What Makes an Au Pair a “Rock Star”?

by cv harquail on February 25, 2016

… asks a Host Mom who thinks hopes she has one.

rock star kos readI think I’ve always assumed that, like quality and pr0n, “you know it when you see it” if you’ve got a Rock Star Au Pair.

And, I’ve probably also assumed that what makes some one a Rock Star Au Pair really depends on what your family needs and what qualities you hope for.   But maybe I’m wrong.

If there is a basic set of qualities that distinguishes a Rock Star Au Pair from a terrific Au Pair, what are these qualities?

Tell us your criteria for Rock Star Au Pair!

What makes an au pair a rock star?

So many of the commenters on the site talk about their “rock star au pair” — they sound great!  But I am just not clear what that means. As my husband and I debate whether or not to ask our au pair to extend with us, I keep thinking, “is she really a rock star?”

And I just don’t know because she’s our first au pair.

It would be so helpful to hear your perspective and that of the commenters on the site as to what makes an au pair a rock star.If it helps… Our au pair has been with us for a little over four months. She is great with our two kids and we really love her as a person – we enjoy her company and she immediately fit in and felt like part of our family. She has been really helpful with things like dinner prep and emptying the dishwasher and does all of the childcare related duties we ask her to, but I don’t know if she is a “rock star.”

I just don’t know if we should ask her to extend or not and I’m hoping having a better understanding of what a “rock star” au pair does/is/means will help!


massmom February 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

It sounds like you’ve got most of the makings. “She is great with our two kids and we really love her as a person – we enjoy her company and she immediately fit in and felt like part of our family.” This is key — someone you and your kids both gravitate toward and feel comfortable living with, not just a good employee who happens to live in your house.

This is what I consider a rock star:

1) Goes above and beyond with the kids. Our current AP had our kids sitting in her lap within a day of arrival. She will spend all day playing board games with our youngest if he wants. She is consistent and loving. She made homemade birthday banners for both boys that reflected their interests. She really pays attention to their dynamics and supports their personalities, as well as reporting the important stuff back to me and picking up the ball when I occasionally drop it. I especially love someone who has strengths opposite from mine because I think that really benefits the kids.

2) Is a considerate roommate. Someone who really pitches in and helps with the household chores as if they are a member of the family. This goes beyond clearing the plates to helping regularly with dinner, folding the laundry (even if our clothes happen to be mixed in with the kids), and keeping the common areas spic and span. Of course I would never ask her to fold our laundry, but someone who just notices when things need to get done and does them is a rockstar in my eyes.

3) A good communicator. Love it when an au pair is proactive, regularly seeking feedback on their performance and asking for what they need as well. That makes everything easier, from sharing a car to making sure food doesn’t go to waste…basically all the little stuff that can add up and annoy you over time!

4) A fantastic attitude. It’s important to me that the au pair has a great year as well, so I love to see someone who makes a real effort to make a circle of friends, gets involved in activities beyond the cluster, and sees as much of the country as they can while they are here.

So in short: loving, proactive, engaged and “above and beyond” make a winner for our family. Good luck with the decision to extend! if you’re really not sure, casually mention your au pair to some of the other moms in your circle ands see what they say. I constantly had teachers and parents telling me how fantastic our last AP was and now, how much they miss her. Some outside perspective can help!

HRHM February 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm

You totally took the words out of my mouth!

WestMom February 25, 2016 at 7:21 pm

I completely agree! We have a rock star this year (again!) and rock star come in all shapes and sizes, but I agree with the basics:
– I like you, and you are nice to be around
– you are a good roommate, and respect my home, my car and my stuff
– you are flexible and take changes in stride
– you are resourceful and I have full confidence that you and my children are in good hands while I am not there
– You have special talents we all appreciate. In our home, it’s usually cooking or baking :)

And I also accept that rock stars might have flaws too! Sometimes, it doesn’t click as much with one child, or the cleaning is not as thorough as I would like but she can still be a rock star :)

*BUT*… It still doesn’t mean I want to extend… I want my rock star to keep her rock star status in my heart forever, so we part on a high note and my rock star helps me find the next rock star…

EVC February 26, 2016 at 11:33 am

This is a tiny bit off topic, but that last part about a rock star helping you find another great au pair is so important. I will not claim to have been a rock star au pair, but I know I was at least good. When I was winding up my year with my family they asked for advice and help finding the next au pair, and then sadly ignored the concerns I voiced about the person they selected. The incoming au pair was on a plane home after less than a week and I stayed on for an extra two weeks to cover while they found a replacement. If you have a good au pair listen to them when it comes to picking the next one.

WarmStateMomma February 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

If you are happy with her as a housemate and childcare provider, it doesn’t matter whether anyone else would call her a rock star. Congrats on finding someone who is such a good fit the first time around!

We extended with our current AP and her extension year starts next month. Here’s why we extended (something we have no experience with):

She gets better every month. Better at reading the kids, better at finding interesting things to do here, better at life skills, etc.

We need an AP who speaks Mandarin and drives very well. It’s uncommon for an agency to have even one applicant like that so her unique skill set is especially hard to replace.

On top of that, she goes above and beyond with the kids, finding them activities and special events to attend, new parks to visit, learning materials in Chinese, etc. She made dinner and put kids to bed when HD and I were sick. She reads up on bilingual language acquisition. Her mom ships Chinese books to us every 2-3 months and even hand made a blanket for my baby.

The car the AP drives is usually a sticky mess and kid clothes aren’t as organized as I’d like, but I let it go because it feels too petty to even mention in light of everything else.

I’d wait a bit to talk about extension because you could have a great year and still have reasons not to want to extend. I’d keep everything going along as happy and wonderful as they are right now. I was in your shoes at month 4 and we waited to talk about extension until month 7. So far, everything is going better than I hoped. I wish the same good fortune!

NoVA Twin Mom February 25, 2016 at 11:38 am

I think it’s a little “you’ll know it when you see it” and different for every family. Some of our au pairs I may not have called “rock star” at the time (not because they weren’t wonderful, but because sometimes it’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of it) but DO now call a rockstar in retrospect.

I’ll echo that our great au pairs, others have raved about to us. Saying how much they like her, asking about her specifically after she leaves. I think the biggest hallmark is that they look around, see what needs to be done, and DO it. What that means specifically can vary from house to house.

Mimi February 25, 2016 at 11:50 am

For me a rockstar AP is one who has the qualities that mass mom talks about and can anticipate things before I even notice they need attention. In a nutshell, she is perfect 90% of the time and will fix another 5% when I mention it to her (without complaint or grousing) so that I don’t care about the other 5%. :)

massmom February 25, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Yes! 100% this.

Should be working February 25, 2016 at 1:15 pm

I would echo the advice to WAIT before talking about extension. Month 4 is in my experience often a “high point” to the AP year: Still excited about newness, still adhering to all rules, but knows her way around and becoming more independent. The rock star is great through to the end or near the end, and after month 7 that becomes clearer.

HRHM February 25, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Yes, I would say every one of my Au Pairs (well with one exception) was stellar up to about month 6. Once the weather went to pot, the holiday chaos began and the homesickness and dull daily life took the place of “shiny new experience”, all but one started circling the drain. By month 8.5, if you still feel like she’s making your life better 95% of the time, that’s the time to talk extension.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 25, 2016 at 1:26 pm

A rock star is an AP who does stuff because the kids need it – stuff that any other AP might just wait for a HP to do. When The Camel was in halo traction to correct a potentially fatal physical defect, AP # carefully ran a damp cloth through the vest to make it smell better (and to get out some of the chunks of food that fell into it). AP #2 begged to be scheduled on several Saturdays so she could take child #2 to see the latest animated movies (I think she wanted an excuse). AP #3 pointed out that some metal had poked out the back of the Camel’s neck, which meant we got her to the hospital before the infection rate was so high she needed immediate surgery. AP #4 used peanut butter, which she hated, to separate a beloved hamster from a glue trap on the same morning she had to learn how to replace a g-tube “button” directly into The Camel’s stomach. AP #5 found and adjusted recipes to feed The Camel better food than the frozen lean cuisine dinners we were purchasing (we still make those dishes – and work on finding new things to cook!) AP #6 gave DH and I breaks when The Camel was hospitalized for four weeks following back surgery – her shifts in the hospital allowed us the necessary down time to be good parents – she also did special activities with child #2. AP #7 put up with my younger child’s games – like stick-fighting in the back garden. AP #9, after deciding that she was tired of putting up with drunk APs, preferred to play board games with us on a Saturday night. She also made a beautiful quilt-cover for the Camel that really reflected our child’s interests. AP #12 is so patient with the Camel – and is actively working to make her more independent (all on her own) after watching how the teachers handled her at school. Out of all the APs who have lived with us since my youngest became a teenager, she is the best with him – I think he’ll blossom as a more independent person while she lives with us. Those are rock star moments with APs who gave us their best nearly every day (and none of those women were perfect human beings – but they did their job so well it made it easy for us to overlook the little things).

My rule – never talk about extension before month 6. At month 8, when the AP’s extension paperwork arrives, that’s the time to sit down and have a serious discussion – what will change and what will be the same during her second year. There’s plenty of discussion elsewhere about how different the extension year can be (especially if all your AP’s best friends return home).

HRHM February 25, 2016 at 2:41 pm

For me, there have been APs who were phenomenal with my kids, but terrible flatmates (just couldn’t get that I needed them to do the household stuff too) and APs who were tidy and cooked and had zero interest in my toddler, sacrificing her feelings in favor of the baby who couldn’t have cared less.

To find the AP who does great with the kids, does the household tasks without being repeatedly asked, can drive safely, sticks to a schedule, is pleasant to spend time with and appreciates the (extra) things I do to make their life better and can maintain all of that through the whole year for the most part – that’s the Unicorn of APs!

EBHM February 25, 2016 at 4:08 pm

If you’re not sure if you want to spend another year with her, I think you should examine that more.
I felt like I could have written the same post. I am also a first time HM happy with my OPs performance all around, but ambivalent about whether we do another year.
I think each HF has a sense about how difficult the job is in relation to the compensation and general standard of living provided. HPs who know they are asking for a lot and will probably have to compromise on something, will know when they have a rock star because they have not had to compromise. Also, I am only prepared to do one or two more years of hosting, so changing APs just to have a different experience is appealing to me. My kids are old enough to understand why the AP is leaving and not be too upset.

HRHM February 25, 2016 at 6:18 pm

I will say, that after 7 APs, my kids have never had a crisis with the AP going at the end of her year. We’ve always treated it as a matter of course and the kids are fine. HOWEVER, now that we’ve had an AP for 2 years in a row (and she’s a wonderful, loved member of the family as well), it’s going to be an issue when she finally moves out of our home… :(

TexasHM February 25, 2016 at 5:23 pm

I agree if you are meh and having to ask if you have a rockstar you don’t have one! Either that or you are impossible to please! ;)

For me in one word it’s attitude. And what’s a rockstar attitude for us? It’s someone who puts the kids first (which means personal time vs working time doesn’t matter to her. Case in point – school just called DD5 has a tummy ache and I don’t get home until 430. I called AP (scheduled to start at 3pm and this was 215pm) and begged her to pick DD up so she doesn’t throw up on the bus ride home (DD has sensitive stomach and gets car sick). AP says “absolutely poor thing I feel horrible for her. I’m leaving right this minute!!” vs “so you want me to start at 215 instead of 3pm today?” Or “so will I get off 45 min early?” Or “is she going to throw up on me?” “Is she going to throw up in the car (and will I have to clean it up)?” My AP doesn’t care about those things because she’s more worried about DD not feeling well.

It also surfaces in the other ways touched on – looking around and doing extra things that need to be done, being a considerate roommate, etc. ap1 was amazing with my littles but could never figure out laundry and was a pita roommate. We still extended because I prioritized my very littles getting a loving very connected very safety aware experienced caregiver.

We had a rockstar that was introverted but could read my mind. She was brilliant and super observant but I had to kick her and DD5 off watching Sofia the first at times. ;). There is no perfect AP like there’s no perfect HF but if you find yourself bragging or others starting asking you about the AP program, you know you’ve got a gem.

All of our APs have been great in different ways. AP1 with juggling 3 littles. AP2 with bubbly attitude and always having a smile on her face. AP3 could read minds and was very proactive. AP4 has boundless energy for my 3 school aged athletic kids!

They all joke if they had the others job they would have made it (ap3/4 couldn’t do babies, ap1 is exhausted watching mine now!).

So I think it’s finding someone that nails your needs (whatever they are at that time), has the right attitude and is able to bond with you and the kids in whatever manner you are looking for. It’s hard to align all that (and especially hard to interview for) but when it does, you KNOW.

Nina February 27, 2016 at 9:41 pm

For us a rock star is an au pair who develops a loving relationship with both of our boys with quite different personalities. Someone who is loving, patient and still able to set limits when needed.
She should also have a personality that fits in with us the parents relatively well.

It sounds like you have found an amazing au pair!

Frankfurt AP Boy February 28, 2016 at 3:42 pm

I remember when I first read the term “rockstar” au pair I took it to mean type of au pair that injects things into their eye balls, tears up the house and sleeps with your partner but I have since got the idea haha.

One of my HMs that I still chat to regularly talks about how special her current au pair is. She talks about how she is independent and has her own life and motivations but helps out during her free time (for example, cooking on nights she isnt doing anything else so the HM can help with homework). Having met her too, I get the impression that she is thinking about what is in the best interest of the kids rather than merely just following the house guidelines because they are the rules. An example is that she wouldnt put the kids in front of the TV because she would feel that this is not the best for them – opposed to many au pairs that would not do it because the host parents have said not to. I know the HM would extend with her for as long as she wanted.

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