Since she’s temporarily returned to the nest– can I still give my (former) Au Pair advice?

by cv harquail on May 10, 2010

Funny how, once an au pair has become part of your life, he or she stays part of your life.

Many au pairs go home or on to their next adventure, and we don’t really hear from them again. Others keep in touch with birthday cards and Facebook, and with some we are lucky to have ongoing friendships– maybe over email, maybe over Skype and maybe even over years. 201005041937.jpg

Occasionally, we get to reopen our homes and our lives to au pairs as they ‘re-stage’ themselves for their next adventure.

We got an email from a Former Host Mom who has been enjoying the return of her (former) au pair as a visiting family member. But, she’s also a little worried about where her au pair is taking herself. This former host mom is wondering, now that she’s no longer a host “mom” — is it okay for her to offer advice to her former au pair?

I’m an ex-host mom who no longer has an Au Pair due to my kids being in school all day now. We have after school care for the children, so we really have little need for an Au Pair as we once did.

One of our old Au Pairs, whom we adored, arranged to return to the US to study on a student visa. We offered to help her out by giving her a place to live during her time here, and she has been living with us for several months now. She did not ask us to sponsor her, and we would not do so if asked. She is self-sufficient and does not work for us. She does help out as a member of the family by helping us with a bit of housework and helping get the kids out the door in the morning. By no means is this a requirement, and we do not pay her for anything. She is a great person, and we truly enjoy having her as part of our family.

Everything is wonderful for us, but I’m beginning to wonder why she’s here, and if this is really the right thing for her at this point in her life.

She is in a program at a local college but says she doesn’t really like it and would possibly like to change majors or switch colleges. She’s not really committed to a major and seems like she’s just flip flopping, so to speak. This is also a second degree for her, but not a graduate degree. I know she is working under the table somewhere, and she doesn’t seem to think this is a big deal. I’m nervous for her and do think that it is a big deal.

I’m starting to wonder if she should just go back to her country. I want her to do the right thing. She isn’t trying to meet a man or get married to stay in the country, and I believe that she does want to eventually return home. I’m wondering what to do. Should I mind my own business or push the issue?

How can we host parents reshape our roles and our relationships with our former au pairs?

And, more specifically, what do you advise this former host mom to do?

Image: The Brown-Headed Cowbird -Brood…from Rhode2Boston

{ 10 comments }

Taking a computer lunch May 10, 2010 at 8:49 pm

I’ve been in your shoes – sort of. One of my APs came back for a visit and discovered that her boyfriend had been to Paris (she lives in another European country) and never told her. He did his usual routine of making her chase him. She expressed a desire to study in the US, and I gave her my unsolicited opinion – “never move anywhere for a man. Move because YOU want it.” She went home to Europe, and is now doing brilliantly in university. She moved on to other relationships.

I don’t think you can tell someone to go home, but you can ask, “What are you trying to pursue that you can’t get elsewhere?”

Calif Mom May 11, 2010 at 9:43 am

Where were you, computer lunch, when I was deciding which college to go to? ;-)

I absolutely agree; to me it’s almost a moral duty to help young women–whether on the payroll or not–to think through their goals and options. I sure would have appreciated advice like this when I was younger. You don’t have to sound strident or naggy in order to provide perspective.

AnonHM-Europe May 11, 2010 at 2:57 am

If she is living in your house and helping like a member of the family I would believe her to be something in between “friend” and “family-member”. Would I bring up the subject with a good friend – most certainly. Would I do it with a family-member – sure. So why do you hesitate? If she tells you it’s none of your business, you’ll know how to handle it.
Besides, she lives in your house and so she should be aware that you might want know how she plans her future because you will be affected.
Push the issue, because if you don’t, it will bother you and thus have a (bad?) influence on your relationship with her.

Jeana May 11, 2010 at 6:26 am

We had this situation with our first aupair, who returned to the US and then lived with us while she completed her associates degree. She returned to her home country to complete her bachelors and masters in international business. During that time, I treated her as a family member, and did offer advice, sometimes just suggesting that she make a phone call to her parents to seek their counsel. I’ve treated our aupairs as I would want a host family to treat my daughters; as a family member. Our successful aupairs have known that my advice was to keep them safe.

Nicola aupair May 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

I’d advise her, but be sure to keep it short! As a young aupair, I constantly get people trying to give me advice (that said, the advice on this website is much appreciated!) and to be honest, my host mum constantly tires me with at least 3 lectures a week on what she thinks I should be doing. So tell her once what you think seriously and clearly, then never say it again! Otherwise the value of your advice will go down.

Aria May 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I love how you phrased this; you are 100% right.

TX Mom May 11, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for the perspective, Nicola and Aria. I have a similar question about putting my nose into our grown AP’s life and have decided not to say more to her. It is a struggle to be a “host parent;” if my daughter was making a choice like my AP, I would have a heartattack. But, my friends with grown children who have made poor choices have advised me that a parent can make things worse by lecturing.

NJMom May 11, 2010 at 10:29 am

Maybe just a simple, “Hey, how it’s going? Do you want to hear what I think?” If she says no, it’s pretty clear. Then you can just tell her that your door is always open so to speak if she does need advice. After all, you are letting her stay with you so I think it gives you some right to chime in.

franzi May 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

it’s interesting that you hesitate and i was in a similar situation (me not being the AP anymore but wanting to offer parenting advise) sometime last year.

if it is important for you to tell her what you think about her situation then do it! i’m sure there’s a nice calm evening that the two of you can sit down and just start to chat about her future, college etc.
give her the option to say “i like you but i do not want to hear your opinion” but if she choses to listen, it’s your time to voice your concerns.

do you know if she’s ever taken a career test? like the meyer-briggs or strengthfinder test? this has helped me a lot when i was in the process to finish my masters degree and was facing moving back to and job hunting in europe.

AUPAIR Momma May 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I went to college to be w/ my boyfriend and this year we’ll be married 15 yrs. It was absolutely right for us.

My au pair and I are friends too. She gets a boyfriend and I ask is he HOT, RICH or both? As the joke between us is that all aupairs come to USA to get married. I believe that is not why she came here and she gets indignant when people think this about aupairs so I tease her sometimes. We have a good relationship and she just laughs. I give advice to my au pair like I give advice to a friend. I keep it as positive as possible and do not judge. I know lots (like 50% or more) of the population likes to JUDGE people and a friend does not judge but gives a helping hand, encouragement and advice if asked. If any of these apply I’d do it, else I’m thinking its not your biz. And I think you know this bc of reluctance to give the advice that you have not been asked.

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