You don’t have to be a host parent to notice a problem in your Host Family-Au Pair relationship. Obviously, Au Pairs notice problems too.
That’s why Au Pairs should try some using some of the very same tools we recommend to host parents, tools like weekly meetings, written schedules, and the always-useful reset conversation.
Many of the emails we get are from Au Pairs who know there are problems but haven’t yet realized that they can step up and “lead” the process of addressing and even resolving these problems.
“Child” Role vs. “Independent Young Adult”
Many au pairs arrive at their host families’ homes while they are still in the mind frame of a “child”. Not that they act like babies, of course– they are young adults. But many of them still operate unconsciously in the role of “child” instead of the role of ‘independent young adult’.
In the ‘child’ role, they put themselves underneath the authority of a parent. They aim to follow the Host Parent’s lead.
A rare few host families find this arrangement comfortable for them, because it puts all the authority and direction in their hands. However, most host parents really *don’t* want another ‘child’. They want (and are ready for) a young adult who is becoming more independent and more in charge of him/herself.
Shifting Roles at Month 4
The 4th month of an Au Pair’s year offers a predictable opportunity for an Au Pair to reconsider her/his role relative to her/his Host Parents.
In the 4th month, Au Pairs often feel more ready to experiment with establishing their own independent authority. The Au Pair has finished a three-month settling in period while s/he’s largely done things the Host Parent’s way. Now, if the Au Pair has discovered some issues with the Host Parents’ arrangements, it’s time to think about addressing these issues.
Only relationship magicians can predict right off the bat the best to raise a problem in a relationship. Most of use try something – anything, as long as it’s respectful — and expect to adjust and evolve from there.
For every Au Pair, this is a chance to experiment with ways to bring a concerns to the Parent’s attention, how to document or describe what the problem is and how it relates to the guidelines of the programs, and how it might be resolved given the Host Parent’s priorities and abilities.
Or, in other words, it’s time to find a way to say to your Host Parents, ” I’ve realized that my regular schedule turns out to be 47 hours– how might we adjust things to get back und4r the 45 hour limit?”
No matter how gently or elegantly and Au Pair raises a concern, it’s possible that the Host Parents will feel unsettled. Nobody wants to be doing things wrong, right?
But even if it’s awkward, and maybe *because* it’s awkward, you’ve got to begin.
Initiating a reset conversation is a smart way to raise a concern, start a conversation, and begin to negotiate a resolution that works for the parents, the Au Pair, and the whole family.
The email, below, from an unhappy au pair prompted this post. The Au Pair has what at face value seem to be legitimate concerns.
(As usual, we take her word for it and extend a generous interpretation.)
What surfaced for me on reading this was the au pair’s sense of indignation.
[ editor’s note: Yes, I know that we’re not supposed to assume and infer, but after getting about 9,00o emails similar to this one, the sense of indignation is a ‘new angle’ we can take on the whole ‘unhappy au pair’ situation. ]
This au pair is in a situation where she needs to have a reset conversation. She needs to reset not the specifics of her work and vacation arrangements with her Host Parents. She also might need to reset her own role.
What might it be like to approach her Host Parents less like someone who’s beleaguered, and more like someone who can optimistically see a way to take charge of both the details and the emotions of the situation?
That’s my question. Read on, and then share your own response.
Dear AuPairMom — I’ve hit the 6 month mark of my year and am deeply unhappy.
I feel like my family treats me like an employee not really a family member. I recently emailed my co-ordinator asking for help regarding hours.
I regularly work 47-48 hours despite the 45 hour regulation. When I’ve said this to HP this week because they were working from home and I felt I should finish early, their reaction has been abrupt. I simply asked to finish earlier because I only had 6 hours left of my 45 hours and they were home!
When I ask for my cheque today they suddenly bring up the summer- we agreed that I would do alternate weeks of full time work and 10 hour weeks so I could do fun activities with the kids. But now they’ve said we are putting them in half day camps. Fair enough – if you want to now strictly adhere to the rules because I’ve brought it up.
Then they attack me saying I still owe them money for a course (which I’m saving up and haven’t took the course yet- I still have a couple of months to save) which we agreed I would pay for at a later date.
I feel like I’m being punished for bringing up the contract we both agreed to. I’m sick of feeling under appreciated but don’t even know how I would go about saying I want to go home. I have a home vacation trip in a couple of months and ideally wouldn’t want to come back.
I emailed my LC and she said I needed to talk this through with my family, then she went behind my back and told them what I said to her.
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