The Meaders family of Riverton, Utah found their perfect au pair match in 22-year-old Gaelle from Champagne, France. It was instantly clear when she arrived at their home that they were in for an enriching experience; a year filled with fun, adventure and cultural exchange.
“We got along really well, really fast,” says Gaelle. “I’m not just an employee, taking care of the kids – it’s way more than that. We’ve become a family.”
Cultural Care host families around the country have similar experiences. Au pairs are so much more than a childcare provider because they live in the house with families, and are embraced as an extended family member; they’re treated with the same level of trust, respect and care as a cousin or niece/nephew would.
“Truly my boys have the big sister they never had,” says host mom Adrianne Meaders. “Gaelle is kind, caring, loving, … smart, energetic and has the gift of making the boys think that when she is teaching them, that they are playing a game.”
“It is hard to believe,” Adrianne continues, “but I feel more confident with Gaelle watching the children than anyone else – including my own mother! She has taught my boys French and Sign Language. Above all, she makes sure that my boys always feel loved, cherished and safe.”
The love between au pair Gaelle and her host family – Adrianne, host dad Jason and their two boys Steven and Jackson – has only grown stronger through their time together. So much so, that when Gaelle’s program year was coming to an end, she decided to extend with the Meaders family for an additional year – the maximum amount of time she could!
And perhaps an even greater testament to their relationship is the fact that when it came time for Cultural Care’s Au Pair of the Year and Host Family of the Year Award nominations, both Gaelle and the Meaders family nominated the other with heartfelt essays.
Beyond creating a bond that will last a lifetime, the Meaders family agrees that the cultural exchange they’ve experienced thanks to Gaelle is the most valuable part of the program.
“For us it’s just been an amazing cultural experience,” says Adrianne. “My baby speaks more French than English!”
At just 3-years and 18-months-old, the two Meaders boys have learned to appreciate French food (they love Gaelle’s crepes) as well as the French language. They have even had the chance to grow up with Gaelle singing songs to them in French!
Thanks to Gaelle’s presence in the household, the entire family has opened their eyes to new countries and cultures. “She tells us about her home, her family and about the differences in growing up in the US and France,” says Adrianne. “She gives the boys children’s French books, music and media to help immerse them in her culture. She has even taught them songs, dances, expressions and sayings.”
In return, the Meaders family has been sure to introduce Gaelle to plenty of American culture. They encourage her to travel the USA as much as possible during her off-duty hours, and they teach her about American customs and holidays. When they travel together, Gaelle is always asking questions to make sure she understands the language and way of life – and the Meaders family is always thrilled to answer and help her make the most of her time on American soil.
For Gaelle, her host family’s willingness to exchange cultures has meant the world to her. “I believe that it is the little things that count the most; them taking me on trips everywhere at least once a month and also letting me go by myself sometimes too; them moving heaven and earth to find me an authentic “buche de Noel” for Christmas; or them driving all the way downtown to buy me a brioche when I’m sick because it’s the only food I really want.”
“I believe that home is more of a feeling than a place,” Gaelle continues, “and they are my perfect example of this. They are my home.”
The Meaders boys consider Gaelle their “best friend” – and host parents Adrianne and Jason couldn’t be more pleased. The cultural exchange they’ve experienced has been a wonderful benefit of the au pair program, and they know they will always stay in touch with the au pair who made such an incredible impact in their hearts and minds.
“We now have a French daughter/sister who will always be part of our lives,” says Adrianne. “We are incredibly grateful for that.”