Orienting an Au Pair when Host Mom can’t be there

by cv harquail on June 26, 2010

Dear AuPairMom,

I have organized an au pair to come and help us for a month at the end of June. (This came through a work contact and I have spoken on the phone with the au pair and her mom) .

My problem now is that I need to travel to the UK for work purposes three days after her arrival for 5 days. I feel that this might be awkward for her as I won’t be there.

My husband will around, since he is not working. However, I’m not sure what to do about being gone myself.

Are there protocols about the first week an au pair comes to visit? Or maybe she will be fine without me there?

I’d love to hear what readers suggest….

— Traveling Host Mom

Dear Traveling Host Mom —

Lucky you! You get to have Host Dad do the orienting!

As long as a host parent is with the au pair her first three days and able to orient her to the house and the important tasks, you’re covered.

You and Host Dad can both take part on orienting your au pair during her first three days.  From days 4 through 9, it will have to be up to Host Dad to continue the orientation and also to continue to help you new au pair settle in.

Depending on how you and Host Dad share parenting and housecare responsibilities, it may be easy for him to teach your au pair, or challenging. Either way, it should be fine.201006262049.jpg

Keep in mind, too, that there is only so much that can get accomplished during “orientation” and during the first two weeks. If your spouse forgets something or doesn’t teach it to your au pair quite the way you want, there is still time to catch up.

And since Host Dad is at home (even part of the time) anyway, he and your Au Pair will need to figure out how to work together…. so why not start now?

I’m wondering if you are concerned that your au pair will be ‘home alone’ with just a Host Dad, and perhaps feel uncomfortable? After all, she won’t know you all very well and she may feel particularly shy or awkward with “the Dad” instead of both “the Mom and the Dad”.

If this is something you’re worried about, consider these ideas:

  • Talk with her about it up front– not to change anything, but just to let you know you’re thinking of her
  • Call her during the day or using email to keep in touch with her one-on-one. [I always find it tough when I’m away for work to keep connected at home… I usually just want t focus on work and come home with everything as it should be… but in this situation it may be worth the effort to keep in close, frequent contact.]
  • Set up a visit from a female neighbor, or another nearby au pair, or anyone who could stop in for a cup of tea. The opportunity to have a conversation with another person in addition to Host Dad might help her get socialized in and not feel too isolated with just the one parent.

I’ll bet that the time will pass by so quickly she’ll barely have time to feel anything other than whoosh!

Readers, other suggestions?
(Me, I’m thinking that being away on a glamorous business, leaving Host Dad to do the initial training, is an *inspired* strategy…. heh heh heh….)

See Also:

Ways to start orienting your New Au Pair: Some advice for the first two days
Advice Wanted: How to set the right tone from Week 1

Photo: Odd Bird by JekInTheBox on Flickr

{ 5 comments }

katerina June 27, 2010 at 6:43 am

hi , i dont see where the problem is. i agree that some host fathers might be a bit funny around the new aupair. but so can the hostmothers. it depends more on the person itself rather than their sex.
i myself got shown around the house and area mostly by the hostfather /in 2000 in england/. he was home from work abroad and the mother worked three days a week. i think he was a lot more useful than the mother, both in terms of explaining their expectations, showing how they want things done etc and he also thought about me as a young person in a foreign country who might be a bit nervous. whereas the mother just kind of expected me to find my bearings and didnt speak to me much, even kind of ignored my presence sometimes.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 27, 2010 at 10:24 am

I once went a business trip a week after my AP arrived, and it was tough for her, not because HD isn’t good at orientation – he does 50% or more of the childcaring when the AP is not around. (He’s a saint in the middle of the night when I can not function at all.) I think it is easier for female APs to tell women some things than it is men. It was nearing Christmas and she was especially homesick. When I returned, I told her about my homesickness when I was a foreign student, and had HD talk about his. I’ve had other new APs have yeast infections when they first arrived – obviously easier to tell HM about than HD. But honestly, HD does half the training, the driving assessment, and the grocery shopping (I pay bills, he buys grocerys and pays the AP salary). He is also the one, with our son, who takes the AP on a tour of our city. The training gets done, and for some APs he’s the easier parent to talk to (the quiet ones anyway).

Deb Schwarz June 27, 2010 at 11:27 am

Traveling Host Mom,

I wouldn’t worry about it – I’m sure that host dad will do fine. One thing that I would do, however, is make sure that your local coordinator has selected and lined up a good au pair “big buddy” that can orient your new au pair to the area (e.g. take her out for coffee) so that she can start making friends. This is key to an au pair’s happiness and if they are isolated (even in the first two weeks) it can cause heartache. I even connnect “buddies” ahead of time so they can start emailing before the au pair arrives and I also give them a list of all the au pairs in the area, connect them on a Facebook group of 150 au pairs in the area and their local hang out spots. There is nothing worse than an au pair who is stuck in her room every night when she had dreams of making life long friends.

Ann from NE June 27, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I don’t think it’s a problem, with some advance planning. I agree that you should arrange for at least one friendly female in the neighborhood or AP circle to be a back-up contact for the new AP. A couple of Septembers ago, I was planning to be away for during the same week as our previous AP was leaving and new AP was arriving. (Both APs were from the same country in which I was visiting overseas relatives, given my work/personal schedule that year, that was the best time for me to use up my vacation days).

My husband was the official adult/Host Parent in charge of our daughter and our AP’s orientation during the first weekend (Friday to Sunday) and then the departing AP was in charge of orienting the new AP during the overlap week, during her regular scheduled work hours, with my husband the orientation contact in the evenings. The first few days, both AP’s were scheduled to work the same hours, and each day the new AP would be scheduled more hours to watch my daughter independently, with the old AP available if needed.

Before I left I of course pre-planned as much as I could, with an orientation binder of local info, suggested activities per day, etc. I also pre-registered the new AP for her first semester class, so she’d have someting personal to look forward to, etc.

I cleared our plans with both LCCs (we were switching agencies) far in advance. I arranged the arrival date of the arriving AP so there would be one week overlap. I also managed to meet the new AP overseas in person before she departed on her flight to the USA for the AP school with the agency.

Another reason I felt it would be good for me to be away the first week was that we have a smaller condo apartment, and it would be enough for the new AP to get orientation info from two people (my husband the HD and the departing AP as her peer). My husband can be more easy-going and relaxed that I can and not worry about all the details so “three cooks in the kitchen” would have been too much. He does half of the parenting and the bulk of the cooking in our household anyway. I also felt it was a nice way to thank our departing AP to leave the orientation in her hands.

I agree that providing as many email contacts, whether they are local APs, English language groups at library, etc., in advance, is very helpful in today’s world. I also notified our neighbors to be on the lookout for a new AP. And our daughter just loved having two AP friends at once to play with that week!

And frankly, after having worked so hard to orient the first AP, it was quite a vacation for me not to have to orient the 2nd one (at least the initial schedule and tourism stuff), and I got the first extended personal time to myself with relatives, without family responsibilities, in many years.

courtj July 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Last summer, I had to go on a business trip two days after our au pair arrived. My husband and I went through things that needed to be done, including driver’s license, bank account, and showing her around the time. I found it took a few weeks for her to really get on her feet anyway, but she was with us for a year.

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