As every reader of this blog knows, we are big fans of the concept of the Family Handbook. And by “we” I don’t mean the royal moi, but all of us host parents (and even au pairs). It really helps to create a handbook to get your expectations and needs out into clear language, and it helps your au pair to have explanations s/he can refer to.
Our handbooks can get pretty long. The more we know about challenges, and the more we learn about our preferences, the more pages we seem to add to these books. Our family handbooks can appear daunting to a new au pair too — All those rules! Procedures! Explanations! Curfews! English words I don’t recognize!
On paper, we thoughtful, well-prepared host parents can come off looking like nags, dictators, and uptight prisses who will be impossible to live with (even though we are not that way). The challenge is always — do we spell it all out and risk looking insane? Or do we leave things out (and hope they won’t be missed) in order to look less rigid or rule-bound?
We also recommend that you send these handbooks to our prospective au pairs so that they can know (as clearly as we can spell it out) what to expect as our au pair. Some host parents (I’m thinking of you, CalifMom) send the handbook to all prospective au pairs as part of the “I dare you to match with our family” strategy. The idea here is “forewarned is better than ambushed”.
Unfortunately, sending an incoming au pair our complete (obsessively detailed) handbooks can misrepresent the otherwise loving, open and relaxed familys/he has yet to meet in person. The handbook can even scare (or scare off) an otherwise great au pair.
Given the tension between informing your au pair and freaking him or her out, the question is– when is the best time to send an incoming au pair your handbook?
[There are a lot of choices here — and I’m sure that sometimes you use a combination. Give it your best shot.]
This squestion comes up for NewbieHostMom, who wonders:
We have our first au pair arriving this weekend. Should I send her our handbook before she gets here? I am a little obsessive, maybe even compulsive. Our handbook is extensive. If I send her to her today or tomorrow she will be getting it a few days before she departs for her orientation. Is that too much, or will it be appreciated? She seems to want the info, and I did send her a basic schedule for hours, but I am just not sure what to do.
I suggested that she send just the schedule and driving rules — as a taste of things, but a small enough amount that it wouldn’t overwhelm (Also, at this point the au pair might only be able to read it as an email, not printed out, and that could complicate things too.)
What do you all think?