There are many different types of equally good relationships that we host parents can have with our au pairs.
Good host parent- au pair relationships can vary by
— their level of intimacy (e.g., seriously close or pleasantly distant),
— the amount of time we spend together (e.g., every waking moment or “I’m off duty, see you tomorrow, love ya!”),
— the roles that we play in each other’s psyches (e.g., Boss lady/ great employee, Big Sister/Little Brother, and Mom’s Friend From Back in College/ “like a niece”),
We host parents get a sense of these different dimensions when we have our second au pair. The first au pair relationship always “is whatever it is”, but the second one is when you realize that– with each au pair — the form of your relationship will be different.
Also, we parents get to read on this blog about different forms of relationships, and generally have good sense of how very different au pair- host parent relationships can be and *still be good*.
For au pairs, though, I realized I have no sense of what they are expecting.
- Is there a dominant or most common pattern that Au Pairs are hoping for?
- Is there a pattern that Agencies seem to suggest?
- Or that doesn’t actually ever exist?
Curious Host Mom raises all these questions and more, in her email below.
I’d love to hear from Au Pairs, especially, about what you expect/hope to have with your Host Parent relationships….
Dear AuPair Mom—
We’re in our first year in the program, and we have a great relationship with our au pair, but reading the discussions on here has made me realize that I’m not sure what au pairs’ goals actually are for the “cultural exchange” aspect of their experience.
As the program was marketed to us host parents, the au pair is here primarily to experience US family life. There is also the expectation that they’ll make friends among their age peers, go out to experience the nightlife, etc., but all of that is framed as a secondary priority.
On the other hand, what I’ve seen of the marketing materials directed toward au pairs seems to lean much more heavily on the social-life side of things, with the opportunity to form relationships with their hosts mentioned as a nice bonus.
In our case this past year, we knew that two exhausted parents of an infant weren’t going to provide the kind of “family life” for which ANYONE would want to travel thousands of miles. We made the limitations of our lifestyle clear in matching, and really pushed our au pair when she arrived to make contacts outside our family with whom she could get out and have some fun. That’s working out well for everyone, but I don’t know how differently things might have turned out if we’d set different expectations during matching, or a different tone in early weeks.
So, in future years, as we (hopefully!) become a more active household that actually does interesting stuff on a regular basis, should we be expecting (and offering) to play a major role in showing our au pair a good time (family meals, game and movie nights at home, sightseeing outings, weekend trips, etc.)?
Or, would most au pairs’ best-case scenario be that we just hand them the car keys and the occasional cash bonus and send them off to have adventures 20-something style?
Obviously there are a variety of experiences and expectations out there, but I’d love to have a more concrete sense of the typical range in which they fall!
I should also stress that I feel like we could make either model work for us.
On the one hand, having someone in our home every year who’s new to the region and the culture, and is genuinely excited to experience it with us, could help keep us motivated to live up to our own ideals of family life, which is great for us and even better for our child!
On the other hand, an au pair who sees us primarily as a home base for more independent adventuring would be a LOT less responsibility, and it’s not like we’ll be feeling any shortage of responsibilities in the foreseeable future!
So, there’s no wrong answer here; the spirit in which I’m asking is simply one of wanting to have my own expectations set appropriately as to what our contribution to the cultural exchange aspect of this program is really meant to be — simply supplying logistical support for someone who’s pursuing their own thing, or providing a more in-depth cultural experience within the family… ~ Curious Host Mom