Poll: Does your Au Pair join you for dinner?.

by cv harquail on April 8, 2009

Does your Au Pair eat dinner with you and your kids ...

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If your children and you parents eat at different times, does your

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freeformkatya.jpg Our family tradition

Sitting down together at the table for supper is one of my favorite moments of the day.

During the week, when it’s just us girls, we all hold hands and sing grace before we eat. In that brief moment, everything is peaceful and undeniably happy. Then we let of each other’s hands, and the craziness begins anew.

Dinnertime = Food and Family Time

Some days, just singing grace together can shift the whole feeling of the day.  It can be a great time to refresh our collective spirit, which is especially important if it’s been a hard day for the kids, for me, or for our au pair.

Supper is a social time for us. We talk a lot at the dinner table, about important things and completely silly things. The girls tell about their day, I try to mention what anyone has done well, or what problems have gotten solved, or what someone has learned, and I ask our au pair to tell us what’s up with her. For my family, eating supper together is a important ritual, and we try to do it as often as possible.

During the Week

I have always encouraged our au pairs to have dinner with us during the week. Usually they are on duty anyway, since I can never quite time when we’ll sit down or be finished. The only times we haven’t had our au pairs join us regularly were when two different au pairs went on weird diets that emphasized Slimfast and CheezDoodles. Oh, and then there was that one au pair who just was unpleasant. In truth, it was a relief not to have to talk with her at dinner.

On weekends it’s a different story.

Saturdays our au pairs have either been on duty while my husband and I go out, or they have been off having fun. On Sundays, our au pairs are usually off duty and thus in NYC having fun. When our au pair is around the house on the weekends, I do invite her to join us. But I try to ask before I start to cook, so that I have enough food and she has enough time to decide what would work for her.

Because dinner time is not just about food,  I absolutely try not to take it personally if our au pair chooses not to eat with us– eventually you’d get tired of even my home cookin’.  Since dinnertime is a social time that requires everyone to exert a little interpersonal energy, I also understand that our au pairs may sometimes just not feel up to it. Au Pairs need some downtime when they don’t have to be chatty, fully awake, or responsible. Also, sometimes my husband and I need the downtime.

What’s it like in your family?


First time host mom April 9, 2009 at 1:50 am

Our au pair normally sits down with us during the week but rarely on the weekends. Our daughter calls her for dinner but she says she doesn’t want to eat. Our au pair is very reserved and shy so at first, I thought it was a bit awkward since we normally talk about our days during meals. She quietly eats her meal and smiles sometimes. We still have four more months to go until she leaves but I have learned to deal with her quiet personality. She has never said “delicious” or “yummy” although I pretty much cook her home country dishes almost everyday… I also learned not to take it personnal if she doesn’t say thank you for taking her somewhere, for getting her a present from a business trip I take. I believe she was never taught these things and if she is 23 years old, it is not my place to educate her now…

Anonymous April 9, 2009 at 1:54 am

Are there really au pairs that eat with their family when they are off-duty??? For many months I scheduled my au pair during dinner so could help me with clean-up and simply be an extra set of hands. Lately my schedule has changed and I need to schedule her on-duty time during other times, not during dinner. Since then my au pair simply will not eat with us. She goes to her room, waits until we are done with dinner, then comes to the kitchen to fix herself a plate and takes it back to her room. Sometimes she waits until we are asleep before she eats dinner. The first few months, she used to eat with us regardless of being on or off-duty. Now she helps only when she is on-duty, she doesn’t go the extra mile anymore, but that is another issue. It’s become an employee/employer relationship, and I don’t like it, in fact I’m dissatisfied with it. I read some of the grocery posts and became very resentful of the families with au pairs that still join them for dinner even when they are off-duty. Should I take her not joining the family personally? We have always been considerate, asking what foods she likes, etc. Or is it that the mystique of being an au pair in a host family has worn off?

cynthia April 9, 2009 at 2:17 am

Our au pair eats with us off and on. Truthfully, we rarely eat at an organized time or I or my hubby try to cram around our tiny table in order to get our 11 month old twins involved. Many times she naps after I come home and is asleep during dinner. I usually call her down for dinner and she may or may not join us. Sometimes we’ll sit in front of the TV and she’ll eat in the kitchen alone and other times she will join us. Sometimes we prefer she not join us – we’ve both had long days and just want to eat and don’t want to talk to anyone (not even eachother) and other times we like it when she joins us and we can ask her about herself. I think we’ve reached a good balance she feels comfortable to eat with us but if she really wants down time she can too. Quite frankly there are many nights where everyone just fends for themselves and we’ll all eat/pick at things and various times. I don’t get offended when she does not want to eat with us and figure she’s been with two infants all day and just needs some downtime.

Rayann April 9, 2009 at 2:31 am

Our au pair almost always joins HD and I for dinner. We eat separately from the kids on weeknights, and with them on weekends. During the week, I get dinner ready for the kids as soon as I get home from work, then after the kids are in bed, AP, HD and I open a bottle of wine and cook/eat together. I absolutely love that time. We consider ourselves “foodies”, so we love to try new recipes and experiment with new foods. Fortunately, our au pair will eat almost anything, and she’s always right there in the kitchen with us helping out. There are exceptions to this – maybe once or twice a week she goes out with her friends and is not home for dinner.

Weekends are a different story, and we all eat as a family. She often cooks Macedonian cuisine for the family, which is great fun! I would say she eats with us 80-90% of the time, and she is very rarely “on duty” during the dinner hour. I’d be disappointed, I think, if our AP didn’t join us for dinner – it’s such a great, informal way to get to know each other.

AupairT April 9, 2009 at 2:36 am

I was an aupair a few years ago and whenever I was home for dinnertime I would eat with my hostfamily ( I was always off duty at dinnertime). During the week I usually made the dinners too, since my hostmum was often gone for work and my hostdad came home late, so I didn’t want him to have to worry about dinner as soon as he got home.
For my hostfamily too dinnertime was a familything, the kids would talk about their favorite things of the day, what they did in school and what else they had done. And I also told my hostparents about our day, what we did, what difficulties we might have had with the kids behaviour or what the kids achieved, so my hostparents got to know how our days were spent while they were not at home.

On the weekends I had dinner with them whenever I was home, if I was gone for the day and would eat dinner elsewhere I told them in the morning.

For me it was the most normal thing in the world to eat with my family and of course help with the dishes (even if my hostdad hardly ever let me :o), even if I wasn’t on duty, just as I would at home!


au pair April 9, 2009 at 2:37 am

I have a question about this “eating together”.

I will be joining my host family next week. I have lots of doubts of how to act. I really want to make part of the family, but I am afraid I can cross the limits. I would love to always have dinner with my host family, also it would be great to cook for them as I do in my country with my own family. But how will I know they wont want to have dinner without me so they can have their family time without the AP ? How am I supposed to know when I am welcome for dinner and when I am not? I just want my family to feel comfotable with me in the house….

Former aupair April 9, 2009 at 3:06 am

I just want to let all the mom’s know what is the reason why most of the aupairs don’t enjoy family for dinner. The aupair stayed with your children for the whole day while you were working. As well you can’t wait to see your kids when you get home, the aupair can’t wait to stop seeing them!! It is not about be a bad aupair or not to love your children, It is just about the situation!!
Imagine if after working 8 hours every day, you still have to sit and have dinner with our co-workers or your boss every night. Doesn’t it seems anoying??
And again, it is noting personal with host families and kids. It is just the situation!

D April 9, 2009 at 5:18 am

We must be spoiled as our au pair loves to join us for dinner. In fact tonight she cooked for us too. :) Both au pairs we have had love to be with us at supper time. Sometimes we all eat the same thing. While other eves we all fix our own meal but join together at the table to chat. I would say we have a true family set up.

Our au pair sometimes has plans for the gym or does activites on occasion, during those times she eats out. Whenever possible though if she is here, she joins us for supper. On weekends though….she hangs out in her room to relax & doesn’t join us for lunch or bkfst. Absolutely normal.

I guess we could go either way. If our au pair joins us great, if not thats OK too. Only thing we ask is if you join us, then help clean up after the meal. I would say if an au pair is not joining the family ever, then thats an issue. As once in a while is part of being a family member.


Mom of 2 Girls April 9, 2009 at 5:25 am

We’re on our 3rd AP now, and have had every variation of the dinner situations. I try not to take it personally if they care not to join us, as our family dinners are anything but relaxing most of the time with a toddler and an older child who complains about just about everything served, even if she’s previously eaten it and liked it! And I am the first to admit that I’m not the greatest cook, although I think our meals are OK–sometimes I get a “yummy” or “can you teach me how to make this?” Our latest AP has accompanied me to Dream Dinners (you choose your meals and the ingreadients are all set up with recipes for you to assemble – they do all the prep work & clean up for you!) and thought it was a great concept. Who knows, maybe she’ll start something similar in her home country someday. We feel it’s important to have everyone talk about their day, and have a pleasant conversation while eating as often as possible. My biggest pet peeve with our previous two APs was they would cruise through the kitchen to see what was being prepared and if they didn’t think they’d like it, turn up their noses and announce that they would eat something later or go out with friends. I try not to take it personally, but when an obese teenager is eating fast food several nights a week, it’s hard not to want to tell them to change their eating habits. Plus I hope that they’d want to set a good example for my kids and model healthy eating habits, but I realize that I’m not their parent and as First Time Host Mom said, “it’s the way they’ve been raised.” We can only keep trying and hope that later it may finally click.

A-Mom-ymous April 9, 2009 at 5:32 am

I totally hear you on wanting to flee once parents come home! I also absolutely understand the stereotypical greeting of the spouse at the door with a martini upon returning home from work. This is the great lesson of my second child. : )

Nor can I blame an AP for not wanting to sit through uncomfortable conversations when parents are trying to pull some sort of detail about what happened at school from a “everything was fine” sort of child. It makes me squirm and re-live my own childhood, too! I can imagein that since APs are a little closer to their own childhoods, they aren’t really interesting in going through that discomfort (esp with school-age kids).

But… on happy days, sitting down to eat with us once in awhile would really feel good. We want to think that you like us enough to prefer us to eating alone. In our culture, or at least the culture of my family, eating alone is a very sad situation and as a mom, I don’t like feeling that I’ve foisted that on a young woman.

Calif Mom April 9, 2009 at 6:36 am

au pair — with question about how to know if host family wants space or wants you to join them — ASK!

And congratulations on finding a family. It is great that you are looking for answers, I think it shows you care very much and want to do a good job, and that is the most important thing. It must be scary and exciting to be almost starting your big adventure!

The more things you ask about now, even before you are in the States, the easier it will feel when you arrive. Ask your host family to give you a detailed schedule of your days, too, so you will know what to expect. And ask about their family’s handbook. If they do not have one, your asking may cause them to google it and find this blog, and make one! And that would be good for you, too!

Summers can be hard for new au pairs, because there is less school for the kids and the days can feel very long — so please ask about that schedule, too, and how it will be different from the schedule when you first arrive.

These are reasonable things to ask about! do not be shy!!! A good AP family wants you to feel comfortable in their home.

Best wishes for a fabulous year!

Calif Mom April 9, 2009 at 6:48 am

Rayann — I’m insanely jealous of your set up. And having once had an AP who always joined us for dinner and occasionally cooked when I had to work late, I do miss that a lot.

I wonder if age is a factor here? Are the closer-to-25 yo’s more likely to want to eat on their own (even if they are just hitting the kitchen later in the evening and getting the same thing the rest of you ate earlier)? Are the closer-to-20 than 25 yo’s more likely to sit at the table with you?

Or is it an introvert/extrovert thing? I have a hunch it’s the latter.

It makes me twinge a little bit that my AP loves my cooking but doesn’t eat with us. She will tell me the next day how good it was when she ate it at 10 p.m… Ahhhh, like the line from the Jimmy Stewart movie, “Youth is wasted on the wrong people.”

Anonymous April 9, 2009 at 7:37 am

I usually dont join my host family at the dinner table as I think they’d want to have that time for themselves

au pair April 9, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Calif Mom – thank you for the advice. I will keep it in mind. My host mom have given me the spring/summer schedule already. I think it´s a great opportunity for me to know the kids better once I will spend more time with them.

I am really looking foward to make my family happy this year I will be with them I just don´ t want to take their privacy´s family. I will keep my eyes open and the conversation open so I´ ll know when I am welcome o join them.

Rayann April 9, 2009 at 6:27 pm

I think the introvert/extrovert thing probably has more to do with it than age. Our au pair is 22, and she is very outgoing. She often accompanies HD and me out to wine dinners and events with friends if they fall at a time when she is “off duty” and because of that she has gotten to know all of our friends, and actually socializes with them even without us. We have a family in our cluster that has recently left the program because their au pair was so introverted. She would go to her room immediately after her shift, and they would see no sign of her until her next shift. She wasn’t going to cluster meetings, getting out, etc…they did everything they could, but just couldn’t make it work.

Here’s another thought on this situation. Do you think it makes a difference how the au pairs quarters are set in the home? I know some families have these great private areas for their au pairs – full basement, TV, wet bar, family room, private bath and bedroom in a separate part of the house. Do those au pairs tend to socialize with the family less? Our au pair shares a wing of the house with the kids – and while she has a private bedroom, there’s not a private anything else. Perhaps that encourages her to socialize more since there’s nowhere else for her to go?

I think the socialness (is that a word?) of the family makes a difference, too. HD and I are very social people. We host a monthly wine group, have regular parties, and entertain a lot in our home. I think that fosters an environment that encourages hanging out in the evenings. We’re both talkative, and love hearing about the never ending drama within our au pair cluster. :-) Our au pair is also very open, so we always get details of her time with friends, her latest romantic interest, or her upcoming plans.

Interesting topic that I’d never thought much about…. I’m going to encourage our AP (who is currently on vacation with two other au pairs) to hop on here and give some input. :-)

Franzi April 10, 2009 at 12:38 am

what you have to keep in mind is what the AP is used to from home. how is dinner “celebrated” in her family? if everyone eats by themselves, chances are, she is not used to this family-madness and might be overwhelmed by it.

also, some families tend to overdo the “how was your day” thing and it feels more like an interrogation rather than a pleasant conversation.

if you value dinner time a lot, then make sure, during the matching process, the AP understands what you expect and what you value and how she fits in there.

Anonymous April 10, 2009 at 1:56 am

This is a site for host moms not au pairs and I’m sure there are blogs out there to support au pairs. As a host mom, I do not appreciate hearing au pairs criticize our comments or make comments about our comments. We moms needs our own forum. We juggle a lot and it is quite easy to be a naysayer especially if you have never been a mother or had to run a household.

hostmomtobe April 10, 2009 at 2:50 am

I totally disagree with the above post. I like to read the point of view of an AP. The more information I have, the better host parent I hope to be.

Rayann April 10, 2009 at 4:02 am

I agree with HM2B – I find the feedback from au pairs to be very helpful.

Former Aupair April 10, 2009 at 5:12 am

This post is for Anonymous:
I don’t know you to judge you but it is very important that you consider the aupair opinion because we are the other side of this thing!
I don’t see anyone here criticizing or giving a bad answer. On contrary, most of the times we AP agree with the host mom. Thank you for all the Moms that appreciate our comments! We are here to try to understand what the moms think about any particular situation and also share what we think about it! Communication is always the best way to make the AP program work!!

Busy Mom April 10, 2009 at 7:04 am

I just discovered this blog and it hits upon a number of issues that we’re experiencing with our first au pair. No major issues, but a few minor ones that make it an “okay” experience rather than a “good” or even “great” experience. Reading the dinner comments made me realize that the grass is always greener. Our au pair makes dinner for the kids & eats with them a few nights a week when I am working late. Other nights, I or my husband make dinner. My expectation was that our au pair would eat with us for the first weeks/few months and then start spending more time on her own/with friends and eat with us only occasionally. This hasn’t happened and she pretty much eats with us whenever she’s home (all weeknights & some weekends). It probably wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t feel like the “social” part is missing – she doesn’t participate in dinnertime conversation. Many meals, she says next to nothing. At the beginning of her stay, we put more energy into getting her to converse, but our effort (and hers) have dropped off over time. I know I should try more to get her to participate, but after working all day, I don’t always feel like being in charge of the conversation. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

D April 10, 2009 at 7:05 am

To respond to previous comments about what “type” of an au pair joins the family at the table. Honestly there is no stereotype introvert/extrovert. Both girls we’ve had were both. One is intro & the other extro. We have complete private 3rd level room, with private bed & bath for our au pair. Even though a complete private area….. both au pairs complete different personality join us for us for dinner.

I think it matters on the importance of family to them. Some girls LOVE to be with the family no matter what. The interview process finds that. Our au pair not only eats dinner with us….she sits down with us as a family on the weekend & we play board games. Clue, Life, and those kinds of things. Our au pair has her own set of challenges of course as nobody is ever perfect. But we have a family member….thats what we look for.

Dawn April 10, 2009 at 7:47 pm

We are now hosting our 3rd AP (4th if you count the one who went home after just 3 months), and our APs have always eaten the majority of weeknight dinners with us, and probably about 50/50 on weekend dinners. Our schedule is such that our AP is never “on duty” at dinnertime, but we make it clear that they are “always welcome” but “never required” to join the family for dinner. So basically how it works out is that they join us for dinner anytime they don’t have other plans.

I totally “get” what “Former aupair” is saying above about the AP needing a break after spending all day with the kids, but I am glad that our APs do usually choose to eat dinner with the family. Even though she’s spent all day with the kids, HD and I haven’t spent any time with her during the day, so we welcome the opportunity to have some “family time” (and that includes the AP) at dinner. Typically, there’s an hour or two between the time that the AP is officially “off duty” and dinnertime, so she has that as a bit of downtime to relax in her room or whatever, before coming back to join the family at dinnertime.

As with cvh’s family, Family Dinner is an important tradition in our family as well — and we really do see/treat our APs as members of the family — so I think it would hurt my feelings if our AP chose not to join us for dinner even when she didn’t have other plans.

D, I think you may have hit the nail on the head with the idea that the thing that makes the difference is how important family is to the AP (and add to that, how willing she is to allow the hostfamily to be a “second family,” as I can see some situations where an AP from a very close-knit family simply thinks that “this isn’t MY family,” and so doesn’t wholeheartedly become a member of the host family). Our current AP is the most family-oriented of all of the APs we’ve had, and like yours, she chooses to spend time with us during much of her off-duty time, not just dinner. We love this!

Abby April 11, 2009 at 4:21 am

Both of our APs generally join(ed) us for dinner, unless they or we have alternate plans. They are never on-duty per se, one (current) always helps set table, clean up etc (ie like another adult would).
I have them sit so they are in-between the adults, so they don’t have to help the kids cut the food, etc. – to help them get a bit of a break from direct child-interaction.
I can see that they would need to de-stress after 8-9 hrs of my kids – I often need to too!!! Our dinner is never immediately when I get home, so she has time to hang out for a bit before re-joining the gang. If it sounds like she,s had a challenging day, I’ll lend her the car to go the gym or she’ll go for a walk for the time until dinner.
My only complaint is when (old) AP would say she’s home for dinner, then would get a BBD and not show up.

CV April 11, 2009 at 5:37 am

Abby, what’s a BBD?

D April 11, 2009 at 8:43 am

hmmm… Dawn which leads me to wonder this thought. Is maybe the personality type to join the family at dinner is one whom doesn’t come from a “steady perfect” family herself. You are right….wanting a family & be part of the family is the trait to HAVE when joining an american family. Thats so hard to find…& trully understand.

Gosh I don’t know. We have chosen our next au pair for the fall. We had two girls we loved SO MUCH we had to choose from. 1 sweet girl is from divorced family & helping mom raise her sister. I totally loved this girl! To the other girl, great perfect parents, awesome girl, sweet, loving& giving. Hardest decision of my life. We have chosen the latter. She is a family girl through & through, loves children without a doubt. She’s polite, sweet & amazing. But yet, one thing holds us in doubt. She has an amazing family…..why is she going to be OK with ours in a tough circumstances. I’m going to struggle with this for 4 mos until she arrives. :)))) We just pray we made the right decision.

And yes, we love to have a daughter to love us. :) Our au pairs are our life. I lost my mom & best friend last fall. The girls are my god send (I think) So we only hope….they love the kids kinda like grandma did. Is all.


Abby April 12, 2009 at 1:58 am

BBD = Bigger and Better Deal.

Anna April 12, 2009 at 7:11 am

We have very young children who go to sleep very early, so we don’t have a “family” dinner most nights. We do have a true and gastronomically more elaborate than usual family dinner, including kids (they even get to stay up late) once a week on Friday night. I really do want our au pair to join us for this, because with small children and different schedules, this is pretty much the only “family” event we have.
As to eating with me or my husband during weekdays, our au pairs didn’t. I don’t mind.
I found though that my tolerance for minimal family interaction (including our Friday night dinner) depends on my relationship with an au pair. I wholeheartedly understand and respect her need to leave the house and unwind after a day with the kids, and go out with friends most Fri nights (but our dinner is usually pretty early in the evening and doesn’t interfere with friends plans timewise), if there is an open and genuine goodwill on the au pair’s side. If there isn’t and I am feeling used, not showing up for Fri night dinner on regular basis just adds to the feeling of being used. Our first au pair loved to join us for this meal and loved the food and conversation, it was obvious she enjoyed being with us as a family. Other days of the week we had minimal interaction – she needed to unwind – I totally understood. Our current au pair didn’t join us for Fri night meal for the first three months, and had minimal interaction with us during her other off-duty times – until I had a conversation with her that she should really try to get to know us and maybe find something to like about us. Since that, she joins us maybe once every two-three weeks, and I get the feeling its more for the food than for interaction.

So again, I really want to accomodate different au pairs different personalities, and I will be perfectly happy about their various styles as long as there is an attitude of goodwill and an attempt of liking us from their side. Dinner or no dinner, an effort to treat us, parents, as extended family is what counts. If host mom and dad are the only ones playing the family game, it gets old quickly and we end up feeling used as a layover station on the way to their american dream.

a-Mom-ymous April 13, 2009 at 11:06 pm

nicely put.

mokie April 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm

“For many months I scheduled my au pair during dinner so could help me with clean-up and simply be an extra set of hands. Lately my schedule has changed and I need to schedule her on-duty time during other times, not during dinner. Since then my au pair simply will not eat with us.”

I’m not passing judgment. I just want to point out an alternate point of view on this situation.

By making dinnertime (preparation and/or eating) part of her job, you shifted the social boundaries here. It was not optional time to her to join the family, be part of the family and socialize, but a task she HAD to do as part of her job. It might be that she now sees sitting down to the table and eating with the family as only a work-related task, and one she’s no longer obliged to do since she’s off-duty. Also, she might fear that you still expect her to do the same dinnertime preparation tasks that she did on-duty before.

Regular posting anon April 13, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Am I the only one who prefers for the AP not to join us during family meals? I mean, she is always welcome, and on very rare occasions, she does join us, but I would never complain about her no joining us either.

During the week, when I am home early, sometimes we have dinner me, AP, and two kids. That is fine. Sometimes, even when I am there, only AP and kids eat dinner and I may or may not just sit at the table with them, because I am waiting to have dinner with my husband when her gets home late. By then, kids are sleeping, and AP is either in her room or out of the house.

On weekends, we try to have family dinners at leaset once a week on either Fri or Sat, but that does not happen every week. Also, sometimes we have dinner at 5pm and sometimes at 8 pm. Sometimes, it is a full meal with all the trimmings, and sometimes it is just a bunch of leftovers or snack items just so that kids don’t go to bed hungry. Also, sometimes our dinner time is full of conversation and laughter, and sometimes, it is a very quiet meal where anyone barely talks. All depends on our schedules, moods, level of tiredness, etc. With our erratic schedule and unpredictable meals, we cannot really expect AP to plan to join our dinner when even we don’t know exactly what and when will be happening.

If it is just a leftover or snack dinner, I feel uncomfortable to even call that dinner and thus, inviting AP to eat bits and pieces of foods she eat all week seems strange, and at unpredictable time to boot. When we have one of our quite meals and basically eat and don’t talk, it also feels weird to have AP there because then I feel like I have to entertain her or ask questions, or tell her something. So, we just have a standing invitation for her, and if she wants to join us great, but I do not go out of my way to remind her or specifically invite her.

This also may have to do with our overall relationship with our AP, but so far, with AP’s we’ve had, neither has been great. One we rematched. The one we rematched barely ate anything anyway and lived entirely on cottage cheese. The other one, although she eat normal foods and loves my cooking, basically disappears from Fri night to Sun night. She is not a great AP, and we have had to do a lot of work with her in order to get to the point where we can say that we are cautiously comfortable with her performance. She is a nice girl, but not my type. We rarely talk about anything outside of kids. Occasionally we talk about her family and such, but not too much. She does not like attending our dinners/get togethers when extended family comes over or we go over the see them. We speak a different language and many older members of my family do not speak English, thus the AP would be very uncomfortable there since we mostly do not speak English at these events; at home though we speak English 95% of the time, so that is fine.

maria April 15, 2009 at 5:16 am

I am an Au Pair and I eat with my family every night. I love my host moms cooking, we all sit down together and talk about what happened in our days. My host mom is at work all day and dinner time is a great time for everyone to talk about the day and tell her what the kids have done, how they have been etc.

Anonymous April 16, 2009 at 6:40 am

Mokie, you are right on money re: making dinner part of her job. When our ap started, we were a family with two small children under age 5 with a husband that was rarely home for dinner. Dinner was messy and chaotic. As the kids have grown up this past year dinner has become more civilized and quite honestly I need more childcare during working biz hours. Anyways, I would love for our ap to no longer think of dinner as work…if you have suggestions…I am game

ex. au pair April 18, 2009 at 2:16 pm

I was an au pair (in the same family) for two years, and I almost always had dinner with my family. I knew I was always invited(but not expected) to sit down with the family even on my off duty nights. If I wasn’t at home, they would text me and let me know what time they would be having dinner. This is actually one of the things I miss the most, because it gave us time to talk about things we never had for otherwise.

GermanAuPair April 19, 2009 at 12:38 am

I think a lot of times it depends on how you get along with your hostfamily whether you eat with them or not.
I love eating with my Hostfamily, because first I want to give them time to ask me about the day and give me time to tell them what I did with the kids and second I think that this is part of being a family member.
Personally I don’t understand why some aupairs don’t want to join for dinner, but I think I just love my kids too much as to not spend dinner with them =)

Anonymous February 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I would like to add that our au pairs have always eaten with us, but while we are eating we are the parents. We don’t expect the au pair to spoon feed our 1-year-old or ask our 4-year-old to chew his food before he speaks. I have found that this seems to really help. Both have still helped of course, such as when the younger one wants another bite for example. I could understand, however, if one of them chose to stay in their room because of having had such a long day with the kids. The au pairs are always allowed to get food when they want to just as our kids are.

au pair February 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I ALWAYS joined my host family for all meals, unless I wasn’t in the house. To be honest, I never felt that I had the option to skip a meal and when I did (and I told them in advance, it wasn’t that they made me a meal and I then told them I didn’t want it), it caused major problems.

For example, at the weekends I rarely eat breakfast or lunch because I never get hungry, and I’ve been that way since I was around 13. It’s just a knock-on effect of getting up later, I guess, and I told my HF this – that I didn’t see the point in eating just out of habit and if I was hungry, I would make myself a sandwich or something. However, they accused me of having an eating disorder, and threatened to phone my mother even after I explained that it was normal for me and my mother had never had a problem with it. I think it caused a strain on our relationship, as I felt they were treating me too much like a child, and in the end I went home after three months (although there were other issues there too.)

M in NY February 17, 2010 at 12:36 am

I cook for the kids Mon-Thu and my HP never come home for dinner on those days, so I eat with the kids (or whichever kid is home to eat, sometimes activities come in the way of us eating together). I try to eat with my HF on Fridays, but if they’re late getting home and I have plans I tell them that I can’t and they’re fine with it.
On weekends (when I’m usually off) I’m rarely home on Sat so I eat out, with friends. But Sunday nights are always nice to sit down and relax with the HF and I usually do that.

I think it’s common to eat with your HF/host kids around 4-5 times/week and eat out the other nights as an au pair. But if I could eat with my whole HF more times/week, I would! It’s just that my HP work late…

Rayann, your setup seems great! I’m happy for you!

Melissa February 17, 2010 at 1:22 am

I’m envious of the postings by M and aupair! Our AP hardly ever eats with us, unfortunately. I’ve talked with her about it and tried to explain to her that it allows us time to get to know each other, in a atmosphere where we’re not just exchanging info about the kids while coming and going. She usually makes an effort for a week or so, but then it’s back to rarely having dinners with us. We’ve just sort of accepted it by now, and of course, it does save us money in groceries, but I feel like it’s such a missed opportunity and would love to have more ‘part of the family’ participation.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs February 17, 2010 at 3:22 am

I haven’t had an AP not eat with us at dinner time, while I do not have a menu planned each week, I usually will cook something that everyone will enjoy. There are days when I just ask my husband to get pizza or chinese. I have 6 children in the house , plus 4 adults to cook for daily= 10 people.
I do have posted in the handbook that if they care to join us for dinner than everyone helps assist in the meal prep, cleaning up and putting away leftover foods. The AP’s have never seems to complain and are always happy to help assist. Several of my past AP did not cook at all. My one current Kurdish girl is good at cooking, often she is cooking up something on weekend meals, breakfasts, breads and cakes. In fact, she brought my husband and I lunch to our in home offices 3 weeks ago. Later that day after work Au-Pair #2 showed me the smaller children’s clothing that the Kurdish girl washed, she used Clorox Clean-up Bleach on the staining instead of spray and wash. My husband had me laughing by saying ” that’s why she made us lunch today” The comment was only a joke between all of us AP #2 died laughing , while Au-pair #1 was like OMG! A few articles of clothing bleached no big deal.. I love to see my Au-pairs share there cultural with our family.

NannyKelly February 17, 2010 at 7:00 am

As an au pair, it was in my contract that I had to eat dinner with the family on nights that I worked. I was always invited to eat dinner on nights that I didn’t.
On this note, I wish I wasn’t forced to eat dinner on the nights that I worked because I the mother cooked the same meal two-three nights a week, pasta with red pesto sauce or maybe we’d have fried eggs. These were the only foods the children ate. On the other nights (when her husband was home), she’d cook something he likes, usually seafood, which I hate. Other than the note so good cooking, on nights the father was home, he usually told me all the things I did wrong over the week (not folding the clothes correctly or picking the cherries off of the cherry tree).
The nights I ate dinner with them, I cleaned up everything after. And on my off nights (which I usually ate out), they would leave the dishes for me in the morning.

Abby April 10, 2010 at 7:38 am

I’ve been au pairing in the Netherlands for nearly 7 months now (and it’s really hard realizing that I have to go back to my country in no less than 5 months. love the family, love the country, really want to stay a bit longer :)). I hardly eat dinner with the family because I think I’ve spend enough time with the kids during the day. I need time to keep the good mood for the next day with the kids. My host mother, at first, worried so much, wondered if I eat or not. But I told her not to worry that I do eat.

So for me, it’s not about the food at all.

Katie PAP April 10, 2010 at 7:51 am

I usually ate with the family during weekdays which was just after work and when the parents usually came home at that time. I always thought it was good for communicating about the day and current events and it gave us a chance for the transition. If I had other plans I would usually send a HP a text or tell them the morning or day before.

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