Do you ‘overshare’ or ‘undershare’ with your Au Pair?

by cv harquail on August 21, 2014

I didn’t realized what a private creature I could be until we had our first au pair.

overshareWith roommates it felt like nothing was off limits, and with my DH the main thing I kept closed was the bathroom door.

But with au pairs? More of a challenge finding the right space between being closed and open.

Over-Share vs. Under-Share

There are under-sharers who say very little about what they’re actually thinking, and over-sharers for whom the acronym T.M.I. has no meaning.

With our first au pair, everything about being a parent and host parent was so new that I fumbled a lot, being open and closed in ways that (as I think back on it) probably made connecting with my au pair more difficult.  It was almost a help that our first Au Pair only understood half of what I said to her for the first three months, until her command of English caught up.

Later, I found myself managing what I shared and didn’t share more thoughtfully.

For example, I shared a lot (verbally) when it came to:  

  • My theories of parenting
  • My advice about driving safely
  • My general philosophies about life
  • What I wished for for my daughters
  • How I felt about my neighbors and local politics
  • My opinions about art and music
  • What was happening at work
  • My political views

What I kept to myself were:

  • My complaints about my spouse
  • My experiences of loneliness or depression
  • My concerns that I didn’t’ know what the heck I was doing as a parent
  • Frustration with my size, weight or wardrobe

What I didn’t talk about, but was probably plain to see, were:

  • The toll of having a spouse who travelled a lot for work
  • Concerns about holding everything together
  • Irritations due to friction with my au pair

Of course it’s all relative. What’s too much for you may be just enough for your Au Pair.

When it’s all said and done, I think I probably under-shared. I wish I could ask my au pairs whether they felt they knew enough ‘about’ me to feel comfortable. That would be an interesting conversation.

I wonder if it actually makes a positive difference if the host parent over-shares, maybe to make sure that s/he fills in what would otherwise be gaps that an Au Pair could misinterpret?

And you? What have you found easy to share or harder to share?  

Given a choice, would you rather offer T.M.I., or be mysterious? 

What's Your Sharing Profile?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


Seattle Mom August 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm

After reading this, I think I probably should share more about my parenting philosophy. I do that a lot during matching, but as long as things are going well I don’t do that much with the AP once she is here. I guess she sees it in action, but my actions do not necessarily live up to my ideals.

I am careful not to complain about DH or talk about anything too negative with AP. My general rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t want to hear it from her, then I’m not telling her. That’s kind of how I am with everyone.

I share my views on politics and religion because I think it’s an interesting cultural conversation that we can have. And I like hearing my AP’s views. I might talk about some frustration at work, but only if there is some entertainment value in it. I’m not going to use my AP as a therapist- that’s what DH and friends are for :).

LondonMum August 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

I probably don’t share much in the first few months but then open up a bit more. APs usually ask me about my upbringing as it was not in UK, which I am happy to share as it links into my views on raising children.

I try not to complain about DH but sometimes when it’s obvious, like he left all his muddy, wet training clothes on the hall way floor! then I do tend to make a comment. Usually AP responds with something like “my Dad does that too and it drives my mum mad”!

One AP was very creative like me and we shared a lot more. We sometimes talked in the evening when DH was out and we were making stuff/painting together. About once every couple of months, I really enjoyed those talks and it brought us closer together, she’s the AP that comes back to visit most, about twice a year.

With some other APs though, I have shared very little, either because they were not interested and wanted to be out all the time they were off (which is fine), or because I did not feel that they were mature enough to have that type of conversation, we just kept to “what you been up to” kind of conversations.

It depends a lot on personality, also, if AP is very friendly and talks A LOT to everyone! Then I’m not going to tell her too much of my business!

Should be working August 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I find myself sometimes oversharing, perhaps because I feel nervous with a new person around and tend to talk when I’m nervous, and also to somehow (I think this is a mistake but seem to do it anyway) make her feel more comfortable and like we are really open to her. There is so much empty air to fill–the ride home from the airport, the hanging around while kids eat, etc.–and I feel foolishly compelled to fill it. I wish I didn’t.

LondonMum August 21, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I can be exactly the same, that’s why it’s always DH job to pick up from the airport! He talks a lot, but just says where the good pubs/clubs are etc and talks about the local area, weather, kids …, “safe” stuff! I always gab too much when I’m nervous but try to control it with new AP and talk about “neutral” stuff.

Also, just out of interest what does T.M.I stand for, I think it’s a US thing!

WarmStateMomma August 21, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Too Much Information

Seattle Mom August 21, 2014 at 3:42 pm


WarmStateMomma August 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm


Seattle Mom August 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Too Much Information!

LondonMum August 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Oh! Now it all makes sense! In UK, we have an expression “like a diesel driven doughnut” which means someone talks too much and gives more than you want to know!

Seattle Mom August 21, 2014 at 4:16 pm

TMI usually refers specifically to the content of the sharing… talking about things that are too personal to share- like bodily functions, sex, etc.

TexasHM August 21, 2014 at 4:48 pm

I don’t think its any secret to anyone thats read anything I have written on this site that I am an over sharer. I don’t bag on HD to APs, as another said they aren’t there to be my therapist, but if its something obvious like HD asks me a question for the third time and AP is standing right there I might say “Am I crazy or did I answer this twice already?” and she laughs. So yes, I might jab a little at times to be funny but we do it as a family so I make fun of myself, mess with the kids and yes, we bag on the AP at times as well, its just who we are.
I am a prude so I don’t share certain things even with my friends so I don’t run into that issue with APs. But when it comes to my personal flaws like struggling with dieting heck yes everyone in the house gets to listen to me complain about giving up sweet tea! ;)
I am open with the APs that we don’t have all the answers as parents (and they won’t either) because at the end of the day we do try to model for the APs just as we are for our kids. We listen to any suggestions (doesnt mean we will take them) just like we would if one of the kids was bringing it up or challenging a rule.
I tend to have friendly relationships with our APs so anything I would chat with a friend about is fair game, which still leaves some things I only talk about with DH and I think thats the way it should be anyway. I don’t talk to my AP about my career decisions or financial goals because those are DH topics and AP wouldn’t likely be interested in that anyway. But I would share if I was interviewing for a new job or if the freaking pool needed $1200 worth of work because those are things I would share in front of my kids too in order to give them perspective on life.
Last year we did have a traumatic event and there was no way around telling our AP what was going on. We were lucky in that we had a great relationship with this AP and I knew the information would never leave the room. She dove in and helped us hold things together and I think only because she did so, the kids were none the wiser and unaffected and we will be forever grateful. Do I wish that we wouldn’t have had to share that information with the AP? Absolutely but we did and it worked out which brings me to my point (finally! ;) which is that having an AP is a big risk which is why it is so hard and why we screen so much and why trust is so important to the relationship. This person is living in your home, caring for your irreplaceable most prized kiddos and that means they will likely see your best and your worst and everything in between. If we had an AP that I felt I had to tiptoe around or be careful about what I shared then we likely wouldn’t have a good experience. Just like I wouldn’t broadcast to her friends that she didn’t shower in the last 3 days or that she thinks they are too promiscuous I would also expect her not to tell my neighbors about HD getting into a farting contest at dinner with the kids or tell the football moms I wear Hello Kitty pjs (all of these were made up I promise!). So I think sharing builds the bond. When they share with me it shows they trust me enough to share and vice versa.

Should be working August 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm

On those TMI notes, I can report that our kids ratted out that our last AP could burp the entire alphabet. And she was our most “proper”, appearance-conscious AP!

German Au-Pair August 22, 2014 at 8:34 am

If there is something about your personailty that affects the AP-HP relationship you might want to share it with her. My HP seemed very determined, very authoritative, very straight to the point so I was flabbergasted when an issue they’d had with me for almost an entire year escalated into a big deal because they hadn’t said anything. They had rolled their eyes about it but given that it was something that happened during my off time and more a life-style choice, I didn’t put much thought into that. I was so surprised when they finally had an occasion to talk about it and I was told they avoided open discussions and conflict. I would have NEVER guessed that and I’m usually pretty good at reading people. I guess I drew conclusions from their professional selves and just assumed they’d say something if there was a problem.
So telling your AP about who you are can actually make a huge difference. If you are a family that makes fun of other members, you should tell her so she can be prepared. My family does it all the time but my HF usually didn’t. If it’s the other way round, especially with the language barrier, it might be hard to adjust.
My HD would sometimes make the same jokes in front of me that he would in front of friends and again, for me that was absolutely fine (and funny), but more prudish APs might have taken offense. Maybe askingf your friends what they find special about your and your family’s character could help preparing the AP during matching and finding the right personality type? I know that a shy, sensitive AP would die in my biological family.

Host Mom X August 22, 2014 at 11:13 am

I am not a big sharer generally – only with very close friends and DH – and our APs pretty much go in the “everyone else” category for me, of people who I don’t share too much personal stuff with. But – I definitely don’t stay closed off conversationally. I talk about politics, culture, entertainment, child-care philosophy, problems unique to American society like our particular issues with racism, religion, etc. And our APs often love to gleefully share “gossip” about their AP friends (I think to show us that by comparison they are squeaky clean squares!), and about their AP friends’ strange (and sometimes awful-sounding) host families (which we secretly take delight in – hey, at least we aren’t THAT bad!), and about their hijinks in the clubs etc. (but usually they do not go into ANY detail about romantic or sexual encounters – which I think is the way it should be! HD noticed our AP got a “Tinder” alert on her iphone, and we had a little raised eyebrow giggle about that because we know that she has carefully cultivated an image with us of her being asexual – don’t ask, don’t tell.).

DH shares more than I do – his philosophy generally is to overshare so that he gets some oversharing in return. And he likes to be provocative to get more interesting conversations going. I’d rather be boring and not offend, but he is happy to offend for the sake of making life interesting. So – we have actually had disagreements about some things he has said to our APs in the name of being “provocative” and starting conversations. My view is that – especially with language barriers – some things might sound much more than just conversationally provocative to our APs; they might sound offensive or culturally insensitive if the AP doesn’t pick up on the language nuances that we Americans might use to talk about more sensitive topics like race, sexual orientation, etc. HD’s view is that our APs will appreciate learning about these touchy issues in the ways that Americans talk about them. My view is that a joke-non-joke that, say, a liberal American might use with another liberal American to reveal a cynical but sympathetic view of a particular issue most certainly will NOT come off in the intended way when heard by someone for whom English is a second language, and who hasn’t lived among Americans for all that long yet.

HRHM August 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm

For me it’s mostly driven by our AP, her attitude and her responses. I try to engage them daily in interesting conversation, because 1) it’s a cultural exchange 2) it improves their english and 3) I want to get to know them as people, not just APs.

Some have been really interesting to talk to and when that happens, our conversations may meander all over the place – politic, education, religion, gender roles, travel, food, childcare, healthcare… Some have been pretty blah. The conversation generally revolves around the kids and what is going on back at home.

My current AP is smart, funny and a great conversationalist. Most evenings we end up spending an hour lingering at the dinner table talking about all sorts of things after the meal is over. It’s great to see her perspectives and also to share with her who I am and what I believe. I can see myself maintaining a real relationship with her for years to come. It’s really made this year (so far) our best yet. (in addition to the fact that she overall does a great job)

Taking a Computer Lunch August 22, 2014 at 8:02 pm

I’m mixed when it comes to sharing. Am I going to share the details of my sex life? No! But I am going to be explicit about the health needs of The Camel, because that information is critical for the AP to know. I don’t sugar-coat it, but I also try not to overwhelm each woman that comes into my house – because 80% of the time care for the Camel is routine. The other 20% can be a doozy, and several APs have been through that with us.

I run a caregivers group at work, so I’m used to hearing intimate details that don’t leave the room. I’m also used to giving advice. It’s the latter skill that I bring back home. I do tell APs about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities – specific things for which our city is famous (and other cities), places to go to get an STD examined, etc.

skny August 22, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Do you request that your au pair sign some confidentiality or even request that your au pair does not share about your family to others?

Taking a Computer Lunch August 23, 2014 at 6:16 am

I don’t, but I do state in my handbook that I would like my AP to respect my family’s privacy by not revealing a lot of private details about our life: where we live, explicitly writing our names, etc. Child #2 asked me to stop putting his picture on Facebook, and I have honored that request. I also refer to him only by his first initial, as I do DH and the AP. People who really know me know who they are.

WarmStateMomma August 23, 2014 at 7:35 am

I don’t. My APs come from a culture where it’s not common to share personal information as much as Americans do. I’ve seen my AP’s FB page – she has a few sweet photos with us (mainly my daughter). No details such as names, location, etc. If she feels like part of the family, she probably won’t want to share private information about us with outsiders.

HRHM August 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm


I recall that you’ve had issues with your AP revealing unflattering details about your family in the past. I know how hurtful that is, but unless you are Beyonce and you are hiring a 100K a year nanny, you’re unlikely to be able to secure any real level of confidentiality. The best you can hope for is a warm relationship that inspires mutual respect.

HM_Lingua August 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm

This is an interesting topic and one I’ve grappled with over the last 7 years of hosting au pairs. Au pairs have varying degrees of maturity and often, depending on where they come from and their English comprehension, they may or may not interpret what you are telling them accurately. These are the two biggest factors I consider before sharing anything more personal about myself.

Generally, I’ll share if they ask or we are having a related conversation and I feel it’ll be useful and productive to share with them. that said, having hosted 14 AuPairs so far (we have two at a time), I’ve learned a few general lessons that may be applicable to your question about sharing with your AuPair the 3 points you mention, HostMom.

-The toll of having a spouse who travelled a lot for work:
While, AuPairs may want to know about your life, they can’t relate to your challenges as a peer and they are generally unable to help you. I’d keep this one simple: if you feel stressed because your husband isn’t around to help and you feel like that is impacting your relationship with your au pair, tell her that it’s not her – she’s doing a great job. It’s you and your feeling burdened by the fact that your husband isn’t there to help. She’ll be super happy to hear that she’s doing a good job and/or she didn’t do anything wrong and, that will make her feel you like her. She might then, make an effort to help you, where possible by going above and beyond her “assigned duties” when your husband is not around.

-Concerns about holding everything together.
This one I would be very careful with. Your AuPair is not your shrink. She’s an insecure teenager who is primarily here to experience a different country and culture and to feel “at home” in her HF environment. It may scare her to hear about the HM’s problems, as in, she might wonder if she’s part of the problem (and in my experience, she likely IS, as in some ways having an AuPair is like having a teenager in the house). The best you can do here, is thank her frequently for her help and explain that her doing x,y or z really contributed to your being able to keep things under control at home. Always try to make the positive about her.

-Irritations due to friction with my au pair.
This is something I’ve learned to talk about right away. There are a few kinds of friction that can be overcome, such as the au pair violating a handbook rule. Those things you just have to kindly remind her of and in my experience she’ll generally apologize and work to avoid repeating in the future.

Then there’s permanent friction, which might have to do with general chemistry and include things like how the AuPair treats you and/or your children. For example, we once had a Russian AuPair who when helping our kids with homework would constantly raise her voice. When we addressed it with her, she would always roll her eyes and argue that she never raised her voice – this was simply how she talked. it was clear that she wasn’t capable of changing and we just decided that it wasn’t going to work out. There was no bad blood.

She stayed until both she and we found another match and we still keep in touch today. She even sends our kids Russian text books and birthday presents every year. Had we not addressed this up front with her – honestly, I’m not sure that would be the case.

Anonaupair August 24, 2014 at 2:59 am

I au paired twice, and both sets of host families overshared quite a bit. The first set, it was the mum and grandmum, the second set, it was the mum. Both sets were going through some pretty hard things, and I like to think I’m a good listener, but it was draining at times because the issues were so difficult and there wasn’t really a pretty solution. Plus I was a kid on the other side of the world from her home, so that compounded it. I was definitely not sharing much at all in return. I often felt like I was a therapist in addition to being an au pair.
I think there’s a healthy medium. Don’t share your deep marriage woes with your au pair, for instance. It honestly helps nothing and actually aggravates everything. But I think a certain level of vulnerability is beneficial. We as au pairs want to see you as three dimensional individuals who don’t always have everything together, and we want to know that we’re trusted to a certain extent.
I don’t know. I think there’s a fine line and it basically just boils down to common sense and courtesy.

Shen Val HM August 24, 2014 at 11:51 pm

I didn’t over share with our last au pair because I cod never get a word in edge-wise! :)

Comments on this entry are closed.