When your family has found an au pair who really fits, and when an au pair has found a situation where s/he’s flourishing, the obvious question is — should we extend?
Extensions can be a gift to both the family and the au pair.
The Au Pair gets a few more months on the USS Adventure, and both s/he and the family get to reap the benefits of all the hard work that they put into their relationship to get it working well.
With extensions, one challenge is assessing whether the good relationship you feel at month 5 or 6 will still exist at month 15 or 16.
Experienced Host Parents know that the “Arc of the Au Pair Year” has both downs and ups. If you’re assessing a relationship at an ‘up’ time, you might forget that the situation can change.
Your kids can change, your parent situation (e.g., work) can change, and your Au Pair’s friends can all go home and leave her/him alone. Or, the American boyfriend/girlfriend might turn out to be a jerk. You never know.
Another challenge is figuring out when and how to ask your au pair about extending.
If you ask too soon, you might be making a decision without complete enough information. Stuff can hit the fan later on, and either party might feel stuck in an extension that they regret.
If you ask too late, your Au Pair might have already down-shifted into ‘getting ready to go home’-mode.
This shift can happen imperceptibly between the halfway point of month six and the actual preparations for departing that begin around month 9 1/2.
It’s not a formal shift, but a psychological one… and if your Au Pair has already starting thinking about the year ending and her/his return home, it can get weird when you and/or the Au Pair try to get this shift to reverse.
What’s kind of weird about this all is that there is no real reason why an Au Pair contract “should be” 12 months long.
We’re just in that habit because of school years and fiscal years and toddler years.
Maybe the “perfect” amount of time for an Au Pair/Host Family relationship is really 9 months, with a 2 month ramp up, a five month golden time, and a 2 month wind down.
Or maybe the ‘perfect” amount of time is actually 19 months — with a 4 month ramp-up, a 3 month wind-down, and a full 12 months of golden time.
Who really knows? It’s more in our heads and our habits than in the activities and work themselves. The real challenge, I think, is wrapping your mind around the time you have, and working hard to keep the golden time as long as possible.
So, if you’re thinking about asking your Au Pair to extend–
How do you figure out when it’s been long enough to know it can stay good, but soon enough that it’s easy to reframe the arc of the year?
Last year we wondered whether the issues we were having with our au pair were caused by the program being ‘wrong’ for us or by the personality of the au pair we chose. We ended up sticking out the year, although in retrospect we should have rematched because she just wasn’t the right fit.
This year, when we searched for our new au pair we were much pickier and matched with the most amazing young woman. I think she is one of these “rock star” au pairs that I’ve read about on threads here!
She is exactly what we were looking for and what we imagined our au pair to be: a smart, energetic, vibrant young women who is amazing with the children and is a wonderful house mate as well. She is polite, outgoing, friendly, enthusiastic about exploring the area and traveling. The children love her and she loves them. She goes the extra mile without being asked. She is happy, and we are happy.
We’ve only had her for a month, but my husband and I would love her to extend with her for another year. How early is too early to discuss this? I’m sure there is a honeymoon period with new au pairs? (Although we never felt this way with the last one, I was in tears the first month in frustration.)
When is the best time to discuss extension with your au pair? I know she was planning vacations with friends (as we asked her to think about since we need a lot of notice), and was thinking about what she wants to see during her travel month, so that’s also why I bring this up. I’d love some advice.
~ New AP Mom
Image from Flickr