Choosing an Au Pair: Religion as an Au Pair selection criterion

by cv harquail on July 28, 2009

200907280918.jpg I’m A Believer.

I believe that religion is something you should seriously consider when selecting an au pair. In my family’s experience, religion has been an important selection criterion — and also the source of some interesting relationship problems.

Our experience

Our family is of mixed religious traditions: I’m a christian with a lower case C, and my husband is an atheist.

Early in our host family experience, we ‘lucked into’ an au pair from SA who was “Christian with a Capital C”. This young woman really used the Bible as a source of guidance, and was one of the most kind and loving people I’ve ever met. She was also ‘tolerant’ – maybe even open- to other people’s beliefs. She joined a local church community and participated in their young adult activity and met a lot of nice people to hang out with. Subsequently, we chose several au pairs who had similar profiles: Christian, South African, kind & loving. Similar experiences with them, especially with them enjoying a nice church community.

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One thing we secretly hoped was that, by choosing an observantly religious person, we might avoid the party girl/overnight male guest behavior. And we did avoid this.

However, there was a downside.

My daughters were taught that dinosaurs became extinct because Noah couldn’t fit them on the Ark. Seriously.

Also, evolution is a lie, taught by heathens to distract people from the true Word.

I was fine with the au pairs teaching my girls praise music and how to write and say their own prayers, but not okay with what were to me overly-literal interpretations of Christianity…. so I had to explain to the au pairs and my girls what was okay with me and what was not, in terms of teaching “Christian” beliefs. My own interpretation of ‘what Jesus said’ was the guideline, not our au pairs’. They were each pretty much okay with this.

Except for one au pair.

The night before she left for home, she came down into the kitchen and said she needed to talk with me. She said, and I paraphrase:

I am very concerned that I will go to Hell if I don’t talk with you about how you are raising your children. You claim to be Christian, but you are not spending enough time teaching your girls about the Lord. They need to go to Church or their souls will shrivel, and they will not get into heaven. I would go to hell if I did not try my best to reach out to you with the Lord’s teaching. I will pray for you and for the souls of your family.

200907280916.jpg Deep breath. Deeeeeeeeeeeep breath. I practiced all of those active listening skills they teach you/I taught in diversity training seminars. I thanked her for expressing her concern, told her I’d think (okay, pray) on it. And I thanked her for waiting until the last night to talk with me about it. Then, she went back up to her room and I sat down at the kitchen table and cried.

Other comments from moms about religion:

  • We, too, look at religion and screen out “very” since we are “not” (during the interview process I address our religious beliefs and explain we are completely accepting of the APs practice, but we need someone who is comfortable with us not practicing).
    One additional filter I use that won’t apply to many families but was a consideration for ours was religion. Our agency’s database doesn’t allow us to filter by religion, but it is indicated on the profile along with a level of importance. The AP indicates their religion and how important it is to her. Because we are atheist, we screen out girls that say religion is “very important” to them. I still consider the APs that say religion is “somewhat important” – but I worry that an AP who is very committed to her faith may not be a good match for our family.I think this concern could work the other way as well. A family that is actively practicing a particular faith may not do as well with an AP that is of a dramatically different faith or no faith at all.

200907280916.jpg I think that families should screen for religion– not necessarily to get one kind or another, but to understand the role that religious & spiritual differences might play in your family-au pair dynamic.

It can be really, really nice to find an au pair who shares your religion. Then you can all practice together, which can be quite a bonding experience.

Sometimes you can choose an au pair who ‘fits’ (e.g., an Orthodox au pair for an Orthodox family) or one who is flexible (a Muslim au pair in a Catholic family, where both groups are flexible). A careless girl in a Kosher family, or a hard-line family with an unobservant au pair could be trouble.

Choose an au pair whose spiritual and religious practices work with yours, one way or another.

{ 59 comments }

NJM July 28, 2009 at 10:01 am

Our current au pair is South African and Christian, from a smaller Protestant denomination. She goes to church here and is very active in her congregation. We’re an interfaith couple; my husband’s Jewish, my family background is Orthodox Christian (though I don’t practice). We’re very liberal and flexible–but we do celebrate holidays.

Just as in your experience, CV, our AP is very loving and not a party girl, and she hasn’t tried to proselytize–though to be honest, I won’t be at all surprised if we have a similar conversation to yours during her last week here.

AP was very enthusiastic about learning more about our various traditions and about celebrating various special occasions with us, but she had close to a meltdown at the Passover seder, when it suddenly occurred to her that there was no Jesus in it. (I had been quietly helping her along with the all-English text, pointing out the passages that are quotes from the Bible. She asked, “But where’s Jesus in this story?”)

She had no idea that Jews don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and we wrongly assumed that she had some baseline understanding–talk about culture shock, on both sides! Clearly this new information was very, very difficult and upsetting for her to process. We’ve never talked about religion since then, by her explicit request.

Hula Gal July 28, 2009 at 10:51 am

We screen for religion to determine its level of importance in the au pair’s life. We do not select au pairs to interview if they have religious references in their letter to the host family or if they indicate that religion is very important. If they indicate that it is somwhat important this is something we explore further in our interview. My husband is atheist and I am not religious (although raised Catholic). We live in a state where there is a lot of religious zealots and have no tolerance for attempts to convert or preach the bible. If they want to go to church in their free time and privately practice their religion I’m ok with that but do not want any of it expressed in my home and certainly not to my children.

NY Mom July 28, 2009 at 11:27 am

We are an orthodox family (Jewish). We observe the sabbath (from Friday at Sundown) and maintain a kosher kitchen in which all dairy and meat products and dishes are kept separately.
We have a German au-pair who is Protestant although not very religious. Our AP has been with us for close to 9 months and we have not had a single issue with her. We were very descriptive in our application about our lifestyle and religion. We explained that there will be a learning curve on how to handle our kosher kitchen and assured the potential aupair that there won’t be restrictions on her personal religious practice. Our religion does not allow proselytising and we made it clear. We support our AP going to church, celebrating her holidays (we gave her Christmas off as a bonus day) and hanging religious artifacts on the bedroom walls.
Our AP has mentioned how lucky she is to be with us because we celebrate so many holidays and there is always good food around. She also enjoys joining us for sabbath dinner every week (sometimes with friends) where we have a multi course home made meal.

Daniela April 10, 2011 at 4:46 am

I think its definitely important to find a family that shares the religious views with their au pair. I am an orthodox jewish girl and looking for a family, and I got so many amazing offers but I know its not going to work out if the family isnt jewish and orthodox, cnsidering the fact that I have to observe the laws of kashrus, shabbos and Yichud.

Mel July 28, 2009 at 11:38 am

My husband and I are practicing and faithful Catholics, we say Grace before our family dinner and attend Mass of Sundays and other days of obligation. Our Au Pair does not practice any religion. We also made the decision not to screen for religion, but make sure that during the interview process we were quite clear on our family practices and expectations. It has worked out just fine. Sometimes she asks us questions about our faith and she joins hands for Grace. We get our family time for Mass. We’ve always let her know that if she’d wanted to join us, she is most welcomed. Of couse, our son is still a toddler, so he doesn’t notice that she is not practicing. I think as soon as he is old enough to notice, we’d probably expect our Au Pair to participate and practice.

Sunshine April 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm

What exactly would you expect her to participate on? Going to church? Those would count toward her working hours, right?

NJM July 28, 2009 at 11:56 am

How wonderful to hear your experience, NY Mom! :)

TX Mom July 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm

As a non-practicing Protestant married to a non-practicing Catholic, like Hula Girl, we screen out those APs who make religious references in their host family letter or in their application. (Mostly because it makes me uncomfortable.) None the less we’ve had various experiences. Our best AP was raised in a strict Christian cult! (We had no idea until after she arrived.) She had (has) great morals, STRONG work ethic, positive outlook on life, healthy family values, etc. She rarely attended church in the US or spoke about religion. We had another AP who was Christian and went to church but used the youth group as a dating service. (Just like the US, morals don’t always correlate to the amount of time spent in church.) We also had a Buddhist AP; the temple provided her a social network and she taught us a different perspective of spirituality (and medicine and cooking and… :) )
Bottomline, religion may be an “indicator” of values/morality, but tolerance and acceptance are also important values in an AP. (IMHO)

Anonymous July 28, 2009 at 1:43 pm

What I hear in this thread reflects my own experience – that it is not the specific religion but the level of religious practice or philosophy that makes a good match.
I did have a South African aupair who once referred to my Orthodox Jewish neighbors as ” nice people even though they don’t believe in God “.
I have also heard a lot of stories about girls from extremely strict religious backgrounds at home who come here to spread their wings and party. Therefore, I am very cautious about young ladies from that sort of background. As a lapsed catholic myself , I know a number of people who could not wait to escape parental influence and I know a number of people of different relgions who felt the same way ! Kids are kids.
Now that I am an honest citizen , I don’t want to act in loco parentis for one of these gals.

Anonymous July 28, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I am sorry that you ( CV ) cried when that overbearing young lady told you that you were going to Hell, etc. but honestly, I would have had to struggle not to laugh. I have some friends who are literalists but I do not feel the least bit threatened by anything they say.
And, if anyone , including an aupair , told my kids that story about Noah’s Ark, I would have said , in front of the aupair , ” we do not believe that story and we don’t believe in hell, either ”
And she could just go home if she didn’t like it.

Sarah July 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Hi,
I am a former AuPair and as an Atheist, religion was a big concern for me when I became an AuPair. I knew religion plays a much bigger role in the US than it plays in my home country (where being “very religious” at most means that you go to church regularly). I think it is quite surprising for many AuPairs what a big role religion and your church plays in everyday life in the US. The whole social network associated with your church/temple/ mosque (preschools, kids groups, bible school, study groups etc) is just completely foreign to me. Church means service on Sunday, nothing more in my country. So it can be quite “shocking” for an Aupair to discover that a family that does not describe itself as very religious still attends meetings/ groups associated with their church several times a week.
The family I lived with was religious, but not overly so, so we got along quite well. I went to church with them a few times because I was curious and learned a lot about their faith, which is quite different from the one I was brought up in as a child. My family never tried to convert me and we got along just fine.
Of course the kids had questions about Jesus and I had to answer them, but I tried to be neutral about it. If they asked if Jesus had really lived I said yes, that’s a historical fact. Did he really heal the dead, walk on water etc? My answer would simply be: the Bible says he did.
The only time I had to bite my tongue was when my hostmum decided to put the kids in private school because the public school system (we lived in California) was too “liberal” for her. In her words: “I want my kids to be taught the truth about homosexuality, abortion and such – it’s a sin and everyone condoning it is immoral”. Don’t get me wrong, I respect her opinion, what I have a problem with is that the children will never have a choice in deciding what they think. They should have the possibility of learning about all sides and then deciding what they believe in. But I kept my mouth shut – after all, they are not my children. But that was one incidence over a whole year I lived with them.
So I would say it works for AuPair and host family to be of different religions or beliefs, as long as they are not too far apart. I would never have been happy in a Born Again Christian Family – or able to keep my mouth shut about what I think about their beliefs.

Franzi July 28, 2009 at 3:37 pm

religion is a hot topic, something that needs to be talked about and should be somewhat of a decisive factor. if religion, church, prayers etc are important to you and to the way you want to raise your children, then do mention this explicitly in your family descriptions and talk about this when you interview APs.

explain, what a church service is like if you notice that there is some uncertainty. what is a normal service for you can already be over the edge for someone else. explain how often you are involved in church and if you would require/strongly suggest your AP to attend as well.

my first host family were elders in their church so they were quite involved and wanted their AP to attend church service. i was fine with that (though we always sat in the front row ;-)
but many of my AP friends could not understand why i went to church with them so often (i also sang in the choir).

if you have certain values you want your AP to share with your kids then explain that upfront as well. like it was mentioned above, there is a broad range from loving one another to intelligent design.

the ultimate goal is to find an AP that matches your family.

Ineke July 28, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Great to hear all these experiences, from both AP and family sides.
Living in the 2nd largest city of the Netherlands, in what is called a multi cultural (read mainly muslim) environment, across a polish roman catholic church in an overall non-religious country, i recognize a lot from what is said.
We’ve had them all. Christian ap who went to gay bars, christian ap who denied evolution, you name it.
i did learn from it all. I very clearly state our view on the sharing of blood and organs in the beginning of our new search, the fact that we have a mixed kitchen, drink copious amounts of coffee tea and/or spirits etc. The netherlands was one (if not the first) country to support gay marriage and i am very proud of that. i find that most au pairs that respond to my profile share our views or simply have no problem with a ‘liberal’ family.

E2 July 28, 2009 at 5:40 pm

We’re practicing Catholics and have only had Catholic au pairs. It has been important to us that we have someone that understands the Catholic sacraments, as our kids are going through some of the sacramental prep and ask a lot of questions. We do not require our au pairs to go to church with us and most have only come with us on Christmas & Easter. As you Catholics know, there is some risk on the party girl side (good Catholics like their wine :-)), but we actually don’t mind a weekend party girl.

Anna July 28, 2009 at 6:28 pm

We are also an Orthodox Jewish family. CV, you’ve got to be kidding, there are no Orthodox Jewish au pair candidates around! Even Jewish, there are so few and far between, that I haven’t come across any! This year we have a girl whose father is Jewish, but she isn’t – she’s had some Jewish education as a child and teen, and that helps because she knows a lot of things that I would otherwise have to explain, and can even help our kids with their alef-bet (hebrew alphabet study, yes, they are little). However, while this turned out to be a plus, it was not something we intentionally searched for – she was a great candidate in all the other respects.

We haven’t had any problems religiously with our au pairs. We are very descriptive and open in our essay about our lifestyle and our kosher kitchen, and all it entails. I think it helps find a girl who will be comfortable with it. They also join us (most of the time) for Fri night dinners and enjoy the food! Our first au pair still asks us about what we are having this week…

I think it also helps that most of our au pairs are Brazilian, and Brazil is a very diverse society where Jews are respected and well-liked.

CV July 28, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Anna, there are absolutely few Jewish au pairs, and fewer Orthodox ones, but:

My husband and I decided that the best way to have someone care for our twins while we work is to get an au pair. The only issue is that we wanted someone who is Orthodox Jewish…and that’s a near impossibility. Little did we know that we’re ridiculously lucky people. We applied with Cultural Care Au Pair and they found us an Orthodox Jewish woman from Poland within a day. WOOOO!!! She is so sweet and we are SOOO excited to be welcoming her into our home in mid-August. [This from Elana’s Musings http://elanasmusings.blogspot.com/2009/07/au-pair.html%5D

Also, once I was very interested in a candidate… then learned she was a convert to Judaism and wanted nothing less than a Jewish family with whom she could explore and learn more about Judaism. And she found one! (Not Elana, this was years ago.)

But that said, I sure wouldn’t hold out for a jewish au pair… b/c they are few and far between. cv

DC Au Pair April 6, 2010 at 8:04 pm

That’s really not true… I have two orthodox Jewish friends!!! You probably just with the wrong au pair company!!

Anna April 6, 2010 at 11:57 pm

May I ask which au pair company you are with? Your friends are au pairs I assume?
Because I was with one of the LARGEST au pair companies this year, and they had ZERO jewish au pairs in their pool this time around when I was trying to match, I am not talking Orthodox Jewish, but plain any kind Jewish! They had all kinds of other religions…. you name it, they had it, muslim, mormon, spiritist, buddist, atheist, agnostic, etc., but none Jewish! I wonder if some Jewish au pair candidates though might be marking “other” in their application for religion, in fear of discrimination…

Daniela April 10, 2011 at 4:49 am

I am looking for a job as an au pair and Im havingn such a hard time finding a jewish family!! Most companies dont even ask for religious observance so its hard to filter through all the families!
How can I find an orthodox family?

Taking a Computer Lunch April 10, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Daniela, You have to understand that Jews only make up 3% of the population in the United States, and that most of us are not orthodox. There have been orthodox Jewish families in our cluster, but the ones I know have matched with Brazilian au pairs (friends of the Brazilian who was our au pair at the time). We communicated with an observant candidate, because our son is interested in Judaism and even studied Hebrew for a couple of years on his own initiative, but it’s not a good fit for us because we often occasionally need childcare on Saturdays. I think you need to communicate with your agency about options to improve your chances of matching. You may need to enroll with multiple agencies to maximize your opportunities.

Anna April 10, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Daniela,

we just matched with a girl to arrive in July; her visa appointment is this week but her chances of getting it are 50% (she is from a country where it is hard to get an au pair visa – we took a risk).
If she doesn’t get it, or if you are willing to become an au pair a year later, I would LOVE to talk to you. We are Orthodox Jewish but never had an Orthodox Jewish (or plain Jewish) au pair.
Email me at annahostmom@gmail.com

Anonymous July 28, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I think it is interesting that most of us who have contributed to this discussion of religion are coming from the liberal Christian , interfaith marriage , recovering Catholic position ( with the exception of Anna who sounds traditional but not fundamentalist ).
Surely, there are families out there who are committed Christians
and have been put off by secular aupairs who have disrespected them or perhaps thrilled with young women whose values jelled with their traditional family’s values.
Whereas I would not want my own daughter to spend a year living with someone whose religious values were antithetical to my own , I have warm working and social relationships with people whose religious systems are actively different than my own. They, too, have a right to be respected in their own homes.
I also want to say that I have radically different relgious and political values than a number of people in my extended family.
If my brother’s children came to live with us for a period of time they might be horrified by our lifestyle. My sister’s children would not be distressed at all.
I think CV made a really good point about music. I have a friend who told me that he goes to his wife’s evangelical church rather than his own Episcopal church because the music is better. This man is a confirmed Methodist.
We can appreciate the nice things in someone else’s religion without compromising our own values. The issues become very poignant with childcare. Numerous people in this country grew up with nannies or housekeepers who had very different religious views than the parents.
And some people tell me that a church that is a good political fit for them is not a good liturgical fit.
Good manners is the appropriate focus here, I think. No one should criticize another person’s religious practices or lack thereof while caring for their children. The motto of Peace Corps folks and Jesuit missionaries, too, I think, is that when you are a guest , you respect the host. Even if you are on a mission from God, you don’t come on like gangbusters. When you go home, you can make all the judgements you want , but while you are here, you are a guest, pure and simple. Mind your manners.
Having said that, I want to add that my family could make a rerun of Firing Line with William F Buckley sound like Leave It To Beaver. That is the culture of our family.
So, I don’t think I would get too bent out of shape if someone said something that I disagreed with re: religion or politics. But I would not want someone with tattoos or piercings or a thong bikini. I don’t want someone who is going to go out drinking all night and who will sleep all Saturday or Sunday.
I chose the town I live in based on its school system. Multi-culturalism is a strong value here. And once, when an friend of ours commented on minorities in the public school system, my 7 year old son said ( afterwards ) ” Wow, she really is going to go to hell for being a racist “. He is now older and tells me that he doesn’t believe in God. This pains me but my religous views are always in progress. Lots of events in his life may change his mind someday : finding the right girl, becoming a father , realizing that his parents are not the dunces he often thinks we are , etc,
What a complicated issue !

Busy Mom July 28, 2009 at 9:41 pm

This has been a very enlightening thread. We’re moderately religious, Episcopalian, and attend church/Sunday School a few times a month. I, too, tend to avoid au pair candidates (and nannies before we had au pairs) who mention religion too prominently in their bio as it would make me really uncomfortable to have someone in my house who talked about Jesus in the same way that some of them discuss religion in their family letters. The only thing that makes me slightly uncomfortable with our au pair who will arrive shortly is not that religion is important to her (describes herself as born again), but that she expressed interest in coming to our church with us. Somehow, I think that our socially liberal Episcopal church with its many same sex couples would shock her, not to mention the fact that I would be embarrassed if she saw me dozing off during the sermon :-) I deflected by sending her links to a bunch of local churches in her faith, telling her that we go only a few times a month, and telling her that she’d probably not be comfortable in our church because it’s very formal & traditional (which it is in both liturgy and music). Now I wonder if we should have discussed religion more explicity in the interview process. Hmm…hopefully she’ll find a church of her own that she likes!

NJM July 28, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Anna, I don’t mean to speak for CV, but I’d guess that when she wrote “an Orthodox au pair for an Orthodox family,” she might have meant “an Orthodox (Christian) au pair”–not Orthodox Jewish. (There are tons & tons of at least nominally Orthodox Christian au pairs around these days, especially from Eastern Europe–way more than there are OC families!)

Anna July 28, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Wow, Elana probably got the only Orthodox Jewish au pair in existence, LOL

NJM July 28, 2009 at 10:01 pm

OK, obviously I posted at the same time as CV above…sorry!

Natt July 29, 2009 at 5:22 am

I do screen potential candidates using religion… the ones that sound overly religious, or who describe religion as being very important in their lives are the ones who don’t go further. I was raised a christian, but am now a non-believer. My husband is athiest. I wouldn’t allow an aupair to teach my children about religion, nor would I allow religious family members to do so.

We’ve had two aupairs now, and despite me being a non-believer, I’ve encouraged both of them to attend youth group as a social networking idea. Both declined as they said they didn’t feel comfortable. Both however have been to church with us to enjoy my grandmother’s church choir perform concerts!

I think it’s so important to get a ‘good fit’ with an aupair, in many characteristics such as religion, personality, upbringing etc.

Anna July 29, 2009 at 7:17 am

Natt, it is very interesting that you describe yourself as a non-believer yet still go to church…

Jeana July 29, 2009 at 7:58 am

I feel that the differences that have existed between our family and aupairs has been a great experience for our family. We are Christian, and during the year that our first aupair was with us, we attended a Catholic church with her each week. We are not Catholic. She also visited our church several times. I really was happy that we were attending a church with different rituals than what we knew from our own church. Our Chinese aupairs have not been Christian, but were very curious, wanted to go to church, and participated with prayers before meals. My older daughter is very concrete in her thinking, and worries about people not accepting Jesus as the son of God, who came to earth to pay for our sins. She fears that people she knows, who do not believe this, will not go to Heaven. She’s very tender hearted and kind. We’ve been able to have some very good talks about how God is a loving God, He wants to provide a place in Heaven for people, and we need to be accepting of the beliefs of others.

MTR July 29, 2009 at 8:33 am

I just want to chime in with the same comments as many before me. Overly religious Au Pairs would not make my cut. We are non-practicing Jewish family and are open to au pairs of many religious believes to welcome to our home, but I do not want my family subjected to heavy preaching of other religions. Learning about other religions is great though, as my Jewish children have been in Catholic school for a few years, then attended Jewish school for a year, and are now in public school.

Anonymous July 29, 2009 at 9:43 am

Anna, even non-believers find themselves in church sometimes. Natt mentioned that she goes to church to enjoy watching her grandmother sing in the choir. I’m a non-believer, but I won’t avoid going to a wedding or funeral because it is held in a church. I also have a dear friend from high school that is now a well known Christian singer – she recently had a choir in my current city, and I was thrilled to attend and hear her sing. I find most non-believers are quite tolerant of time spent in church, and can accept that simply entering a church has nothing to do with practicing that particular faith or not.

That is why my family is absolutely willing to consider APs that are religious – as long as their level of practice doesn’t impede with the manner in which we’re raising our children. Our current AP is a non-practicing Christian, and it has never been a concern for us. That being said, we did specifically screen out APs who said their religion was “very important” to them.

Deb Schwarz July 29, 2009 at 11:01 am

Hi CV,

I had to laugh at your post. We, too, have had a string of fundamental Christian au pairs over the years (mainly from South Africa) and we live in very liberal San Francisco. One told our children that gay people won’t go to heaven and we were shocked (!) – but we just told our kids that was rubbish (we have several gay friends and relatives). I actually think that it’s great that our kids are exposed to all sorts of point of views. I think our children take their lead from us – but I’m open to all opinions and teach them that everyone has their own p-o-v. The “gay basher” was actually one of our favorite au pairs (out of 15), so we have learned to take the good with the “not so good”. One of our first au pairs that saved our lives when we had four children under the age of 2 (oh my!), had worked with quads in the past and made looking after our children look easy and fun, was also a fundamentalist Christian. As my 84 year old child psychologist mother (who has seen it all) says (and I repeat to my host families) – “better to have a born again than a sullen, pierced punk rocker au pair” – and I have to agree! Some of the best au pairs in my group over the years were very religious, and unless they are judgmental (like your one, CV) then I say – bring them on!

Deb Schwarz
Local Childcare Coordinator Cultural Care Au Pair
Read my article about finding the right au pair for your family! http://www.marinmommies.com/node/1157

Reggie July 29, 2009 at 12:09 pm

This has been interesting to read everyone’s comments and find so many similarities. We also screen for religion. My husband is an atheist and I am agnostic. Neither of us like being around people who are evangelical regardless of their specific religion. So we’ve screened out APs who talked a lot about religion in their letters or who said that religion was very important to them in their questionnaire data that our AP company provides. For serious candidates, we have been explicit that we are not religious and if they want to worship they will need to find their own Church/Temple/Mosque. So far, this has worked well for us.

Anonymous July 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm

To the lady who wondered how her aupair would feel about gay couples in her Episcopalian church. I have never met a European who had any issue with same sex marriages.
Also, all of the aupairs I have interviewed from western Europe and Turkey have been very secular. I have had two Muslim aupairs – one from Germany and one from France – both of these young ladies told me on the interview that they wanted to worship occasionally in a mosque but once they arrived the topic never came up again. The German girl even told me that at home, her family had a Christmas tree. A couple of my Jewish relatives have Christmas trees but I was not exspecting this response from this aupair !

Natt July 29, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Anna – sorry, should have clarified that! I am a non-believer…. only went to church for the annual choir cantata to show support for my grandmother.
Anonymous – thanks for expanding my thoughts :) It was late when I wrote the post ;)

As a whole, I am very tolerant of religion, and love to ask questions and discuss different aspects with religious people. I don’t however, like to have my face shoved into it. It’s kind of like when the religious door-knockers come calling. If they didn’t try and force it on me, I’d have more patience for listening :o)

We have had a practising muslim French girl apply to our family, but I was honest and said the state of Australia where we live does not have noticeable muslim population, tends to be very backwards in their thinking in general, and she would honestly stand out as she wore the hijab. She understood this, and chose to pursue a more supportive area. I thought she was lovely, and would happily have had her in our family, as long as she didn’t preach to my girls :)

HM in WI July 29, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Where are all of you who are looking for the non religious ones finding the ones who see religion as “very important!?” We are practicing Catholics, and we do screen for religion. Our religion is part of our daily lives in prayer before meals, Mass on Sundays, and participation in church events. I always hope to find an AP who would like to be part of that. That said, we have had three APs – 2 Catholic, 1 Protestant. Our first went to Mass with us every weekend and said that Sunday mornings were one of her favorite things about living with us – I’m not sure if it was Mass or the kick butt caramel rolls that I make for brunch. Our second was Catholic but only went to Mass with us twice during her whole year. Our third (who leaves tomorrow) is Protestant, but she did attend Mass on Christmas and Easter as I told her that was my desire. I have decided that while it’s nice to have them be a part of our church family as well as our home family, it’s not necessary for a good fit. Our 4th AP arrives next week. We’ll see how the religion thing shakes out with her.

Darthastewart July 29, 2009 at 10:37 pm

We’re an Episcopal family too- we go to church regularly. We’re not so much religious as spiritual. Au-pairs are welcome to come to church if they so like, but I don’t push either way.
We do tend to weed out au-pairs that are overly religious (usually any Jehovah’s witnesses, etc) – I’m _really_ not into prosletyzing(sp?). We have also started weeding out muslim au-pairs because we found that we were not a good fit for the one we did have- we bake with vanilla, consume alcohol and pork products, and at the time, had a 160 lb dog. – all of which tend to be taboo for a muslim. I probably wouldn’t have any problem with a reform Jewish au-pair, but our kitchen is certainly NOT Kosher.

Calif Mom July 29, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Great topic!

Anonymous wrote: “That is why my family is absolutely willing to consider APs that are religious – as long as their level of practice doesn’t impede with the manner in which we’re raising our children.” Amen! ;-)

I probably would never have picked our current AP based on her profile (we’re rematched). She is quite faithful (an evangelical Protestant religion), spends all day Sunday at church and is home early every Sat to have enough rest for that. I have a problem with overly zealous evangelical types. She goes to youth group once a week in the evening. She only listens to gospel music.

Have you really listened to hip hop, or even rock on the radio lately? Frankly, I’ve got girls, and often turn off the radio altogether rather than have to explain the misogyny inherent in a lot of pop music. Shocking to me, I’ve found a lot of gospel is quite beautiful and it’s optimistic. Sounds pretty good to me!

This religion thing is working out for us. She feels blessed to be with our family. I feel very grateful that I know my girls aren’t being exposed to a lot of junk–they’ll get that soon enough.

Anna wondered how someone who’s “a non believer” could go to church. Well…probably a lot more of us than you think! I happened to fall in love with a guy whose faith helped him through some rough times long before we had kids. I come from a long tradition of non-church-goers who find their spiritual lives enriched in nature. We go to church. My kid LOVES singing in choir, and often asks me to interpret lines in those songs that befuddle me. “Ask Dad”. It works. Would it be easier if I “got the whole Jesus thing” even a little? yep. But I don’t. So I enjoy the social part of church, hanging with thoughtful, intelligent people and supporting the music program. (Free singing lessons, everyone! Well, not really free, I guess…) I even love a well crafted sermon, when it isn’t too tough to listen to as a “non-believer”. But we do pick churches that are gay friendly, and those churches tend to not beat people over the head with anything, really. So “non-believers” can enjoy going to church; they just enjoy it in a different way, perhaps, than you do.

It has worked well for us, except that one time when the kids were asking questions, so I jumped in and started talking about the historical Jesus, and then the Prophet Muhammad on the drive to Christmas Eve service that one year…. :-)

And all this will give the kids something to reject later if they need to! ;-)

Anonymous July 30, 2009 at 9:56 am

I have been told that southern Germany is a very Catholic area.
The girls are often Catholic in the unselfconscious way that some of us are Catholic or liberal Christians , going to Mass on Sunday , youth group maybe, and saying grace before meals and adhering to a faith base ethical system.
I have also seen that Muslim girls from Turkey have a different background and outlook on life than Muslim girls from
France or Germany. Frankly, the French and German Muslim girls were a better fit with our family. I would have loved for my kids to have attended services in a mosque but once these aupairs settled in, no one was interested in attending religious services – their own or anyone else’s. They weren’t rude, just honest.
I have never met a Jewish aupair although I met a German aupair once who had a couple of Israeli friends who were working as aupairs although they were not with agencies. Someone else told me that in Israel , you cannot leave the country during the years that you are eligible for the draft. Many young Israeli woman are either serving in the armed forces or eligible for the draft. We forget about that since most of us have never served in the military.

Lee Brown August 26, 2009 at 11:26 am

Dear CV:

It sounds like your aupair is exactly what we are looking for, a “Big Sister” and Christian role model for our daughters. Please advise how we can contact this young lady or others like her. Thanks greatly.

Lee Brown August 26, 2009 at 11:35 am

Fantastic! It sounds like your aupair / nanny is exactly what we are looking for; a “Big Sister” and Christian role model for our daughters. My wife is a Professor in a state university and I am a Meeting Professional, so transferring excellence and values to our children are important to us. Our family is very international (we speak English, Spanish and Portugese in the home), multi-cultural and cherish spiritual expression and open dialogue. Please advise how we can contact this young lady or others like her. meetingplanner@bellsouth.net Thanks greatly.

Francielle Silva... September 11, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Hi… dear hosts!
I would like to know if there is problem in matching with MORMONS au pairs? I think there isn’t, because religion is a personal thing… so in my opinion… THERE ARE GOOD AND BAD PERSON in all religion and there are GOOD AND BAD person non-religions!
I want answers!
Best regards

Sunshine April 29, 2010 at 4:35 pm

I am Mormon, and I think it would depend on what you are looking for. Because Mormons do not drink, therefore the HF does not have to worry about a party girl. We do not have sex (or do much of anything else. lol) before marriage, so that is also a plus, I believe. We have standards of dress, so modesty is usually not an issue. The only downside that I can think of is that we are quite involved in our churches, meaning we go every Sunday as well as have meetings, and get together other nights of the week. I am a convert to the religion, and if I have an aupair for my kids, this would be the way to go for me. I don’t have to worry about my kids being exposed to immoral behavior (walk of shame, immodesty, sexual behavior, etc.) Most Mormons I know, including myself, would never try to convert our host families and are tolerant of other beliefs. Hope this helps!

TX Mom September 14, 2009 at 10:58 am

Francielle, you are right that religion isn’t always synonymous with good morals. In using religion as a screening selection, HF’s are pre-judging on stereotypes. There are many screening factors families look at so it’s entirely possible that your religion is not an issue. Remember that HF’s can only screen on the info that an AP provides so if religion is personal to you, make that clear. Ask politely for feedback if a family does not ask to match with you. There are some things that you may want to improve like your experience in the swimming pool or driving or cooking to improve your chances of matching. There are some things you can’t or shouldn’t change in order to match (like religion or the number of siblings you have.) Ultimately, you want to match with a family that is accepting of your religious life.

Mom23 September 16, 2009 at 11:30 am

We are a (not very observant) Jewish family and have always looked over applications carefully for au pairs who are open to living with people of different religions.

We had many issues with our last au pair (from Germany). She blamed many of our issues with us being “non-Christian.” She was also racist (we have an adopted child who is a different race than we are). It was a very difficult ending for our family.

I think it is a bigger issue than I first thought. I think in the future we will be much more careful with the issue of religion and frankly, I really don’t think we will feel comfortable hosting another German au pair.

aussiegirlaupair October 21, 2009 at 6:04 am

very interesting topic. I am an non practising Anglican not sure if there are Anglican Churches in the US as I have not heard anyone mention being Anglican. I went to a Catholic High School so I have more knowledge of the Catholic Relgion. The first family I aupaired for were Catholic I attended some masses with them on special occassions and they didn’t attend regularly. I am looking at doing a repeat year next year and would love to be in a Family with different beliefs, I am a very opened person and think it is part of the cultural exchange and being part of the family.

CV October 21, 2009 at 8:55 am

Hi Aussiegirlaupair-
In the US, Anglicans are called “Episcopalians”… and there are lots of Episcopalian congregations…. Anglicans who were in the US during the Revolutionary War changed their name to Episcopalians so that they could cut ties with the British “Anglican” church; they didn’t want to be seen as British Loyalists. History lesson over :-)
cv

SITE READER February 14, 2010 at 2:16 pm

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BROAD THINKING? ISN’T THAT WHAT EDUCCATION IS SUPPOSED TO BE??? NOTHING HERE THAT HAS BEEN SAID WILL CRITICALLY INFLUENCE/HARM A CHILD IN THE CARE OF ANY AU PAIR, AS KIDS LEARN MORE AS THEY GROW AND DEVELOPE OVER THE YEARS. AS IN ALL MATTERS IN LIFE, BEWARE OF PARANOIA OF INFORMATION. SEX EDUCATION IS TAUGHT TO EXPOSE INFORMATION, NOT TO SHIELD IT OR ENCOURAGE ACTION PARTY GIRLS. RELIGIOUS NOTIONS TOO ARE SHARED IN THE SAME VAIN OF OPENNESS. THERE IS NO PROTECTION FROM INFORMATION NOR SHOULD THERE BE, NO MATTER HOW UNCONFORTABLE OYU MIGHT FEEL.

HRHM February 14, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I think as an MH the overriding fear is not that your kids will learn about another religion, but that the AP will (if she is devoutly of another religion) have disdain for your practice that she openly shows to you or your family. Our first AP was Muslim (although she lied about it on her application) and we were very happy to learn about Ramadan and Eid. She was respectful of our religion and we of hers (I always warned her if something was pork or alcohol – she couldn’t always tell). But I come from a family where people (my Mom for instance) would have no problem telling a non-christian that they were going to go to hell. I think it’s that kind of behavior we’re afraid of when we get APs of different faiths.

formeraupair April 5, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Mom23, and all other readers of course, please don’t judge all au pairs from the country or religion or race based on experiences you had with one au pair. I can assure you that not all German au pairs are racists, I’d say that hardly any German au pairs are racists. Someone also asked if it was true that southern Germany is a catholic area, that’s true, northern Germany is a protestant area.

Anonymous April 5, 2010 at 6:39 pm

It is not my impression that German aupairs are racist at all.
On the contrary, a couple of years back, my aupairs used to tell me how shocked they were by racism in America and how racist many Americans were behind closed doors.

Katie April 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm

heres an idea (havent read any of the comments above) maybe actually during the interview ask them what there religion is and if they are tolerant towards other religions and would be comfortable living with people with different religious views.

VA Au Pair/South African April 6, 2010 at 11:13 am

CV from reading your story, I’m a South African ,brought up Methodist by my parents. South Africa is a very MULTI CULUTRAL country we have nearly every possible religion in South Africa, You must of had a Afrikaans South African which are very devoted to there faith. My parents brought me up to be a open minded person and one of the reasons i chose to au pair was to learn from different cultures in America,i got tons of family’s that was interested and loved reading there letters and was very impressed by the ones that wanted there children to learn about other people’s belief. Religion is not a big thing to me,like i mentioned i’m very open minded and love to listen to other peoples beliefs for me it is a learning curve. So i choose a devoted Jewish family in California and i loved it i celebrated with them on fridays and even went to there kids plays etc at there school because the children wanted me there,which i gladly accepted .When i got to LA the host mom gave me a booklet on there religion and a whole pack of yellow sticky notes and her and I went around the kitchen sticking the notes on what are the meat dishes and the dairy dishes ,i was 19 yrs then and that was a fun experience ,they respected my religion and i respected there religion.I’m au pairing again and i’m with a Christian / Jewish family ,they celebrate both holidays with Hannuka and Xmas etc.. and once again we respect each other religions, i’m soon to be relocating to a catholic family in NY and i’m really excited for the next adventure. Because i’m gonna be learning a new religion.The reason i’m commenting on this is please don’t Bash every South African about there religion, We South Africans come to american to experience your culture and Beautiful country , i get questions everyday when i meet someone new here and sometimes get shocked how Americans see My Country,from questions like : I didn’t know you get white’s in South African too do you have Lions in your back yards and ride elephants to school, Seriously?. We are civilised people like you all. And just want to have a fun time exploring the USA and meeting new people.

DC Au Pair/Afrikaans South African April 6, 2010 at 8:24 pm

I feel that most of you who screen/pick girls based on their religion are really being very unfair towards these girls… My host family is agnostic and I’m a Christian… Just because they don’t believe in what I believe in, does not mean we will have a bad relationship!! They support the fact that I am Christian and they are really good people!! My host mom just asked me that if my boyz have questions that I not make a big deal out of it, so that when they’re old enough, they can make their own choice of which religion they want to follow… and I agreed!! I don’t think that you should screen the girls for religion, but I do however feel that you should just be really honest about your religion!!! Just be open-minded and you might just be surprised!!

theGermanGirl-FutureAP June 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I’ve been reading a few of the comments because this topic also concearns me a bit, as I am an atheist, and what irked me was that somewhere along the lines of some comments it seemed like people thought atheist girls weren’t as good of persons as the girls of faith. Especially the post with the “Pierced Punk-Au Pair” I want to reffer to.

I think that’s a kind of hairy conclusion to jump to and say that a) an atheist girl is most likely to be a reckless renegade and b) that pierced girls with an eclectic style are per se crazy people and bad au-pairs.
To me that seems pretty superficial.

Not that I am a pierced Punk but I used to be at 14 (you know, the rebellion-phase?) and I am an atheist since that age and never have I ever felt morally inferior to other people who believe in some sort of higher power, whatever that higher power might be called.

Personally, I share many of the beliefs that found the main religions, I believe in love and loyalty, honesty and kindness.
I can’t believe in some sort of creator that made us and has a path for each of us mapped up but I can absolutely understand and accept that people find this concept helpful, consoling or even essential for their lives and I’m the last person to deny someone their right to a free choice of thinking and believing, especially if it makes life for that person a lot easier.

And the thing that I’ve been confronted with – mostly on the interwebs – that I think is a big predjudice in the heads of many religious people, is that atheists in general have a perverted need to destroy all these maybe helpful beliefs and go bashing faith at every possible occasion.
No atheist I know would do that because they’re getting a kick out of it and while I’ve read Dawkin’s books, for example, I would never think of going about the topic as agressive as he does at times.
If someone wants to discuss the topic I am happy to share my point of view, hear the other person out and call it “agree to disagree” because these sorts of discussions will never have a “winner”. …and if it ever does..well I gues then we are all no more.

The thing is, I’m afraid that the first thing interested family’s will think when they see my box ticked for “Atheist” on the application form, is that I am this horrible basher-person who is not tolerant at all.

But I’m not like that and I doupt that so many of atheists truly are.
I don’t have to believe in the bible to tell the kids about it, I don’t have to believe that Jesus came back from the dead to enjoy Easter with my HF, I can work with whatever faith – as long as it doesn’t command hate and intolarance – my HF has as long as I don’t have to be the person who teaches the kids about the family’s faith.

Most importantly, I hope you all make that distinction, that one still can be a good person and a great Au-Pair with morals and values and principles even if one doesn’t believe in God, Allah or whatever other name given.

Calif Mom June 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm

You sound just like me at your age! :-) Be assured that I absolutely don’t equate your opinions with being hateful.

One thing to realize is that in the States the term “atheist” can be interpreted to mean hostile to any faith practice, that an atheist thinks that everyone else is “wrong” and is going to pick fights with anyone who does regularly practice a religious faith. It connotes a certain level of activism about your ideas. But from your description, you sound more like someone who practices a “lack of religion”.

I like the “lid for every pot” that HRHM shared. But be sure that you are communicating yourself as an open-hearted, truth and justice seeking person so that misinterpretations aren’t made.

If you really don’t find yourself in frequent, heated debates with others about religion, then I would suggest you think about leaving that box on the form blank rather than marking “atheist”. It’s such a “loaded” term here in the U.S.

MommyMia June 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I agree with HRHM – be honest. I would actually welcome an atheist AP over an evangelical Christian who tries to proselytize. We’re agnostic or atheist ourselves, don’t attend church regularly, but certainly believe that everyone is free to believe in whatever higher power or deity or practice whatever religion they like. German girl-futureAP, you sound perfect for our family! (When are you planning to arrive, and what agency are you with? ;-) Send me your email if you’d like to chat “offline” – CV can assist if you don’t want to post it here!

HRHM June 25, 2010 at 7:42 am

APs – please pay careful attention! Be honest on your application about your religion and diet. You really don’t want to end up with a family who is completely incompatible with your basic way of life. Our first AP was Muslim but put “none” under religion. She was lucky that she got us, as we don’t care what religion (or lack of religion) a person is. But can you imagine showing up to a family that hates Muslims, (or catholics or atheists, etc) and having to hide your beliefs all year?

There is a lid for every pot – be honest about who you really are and you’ll find the right match. We were thrilled for our kids to learn about different cultures – religious ones included. And so are many great families.

Indi Au Pair to be May 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Once again, I’m late to the party but couldn’t help joining the conversation. I’m a Christian and I attend church services every week, actually my church’s services are being held in my grandmother’s house (she lives net door), I’m a Sunday School teacher and I volunteer to transtale for American missioners at least tree weeks a year. That being said, I would NEVER dare to tell someone that he/she’s going to hell. Same for my HF, I loved the commenter who said “when you are a guest, you respect the host”.
I also agree that practicing a religion is not a good compass for strong work ethics and moral values, so my advice here would be: if you come across a girl that has a faith or a lack of and you feel good about her but for ther religious views, INTERVIEW HER! You might be passing a great AP. At least her dietary choices go against your family’s or you’d honestly think her faith would influence your kids in a NEGATIVE way, then let her go. I do talk about my faith in my HF letter, I talk about the volunteer work and missions but I expressed it because my faith is important to ME and I rather be plain honest, also I tought it’d be a good indicator of my English level (I’m latin and we’re often categorized as having poor English skills) and it’s part of my childcare experience (Sunday School teacher). I’d never dare to “preach” or proselitize to my hf specially if they set clear they do not want that under any concept. I have friends that practice very different religions, muslims, agnostics, atheist, catholics, mormons. I respect their faith and they respect mine, if a friend is baptizing her kids, it’d go and happily celebrate with her, if a friend needs to stay home since Friday evening I don’t judge, if a friend refuses to drink coffee I’m ok! Now if someone tries to harm people to be “saved” well that I do not support it (I’m not talking about extremist muslims but more about some paganist cults).

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