Why Your Au Pair Should Go To Your Kid’s School Play …

by cv harquail on March 15, 2015

… and all sorts of other family events.

If having an Au Pair is a Cultural Exchange, school and community events are an important part of the excitement.

5279584506_15bf4013db_mHey, I’ve endured enjoyed  enough grammar school orchestra concerts to be an expert on ways to butcher the violin parts of The Str Spangled Banner. But if someone asked me to go to their kid’s concert, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

Attending school events is a generous way to support a friend or a child, and it’s part of the American Family Experience.

Sure, I know that there are more exciting social events for an Au Pair than the Shakespearean Banquet in Ms. Waller’s 4th grade class.  And that National Honor Society induction can get pretty long, w hat with grade inflation and all. But these events are windows into a community— what it values, how it sees the world, what it’s trying to reinforce and to teach.

For Host Families, these school and community events are part of the culture we want to share with our Au Pairs.

The same is true for less public events, like birthday parties or a trip to the county park to look or Red Tailed Hawks. After enjoying the company of Au Pairs at so many of our family’s events, I can see where this HostMomWithExtraTickets is coming from.

Dear AuPairMom,
I am an experienced host mom, we have hosted 5 aupairs.
While my  Au Pairs have all been nice to my kids I wish they would participate more in our family events.  They don’t even celebrate my kids’ birthdays!!  I don’t ask for much, understanding that it’s their free time and they would like to rest, but is it too much to expect that they will celebrate the kids’ birthday?  And perhaps some special events?
We celebrate their birthdays and special holidays e.g. Chinese New Year (they are Chinese  Au Pairs) but it seems that they don’t do the same for us.
To be honest I feel sad, really sad, when the  Au Pairs don’t participate in even the few important dates.  Often times we ask them if they would like to come to some events ( e.g. Christmas parties at the kids’ school, ball games, etc,) we reserved and paid for the tickets,  only to find out last minute that they won’t come.
2878584400_f21239af5e_mWhat should we do to encourage the  Au Pairs to join us? 
I try to stay positive and respectful but it’s getting really tough.
Is it my problem or is it a Chinese  Au Pair issue or is it like this in general for the other families?
I so wish to find an  Au Pair who would truly love to be with us, not just say they love to be.
Your advice would be much appreciated.  ~HostMomWithExtraTickets


expathostmom March 15, 2015 at 7:10 pm

I completely understand. We are hosting our first and have addressed the issue, but we are realizing we can’t have it all. It makes me sad, too. I need to schedule almost every event I want the au pair to attend as work hours. Given, our current au pair goes to German class everyday until 1 and usually works from 1:30 to 6:30 (in Germany au pairs only work 30 hours per week). So when she’s off she is of course tired. I’m relieved someone else has this issue and amazed that with 5 different au pairs nothing has changed. But I ask myself if I would be willing to meet up with her friends, watch her play tennis, and be more of a tour guide than I am. Honestly, probably not. After work and caring for my family I’m happy when I get time to myself.

When the cat is away March 15, 2015 at 7:21 pm

I do understand both parties. The au pair is longing for spare time alone / with grown-ups. Families (and especially the children) are disappointed that the au pair doesn’t want to participate in important events. That being said, I think there’s a huge difference between birthdays, Christmas parties and ball games.

The cultural exchange part is a difficult one. Some au pairs are using the au pair program as a travelling program whilst some families are primarily participating in a domestic work program. Apart from that: I wouldn’t be surprised if au pairs were keener on joining these kinds of events when they have a specific cultural layer. The US is e.g. abroad known for Halloween celebrations and football. I could imagine au pairs were more interested in joining Halloween and footbal events than Christmas parties and violin concerts. (Of course, also those have a cultural layer. But I guess you get what I try to say).

Birthday celebrations would be crucial to me, but I could understand the au pair’s absence on other events.

HRHM March 15, 2015 at 8:17 pm

I think there are very few young women (I’ve not hosted male APs, so can’t speak to that) who truly embrace the “part of the family” aspect of the AP year. In 8 APs, we’ve had a couple who really participated, even when the offered activity wasn’t hugely exciting (piano recital, nativity play) Most are very into being part of the family when it involves beach vacations, cruises, ski weekends and indoor water park trips. Fewer but still some when it involves family dining out . I have come to the point that if there is an event that I WANT her present for (kiddo party, christmas dinner) I let her know that I expect her to be there, AND I count those in her hours (not hard for me because I rarely come anywhere near 45.) With my current AP, I don’t need to do this, only to convince her that we really do love her company and that she is always welcome (she really is!) and it is one of the reasons I wish she could stay with us forever – even after we no longer need an AP!

AussiePair March 15, 2015 at 10:29 pm

I think for some au pairs (particularly if they may be insecure in general) may feel like you’re incviting them because you think you HAVE to. If you let them know that you genuinely want them there I would hope that they would then come alon more often.

I know when I was an au pair I would sometimes feel awkward or out of place when invited to hang out with my host family and their friends or extended family but if they let me know I was wanted at an event it made it easier. In saying that, I would NEVER miss one of my host kids birthday or a graduation etc. I even went to the preschool’s family night. But that was what I enjoyed most about being an au pair, being a part of the family

American Host Mom in Europe March 16, 2015 at 4:13 am

Maybe it is cultural — most of my au pairs, although certainly not all, have been American — and have wanted to participate in family celebrations, even sometimes when it meant an inconvenience to them (like being late to a social event of their own). They join for birthday dinners out, preschool holiday celebrations and summer picnics, dance shows, and meals at home or out for Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, etc. I agree it is part of the family experience. I’ve always extended the invitation, and it has always been accepted. So no advice when it isn’t. Having said that, our handbook makes mention of participating in family events as part of what it means to be a family member, so maybe that drives the behavior?

Peachtree Mom March 16, 2015 at 5:50 am

Our first aupair was from China (stayed with us for two years) and she was with us for everything….even the 4 yo ballet recital that our daughter was on stage for 6 minutes. She even came to the dress rehearsal with me and videotaped both events with her super fancy camera. She came to EVERYTHING and was more excited about some of these events than we were and took way better pictures. She also helped out at the Pre-K here and there without me asking. We went to field trips together and had a great time. She was dressed and ready to go before I was. Her social life revolved more around going to church, going to every ESL class she could find and hanging out with a way older crowd from her church (families way older than us). Our European aupairs go to events but not nearly as excited about these events and I count as work hours. That was surprising to me after our first aupair. Their social life is more centered around clubs, parties etc. For those special events, I write it on the calendar and count it as work hours and everyone is there and has a nice time (I think).

AuPair Paris March 16, 2015 at 8:13 am

I go to some things but not everything. I didn’t go to a guitar recital which clashed with a friend’s birthday party (and still feel horribly guilty) – but I try to go to most things, when I can. If there’s ever anything I miss, it’s all filmed and the kids really enjoy playing the films over and over, so I made up for the guitar recital thing, by watching the DVD with extreme enthusiasm… But still.

One query: The kids I look after have a ballet recital once a year. Their ballet school is quite prestigious, and their recital lasts 3 hours, and is in a huge hall with a massive stage – and my kids are on stage for about ten minutes between them. Now I *love* these recitals – because it really is like watching professional dancers, most of the time. However, tickets are *really* expensive. Last year, my host parents bought me a ticket – and I accepted happily, not thinking I’d really love the whole event. Now that I know that A) I’m going to really enjoy the show and B) Most of what I’m enjoying won’t be watching the kids’ dance – though I do like that too – should I expect to pay for my own ticket? Should I offer? Last year it seemed like an unnecessarily huge expense that I did to support the kids, but now I see where all that ticket-money is going, I feel rather guilty…

AuPair Paris March 16, 2015 at 8:16 am

Oh but – I should say – I don’t know if it’s cultural, but my parents never went to my events when I was a kid. Maybe it was a family culture – they’d go if it actually interested them, or if they thought one of us needed extra support… But they wouldn’t stay and watch most of the time… It was kind of understood that by paying for our activities and driving us around, they were supporting us, but the actual performances were *our* thing. It never hurt my feelings – and sometimes I was less nervous, knowing they’d not be watching. Now I’m wondering if this is affecting my attitude…

Peachtree Mom March 16, 2015 at 8:51 am

I always pay for the tickets or admission fees for our daughter’s or family events or any event we invite our aupair to attend with us. Do not feel guilty, I bet they are thrilled that you are so thrilled to be there. I love it when our aupairs are enthusiastic participants.

WarmStateMomma March 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Agreed. Let the parents pay for the tickets. Showing your enthusiasm for the kids’ big moment is all I would want from my AP.

SKNY March 17, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Question to the experienced families:
Do you feel that as the au pairs went on (and you experienced problems) you became less “invitational” or “generous”?
I mean… My first au pair really wanted to be part of the family. She went on everything. all the time. There was no question that she would be invited to all and everything.
Au pair 2, was stellar, and is much loved. But she really only participated in big things (Christmas, thanksgiving, baptism) and paid activities (ice cream outings, restaurants). Did not bother me at all as she worked 9hs a day with 2 young kids and I felt she needed a break from us.
Au pair 3 stayed 3months and I feel while we started beign invited to all, she killed all my will to invite for anything. She was a pain, only went to the paid expensive things… and on her last 3-4 weeks we completely cut her from any family activity (specially the paid ones).
Last one only stayed 8 weeks, and to be fair we were in a season where nothing big was going on anyway… But I wonder if had she worked as an au pair I would have gotten my “generous” strike back, or would have just kept a little more separation.
I guess the last 2 au pairs really made us feel used…

SKNY March 16, 2015 at 8:43 am

This one puzzles me.
When I was an au pair (granted 10+ years ago) I LOVED participating in those events. I’d felt hurt if I was not invited. I wanted to go trick or treat with the kids, I wanted to go to their birthdays, I even invited myself to their field trips (the ones where parents were welcome to join as volunteers). I went to the recitals, meet the teacher and open houses at schools. In all families.
So it really puzzled me that only one of the 4 au pairs who were at my home really cared to participate in anything with us. Really… All would happily go to restaurants, ice cream shops, movie theater (the paid things. Actually the more expensive the outing, more likely they’d wanna go).
I dont think it is cultural (as I come from same country as my au pairs). I wonder if it is generational (not saying I am getting old, but…)

DowntownMom March 16, 2015 at 9:53 pm

SKNY, that is interesting that you say the more expensive, the more interested they are in going! We have made the same experience that most would only come along for the expensive outings and sightseeing. The APs I adored joined even the free or cheap stuff.

WestMom March 16, 2015 at 9:03 am

I have really never had this issue with our 6APs. I don’t invite APs to all events (well I do, but I don’t expect her to attend all…). My kids play soccer every week, and one does intensive musical theater. But I will ask AP, ‘The girls would love for you to come see them at soccer one weekend, let me know which week you’d like to come’. One of my kids is the lead in a show this coming weekend so I asked AP ‘Let me know if you’d prefer to attend the Friday or Saturday performance. Friday might be better bc you are already working that night, but it’s up to you’. I don’t expect her to come every week, and I don’t expect her to attend the minor performances (I don’t even expect my other kids to come, it’s a lot).

If I really want AP to attend a birthday party, I schedule some of her hours during that time, and I ask her to help out. My kids are older now, so they plan and run their own parties, but when the kids were younger, I would expect AP to help out during that time anyway so I’d schedule her to work during that time.

But what OP describes is pretty sad. If none of her APs have shown any interest in attending kids bdays and events, I would be pretty bummed too. It’s one of those things that would probably aggravate me, especially from AP candidates who say they want to be ‘part of the family’. I wonder too if this might be cultural, or age related? Where are your APs from? Ours have all been French, and our current is Brazilian.

SKNY March 16, 2015 at 11:29 am

West mom,
Off topic but how is your Brazilian one doing? Have you noticed more drama compared your French au pairs?

WestMom March 16, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Funny you ask. She is the most low maintenance AP we ever had. One Brazilian AP is hardly enough of a sample to pass judgement on the entire culture, but she is really fantastic and I am so glad we expanded our horizon this time around (she was an extension AP who came to use while we were in rematch).

That being said, we didn’t really have much drama with our five French APs either. We seem to attract the wholesome, down to earth kinda girls. The ones that like to wear sweatpants, don’t wear makeup, and that have a flexible personality (I seem to automatically connect drama with high maintenance… Is that wrong?). I can’t really say that any fell into the ‘drama’ or the ‘princess’ stereotype I have heard of before…

We’ll pool again from France for our next candidate, but I will surely miss our Brazilian gem :)

spanishaupair March 16, 2015 at 11:01 am

Wow thats sad that the aupair doesnt even want to attend bday parties.

I got mad because my first family was refusing a bit at the beggining at joining HK bday party but as i and kid insisted they were happy and had a wonderfull time.

Something i didnt like with my last HF was that i was never wellcome in family activities like older HK birthday (they were in another part of the country), graduation, trick or treat…

Momto4 March 16, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Our au pair has missed a few events – kids birthday party, halloween, valentine’s day. The first, it was a weekend morning so she was probably asleep. The two holidays, she had planned to go away for the weekend. No big deal but i thought she would want to come trick or treating with us! She missed a the boys’ first karate belt test to go into the city with her friends. We had tickets to a baseball game and invited her but she decided to sleep in (until 3pm!) – and it was her first weekend with us (after a long rematch so no, she was not adjusting to life in the US or jet lagged). More little stuff like that but it just makes it clear to me that she does not *really* want to be part of our family. I guess that’s OK, maybe just a bit disappointing. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink!

Mimi March 16, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I think the issues with birthdays might be a cultural thing. I’ve had some colleagues who were Chinese that didn’t celebrate birthdays the way most Americans do and one was convinced that it has contributed to American narcissism. Hopefully Old China Hand can weigh in on this. Birthdays in our house are low key to the point where my MIL has said I’m depriving my kids of a normal childhood (eyeroll) but similar enough to the way most of our APs are familiar with so that I think they know what to expect. This is also true of our holiday celebrations and a big reason our last AP match was problematic because she didn’t help us try to recreate traditions that would have given her some familiarity and comfort.

We have lots of opportunities for our APs to join us for family activities and we always extend an invitation for anything we think would be enjoyable or culturally relevant for our APs. We include APs in extended family obligations (as long as there isn’t a cost we can’t cover like a recent wedding) and our families know that we are always +1 for the AP. We give lots of notice about upcoming family events and talk about what they can expect and even discuss exit strategies for those that are long boring obligations that they may want to leave early. If the event is a school function, the involved HK will usually extend the invitation themselves and I have arranged alternate care so that one could volunteer for field trips. We have never had an AP not join us for these kinds of outings, even the last one who was very antisocial as a rule.

If we will be paying for an event, we let them know that we need to know by a certain date if they will come so we can buy/get tickets. We also ask them if they want to invite another AP, if possible. Some of the outings we do are with a larger group (scouts/church) and they have more of a chance to be on their own with the opportunity to meet up for a meal or sometimes just for a ride. If they take off, we don’t mind (and they are rarely on the clock for these outings so we don’t expect them to help out and stick around).

This info is also in our handbook, so we talk to prospective APs about what we expect them to participate in as a part of our family and we ask how that fits with the kind of experience they want to have with us. We specifically include the ‘nerdy’ outings we do as a family (science museums, battle reenactments, etc.) so they know there is a wide scope of things to choose from and we often get their input on day trips so we know what outings will interest them. IMO, it is important to give your AP a role in family celebrations and traditions so that they feel that they fit in and are not just an added on part of the festivities.

Old China Hand March 19, 2015 at 12:25 pm

I haven’t been reading often – so sorry for just getting back to you.

I think that birthdays are an American cultural thing. My sister, brother, and I are all a bit fascinated by our friends who make a big deal out of birthdays. My husband doesn’t care so much about them either, but since his sister does, I think that it may be him rather than his family. We haven’t really done anything for our son’s birthdays, but he has only had 2. Our daughter is <1 still. I don't intend to do anything for either kid until they are old enough to care and know that they would be missing out otherwise.

Anyway, our first AP was here for both of my son's birthdays and was kind of disappointed that we didn't do anything. She was excited to see an American birthday celebration. But, she was also really thrilled when I suggested that she have her friends over for her birthday since that is what she would do in China. She was worried that I wouldn't be in to that because we don't celebrate them much. Our current AP was interviewing with us over Halloween and was shocked that I missed the trick or treat date for our town (it was early to avoid conflicting with football). We don't celebrate Valentine's Day, and that confuses people in China.

So, maybe my family is more Chinese in not celebrating these holidays but our APs are expecting an American celebration.

We are members of a minority religion and I have been working this year to develop traditions so that my kids have a sense of cultural identity around our religion as they grow up (rather than just "no, we don't get Christmas presents") and I care more about that than birthdays because they are communal celebrations.

Anyway, this is all a long-winded way to say that I think Chinese do less for birthdays, but they want to see American celebrations. On the other hand, I can't say how much of our family dynamics come from China cultural differences or from focusing on traditions surrounding our minority religion.

Schnitzelpizza March 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm

“Birthdays in our house are low key to the point where my MIL has said I’m depriving my kids of a normal childhood (eyeroll) but similar enough to the way most of our APs are familiar with so that I think they know what to expect.”

My host kids’ birthdays were also amazingly low key – pretty much non-existing. No cake, no decorations, no birthday parties… for the baby (2nd birthday) I could have understod but the older three (turning 9, 11 and 13 respectively) didn’t have a party either. Neither did I get a birthday party – I went to the zoo with a friend and the family took me out for dinner but no cake, no singing, no presents. Christmas was also extremely low key.


I usually joined my family if I was invited to go along.
We went boating, to King’s Island, to the zoo, the the science museum, trick or treating, I joined them for Thanksgiving dinner and 4th of July, I went to a school thing (I guess it must have been some kind of play but I really can’t remember, might have been a dance recital) and to a couple of baskeball and baseball games… but I know I wasn’t invited every time something was on, I think I blew that when I didn’t want to join them for church on Sunday mornings (I worked 50 to 55 hrs/week, took care of four kids, had classes twice a week, Saturday was my only chance to meet friends and Sunday was my only real chance to sleep in – because kids at church = quiet house).

What I think is important is to keep asking, even if they say no. If you really want them to join something tell them. Make it working hours. Have the kid ask. But even if you don’t necessarily feel the au pair “has to” join and even if she has said no the last ten times, still ask. If they are not stellar I see why you wouldn’t want to shell out $$ for activities but for an au pair you are happy with and for activities that are cheap/free I think it’s important to offer to include them.
Introverted or shy au pairs might find it difficult to say yes when you ask them to join because they might think you feel obliged to ask and they don’t want to disturb your family time but they might eventually open up enough to join you and it would be really sad if by then you had stopped asking.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 22, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Just for the record, both of my most introverted APs were the ones most likely to participate in family events as true members of the family (so did some of the extroverts, but not all). What wasn’t obvious to me with our first true introvert match, was how much she considered herself part of the family, because she wasn’t given to talking about it. We were better prepared for our second.

There have been a lot of AP comments (not Schnitzelpizza, just happen to be responding here) about not being sure about whether an invitation was real or not. Personally, as an American, I’m not about to offer a BS invitation to an AP with whom I don’t want to spend time (I did have the counter though – bought an airline ticket for Christmas in a destination city for an AP who wasn’t honest that she was seriously considering rematch immediately after Christmas – boy did I feel burned). As a result, I have learned to rephrase invitations. Instead of saying “We’re going out to an El Salvodorean restaurant, would you like to come?” instead I will say “We’re going out to an El Salvodorean restaurant. If you’re feeling adventurous about trying a new cuisine, then we’d love to have you join us.”

HRHM March 16, 2015 at 1:01 pm

I do think that this is much more driven by family “culture” and personality than it is by where the AP is from.

When I was a kid, my parents also NEVER went to my stuff. I think they maybe came to one or two drama productions, but never to football games (band) or school winter shows/talent shows. I know they didn’t go to my sisters’ ball games.

I think parents these days are much more likely to go to this stuff than our own parents were. I also think there is maybe a socio-economic disparity as well.

I think if you want an AP there for certain, you need to be direct in telling her that. All things considered, if an AP is doing an otherwise stellar job, I don’t see this as a showstopper.

SKNY March 16, 2015 at 1:38 pm

I agree that it really isn’t a showstopper.
However, a non stellar au pair may not always get invited if we are going to a disney on ice show, a broadway show, or an expensive dinner. You either are part of the family or not.
The au pair who was always moody and depressed, and used to close her ears with her hands when riding in the back sit, got completely cut from family outings.

OhioHM March 16, 2015 at 1:41 pm

This struck me…”IMO, it is important to give your AP a role in family celebrations and traditions so that they feel that they fit in and are not just an added on part of the festivities.”
What kind of role do you give your AP? I sometimes think that I am too concerned with really making my AP feel “off” during her free time, even if she is with our family. I have noticed that sometimes that leads to her not quite knowing what to do with herself.

Mimi March 22, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Every holiday or family event we have a variety of tasks that the AP can do. For example, on Easter we offer that the AP be the one to hide eggs for the extended family egg hunt. They have helped design baskets, hide them, and help make bunny tracks (the EB leaves magic footprints in our house) in addition to coloring eggs with us.

For Christmas every year, I get all the children (mine/nieces/nephews) ornaments so that they will have a set of their own when they are adults. The AP picks this annual ornament. We also have her pick a book we add to our Christmas reading stack, and they pick an advent calendar craft and make it with the kids. We make their favorite Christmas cookie (as part of a family cookie swap) and send some home to their family.

We do this for birthdays (help the kids decorate their own cakes), Thanksgiving (make their favorite dish/appetizer/dessert), 4th of July (picking outdoor games/fireworks), etc. We talk about their holiday traditions at home and how we can incorporate those into our celebration.

NoVA Twin Mom March 16, 2015 at 2:30 pm

We’ve been lucky that our au pairs have generally wanted to come along with us to the things important to our kids (and to us). There was one that made alternate plans on CHRISTMAS (the 24th to the 26th), but things were a little rocky with her anyway so she may have had a more pleasant holiday where she was, who knows. (I say that now, three years after the fact. At the time, it STUNG. We had presents, plans, and a stocking with her name on it that had been hanging up for weeks. Then she told us as she was headed out the door on the 23rd that she’d be back in three days. There was a weekend in there somewhere but it was WEIRD.)

Anyway, when I really want to emphasize that we want our au pair along and this is something special, I tend to tell her directly that this is a THING. An American THING. Something we do. Something that they can’t spend a year (or more) in the US without doing. My definitions may be a little strange to some, but past THINGS have included visiting Santa (with picture), attending a Major League Baseball game and learning “Take me Out to the Ballgame” in advance so they can sing along during the 7th inning, having an Easter Egg hunt, attending the White House Christmas Tree Lighting in years we’ve gotten tickets – and attending the first day of school (again with pictures) and school programs. So far our school programs have been during the day and therefore during their work hours, but the good ones have been next to me with their own cameras every time. Maybe my enthusiasm is infectious. :)

Seattle Mom March 16, 2015 at 2:36 pm

All of my APs have participated in various events with us to some degree. They usually came along when they had nothing else planned, or when it’s something really important like a dance recital (even though the kids are so young, the recital was in the classroom and the AP had been taking them to class all along).

My current au pair is by far the most interested in hanging out with us, she has actually initiated coming to things (such as swimming lessons) when she isn’t busy on the weekends. I have to remember to invite her to stuff, this is a good reminder!

Seattle Mom March 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm

OH and our au pairs have been from 3 very different cultures- France, Thailand, Japan. I don’t see that much difference between the 3 in terms of their cultural/family interest.

WarmStateMomma March 16, 2015 at 2:43 pm

I don’t think it’s a Chinese issue. We are finishing year 2 with APs from China (one was a shy recluse and the other very outgoing and social) and they attended/participated in every single family event. AP#2 even enthusiastically came to two of my ultrasounds. My AP says most birthdays aren’t celebrated in China, so maybe your AP doesn’t realize the importance here?

My kids are too young for recitals and such, but our AP helped us move. In August. While I was pregnant. And then she helped me decorate the nursery. Since she decided to be “part of the family” for the hard stuff, we enjoyed including her as part of the family for the good stuff, like our trip to Hawaii.

I was admitted to the hospital the same day our AP left for a special vacation. I ended up in an isolation room for 5 days and we kept it a secret from our AP until she returned because we knew she would cancel her trip to help us out. She returns to China on Wednesday and I miss her already.

FWIW – Although it’s different today, my parents didn’t attend most of this stuff. My exchange students have told me that Vietnamese and Japanese parents don’t attend kids’ sports events “because they are for kids.”

Host Mom X March 16, 2015 at 2:53 pm

It’s sort of the opposite for us: we’re occasionally worried that we’ve horribly offended our au pairs by NOT inviting them to kids’ birthday parties. But the reason we don’t is that it just doesn’t seem like these would be events our APs would want to be at, and for good reason. We have young children, and standing around at a Chuck E Cheese or bouncy castle place while a bunch of 4 or 5 year olds run around doesn’t seem like something we’d want our au pairs to feel obligated to come to. (Or, similarly, hanging out at home while the kids do a craft, play a game, and eat icky cake – unless we actually needed the AP to help out with this, and then we’d schedule the AP to work.) Rather, we have our au pairs participate in the smaller family-only singing of happy birthday at home with the cake and candles on the day of the actual birthday – and yes, I do think I’d feel bad if I let our APs know that we were doing this, and they didn’t make an effort to be around to sing happy birthday and have some cake! We haven’t had any APs who didn’t do this, though – again, we have small kids who get very attached to our APs, and our APs know that birthdays are big deals for little kids. We’ve had APs from a variety of different countries and cultures (Europe – western and eastern; Japan; South America), and they have all seemed to actually think birthdays are MORE of a big deal than we do in America.

But – I have felt sort of bad after not inviting a past AP to one of these Chuck-E-Cheese-type deals, and it seemed like she felt sad that we hadn’t included her, since she DID view it as an important event for our child. (As a practical matter we also have transportation issues sometimes since we only have one car that doesn’t fit all of us plus the AP, so if we have events at places that aren’t public transportation-accessible, it’s a hassle to try to get us all there, plus the AP. For vacations where we drive and take the AP, we rent a larger car. This doesn’t really make sense for what will ultimately just be a painful experience – a kids’ b-day party!) So now we make clear to APs when the child’s “friends” birthday party will be, and that this event will be absolutely no fun for her and is meant to be kids’ only, and that we’ll have a smaller, intimate family celebration that we invite her to attend.

Our kids aren’t involved in many other activities yet, but part of the reason for that is because HD and I aren’t ready to commit to going to all those practices, games, and performances! So I can easily understand why these events would be painful for APs, and would not fault an AP at all for not coming to these things routinely, though I would think if our AP could not sense which of these types of things were the more important ones to our kids, and make an effort to come to some of these, that AP might not be the right AP for us. And we aren’t an overly “family-time” sort of family with our APs generally (e.g. we don’t have family meals most nights – again, an experience that would be more painful than pleasurable for all involved); it just seems that if my kids were constantly talking about a show they had worked on, or a big game – the AP should know that it was important, and realize that if we asked her to come, it is because it would mean a lot to the kids.

(To the AP above regarding the ballet show – I would think the host parents would be happy to buy you your own ticket and support your interest in their kids’ event.)

TexasHM March 16, 2015 at 3:52 pm

I feel for this HM. Our APs are members of our family and we strongly prefer and lean toward the aunt/uncle relationship role and I have to be honest, having an AP opt out of everything would be a deal breaker for us. As such, we make it clear during matching what that means for the AP. If it was my niece, I would absolutely expect her to come to my girls’ once a year dance recital or my son’s superbowl game and I wouldn’t expect to have to beg her to come or schedule her to work to be there (although when one AP was going to skip Christmas we were prepared to schedule her to make sure she was there). I would also expect her to participate in family birthday celebrations and know that she is invited but is welcome to bow out if my 4 year old picks Chuck E Cheese for the third year in a row. :) Anytime we have any event I explain to the AP when it is, how long it will take and what my thoughts are. Ex: Local university alumni Easter egg hunt, we will leave at 130pm and be back around 4pm, it’s largely just for kids with fields laid out for different age groups to “hunt” eggs in the grass but the mascot will be there and you can picnic on the campus lawn and look around if you’re interested, if not no worries. Contrast to that is the dance recital that my kids have already invited the AP to and she says yes before I can even ask because she knows its a once a year thing and its important to the kids. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely want the AP to make her own friends and plans but we also don’t run a hotel and in this part of the country I could get a nanny for the same or less spend so the extra effort/expense we put into the program is to get the cultural exchange and relationship and if the AP isn’t interested in that then we might as well get a nanny and save ourselves the money and drama! ;)

We always try to put ourselves in the AP shoes so if it’s something she has already done (like Halloween and she extended for a second year and wanted to party with friends instead) we wouldn’t be bothered with her opting out. Where I do get bothered is if it is something “American” or special/important to our family in which case I make it known that it’s important or that we think she is making a mistake/missing out on something and the few times we have had that conversation they have thought it over and decided to participate. We can usually find a way to juggle so they can do both (move a bday party for a young kid if she already has plans or find her a deal on airfare or hotel to take a trip a different weekend but we are not above scheduling them to work if necessary to cover the event. We would rather it not come to that (and it hasn’t so far in 4+ years of hosting) but we almost had an AP opt out of a (free) Thanksgiving trip to another city (one she had said in matching she really wanted to visit) so she could sit home alone and be sad with her AP friend from her home country. We sat down with her and told her all the reasons we thought she was making a mistake and how Thanksgiving is about celebrating what we are thankful her and we would miss her very much if she didn’t go. Our plan B was we were going to schedule her if she didn’t come around on her own because we weren’t going to stand by and watch her miss out on things because her best AP friend had just gone home. She thanked us profusely later.

On the flip, I know families that want their space and while they do care about the AP, they want a more professional relationship and that is fine – a lid for every pot! The problem here, like most, is when you get one side that wants a closer relationship and one side that doesn’t. I would highly encourage the OP (and everyone) to spell out what “family member” means in your household or what your expectations would be in this area when interviewing. Almost every AP says they want to be a true member of the family but what does that mean?!? I have gotten responses all over the board and we have had a couple really great candidates that we didn’t match with because they didn’t want to ever have to do anything family related in their free time and were clear that they didn’t want to vacation with the family unless they were working. That’s fine, it’s just not a great fit for us.

You can find what you are looking for OP, I would just be explicit in interviewing what your dream relationship would look like and really dig into what they expect and what type of relationship they want just like any other skill you are looking for and you will find it. Good luck!

APinParis – You shouldn’t feel guilty at all. As HPs we love to support our APs interest in our kids and their activities and would buy their ticket anytime they wanted to attend something like that without hesitation and would love that they wanted to attend!

AlwaysHopeful HM March 16, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Completely agree. Having our au pair participate in family activities is important to us. I haven’t articulated it well in matching so far, but will definitely add to my handbook and discussions at match tiime. We’ve had varying levels of interest in family activities, but everyone has been interested in doing at least some things. Even within my family (aunts, uncles, etc.) there are differing views of how much really needs to be attended. ????

For birthday parties, i send invitations to anyone we’d like to attend…all the way down to the grandparents. So, au pair receives a clear invitation and knows we’d like him or her to attend. If I need au pair to work at the party, I also schedule the hours on the calendar. For my son and me, even some of the mundane things are important. I wouldn’t expect an au pair to attend every sports match of the season, but I would certainly expect him or her to find time to come out for one or two– and definitely for a championship game. (Maybe not a good example, because many fall during the week, when AP is working and has to attend.) School plays matter to us as well.

Dreadfully boring, but SO important to my son to have the people he loves there. I don’t know if a lack of interest would be an absolute deal breaker, but it would certainly lead to a less friendly, more formal retlationship.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 16, 2015 at 11:04 pm

Just want to add…so sorry for the consistently typo-filled messages! Between my fat thumbs and my phone’s wacky autocorrect, it’s nearly impossible for a message to slip through unscathed…

TexasHM March 16, 2015 at 7:17 pm

And to clarify further we absolutely do not expect the AP to come to practices, regular games etc although she is always welcome. In fact we often tell the AP not to bother with anything that we find tedious as well but as said, the things that are once a year or really important to the kids we would expect an AP to not only participate but to WANT to participate as a member of the family. Our incoming AP actually moved her orientation a week earlier so she can be here in time to see my son perform (he got the lead in the 3rd grade musical). We didn’t ask her to, in fact I hadn’t even made the connection until she brought it up (that she would miss it with the orientation date we had picked but could make it if we did a week earlier). This was yet another interaction that cemented for us that we chose the right candidate and are positioned to have a great year. So I guess in a way that is our limit test – if it is important to us and we really want her to participate we would make that known and would expect her to make it if at all possible.
We did have our rematch AP miss our youngest’s birthday because she was taking a weekend course in San Fran (we had to scramble to get her education credits) and my daughter was only turning 4 and the AP made her a card and gave her a present before she left so my daughter was unphased. That trip was our idea and we encouraged the AP to go despite the timing (her response to the idea was that she didn’t want to miss HK’s birthday) and finally got her to agree.

Au Pair in France March 16, 2015 at 4:16 pm

I go to some things, but it depends on whether it’s something that happens once a year (I’ll go to HK’s end of year ballet show) or something that happens every fortnight (I’m always asked if I will go to chess tournaments they’re competing in at the weekends, and I’ve been twice, but find them quite tedious, as I don’t really know much about chess, and would much prefer to go out and then talk to the kids about it afterwards – they always come and find me and show me their new trophies when they get home).
For birthdays, it really depends on the child, I take part in the family cake and meal on their actual birthday, but for the older kids, they’re not really that bothered if I’m there for their parties, and the last one was on the same day as the free trip to barcelona that the university run annually, and as I’d never been to barcelona (or spain) I didn’t go to the party. However, I’ll definitely go to the youngest’s party in a couple of weeks, because he’s asked me a few times if I’ll be there, and I know he’d be disappointed if I wasn’t there.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 17, 2015 at 7:16 am

I guess I have been really lucky, but most of our APs have wanted to participate in family events (and we went into rematch with the one who made it clear at the LCC’s intake visit that she didn’t).

My first AP, a Brazilian, made it clear she wanted to be formally invited – and since she had a bevy of Brazilian friends who were caring for children (both APs and nannies) – they and their children were invited, too. After that, we issued formal invitations to birthday parties – until the kids were too old to have them at home (child #2 wanted heavily scripted olympics/scavanger hunts/mystery tours that mandated AP — and friends — participation (including the time several APs were scripted by said child to pelt guests with water balloons). Now that he fills the basement with sweaty, non-sleeping friends, we encourage her to get a good night’s sleep elsewhere!

We almost always issue an invitation to travel – and those have been almost always accepted. We permit friends to come along, but rarely does the timing work perfectly. My family-oriented APs tolerated visits to nursing homes to see great-grandmothers, huge family reunions (one earned brownie points by holding The Camel so my grandmother could see her). All of our APs have sat at the Thanksgiving table, but due to course timing, few have joined us for Passover. All have joined us for Christmas.

Perhaps because I script it as a cultural experience, APs have attended bad school plays, elementary school “publishing parties,” geography competitions, band concerts, school plays, and graduation ceremonies. Several APs have attended back-to-school pool parties their first night with us, and one even went to a school play on her first night. There are times when we count the AP’s care for The Camel (who can be unappreciatively loud at events) as work time – because she is responsible for making the escape when The Camel is too loud. Other times we just ask her if she wants to come.

NewbieHM March 17, 2015 at 11:37 am

I agree with the OP, this is so sad. I would have a hard time if our AP didn’t bother to attend our kids events. Ours are still very young, so we don’t have recitals or games but I would expect her to attend the important ones. I don’t agree with scheduling an AP when I don’t need her to work (for dinner, Christmas, birthdays etc) just so she can grace us with her presence. That is the time when she should step up and show us what role she wants to play in our family, she is either part of the family or just an employee. I would make sure she understands how important a particular event is for the children and the fact that they would be disappointed if she didn’t go. If an AP missed a birthday and let one of my kids down without a good excuse it would totally change the way I see her and the way she is treated. An AP who is part of the family gets the perks, extra days off when we can provide them, Christmas gifts and of course birthday cake and presents. A mere employee would not. I wonder how that AP would feel if the HF didn’t acknowledge her birthday. I’m sure she would be disappointed if she didn’t get anything from her HF. We have been lucky with our current AP. She has been present for the kids birthdays, even if she is free that day and even if we are just having some cake after lunch, nothing special. It means a lot to us, so for her birthday she is getting an awesome cake, presents and lots of hugs and kisses from the kiddos!

Returning HM March 17, 2015 at 4:43 pm

This was a situation we faced early on in hosting. I was shocked and saddened when one of our APs simply didn’t show up to our daughter’s birthday party. It had never occurred to me that she wouldn’t be there. We didn’t need her to work at all but we expected that she would join in the festivities and had been speaking to her about it as though she would be coming. After that, I scheduled this AP to “work” at all the events that I thought she should attend. I didn’t want to go through the hurt again of having her so obviously blow off something that was so important to our then-young (but old enough to notice) children.

After we took our two year break from the AP program in 2009-2011 and decided to come back, we now really stress the “family” side of things in matching. And since then, we have not had any issue like this at all. Our APs have come to school plays, musical evenings, birthday parties, and special friends days at school. The only thing our APs haven’t tended to come to often are swim meets, mainly because they last forever and tend to be very far away (and to start very early in the morning!). But they have been cute about following our daughter’s progress on meet mobile (an app that allows them to track her events) and also asking to watch video after important swims, so they show their interest and involvement, and that is really what is being asked for here.

As others have said, I want to show our APs our interest, involvement, and care in their lives and in what they do. If they can’t show us the bare minimum back, then I won’t be able to give as willingly as I want to. I will never again host (or continue to host, if it happens) an AP who doesn’t WANT to go to all of the things that make our family who we are. It definitely means that there are some candidates who aren’t right for us during matching, but fortunately, since I started putting the member of the family stuff right out there, explicitly, with lots of examples about what this means to us, we have been a lot luckier in attracting APs who share our expectation for involvement and interest.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 17, 2015 at 10:53 pm

I matched with two extremely shy but family-oriented women. They weren’t my type, but after the experiencing the first I recognized it in the second. They were the ones who didn’t complain about attending great-grandmother’s birthday in a rural community. They were the ones who happily played board games on Saturday nights. They were the ones who had two very close friends and felt isolated when they were no longer available (boyfriends!). And they were the ones who could not express in words how attached they were to us. (By the time the second one matched with us – we knew the clues and invited her boyfriend (who spent 3 weeks at Christmas) to return. He spent another three weeks with us – and happily played card games, board games, and both joined us on family outings. We came to love him so much that we gave him a present at Christmas – to take our beloved AP to an expensive restaurant that offered a cuisine we knew she enjoyed!

APs (and I know you read this Blog), give a little and you’ll get a lot in return from grateful HP. While teenagers might not care if you’re there to watch them blow out candles, perform in a major school play (or a minor class play), participate in a soccer/basketball/baseball/football game, or earn a better martial arts belt, your young or tween HK will. Give a little. Really. (AP #6 was shy, but so good that I walked into her favorite restaurant and plunked down $100 for a hand-written – the restaurant was no chain – gift card so she could have dinner with her 2 besties.) Want extra time off? Want forgiveness for waking up late? Give! Be there for your HK. They don’t need a big expensive gift – a picture of you with them in a simple frame will make them happy.

HP – pay attention to the great ones. They might not talk a lot, but figure out where they eat when they go out and what they like. Most restaurants will let you create your own gift card – even if they’re not a chain!

Everyone – communicate. HF – be explicit when something is important – either to you or to your children. APs – be explicit when you want something or your HF or want clarification about events.

NextAuPair March 18, 2015 at 1:58 pm

There are 2 types of Au Pair:
The ones who want to work in USA and save money, these are going to look for a good famlily and spend time with them because they are not interested in spend money hanging out all weekends
The ones who want to travel around, go to parties, meet new people: they are’nt bad girls they do very well her job, but they want to be free on weekends, they can love your family but their principal interests are discover the world

Seattle Mom March 18, 2015 at 2:23 pm

I think that is too simplistic- there are au pairs who spend time with their host family for reasons other than to save money. There are some au pairs who are genuinely interested in cultural exchange and know that a deep relationship with the family may be the deepest path to understanding the host culture. And that relationship doesn’t come from quick conversations in passing, when handing off the kids. It’s not to say that there isn’t value in spending time with friends discovering all the bars and tourist sites- but they are two different kinds of experiences, and it’s not all about money.

GerAP March 18, 2015 at 2:58 pm

I have to agree with Seattle Mom. I was an au pair who burnt through her money relatively quickly, I traveled a lot, met new people, discovered our area with friends (not much partying though), but my host family was (and in a way they still are) always a priority. If there was a recital, school play or something else (even game night at their school) going on, you could bet, I was there. But I also enjoyed spending weekends at home with my host family just hanging out. You can definitely do both.

Ninna March 18, 2015 at 2:38 pm

It is very black and white what you are saying. I am an au pair myself and I am a mix of both of your types. I want to travel and discover things and places, I want to meet new people but I also love spending time with my family here. I am not saving money I just happen to like them, very much. I know I am lucky that I matched with great people because it makes things easy but as Taking a Computer Lunch said above if you “want to be free on weekends” to “discover the world” just “give a little and you’ll get a lot in return from grateful HP.”

That is actually my motto for the year here and it works from the beginning. The joy you may give someone just by doing something extra itself is a reward!

WarmStateMomma March 18, 2015 at 2:58 pm

I disagree. Our first AP spent lots of money shopping online from her bedroom and never went out to enjoy herself. Our second AP went out often with friends, but often for free or inexpensive events (gym dates, outdoor movies in the park, etc.).

In my experience, “party girls” are not interested in “discovering the world,” just a new place to continue the same old party. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t believe most party girls are looking to discover anything more than what the local drinks are and what kind of shopping is nearby. I like going to bars/clubs or Mango/Zara/H&M in new countries as much as the next person, but it isn’t cultural immersion, discovering the world, etc.

The happiest APs are probably the ones who balance a close relationship with their host family with a lot of new experiences with people their own age.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm

I disagree. Our one AP who was a “party boy” was by far the most family-oriented. He was away most weekends, and always broke, but made time to do things with us both exciting and mundane. I think he just liked people, all people! And, he was excited to get the most of his year in the USA, and viewed developing a family relationship as an important part of that.

In the future, I’m going to ask more targeted questions of candidates to find out what particular activities they engage in with their families. How do they celebrate birthdays? Do they attend their siblings’ soccer matches? How did you spend a typical Saturday? (Or a take -off of TACL’S cooking question: “what did you do with your family last Saturday?”) Party Boy AP was very close to his family AND to his friends, and that carried over when he was here. I lucked into it that time– will screen for it in the future!

SKNY March 18, 2015 at 3:25 pm

If i ever get a new au pair I will certainly ask about relationship with family. But specially how the au pair relates to the parents (in terms of respect, obedience, compliance).
Our flame out au pair (the one who left us/agency and is now on her 5th family -according to former au pair who has her on facebook) was very disrespectful to parents. She lied to her dad that she was coming to US as a full time student so she could continue receiving full child support (because au pairs get paid, it would null her child support agreement), she was extremely rude to her mom and actually blocked her off on facebook and other social medias because she felt mom was too intrusive. She lied to her parents a lot.
At the time I didn’t think anything about it. But after it was all over I started thinking this should’ve been a red flag. If you can easily deceive/lie/hurt your parents, why wouldn’t you deceive a host family who you barely know?

German Au-Pair March 19, 2015 at 9:26 pm

While in your case apparently it proved to be a red flag in retrospective, I always think the parent-relationship thing is a tough one. Not every parent is a good parent and a relationship can be weird for several reasons. While I wouldn’t deceive my parents like that, you also never know the whole story. Maybe her dad totally screwed over her family and they had to fight for child support and now she wanted to take advantage of that. Maybe her mom really didn’t respect her privacy at all and she acted accordingly. I know I’d act differently if I couldn’t trust my parents not to go through my stuff while I’m gone.

I also find the question about whether or not your parents support the whole au pair thing inappropriate (while I understand why HP might be interested, they also ask this as a yes or no question at the agency interview). My parents were dead set against it, I didn’t involve them in the matching process at all and they only believed that I was actually going through with it once I had already matched. My mom thought the whole concept was ridiculous and wanted me to start working right away instead of hanging out in other countries. It didn’t change anything for me at all. (She ended up being super proud and visited me and had a great time, by the way.) She had her reasons for thinking like this -her upbringing was about working and not experiences- but I also had mine. So while I sort of understand the reasonsing behind this question, I also think you shouldn’t be required to say something about this in your initial interview but maybe only if asked by HP.Anything relationship is never black and white.

Mimi March 19, 2015 at 9:46 pm

My last AP did not have her mother’s support and had I known that, we would not have matched with her, given what I know about her culture and about her family (from interviews). Her mother actively sabotaged her experience here and created drama for everyone that was a waste of time and effort for us, her, and our agency. While a yes/no answer probably isn’t the best for this question, it has merit IMO.

TexasHM March 20, 2015 at 9:03 am

I also ask what the parents think about the candidate joining the AP program but I do agree, I don’t think it should be a yes/no on the agency form and even though with our current agency (CCAP) it’s in the profile I ask again anyway. Not because I would eliminate the candidate over it but more because I am trying to find out what they (and us) are up against. I would say the vast majority of parents are not in favor of their (mostly) daughters going halfway around the world to live in strangers homes they have never met. If I know where the parents stand during interviewing it gives me a better picture of the APs motivation, maturity and obstacles.

Our AP that struggled the most was the same AP whose parents also sabotaged her experience. She made it through the first year fine, it started to fall apart early year two when her friends were leaving, it was their major holidays and her parents were laying it on thick. She ended up leaving because her dad was in the ICU only to get home and realize they lied to her and it wasn’t as bad as they made it sound.

First APs parents were not in favor but she was almost 27 and her fiance at home was super supportive so we never had an issue.

Rematch AP came from an abusive rematch situation so of course her mom wanted her to just come home (her mom had been an AP in England when she was young and had really wanted her daughter to do the same and not go all the way to the US). She stuck it out and a few months in her mom came to visit and once she knew her daughter was now ok she was very supportive.

Incoming AP was honest that her parents were not thrilled with her. She was 3 years into a 4 year university program and realized that degree was not for her. Rather than wasting her time/money and finishing with a degree she didn’t want she put her studies on hold and decided to be an AP. Imagine that chat with your parents! After we had many interview rounds and a couple Skype sessions she actually asked if her parents could talk to me (absolutely!). She has a great relationship with them and values their opinions so she wanted them to weigh in and give her feedback about matching with us. We hit it off and now they are beyond supportive and excited for her. It was great to be able to ease their fears and discuss how we make this a win/win for her and us. Also seeing how the AP handled it all cemented that she was the match for us. She was empathetic and respectful to them despite the fact that they had differing views on what she should be doing right now.

Mimi March 20, 2015 at 9:34 am

We also have Skyped or emailed with prospective AP’s parents, but only at their request after we have extended the offer and we usually do that after we are giving serious consideration to a match. Most of the parents on FB have friended me and we would say hello during AP Skype sessions. Not all parents have agreed with the choice to become an AP, but they have supported the decision and their daughters in the program. That is a big difference.

WarmStateMomma March 18, 2015 at 4:30 pm

@AlwaysHopeful: I didn’t mean that partiers don’t bond closely with HFs, but I don’t think the partiers are too eager to explore their host country in any depth nor do I believe partying in a new place is “discovering the world.”

Slightly related: HD and I have discussed that none of our APs or exchange students have shown any interest in high culture (museums, performances, etc.), American sports (baseball, football, etc.), local culture (rodeo, BBQ), American trends (color/mud/obstacle runs, etc.) or even being outdoors (exception for tropical beaches). Yet Disney World and the outlet mall are a reliable bet. It’s just so different from when my friends and I were exchange students (Sunday mass at Notre Dame, then shopping at H&M or Nutcracker at the Bolshoi before heading out to party). Does anyone else find this to be the case?

AlwaysHopeful HM March 18, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Oops! My “disagree” actually referred to the “two types of au pairs” post.

I will say, however, that our Party Boy enjoyed anything that hinted at the American experience (other than art museums– no interest there). I think he was just vivacious, and eager to drink it all in. I also got the feeling that his closest AP friends were the same way, but not so for all of the friends in their party circle. But I also got the sense that he was the same way back home.

A/B HostMom March 19, 2015 at 9:28 am

I think it’s a generational thing. My AP has the world’s greatest museums nearby and she still hasn’t seen any of them, and she’s been here 10 months. She also likes to shop online and on her vacation went to an outlet instead of the world famous attraction there. She talked about all the things she wanted to see here but I think it’s just talk, deep down she has no interest. When I was in college I spent a summer in Europe at a language course and used every opportunity to explore the area and neighboring cities. Maybe it’s generational, maybe it’s personality, I don’t know. I’ve always had a great interest in other cultures. Maybe the au pair program program just attracts a certain type of person?

Seattle Mom March 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I have had a mix.. our first au pair was hugely into culture.. not exactly high culture, but she really wanted to experience everything the USA had to offer- she went to local sporting events, the fun museums, tried all the food, etc. We could tell it was important to her. She also went to bars, but only after she did all the walking tours. She did a lot of cool local stuff. When she came to DC with me she spent her days touring museums and hiking around the national cemetery.

The next two were much more into partying. Days off were for shopping & partying. They didn’t do much exploring outside of the nearby cities that just about everyone *has* to go to (Vancouver and Portland), and when they got there they shopped and drank. Vacations were to beaches with good nightlife. They were still good au pairs, nice people, just not a lot of depth.

Our current au pair doesn’t drink- our first non-drinking au pair! She almost never goes out at night. She is more of a homebody. She is our first au pair to get a library card, and she reads. I see her reading all the time! She also spends a lot of time studying english. She shops for food and cooks. She has been going around and seeing the local stuff, but I feel like she is quietly soaking it in, rather than excitedly immersing herself in culture the way our first au pair did. She’s a more serious person, though clearly she is happy and cheerful.

Host Mom X March 19, 2015 at 2:26 pm

We’ve lived in the two major U.S. cities with probably the most “high culture” available in them, and none of our APs have shown much interest in museums, theater, etc. either, even in the city where nearly all of the museums are free. (Theater is super-expensive, so I get that, though of course the APs want to go see Broadway shows in NY that are super-SUPER expensive. But there are a LOT of free performances of all kinds, all around our cities, mostly in the summer, and we only had one AP who really took advantage of that.) Even our AP who was an art history major.

Though several of our APs have realized that taking our kids to museums when they are little is a great way to get through the day, and a lot of them have taken advantage of museums at least when they’re with the kids. Same with free music performances during the summer days, etc. We were pretty surprised that our last AP, who mostly took care of our youngest when she was a tiny baby who slept a lot, and could have just gone to museums for free and walked around while the baby napped in the stroller or carrier, NEVER did that. To me that seems a lot more fun than just hanging out at home all day with a baby….even if normally you wouldn’t be caught dead in museum.

But I disagree that cultural exchange and cultural experience does not occur in bars and clubs, and even in H&M. Our APs – even the ones who are most insular and only hang out with their countrywomen and men for the most part – have experienced quite a bit of cultural exchange just by interacting with people from all over in clubs, bars, and yes, even in H&M. It’s the APs that prefer to spend most of their time watching Netflix in their rooms that mystify me. Yes – there’s a lot more American shows available on Netflix here than they could easily access in their home countries. But watching unlimited American Netflix can’t be a reason to fly halfway across the world to take care of someone else’s children.

We’ve also had several APs who love being outside – picnics with their friends in city parks on the weekends, tramping around different neighborhoods, outdoor events, etc.

However, our current AP (with whom we are about to go into rematch for other reasons), seems to have gotten sucked into the outlet malls/Cheesecake Factory crowd. HD and I are just mystified – with all of the city life that is available to our AP, she chooses to travel outside the city to the ‘burbs to go exclusively to malls and restaurants in malls. Yes – that is cultural experience too: nothing says “America” like a mall of course. And you can interact with and observe lots of Americans in malls. But our city has so much to offer! Why, Cheesecake Factory, why? (That’s a whole ‘nother topic – we have SO many wonderful restaurants, many much less expensive than Cheesecake Factory. What IS it with that place?!)

WarmStateMomma March 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm

For Chinese APs, the appeal of the Cheesecake Factory is that a character from The Big Bang Theory works there. Seriously. AP#1 loved the ambiance and asked to go again; both of my APs were disappointed with the actual food.

Both ate primarily at restaurants in Chinatown (loads of excellent choices there) or crap at the mall. Both disliked most Western food (maybe because they ate in the food court at the outlet mall?). Neither has been interested in all the amazing ethnic food available in our city, which I think is one of the best things about our city. On the up side, both enjoyed cooking and made some of the best meals we’ve had in the last two years.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 19, 2015 at 5:21 pm

I’ll second Big Bang Theory. Also, it’s kind of tasteless and regular – no surprises about spiciness. My neighborhood is full of cheap ethnic restaurants, and with the exception of Brazilian APs, almost all have preferred bland chain restaurants.

We hosted one Chinese AP and she was the most risk-averse when it came to food. After two weeks in the US she was unwilling to try anything new. She was a great cook, and the only way to get her eat with us was to let her make dinner.

Next to the Chinese AP were the two vegetarians we hosted – both were what I call “white food eaters” – potatoes, pasta, yogurt, french fries, and cheese. They did not want to hear me talk about mixing proteins, which is important to me as a vegetarian. They and the Chinese AP did not join us in eating out at restaurants.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 19, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Yes, I agree Host Mom X, that it all depends on what is meant by culture. I remember traveling to Europe in my early 20s, and caring only a little about Big Ben or going to the Louvre. But I was fascinated to see people taking their dogs inside stores, having chocolate and bread for breakfast in the morning, and seeig ALL the smoking (good gracious there was a lot of that). I was most interested in ordinary people doing everyday things the French way, or the Italian way, or the German way, etc. So i get the allure of the suburbs (which i personally prefer to the city anyway!) and the mall (great for people watching).

My previous au pair and his friends watched a ton of movies, many of which they had already seen, because it was thrilling to watch them in English, not subtitled or dubbed. Some of the most exciting things for him were flying by himself for the first time, going to Wal-Mart, taking a road trip to Florida with friends (14 hours each way, over a weekend) and meeting and talking to random “friendly Americans.” He came home one day bursting at the seams to tell me about the great time he had at an all-American restaurant… the Waffle House! He has the best time, all the way down to the server calling him “hon.” He definitely was interested in and took advantage of some traditional cultural activities, but he mostly wanted to just soak in America, meaning the America he had seen on TV and that was similar, but oh so very different.

It’s a little bit like with little kids– they can be fascinated by things that are so common to us now that they have become mundane. I love the experience of looking at old, boring stuff through fresh, eager eyes.

By the way, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but… I love the Cheesecake Factory!

SKNY March 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm

I’ve been here for 11 years and have never eaten at cheese cake factory. I guess I have been missing an American experience

German Au-Pair March 19, 2015 at 9:12 pm

The appeal of Cheesecake Factory are the cheesecakes. The food is nothing special, but oh the cheesecakes. I hate German cheesecakes but the Cheesecake Factory has AMAZING cheesecakes! (Never has the word cheesecake been used so many times in such a short paragraph.)

Schnitzelpizza March 22, 2015 at 4:04 pm

“that none of our APs or exchange students have shown any interest in high culture (museums, performances, etc.), American sports (baseball, football, etc.), local culture (rodeo, BBQ), American trends (color/mud/obstacle runs, etc.) or even being outdoors (exception for tropical beaches). Yet Disney World and the outlet mall are a reliable bet.”

This is something I couldn’t even understand at 19!
I loved going to museums and travelled around the state with two of my friends to do just that, we also went to a football game together (my host family was more into baseball and took me to a big game) and once we were gifted great theatre tickets (host parents had a ticket with which they could go to the theatre once a month but couldn’t make it that weekend). My best friend and I also spend a lot of time outdoors – mostly walking in the park, at the lake but also went to festivals (loved our trips to the Renaissance festival) and Amish country. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t at least one trip to the outlet mall each month :D and a couple of trips to the two closest amusement parks.

We tried to do as much as possible while we could, traveled around a lot (I saw 26 states during my year), were constantly broke and enjoyed having the chance to socialise on the weekends (I skipped the partying though, usually went home after the movies when my friends moved on to the next best club) but that in no way means I didn’t want to spend time with my host family. No, I didn’t want to be at home every evening or every weekend but I still enjoyed being with them, joining them for family activities and I am extremely happy I had such a great host family. It would not have been the same experience had they not been who they are.

NoVA Twin Mom March 19, 2015 at 9:34 am

All of us know our au pairs aren’t coming to the US simply to be part of the family. :) But I think it’s important for au pairs to remember that the au pairs we refer to as our “favorites” – the ones we invite back or even pay for plane tickets to have come back and visit – they’re the ones that have been able to balance “member of the family” and seeing the world, so to speak.

I think I can speak for many of us when I say that if you make my kids feel special, loved, and safe – and one way to do that is to go to the things that are important to them – I will bend over backward to make sure you get to do “cool” things while here in the US.

If I know you want to go to as many states as possible – if I hear of a group trip somewhere you haven’t been (through my church, work, other contacts) and they have an extra seat on the bus – I’ll get you on it. If I know you want to go to visit New York and if you leave after I get home from work you won’t get there until midnight – I’ll either flex my schedule or suggest you and the kids meet me at work with the car. Then you could get a three hour head start to New York (taking a much earlier bus) and the kids and I can drive home together. I might even be willing to take an extra vacation day or two (remember, we don’t get nearly as much vacation time as you’re probably used to) so you can take an extra vacation or long weekend.

But the key to my willingness to do these things is that you make my kids feel special, loved, and safe. And frankly, the key to my knowing you’d be interested in something like those suggestions is that you spend time with my family while I’m home – which, yes, would be your free time. So there’s a lot of give and take, but it’s really in an au pair’s interest in my house to be part of the family, because they WILL get to do a lot more in their free time when they do.

WarmStateMomma March 19, 2015 at 11:59 am

You’ve said this beautifully.

Seattle Mom March 19, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Bravo, amen!

Mimi March 19, 2015 at 2:03 pm


TexasHM March 18, 2015 at 5:22 pm

We took all our APs to Disney and that was huge for them. All our APs were also very interested in American sports and all attended at minimum a pro baseball game (seen as the epitome of a traditional American experience) and high school football game (keeping in mind we are in Texas). :) All also loved BBQ (probably because we do), went to the TX state fair and the Stockyards. All liked to be outside and managed the TX summers just fine (they aren’t that bad folks, really) and 2 out of 3 did some kind of 5k or color run while with us (my husband and son are runners). Museums were done usually only if a cluster meeting activity or free and all attended all performances (their choice) at our church (4K seat auditorium) so I think it really varies.
On the flipside, our APs often complained that the other APs primarily spent their time and $ going to the Cheesecake Factory and the megamall near our house. We are an active family and do look for a willingness to put oneself out there/sense of adventure in matching so that has led us to have APs that were largely down to try just about anything (safe) and that ended up spending most of their vacations and many weekends with us (we do weekend trips and like to get out of the house as a family whenever possible) in addition to their own plans (that they had to initiate for the group).
I think the partier/non partier division is too general myself. We have never had a true partier to be fair (we screen them out not because they can’t be great but because they would wake me coming in late frequently and over time that’s not a great fit). I think like anything else in this program, it’s all about the fit. I may be crazy, but I have found in interviewing over the years that Germans tend to have strong profiles, do not want curfews and go out more often. I ask in interviewing how often they go clubbing and what they do on weekends and with friends and I get far more “bars and clubs” responses from Germans. I bring this up because Germans are also often considered to be great APs. I have not had a German myself (we have a car curfew and that kills us every time) but the ones I have met did go out every weekend and their families were very pleased with their work. They were responsible and liked to be a part of the family in addition to going out on the weekends so I think it’s not that simple. I also think there is a difference by definition in “partier” and going to clubs and bars on the weekend. The times my APs went out they didn’t have to work the next day and they were sometimes home by midnight. One stayed out once until 2am (stayed at a friends house) and then had her friend wake up early and have her home at 8am because she didn’t want to miss my daughter’s first soccer game. I told her that was ridiculous but she insisted and took a nap when we got home. I think its more about maturity, priorities and responsibility than it is about clubbing/partying specifically but that’s just me.

Should be working March 18, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Our Germans accepted the car curfew, but also we loosened up when they showed themselves to be responsible.

NJmama March 19, 2015 at 8:29 am

This is v funny to me bc two of our best au pairs were 19 yr old German girls and neither were partiers. One was quite the homebody, and out of all our au pairs she truly considers us a second family. She loved to hang out with us – and even loved taking trips to see my dad- whom she still affectionately refers to as her Pop. When she visited us last summer, a visit to PA to see him was at the top of her list.

Our other great German girl loved to go out – she would take the train to nyc on a Friday night, go to a club, then breakfast and then she’d take the first train home Saturday morning. So she partied in that sense. Except she didn’t like to drink and even those NYC trips weren’t an every weekend thing – more like once a month for the first few months. Then she got tired of the scene and the expense and did other things. She was exceptionally mature and responsible.

None of my Germans ever took issue with curfews or car curfews (and we are also ones to relax the rules for a good au pair). Hard to generalize I think. I’ve had two Brazilians and both liked to drink and go to clubs. The first didn’t last very long – she would be too hungover to get up for work, so that ended in rematch for that and other reasons. The other found an American boyfriend and morphed into Bridezilla, but even before that she was not one to spend any of her free time with our family. She did come to my younger daughters ballet performances – I bought the tickets for her and the boyfriend and invited them. But she didn’t come to anything else. At the time I didn’t mind – my kids were older and she was good when she was with them (until she got engaged). But looking back I think I should have seen that behavior – dashing out as soon as she was off, rarely spending downtime with us, even before the boyfriend, and never coming to birthdays/kid events – as a red flag of sorts. I sometimes think that I should not have extended with her bc she wasn’t very family oriented. But who knows? She was responsible and my kids liked her at the time. Live and learn I guess.

German Au-Pair March 19, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Many fellow German APs I know (including myself) would not handle a car curfew well. If I decided to put up with it, I would follow those rules but I would only agree to this if the family was perfect (for me) in every other aspect. I don’t go clubbing, I hardly ever drink but I love movie nights that last until 3 am so I come home at night on a regular basis. Having an early car curfew would not work for me. I could absolutely deal with certain restrictions like downtown parking but I personally wouldn’t find a curfew understandable if my HF knew the car spent the night in my friend’s driveway. (I totally understand the light sleep issue and someone coming home late though. This family would simply not be a good fit for me and that’s okay.)

Momto4 March 19, 2015 at 9:13 pm

I can totally understand why you wouldn’t fit with such a family. But I also think its understandable why a family would have a car curfew. The reasons you listed plus the family may need to use the car in the morning unexpectedly, so having it home is necessary. Of course, if the AP had a car just for her, i would see less of reason, but I can’t imagine that most families have a third car just for an AP. We juts have one car and no curfew, per se, but it had better be in the garage by the time I wake up because I use it every morning.

TexasHM March 19, 2015 at 11:02 pm

We have allowed several APs to keep the car overnight if they were sleeping over at a friends house in our area and made several exceptions (birthdays, concert, friend from home country visiting) but we also find it easier to set the curfew and be more flexible than to not have one and then be woken up regularly/frustrated and try to then limit usage, that’s really not fair to the AP. It may change over time but for now it is what it is!

I wasn’t meaning to say there’s no Germans that would accept a car curfew but in reaching out to probably over 100 over the years and having honest (and appreciated) feedback when we were turned down it’s definitely a trend. I have had one – literally one – German AP be ok with it and continue further conversations with us.

SBW out of curiosity did you tell your German APs during matching that you had a curfew but would relax as they proved themselves?

I suspect that the combination of secondary location (not CA or NE) combined with car curfew = dealbreaker for most German APs. In fact, in 5 years of hosting I have only ever met one – ONE German AP here! I just set a new host family up with a rematch German and I fully intend to ask her all about this when she arrives this week! :)

Should be working March 20, 2015 at 12:02 am

I give them my long handbook that includes curfew info with no mention of relaxing it. When they talk to our previous APs they might ask about the curfew, and probably the previous APs would tell them that the curfew gets relaxed if things go well.

SKNY March 20, 2015 at 5:48 am

What is the idea behind car curfew? Have the Au pair home at a specific time, or car “integrity”? I would be interested in learning more.
What is usually the time? And does it change from school night to weekend night?

HRHM March 20, 2015 at 7:17 am

In our case, it’s intent is to protect an extremely expensive asset from undue harm. Our car curfew is midnight, every night, regardless. After midnight, people are tired (AP and other drivers) and may be drunk (let’s face it, AP and other drivers as well) and as my Dad always said, “nothing good happens after midnight”. Most of my APs have been the equivalent of a 16-17 American when it comes to driving skills (less than 2 years of intermittent car use, not vehicle owners, not daily distance drivers, not well experienced in varied, poor conditions) and we see all over the US that new drivers below 18 can’t drive after midnight. I consider this a “graduated” driving license in effect. If over her year with us, she drives frequently during the day, is conscientious with her car of our vehicle and when I see her driving in the neighborhood, my toes don’t curl, I may relax the curfew. Or I may not.

FWIW, I’m on AP 8 (including 2 Germans) and have never been rejected by an AP during matching for anything including the car curfew. We may be geographically lucky (we’ve lived in 4 or 5 great places including the beach, DC, the rocky mountains, etc) or maybe the type of AP I’m looking for would find this not a big deal.

Most of my APs have found easy work arounds, including using public transport, having a friend pick them up, dropping the car home at midnight and going back out with friends, etc.

TexasHM March 20, 2015 at 8:46 am

+1 HRHM exactly. We also do midnight every night and if any of my HM friends read your post they probably would have thought it was me! We actually have “nothing good happens after midnight” in our handbook in our explanation along with everything else you mentioned.

When we first joined the program we asked around and that seemed to be the most common car curfew so we started with that thinking we would relax it as trust was earned. Our third car (which is still shared but essentially the AP free time car) was only 3 years old when we started so that was a factor as well for sure.

Then the APs came. :) AP1 was our worst driver by far and she had been driving in Brazil for 8 years!!! Even by the end of her second year with us she had not earned highway driving privileges (we ride with them and if we are comfortable they have it mastered they progress). She also pushed back the most on everything so frankly, we weren’t inclined to make any exceptions there. She scraped our minivan against the garage door frame month 4 and there were two other mysterious scrapes that she had no idea about (not saying she did them but having no awareness of something that was obvious to us did not inspire confidence).

AP2 also Brazil, 5 months of driving experience and was a quick learner and did well. She passed the drivers test first attempt. Our car was scraped in a parking lot while she was at the Cheesecake Factory :) and nobody left a note but she noticed immediately and called us. We made several exceptions for her over the course of the year but she didn’t highway drive despite us offering to work with her (she said she’d rather have friends drive anyway). Month 14 days before she went home (family emergency) she shut the garage door emergency release in the drivers door (she had parked in the middle of a 2 car spot to run into the house for something she forgot) and backed out – pulling the release so the garage door dropped onto the car as she was backing out. Broke the garage door, damaged the car and broke the release. 4 weeks and $600 later we had it all fixed but obviously the $200 she could afford to leave for it didn’t go far.

AP3 we only had for 9 months but she was a fantastic driver from France. She didn’t mind the car curfew as she had a long time boyfriend at home and came from an abusive situation (rematch AP). We made a big exception for her (she did not ask) because her AP friend messed up a weekend trip to another big Texas city (not her fault) and we felt terrible that she had such a horrible time planning trips with other APs here so we told her she could take the car anywhere she wanted within 3 hours the following weekend. She had highway privileges the day she arrived and if she had extended I wouldn’t have had any problem removing the curfew for her.

AP4 – burnout that scraped car on both sides against the garage door frame and had no idea it happened. And I mean half the length of the car on the drivers side and entire front corner/headlight/broke bumper on the passenger side (plus the damage on the frame of the house!).

So there you have it. Now that the cars are 5 years older than when we started it’s less about keeping the cars pristine but honestly after 4 APs and 7 car incidents we are not really motivated to give an AP free reign just yet. If we had another like our rematch AP that was awesome and we knew wouldn’t come dragging in at 3am all the time I would be much more amenable (husband still might not be though). :P

WarmStateMomma March 20, 2015 at 9:35 am

Our car has a midnight curfew. If the AP or friends are going to make any alcohol-related mistakes, or be hit by someone who is, it’s likely going to be after midnight. Also, my APs come from big cities in China and have little to no experience driving at night. We’ve relaxed the rule for an AP spending the night at friend’s house because she wasn’t going to be on the road after midnight.

I wouldn’t let a 15-16yo drive my car in the middle of the night… so the same goes for the AP.

German Au-Pair March 20, 2015 at 10:03 pm

I absolutely understand the given reasons especially regarding the limited experience many APs often had. Just to be clear, for me personally the circumstances were different. I had had my own car for three years, had to drive to school, work and longer distances every day on roads that are about half the size of American roads. I had the German driving education which is very thorough. So for me having a car was absoloutely part of my life and in combination with my nocturnal nature of hanging out with friends until 3am, it would have been a problem for me.
My experience with the US is also based on an area with absolutely no public transportation and I have seen how friends dealt with a car curfew: they simply couldn’t attend certain things. I was the one who didn’t have a car curfew so I ended up driving most of the time but also tried hard not to take advantage of that and not be the cab for all my friends.
I felt the need to explain because I can see why having a car curfew on the no-go list might come off as a bit entiteled. (That said what would have been okay for me is the knowdlege that the car curfew would be imposed until proven trustworthy. I understand that you never know if you have a person who would drive drunk or like a maniac.)

Taking a Computer Lunch March 20, 2015 at 6:38 am

I’ve only imposed a car curfew once, and that was after AP #8 had her second “distracted driving” incident (she failed to yield at a stop sign and plowed into the side of a hummer – she was in a subcompact car, and fortunately wasn’t injured). We told her that our condition in letting her stay was that the car was to be home by 10 PM every night – she was welcome to stay out as late as she wanted, but without the car. We did not relax the rules, as she was our second most immature AP (we rematched with the most immature) and had absolutely no common sense. (In fact, after she pulled a stunt of being “too sick” to work on a day when the kids had no school, I told her that if she did it again, I’d impose a curfew on her or she could go into rematch – she never did it again.)

Schnitzelpizza March 22, 2015 at 4:34 pm

German here :D

I hate clubs with a passion.
Why pay money to listen to extremely loud music, dance on a stick dance floor, use dirty bathrooms and when I was in the typical club-age (16 to 19) smoking was still allowed so afterwards you would smell like a ciggaret yourself. Yack.
When I started studying I also started going to bars or what we call “corner bar”, so very local and usually low key. I remember one day where I spent hours at a corner table with my friend, drinking tea and playing board games. That’s my “bar life”, I am extremely exciting ^^ and I was just as boring at 19.
I think “bars and clubs” is just an easy thing to do in Germany as it’s usually inexpensive (you can be in a club and drink one coke all night, nobody will notice), we can start early (starting at 16 we are allowed to be in a club until midnight), bars are often more of a “cafe” type but open later and selling alcohol, they are everywhere (while smaller cities might not have a movie theater or other ‘cultural activities’ every crossroad will have some kind of bar) and going to a bar often is the easiest and cheapest option to meet up with friends.

However, I still went out every weekend while in the US – mostly to the movies or shopping or to the park or meeting friends whose host parents were away on the weekend to watch dvds, cook together – and I know I would have missed so many things had I (or the car) had a curfew. I really needed my down time after a 10/11 hour work day (woke up the older girl at 6.30am every morning, usually worked until 5/5.30 pm) and I couldn’t fully turn off while at home and just had to get out of the house at night. As we lived a bit further away I usually had to drive 30/40 minutes to meet friends or go to the movies, an early curfew would have turned me off to tell the truth. I was still usually home around 10/11 pm but I could be home at 10 pm and still relax because I knew I didn’t need to be home by a specific time, being out and about knowing I needed to be home by 10 pm or I might get in trouble would have been extremely stressful to me (I am an extreme rule-follower, I could never fully unwind if I knew that might mean to be home late and break a rule and would constantly have been checking the time). One of my (German) friends had a 9 pm curfew. That even made it difficult for her to be home in time after class which I always found strange – class was from 6 to 8 pm, she had to drive 45 minutes home from class, there wasn’t even time for a chat or a coffee. A midnight curfew I could have handled ;) I was usually fast asleep by midnight anyways, I need sleep, if I am to get up by 6 am I will be in bed by 11pm, I might read for a half hour or so but I could never come home at 2 am and start working at 6 or 7.

German Au-Pair March 19, 2015 at 8:55 pm

I again say this from a background of someone who didn’t have to work 45 hours, which my change things a bit. I personally think regardless of whether or not you work fulltime, you simply make a birthday work. Only exception for me would be a special, one time event (like when my favorite band played it town. Then I would make sure to celebrate with my kid before or on a different day).
I personally enjoyed attending dance recitals, high school football games and such things. But am also really interested in immersing myself in the culture and know some APs who simply aren’t that interested in that aspect. If I really wanted her to attend for the kids’ sake I’d make it work hours.

AuPair Paris March 20, 2015 at 3:30 am

Actually, that’s something I never even considered! I love going to birthdays and coming up with cool homemade cards and gifts, and going to events and ballet. I don’t even mind when I get woken up by the littlie crawling into my bed on a morning when I have a day off – but I’m au pairing in Europe and don’t work nearly 45 hours. If I were more exhausted or if I felt overworked, maybe I’d be clinging on to my downtime…

German Au-Pair March 20, 2015 at 7:23 am

Yeah that’s what I’m thinking too. I still view birthdays as special and would probably want to attend anyway but the first year I attended both the family and the children’s party by choice. I got a lot of me-time during the day, when my children were in school and as pre-teens they didn’t actually want to spend all that much time with me but be by themselves when their busy schedule allowed that. So actually took them to the movies in my free time just for fun (and yes, the parents did pay for all of our movie tickets but I really just wanted a fun outing with the kids). I’d bet I would have tried my hardest to incorporate that in my work time had I been working a full 45-hour week.

So while I totally understand why HP may wish for this commitment, I think depending on the circumstances it can only be expected to a certain extent outside of work hours. Especially since such events tend to be on the weekend and it can be ahrd to balance your schedule with your friends’ schedules and the weekend may be the only time to socialize with them.

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