We sat down with the Walters family of Seattle, WA – our 2018 Host Family of the Year – to reflect on their recent win and what the au pair program means to them. Learn some of their best tips for welcoming a new au pair, and the ways in which they’ve embraced their new, international family members over the years.
Q: How does it feel to be named Cultural Care’s Host Family of the Year?
A: We were touched, honored, and thrilled to be named Cultural Care’s Host Family of the Year. As a family who has been hosting au pairs for almost 8 years, it felt wonderful to be recognized for our time and dedication to the program. Our current au pair, Shandrae, told us on the drive home from the airport on the day she arrived that she was going to nominate us, but actually doing so after being a part of our family after a year felt even more special – like she must have really meant it! We will be forever grateful for her lovely essay and nomination.
Q: Why has hosting au pairs worked so well for your family?
A: Hosting au pairs is different than any other type of childcare arrangement and we recognize this. We chose hosting an au pair vs. a traditional nanny or babysitter for this reason. I, the host mom, am a mom of four and a parent coach who has studied child development and attachment theory for many years – my husband and I believed the best thing for our family was to welcome another member of the family in the form of an au pair to help in the care of our children. In other words, we didn’t want someone who just clocked in and clocked out. We wanted someone who was committed to forming a relationship and connection with our children and with us. In turn, we believe most if not all of our au pairs felt like we were their extended family and home away from home.
Also, we chose hosting au pairs to help us manage a very busy life, work, and school schedule. My husband works long hours and also occasionally travels for work, sometimes for weeks. I work part time, perform in local theater and am active volunteering in my children’s schools, our church, and our community. Having the extra set of hands has been an incredibly helpful piece of our complicated yet very fulfilling life.
Q: Tips for the first few days/weeks with a new au pair?
A: There is so much to learn and accomplish during the first few days/weeks after au pairs arrive and it can be quite overwhelming for all. I tell my au pairs that the number one priority is to begin to start a relationship with the kids – to join them and lead them in play, art, sports, teaching about their culture. That all other tasks like social security cards, driving tests, etc. can get accomplished over the first few weeks, but the relationship and a solid connection with the kids is vital to the success of the match and cannot wait.
Q: Is there is one thing you know now that you wish you knew as a brand new host family?
A: I think the one thing I wish I had known was that the most challenging part of hosting an au pair has also been one of the greatest rewards. I’m referring to the sense that each new au pair has felt a bit like having another daughter. I have supported my au pairs through friendship hurts, boyfriend problems, homesickness, and illnesses. I have guided my au pairs as they have learned about childcare and child development, taking responsibility for missteps, and handling problems with the kids. And I have had to also face some of my own mistakes as a host mom and ask for understanding and forgiveness. And because of this, I now feel like I have pieces of my family all over the world. I feel like I have South Korean, Columbian, Brazilian, and South African daughters – and my kids have international big sisters. We have become a global family because of this experience.