The most wonderful thing a host mom or dad can hear from a former au pair is
“You taught me how to be a good parent.”
I will confess that I’ve heard this myself, from the two au pairs we’ve had that we’ve stayed in touch with and that have become parents themselves.
It was immensely gratifying to hear, especially since I know I’m not the perfect parent, not the perfect host mom. And, because I know how hard my husband and I try to create a loving, nurturing, positively challenging environment in our home.
An an Au Pair Host Mom, I never set out to be a positive role model for parenting in general.
My objectives were much smaller scale, more local:
I just wanted to show my au pairs how I wanted my children to be treated, and how I wanted my children to treat other people.
It’s surprising what can happen, though, even when you’re paying attention to other things.
When I shifted from being a full time faculty member to a part-time professor with a consulting & research practice, I engaged a career coach to help me with that transition. As one of our early exercises, she had me brainstorm a list of what I wanted my daughters to learn from me.
At the time, I thought this exercise was irrelevant to what I was doing and where I was going. I was more focused on setting up a side business, managing my time better, and crafting a different “career path” outside of full time academia. I had no appreciation for an exercise focused on my parenting.
I completed the exercise, and filed it in a drawer. When I began to Kon Mari my professional administration papers, I came across my typewritten list in response to this exercise– and was stunned by the kinds of things I’d articulated nearly ten years ago that had absolutely come to pass.
It made me wonder– what if we had this sort of clarity for ourselves as host moms and dads?
What kind of role model do you want to be for your Au Pair?
What would YOU list, even just two or three things?
The role modeling doesn’t have to be about parenting, of course. If I’d had an au pair who went on to be a professor instead of a world-explorer/ flight attendant, or a manager in an office instead of a golf pro, some of the ‘career-y’ things they’d seen me do might have had an influence on their work-work. Luckily, at least two so far have become moms themselves. I’m honored and gratified that they are approaching motherhood differently because of the experiences they had in our family as au pairs.
If we’re to have any lasting impact on this world, we need to do something positive that extends outside our own family circle.
When we help a young adult learn how to be a better, more loving, more engaged parent, we’re making a real difference.