Readers, Here’s a specific question about choosing the right au pair for a family that has lost their mom through tragedy.
We had one host dad comment on our earlier post about single parents, and I know that there are at least two other host dad-readers who have lost their wives and who have hired au pairs to help with childcare and to offer a little extra warmth to the kids. Likely, there are other readers out there with first hand experience or other close up advice to share.
Here is our email from the host mom & friend wondering whether to suggest an au pair to a newly widowed dad:
Sadly, one of my closest friends recently passed away from breast cancer leaving behind a husband, a 7 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I’m thinking an au pair MIGHT be a wonderful option for this family as he needs a lot of help with his children since he must continue to work full-time. However, I have the following concerns:
* Availability. Are there au pairs that a strong enough to handle this difficult situation where the family will be grieving the loss of this wonderful person and mother? (My friend needs a stable, sensitive person in the home, not someone that would bring more problems.)
* Perception concerns. Will people think it is creepy that a 40 something man has a 20 something young, un-married woman, living in the house? How does he and the au pair handle inappropriate comments?
* Setting kids up for another loss. Should he be concerned about hiring someone who might only stay one year? My children LOVE our au pair and I know it will be difficult when she leaves. For these children, whose mother has died, would an au pair leaving after one year be just another tough loss for them?
BTW this father is a typical engineer – focused on facts, very organized and does not readily show emotion.
I’m sure there are more questions but these are some of the key ones. I welcome your comments and your advice. Thank you so much. AG
It is so hard to lose a friend, to cancer or to another tragedy; I am so sorry for your loss. I can appreciate how much it could mean to you, and to your friend’s family, for you to be able to offer them some help with the childcare challenges. I hope we can offer some helpful insights.
Of course there is no filling in the space left by the loss of a mom (or a wife, or friend). And, I agree with you that an au pair may be a very good way to provide both childcare and another consistent adult presence. A great au pair could be a positive force in this family’s situation.
I’m pretty sure that other host parent will agree; there are some au pairs who would be great in this situation. I know that some of our former au pairs would have been able to handle this well, and I know two au pairs who have been in similar situations and handled it well.
The challenge is not just finding an au pair who can handle it but also finding one that can fit well with a family that (regardless of the chance that stress will change what’s ‘normal’ for the famiy) is a good fit in terms of personality.
With regard to the kids and another experience of loss — this strikes me as the hardest issue.
Even if an au pair extends for another year, she or he will eventually go back home. But it is also true that other kinds of caregiving arrangements don’t always last as long as you hope. People leave, they change jobs, etc. A friend of mine just lost her nanny of three years when the nanny died suddenly in her sleep! So there is no guarantee.
When people ask me if it is hard for kids to say goodbye to an au pair, I answer that yes, it can be hard to say goodbye. This is one of the things that host kids get to learn how to do when they have au pairs.
The flip side, the positive side, of this is that host kids learn that there are many different people out there who can come into their lives and create a loving relationship with them, and leave and continue a loving relationship with them. Kids learn that people leave, that this is okay, and that there is a lot of love out there to be shared.
Let’s hear from you readers— what advice can you offer AG?
Photo: Lost-in-Lomo from Joel Bedford on Flickr