When a host family and an au pair decide on each other, it’s all about the big, important topics: sympathy, experiences, time periods, tasks, visa etc. Then one will take care of further details, such as the specific travel planning or the preparation of the au pair room. Frequently, in the midst of all the excitement and joy, there are many small aspects that are not considered important at that moment or are not even thought of. What is considered to be a matter of course for the host family can be incomprehensible to the au pair and vice versa.
We have compiled five aspects for you that – according to our experience – cause frequent discrepancies.
You should discuss these issues in advance with your au pair to ensure a smoother stay. It is important that both sides seek a mutually acceptable compromise that does not neglect any side’s needs. If you feel that it is necessary, certain aspects may also be included in the au pair contract.
Yeah, it sounds a bit odd at first and you may feel weird thinking about talking to your au pair about their showering behavior … But this aspect is more likely to cause problems than you might think. For some, it is quite normal to take a shower twice a day or to let the hot water run down your back for half an hour, while others see it as a waste of water. Others are of the opinion that two showers per week are enough. Discuss with your au pair how many times and for a how long she/he wants to take a shower and explain your concerns if necessary.
There is a television in almost every household, but the usage habits vary greatly from family to family. Can your au pair watch TV with the children during the day? Can the au pair watch TV while taking care of the children? Are there any specific programs, films or series that your au pair is not allowed to watch? And how about using the TV during her/his time off? Inquire about the habits of your au pair and explain your expectations. Make sure that the au pair keeps to the arrangements, otherwise seek the necessary dialogue before getting annoyed in silence.
Using other household appliances
Your au pair is like a new family member, but does that automatically mean “What’s mine is yours?” It often happens that a host family owns certain household appliances that are not intended for general use at all times. For example, many families don’t want the au pair to turn on the washing machine just to wash four of her/his T-shirts and two pairs of socks. As a host mother, for hygienic reasons, you don’t want the au pair to use your curling iron; or for safety reasons, to use the leaf blower for fun? Or you own a fully automatic coffee machine, which the au pair should not clean because a very special procedure is necessary to do so? If you wish to have certain restrictions, explain them to your au pair and also explain why these points are important to you. If the au pair is allowed to use all household appliances, make sure to clarify whether this can be done during work as well as leisure time. Concrete rules are often much more helpful than a vague notion á la “we’ll see that already”.
Food often is an important part of family life and culture. Can the au pair adapt to your eating habits or is she/he on a very special diet or does she/he have allergies? Is your au pair a vegetarian but you would like her/him to prepare your child’s cold meat sandwiches for kindergarten? Not only the “what”, but also the “how and when” can lead to conflicts. While you are having dinner at 6 pm, maybe the au pair would like to turn on the stove again at 10 pm? Also discuss whether meals should always be taken together and who takes care of the preparation. As you can see: this aspect offers a lot of conversation topics. Think about what is important to you and also ask your au pair. Make compromises and do not be too rigid in your habits.
Your au pair will make new friends and will want to go out. Still, as with your own children, you expect your au pair to follow certain rules. At which time in the evening do you expect her/him to be back home, how does this time vary from a workday to the weekends? Does she/he have to call you or send a message if she/he is late? Do you want to set certain conditions for going out? Concerning this aspect as well, points of view can diverge significantly, thus it is very helpful to talk about them before the conflict even arises.
As a host family, do you already have some experience with these aspects, or are there any other aspects that one should discuss prior to the stay of the au pair? Post a comment and share your thoughts with the other readers!