Something I really don’t understand about the larger cultural conversation about Au Pairs is how negatively the Au Pairing experience is portrayed. The Au Pairing experience is too often presented as being “bad” — where Host Families are demanding, irrational, and/or punitive, and Au Pairs are beleaguered, exploited, and powerless.
Meanwhile, here on the AuPairMom blog, Host Parents and Au Pairs share experiences that are challenging, yes. At the same time, these challenges are understood to be a small part of the bigger picture. On balance, our stories and comments demonstrate that most often Au Pairing works well for Au Pairs, Host Families, Host Children, and their/our communities.
What’s the disconnect?
This issue is on my mind today because of an article in the Washington Post: Are au pairs cultural ambassadors or low-wage nannies? A lawsuit enters the fray.
There are already 160+ comments on the article which– even if you exclude the 40% that are anti-Hillary trolls whose comments are irrelevant to the article — is a lot of comments for a post that’s been up only a few hours.
I’m not completely surprised that some of the information in the article is presented in ways intended to bias the reader.
For example, the Au Pair’s “pay” is pegged at $4.35 an hour, and does not include the value of room and board a host family provides. There are some outright inaccuracies which, along with selective interpretations, present the Au Pair program in an unflattering light. I get it that the author is writing a ‘feature’ that’s part of the Magazine…. this isn’t an objective article for the News pages, and she needs the ‘hook’ of exploitation to pique readers’ interest.
Still, it disappoints me that, once again, so little information is shared about the positive aspects of the program.
I don’t see any discussion of how regulated the Au Pair industry is, for example, in ways that make being an Au Pair much more protected than being a Nanny, or in ways that make sure an Au Pair isn’t socially isolated during his/her year. I don’t believe that 17,000 families sign up for an Au Pair each year, with many of us repeating the experience several times over, just so that we can exploit some young adult on a J-1 visa.
What also irks me is The Editor’s note. It claims that the author drew on “thousands of pages of legal documents and court transcripts, news articles, academic studies, a survey of 150 former and current au pairs, and interviews with au pairs, host families, workers’ rights advocates, government officials and au pair agency staff.” But, there’s no reference to our particular community(the largest one by far) as well as the several Facebook groups and Au Pair Agency parent forums where Host Parents and Au Pairs actively work together to make the experience good for all involved.
No. one. has as many positive stories about Au Pairing as we all do here on AuPairMom.
So let’s hear a few.
What is the author missing, and what our society missing, about the positive aspects of hosting an Au Pair?
What do people need to know from us, Au Pairs and Host Parents who’ve found the experience so worthwhile?
Comments are open. Please, no anti-Hillary trolling though.
Image by James Jordan on Flickr