Here’s a situation that’s a real outlier — this Host Family has had their same Au Pair for 8 years.
First, as an Au Pair, then as a visiting (live in) student. Even though it’s an uncommon situation, I thought you readers might enjoy the whole story and have ideas to share.
Now it’s time for the Au Pair to go off to a job as a teacher, and leave the kids who have only known life with their Au Pair as part of the family.
What should this Host Mom be thinking about now?
We’re looking at saying goodbye to the same “AP” for the second time. I’ll explain:
AP#1 came to us when my first child was 1. She stayed 2 years…2 really wonderful years. A match made in heaven really. We did all those things in saying goodbye at the end…and definitely wasn’t even able to make it into, let alone out of, the airport without the sobbing!
I was pregnant with second child at that time. AP#2 came…lasted 2 weeks before we were ready to rematch (long, horrible story) and we wound up taking an in-country re-match out of sheer desperation. She was very nice, but not a great fit. Only had 4 mos left anyway, so we stuck it out. In the meantime, AP#1 was miserable back in her home country…we were linked on FB and saw a number of posts that gave that impression. So we were miserable, she was miserable…and I had a new colicky infant to boot!
So we brainstormed: What if she came back as a university student? Visa wasn’t a problem, evening and distance courses available. We paid tuition and all other living expenses (room, board, car, gas, phone, etc…) and gave her a monthly “allowance.” ($500) In exchange, she could help us out with the kids. I ran the idea by her and she responded with, “YES! I want to come HOME!”
A fairytale come true right? NOPE. Life was very different with 2 kids (one a colicky baby) and the full-time course load (12 credits) required to keep her visa. I have worked from home for almost the entire 5 yrs she’s been back…but I do WORK from home…full time. As someone who worked and paid my own way through college, I certainly get the stress. But the stress caused some real issues that, admittedly, I didn’t address early enough and they mushroomed. (So if nothing else – take that as the cautionary tale to address the issues promptly y’all!)
She’s a very conscientious student. I’m all for that. I was a good student and cared about my grades. But let’s be real: we’re not paying for Harvard here, it’s a small local university. She’s studied education. A 3.5 vs a 4.0 is not going to make or break careers here. But all that wonderful energy and dedication that made her such a wonderful AP…shifted away from my children and to her studies…and then to her student teaching.
I noticed it almost immediately – reading or doing homework while my oldest (then 3) occupied herself doing arts & crafts…she was never really “ambitious” when it came to helping out around the house…but that disappeared ENTIRELY….along with no more casual socializing (as was her habit) with my husband and I after kids’ bedtimes… she’s a serious introvert and has never had many friends other than online.
Like I said, I should have addressed it at the beginning. But in the perfect storm of unfortunate events, I also lost my job at that time and as the larger of the two breadwinners in my family, with a new (did I mention colicky!) infant in the depths of the recession (2010), I was a little preoccupied trying to keep my family financially afloat; now with the extra child care expenses I didn’t really need on a full time basis. I did need help. We don’t have family or other fallbacks, and job hunts don’t happen without time and effort…but let’s be real, I didn’t need what I was paying for with one in pre-school (wasn’t going to disrupt that) and an infant that did a fair amount of sleeping between the wailing episodes! And I just kept thinking…she’ll settle in and things will get back to “normal.” The didn’t. We tried lots of things over the years…conversations (always ending with her in tears at even the mildest criticism), multiple iterations of discussions, strategies and even documents outlining expectations and responsibilities…that would be adhered to for a few weeks then gradually abandoned.
Needless to say…it’s been stressful. It never got better, resentments grew (on both sides) and I have been waiting for her graduation day like the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel.” And it’s here. Next weekend in fact. Hallelujah! Knowing that graduating at this time of year and trying to get a teaching job was going to be challenging, I gave her until August to find a way to support herself and a new place to live. She hasn’t been our “AP” since August since she was student teaching full time last semester and she thinks she has a long-term sub thing lined up within a few weeks…but she still here. I know…I’m nuts. But I couldn’t in any good conscience just kick her out. She really does love my kids…and this whole thing was our original idea – we knew she’d have to student teach – and we made that commitment. I picked August to line us up with the school year and matching for when the largest pool of APs are coming in.
But here’s what I need in terms of advice: Extricating someone who hasn’t just been here 1 or 2 years…but actually will be EIGHT by the time she leaves. My kids don’t know any life without her…even if she has gotten progressively more distant over the years (probably more so to me than them…but my little one has felt that a little too of late). We have talked about it, both with the AP present and in private…and I’ve tried to be upbeat about it, pointing out that AP#1 is moving on with her life…she’s an adult…that’s what grownups do and they themselves will someday (gulp) grow up and move out on their own as well. My 8 yo seems to be taking it in stride…but she’s been a little bit more emotional of late (who knows if that’s this or just being 8 though?) My little one, now 5, is the one that worries me. She states emphatically that she does NOT want her to leave and can’t understand why she can’t just be our AP forever. And that she will NEVER love another AP like this one.
Have to admit – I didn’t really think through these bigger ramifications when I came up with this idea. I know for certain that without the kids, we would definitely NOT stay in touch…we just aren’t each others’ cup of tea anymore. But my kids are a different story altogether. And I know the AP gets that too.
Any ideas on how to ease this? We’ve discussed openly that AP#1 will certainly be back to visit regularly and probably for holidays and such (expecting that she’ll stay in the area as long as she gets a job and H1 sponsorship before her visa expires.
We’ve talked (privately, with AP not present) about getting a new AP that likes to play more and would be happier to arrange more playdates with friends (something that was a big beef of mine with this one…and something my kids also wish she was more proactive about.)
I’ve also asked her to talk to the girls and try to frame it all in a positive upbeat way. I just don’t know what else to do …but sense there will be some high drama coming our way as things unfold. Any advice is welcome!