Au pairs tend to have dinner with their host families often, according to a recent Cultural Care Au Pair host parent poll in which 42% of parents reported that their au pairs joined the family for dinner four to five nights per week. In some homes (26%), the au pairs joined their families even more often, up to seven days per week. Nineteen percent said that meals together happened two to three nights per week in their home and 13% reported that dinner with their au pair was rare and only happened about once a week.
Host parents offered some insight and advice:
Schedules are busy. Some families reported that the reason they do not have many meals together with their au pair is simply a matter of their very busy schedules. “We are super busy and do not always sit down for dinner. But when we do make something, we always invite her to join us. Most of the time she does.”
Mealtime can aid in integration “We’ve had four au pairs, and our last au pair was not interested in joining our family for dinner. I found that it really hindered our ability to integrate her into our family. Our current au pair eats with us almost all week nights, but not on the weekends, which feels like a great balance for all.”
Some families make dinner a priority. In some homes, dinner together is very important and is an expectation set for the au pair. “This is something we expect if she is at home at the time of dinner. It’s a good way to make her feel more as a part of the family.” “Dinner time is very important to us. We use this time to get to know our au pair and share the upcoming events of the week.”
Au pairs tend to eat with the children. If it is not a full family meal, in many homes the au pair eats with the children when the parents are still at work. “She usually eats with the kids. We have a full family dinner once or twice a week and she joins us.” A single parent wrote, “We are a bit unusual in that we don’t really do family dinner. I’m a single mom who works full time. Our au pair eats with my daughter often. I eat later, after my daughter is in bed.”
How long they have been with you can make a difference. Some families felt that, as time goes on in an au pair’s year, dinner together becomes less frequent. “At the beginning they always join. Then they meet other au pairs and start going out at night, going to the gym, etc. and we eat together less often.”
Culture can make a difference. “Our au pair prefers a small meal at the end of the day rather than the larger meal most American families eat. We’ve enjoyed learning about the cultural difference surrounding mealtimes.”