Connection plus Collaboration equals Success!

I would like to take a few minutes to share some very simple, and yet very complicated, advice. This advice can work in the business world, everyday life and in personal relationships in your life. Here it is: to work successfully with others, one must make connections with them and collaborate toward a common goal.

Simple, right? Well, maybe not so much. Think of it in business. To successfully accomplish the goals of a business, many people usually have to work together and take responsibility for certain portions of each task. The same holds true for family relationships.

Why am I sharing this? I feel that families who want to host an Au Pair should consider this, as well as each Au Pair themselves, in their approach to the other party. Naturally, each party has slightly different goals, but will need to clearly outline their shared goals and who will be responsible for each portion of each type of task related to that goal (i.e. successfully caring for the children, providing them an enriching and cultural child care experience).

While Au Pairs may also have goals for themselves such as improving English skills, exploring the American culture, customs, and traditions, making new friends and gaining valuable independence and experience, keep in mind Host Families also have goals. Many families want their child or children to learn some of the language, customs and cultures of the Au Pair’s native country, plus the obvious high quality, involved, motivated and flexible child care families expect. The trick is getting the two parties to recognize their common goal, providing high quality cultural child care, while still respecting and allowing each party to have other goals as well.

I suggest making a list; somehow when we put things in writing, it is easier to evaluate and rank them by importance. So first, make a list, if you are a host parent, of all the things you want from your Au Pair. Try to be as complete as you can and as concrete as you can. Try to write things that can be seen, heard, or felt, so that you are not including unclear or unrealistic expectations. Do this before you have an Au Pair so that these things can be discussed openly during the interview and matching process, not when your Au Pair arrives!

If you are an Au Pair, or planning to match soon, make a list of your goals for this experience. Be clear about things you feel you must have or do to be successful. Be clear what you will do to make this a cultural child care experience for the children as well as ways that you will contribute to the family. If there are things you think you will never be willing to do, be clear about that as well. It is important to be clear of your expectations of your place in the family as well.

All that being said, keep in mind that although the regulations are clear about hours of service and specific duties performed, an Au Pair has become a member of a family for a year or more, and should be considered just that, from both perspectives. If the weekly time is up, but the parents need a little help around the dinner table or need an item from the store while dinner is cooking, the Au Pair should offer to help and not add it to the clock or hold it against the family. In the same vein, if an Au Pair has permission to use the family vehicle on off hours, she should be courteous to ask permission from the Host Family and inform them of her plans, as any other family member/young adult would when using a family vehicle and going off for a few hours. One might even ask if the household needs any quick item on the way home.

This open level of communication and collaboration is really necessary for the peaceful and productive process of the household to flow smoothly. I can’t say that enough to families who may be considering an Au Pair – she is not your slave; she is an employee, but also a loved and trusted member of the household that needs to be treated as such, with love, respect, communication and acceptance. That is not to say the Au Pair should be a spoiled brat and do whatever she likes, but she also holds the responsibility to be the motivated, self-reliant, dependable person that was promised to this family. If each party keeps in mind the mutual goals and does that through open and respectful communication, we would have many less breakdowns.

For more information about hosting an Au Pair or becoming one, visit us at or contact me directly at or 401.309.1925 with any questions.

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