Some Host Parents swear by the Weekly Meeting as The. One. Thing. (along with the Handbook, of course) that keeps the relationship running smoothly.
- Planned in advance
- Agenda driven
- Happen outside of the day to day rush or parent/au pair transition time
— let host parents and au pairs feel confident that there will be time to talk about whatever’s going on, when no one’s feeling particularly freaked out.
That’s the idea, anyway.
When people ask me about success tips, I describe the weekly meeting as the one calm moment when the au pair and I (and sometimes DH) take 15 minutes to a half hour (of on-duty time) to sit at the kitchen table, each with a mug of tea, going over plans for the week, clarifying the kids’ and the au pair’s schedules, and looking ahead at bigger plans like vacations, family trips and birthday parties.
In reality, just as often as weekly meetings have been regular and useful, they’ve also been bi-weekly, rushed, not necessary, and/or staging grounds for the dropping of bombshells.
For us, weekly meetings have been much more useful at the start of an au pair relationship, when we’re trying to set priorities, teach our au pair about our kids and family, get to know each other, and nip problems in the bud. I put these meetings on the calendar (and always during ‘on duty’ time) so that our au pair can plan ahead if she has issues to bring up herself.
After about three months or so, I’ve found that a bi-weekly meeting works better.
By this point, there is usually less of the routine stuff that still needs to be taught or discussed– we’re able to swap information during on duty/off duty transitions or even just while making coffee in the kitchen. Bi-weekly meetings become a chance to talk about how our au pair is experiencing the US, how we’ll manage things when her best friend comes to visit, what we’re seeing as the girls grow, and more reflective topics.
I know that some people find the idea of a planned meeting to be a bit too ‘officious’– a bit too much of the ’employee’ rather than the family member. In the main, I like the idea of a meeting because it nudges me to pay attention and to approach the conversation with care.
How does your family handle sharing big chunks of information, talking about big issues, and carving out time to be reflective with your au pair?
Do you do anything in or with your host parent-au pair meetings that you recommend to other families?