What skills has your Au Pair learned… from You?

by cv harquail on June 20, 2009

_images_content_web_features_feature3_ft_linencloset07_m.jpg I was downstairs early this morning, in quiet reverie folding laundry. When I dragged the fitted sheets out of the dryer and started the elaborate and effective semaphore choreography that gets them folded into tidy piles, I was reminded of all of the crazy little things that I have taught my au pairs over the years: how to fold a fitted sheet, how to hang party streamers, how to get the black, burned stuff off the inside of the pasta pan you forgot what still on the stove, etc. etc.

It’s a little embarrassing sometimes to think about the sheer number of household tasks I have taught my au pairs the "right way" to do. Because, you know, 200906201648.jpg there is a reason why you fold towels into thirds…. because it’s less lovely if the seamed edges show. There’s a reason why you cover the blanket on the bed with a second flat sheet… so the blanket stays clean and you have a fresh layer of pretty linen to tuck under your arm.

My au pairs could tell you another hundred similar tips, not only about how to do something around the house, but also how to do that something well, and even further, why you’d want to do it that way.

I probably have an overdeveloped domestic sensibility, but it runs in my family. Not only from my nana to my mom to my sisters and me to my daughters, but also to my au pairs. Which leads me to wonder– what skills have you taught your au pair? Anything from homemaking to adventure-making….? Do tell!

How to Fold A Fitted Sheet, Martha Stewart Living
Perfect Towel Folding , Martha Stewart Living


Anonymous June 20, 2009 at 8:47 pm

How to make Sangria and Mojitos. :-)) We entertain A LOT. In fact, our poor AP arrived at midnight the night before a major dinner party we had planned at our house for one of our children’s birthday. We entertain in our home about twice a month – and AP is always in the kitchen mixing drinks – she seems to love it, and is always excited when we entertain – but she didn’t know how to do any of this beforehand. We host potlucks for our AP cluster at our home – all the other host families have suggested my husband hold cocktail mixing classes for the APs. We joke about whether we could get them education credit for it. :-))

Anna June 21, 2009 at 1:42 am

I taught my first au pair go cook oatmeal (hot cereal, from scratch). She didn’t know how to cook at all, and even though I cooked for the family, this was not something I could do every morning for the kids.

Other than that, and laundry rules (especially the one of not putting clothes with stains that didn’t come off in the wash in the dryer), I didn’t teach them anything domestically. I am very relaxed and they have no chores at all in my household that don’t relate to the kids.

DC June 21, 2009 at 4:40 am

Nothing! (Well, other than maybe how to work the dishwasher, but that doesn’t count). Both of my au pairs have been great at keeping things neat, fanatics about the kids laundry and much better cooks than I could ever hope to be. They always seem flattered, however, when I ask them to show me how to do something, like make a tasty dish from their home country or re-create an art project they did with the kids.

Natt June 21, 2009 at 7:37 am

I’ve taught our current one a whole lot of things – so much so, I wonder if she ever knew everything she claimed too when we interviewed her *hmph* A short list includes how to fill a washing machine so that it isn’t overfull, or unbalanced; how to stack a dishwasher so that things get washed effectively; how to fold fitted sheets; how to hang up a wet bath mat… the list goes on. Now if I could just teach her to put clothes in the dirty laundry basket, instead of dumping/leaving them wherever……

I have taught both our aupairs how to sew! :o)

Jeana June 21, 2009 at 7:51 am

I’ve taught our aupairs how to make brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Recently, I’ve taken several classes to learn how to stack coupons and use them during a 12 week cycle when the price is at its’ lowest. Our current aupair loves when I take her to Walgreens and CVS to stack coupons and purchase items very inexpensively. She told another aupair about what I’m teaching her, and her friend wants to come with us! I’ve taught our aupairs how to use phone cards and how to use websites like Orbitz, to find the most inexpensive flights.

Franzi June 21, 2009 at 11:59 am

thanks for that link on how to fold a fitted sheet! my mom tried to teach me several times but i…well…it just doesn’t work for me. apparently, there’s a difference in being left- and right handed! that explains a lot! :-)

Anonymous June 21, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I took my aupair and my daughters to the ballet on the season ticket my husband and son aren’t really interested in using. She loved it and now attends ballet in her home country.
She also attended baseball games with my husband and son on the season ticket that my daughters and I were not really interested in using.
Her father is a great golfer and when he came to visit he enjoyed teaching my husband to improve his game.
We have had so many wonderful experiences we are sorry that we are about to age out of the program.

PA Mom June 22, 2009 at 9:07 am

I think the thing we’ve shared most it food related. How to make Italian classics – and to try new things. I don’t think young women learn to cook much anymore and I find it relaxing not to mention a great way to save money, entertain friends and share/show love. If you can’t properly cook pasta – I didn’t do my job as a host mom. Oh, and my husband is big on teaching how to make an American style bed (hospital corners, etc.). What my APs have taught me – is a longer list – and includes how to make their favorite foods, clean a window with newsprint, and a host of other things.

Calif Mom June 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

(I still don’t know how to fold things neatly, so once more I’m feeling like a domestic slacker reading this site!)

I once enthralled a couple APs who were chatting with me in the kitchen while they were getting ready to go out and I was making dinner. Believe it or not, how to peel and chop a lot of garlic cleanly and quickly absolutely mesmerized them. They had never seen someone whack and chop before.

(I have let go of trying to teach to stack the dishwasher. Not sure why this is so problematic, but it seems to be a cultural universal–even with my hub! I have thought of taking a digital picture of one that is properly loaded and taping it onto the front of the machine, but it seems so petty. So it’s the thing I laugh at every night as I’m in there re-doing it.)

I have taught APs to use drills, drivers, and a level to mount things on walls.

I hope that I have taught them that some things just aren’t important enough to fret about. That holding a grudge is damaging, even if someone has let you down about something really important, like your kids. That the literal nature of kids is magic. That things always seem to work out if you communicate about them. I have tried hard to teach them about the stages of brain development and how to not talk down to the kids, not to be afraid to use “big words” and explain big concepts. That’s what I hope I’ve taught the ones who have enjoyed their time with my family, anyway.

I do wonder what the ones who didn’t work out and ended up in rematch learned. I hope that they at least learned something about the nature of work, and treating people with respect, and the importance of knowing who you are and what you really need and being honest about that. But if not, well, they have really missed an opportunity then.

Anonymous June 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm

My wonderful Irish mother in law taught our aupair to read Tarot cards and runes. Our aupair was so pleased with this skill that she didn’t want to teach any of her friends how to do it although she likes to read their cards.
Also, my mother in law taught our aupair and our gilrs to play Hearts.
It is their favorite thing to do on a rainy day.
My girls could not believe that our aupair had never played Monopoly.
She wasn’t so excited by that game but when Grandma comes to visit , they all play Hearts together all night.

MTR June 26, 2009 at 11:54 am

I thought my first AP two things. First one was how to make lasagna. The second one was however a lot more important and that is how to be polite. My first AP was rude to a fault: no please, no thank you, she was ‘telling’ instead of ‘asking’. And although we ended up in rematch with her, I know that she has learned a valuable lesson and I also know that she has taken it into account even if not to heart in terms of how people in U.S. expect to be addressed in emails and conversations.

Our second AP I taught how to make mashed potatoes and how to cook a soup that is based on my heritage and she absolutely loved.

PA au pair mom August 19, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I have taught my au pair how to take a blood pressure, basic first aid, CPR for children, and a lot of remedies for everything from bee stings to burns to headaches.

I also taught her how to do yoga and how to buy things on ebay.

aria April 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I’m on my 2nd family now… and even though I rematched out of my 1st, I DID learn a lot from them and my current HF!

Previous family:
HD taught me how to drive a stick shift minivan, and I am forever grateful.
HM taught me how to clean a washing machine filter (no, I didn’t know before) and shake clothes out before drying them to minimize wrinkles.
HD taught me how to make mashed potatoes!

Current family:
HD (a partner at a law firm) once told me to always answer a question with a question.
HM taught me how to make homemade soup- buy fresh veggies at the market, boil, mash, season, etc- I’m an expert now!
HM taught me how to make pasta (no, I didn’t know that either)
HD taught me how to make yogurt.
HD taught me how to build a fire in a fireplace.

And lots more. :)

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