Often on this blog we talk about what’s happening between you and your au pair as the source of difficulties– but sometimes the difficulty is all of our own making. Things happen to us host parents — grandparents die, host parents divorce, someone loses a job, a parent gets hospitalized, a child is challenged, and on and on.
When things happen to us personally, our reactions to these events and situations can affect our au pairs. They may sense that something is up, and wonder if they’ve caused it. They may even have learned (from you or someone else) just what the situation is, and yet they may not know how to respond.
When difficult things have happened to me and I’ve been aware that they’ve made me tense or bitchy, I’ve done my best to tell our au pair up front– I want her to know that I’m not angry at her, or crying because of her, or inattentive because of her.
I recognize that often, when a person has no data about a situation, they look to themselves as a possible cause. (“Uh-oh, she just yelled at the dog… I must have put a good knife in the dishwasher!”) I don’t want her to worry that she’d done something wrong when what’s caused the issue has nothing to do with her.
Unfortunately, even when others have nothing to do with our issues, they get caught up in the drama. We may be upset, unavailable, unpredictable, who knows– but they have to deal with it. Is there any way to make this easier?
Consider this mom’s concern:
This blog has been super helpful :) But I’m having some troubles that I wonder if other host moms have experienced… We now have our 3rd AP who has been with us for almost 2 months. She’s from Brazil, and a wonderful person and AP.
My dilemma is that personally, I’m having a really difficult time with things in general, struggling with some personal stuff. However, the AP and I are still in the building-relationship phase, and she’s basically getting me at what is probably the worst time I’ve ever had in my life. There are times when I’m mean or bitchy (not intentionally, just that I am not present enough to realize I am being like that), which she takes personally and subsequently feels bad (not un-rightfully so; I’m not trying to make her feel bad, but I’m understanding now that I am doing it).
Part of it is that I am also second-guessing my interactions and what I’d like to do with or for the new AP, based on the really terrible experiences I had with our 2nd AP (which was just a couple months ago). It’s resulting in a lot of miscommunication, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings all around.
Now, on the one hand, I’m trying to do what I can to get myself sorted out (seeing a therapist, other things); but I’m also scared that I’m going to scare her away with what I feel (hope) is a temporary condition for me.
My specific question is:
Does anyone have thoughts on how much to share with the AP about my personal struggles? Has anyone else been in a similar situation?
Do you have any tips for navigating this?
It feels difficult partly because the relationship with my au pair is so new; I know my husband and my friends can understand and basically cut me a bit of slack, and give me some space, because they know I’m not always like this. However, I also am afraid that from her perspective, coming into a home where the mom is struggling at the beginning, you might wonder if it’s ever going to get better. I wouldn’t blame her for wanting to rematch, but I really don’t want her to leave.
I would love to hear from some other host moms on this topic. Thanks!
I already responded by email to this mom, mostly to remind her to appreciate the important steps she’s already taken, for being so self-aware, and for wanting to work on her au pair relationship — in addition to all the work she’s doing on the issue itself. And I’m sure you parents (and APs even) have some helpful suggestions.
Please offer your advice in the comments….Let’s see if we can help.