Far be it for me to pretend to be an expert on relationships, but I am a mother of six and also have 14 years classroom teaching experience, ten of them with either teaching assistants or in a co-teaching position. I have taken a conflict mediation and crisis intervention course and feel like I have learned a little from my 42 years on the planet. Anyway, the Host Family and au pair relationship is one, like any other, that requires work and maintenance to thrive.
Fellow-blogger and mom, Cyndi Frick, recently wrote about the difficulty identifying the blurred lines of on and off duty for her au pair and how she resolved the issue. Read it here:
As a mom, I can so relate to her story of having to nag her husband to help, even though he is right there in the room. That is not to say that dads don’t help out, because they do, or at least mine does, lol. Anyway, whether you are the mom or the friend that is there and likely to help, it is an awkward situation. I always recommend for Host Parents and au pairs to have a weekly meeting, daily if there is an infant involved, so that both parties can review tasks, make corrections or clarifications if necessary, and most of, keep the lines of communication wide open.
As Cyndi also advises, don’t ignore the problem and let it fester, but it may be best to wait for the weekly meeting to bring issues up that are not urgent. It gives the situation a little time to rest and for each party to gain perspective. It is also a good idea, as I always did as a teacher, to begin any meeting by thanking the person and by telling them something they have been doing well, especially if you plan to follow it with a correction or negative comment.
it is also worth mentioning that, although there is a language barrier, it is important not to rely on written communication. Host Moms may want to write down lots of instructions at first, but this should only be the first few weeks. After that, it is very important to make sure there is a face-to-face meeting to discuss the childcare. I have actually heard from au pairs whose feelings were hurt when the. Host Mom texted them while they were in the same room! Please keep in mind the Golden Rule and always treat others the way you would like to be treated.
As always, contact me for details on joining my growing cluster of Host Families and au pairs in the RI, CR and MA area. I am Joan Lowell, your Go Au Pair Local Area Representative.