Part of the Family: The Au Pairs’ Perspective

by cv harquail on July 2, 2009

Okay Au Pairs– It’s your turn to chime in… and share the au pair side of the ‘part of the family’ equation.

What does it mean to you to be "part of the family"?

What do host families do that helps you feel "part of the family"?

What do host families do that takes away from feeling "part of the family"?

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family photo by MontanaRaven on Flickr

{ 48 comments }

Franzi July 2, 2009 at 2:46 pm

you know, for me it’s the small things that made me feel like i was part of the family. i vividly remember the first visit to my new host grandparents after rematching and you know what grandma did? she came up to me and gave me a hug – an honest, heartfelt hug. and even now, 7.5 years later i remember this hug and how much i missed this feeling of being loved at my first host family.
also, when the 5 of us were going to a local baseball game, we usually got 6 tickets and one family member was allowed to bring a friend. i knew they felt i was family when they didn’t skip me but instead asked who i wanted to take – and the kids did not complain (that might be the most important aspect).
at one point my girl started to tell everyone at school that the girl who is picking her up is her big sister (the little one stuck to “that’s my au pair”). the sister-story was so convincing that it started rumors about why suddenly there is a sister and if i was the high school mistake of either the dad or the mom. ;-) eventually, the teachers were so curious, they asked. it made me proud that she felt this way about me, and we still are like sisters, just separated by an ocean.
what did not make me feel like i was part of the first host family? conversations that felt like interrogations, the lack of personal conversations (my and their past, present, and future), when they bought food that they knew i liked (nice) and deducted the price from my weekly check, even 59ct for tomatoes (not nice), the family suddenly leaving the house w/o telling me where they were going (what’s wrong with a little conversation?) or just plain being gone w/o leaving a note BUT they expected me to always (as in always) tell them where i was for how long all the time.
there are many, many situations in which my second and true host family made me feel like i was and am a true part of their life. i am welcome in their home any day or night, same for their relatives – and that’s not exaggerated. i made use of their hospitality more than i was able to return the favor. we just “clicked” from day one.

Nair July 2, 2009 at 5:40 pm

First of all, the first impression I have about “part of the family speech” is that most of the HF want you as a part of the family when its good for them. What do I mean?
1 – When you already have worked your 45 hours but your host mom needs to go out, you gotta help because YOU ARE A PART OF THE FAMILY (extra? no, they dont talk about that)
2 – When you finish your day you gotta still stay around the kids after all you are a part of the family..
3 – When you live like 45 minutes from civilization and your host parents don’t even offer the car for you to drive or even a ride..

I had a terrible experience with my first HF. Besides all the work I did and I should have done. My Host mom would have me scheduled to work every single weekend when she and her husband were at home ( do you guys realize how hard its to work with parents at home?) and because my host dad worked all the week, on the weekends he wanted to stay with his kid (obviously) and i was there, doing nothing for 9 hours on a sunday..but they NEVER said: “You may go..we’re fine” .

No mention all the travels when she knew i had never tried skiing (and would love to) before but she did not give me ONE HOUR break to go skiing..I went to Aspen, wait, ?have I been there? since i was locked all days long with my baby while she was having fun..mmmm…

Sometimes I found myself laughing at her speech. She has mexican people to clean the house, au pair, a husband but she was always out of time, (she didnt work) and tired, really tired..

Thanks godness I’m having a great experience with my second family and probably we are gonna extend for one more year!!

All I say is au pair happy is au pais free. Give your au pair some break, ask how she is instead of how are the kids..giver her some ‘power’ to raise your kids, its so frustating to take care of someone when you can’t be a “boss”. Never, eveeeer, allow your kids to think your au pair is an employer and should bring them lunch in bed. Giver her some ‘privileges’ like a car, if you live so far away from everything which case its not a privilege but a NEED! And maaaany many other things I could say..

AnnaAuPair July 2, 2009 at 7:50 pm

It seems so easy, but in the end it’s really not THAT easy to define what “being part of the family” means. But I’ll try my best =)

–> What does it mean to you to be “part of the family”?
I think it has a lot to do with how someone defines “family” and what “family” meant to them growing up.
For me it means being treated with respect and consideration. It means, that my hostparents are not just interested in the work I do, but also in me as a person (my likes & dislikes, my hobbies, …). It means being treated like my hostparents would treat either their own children, or like a sister / cousin, depending on the depth of the relationship.

–> What do host families do that helps you feel “part of the family”?
Asking me, how I feel and being interested in how MY day was (at least every once in a while);
Buying food they know I like, even if other people in the house don’t eat it (not always, but sometimes);
Offering me to join them on the weekend;
Preparing a room that they themselves would like to live in if they were in my situation;
Giving me time for myself if I need it;
If possible, sometimes working my schedule around plans I make;
Valuing my opinion concerning the kids (and maybe even on other subjects concerning the family);
Accepting my individualism;
Talking to me in a friendly and nice way.

–> What do host families do that takes away from feeling “part of the family”?
Expecting me to be PERFECT in everything I do and not allowing any mistakes;
Leaving without notice and never inviting me to join them;
Trying to make me exactly like they are and not allowing me to be myself;
Always (or nearly always) scheduling me so I can’t have a social life – even if it would be possible to schedule in a different way.

As I said, I think a lot has to do with how someone defines “family” for her/himself – and everyone defines that in a different way.
The main reason I left my first hostfamily was that I didn’t feel like part of the family. This was not due to being excluded, but more due to different definitions of family.
They treated me like they treated each other – but the way they treated each other wasn’t my definition of family (barely talking to each other and criticizing each other all the time). They wanted me to be exactly as THEY had it imagined to be – but I wasn’t. In times I had the feeling they didn’t really want someone living in their house if this someone wasn’t the same way as they were.
I could have lived there for a year, but I was never really happy – unfortunately they never understood that I personally have a different understanding of family than they do.

Luckily I found a family that has similar values and views than I do.
I don’t expect them to fuss around me and give me present and I don’t even expect them to make me feel like a close part of the family ALL the time – after all I AM still an employee and there might be times when the family-part has to be a little smaller, but there has to be at least the will to include my.

Anonymous July 2, 2009 at 11:35 pm

For me as an AuPair it is very important to be part of the family. I know from other AuPairs, that they are not here to be part of the family, they just want to do their own stuff after work. I see it like that: You’re for a year or more in a foreign country, apart from family and friends, and a feeling to be a part of a family makes it easier. Lucky how I am, I am part of a family here. There are many things that count in “being part of the family”:
1. Take place ( but not must) on family activities ( Dinner, Vacations, walks etc.)
2. Being heard and tolerated with problems you have
3. Getting introduced as a AuPair ( not like ” She is just the Nanny”)
4. Being able to share funny or sad Stories
5. Being able to cry and laugh together
6. Being able to be honest with each other

My hostfamily helps me to feel as a part of the family with the following things:

1. We almost always eat Dinner together and everybody has to cook at leat once a week
2. We ALL do the dishes
3. They took me on all their vacations
4. They talk to me when there are problems
5. They hug me when I feel bad
6. They leave me alone when I want to be alone
7. They respect my privacy

I never felt not being a part of my family here. But here is what I heard form other AuPairs, why they dont feel part of their family:

1. The family lets them do all the work at home ( cooking, cleaning etc.) do by theirselves
2. The family could take the AuPair on vacation, but they dont
3. The family controls what the AuPair is doing in their freetime, and with who and why
4. The family introduces the AuPair as “Shes JUST the nanny”
5. The family doesnt listen to wishes or reccomendations from the AuPar ( regarding raising the children etc.)
6. The family just doesnt have a ear for the AuPairs problems or doesnt care if something nice/happy happened to the AuPair

But seriuosly, sometimes it is not the family that makes it hard for the AuPair, sometimes the AuPair just makes it hard for herself being part of the family i think.

Stefanie July 2, 2009 at 11:36 pm

For me as an AuPair it is very important to be part of the family. I know from other AuPairs, that they are not here to be part of the family, they just want to do their own stuff after work. I see it like that: You’re for a year or more in a foreign country, apart from family and friends, and a feeling to be a part of a family makes it easier. Lucky how I am, I am part of a family here. There are many things that count in “being part of the family”:
1. Take place ( but not must) on family activities ( Dinner, Vacations, walks etc.)
2. Being heard and tolerated with problems you have
3. Getting introduced as a AuPair ( not like ” She is just the Nanny”)
4. Being able to share funny or sad Stories
5. Being able to cry and laugh together
6. Being able to be honest with each other

My hostfamily helps me to feel as a part of the family with the following things:

1. We almost always eat Dinner together and everybody has to cook at leat once a week
2. We ALL do the dishes
3. They took me on all their vacations
4. They talk to me when there are problems
5. They hug me when I feel bad
6. They leave me alone when I want to be alone
7. They respect my privacy

I never felt not being a part of my family here. But here is what I heard form other AuPairs, why they dont feel part of their family:

1. The family lets them do all the work at home ( cooking, cleaning etc.) do by theirselves
2. The family could take the AuPair on vacation, but they dont
3. The family controls what the AuPair is doing in their freetime, and with who and why
4. The family introduces the AuPair as “Shes JUST the nanny”
5. The family doesnt listen to wishes or reccomendations from the AuPar ( regarding raising the children etc.)
6. The family just doesnt have a ear for the AuPairs problems or doesnt care if something nice/happy happened to the AuPair

But seriuosly, sometimes it is not the family that makes it hard for the AuPair, sometimes the AuPair just makes it hard for herself being part of the family i think.

Anonymous November 17, 2009 at 10:36 am

I’m glad to read Stefanie last paragraph — sometimes the AP makes it hard. We always try to involve our AP in family activities when she is off duty but she is not interested. She only washes her dishes after dinner and then goes back to her room. We asked her to help (put away left over, clean up table, or something) but she said she off duty!!

PA aupair mom November 17, 2009 at 11:42 am

As a host mom, it is always so hard for me to balance this. Our last AP only wanted to be included when SHE WANTED. the rest of the time we were to leave her alone. How was I supposed to know when she wanted to be included and when to leave her alone? No idea.

So, now I leave the invitations open on the communication log….ex. We are going to memaw’s for dinner tonight. you are welcome to join if you want to. Please let me know by 12pm so I can give memaw a count.

Seems to work out ok.

My 2 cents November 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Anonymous, that would burn me up on the family meals. If your AP chooses to eat meals you provide for the family, then she helps do something. Have a direct chat with her and if she still refuses then tell her you won’t be factoring her into the family meals and she’s on her own (although I have to say the general attitude of “you make and I take” is really troubling). You only have to provide food, you don’t have to prepare it or clean it up for her and you don’t need to accomodate her food likes/dislikes . . . if she wants to play hard ball . . . and perhaps that’s the way she really does want it. If you make larger portions so you have another meal for the entire family later in the week, make sure she knows those are off limits too. You are not a cafeteria. Maybe she prefers Ramen noodles every night in front of her TV over your stuffed chicken. Makes it easier on you in some ways.

By the way, big holidays aside, I find that our au pairs don’t want to participate in family outings on weekends either. But I don’t see that as a problem or unusual at all. Everyone needs their time alone or away from the “job.”

Verce July 3, 2009 at 10:07 am

I came to the US 10months ago and I had talked to many aupairs before I had arrived in order to get that sense of what aupair means : an employee or a part of the fam ??
I am part of my family , I am a family ..
I remeber the tons of emails I had exchanged with my host mum ..
Every day , constantly ..
Teling her about my every day goings on , my worries , my family , my friends , even about my boyfriend helped a lot in buliding of our relationship .
I felt like I knew them , she became my friend , the one i have shared my life with !
So , when I came everythn went smoothly and easily . My host parents are not my parents – they are my best friends .
Its interesting for me and at the same time weird to hear the other aupairs experiences and opinions regarding this question . Most of them see themselves as employees and thats it , no friendships , no love , no connections ..
I am part of this family and as a part of it , i am aware of the obligations i have .
I dont mind washing the dishes , cleaning the house .. i was doing all those things back in my country when i used to live with my family and i never got paid for doing that .
This is my family now – how can ask money for doing some chores at my familys house ? ? ( something that the other aupairs do )
My host parents always take me out for dinners , wine tastings , their friends are my friends , most of the time we eat dinners together , we cook together – WE ARE FAMILY , we share problems , we share happy moments .
My host mum is my best friend , my bigger sister – i can talk to her about everything .Everytime when we get a chance we go out for a drink and talk a lot .
Sometimes they have bad days – sometimes its me . Somehow we know when we need space for ourselves and we do give it to each other .

I remember once i had bad days but i felt like i dont have to bother my host parents with that .
They saw that in me , they knew that something is going on with me .
My host mum came up to my room and asked me what was wrong , she sat next to me , hug me and talked to me .
That is what families do , stick together and share everythnig !!
The same thing is with my host kids . They dont treat me as a nanny but as a bigger sister which actually i am . I love them a lot !
I do feel like im still in that honeymoon stage where everything is so pinky .

Im staying for another year , im going to stay as long as i can and as long they need me !
Being an aupair is an experience that taught me a lot …

D July 3, 2009 at 10:54 am

We just had this conversation with our au pair yesterday, so this topic is very timely.

Every au pair is different as every family is different….so the meaning of family takes 100 different meanings. However, reading these posts makes me feel good as a host parent as we always offer a home that is always welcoming. And to go above & beyond as well.

We have a great relationship with our au pair. However, there are times where she chooses not to be a part of the family that honestly she should. She is great with the kids…… but she seperates herself when we do things outside the home. She simply doesn’t like to socialize. This is mostly due to her own relationship & beliefs and how she was raised personally. And yes, some au pairs do not want to be part of a family while others do….. Same goes as families.

We would love to include our au pair on a weekend family trip or family outings & holidays. Our au pair honestly opts out almost all time. (Halloween, Easter, Xmas Eve, New Year, and many other times our au pair did not join us) And Vacations, she turns them down. We go on weekend trips….and she doesn’t go.

So since our au pair… has 1 month left with our family. I sat her down yesterday, just to say…… July 4th is coming up, this is one weekend you should join us. Yes, she was wanting to be at home in her room all weekend instead….. We are going to a concert, a local baseball game, parade & 2 fireworks displays. Lots of friends family & fun. I was pretty heart felt when I said we would love for you to come, as an au pair….joining the family for festivities is important for this exchange program. This is what the program is about.

I was honest to her when I said…. lots of au pairs out there would LOVE to join the family and really wish they had that chance. And after reading these posts I’m right. I mean whom turns down an American Baseball game, fireworks & fun on July 4th – a true cultural experience for sleeping….? Or whom turns down Xmas Eve, Easter, Halloween and all those holidays for sitting at home. I just don’t find it healthy. This is a situation where an au pair turns herself into an “employee” and checks out herself.

Au Pairs out there……This is not normal is it? I would love your opinion.

Czech Aupair May 30, 2010 at 10:07 pm

It´s not normal… Every Aupair that cares for her HF and likes them would join them… not every single event but most of them… especially the holidays.

EUROaupair August 24, 2010 at 9:27 am

I feel kind of angry at your au pair because I would love for a family like that!
In my HF, the HD will invite me to things but if its just the HM and the kids (HD is on business often) I am just left behind, lol. I feel so much more included when HF is home!

D July 3, 2009 at 11:15 am

Sorry I didn’t mean to hijack the au pair thread. I will post this in the host family thread.

Rayann July 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm

I think the comments from a couple APs above are interesting (and it’s always good to get input from them!) – the thought of the host family not telling the au pair if they are going out or not leaving a note. I’ll admit, we don’t always tell our AP when we’re going out – and we don’t expect that from her either. Certainly there are times when we do that – for example, if we had talked about having dinner at home and made plans to go out instead – then we’d let her know and invite her to go. Or, if plans are up in the air as far as how we’re spending a weekend day. But normally, when she’s off duty, we don’t always tell each other when we’re going out. Sometimes it is just because we’re out early in the morning, and she’s still sleeping. Sometimes, it’s just to run to the store. If I know she’s awake, I’ll tell her, but I don’t bother her if I’m not sure what she’s doing – I feel like she needs the off duty time to herself.

We also don’t expect her to tell us everytime she leaves the house – I would say about 70% of her “off duty” time, we don’t know if she’s home or if she’s out where she went. It probably makes a difference that AP, host dad and I are all regularly in touch by text messaging regardless of where we are or what we’re doing – if one of us needs one of the other, we drop a quick text asking if they’re around. I look at it this way – if host dad is working and I’m home with the kids, I don’t tell him everywhere I’m going. I guess we just all appreciate the space.

But it’s an interesting thought, and one that had never crossed my mind. I plan on asking our au pair if it bothers her if we don’t leave a note or tell her where we’re going. Thanks for giving me something new to think about! Always happy for helpful suggestions on being a better host family! :-)

EUROaupair August 24, 2010 at 9:42 am

I don’t usually care if they pop out or something, but we always run into difficulty as the parents often neglect to tell me when something ‘big’ is planned.

When I have the kids til 2pm, for example, they will ask if they can come with me to do whatever I am doing in the afternoon (and I say sure, because most days they are left to their own devices in the afternoon, running riot!).

Then I find out that they are going to a Soccer Game, or Hiking, or something kinda ‘big’ that is outside of their normal routine. Then the kids cry or throw tantrums because I said I would take them with me. It is so awkward! I feel that if I were being treated as a family member it would have at least cropped up in conversation..

Similarly, on my last day off the kids woke me up at 9am because they were “staaaarving” and HM&HD were asleep. So I gave them breakfast etc.

When HM&HD woke up (9.30) they were angry as they had been planning to take the kids out for brunch and now they wouldn’t eat their money’s-worth (lol). So I feel like a note in the kitchen might have been in order there..

AuPair July 4, 2009 at 3:59 am

What made me feel part of the family?
– when I got sick and my hostmum offered to get a babysitter immediately anytime of the night to drive me to the docters
– when I asked my hostmum whether I should start early in the morning the next day and she asked me whether it would be ok or if I was too tired and needed to sleep in.
– when they called me just to make sure I’m safe
– when they woke me up in the morning to ask whether I’d like to come to have breakfast at that pancake place I loved.
– when my hostdad asked me whether I want to go grocery shopping together and have him help with the kids afterwards
There are just hundreds of little moments when they showed me how glad they were that I’m there. And I did not mention presents, vacations etc. because I think that it is possible to show somebody he/she’s part of the family without giving big presents all the time.

In my first hostfamily this was different
I knew I am not part of the family
– when I came home and nobody except for the kids responded my greeting
– when I was washing the kids dishes and my hostdad put his plate right next to me (next to the dishwasher) expecting me to clean this too without even saying a word
– when the little one asked me to come to church too and my hostparents just said there is noch need for me to come
– when I was supposed to clean the whole house and afterwards they told me I didn’t do it right

Calif Mom July 5, 2009 at 11:04 am

It sounds to me like that AP is not turning down cultural experiences with her host family in order to have a social life with her peers (as many/most native young adults would choose as well, and which is a healthy choice!); she’s choosing to be stuck in depression.

Ferniie July 9, 2009 at 9:25 am

D,

It sounds to me like theres much more going on with your au pair then just avoiding family outtings, Maybe she for some reason doesn’t feel like part of the family, maybe she’s homesick or just very tired. Sounds like depression to me, I hope the last month goes well !

best wishes

loisa August 23, 2009 at 9:32 am

My first host family didn’t care about me at all. For example, one day I had an errand to run and said I’d be back by 6pm. But I got very lost and couldn’t find my way home until 11pm. Were they worried? No! They were sitting watching tv and didn’t even ask where I had been! I could have been dead in a ditch for all they knew. That’s not how you treat family.

Calif Mom August 23, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Loisa — I am not saying that they were a great host family, because I am sure there were other problems too, but I am wondering — did you call them and ask for help? Perhaps they thought you just lost track of time. That’s not being uncaring, it’s assuming you can take care of yourself.

We consider our APs adults, and don’t pry into their private time. If a host does not know you need help, s/he cannot help. It is a tough balance for hosts to find the right balance point between showing interest in your private life, and “meddling” or being too involved.

EUROaupair August 24, 2010 at 9:46 am

Calif Mom; that is how my HF are about my free time and I really really appreciate it now! But only after reading stories about controlling families and curfews etc.

My family might be a little on the cool side, but they allow me my freedom. I know if I called and said I were in trouble they would be there in a heartbeat, though =)

loisa August 23, 2009 at 12:41 pm

No, i did not have a phone. but if i said i was just popping to the shop and would be back by 6, and then by 11 (pitch black outside) i still wasn’t home, wouldn’t you be worried? when i told them i’d got lost all they said was “well that was stupid of you.”

MommyMia August 24, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Loisa, I’m so sorry that happened to you, and your HF remark was not called for. Yes, I would have been worried, but that is one of the reasons why we provide a cellphone to our au pair and expect her to take it with her. It’s primarily for us to contact her when necessary regarding the children or schedule, but also if she were to encounter an emergency situation. I’d sit down with my host family if I were you and talk about what is reasonable should something like this ever happen again (and suggest they add a section to their manual, or if they don’t have one, it’s an excellent place to start!). Scout out some locations of pay phones (if any still exist in your area) or discuss who you could ask to phone home for you. I think most people would make a quick, local call for you if you asked and told them your situation.

M in NY January 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm

When do I feel as a part of my host family?
– When I come upstairs coughing or with a soar throat and one of my host parents immediately give me Emergen-C or hot tea
– When my host dad calls during the day just to check if everything’s ok (usually happens if smth has been going on)
– When they send me texts like “have fun” if I’m going out
– When they ask me if I have plans for the weekend before they ask me if I can watch the kids on a Sat night
– When they ask me how my day was or if I’ve talked to my family back home recently
– When they invite me to come with them on outings and trips (even if I don’t always come – I celebrated Thanksgiving and Hannukah with them but opted to be with my friends for Christmas since my family is Jewish anyway)

If I ever feel a bit out of place in my host family, it’s usually when one of the kids says something hurtful about me being there (I have one who doesn’t really want an au pair) or when one of my host parents is in a bad mood. But then I just stay away for a while and chill ’til it’s better.

Lucy in the skies January 11, 2010 at 1:49 am

Great topic. I would say I feel like part of the family most of the times.

– I go with them on families vacations,
-I let my hostmom know when I start dating a guy [and she really apreciates when I do that],
– when my HM calls home to ask what do we want for dinner and my HD telles her to get me Hamburguer because he knows I love it,
– when my oldest kids [teenager girls] come to my bedroom when Im off-duty and we stay talking and watching dvds,
– when they invite me to family programs like concerts and theaters,
– when my youngest draws me on family pictures,

Me and my hostmom have some moments when we tell each other how much we love each other, how happy we are we match, how my mother is safe because she knows my hostmom takes care of me. My hostmom always thanks me when I travel and always let her know that I arrived safe and Im having fun.

My hostdad is not a sociable person, but he respects me. We dont talk that much, but Im ok with that, I respect the way he is. I know he likes my job and how bonded me and the kids are. People are people and nothing is perfect so anyways.

My hostkids are my sunshine. I do love them! I miss them when I travel, I got presentes to them, I keep texting one of my kids, and when I come back they hug me and tell me they missed me. I like to spend time with them when Im off-duty. I have so much fun with my girls. I take care of a little girl and two teenagers girls. The teenagers are like my little sisters. I let them use my computer, one of them loves do her homework in my bedroom, I love take them to the movies or shopping.

My hostmom is my American mom. I feel like I have two mothers, one in my hometown and the other here. Some days she is not so talkative but I know handle it. Even my family in my country have bad days, rigth. So I know everything is gonna be ok soon.

There are some rares moments when I dont feel like part of the family but I always think about the great things they do to me like my schedule, they pay more than 500 dollars to classes [they let the aupair study whatever they want to], they let me go do groceries and buy anything I want then they pay me back on Fridays, I have really good privilegies and Im really thankfull.

I came to this family in rematch and it was the best thing that happened in my aupair life. This one are my perfect match and I fell so blessed to live with them.

They are really my American family. :)

English AuPair January 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Hello… i absolutely love this blog it’s so helpful for us Au Pairs. I am going to be a first time au pair in England in 9 days !! :D but am hoping to use your program next year and come to America…
I’m a bit worried about what my new HF views will be on this subject. We have been in contact for months now and my HM has been wonderful to me and made me feel like a part of the family already, she will text me randomly just to see how i am or send me an email to let me know the latest with the kids. I am however, worried that my expectations will not be met when i get there. I am very nervous about not knowing what to do on my time off etc…

NannyKelly January 27, 2010 at 8:42 am

I would have loved to be treated more like a member of the family than as a cheap form of help. (I was an au pair in France).

Things I would have appreciated:
1) When I was sick, that they would have offered for a babysitter to come, not the the little girl stay home and force me to work extra, though it was a “quiet day at home” (the little girl stayed at home on avg. of two or three days a month-for no reason)
2) That I would have been paid for the gas that I used to haul the kids around (to and from school- a distance of 5 miles each way, 4 days a week and at lunch, taking the little boy to kung fu-a distance of 15 miles, taking them to their grandparents- 15 to 20 miles, and other outings during school holidays). I spent 20-30 euro a week on gas alone and I rarely drove anywhere for myself
3) that I wouldn’t have been expected to pick the cherries of the cherry tree (absolutely ridiculous)
4) that instead of making fun of the cupcakes my mom sent me and thinking I didn’t understand what they were saying, to just let me have a nice birthday
5) respecting my choices to not eat meat, instead of forcing me and saying its part of being in another culture (a vegetarian of 10 years, being forced to eat horse! now i’m a vegan)
6) inviting me to their chalet in the swiss alps occasionally and offering to help pay for my rental ski supplies (all of my friends had help from their host families), i couldn’t afford such a luxury
7) that when they left me for two weeks to go to their ski chalet, to leave me money for food or some food at least. all I was left with was dry pasta, canned sauce, and a can of mushrooms. i spent alot of my own money buying food.

PA Au Pair Mom January 27, 2010 at 9:17 am

NannyKelly:

Sorry that you weren’t treated very nicely by your HF. It does seem like they took advantage of you in many ways.

I think this is why American agencies have a lot of rules….to protect AP’s from host families like the one you experienced.

NannyKelly January 28, 2010 at 5:24 am

Thank you.

I’m very happy to see all of the rules with the American agencies and how much it is regulated. The French could take a lesson from this, I feel like so many girls are being exploited. I wasn’t the only one, lots of my friends had stories as well.

I’m still so hurt by the way the treated me, I wish I could find a way to have closure. :(

SquishyCass January 29, 2010 at 5:52 am

I like this topic! :) I feel more a part of the family in my current host fam, than i did with my first family.

To be a part of the family means to be treated as such, as an eaqual, and the adults that we are. To me its about kindness, caring and genuine heartfelt compassion for each other. The kind of feelings you would have for your real family back home. Its about helping out when needed, and looking out for each other. Doing things without being asked. And the little things.

My curent host family does alot of things to make me feel like I’m family. Asking if i’d like to join them out for dinner, asking me how my day went, buying things at the grocery store they know i eat, respecting my privacy, teaching the children that i’m to be treated as family, the kids giving me hugs and kisses and saying ‘i love you cassie’ and ‘i will miss you’ when i go out for an evening, my host parents being genuinely interested in how my weekend was (even if i did or didn’t go out of town), texting me to see how the night is going (when they’re out and i’m working), asking how i’m feeling when I’m sick, letting me have a bbq get together with friends, talking and having conversations with my friends!, giving me rides to places when needed (usually the bus stop at the end of my street – once at night so my friends and i could go out!), telling me in advance that the car is available for me to use, going on vacations with them, spending some down time with them and watching some tv, spending holidays together (ie CHRISTMASSSSS!!!) and one thing that stood out was my host mum’s genuine concern for my safety and well being after being unable to contact me a whole day (day after i had gone out clubbing!) I arrived home a little later than expected to a very distraught host mum and I was worried I would get into trouble, (because my phone battery had died and I couldnt remember anyone’s number, was staying at a new friends house and was meant to be home alot earlier that day! – I blame the hangover! lol) but instead she looked at me and said ‘thank god you’re okay!’ and hugged me, then informed me she needed to call the police station back and tell them I’d come home! :) I never really thought they cared THAT much about me untill that day. Thats when I knew this family was the best decision!

Things that my first host family did that took away that ‘family’ feel;
*Being forgotten on my birthday (after spending 8 months with them!)
*Telling the 2 and a half year old on my birthday that it means i’m getting “old”.
*Overriding my answers when the kids asked me for/ to do something.
*Not being as conversational and genuinely interested in me, my day, my culture etc etc.
*Getting into ‘trouble’ -so to speak- for having a cold, because the kid’s would get sick, and then my host dad would get sick and he’d have to take time off work.
This one fits more into ‘feeling like family’ but not in the right context… I was banned from using the car (of which i hardly got personal use of!) on my off time because i went out to my friends one saturday night to get ready to go out and said i’d have it back by 9, only to lose track of time and call them and tell them that – Sorry! I lost track of time and i’d have it back a little later than expected … is that cool with you? Otherwise I’ll come home and finish getting ready. And my HM said ‘yes thats okay’.. I returned it about an hour later than i thought and they were at home watching a movie… Then, not the following day (sunday) but the Monday I got told that I was unable to use the car due to the timely manner in which i returned it on sat night and I would be banned for – at first – a month! Then the next day they discussed it and reduced it to two weeks!!! I felt like a 16 year old who had just taken the car out for a hooligan drive with freinds and broke a million laws! :( (I am 22 by the way!!!!)

Anyway im sure there are millons of other ways my current host fam make me feel like family, and hearing all my friends stories now, i can realate to them from my past experience with my old HF, but it makes me all the more thankfull that i have them. Oh my, I will miss them though!!!

aria February 20, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I’m so glad this blog exists!! I’m in my second HF now, and I’m ten times happier than I was in the first (as is probably obvious from my comments a few months ago!)

Some things I didn’t like!

1) After just drinking a big bottle of water one evening, and going to tinkle a few times, my HD confronted me dead serious and asked ‘what I kept doing in the bathroom, and whether I was going #2.’
(?????)

2) Coming in on Monday morning to find a MOUNTAIN- a literal mountain of nasty, dirty dishes (even though they had a dishwasher!!) piled up from the weekend, all ready for me to wash after I had been out (not shared any meals) all weekend.

3) Doing the HP’s laundry? And being scolded when it came out too wrinkled. Family does not mean I like washing your soiled underpinnings, thank you very much.

4) Snide comments about my culture, my eating habits, my political beliefs, etc. But when I tried to defend myself, the conversation was no longer deemed ‘interesting,’ and I was left alone at the table.

5) Being told that ‘all of their au pair’s cry for the first few months because of the children. It’s normal.’ No, it’s not, your children are just extremely undisciplined and it’s no surprise that your lack of support would drive multiple girls to tears.

BUT! My new family is great! Stuff I like:

1) They respect me. When they ask my opinion about a topic at the dinner table, they listen to me the way they would listen to a close friend, not a silly child.

2) They do not berate me in front of the children. If they have an issue with the way I do things, they will speak to me privately about it, but will always emphasize that ‘Aria is the boss when mommy and daddy aren’t around.’

3) They are appreciative and considerate. My twin boys have been sick for the past three weeks, and it’s been a lot of 12 hours days. I don’t even mind, because they’re angels, but my HM still took it upon herself to take days off at her job (without me asking) to give me some ‘catch up days to rest.’ She always has backup care available, and never makes me miss a class.

4) For the boys’ birthday, I knit them each matching scarves to go with the hats I had knitted them when I first arrived. I love knitting! My HM noticed, and bought me a ticket for an all day knitting convention on my day off. ‘Because I stay with them when they were sick.’ (!!! of course!)

5) They’re honest and they don’t try to take advantage. I’m always willing to go above and beyond for them because I know it’s not just expected that I will, but genuinely appreciated. I love my new HF!!!!

(wow, sorry about the massive post! This blog is addictive! Thank you!!)

au pair February 21, 2010 at 10:58 am

Oh yes, the dishes thing…irritated me so much!

Czech Aupair May 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm

I like my hostfamily a lot and I even extended with them but I don´t feel like a part of the family but I dont want to be as I love my real family 2 much. I can never feel like a part as there will always be a difference between the hostchilds and you in the way the host parents treat you. And nevertheless you work for them and you are kinda of an employee… I have a good relationship to my host family but I feel more like a friend. Def not like family.

Rossana Sasso August 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I am close to the end of my 1 year au pairing with a British family. To be honest, I did it so I could get a work permit, so it is why I put up with a lot. I don’t feel part of the family at all, actually I feel less than a servant.
There is never any food bought for me, not even lesser quality stuff. I do all the cleaning, all the laundry , all the dishes ( including big piles of mess on Monday morning after I’ve been out at my boyfriend’s since Friday and left the house immaculate). I am expected to get up every morning at 5 am and make everyone’s breakfast and my duties end at 10 o’clock at night with washing up and cleaning after a dinner I wasn’t allowed to share.
Also I get bullied for little things like how I leave the kitchen foil roll , that leads to screaming and even pushing me around. The father refers to me as “what’s her face”, i don’t think he’s ever learnt my name after 10 months. I am supposed to get 2 days of off time a week and that gets ignored on a regular basis .
So in my opinion the whole au pair as part of the family is a big joke. I love the Uk and I love my boyfriend so I am going through all this in order to be able to stay here , but I wouldn’t advise anyone to apply for this sort of job.

PA AP mom August 5, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I am really sorry that you were treated that way. It’s inappropriate, to say the least.

I know that there are some really rotten host families out there and it always pains me to read these stories.

CS Nanny August 5, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I sympathize with you as I stayed with a terrible family (but not at all like yours) because I loved Switzerland. I am trying to figure out how to word this because I don’t want to get flammed. My mother used to tell me that if you’re not willing to change something, then you don’t get to complain about it. The family should not treat you anywhere close to how they are, but you should have never allowed them to begin to treat you in that manner to begin with. If you went to the UK with an agency, did you inform them of how you were being treated?

Rossana Sasso August 5, 2010 at 7:10 pm

The situation is a bit tricky for me because of the laws regarding my nationality in the UK. My agency has it on the first page that they cannot match you with another UK family if you fall out with the first one, but they’ll try to get you a place somewhere else in Europe.
I am forbidden to work any other job until I do 12 months of continuous employment under a accession work permit so…I really really want to stay .
I have only another 8 weeks to go and a Masters in Law waiting for me after that ( still in the Uk, at a prestigious university) so I will count this experience as a toughening one. I doubt I’ll ever encounter anything as demeaning and difficult as this.

CS Nanny August 5, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I understand your frustration. I truly hate the policy in some countries regarding rematching. It’s not fair that an aupair can only have one family or they have to go home, yet a crappy family can get a new aupair. Well, good luck. Try to keep your head up! And if you do not need a reference from this family, stand up for yourself! Don’t let them take away days off from you. You work long hours, and you DESERVE time for you!

First Time HP August 5, 2010 at 7:22 pm

A terrible situation to be sure but please don’t discourage others from becoming an AP because your example is the exception and not the norm. Its like saying I went to the doctor and he gave me bad advice so no one should go to see any doctor.

The majority are caring families who are really trying to make this a positive experience for all involved. I’d suggest helping other potential APs by offering tips on what to look out for so they don’t fall into the same situation.

Rossana Sasso August 5, 2010 at 7:42 pm

I am sure there are some wonderful families out there but to be honest if my (future) daughter would think about doing this I would not let her. It is all personal choice and personal opinion, but I do think girls should know the reality is hardly as rosy as “cultural exchange” and “member of the family”. Truth is that an au pair is needed because there is no time, no energy or no capacity to deal with all a family has to deal with and that means there will often be no time to deal with her needs. So don’t go into this thinking it will be easy. I know my experience has probably been on the darkest side of the moon, and my determination is not shared by most but things are rarely as pretty as they want to sound anyway.
As for things to look out for…it’s quite hard to tell. I had 4 years legal experience and still got fooled by a contract using general terms as : “help with the laundry” ( i.e. do it all yourself), we have a cleaner ( coming once a month before we’ll sack her and let you do it all, what are we paying you for after all?!). Asking for an up-front approximate schedule of a working day could work if you could bring it out later as the tasks pile on and say something. Hopefully you won’t be met with “Don’t you tell me what to do” when you respectfully demand to talk.

Jan August 5, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Reminds me of the book by Sophia Kinsella – The Undomestic Goddess. The only difference is that she’s the housekeeper! Good luck.

Rossana Sasso August 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

And no sexy gardner or a big account to pay all the things I don’t want to do ;).

Chev August 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I’ve been with my fam for a year and a half and i feel like i’m actually family. I don’t consider my HP’s like my actual mum and dad, i have a mum and don’t need a replacement but they’re definitely family, not just the family i work for.
It’s the little things like asking how my day was, and if i’ve had a tough day with the boys and we go out to dinner, ordering my fave cocktail for me. They mostly always take into consideration my feelings and thoughts. There are definitely times when i’m ready to vent to my friends about the dirty bottles or high chairs that are left for me on Monday morning but considering i’ve been here a year and a half and thats the only thing i can complain about, i think i have it pretty great.
I’ve done this program twice and had friends whose HP’s don’t even treat them like an employee, it’s more – you’re here to look after the children, i don’t have to talk to you or consider that you might not want to have to wash the kids dishes that we left dirty just so you can feed our children. I’ve had one friend whose HD didn’t even talk to her except to give orders or derisive comments. Those are the stories that make me want to cry and wonder how some families even make it into a program let alone stay in one for the five or so years her family had been in it when she got there.

Andrea Cam October 14, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Part of the family, please! Slavery, pure and simple. I got hit, cursed, humilliated, rolled eyes and mimicked voice in front of a house full of people to make the host “mother” ( ha! ) look good and me look unreasonable after I had broken my back working for her on one of my “weekends off”. I wasn’t payed because “there are no ATMs around and I cannot take cash out”. Yeah, difficult when you work in the center of London, no cash machines, you see.
They are all complaining, this site is full of them : “oh, my au-pair isn’t working weekends”, “my au-pair doesn’t put inside her the tampons *I*, monarch host-mother said she has to use so she can take my children swimming”, “my au-pair stays late out with friends “. Please, would you let someone treat your DAUGHTER like that? Seriously, is someone forced your daughter to wear internal tampons while she was on her period if she didn’t want to, would you not kill them? Or raised their voice and harmed them over kitchen foil?
I am fully behind Rossana on this one, anyone wanting to be an au-pair, STAY AWAY, it’s slavery.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 15, 2010 at 8:56 am

My first thought, if au pairing makes you so angry, why do you continue? I’m sorry that your family treats you so badly – no one should be hit, but surely you have recourse to leave a negative work situation.

My second thought is that the AP life in the United States tends to be very different than in Europe, based on the AP complaints I have read on this blog. I’m not saying it’s perfect (or even always good), but the expectation, as set up by the agencies and the U.S. State Dept. is that the AP is part of the family. Your experience in London will be different from that of most APs in Washington, for example, and part of that difference is how the program is set up in the US.

Finally, yes, this blog is set up to respond to complaints — and because it’s called Au Pair Mom — those tend to come from HMs, but there are plenty of topics which APs initiated, too. But, if you take a moment to read all the comments–and I’ll pick the tampon thread, since you brought it up–you’d realize that not all the HMs agreed with the OP, and that it became a real dialogue about cultural difference and expectations that arise when two cultures meet, but also about the diversity of opinion within the US. There are plenty of positive threads, about how to celebrate birthdays, Christmas and how to say goodbye to a beloved AP.

Nina November 7, 2010 at 5:46 pm

What does it mean to you to be “part of the family”?
Just to be thought of and known that I’m there. Being able to join family outings, sit at the table together for dinner, joining in conversations. Just the small things which make up “family life”.

What do host families do that helps you feel “part of the family”?
*I had the second biggest room in the house (the kids had the biggest – the parents even gave up their master bedroom for me!)
*They wanted to reschedule their sports training so I could take up a Greek language class
*I was invited to every meal time, but although it wasn’t a big deal if I wasn’t there, they’d worry that I was getting ill because I wasn’t eating.
*My opinions on childcare were taken into consideration (I don’t mean I sat down saying “you’re awful parents, I think you should change X, Y or Z”, I mean things like asking if it’d be a good idea to get protecters on the electrical sockets when the girls suddenly became toddlers and were all over the house sticking their fingers in the sockets, or “hey, I read X in a parents book, what do you think of it” because hey, I was there to learn myself!)
*Taking me away with them on weekend trips
*when I slept through my alarm, my HD took me to the airport in the early hours of the morning so I didn’t miss my plane and I got there just as check in was closing

What do host families do that takes away from feeling “part of the family”?
*I wasn’t allowed to stay in the living room in the evenings, except if neither parents were at home and I’d done all the ironing.
*I was only seen as “the au pair” (I did kind of hope I’d be like “the big sister”)
*Not telling me in advance when they needed me for babysitting, so I had to give up my plans an awful lot on the spur of the moment

I believe I had an awesome HF, and I did, as a whole, feel like I was part of the family, and I have been invited back if I want to work there again after I have finished my degree (and you guys have no idea how tempting that is!)

Should be working November 8, 2010 at 5:00 am

Wow, not allowed in the living room? And that ‘privilege’ contingent on ironing? And unplanned babysitting? I can’t imagine how that fits in with some of the good stuff listed above that. I never cease to be shocked at other people’s standards for treating APs.

FirstTimeAuPair June 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

I’m a Swedish girl, 22yrs old, going to be a first time AuPair in London starting this autumn, assuming I find a hostfamily, I’m in the matchingprocess at the moment and I’ve given a lot of thought about the “being part of a family” thing.

For me it means being able to spend time with the family off-duty, being able to chit-chat about daily things like how the day has been and being invited to outings with the family, birthdays maybe or other trips and in general just being able/allowed to socialise with them.

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