What’s Your Host Parent “Word” for 2014?

by cv harquail on January 1, 2014

Of all the different suggestions for setting New Year resolutions ‘n things, my favorite is the one where you choose a word (or two, or even three) to guide you during the new year.   I like this one because it’s so minimal, and so do-able, that it’s hard not to be successful in one way or another.


In the past we’ve had some New Year conversations where we’ve set more specific ‘action item’ resolutions for our host parent-au pair relationships.

And we’ve talked about how to take advantage of the New Year as a time to reset or refresh our expectations-– of ourselves and our au pairs.

But if you were to pick one word, just one word, what would it be?

This year, what will you be focusing on?

I’ve got a few plans in the works for AuPairMom, including an updated design and better search tools — so my AuPairMom word for this year (tentatively) is ‘renew’.

What’s the word you’ll use to shape how you approach being a host mom or dad in 2014?



More about Words as resolutions:

What are your words for the new year? by Danielle LaPorte
Choose One Word to Set the Tone for Next Year, by Gretchen Rubin

New Year’s Posts from our archives:

New Year’s Eve Thanks
Be a Wiser Host Parent in 2012: A Dozen Questions for Reflection
What are the best lessons you’ve learned this year about being a good Host Parent? (2010-11)

9 Host Mom Questions for 2009: Reflect before you resolve (2008-09)


Gigi January 2, 2014 at 11:05 am

Clear Expectations (two words).

I’m almost at the end of my first year hosting and realize that I put the relationship first just a few too many times to where now I don’t think I’m taken seriously when I ask for something to change.

Now, two months out, there are some things that are really not working, but I’ve set a tone of a lax relationship and don’t feel like I can change that without her taking it really personally.

When our next Au Pair arrives in February, I’ll set really clear rules up front – even ones that seem silly (just like I read to do on here but ignored).

Host Mom in the City January 2, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Too funny, Gigi – I was going to post something similar. This is one thing that I’m doing way better at three au pairs in – speaking up when I don’t like the way something is going the first time it happens, rather than letting things slide and getting to a point where I’m angry and resentful. And I will say, don’t just put things in the handbook, have an initial conversation during training, and then expect not to have to clarify things after that. With our current au pair, we had lengthy discussions about the handbook in the beginning, and within a few weeks, she was breaking the handbook rules already. Sweets during work hours, for example – she works during the day, so I’ve said no sweets, unless you ask me first. Seems like it should be a simple rule. Within the first two weeks, my son told me they had had cookies. With former au pairs, I would have let it go, and then seethed each time I heard about them eating junk for snack for the rest of the year. This time, I braved the difficult conversation and put an end to it right away. Feels so much better.

The other thing I would say, also not one-word, but “my needs are important too.” I’ve found with all of my au pairs, that I go so far above and beyond to make sure they’re happy and getting to do what they want that I put my needs for the relationship way down on the list. Want to take a class that means you can’t work until our agreed upon 5:30pm? If it works for me, ok, but otherwise, I’m just going to say no. Need to take that Friday off that I really need you? Sorry, that really doesn’t work for me. I’m not saying be totally inflexible and obviously if you can meet a need for your au pair with only a minor inconvenience, fine, but I’ve found over and over that I say yes to things that really really don’t work for me and end up causing me and my family hardship.

Angie host mom January 2, 2014 at 6:55 pm


This year I want to remember that part of the reason for having an au pair is to expand the au pair’s horizons as well as the children’s. Slow down, teach what works and what doesn’t, and learn and listen. Don’t get caught up in the routine and what is faster to do myself rather than what the kids and au pair should be doing for themselves.

NNTexasHM January 2, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Funnily enough I was thinking about choosing a word to live by in 2014 – not a goal or resolution, but one word. I chose “connection”. I know it sounds obvious especially given the Au Pair program, but I think it’s too easy to simply “exist” with family and friends and people who dwell in my daily life and fail to truly connect. When I do take the time, it’s wonderful. So with that, I look forward to more connecting in 2014 – including with the lovely folks on this blog!

Seattle Mom January 3, 2014 at 1:48 pm

My word is similar-


Because I also feel like sometimes I’m just coasting and not really connecting with the people around me. Connect would be a good word too, but I think I need a little prodding from a more active word. I need to be mindful with people. I feel like I instinctively engage with my children, but I need a reminder to engage with everyone else- my coworkers, my husband (at times, sometimes it comes easily), and of course my au pair.

My current AP is wonderful- she is friendly when I engage her, but she will never be the first one to connect with me. She’s not shy, I think it’s just a cultural thing (she’s Thai). She is extremely engaged with my children and with her friends, but reserved around me and my husband. Sometimes I just follow suit and don’t expect to talk to her much, but I think we could both be getting more out of this relationship. She is leaving in 2 weeks though, so I’m really more focused on starting a new relationship with our next au pair, coming from France.

Should be working January 3, 2014 at 1:35 am

“Boxes”. Like HMITC I tend to focus on whether AP is happy instead of first deciding if my needs are being met (which includes my kids’ needs being met). Then I get resentful. Lately I have been trying to “put things in their boxes”, meaning to focus on my stuff first and not get caught up inAP’s needs, wishes or drama. I guess it’s another word for “boundaries” but I like boxes better. They have lids that close.

JJ Host Mom January 3, 2014 at 5:47 pm


I’m kind of the opposite of Gigi. We had a bad run of au pairs and then took a while off from the program. We’re back now with an Extraordinaire who is still fabulous, 5 months into her year. And yet I still find myself getting jumpy when I get a flashback of something that happened with a previous au pair, even though she is her own person and deserves the benefit of a doubt. When I find myself stressing out that something isn’t quite right, I need to take a deep breath and ask myself whether I might be misinterpreting things, and if not, whether her intentions were good. When I do that almost everything works out okay. And with this au pair, trust is reciprocated by trustworthiness.

Little by little, our current au pair is restoring my faith in the au pair program. I need to stop being so defensive and let myself believe that an au pair can really be this awesome.

Should be working January 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm

JJ, I am so interested to hear this. I remember your bad run of APs. And I want to know for myself how to handle the allergy-anxiety feel that can come up when a new AP evokes briefly a big problem we had with an old AP and I start down a bad road of associations. It’s like the afterlife of “correction bias” in the selection process (I think CV used that word to describe when we over-focus on avoiding one particular quality in a new AP that had been a problem with a previous AP and thereby miss the bigger picture of the new AP).

Congrats on the good experience this round.

JJ Host Mom January 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Yes, you’re right, Should be working. It is the afterlife of the “correction bias”!

I still read here and thank my lucky stars every day. I have to agree with those of you who say that given how the au pair program is set up, it’s almost bound to fail in most cases; at least that was mostly our experience before. I really think it’s just a huge stroke of luck (with a dose of doing everything I learned about on this board) that we ended up with a good situation this time around. But I do find that I have no idea how to act around an au pair that I actually like and respect and hope never leaves our family. I tend to make up problems in my head and then talk myself down. Mostly our au pair doesn’t perceive this and the few times I’ve felt my psychosis was actually worth addressing with her, we had a mature talk about it and worked things out in 5 minutes. But I do spend a lot of time utterly panicked that I’m going to ruin this. So, breathe.

(Yes, I am as much of a nutjob as I appear in this post. :-) )

cv harquail January 5, 2014 at 8:34 pm

It makes me so excited, JJ, to see that you’ve got a good one this time– you really earned it, host mom. ;-)

JJ Host Mom January 5, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Thanks CV. :-)

hOstCDmom January 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Two phrases:

“Due diligence.” As in – DO IT. Don’t see what you want to see, but really ferret out the facts. Call the references. Talk to the agency recruiter who actually, personally interviewed the candidate. Really read the application, ask the questions, and if along the way if something seems odd, sort it out. Don’t ignore red, or even yellow flags. Expect that things be explained (i.e. the missed Skype time — if a sick grandma seems like an excuse, then don’t dismiss it.)

“Full Disclosure”. Tell AP candidates what you really need, and want, make your expectations clear. Craft a handbook and share it, BEFORE you match. Adopt a little of the dare to match philosophy. And tell the AP you want the same — full disclosure from her/him. One HM on here said it well, that she can deal with many things, but she wants to know what she’s getting.

hOstCDmom January 5, 2014 at 5:35 pm

And the first phrase goes to the heart of the other recent thread:

“Do Au Pair Agencies Really Rematch Au Pairs Who’ve Violated Safety Rules? ”

Talk to previous HF, LCC. Ask questions. Review the rematch AP’s application in the same way you would an overseas application – ask the questions, call the references, get the behind the scenes info from the agency (i.e. if the candidate will match with families of other races, if they want a particular region or religion, if the candidate refuses to match with a LGBT family — there isn’t a right answer to these questions, but there is a right answer for YOUR FAMILY, and this back story is part of the AP application that the agency has, but we as HF don’t see!)

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