When Your Former Au Pair Comes Back to Visit

by cv harquail on February 21, 2012

It can be kindof amazing when a former au pair comes back to visit. 

You remember her when, and she remembers you, and now everyone has grown and changed (usually for the better!). Depending on how things were when your au pair departed, and where you are as a family and as a parent, your au pair’s return can be easy, or stressful.

What can you do to make your au pair’s visit great for everyone?

4691438073_cb563ba1b6_b.jpgI loved it when one of our au pairs came back for a month-long visit.

She was on her way to a summer job as a camp counselor, and wanted to spend some time in her old stomping ground seeing old friends. We were without an au pair at that point, as so our former au pair just moved back into the au pair room, and nearly picked up where she’d left off two years before.

Her visit was wonderful all around — she had a place to stay and a home base for lots of visiting. She pitched in with a bit of babysitting. (Unpaid, and her effort to repay us for “all the Diet Coke she was drinking”.) Hosting her was also pretty easy– she already knew where things were, how things unfolded, what she could do to help, and more. I was happy to let her use the car, and I honestly didn’t mind when she came in late at night and creaked up to the third floor. The kids loved having her around and were excited to show off all the things they’d learned and all the ways they’d grown up.

That we had no other au pair for her to crowd out, overshadow, or coordinate with, and that we had the space, were part of what made her visit easy. But, truth is, I loved having her company, and I was sad to let her go again.

When we got this email, below, from HerFormerHostMom, I wasn’t able to think of too many expectations I’d want to set. It sounds just like our situation was, which was so smooth that I can’t even imagine any hiccups that I might have had to prepare for. But, I expect it’s not that easy with every returning au pair.

Dear AuPairMom —

Our fantastic au pair left us last summer after her year was up. We loved her and miss her very much. She has just let us know that she has a month off in the summer and was wondering if she could stay with us for a bit.

We are thrilled that we’ll get to see her, but definitely would like some tips on how to set up the visit and manage expectations. She was very responsible and I suspect would not take advantage of us in anyway, but I know that I would like to set up some expectations before the visit starts.

Does anyone have tips for when an au pair comes back to visit?

What advice would you give this mom, as she prepares to have her former au pair visit?

Image: Rachael Attribution Some rights reserved by PhotoCo.


Janny February 21, 2012 at 9:11 am

I bet it would be really exciting old au pair revisiting us. I guess just relax, and make the moment cheerful will do. Don’t be over-excited and have a great time!

AFHostMom February 21, 2012 at 10:05 am

I don’t think there should really be any expectations, should there? A former AP who would be welcome in my home has, at that point, transitioned to a family friend and we would treat her as such. She becomes a guest in our home and not a former employee. The only expectations we have of guests in our home is that they act reasonably and have fun, though there is a lot of interpretation in “acting reasonably.”
I’m having a hard time articulating what I’m trying to say but the bottom line, to me, is that if there are concerns about how she will behave, I’d think about why you are concerned. Is it over-cautiousness, or is there something about her that makes you think she might not be as respectful of your home, family, what have you as you’d like? If it’s the latter, I’d have to say no to the visit.

HerFormerHostMom February 21, 2012 at 10:19 am

This is the OP – thanks for posting my question! To clarify a bit, since my original email does sound like it would be a great situation and why am I even worrying at all – I’d like to hear stories about revisiting au pairs to make sure I’m setting up the visit properly. Obviously when she was an au pair, she ate anything in the house, we bought her groceries, she had friends over whenever, she had a car to use, etc. She’s still trying to figure out how long she will be here, but suppose she does come for a month – I think I would feel taken advantage of if she came and just picked up where she left off in terms of groceries and friends over but without the 45 hours of childcare. So I wonder if there’s a way to set expectations or if I should even worry about that and just see how it goes? Anyone have any visiting former AP stories to share – positive or negative?

AFHostMom February 21, 2012 at 10:42 am

I do see your point–and I think in that sense there should be a discussion of expectations. A month is a long time for anyone to visit, and if she eats you out of house and home as a visitor, that’s (to me) a harder pill to swallow than it would be if she were still serving as an ap.
We haven’t had an AP visit us yet, other than from the local area. I’m interested to hear what others’ experience has been.
If you don’t have her on your auto insurance any more(and I’m sure you don’t), the car thing is resolved. I’d send her an email saying “We’re so glad you’ll be coming back to the US! It would be wonderful to see you….I just wanted to ask you what your thoughts and plans are for a few issues,” or something similar, then go into a discussion of the car, the consumption, laundry and that sort of stuff, and visiting guests.

DarthaStewart February 21, 2012 at 10:49 am

I’ve had a large number of my previous au-pairs come back to visit, and they will usually hang out with us, and even offer to help with the kids, so it works out great. I don’t have any expectations about childcare, but it can be amazing.

Amelie ex-aupair February 21, 2012 at 10:58 am

I was an au pair in 2009 and visited my HF in July/August last year. They were kind enough to let me stay in their guest room for 6 weeks. I was really happy because after 1 1/2 years the kids not only remembered me but were very excited to see me. We spent a lot of time together, I went out a few times with their current au pair (who I became friends with during out overlap) and had occasional meals with the whole family (my host father was a really good cook). It was great to be back and have the chance to see everybody.

Having a place to sleep and the opportunity to spend some time with the kids was all I expected from the family. I really tried not to be a burden to them, since I know they all have very busy lives.

I was a great experience for me, and I think they they enjoyed having me as well. =)

Taking a Computer Lunch February 21, 2012 at 11:02 am

Two of our APs have come back to visit (one has come twice), and I’ll say the answer on what to expect is “it depends on how long she has been away.”

AP #2 returned for a Thanksgiving week visit 6 months after she left. There were still several APs in the area who had been her friends. Another AP who had been her close friend also returned for the same week. The visit was a lot of in-and-out. She went out to see friends and HF of friends who had left. But we also insisted that the close friend and she come for a special non-Thanksgiving dinner. She returned again two years later, and all her friends were gone, so she visited some HF of her former friends, went shopping, toured, but hung out with us much more.

AP #4 came back a couple years later with her boyfriend. The two of them spent a lot of time shopping and touring. She had a long list of foods (she was our best eater) that she missed, so I happily cooked for her knowing that it would be appreciated.

If a former AP stayed for a month, I personally wouldn’t think of charging them for food, but I would say directly, “It would be great if you cooked a few meals from your country.” And, if she had been one to cook for my kids, I would say, “X missed those special Y you used to make. I hope you’ll be able to find time to make them for X.”

Don’t be subtle. Treat her the same way you would if your own sister were staying in your home. Ask explicit questions about plans (that way you don’t go out of your way to prepare special meal that she won’t have time to eat!)

anon for this February 21, 2012 at 11:22 am

I would expect your au pair to behave in exactly the same way that she did when she lived with you – if she was the type to pitch in and help even when not working, she will do that when she comes to visit. If she wasn’t, well, I hope you are someone who really enjoys having guests! We have had one au pair come back to visit so far (and two more visits planned). I wasn’t super-thrilled about the first visit because, while this person was a good au pair, she wasn’t someone with whom I had a really strong connection. But I wanted her to come for the kids. Her patterns of behavior were similar to when she lived with us – she slept late, didn’t say thank you when we went out for dinner, etc., and spent a lot of time in her room reading. This was her typical weekend behavior while she was our au pair. But the kids were happy to see her and to spend what time they did with her, so the irritation was worth it for me. Looking more forward to the next visit!

FormerAuPairIreland February 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm

As a former Au-Pair in Europe I have visited my hostfamily quite a few times. The summer after I had left the family I decided that I would like to go back. I had been back to see the kids a few times, but I wanted to spent the summer in Ireland. My hostfamily only needed a couple of hours of childcare that summer, so we agreed that I could stay for free, but work a few hours a week. (This programme is know as “Demi-pair” in Europe – 15- 20 hours of Childcare for bed and board)
I really loved that summer, as I could see all my friends, spent time with the kids + I did not feel like either party was taking advantage of the other, as I “worked” for bed and board.

After this I stayed with my hostfamily again, but only a night or two each time. These days I prefer to sleep in a hostel and just go down for the day.

If you still have an Au-Pair while your former Au-Pair visits, I would make sure, that the current Au-Pair does not feel like she is missing out on something. Get her to join the “old Au-Pair” and the kids when they do special fun activities and make sure your Au-Pair feels appreciated. If your former Au-Pair is happy to pitch in, you could even give your Au-Pair a day of work, as a special treat or the two Au-Pairs could plan a special trip with the kids. Also I would not tell the recent Au-Pair too often, how much you missed the old Au-Pair or how great she was. :)

LuvCheetos February 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Not to buck the trend here, but I think a month is too long. I can’t imagine a house guest asking to stay for a month.

I’d be thrilled to see our former APs but for a few days or a week at most, not a month.

America10 February 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Have you thought about the flight costs??? Even you have to get to used each other again and the time change. In a few days – not possible!!
I think 3 weeks are good enough, maybe 4.
but less than 2,5 is not worse it for that price. Au Pair will come and go again.. you could not even spend much time together!

anon for this February 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Oy, this is a major cultural difference. I think it’s fair to say that most Americans don’t enjoy having – or being – houseguests for such a long stay. Two weeks would definitely be my max, and even that is pushing it for me.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Former Au Pairs, the variation in America is the #1 reason why you should talk with your former HP before booking your flight. I personally would love you to stay a month if you can put up with the very public playroom futon (but then again, I had friends in London who put up with me sleeping on a cot in their kitchen because it was the only way I could afford to do research. Apparently I was the only guest to put the cot away before I left each day – to me it would have been rude to leave it behind).

HFs – talk openly about your expectations. If your former AP says a month and you think it’s too much, say so. If you want something in return for providing room & board, say so. If your former AP has been working, then remember this is her vacation – she may want to chill. If you don’t want her in the house all day, then be explicit.

If you don’t actually like having guests in your home, then permit her to stay for a few days and then ask her to find other accommodations.

Whatever you do, don’t call it an “American” custom. It’s too variable. The guest/no guest policy seems to fall on introvert/extrovert lines, if you ask me. As an extrovert, I’m always happy to have guests, but my introverted husband would rather limit the length of their stay.

America10 February 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I can see your point. We are not a hostfamily of the US, so I dont know about your culture.
But I would feel bad for my former Au Pair when she is paying lots of money for only beeing with us less than 2,5 weeks. I am – like you – not the one who really likes guest either, but in this point I have to think more as for a guest.
She has been with us for a long time, she is not only a “guest”.
I want to spend timer with her, I want that she spends enough time with my kids and we can do some activities together.
I totally could understand Au Pairs who say 2 weeks are not very much – I am not sure if I want to pay so much money for a flight, if I can not really enjoy time with you. In the first days they will be tired, excited etc and then when you just have come “home” and be relaxed you have to leave again?
My husband and I talked a long time about how long we should let stay our former Au Pair and we diceded not less than 2,5 weeks.
Her visit of 3,5 weeks was great. We enjoyed having her with us again.
I do no doubt that this time wont be great for you

LuvCheetos February 21, 2012 at 5:28 pm

America10, I’m well aware of the flight costs and the time change as I have lived overseas. I would imagine that the au pair would make a visit to us a part of a longer trip to see other parts of the country she missed during her stay. I have been back to visit overseas but have always stayed in a hotel, limiting stays with friends to a few days. More than a week is really an imposition.

Anon, I agree this may be cultural. Our APs have proposed having guests in our home for 2 weeks before and we’ve had to say no. I am happy to host their family for a few days, but not weeks. It’s too disruptive and difficult when we work long hours and the Ap is working. I think the APs, perhaps because they are young and have never had to work and manage a household, do not understand how difficult it is to have houseguests. I always feel obligated to prepare special meals, make sure the house is extra clean, launder linens, etc.

How would it work to have an old AP visit for a month when you have a new AP? Our house just isn’t that large. We’d all be tripping over each other. Also, I would imagine the old AP would want to use the car to visit friends, but the new AP would also want to use it for her classes and social life. It seems that you could work it out for a short period of time, but I can only imagine how difficult that would be for a month.

Raquel February 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm

That’s such a nice topic! I came back to visit my family after three years and loved. I would only give one piece of advice, so bear with me to the end.
We were very attached and it took three years to raised the money to travel for 15 days. The old au pair room was nicely transformed in an art room, but I stayed in one of the guest rooms. A little board on the wall with ” Welcome back!” written was the cutest thing.
I spent 2 weeks, ate, watched tv, took the not-so-kids-anymore boys for a ride, used my hostmom’s car for the first time (as they got rid of the old au pair car) and tried to be as careful as possible, of course. Always leaving everything clean and helping on the kitchen.

I had money to stay only 2 weeks, but I imagine that having a guest (a fifth or sixth person) in the house for a WHOLE month shouldn’t be cheap. I’d say you must prepare yourself for higher grocery and electric bills.

So, there was one little thing that upset me a little, I will be completely honest…. I’m Brazilian and, like I said, it took me three years to raise money to pay the flight ticket and pocket money to stay for two weeks and do some shopping. I kept paying a loan at the bank for six more months. I didn’t want to bother them to pick me up at the airport, so shuttle bus and taxi transformed the trip in a 24h adventure. No other au pair visited them, and they had over 10 au pairs for about 13 years. But they didn’t seem to realize that and my plans to go to the cinema, to go shopping with my HM, to spend hours talking and laughing didn’t quite realize. I was all the time on the edge of saying ” do you have ANY idea of how hard it was for me to come visit you?” When she said she couldn’t make it to the movie theater because she was seeing a friend, I managed to say “that’s ok, after all I’ll be back in, like, a month anyway, right?”.

So, a roof and a bed MAY be not the only thing she’s looking for in that visit. Depending on where she’s coming from, try to think of how much she struggled just to see you again. ;-)

America10 February 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm

And that is the point why we have let our former Au Pair come to us more than 2,5 weeks.
It is hard for them to save money, if they went back to school they dont have much.
Also If your former Au Pair visits you, she doesnt want only to go shopping or meet old friends. She is looking for you and your childrens attention.
Most of us will be still working in the time the Au Pair visits… So why such a short time for her? Let her stay few days longer and you really can enjoy each other.
Also you can have one-by-one days where only hostmom goes to hang out with her old Au PAir (if they had a good connection)
I think our former would be very sad if she comes to visit us for only 2 weeks and we are only stressed out because of work or something else.
I agree with it that it might cost for the family a bit more in that time… but hey, these are 3-4 weeks in a year! And someone “special” is coming back to see you and your family.
For me it is worth it to see our great au pair again.
And if OP said they loved her really much and miss her.. SO why only let her stay for a short time if they wont have time to enjoy them again.

AFHostMom February 22, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I gotta be honest, I don’t have that kind of time for, well, any guest. What you’re describing is full-on catering to someone for weeks. I don’t even do that when my parents visit. When we lived outside the US and our families visited, we made it clear that while we loved to have them, our lives had to go on so that we could save vacation time for the days we went out of town or when we came back to the US to see them.
Different strokes. As has been said, when I visit someone, I don’t plan to stay with them for weeks on end. I see that as an imposition especially when the person has a job, or kids, or both.

Ex AP, Current Nanny March 4, 2012 at 11:45 pm

So as an Ex AP and current nanny, I am going to ignore both those things and share an experience of when I had a Japanese exchange student visit (this year) 7 years after her exchange. So we are 20 now, and she came as a visitor. Maybe it a cultural thing, but she didn’t pay for anything the whole time she was with us. I was broke from buying her gifts, snacks, coffee and every meal. Every movie ticket etc. So if you do visit your ex host family, make sure you take into account cultural differences in paying for things etc. As an au pair or exchange student it is one thing (groceries are included) and we were happy to provide meals for our guest, but it is not accepted in Western culture to expect everything to be bought for you. A month would be too long in that case :)

5kids=aupair February 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I just had 2 of our APs return this summer. 1 came for the summer to nanny for another family, but when it fell through, she moved in w/us. She stayed for over 6 weeks I think. She stayed in the guest room and got along great w/our current AP. We told her that AP had first rights to the car, but they worked it out ok. She also drove my husbands car during the week while he worked out of town. Visiting AP had 2 friends and a boyfriend to happily drive her around also. The only problem with her visit is that she “took too much” her words. She took advantage of our friendship and generosity. She let boys stay too late and once overnight. She took the car overnight to a bad neighborhood which it wasn’t allowed in the first place. I just spoke with her immediately about it and she agreed that she overstepped. I think she thought that since she wasn’t an AP anymore, that the AP rules didn’t apply. You might want to just let her know ahead of time that the same rules do indeed apply. After that glitch, all was perfect.

Second AP came that same summer with her BOYFRIEND for 5 weeks. It actually worked out awesome. They stayed in the guest room, the kids loved having her and another man in the house (my husband is never home). This AP and the current AP didn’t really get along bc of the boyfriend thing, but it wasn’t a bad thing. I do think that it was a lot on the current AP to deal w/2 returning APs for so long, but she was pretty good about it as she was an extension AP from another family. I think it would be different if the AP was in her first program year and unsure about her place in your family.

That is the tricky part, trying to be fair with emotions and whatnot between the 2 APs.

Gianna February 22, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I understand what people are saying about the challenges of entertaining and hosting guests while juggling career and family responsibilities. But isn’t it wonderful to think that some of our friendships with our aupairs will continue to grow into that distant future when we are not so overwhelmed and might enjoy adult company. It is hard to imagine now but I am told that it does arrive. It is nice to think about.

Comments on this entry are closed.