Lucky you- you’re not only getting an au pair, but also you have a choice of rooms for his or her bedroom!
But which bedroom should you choose– the one near the baby? The big one where s/he’d share the kids’ bathroom or the smaller one where she’d have her own bathroom? Or the tiny one with the great view?
Recently some friends of mine decided to get their first au pair. While they’ve had live-out nannies for years, they no longer needed that level of childcare. They wanted more flexibility, and maybe even someone who’d be fun and help broaden their kids’ worldview. So far, so good.
They have three kids– a 14 yr old, a 12 yr old, and a 7 yr old. Their cosy home has three floors — it’s not huge or glamourous, but it does have well-designed space. The second floor has the parent’s bedroom/bathroom, three smaller bedrooms and a bathroom. On the third floor there are two additional bedrooms and a bathroom.
When our friends moved into the house a year ago, their 14yr old daughter took a bedroom on the third floor, and the two other kids got bedrooms on the second floor. That left two open rooms, one on each floor. One of these rooms was for an au pair, and one was designated for a homework room/office/study for everyone to use.
A few weeks before their au pair arrived, my DH and I went out to dinner with this couple, and the conversation turned to their au pair’s arrival. They were super-excited, and wanted everything to go off well.
They were planning to put their au pair in the open bedroom on the second floor, right across the hall from them and in-between the two younger kids. Why the second floor?, I asked. Because their teenager wanted the third floor to herself.
My husband and I looked at each other. Which on one of us was going to challenge their judgment as parents? Which one of us was going to tell them, outright, what to do?
“Put the au pair on the third floor.”
“When you have a choice, optimize for parental privacy.”
“You’re the parents. You need to do what you want, not what your kids prefer.”
My DH and I absolutely agree that when given a choice, you put the au pair as far away from you parents as possible.
Why? Because most of the hard stuff of having an au pair has to do with having enough privacy as a parent, and as a couple. If you have a place you can go and hide from your au pair when you are tired, or angry, or emotional, or just want to be alone — it REALLY makes a difference.
It’s probably also true from the au pair’s point of view. It takes a lot of energy to operate in another culture, in another family. And, sometimes you just have to go hide. (Not always. Just sometimes.)
I’m happy to report that their au pair did arrive, she got the bedroom on the third floor, and she and the teenager share a bathroom stuffed to the gills with hair products.
The host parents got to keep their second floor as a more private space.
And they all are living happily ever after.