Would You Match With A “Returning” Au Pair?

by cv harquail on June 26, 2015

You can’t step into the same river twice.

So says Plato, quoting Heraclitus.

Ancient wisdom suggests that, even if that candidate loved being an Au Pair two years ago, the experience might not feel the same the second time around. 5223654744_b3507dcb69_m

We might hope that someone with previous experience as an Au Pair would have a realistic sense of what it takes.

The returning candidate could have thought long and hard about what worked well and what was challenging. S/he may be able to make better choices about where to match, and with which sort of family.

Then again, the two years between leaving the previous host family and looking for a new one might have diluted memories of the difficult adjustments, the chronic challenges, or the toughness of the work.

If you came across the profile of a returning Au Pair, assuming s/he met all your other criteria, what would you consider before choosing to interview him or her?

This returning Au Pair would like to know:

I was an Au Pair in 2010/2011 for 18 months.  

I am currently doing an internship at a European Au Pair Agency. I’ve thought about going back as an Au Pair before, and now during my internship these idea seems even more interesting. 

I now wanted to know if there are any families or au pairs out there who can give me some feedback of having an experience as or with return au pairs. Are returning au pairs popular? Would families choose them over younger, not-yet-experienced au pairs? 

Would You Consider a Returning Au Pair?

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Everything changes and nothing stands still.

Can you find a way to use this truth to your advantage?

Image by chemistri on Flickr


Host Mom in the City June 26, 2015 at 10:22 am

I’ve seen a handful of au pairs that wanted to return and they seem to have great resumes (and obviously, know what being an au pair is all about!). I have interviewed a few of them, but to be totally honest, it didn’t seem like they were coming back for the right reasons. All three of my interviewees said they just had so much fun being an au pair that they wanted to have the experience again, but in a way that suggested to me that they were doing it to prolong and repeat a youthful experience and avoid adult responsibility.

Certainly not saying that’s the case with the au pair here at all, and if she’s working for an au pair agency that would mean to me that she’s interested in au pairing in general and not just in having fun. But being an au pair is a job that in retrospect, probably looks pretty easy and fun. Someone else paying for all your expenses, taking care of everything related to housing and cars and helping you through administrative processes, no commute, no real pressure, lots of time to yourself, the expectation that you will spend all your free time meeting people and having fun. Compared to “adult” life where you’re paying for your own housing, car, phone, food, etc., dealing with paying bills and fixing stuff that breaks in your house, a long commute, pressure at the office or whatever, etc. I’m generalizing, but I can imagine looking back and longingly wanting to repeat the year of fun. It’s easy to forget about homesickness and living with strangers and how tough kids can be and how hard it can be to make friends.

It’s kind of like if someone said to me do I want to go back and be in college for a year – heck yes, that would be amazing to have such little responsibility. But at the time when I was actually in college, it felt difficult, and if I was really put back in college right now, I’d probably remember why it wasn’t so rosy as it seems.

Anyway, rambling – tl;dr – I would need to know that the candidate wanted to be an au pair for a good reason and not just because she wanted to go back to a simple, fun life.

NBHostMom June 26, 2015 at 10:47 am

This is one of those “it depends” situations, what is motivating the AP to return? I know a family who is currently hosting a return AP, she wants to perfect her English. She just finished school and working towards becoming an official English translator. She is an awesome AP and has clear life goals. I’d consider an returning AP, but during interviewing they’d better show they’re not aiming to simply re-live fun times.

WarmStateMomma June 26, 2015 at 11:14 am

I wouldn’t dismiss a return AP out of hand but I’d be pretty curious about her reasons for coming back. “I broke my leg 4 months into my year, had to go home, and want to try again” would make a lot of sense to me.

Avoiding adulthood doesn’t bother me so much because we hosted an AP who basically took a sabbatical from her professional career to do something fun and adventurous. She was fantastic.

Has the excitement of being in a new country run its course? A big advantage of the AP program is that the APs bring an energy to the year since it’s new and exciting to them that means more to me than a nanny’s professional experience. Would the AP would compare us to her prior HF? Would the AP be able to accept that we do things differently from other families?

I’d be willing to consider a repeat AP – especially if she already had a US drivers license and learned to make friends in the US – but I wouldn’t consider her prior experience necessarily a “plus” for my family.

Best of luck to the OP! I think lots of families would appreciate that her English is great, she already knows American culture won’t overwhelm her, and that she has fulfilled her AP commitment before.

GerAP June 26, 2015 at 11:18 am

I was a returning au pair, though my case was a little different. I was an au pair for two years with a fantastic host family right after high school. Then, I went back and got my bachelor’s degree.

Before I graduated, my host family asked me, if I’d consider joining them again for another year. I agreed (that sounds so matter of fact, but I was very flattered that they asked me and I was beyond excited to go back). I still had many friends there and basically, after three years, walked back into my old life. So, you could say, that I was re-living fun times. But, for me and I believe also for my host family, it was the right decision.

Granted it wasn’t as exciting as the first time and my host family and I kind of forgot that there were things that weren’t so great the first time around (people tend to memorize only the good things and forget the other things over time) and had to adjust a bit, but it was still the right decision for me. It helped deepening the relationship to my host family even more, and I had another year to spend time with my friends in the US and travel. After that year, I went back to my home country and started my master’s program.

So, my experience is a bit different, because I don’t think I would have done it, if I wouldn’t have gone back to my first host family. But I believe that there are certainly families out there who value your experience and maturity.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 26, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I have looked at candidates who were special needs willing ever since the State Department decided it would permit APs to return, and I must say I’ve never extended an invitation to consider matching with any of them.

My reason – most left their previous HF off their references – and none of the candidates seemed stellar enough for me to extend an invitation and ask to be able to contact their previous HF. Had the candidate asked her previous HF to be a reference, I’m sure I’d have a better idea of what she had been like as an AP to either pursue contact or reject her as a candidate altogether. It may just be me, but I’m suspicious of any candidate who doesn’t include a previous HF as a reference.

I’m sure a lot of families would like to match with an AP who had previous experience and knew that it wasn’t all fun and games. I usually match before the extension candidates compile their paperwork and are released to the database.

Host Mom in the City June 26, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Good point – I would expect a glowing review from the previous host family if I were to consider a return au pair, or at the very least, a detailed description of why the host family wasn’t a good fit for the au pair and what she had learned from the bad fit.

German Au-Pair June 29, 2015 at 3:22 pm

In some cases you actually cannot use your previous HF as an official references because references cannot be older than two years. That may be something to consider.

Host Mom in the City June 30, 2015 at 6:37 am

Oh! I had no idea. Thanks for this.

WarmStateMomma June 30, 2015 at 11:34 am

Me neither! Maybe APs who expect their prior HF to say good things could mention that extra reference in their letter or other application materials.

WestMom July 1, 2015 at 10:04 am

I assume this would be a prematch and the AP wouldn’t have to start her application until the family gives the ok with the agency. I am sure agencies have their specific requirements for childcare but I can imagine any turning down easy repeat business!

Butterfly91 June 26, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Dear all,

I am the one who asked Au Pair Mom to post this question for me.
I just finished my B.A degree in Tourism Management. Hence I am really interested in other cultures and meeting new people. In future I would like to work for an Au Pair Agencies or promoting language courses. As these are my interests it’s been hard for me to make this decision without knowing if I even would have the chance that families consider me.
In the past 4 years I kept working with children (fitness center and babysitting), so I never stopped working with kids. I still like spending time with kids and I really enjoy it. However, I am also not sure how it will feel like after 4 years being back in the USA, having “rules” and to work with kids kinda like 24/7.
I had a great time in my first year and I even extended. However, it wasn’t always perfect and we had our ups and downs.

Therefore I am not sure if being a return Au Pair is just an illusion/dream with which I would “stop” working on my career or if it could really be a true thing.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 26, 2015 at 6:00 pm

There are several ways to return to the United States and work, and it doesn’t all involve childcare. For example, Marriott hotels host a J-1 visa: http://www.marriott.com/careers/application-process/j1-labor-condition-applicants.mi, and I’m sure there are plenty of other tourism employers that do as well. It’s hard to go to a resort in the United States without seeing restaurant, hotel, and amusement park employees who bear international name tags reflecting their home country. If your goal is to return, improve your English, and tour the U.S., then maybe working with children is not your best first choice.

Multitasking Host Mom June 27, 2015 at 7:43 am

OP…so if your only concern was if families would consider you…..I wouldn’t worry about that. You have previous experience of working as an AP, you were successful at it, and especially if your previous HF gave you a good reference, there is definitely going to be a family that wants to match with you. But, I am not hearing (or maybe I am reading between the lines) that that is really the big issue.

I think what you really need to be focusing on is the fact that you are at a point where you need to take steps towards your future career. You need to be taking on jobs now that “build up the resume”. You already can say when you go into a job interview for an AP agency or language school that you were an AP. Will being an AP again help you look better to future employers? It might since you could see a new part of the US, experience a different culture, meet new people, and it would help you work on your English. But TACL makes an excellent point….those goals can be accomplished by other J-1 visa programs in the US. (And I would assume that working in a hotel or other resort/tourist area would better match your field of study.) But if you want to live with a host family and watch children again the AP program would meet your goals plus provide these benefits. OP, only you can make the decision of which program would work for you. But my point is you need to make this choice based on your long term professional future.

WarmStateMomma June 27, 2015 at 12:12 pm

OP – I would be cautious about doing the visa to work in the tourism industry.

Don’t do it unless you can connect with other people at the same employer and ask them lots of questions (how much of your wages can you keep, are you allowed to have visitors, how many hours of overtime are you required to work, will you have transportation to a grocery store, how much savings do you need to bring to fund your experience, etc.). Many of these “tourism” visa jobs are just low-skill, low-pay work that high school kids do, but the employer needs someone to do them while the kids are in school.

There is abuse in the system and you have to pay for your own flight home if you find yourself in an intolerable situation. There may be good options but I’m familiar with a terrible one at an internationally-known brand.

If you’re not too worried about comfortable working conditions, working on a cruise ship may give you some cross-cultural working experience (their employees are from all over the globe) and opportunities to visit new places without the family-type rules.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 26, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Our first au pair was a repeat au pair, although her prior experience was in Europe. I was a nervous first timer, and even though her application, video and interviews all seemed great, the call I had with her host mom was what gave me the greatest comfort. The strengths the HM identified were ones I was looking for, and the weaknesses were not ones that concerned me (much). After the year with us, she extended with another family, then went back home to South America before heading out to another European country– this time to teach English.

In my view, our au pair had a good recollection of how tough au pairing could be, and even counseled other au pairs about toughing it out. She was very goal-oriented and focused (maybe not as warm as we would have liked, but very good at the job), and au pairing was an important stepping stone on her path. As a first time host mom, I learned a lot from her! So I would say yes, I would consider a returning au pair, as long as I felt that he or she matched our family’s needs.

NewAPHostMom June 26, 2015 at 8:31 pm

We considered someone who had au paired before in the US and had nearly perfect English, but we did have to wonder why she wanted to return. She was a smart girl getting an advanced degree in a competitive field, so I wonder if some of it was delaying adulthood. She had even au paired not far from us so I was surprised she was even interested in the area. In the end we ended up matching with a different candidate who was our first choice whose personality we thought would be a better fit.

WestMom June 27, 2015 at 6:45 am

I have limited experience with return au pairs but this topic is timely: a past Au pair is coming to visit and I am considering asking her to come back for another year. She loved her time here, we had a great relationship, she is still under 26 and unfortunately the job market is disastrous in her European country and she has been jumping from one small job to another for the last 5yrs. I think coming the U.S. and possibly furthering her education might be beneficial for her at this point, and needless to say it could be great for us (especially me- no interviews, little training, known entity!). I haven’t asked her yet, and I am a bit nervous about this (some of you know we never extend with our APs). I am specifically concerned about the lack of novelty and excitement for AP and the potential that it may affect our relationship. Right now, we are the second, overseas family she seems while on vacation and we can do no wrong. I wonder how that might change once she remembers what we are really like!!! I’d love any advice on this from other host moms who might have brought back an ex AP…

On another note, I once reached out to a return AP with a great profile a few years ago only to be rejected at the first email. When looking at that candidate’s Facebook page (which lead to her AP blog), I noticed she posted a mildly negative message about us (location, number of kids, and other specifics about what we were looking for). That made her sound so entitled that it really irked me. Already having experience in the US can be a great asset but I would also assume that a returning AP will be a lot less flexible on the type of family she would go for, and her expectations for location, benefits, etc.

WarmStateMomma June 27, 2015 at 11:52 am

Interesting! I also thought a returning AP would be less flexible but reading it your words made me wonder if she would also have a more clear idea of what would work for her in terms of location, #/ages of kids, etc. I’d be much more likely to bring back our own AP than someone who was hosted by another family because we’d know how she fits in, she’d be familiar with our expectations/lifestyle, and my oldest would be over the moon to spend another year with someone she already loved.

The novelty would be gone but it seems like there would still be a “purpose” to her experience if she goes to school for an advanced degree or certification.

Who else has done this? How did it work out?

cv harquail June 30, 2015 at 4:19 pm

West Mom, will you let us know what you decide? It would be interesting to hear your ‘real time’ thought process.

TexasHM June 27, 2015 at 4:32 pm

I have interviewed a couple returning APs. I have to be honest, they were super entitled! I mean down to the minutia. One AP had a laundry list of demands (2 school aged kids or less, they have to go to daycare in the summer so her hours don’t increase in the summer, a car with no curfews or restrictions of any kind, no weekend shifts ever, she didn’t want to pay for gas, she wanted a list of the local colleges/universities so she could determine if they would be acceptable – oh and she would not be getting a state drivers license even though its required in our state because she had an international license and she didn’t want to deal with it. Obviously having 3 kids she barely wrote me a response to blow me off until I mentioned I had a friend with one school aged kid looking and then she was super interested. I connected them and she found their scenario wasn’t up to her expectations either so she turned them down. The other returning candidate wasn’t as bad but still had a list – CA or NY, AP car and no weekend hours.

One thing I will say on this – for returning APs keep in mind that just because you had a successful previous experience doesn’t automatically mean you are entitled to perks from other families that haven’t met you/don’t know you from Adam. If we had one of our previous APs want to come back and ask us to tweak our rules we would consider that (known AP) but to have an AP I don’t know ask us to scrap our rules because she has already been an AP before doesn’t fly. It also makes me wonder what is important to you because it sounds like just perks. So like a regular job interview feel free to highlight your experience and be picky about what offer you take but be considerate and don’t expect families to take your word for it that you are awesome because you AP’d before and change their rules. Feel free to ask why a rule is in place and if it changes with time (earned privilege) but don’t expect the answer to be yes just for you.

To be fair, I have had this problem with extension APs as well. Yes, they often have advantages (maybe drivers license, conquered homesickness and great english) but I still haven’t seen you drive or AP so no, I won’t change my process/handbook because you’ve been here 9 months vs an out of country AP candidate.

NJ Mama June 29, 2015 at 3:51 pm

I completely agree. I have reached out to many extension au pairs. Most don’t even respond, and those that did were always so picky. For example, I live near NYC but not in NYC, and near is never good enough. I have stopped reaching out to extension au pairs. It’s probably wrong to stereotype but I just feel like we’d never be good enough, and I don’t want to get into that game of “this is how we did things at my last family.”

I did once interview an repeat au pair who was in rematch while I was also in rematch. I spoke to her area director, and it sounds like she was placed with a first-time host family and they were just horrible to her. It also sounded like she had great childcare experience and she just looked like a lot of fun.

However, when I was emailing with her – and the area director also mentioned this – she really scoffed at the idea of a curfew. The problem is that I recognized that she was older, and I would have been open to loosening up if she could show she could responsibly do her job. My very first au pair was also “older” (24), and she partied so much she would be too hungover to wake up — and get the kids up – on time. So like many things, I implemented a curfew after I was burned. But also like many things, if my new/current au pair has proven herself to be responsible, then I’m not a stickler for that rule.

In any event, even though I had exchanged a few emails with the repeat au pair in rematch, I got to the point where I could have a conversation about the curfew – or anything else. She wrote me off. And a week went by and I got an email from her and she said the last email I had sent had gone into her junk mail and she didn’t see it. And she wanted to know if I was still looking for an au pair. I think her two weeks was close to ending and I felt badly for her b/c I had just matched with an out-of-country au pair (who ended up not coming b/c she found out she was pregnant a week before she was to arrive in the U.S. you can’t make this stuff up!!)

SKNY June 29, 2015 at 5:52 am

Obviously not everyone is like me, but I am giving my opinion as a former au pair and having taken extension au pairs.
About 11 years ago, I was au pair for 3 years. 2 with agency, one without.
And… By what I observed myself and my other friends, after one year you are kind of done. All my friends who had something going on for them left after one year. So why did I stay? Well like ALL my other friends, I had nothing going on for me at home. No great job, no awesome opportunity, and yes… I could use a longer time of English.
But the whole living with the family, following young adults rules…. That all was tiring. Yes, I was a fantastic au pair in many ways… I was experienced, I knew how to work with kids, I knew how to drive, needed little training… But I would say that by the end of my sec year the whole part of the family, illusions of exchanged program were GONE. I was ready to move on way before the end of my second year. I was doing my job, but no extra… And to be very honest, my focus on the sec year was not the kids. No young person wants to stay a sec year as au pair because of the kids… I wanted to get out. My goal was to get my PT license and get out. Many of my friends spent their sec years looking for better jobs, husbands, etc….
I can’t see ANY girl wanting to come back after 2 years because they miss living in a warm family, caring for kids 45hs, following rules, dancing the part of the family dance…
I feel a family is better off with a new girl, full of dreams, still wanting to be part of the family, help out, kids, etc…

momo4 June 30, 2015 at 4:21 pm

I would probably never match with a return AP.
SKNY sums up why pretty accurately with “my focus on the sec year was not the kids”. I find that by the 2/3 of the way through the first year most of my APs are already beginning to get restless/bored/sloppy with their job, and remembering what it was like to be in my early 20s, I understand why.
In theory I would consider someone if their motivation seemed sufficient, say, if their previous (presumably fondly remembered) AP experience was in another country. But I would have serious reservations because previous fond memories (accurate or not) could just as easily work against us. I’d rather chance it with an inexperienced AP who is fresh and enthusiastic than with an experienced AP who is jaded and bored.

HRHM June 30, 2015 at 6:57 pm

I would even caution against repeat APs from other countries.

I had a couple of rough years and thought that I had hit the jackpot with a young woman who was 25 and had been an AP in London. She was experienced driving there, accepting of the description of the job and rules and her (english speaking, Asian Indian (so not a cousin!) former HM had nothing but great things to say about her.

Fast forward and she was my worst AP of all (even worse than the one who stole from us and the one whose entire application was a lie). In retrospect, I had no understanding of the difference between the AP job in Europe and the one here. The HM loved her because (I later found out) she was a single mom with long hours and AP kept the house clean (for extra pay) and mowed the yard (for extra pay) With regard to her “childcare” her sole responsibility was to transport a tween boy to Kumon and tennis and make sure he did his homework (M-F). So when she got to my house she didn’t clean up after herself and didn’t keep the girls rooms or playroom tidy, and was livid that she had to work weekends (all of which she agreed to before accepting) and wanted extra money to do the job she was hired for.

It was a disaster and I won’t make that mistake again.

DCMomof3 July 1, 2015 at 12:59 pm

I do get why returning APs act entitled since their experience should command some additional perks. I am sure that some girls get everything they want the second time around, but I’ve also seen this plan backfire. When a former AP of ours wanted to come back, I was kind of bending over backwards to make it happen for her. She lives in a poor country that is going through a lot of turmoil right now, supporting her aging parents, etc. and we thought that this would be the best opportunity for her to get out of there and try to make a better life for herself abroad. When she went to the agency in her country to set things up, the recruiter there told her not to come and work for me as a normal au pair because with her experience, she could be an extraordinaire and get more money (and I suspect more money for the agency as well). She asked me if I would take her as an extraordinaire and I said no because I have 3 kids in school and really don’t need an extraordinaire and the price that comes along with it. I thought I was helping her out and then she started asking me for more money which didn’t really sit right with me, even though we all love her and want the best for her. The agency then told her to apply to be an au pair in Canada because apparently in Canada au pairs can apply for permanent residency after 2 years. Her Canadian visa was rejected and she is still in her home country. I think she probably could have found another family in the US willing to take her as an extraordinaire if she stayed in the US applicant pool. She has another year or 2 until she ages out and hopefully she will try again – I am sure that somebody will jump on her since she has 2 years of experience already.

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