Having the right frame of mind about hosting an Au Pair can simplify your efforts to cultivate a successful year with your Au Pair.
In this video interview, Tom, a Host Dad with proven success in the program, shares his thoughts about having the right frame of mind.
What Frame of Mind Should Host Families Have About the Au Pair Program?
First, it’s important for families to envision the purpose of the Au Pair program. Not only are you entering into a cultural exchange arrangement with your Au Pair, but you’re agreeing to be their American family, and to support them the way you’d support your own family.
This frame of mind about hosting an Au Pair is key to succeeding as a Host Family.
“I don’t think people sometimes take that role the way it should be,” Tom says. “I’ve heard from Jolin specifically, her previous Host Family, even though she wasn’t very long, there was no effort to include her.”
Au Pairs want to be part of the family, and they want to live in a household where they feel at home. Even though Host Parents may support their Au Pairs in much the same way that you might support your adult children, it’s important to treat your Au Pair as an adult with their own autonomy.
Tom shares some of the restrictions he’s heard that other Host Families try to impose on their Au Pairs. “They couldn’t eat this, they couldn’t touch that,” he says. “Who wants to live in a situation like that?”
Tom also explains that this type of thing seems to happen when families have the wrong idea about the purpose of the Au Pair program.
“They’re just thinking this is some kind of nanny thing… it’s much different.”
What Hosting Really Is & What Host Families Should Anticipate.
Like Tom said, many people go into this program thinking only of childcare. Through no fault of their own, their frame of mind about hosting an Au Pair may be limited by previous childcare experience. Parents might consider transportation and living arrangements, but Tom says the experience most families have is much deeper than that.
“To me, personally, there’s an aspect that you just don’t get from a nanny or dropping your kid off at childcare,” he says. “There’s more of a personal connection that you get with having somebody basically become an extended part of your family. I mean, I know people get close with their nannies, too, but at 5 o’clock, they’re gone, they leave. But with an Au Pair, you get to sit down, you have dinner, there’s a lot more stability.”
This stability is a motivator for many families to continue using Au Pair childcare for years. However, it may not be for everyone; it’s important to analyze your own needs and expectations. Determining what you really want to get out of the experience can help you decide.
“Some people may not want that [personal connection], and I get it, that’s fine. I was a little bit on the fence myself when we were considering it because I’m sort of a private person… but as soon as it started, it was like a no-brainer.”
In Tom’s experience, that personal connection became the most important aspect of hosting an Au Pair. They initially came to the program because of childcare needs and the affordability of hiring an Au Pair.
“It’s actually comparable to, and sometimes cheaper than, having a full-time nanny… When you add it all up… it’s not more expensive than a nanny.”
But soon, they realized they had gotten something much more valuable than just a childcare arrangement.
What else can factor into having a good frame of mind about hosting an Au Pair?
There are many things to consider before hosting an Au Pair. But some of the biggest considerations include:
- Does an “older sibling” relationship between y our kids and your Au Pair sound ideal to you?
- Are you prepared to live with another adult & have extra help around the home?
- Did you hate living with roommates in the past? If so, identify why and ask yourself if that situation can be avoided in the future.
- What are your personal boundaries when living with another person?
- What are your childcare expectations?
- Aside from childcare, what do you hope to gain from becoming a Host Family?
- Do you want an Au Pair who will be like a best friend? Or are you looking for a more professional relationship?
- Are you willing and able to contribute to your Au Pair’s cultural immersion? (This can be as simple as helping your Au Pair experience American cuisine).
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Unless you just can’t tolerate the idea of living with another person, it’s likely that there’s a great match out there for you and your family.
Asking yourself these questions, and understanding your own boundaries and expectations, will help you find that ideal match.