Au Pair Advice, Host Family Questions

HF Q’s: My new au pair is about to arrive. What should I expect?

Congratulations on getting your new au pair!  What an exciting time.  It is a good idea to have realistic expectations so your match can get started off on the right track.

Arrival – As excited as your au pair is going to be chances are she is also going to be wiped out.  The regulations state that au pairs cannot be responsible for the children during the first 3 days after arrival so that they can have time to acclimate to your home and the US.  It is a good idea to use this time to help her to get to know your home and family.  Don’t plan anything too big during the first few days and give her a chance to settle in.

Driving – Even the best of drivers can be intimidated by driving in the US.  Our roads and vehicles are bigger than they are used to and many countries don’t have the same standards of driving.  We recommend all au pairs get a US drivers license but many can drive on their country’s license.  Be prepared to ease your au pair into driving and don’t get frustrated if she doesn’t pick it up right away.

Homesickness – As you can imagine being away from friends and family isn’t easy for anyone.  Add to that being in a different country and speaking a different language and it can get quite difficult.  Encourage your au pair to get out and meet people.  Starting on her education is a good start, but there are a lot of other possibilities.  Churches, international student organizations, meet up groups, rec leagues and ethnic restaurants are good places to meet new people.  Your Area Director will have some ideas for your area.

A good piece of advice is to treat your au pair how you would want someone to treat your son or daughter if they were staying with them.  If you always keep that in mind, then you won’t go wrong.

 

*** ADVICE TO AU PAIRS***

Remember that while your host family, Area Director and agency are here to help you, ultimately your happiness is up to you.  You have an amazing opportunity to gain so many new and beneficial experiences.  Take advantage of every chance you get to learn and grow.  Remember that you are here to 1) help make your host family’s lives easier, and 2) learn about the US.   Don’t be surprised if families in the US raise their children differently than you are used to.  Find out how they want you to assist them in raising their children and then follow their lead.  Finally, although it will be an adjustment at first, if you give it your best you will have one of the greatest experiences of your life.

Advertisements
Host Family Questions

HF Q’s – I know I’m supposed to provide room and board for my au pair, but what’s included in the board portion?

Your au pair is supposed to live with you like a member of the family, so if you are treating your au pair like a brother or sister who is coming for an extended stay, then you are following the intent of the program.  Au pairs should have at least 3 healthy and balanced meals per day.  Some families tell their au pairs that they can eat whatever they want; others feel more comfortable having a certain shelf in the pantry or fridge with food that is reserved for special occasions; and others label food if it needs to be saved.  Almost all host families have a grocery list and the expectation that if something is low or gone, it needs to be added to the list.

It is also a good idea to talk with your au pair about his normal diet.  You are not required to provide special food for your au pair, but most families will ask their au pair if they would like to add certain foods to the shopping list.  Remember, au pairs’ bodies are often still developing, so their appetite might be bigger than you expect.  Also, many au pairs are not used to the variety of foods that are available in the US.  It is ok to discuss with your au pair the amount of food that should be consumed per day (i.e. please don’t eat more than 3 pieces of fresh fruit per day so it can last until I go shopping again.)

If you invite your au pair out to dinner with your family, you should plan on paying for your au pair.  It’s also OK not to invite your au pair out, but you should make sure that your au pair can make a meal for themselves at home.  Lastly, if you go on vacation and leave your au pair at home you need to stock up on groceries for your au pair before you leave.

 

*** Advice to au pairs:  Remember that even though you are to live with your host family like a member of the family, you are still a guest in their home.  Try to match your eating style to that of your host family’s.  If you like to eat food that the family doesn’t  feel free to purchase it yourself.  If you are still hungry after a typical meal, ask your family what foods they are OK you eating afterwards.  In my home my four growing boys know that they are welcome to as many vegetables they want after dinner.  Many families in the US consider treats like ice cream, cookies and such to be occasional food that shouldn’t be eaten every day.  If you don’t know what is acceptable, please ask.  You might feel a little uncomfortable at first, but it will be better for everyone in the long run if everyone is on the same page. Finally, remember that all personal items are your responsibility to purchase.

Host Family Questions

HF Q’s – Do all au pairs expect to have a car?

Not many families have a car that is just for the au pair’s use and no au pair should expect to have free reign of a car.  Even if an au pair does have their own car, the au pair should always ask before using it and let the family know when they will have the car back.  Host families need to feel comfortable with their au pair’s driving skills, so they might require that the au pair get a US driver’s license first.  Host families also can limit the distance their car is driven and how long their au pair has their car out.  Au pairs need to remember that access to a car is a privilege, not a right.

Many au pairs cannot drive, or do not want to drive in the US.  Our cars are much bigger than they are used to, the roads are faster and have more people on them, and their English might not be great.  While most au pairs who don’t drive use public transportation, get rides from friends, bike or walk; it’s still a good idea for host families to offer them rides, especially to school or on the weekends.  No au pair should be stuck at home all the time because he or she doesn’t have a way to get out.

Talk with potential au pairs about their driving experience and what expectations you have for driving.  Don’t expect your au pair to be comfortable with driving in the US right away and plan on helping them get used to driving in the US.

Fun Stuff

Au Pair Adventures – Caren’s cute kids!

Caren, an au pair in New York, takes care of 5 year old twins: C and S.  This is Caren’s story:

“My host family has two boys.  They are twin 5 year olds. C is 1 minute older than S. The boys need to go to the potty before going to school in the morning or going out with their parents. C takes a very long time to make a poop poop, and he always refuses to sit on the potty after a few minutes. He comes out and said in a very sad voice, “I can’t make a poop poop, Caren.  I don’t want to make a poop poop.”  At that time, S will go the toilet and check the poop poop and speak like an adult. “C, that’s not enough. Try again. You need to believe in yourself and then you can make a big big poop poop.”  They make us all burst into laughter.”

Caren has another story that shows why she loves being an au pair.

“S once said to his grandmother, “Grandma, I fall in love with someone.”  His grandma was so surprised and asked,”Who?”  He said “Caren.”  And grandma asked him how much he loves Caren, he said, “I love Caren from the earth to the moon and come back to the earth – that much.”