“Location, location, location” — that’s all that matter in real estate. And for some au pairs, that’s all that matters in their match.
I understand that au pairs have ideas about where in the USA they’d like to live (e.g., California, Florida, and New York), and that they want to maximize the adventure of the year of au pairing.
Still, for me it raises a big red flag when an au pair candidate says s/he wants to match only with a family in a particular location. It makes me wonder whether s/he really understands that being an au pair means, and whether s/he is in it for the right balance of reasons.
When we lived in Charlotttesville, I wondered if any au pair candidates would want to come there. Sure, it’s a cute university town with a young adult night life, but it is 2.5 hours away from a big city (Richmond doesn’t count). Charlottesville didn’t have much celebrity to attract candidates, so I liked to assume that our au pairs matched with us because they liked our family situation.
For my sister, it seemed pretty easy to find au pair candidates who were interested in her family situation… after all, they live a block away from Central Park in NYC, and their au pair room has its own bathroom!
But I think that the appeal of my sister’s location is what sent some of the least responsible candidates her way– some were so desperate to be in New York City that they lied about their interest in childcare. So when one of her au pairs disappeared in the middle of the day, leaving her 5 year old at school and empty liquor bottles in the closet– without picking up either one– we concluded that my sister had been taken advantage of by an au pair who wanted to spend 4 months in NYC before returning home to Sweden.
The whole location thing is one where I really see the priorities of au pairs being in conflict with the interests of families.
While I understand that any au pair might have a strong preference for location, any strong preference for location means that for me as a host parent I am less interested in that candidate— even if what s/he wants is a nice, diverse suburb just west of Manhattan where people think Bruce Springstein is a god.
What do you think about au pair candidate who prioritizes location?
Here’s an email from au pair candidate Shakira, who has a location preference and wonders how that should matter:
I’m Shakira (23) from Spain, an AuPair-to-be and I’m hoping your could give me an advice.
When I applied to an au pair program early in April, the agency told me I could not choose any particular state. But, my ‘counselor’ here in Spain -the girl who interviewed me at the local Agency- told me that with my qualifications, hobbies, and my daily life as such as I wrote in my ‘Host Family Letter’ I could get a host family in the West Coast as I want.
I was living abroad several times, the last one was in the States (almost 4 months in Brooklyn!), I consider myself very flexible, I’m in discussion with a host family from suburban NY and I don’t mind to live in NY again. But I’m not 100% convinced, if I have this wonderful opportunity to live in USA again, I would like to live in California. I spent the Spring Break ’08 in Riverside and I’ve fell in love with that State. I was taking a look at so many webs where families are looking for Au Pairs and California and NY are the states with offers more host families.
Since my profile was opened, 12 days ago, only 3 host families have written me, only one was from West Coast, in Washington State. The other two were from near NYC. However, since the first family needed me to be comfortable to drive on ice (it was the first and almost only question they ask for) so I had to say no.
I am from a coastal city, there’s no snow/ice here!)
Host families can see in my letter that I love doing water sports, going to the beach, playing with the kids in the park, walking around the city… and these three families only send me photos of them skiing, playing in the snow and they live in the countryside.
They told me the program only works if you’ve a great match with the family, and I already know that, I mean, it’s the most important thing, but I know myself and, if I don’t feel comfortable in the place where I’m going to live, the program isn’t going to work anyway. I was talking to my ‘counselor’ about this when I did the interview and she said, there’s no problem with it, I can’t go with a ‘perfect host family’ if I’m not going to be happy around there in that location.
What do you think? Do you think I’m doing all wrong?
I’m telling you this, because, first of all, I would like if you give me an advice about it and, if you could ask for (or may you know) any host family in California who needs an Au Pair. You don’t know how much I would appreciate your reply. I want to give all the best to live this chance, to study abroad and to meet a new family in the States, but am I doing it in the wrong way? What should I do? Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to hearing you, Best regards, Shakira