March 6, 2013

An unexpected au pair departure

4 minutes
Au pair stories

From host mom Jill Janson
Around the holiday’s our first au pair, whom we adored, told us she needed to return home a few months earlier than planned. While we completely understood and supported her, we were left franticly trying to figure out what to do next. The timing was not great to say the least. We were not prepared and about to have a house full of family for the next 10 days.  I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of interviewing and training someone new immediately following the holiday rush.  Not to mention the emotional toll it was going to take to say goodbye to someone we cared for very much and whom we considered to be our little girl’s best friend. But, the fact was the change was going to happen, a little sooner than we had expected and the only thing we could do was make the best of it and take everything one step at a time.
My husband and I sat down to talk about our experience with our first au pair, what worked really well, what we loved about the program and also areas where we perhaps could have set better expectations or been more communicative.  We are both very laid back and with our first au pair we took the attitude that we would, ‘figure it out as we went along’ and now looking back, we realized that providing a bit more structure and organization would have helped our au pair better manage her day and all the responsibilities of caring for our baby.
We used this change as an opportunity to revise our household handbook, adding more specific suggestions to serve as a better guide for our au pair.
We were also wise to keep on file all the resources we had provided to our first au pair and could easily update and repurpose them. For example, we provide a printout of our wifi password, all essential phone numbers, how to set up her cell phone, some tips on using her TV, our home address, etc.  Having something on file that can be easily updated and reused saved us a lot of time.
Similarly, we knew that it was really helpful and fun to take the first day or two that our new au pair arrives on a little tour of the town. So we decided to do this again, visiting the local parks, beaches, setting up her bank account, pointing out local shops, stores and restaurants etc.
When it came to matching with a new au pair, we had such a great experience with our first au pair we wanted to look for someone with similar credentials and goals. But, because we were looking at the in-country pool which is smaller, we knew we had to be open minded on things like, country, age, and departure date.  We relied on the interviewing tip sheets that Cultural Care Au Pair provides to help guide us through the interview and we had our current au pair speak to prospective au pairs to give her perspective on the role and our family.  The au pair we really liked was slated to leave earlier than what we had hoped for but we were willing to accept that because we loved everything else about her.
In just a few days we had found a candidate that we really liked and were relieved to final with her.
Once we had made that selection it was like a weight lifted. We had updated our handbook, had a plan in place for the first few days, we knew what to expect this time around and were ready to welcome our new au pair.
Saying goodbye was probably the hardest thing to do in the whole experience. I was surprised at how emotional it was to watch our au pair say her goodbyes to our baby. I realized it was probably harder on her than it was on us. It was important that we didn’t lose sight of making the most of the last week or two in our frantic rush to prepare for our new arrival. Taking things one step at a time and looking at the change as a positive, fresh start was a huge help. And, we are lucky though in this age of technology that we can Skype regularly and send photos and videos with the click of button.
Now that we are a few months into our new match, I have to say things could not be better. Our new au pair is absolutely wonderful. Our daughter loves her and she has quickly become a wonderful addition to our family. And to our delight she decided to extend with us, so my concerns about her early departure are irrelevant!
Having made it through the experience, I learned that an unexpected change can be positive – even when you think the timing couldn’t be worse!  It gives you a chance to evaluate what has and hasn’t worked; the chance to revise your household handbook and/or rules; if you hang onto the resources you have created you don’t have to recreate the wheel, you can use what you have; staying open-minded helps you pick the best candidate for your family; saying goodbye can be super painful but it doesn’t mean goodbye forever; and finally, you will be going into this next relationship more experienced and better prepared for what to expect.