We’ve had little hiccups in our placement & I’ve found myself addressing issues I never foresaw before they happened.
When I envisioned hosting an Au Pair, my mind focused on the major issues like:
- Will my children like her?
- Will she fit into to our family, or will it be awkward?
- How will she manage her vacation and educational credits…?
Things like that.
However, everyday life has its little challenges that need to be worked through as well. After having played the role of Host Mom for six months, I now have experience addressing issues– or, what I like to refer as our “little hiccups”– things I never even considered we might have to work through.
Hiccup #1: Should There Be Guidelines for What My Au Pair Can Order at a Restaurant?
Cooking homemade meals for my family is something I take very seriously as a mother. But that kind of time commitment can get exhausting.
When I reward myself with a night off from cooking, and we all head out to a restaurant, my goal is not to cook or clean up… It’s not to take my small children and my Au Pair out for an expensive meal.
Our issue surfaced when my husband and I realized that every time we would go out, no matter the restaurant, our Au Pair would seem to order one of the most expensive meals on the menu, and that situation made us uncomfortable.
Making a conscious effort to choose family-friendly restaurants that often times have free kids meals, we were looking to spend a reasonable amount on a dinner for four plus one baby. (A baby who apparently looked old enough for crayons even though he wouldn’t know what to do with them other than eat them).
When he noticed she was ordering the more expensive meals on a regular basis, my husband’s irritation grew. This led to him making sarcastic comments to our Au Pair about the prices of the meals she selected. This, in turn, led to her asking if she could order certain things even though they were higher-priced…
And then it got awkward.
Au Pairs aren’t adults. They may not understand our money issues without an explanation.
Addressing issues, especially if they’re money-related, can be difficult when hosting an Au Pair. She sees what you spend your money on and what do choose not to spend your money on.
Just because a Host Family may have luxury vehicles or a very nice house doesn’t mean that they have unending amounts of money to spend on everything. In my experience, every family has their priorities when it comes to money: spend here, save there, etc., and it’s not anyone’s right to pass judgment on those decisions.
Have you ever heard that when someone else is paying for a meal, you ask them what they’re having before you choose what to order? Then, you choose something similar in price?
I don’t know if this etiquette just wasn’t passed down to my Au Pair’s generation, or if this is a cultural expectation. Communicating this, and other forms of etiquette, to your Au Pair can help you avoid similarly uncomfortable situations.
Hiccup #2: When Your Au Pair’s Level of Cleanliness Isn’t the Same as Yours.
I know I’m super Type-A and a complete organization and neat freak. So, when I see toys lying about during my Au Pair’s work time or her dirty dishes sitting by the sink for too long, I can feel my level of anxiety rising.
Of course, I put in my Host Family profile what my cleanliness expectations were, but reading about something and experiencing it are two different things! (I’m sure no one could imagine what it’s like to live with me until you’ve survived it).
Having her adjust to my anal-retentive level of organization has been a work in progress. But, when something bothers you on any level, the best solution is to address it head-on.
Hiccup #3: What If Your Au Pair Needs More Than a Few Reminders… About the Same Thing?
When it comes to addressing issues, this one is one of those minor annoyances that becomes progressively more irritating over time.
For some unknown reason, my Au Pair repeatedly forgets to pull the back door closed tightly, and it is often blown ajar or left half closed. Reminding her time and time again to do the same thing gets old, and we start to feel like she isn’t listening.
After getting rather exhausted with the repetition, I finally just posted a sign on the door that says, “Please shut door tightly” as a not-so-subtle reminder of what needs to take place. Problem solved.
Note: If you find yourself addressing issues like this one, I do recommend verbal discussion before using a sign. Even though our verbal reminders weren’t enough, personal communication is important. In this case, the sign supported what I’d already told her in person, coming across as a reminder rather than a rude note.
During our first six months, we’ve found ourselves addressing issues like these, and also really minor issues that are so trivial they needn’t be discussed.
But along with the hiccups come unexpected benefits.
Did I ever expect my Au Pair to share so much of my own personality, or to fall so quickly in love with my boys? No.
Did I expect to hear my Au Pair say, “I love you” to them before a nap or bedtime, just as an older sibling and family member would? Not particularly.
In most cases, I hate surprises, but in this case, some surprises are a welcomed addition to our hosting experience!