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 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.
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.
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.
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.