also, I must say that a lot of problems that HMs raise here my initial reaction is, “did you tell her directly that’s what you want her to do?” So, I think Host Mom in the City was on to something when she said, ” I often feel like we’re spinning ourselves all up about something and it’s possible that there’s a simple answer or that it’s something that au pairs don’t actually really even care about it”.

On that note, it would be nice to have a quote function.

OpinionatedHM March 13, 2014 at 11:48 am

Could you put a key somewhere for abbreviations? I find my self thinking “what does IMHO mean and its alternative IMO?” And I also know that I could probably shorten my responses by using more abbreviations like AP, OP, HD, etc. but am either not confident that Im using the correct abbreviation or am not sure it means what I think it means.
Which makes me think of a friend whose boss used LOL in a text and she thought he was saying Lots Of Love. That’s quite a misunderstanding LOL!

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