Too much excitement for her first weekend?

by cv harquail on January 6, 2011

Dear Au Pair Mom readers–

We are expecting our very first au pair to arrive tomorrow — we are really excited! And we already have a question about the best ways to get her into the swing of family life.

201101060931.jpg We were invited to a birthday party the day after the Au Pair arrives. (She arrives on Friday afternoon, and the party is Saturday.) I have a 3 year old and a 2 year old and I am pregnant.

The party will be hectic and crazy. My first inclination is to skip the party and let the Au Pair rest and slowly get acclimated. My other thought is to throw her in the mix and show her how crazy a day in our family can be, but is not always. I don’t want to scare her off and a little kids birthday party might be too much the first day.

What do you experienced host parents think?

Should we bring our new Au Pair to a birthday party her second day?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...


cv harquail January 6, 2011 at 11:30 am

Take her to the party! I’m a big believer in the ‘jump right in’ philosophy of orienting an au pair. Even though she may be tired, and the party might overwhelm, I’d rather have too much excitement than an au pair left alone with a chance to wonder “what have I gotten myself into with these crazy people?”

HRHM January 6, 2011 at 11:41 am

I think the flurry of activity may actually help ward off some of the homesickness that happens early and that sitting home is just not a good idea. As long as you anticipate that it will be a fun event, that people in your family will welcome her and engage her, then you should take her along. If your plan is to take her and make her watch a bizillion kids, that’s probably a bad plan (and not fair) first weekend or not. But asking her to give a helping hand with your kids at the party is a great way for you to watch their interactions and her instincts first hand.

Mom23 January 6, 2011 at 11:48 am

We always used the “jump right in” approach. Only once did it really bite us. After our au pair left I read on her blog how much she resented that we did not focus entirely on her that first day. Had I read that blog sooner I would have saved myself three months of trying to make things work with someone it was never going to work with. Most of our au pairs have enjoyed jumping in. I think that keeping busy is good.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I believe with the proper amount of coaching by you and being up front that you understand how overwhelming it is, jump right in. We threw a pool party for my son’s friends the day after our last AP arrived. The party is an annual tradition and DH and I considered postponing it, but then decided to have our AP plunge right in to our family life.

What we did – gave her plenty of written warning that we were doing this, what it would mean, and since it was in our home, gave her permission to disappear into her room if speaking English all the time became too much. We encouraged her to eat with the adults. What we did not do – put her in charge of the kids (instead, she got to see how we handled things). She held her own. If that wasn’t crazy enough, the second day she was here, we took her to a bat mitzvah and the subsequent luncheon.

We made sure that a good part that first weekend was about her – taking her grocery shopping to select foods she liked, taking her driving, and heading into our city to tour.

I do think, in general, your AP would rather be included in family activities than left alone (yes, she’ll need down time), but a child’s birthday party can be billed as a cultural experience and with the right enthusiasm on your part, tempered by a sense of humor, she’ll feel wanted, needed, and embraced by your family.

Au Pair in CO January 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm

On my first full day in the US, my host family took me to Texas Roadhouse for dinner, then told the waitress it was my first day in the country so that I had to get up on their saddle and do a “Ye-haw”. Totally embarrassing, but it gave us a good laugh, and it gave me something to tell my friends back home. (As well as a youtube video that will haunt me forever..:P)

I think you should take her to the party, but also remember that she might still be exhausted from traveling and might wanna go to sleep earlier than normal. I have an 8h time difference from my home country to here: add that with two nights spent in airports on my way here, and my first night here I wanted to fall asleep long before dinner time.

Steff January 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I’d say jump right in, but I guess that also has to be with the AP’s personality. Maybe she would appreciate being count as one more of “you” that very first weekend aif you take her to the party with your family and to be with your friends and stuff. I guess that’ll be fun and it’ll show her a little bit more of your family’s dynamic and how “crazy” it’ll probably be from time to time. (Maybe I’d ask her too; if *she* wants to go. Don’t think she’ll say no, but still…) Plus, in my opinion, I guess it’d be a good chance for her to “mix” herself in the American Culture right away, right? What better than a birthday party!! heehee ;)

Then again, I have a similar situation and I still dunno how it’s going to be. I’m supposed to arrive to my HFs house a few days before my own birthday and then also a couple of days before host kids’ birthdays. I got the idea how’s that gonna work, and honestly, I’d rather not worry about that quite yet. In my mind it’ll all work out, and it’ll only help me bond with the family as well as my new kiddies *Totally crossing fingers at that! ;)*

Anyway, Good Luck to you and your new AP whether you take her to the party or not. Hope she becomes a great addition to your family!!! ;)

PA AP mom January 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I find the “jump right in” approach to be very useful. Not only does it help the AP immediately like part of the family, but it can help you see right off the bat, how she interacts with the kids.

If it gets to be too much for her, you can always leave earlier, or let her leave.

OB Mom January 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Agree with the Jump In philosophy. They have had a few days of class to get acclimated to the time zone and they have probably been pretty bored with the content of the class. We actually had a situation where we were picking up our new AP from a rematch and took her to our own son’s 9th B-Day at Dave & Buster’s on her very first day. Nothing like jumping in with her in a public place to see how she would survive. She did great and followed the different clusters of boys around like a hawk. We did give her extra time the next day to relax and unpack.

Good Luck!

3gr8tkids January 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm

For me it would depend on the personality of the au pair and how she is feeling. Travel can be tiring and she might be jet lagged. I would absolutely invite her but also give her the option to stay home. Our first au pair was shy and needed more time to adjust. Our second was able to jump in faster. The most important thing is to make her feel welcome — there are some great tips on this site on how to do it.

AFHostmom January 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Can you just email her a slightly differently worded version of what you wrote above, and let her decide? When our AP got here she had no plans for the first Sat night and our family was headed to a church dinner…she is atheist but I told her she was welcome to come if she wanted, and she chose to, and actually enjoyed it. Point being, it wasn’t something she’d usually do, but she went anyway and appreciated us leaving it up to her.

NJMOM23 January 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Leaving the AuPair at home is not an option if you are required to be with her at all times during the first two days. That is our agencies rule. Do all agencies have this policy?

Calif Mom January 6, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Totally agree that you want to have her jump in, but don’t expect her to manage anyone yet, and prep her adequately about how insane it will be. It will give you *excellent* data about whether she will flameout quickly. No guarantee that she will be a keeper at 3-4 months, but certainly a feel for how you will make it through the first few weeks.

The “with her at all times” rule is usually interpreted to mean that while she is watching your kids you have to be with her (two agencies I’ve worked with have interpreted it that way). But you could certainly let her stay home during a family off-site activity!

HRHM January 6, 2011 at 11:08 pm

I think you may be misinterpreting the policy. They are not to be left alone as primary child carers during the first 3 days. It’s not that you can’t leave them alone. You can go and leave them at home but you have to take the kids with you. Also, my take on this is that it’s for training and assessment, so over her first three working days, I gradually give more leash – by day three she’s driving them to school and dropping them off by herself, but I’m at home a couple miles away with my cell on in case there are any problems.

NJMOM23 January 7, 2011 at 10:35 am

I did misinterpret the rule! Thanks for the clarification.

HMinWI January 7, 2011 at 12:02 am

JUMP IN!!! I have found that lots of activity the first weekend has led to a faster adjustment to our family life. I think that enjoying a party with family friends is a great way to introduce your AP to the community. She may not remember many names, but she’ll enjoy the activity.

NoVA Host Mom January 7, 2011 at 1:40 am

I’m with the “Jump Right In” group, with an asterix. I would allow the AP to leave early to crash or to take time at some point if something becomes too much for her (like the constant mental translation, or the jet lag).

I think “all in” is a great way to go, and it sets the tone for the level of interaction that you will be wanting of your AP while she is with your family. It also allows your family to start welcoming her to the fold, and without the pressure of her being the center of attention in the process.

Deb Schwarz January 7, 2011 at 6:46 am

I agree with NoVa – take her (you wouldn’t want her to think that she isn’t part of the family), but let her go early so she isn’t bored out of her mind and she has some time on her own. Remember – if she is coming from overseas, she will be jetlagged, sleep deprived from au pair school, wanting to get settled and a bit overwhelmed from taking everything in. Perhaps ask her “big buddy” (if her LCC didn’t assign one to her be sure to ask for one) can pick her up from the party and show her around the area.

used to be an AP January 9, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I really like the idea of the “big buddy” picking her up at some point. Also, I wouldn’t really make her watch kids (regardless of whether “just” yours or other kids as well) but let her see how you deal with kids. Of course she can help and she probably will, just don’t take her just for the sake of watching kids. Tell her that this is great way for her to meet some of your friends, some of your kids’ friends etc..

NoVA Host Mom January 11, 2011 at 12:03 am

I’m pretty sure this is not a matter of her watching the kids at all. After all, she is still getting to know everyone. I think it’s just a matter of some families can be a bit overwhelming (my own is a really amazing example of that – we cannot be subtle or introverted no matter how hard we try), so having the AP “big buddy” come get her early (or HP drop her at home sooner) or even just a room where she can go and rest or have a few moment’s peace is important.

The point is not to take her to watch the kids (frankly, when we are at family gatherings, it’s all hands in the pot for us – the grown-ups wanting to hold or care for a kid far outnumber the little kids), but just to be part of the family. If she only ever makes funny faces at my kids at an event her first day with us, that’s a win in my book.

Eurogirl January 7, 2011 at 8:23 am

In one au pair job I arrived on Wednesday and we had a birthday party for the twins I was caring for the next morning. Staying up late helping with baking and other party prep, dealing with hyperactive over-excited children (and, if I may be so candid, hyperactive over-excited PARENTS) and then the arrival of almost twenty more hyperactive over-excited children (and some of their parents, and two older sisters, and one other au pair)…was crazy, very hard work and exhausting. But it was a good way to meet all their friends and family, and my first au pair friend.

Not to mention that after that, I was ready to take on anything that they threw at me. That was possibly the hardest days work I ever did with that family (or as an au pair at all)…but also one of my best days ever.

CO Host Mom January 7, 2011 at 9:56 am

Jump right in. Our last two APs have arrived a day or two before my youngest child’s birthday, so they were thrown right in to the chaos of our family. I warned them ahead of time so they would know what to expect, then made sure to include them by assigning easy but fun tasks. I think it is a great way for them to feel they are part of the family.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 8, 2011 at 11:54 pm

One year my son decided he wanted an obstacle course birthday party that included a point where water balloons would be lobbed at the guests and him. My AP and her friend relished the task (and I’m sure neither of them will forget that party!). Another year it was a bicycle race – and an AP and her friend got to say “Go!” and see all the kids come back, too.

Eurogirl January 10, 2011 at 8:16 am

I was asked to draw special targets for the kids to hit with water balloons once for a birthday party – and I drew portrait pictures of the birthday girl, myself, the mother and grandmother, and the kids’ teacher from their class at kindergarten…this went down well and everyone thought it was funny…especially their teacher!

I love kids birthday parties and even though it can be hard work as an au pair, it’s usually the “fun kind of work” – happy kids and different and interesting tasks. As well as a testing start for a new au pair it is also the most fun way to get into the job and the family…

Sota Gal January 7, 2011 at 6:01 pm

I too am a jump right in believer. Our best AP’s have been the ones that have jumped right in to difficult situations… twins and I throwing up minutes after walking in the door from the airport. She jumped in without batting an eye and took over caring for our non-sick older kiddo and managed to help my husband with 2 vomiting 2 year olds late into the night without batting an eye. She was a gem the entire year. We’ve also had parties to attend as a family and it is a great way to meet lots of people in your lives. Like others have said, prep her on what to expect and also let her know she won’t be responsible for the kids.

Juliana January 11, 2011 at 11:59 am

let her know about the party before she goes. Explain everything and she won’t be scared at all. But, ask her about it too! If she feels confortable going to the party. Comunication is the key to a awesome relationship between you and your au pair!

NJMOM23 January 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Update- I brought her and she was great. She has been great the whole weekend, really getting into being a part of the family and also taking her responsibilities seriously. The night before the party, I said to her that she could sleep in and we would see her when we got back, or she was welcome to join us. She was up and ready to go and we enjoyed having her with us. Thanks for all the comments.

Comments on this entry are closed.