Why can’t we all just get along?
You’ve matched with an au pair and everything is wonderful. He or she is so excited to be coming! Your entire family is ready to welcome them! The room is prepared, plans are made. The kids are asking if “today is the day”, every day. Time has never moved so slowly.
You and your au pair are exchanging emails, you are making a sign to greet them with at the airport, small welcome gifts have sometimes been purchased by your family and your new au pair. You just know everything is going to be great because you already have so much in common. It’s going to be just perfect.
Finally, at long last, your au pair arrives and the year begins for everyone. And it is wonderful and everyone is getting along so well. Until they don’t.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, how well you prepare and how much groundwork you lay things just don’t work out. Personalities that seem like they will mesh well when you see them on paper, just don’t translate into real face-to-face interactions. Perhaps the expectations you had or that your au pair had are not realized for no discernible reason.
It isn’t always a matter of an incident. Sometimes you can’t point to one particular thing and say it is the reason things aren’t working out. You know, that feeling you get when things are “okay” or “acceptable” but you were really hoping for “awesome”. Of course, sometimes there IS an incident or disagreement that is ultimately the reason that things are not going so well. There are times when either the host family or the au pair does something that the other party can’t live with and you just can’t work it out. And that is okay.
Sometimes the issue can be worked on and parties can meet in the middle. Perhaps the au pair wasn’t prepared to do as much housekeeping or cooking for the children as you had in mind. Perhaps you had higher expectations for the au pair’s driving proficiency. Perhaps the children and the au pair just don’t seem to be bonding. Maybe the au pair feels isolated because you live remotely. Or perhaps the au pair is having trouble making friends, feels lonely and desires a change. Perhaps the language barrier is troublesome because misunderstandings are occurring.
You are worried. The au pair is worried. Everyone is concerned because you have committed to each other for an entire year. But both parties aren’t sure you can make it. So what do you do?
First and foremost, take a deep breath and give yourself permission to admit that something needs to change. You have not failed. We are all human and there is a reason you don’t necessarily marry every person you date, you don’t take every job offered, you don’t befriend every person you meet – not every relationship, including the host family / au pair relationship is going to be perfect. Don’t stress yourself out by asking where you went wrong, just focus on the things that have gone right and think about the next steps.
Have a talk with yourself, whether you are the au pair or the host family. What are the issues and do you think they can be improved if you approach your au pair (or your host family) and talk it out? It never hurts to try! Opening the lines of communication will quickly show each side, the host family and the au pair, who is or isn’t willing to dialogue and work through an issue.
Tell your LCR or Regional Director what is going on. Even if you don’t want them to intervene (yet), they can often offer advice. They’ve seen and heard just about everything. They will keep everything and anything you say confidential until you ask them to help. Remember, it’s easier for us to help you fix a problem when we aren’t taken by surprise. If you deal with something alone for months and finally the proverbial straw breaks the camel’s back, we don’t want a request for rematch to be the first we’ve heard of an issue. By then the frustration has probably grown and that isn’t a good experience to have. Keep us in the loop! We can help alleviate frustrations by giving you an ear and letting you vent it out.
When ready, allow your LCR or Regional Director to mediate if things aren’t improving. Agreements can be made between host families and au pairs. Misunderstandings can be resolved. Confusion can be remediated.
If, after that talk you have with yourself and possibly your LCR or RD, you come to the conclusion that mediation won’t work and you’d prefer to break your match, that is okay too. While we’d like to salvage every match (after all, you’ve already invested a lot of effort into each other) we realize that sometimes you simply must move on. We will try to offer suggestions and solutions in lieu or re-match, but we understand that sometimes it is the best course of action for all parties.
The rematch process has many variables and each case is handled a little differently but you will have help every step of the way. It can be stressful and emotional, but we are here to assist, suggest and listen. You WILL get through it. Remember, as a host family or an au pair, this is a year of your life and we all want it to be a successful, happy and rewarding one. Let us help you. You are not in this alone.
Most matches are successful and we hope that you have a wonderful experience that is frustration free. But should you need our help, don’t worry. We’ve got this.