Swedish au pair Maja Axelsson felt immediately at home when she arrived to her host family’s home in December of 2014. When au pairs were asked for nominations for the 2016 Host Family of the Year, Maja was quick to nominate her family, and was shocked and thrilled to find out last week that they won! The following excerpts from her amazing essay helps to defite what the “spirit” of the au pair program is all about. Enjoy!
“I just know that you are going to be great. It’s like you belong here.”Those were my host dad’s words to me on my first day. It takes someone special to make you feel at home in a strange country thousands of miles away from home, to welcome you with all they have. I believe it is an art, an art this family has mastered better than anyone I know.
Since I came here, my life has been an adventure. These kids are the most hilarious little humans you will ever meet. They are sassy, sharp and full of love. These are kids who never say “no” to a dance party, whether it be in our living room or in the car. One of my most cherished memories, will be when my 8-year-old little girl, in the middle of helping me clean up in the kitchen said: “Maja, come here”, took my hand, lead me into the living room and invited me to a slow dance. If I could have captured that moment forever, I would have. They are also kids who, when I am having a bad day, recognize that and are there for me. When they see that I am sad, they will automatically argue less when getting dressed or eating their breakfast. When I make a mistake they will tell me that “It’s OK, Maja. It happens to everyone. We are human.”
My host parents are the same way. They are kind and understanding. They support me in every way they can, make sure I am okay and they always include me in everything. From going to church on Sunday mornings to road trips down the East Coast, to family vacations to Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod with their extended family.
This family is extraordinary, because when you are an au pair in this family, you are loved, not just by them, but by everyone in their extended family. I will never forget when they organized an “Extension Party” for me when I made the decision to stay here for 9 more months. We had a fabulous dinner by the Charles River and I remember being showered with love. I will never forget when—later that night—my host mom’s parents texted me that they love me and that they will always be my “American grandparents”. With a support system like this, how can you not have a wonderful year?
I simply can not thank them enough for the life I have here. They truly believe in me. They are able to let go and let me do my own thing, which I know can be hard for a lot of people. They trust me completely with a lot of responsibilities at home and with the kids, but more importantly, they trust me to make the best decision in a new situation. They know that I will do my best. They supported any decision I had to make. And I really feel that. To have that kind of freedom and independence as a young person—to have someone believe in you like that, is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world.
I realize now that I have been part of something more than just a program with a start and end date. I have for the last 1,5 years been a part of something bigger, something that I know will last a lifetime. This family shows that, even though it’s rare, such a thing does exist. I remember the moment I realized how much they had come to mean to me. One day I woke up and I realized that on my wedding day one day, I would want them there. In fact, I know that on that day, I will walk into a room filled with all the people I love, and I will see their faces there in the crowd. I can’t promise that I will always live close, and I can’t promise that I will be able to see them on a regular basis, but I do know that on that day, they will be there. I don’t think they know how they have changed my life for the better.
Thank you to the McMorrow family for showing our community what it means to be a great host family and to Maja for sharing this story. Stay tuned for more host family and au pair nomination stories in the coming weeks and months!