Phases of the AP Year

by cv harquail on June 2, 2008

To everything, there is a season.…. this was true of your relationships with your college boyfriends, and it’s true of your relationships with APs.


Every AP relationship follows a predictable pattern– the anxiety of selection, the celebration of finding someone, the anticipation of her arrival, the chaos of orientation, the ease of the cruising time, and the difficulty of detaching to say goodbye. I like to break these into 4 Seasons: Before, Beginning, During, and Ending. Okay, so those labels aren’t very creative; but they’ll do for now.

It helps to remember that there are particular activities and emotions that go with each cycle. Knowing in advance what you might need to do in a certain phase of the cycle keeps you organized and more or less in charge of it. Considering in advance how you and your AP might feel during that phase helps you anticipate and work with whatever else might jump out at you.

Because it’s springtime, most HM are dealing with either the Beginning or the Ending phases- sometimes both at once if you are getting a new AP while saying goodbye to your current one. Because my neighbor MT is getting her first AP this month, and because I promised her that she and her girls will love having an AP, I want to start with advice for Beginning an AP relationship.

Technically, the Beginning is actually a little too late for thinking about how to ‘start’ your AP-HM relationship– you’ve already set a lot of it in motion in the ways that you selected your AP. Still, the Beginning is when you still have a relatively blank slate; you can make this relationship great.

The Beginning phase covers the first 4 or 5 weeks of your AP’s year. It includes these challenges/tasks:

  1. Welcoming your AP
  2. Orienting your AP
  3. Training your AP

Welcome, Au Pair, Advice, Phases, Year, scroll

Each of the challenges in The Beginning have their own specific events attached to them. If we start with Welcoming your AP, this includes

  • — Sending her a ‘just before you leave home’ email
  • — Sending her a package at Agency Orientation (at the hotel)
  • — Calling her at the Orientation hotel
  • — Greeting her at the airport, train station or orientation site
  • — Bringing her to your town/ house
  • — Having her room ready
  • — Having a plan for the first few days

Are there any big activities or goals that I’ve missed here? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

Geez, who knew there was so much to simply welcoming your Au Pair? Well, there doesn’t have to be– there are lots of ways to approach the challenges of making her feel welcome. Keep a good spirit in your heart, wish her the very best, and be optimistic. Consider this list (and all the others to follow) as the ‘superset’ of options and choose the ones that work for you.

Welcome, Au Pair, Advice, Phases, horses



Your challenge is to think about:


  1. What would you like your AP’s first impressions of your family, and you, to be?
  2. If you were 22 and from another country, what would a warm welcome look like to you?

Tell us what you think, below.

Next up: The ‘B4 you leave home’ email.


Carol August 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

Dear Au Pair Mom.. you are so sweet!!! I hope I can find a HM just like you :)

anon for this December 29, 2011 at 5:46 pm

really looking to vent, but even better to receive some advice on handling the ‘final season’ of one APs year and the start of the next. Our AP has not been easy to connect with at any stage, but her childcare skills are phenomenal. I am an effusive person, can’t help it, I shower praise and affection, especially to the woman whom I feel has done a marvelous job with helping me take care of my small children. She has been, well, a little harder to love in the past few weeks. Still doing her job, but the one word answers, the flat, blank stares, the subtle eye rolls that I guess she doesn’t think I notice, are driving me up the wall. I work from home, it is awkward and uncomfortable and I’m to the point (today) where I don’t feel I have the energy to continue to engage someone who is acting like a sullen teenager. We invited her to extend but knew she probably would not due to obligations back home. She is complaining on fb, not specifically about us, just about life in general, how things are not fair (i.e., everyone else is doing xyz, everyone else got xyz for christmas). We were very generous with her gifts, and have been w/ schedules and vacation time so her posts are not only hurtful, they are downright confusing. Now our new AP is scheduled to arrive, the two of them communicate, and I have two concerns. How to get through this final ‘season’ of our AP year, and how to prevent current AP from tainting new AP year before she has even started it. DH says there is nothing I can do/say to her, can’t control what she may/may not be saying, she probably has mixed feelings about going home, etc. It hurts me, but I’m also concerned about 2012 and setting ourselves up for a good year. My kids are too young to really understand what is going on, but probably pick up on the negative energy to say the least.
Thanks in advance for any advice or moral support!

anon for this December 29, 2011 at 5:49 pm

PS_ this post may seem that I haven’t tried to engage her, ask her what is wrong, how she is feeling, what she might need, etc.. I have, maybe too many times, she either won’t or can’t tell me what’s up, and I do not believe it would be at all productive to try and have another conversation like that or express how much we will miss her, etc.

anon for this December 30, 2011 at 10:48 am

Just bumping this thread in hopes that someone has had a similar experience or some words of wisdom for me!

Anna December 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm

anon for this, in your situtation I would do anything I can to prevent the new au pair from meeting the old one. This has the potential to spoil the whole year for you or set you up for a quick rematch, if the old bitter au pair badmouthes your family to the new one.
I would pay her for all her remaining time, and give her extra vacation starting a day or two before the new au pair arrives, and help her plan that vacation away from your home.

Anna December 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm

P.S. I know how hard it can be when the au pair decided not to have any relationship with you (I’ve had this situation), the atmosphere in the home is very unpleasant. I hope that your new au pair is a ray of sunshine compared to the old one, and you will feel the positive difference right away.

AFHostMom December 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Well, you can only control your actions and words at this point. Just be as welcoming to the new AP, and upbeat/excited, as possible. If the new AP is a reasonable person it won’t take her long to realize it was sour grapes from the outgoing AP. And if she’s not reasonable or puts too much stock in it even after being at your home, honestly it might be for the best. Best of luck!

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