It may be early in the process, but I already know which things I’ll do differently with my 2nd Au Pair.
I’m a big planner, and I am now in the midst of searching for my 2nd Au Pair who will be taking my current Au Pair’s place in September. Just as we all live and learn, I have lived and have learned from my first hosting experience. There are things I will look for again, and there are things I will do differently. Buying our first home, a townhouse, we were so excited about its potential, and it seemed to be the answer to all of our housing issues. However, five years later, we hated it, and all we could see were the things we disliked and would look to change the next time around.
Hosting an Au Pair is much like the repeat home buying process. Live and learn from mistakes made. Yes, children change, families change and needs change, and those changes will also mean you may be looking for different strengths and weaknesses in your next Au Pair. Initially, I wanted to make sure that we found someone who would fit well with my husband’s and my large personalities, but now I’m not so sure that was the best plan.
Here are my thoughts about do-agains and do-overs:
Pre-Match Things I’ll Do the Same With My 2nd Au Pair
1. I find that in a hosting situation, it’s great to find someone with some similar interests you as a Host Parent can relate to. My current Au Pair and I both shared a love of the arts, and she aspired to be an interior designer, which is what my degree is in. This time around, I’m still looking for a personal connection like photography, writing, fishing… something that we can bond over.
2. Personality is a big deal when it comes to finding a good match. However, this point is something you may need to be careful of. Sometimes too many strong personalities in one household isn’t a great thing because strong personalities aren’t usually blessed with a great deal of patience, something a caregiver should probably have spades of. We currently have 3.5 very strong personalities in our household: my husband, myself, my Au Pair, and my toddler, and sometimes, it gets explosive. A good personality is always something I will look for in an Au Pair, but my search may have a little bit of a different focus this time.
3. I’m not sure exactly why, but I seem to prefer European Au Pairs. Germany was the first, and I’m strongly considering Ukraine for my second. Maybe after hosting a second Au Pair, I will have lived and learned some more, and then maybe I’ll change my mind again – but that’s my right as a woman – to be able to change my mind.
Pre-Match Things I’ll Do Differently With My 2nd Au Pair
1. When looking for my first Au Pair, I thought it would be nice if we had more of a homebody type who would prefer watching TV over partying or staying out with friends every night, but now I’m not so sure that’s the best plan. A homebody doesn’t necessarily mean much privacy for the Host Parents, and sometimes homebody types aren’t super active. Since I have two very active boys, I think this time around, I’m going to look for someone who would rather go for a walk after dinner than sit on the sofa watching TV.
2. And even though I thought I was clear in stating up front that I like a very clean house, I have come to realize that I need to find an Au Pair who shares my obsessive thoughts and feelings about clutter and mess. Coming out of my office at the end of the day and being mentally exhausted, I see toys lying about in the playroom and living room, and I just see more work.
3. Age wasn’t a huge factor the first time around, but age has a lot to do with maturity. I’m not really sure if I want such a young Au Pair this second time around if it means being so much of a mother to another “child”. However, on the flip side, an older Au Pair could pose different challenges like too much independence and not much reliance on the Host Family/Au Pair relationship.
Post-Arrival Things I’ll Do the Same With My 2nd Au Pair
1. We are rather strict in our house about schedules and rules, and I will keep my rule of a 10:00 pm curfew on the weekends and an 11:00 curfew on the weekends. Although it may seem strict, the one time our Au Pair didn’t come home until 2:00 am made me realize that losing sleep over your Au Pair’s wellbeing is not something a Host Family should have to lose sleep over.
2. Communication is something I will continue to encourage and foster. Sometimes situations get dicey, uncomfortable, and you just feel like avoiding them and holding in your feelings and stress, but what happens then? You take it out on your children or spouse, and that’s not healthy. Of course I will try my best the second time around to keep the lines of communication wide open, as hard as it is at times.
3. Making sure my Au Pair feels like a part of the family is something I will definitely do again. Why would anyone want to live in a foreign country with a strange family if she didn’t want to become a part of the family? We will do our best, yet again, to try to make our next Au Pair feel as much like a part of our family as our current Au Pair.
Post-Arrival Things I Will Do Differently With My 2nd Au Pair
1. Sometimes I want to slap myself in the forehead… so in order to avoid that feeling again, I will make sure to push my next Au Pair to decide on how she will take care of her educational credits and vacation time early on – like within the first month or two. Currently, my Au Pair is just about to take a weekend class, but it is already six months in. She also hasn’t taken much vacation time – shame on me for not pushing her to plan better.
2. For sure I will schedule a driver’s test for my next Au Pair BEFORE she arrives. Trying to get into the DMV around here is a nightmare, and given that we are over half way through our hosting year and our Au Pair has yet to get her Minnesota license, clearly planning could have gone better.
3. Even though communication is a constant thing, for the second Au Pair orientation upon arrival, I will make sure to address the things that did not work the first time around in order to ensure that we will not have a repeat of reoccurring issues. Maybe I wasn’t super clear about some things with my current Au Pair, but I think I need to handle it a bit differently this next time.
What about the time in between matching and arrival? Well, there’s nothing I would change there. I will still keep in touch, share photos and emails, show my sons photos of the new Au Pair so they can get familiar with her. Frankly, I think I did an amazing job with all of that last time so I have no will to change it up the second time (oh – OUCH! – I may have just pulled something while patting myself on the back!).
For every Host Family, first time or veteran, hosting is an evolutionary process. When life changes, we change with it, but the one thing that is for certain is that with an ever-changing life, having an Au Pair and flexible childcare is an invaluable resource that I would not or will not change any time soon.