Summertime, and the living is… different.
Whether it’s our kids’ schedule, our own work schedule, or even just the return of the Good Humor Man, the start of summer opens up a chance to adjust how things are going with our Au Pairs.
As our family’s patterns change, we need to bring our au pairs along with us. It’s our job to help our au pairs adjust to the changes in schedules, in weather, in activities, and in children’s growth challenges. Any one of these changes would merit a conversation with ours au pair, and when the changes all converge at the start of a new season, it’s a great time for a reset conversation.
What’s a Reset Conversation?
A Re-Set Conversation is exactly what it sounds like– it’s a conversation to re-set expectations and routines, so that they fit with the changes in your household. Think of the re-set conversation as a focused, more in-depth family/au pair meeting.
The main challenge is to re-set the foundation of the routines that your au pair’s schedule– and expections– were originally built around.
You’ll need to get explicit about what you expect to change with your family and kids, and then discuss and plan along with your au pair how her/his schedule and care should evolve to meet your family’s new needs.
Yes, this is one of those times where it becomes very clear that your Au Pair has to adapt to you. So, it becomes important to focus on the underlying structure that is changing (e.g., from school to day camp) so that it’s clear that it’s the kids care that’s driving these changes, not your whims.
Suggestions for a Reset Conversation:
- Start with the Big Picture. Outline the whole summer’s schedule week by week, then sketch out the different days’ schedules. This way you set out the frame of what’s already known, allowing you to have a more focused and interactive conversation on how to address these new elements. This might include:
- A new daily schedule, with wake-ups, naps, trips to the park, day camp drop off, etc. all lined up.
- A 12 weekend plan — when you’re going to the shore, when you’ll be at home, when you know you need your au pair for a Saturday night, etc.
- New weekly schedules, with M-F plans if the days have different activities (e.g., swim lessons on Tues/Thurs)
- A 10-week outline of what happens which week (e.g., Harry Potter camp vs. art camp)
- A plan for your family vacation & trips
- A plan for your au pair’s vacation time, if any will be taken in the summer
- A schedule of visits and guests (Grandma in July, your au pair’s sister the first week of August)
- Discuss the small pieces together. If your kids will be taking a bus to day camp, talk about what kinds of drop off and pickup are appropriate for camp, vs. for school. (For us, this has meant ‘sunscreen goes on before they get on the bus’ and ‘Ice Cream only on Fridays, not everyday’.)
- Keep the conversation focused. Don’t try to change everything about how your au pair cares for your kids. Focus on the different activities and what they require. Focus on the challenges to the children and what they need.
- Frame the conversation about learning and growing and adapting. Remember that your au pair, and you kid(s) have continued to grow and change over the year. Frame the change requests that you make as outcomes of this growth. For example, ‘now that Toddler2 is having playdates, let’s go over the handbook section on playdates so that you know what to expect and how to organize them.”
- Add some ‘positive’ changes that reflect your au pair’s increased experience and her/his deeper relationship with your kids. For example, if you’ve been impressed by your au pair’s initiative, maybe you can give her a budget and send her to the craft store to buy new supplies for rainy afternoon craft playdates.
- Capture these changes on paper, so that both you and your au pair have something to help you get reorganized around the new expectations. This may mean adding a new page or two to your Au Pair Handbook or/and creating a 12-week calendar for the fridge.
- Before you ask your au pair to reset, reflect on your own expectations. You might need to refresh your assessment of your au pair’s skills, attitudes and interests, to incorporate the ways s/he has grown and changed. Sometimes without a reminder to update, we keep on thinking that our au pair can’t find her way around, can’t use a map, doesn’t really understand English, etc. Make room for some of that growth by reconsidering your beliefs about him or her.
The Summer Reset gives everyone a chance to start refreshed.
With a new schedule, we’ve got the prompts we need to make changes. Some of these changes are necessary, but it’s also okay to add some changes that just make things “better”.
As you look ahead to your family’s summer, what changes are in store?
Are there any changes that you worry might be difficult for your au pair?
What are the changes you’re looking forward to the most?