We Host Parents want our Au Pairs to be truthful with us.
Whether the topic is homesickness, feelings of depression, concerns about children’s behavior, or even our own emotional situations, we want our au pairs to tell us how they see things. As Americans, we believe that candor (being forthcoming) and honesty (telling the truth) make strong relationships possible.
When Au Pairs are candid about how they see a situation, they often reveal to us that their perspectives are not the same as ours. This is fine, most of the time, because bridging the gap between what they see and what we see is the very process that helps us resolve problems.
What’s sad, though, is when an au pair’s candor tells us something we don’t want to hear, such as that our toddler behaves badly, our house smells, or our relatives are meddling too much.
What’s absolutely the worst? When an au pair’s candor tells us that s/he doesn’t appreciate what we do to make their situations as good as possible.
Host Mom JJP just found this out, and now she’s wondering–
Should she pursue the extension she’d originally proposed to this au pair, or find someone new?
We’re at that point in our Au Pair’s stay to decide whether we’d like to rematch for another year. Our AP has been pretty good (I wouldn’t say “great”), and for the most part, we’ve been happy with our decision to hire her. She’s trustworthy and likable, but not great at helping run an organized household.
My husband is a busy executive, who frequently travels. I am a part-time freelancer and can do part of my job from home. We have three boys, ages three, five and ten, and don’t have family that live nearby. We decided to hire an au pair, like most families, to have extra help and the everyday consistency of an additional family member.
Our AP recently expressed her interest in extending, and my husband and I agreed that we’d be happy to host her again. I figured I can overlook, or fine-tune the ‘small stuff’. We felt good about the decision up until yesterday. That’s when the trouble began.
She told me the night before she had a “terrible nightmare” about being locked in a room and felt like she was in jail. Outside that jail she could hear children running around, screaming, and being naughty. When she woke up, she called her mom who told her that she had a psychological dream and advised her to not rematch; just to come home after her year was up. She went on to tell me that she is now she’s not sure about staying because of this dream. Also, her closest AP friends are leaving. However, she doesn’t necessarily want to go home because she doesn’t want to live with her parents, and can’t find a job in her home country.
While it’s great to have an AP who feels so comfortable with expressing her thoughts, I felt offended by the suggestion that she feels imprisoned, or that she’d leave simply because her friends are gone.
Never in this conversation did I hear, “This is a really great job, I’m appreciative of you, and I adore the kids, and these are great reasons to stay.”
It was just way too much self-centered, immature information. Her standing in my eyes just plummeted.
Our AP works probably thirty hours a week, has time to work out at the gym every day, her own car, most weekends off, iPhone, etc. I’d like to think of ourselves as an easy-going and giving family, in which any AP would be not just comfortable with, but feel fortunate to have such a great gig. Our Au Pair has had many, many days of vacation time due to my flexible schedule (she’s been to Vegas, L.A. Miami, and Seattle for 4 to 5 day weekends). We also hosted her family for a week, while giving her the time off while they were here.
Since our rematch conversation, I’ve feel disappointed, to say the least. So the questions is:
Do I start all over again and hire a new AP that is more experienced, gracious and appreciative?
Or should I be a bit more understanding of this age/life phase and keep her?
(I’m sure she’ll decide to stay, due to lack of other options) I’d love to hear the insight from seasoned Host Moms!
Image: Maureen Barlin on Flickr