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5 challenges you may face when living with your Au Pair

by Genesis Rivas on Mar 22, 2024
5 challenges you may face when living with your Au Pair
Are you considering becoming a Host Family? Great! The Au Pair program offers many advantages: a cultural and linguistic exchange for you and your family, flexible childcare, lower costs compared to a babysitter, etc.

But be careful, the success of the program depends a lot on keeping an open mind, being tolerant, and prioritizing communication with the other party.  We have already talked about the benefits of hosting an Au Pair. Now let's discuss the challenges that come with being a Host Family.

Don't worry, we don't want to freak you out. On the contrary, we want to help you to be better aware of what to expect from your Au Pair, what are the challenges you may encounter with her, and how you can face them. Read on, and learn how to get the best out of the Au Pair hosting experience. 

The challenges you may face and how to cope with them

1. Having unrealistic expectations

Missing HomeLet's say this: a Host Family has just found the perfect candidate. After a couple of video calls, they concluded the girl is polite, has a good childcare background, is friendly, responsible, and is willing to be part of the family as soon as possible. 

They have done all the necessary paperwork and the day finally arrives when this girl travels to the host country to join them. A week later, they are already beginning to be disappointed. They expected the Au Pair to clean the house more often, spend more time with the children, and not so much time on her phone. What could they have done wrong in the research process? 

Probably nothing. Perhaps the problem is not that they made the wrong choice, but that they thought there was a “perfect Au Pair”. 

Some families start the program without knowing exactly what the Au Pair's responsibilities are (and are not).

This fictitious family expected, perhaps, that their Au Pair would perform complex household tasks such as cleaning the entire house or cooking for everyone. This is not part of an Au Pair's job. Likewise, it is not her duty to take care of the host children all day long, as she is entitled to have some time for herself. 

As for cell phone use, she may be missing her home and country. She may seek to connect with loved ones through the phone. This is where open communication plays a very important role. The family should make it clear as to when cell phone use is allowed and, most importantly, they should try to understand what is going on with their Au Pair. Is she homesick? Does she find it hard to focus? Is she addicted to social media?  

Your Au Pair is probably never going to do everything exactly the way you want her to. Be prepared for this. Learn what her duties are, and try to understand her needs. Based on this, set clear and reasonable rules from the beginning. Writing them down can be helpful for the Au Pair. Make sure she understands them (don't forget that she is currently learning your language), and use a friendly tone when communicating them. 

2. Underestimating the fact that you will be living with a “stranger”

Depending on the duration of the contract, you will be living for 3 months, 6 months, or even 1 year with a “stranger” whom you will have to treat as a member of your family. Have you thought about how that will make you feel? Many people feel anxious about this idea, and right after starting the program, they are overwhelmed by a “stranger’s” presence in the privacy of their home. 

To deal with this in the best way, we recommend that you have lots of video calls with your Au Pair. Don't let her be a stranger when she arrives at your home. 

Use the first few video calls to talk about her capabilities, her experience with children, your outlook on parenting, etc., but don't stop there. Talk about your family's daily routine, and ask about hers. Discuss her interests and her culture. Ask about her family and share stories about your children. Also, encourage other family members to communicate with her. The more times you interact before the program begins, the better. 


3. Not prioritizing communication

Au Pair Wrong ExpectationsLet's say it's the third time the Au Pair forgets to properly coat your child before taking him/her to the park. It is also the second time she has left the clothes in the washing machine for a whole day. In addition, her international phone bills are excessive. What are you supposed to do if you already informed her how you expected her to do things? 

First, do not keep it inside and then explode. You may find it irresponsible and even disrespectful if the Au Pair does not follow some of the instructions you gave her. However, there are many reasons why she may not be following your rules. Perhaps, because of the language barrier, she hasn't quite understood what you want. She may not think it's such a big deal to leave the laundry in the washing machine, or she may not be aware of the costs of international calls. 

Either way, you can solve this issue, right from the start, with the help of open and respectful communication. For this, it is vital to make sure that the Au Pair understands what you are saying. Don't be afraid to repeat it several times. If you feel that she is simply ignoring you, tell her so. Show her how you want her to perform and try to be patient. Set clear boundaries, but above all, always be willing to listen to her point of view in every conversation you have with her.  

4. Allowing no privacy 

This applies to both parties. The Au Pair has the right to have a lockable room with no surprise visitors. That is, it is not right for any family member to enter her room without knocking or when she is absent. She also has the right to take a language course, go for walks, and practice her hobbies in her free time. If there is any impasse with any of these issues, remember point 3 and appeal to open communication before anything else. 

What if the Au Pair wants to be with you constantly and won't let you have any privacy? The reasons for this can vary. Possibly, the Au Pair believes that not sharing every possible moment with the family is disrespectful. Maybe she is bored being alone or feels overwhelmed by not having anyone to talk to. Make sure she has some means of entertainment, even in her room. A good idea is to leave a TV in her bedroom for her to use in her free time. 

Don't hesitate to let her know that you have no problem with her spending time alone, help her locate places of interest she can visit in your city, and make sure she can easily explore the area. 

5. Neglecting the cultural exchange

Last, but not least: remember that your Au Pair is not a simple employee! The Au Pair program is not just about exchanging childcare services in return for money, food, and lodging. Beyond that, it is a space for cultural sharing, with the objective of promoting mutual knowledge, and opening paths of understanding, cooperation, and tolerance between both parties.

Using the program just to get an affordable babysitter is a waste. Don't make this mistake. Encourage your children, not to see differences as threats, but to embrace and accept them. 

There are many things you can learn from your Au Pair and also many others that you can teach her. Ask her to cook traditional food from her country, show interest in learning her native language, include her in your local celebrations, and let her express her religious beliefs

Remember, although Au Pair means “equal to”, she is the one who has left her country and her home, which in some ways leaves her in a more vulnerable position. Helping her to have a good experience is to guarantee a good experience for your family as well. 

We wish you every success. Don't forget to visit our Wiki to learn more about the program.
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