This post is a reblog/review of a blog post from Au Pair Garden. Au Pair Garden is an amazing resource for Au Pairs & Host Families. I read them often, and when I stumbled across this post, I knew I had to blog about it. (Read the full post here)
I wasn’t sure what to think of this blog post when I first read it. I was sitting on the fence between thinking it sounded a little harsh and thinking it is the best damn thing I’ve ever read. Here is a summary of the “10 Things Your Au Pair Isn’t Saying” in bold, and my comments in italics.
1. If you like to make me feel like a member of the family, money, free time and stuff is not all. I need to have a connection with you and the kids. I agree with this one. I lived with and knew of several HF’s who used employee-type benefits to form a connection with their Au Pair. From my perspective, it’s fairly easy to form a bond with your AP. Extend an invitation to her to go out for dinner in her free time, either with or without the children (and if it’s with, do not have the expectation that it’s the same as if she were working). Some HF’s may think it’s an intrusion of free time, but if I didn’t have plans, I’d be flattered and gladly attend. It’s true that not ever HF/AP connection will be natural or even that pleasant, but it takes work on BOTH parts.
2. I am an Au Pair, not a nanny. I am here for an exchange, not to look after your children full-time. I’m not 100% on this one. Yes, it’s absolutely correct that I’m an Au Pair, by title and by description, but I’ve seen one too many scenarios where the AP puts much less effort into the work part than the exchange part. Most HF’s don’t have AP’s because it’s cool; they have them because it’s flexible, convenient, and they need the extra set of hands.
3. Please, don’t treat me as a maid or a slave. Amen to that. Light child-related housework is part of the job, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Picking up after the kids, doing their laundry, and tidying up after myself is something I would never even have to be asked to do, but there is a clearly defined difference between an AP and a maid (besides the fact that maids make a heck of a lot more money). Please do not take advantage of the fact that your AP clears your breakfast dishes for you as a courtesy once in a while; it is not an invitation to leave the cereal, milk, your bowl and spoon on the table every morning. One day, it’ll still be there when you come home.
4. Sometimes, what a human being needs is to recharge the battery. Please, respect my free time and you will have a relaxed Au Pair when you really need it. This is a tough one. A friend of a friend of mine had the kind of host family that required, for about 4 hours of her day, that she work while the HP’s were home. It’s not ideal, but it was part of the description. Some days, after a particularly difficult day with one sick kid, or one of more kids having “one of those days”, it was blatantly obvious (either intentionally or unintentionally) that a 15 minute breather, where they would have to simply BE in the same room as the kids, would leave her forever indebted to them. Never happened. Nor did she ever have a sick day, sick or not. Yes, we’re Au Pairs, but we’re also your employees, so please respect our health and well-being as you would expect your boss to respect yours.
5. I have a life of my own, with people I want to see, stuff I want to do, secrets I want to keep. Some host families have very strict rules about car curfews and overnight guests. Understandably, it is their vehicle and their home. Some host families, however, have curfews for their AP, or just ridiculous expectations that make it hard to have a life outside of work. Please, by all means, set rules for the safety and well-being of your family and property, but if you think of extending it outside of that, put yourself in our shoes.
6. Once in a while it’s nice to know the family can handle their stuff on their own. From my experience, it’s rare for a HF to be incapable to do things the AP normally does, but it does happen. Without saying too much about it, it’s unhealthy for both parties; it stresses out the AP, and it becomes easy to make her feel guilty about having free time or a day off, and it really just make the HF look completely unable to adjust.
7. Call me to have lunch if I am home. Don’t pretend you forgot I was there. This was rarely an issue for me. On days my HF was home, I purposely made my personal schedule around theirs. I ate dinner with them every evening I worked, so it was a personal choice to do things alone when I wasn’t working. It gives both parties the ability to breath, and it was understood that I had the option to eat with them, and they had the option to ask me not to. Some AP’s aren’t so lucky, and it’s just plain sad.
8. I always try to be very quiet when I am up earlier than you do. So please, respect my sleeping. To HF’s everwhere: We’re human, and we adjust to our surroundings. No need to tiptoe around until we roll out of bed at noon on our days off; however, allowing the children to enter our unlocked bedroom doors or repeatedly bang on our locked bedroom doors is a NO NO.
9. I am playing with your children as a job. Although I love my job, I don’t want to have fun with them also in my free time. Au Pairs form some serious bonds with host children, and if it’s not intrusive to the host family, it’s natural to want to interact with them, play with them, hug them, even when they don’t have to. It is, however, a choice we would like to be able to make, and as soon as someone says “Do you mind watching them for an hour?”, we want nothing more to do with them.
10. You are paying me to take care of your children. Please, don’t bring me 7 more kids to look after. This only happened to me once in 2 years, so I don’t have much experience with this, but I would not be a happy girl.
Final Note: I think it’s safe to say that in a long-term AP/HF relationship, there will be things that one party does that the other will not agree with, or that will royally piss the other off. It happens. Passive aggressive comments, eye-rolling and stomping feet are not acceptable ways to handle the situation. Keeping it bottled up inside while putting on a happy front isn’t either; it will make for many teary-eyed calls home. Communication is key. I think too many AP’s & HF’s worry about hurting the other’s feelings, but in almost all situations, a compromise can easily be made, and it will ultimately result in a happier, stronger relationship.