Participant Updates » The Au Pair experience from a host mum's perspective
Kim Hall lives in Ashburn, USA, and was the host mother of Australian Au Pair Kathryn Wenborn.
"We chose the au pair route because, let's face it, it was the most practical thing to do considering we had 4 children. Daycare costs are exorbitant and daycare providers/teachers turn over so frequently that we sometimes didn't know the names of the people taking care of our children on a daily basis. My husband and I thought long and hard about having someone live with us on a daily basis. That was our originally our biggest concern - someone was going to be living with us! As we researched more and more into the the US laws and regulations on the au pair program as well as the many different au pair agencies, we decided that this wasn't a decision we could "try out." We had to just jump in...sink or swim. Thankfully we've swam everyday since January 2009.
We are huge advocates of the au pair program now. We wonder how we made it before! We got used to the idea of someone living with us very, very quickly. Besides, we were already a family of 6...what's one more??? Our first au pair was a godsend. It was like the stars aligned and a match in heaven was made. Friends and family took our au pair in and made her feel like family. She was great, awesome, wonderful, loving, sweet, regimented, disciplined, etc. We had a great relationship with the au pair which was made partly because of the interview process. Our au pair agency sent along the au pair profile with recommendations, interviews, etc. and we were able to make an initial assessment of our fit based on that profile. The one thing I really enjoy about our particular au pair agency is that it has the feeling of a small company. Our au pair coordinator is available to us 24x7. The home office on the other side of the country even knows our family! We have established a good reputation with the company as well as in the au pair circuit.
My husband and I pride ourselves on making our au pairs feel like they're #1. We let them know from the beginning that we're all in the together and that they are part of our family. They are also "co-parenting" with us. Giving our au pair the freedom to make some decisions about our children's day to day lives enhances their relationship together because the children then learn that the au pair really is a "parent" and the au pair is capable of making hard decisions. We value the au pair agency's selection and interview process so we know that we'll be getting the right person for our children. That is not to say we haven't had our fair share of problems.
After au pair #1 left and au pair #2 was on her own, we discovered that au pair #2 did not have the self confidence she needed to be with a busy and large family. A series of unfortunate events led us to rematching. Our au pair coordinator was with us every single step of the way. Although it was very uncomfortable and very difficult to do, it was the best choice for our family...especially for our children. We also thought that our match made in heaven with au pair #1 couldn't be beat. Were we ever wrong. Our au pair agency referred to us an au pair that was looking for a rematch as well. She happened to live close enough to us that she could drive down to our house for an interview. When she arrived at the door, I greeted her with, "Hi, you must be Kathryn. Did you happen to see any kids outside when you drove up? No? Alright...let's go for a walk to find my kids." So au pair #3 began her journey with our family. She was also very adament that she was only going to stay to finish out her year and then she was going back home to Australia. Somehow, miraculously, she changed her mind and opted to extend for 6 months which was the best thing she ever gave us. The relationship our au pair has with our children now is unbelievable. As a mother it is very comforting to see my children run to our au pair and throw themselves on her telling her they love her. She doesn't care that sometimes our 3 year old girl wakes her up at 2am with a bloody nose. She loves our children like they're her own family. We love her so much that even thinking about her going home brings tears to my eyes. There is a special, special bond parents develop with their au pairs and sometimes those bonds are not meant to be broken. It takes a special person to become an au pair - someone who is mature, responsible, self-confidant, and outgoing. Kathryn is that special person and then some. We are so grateful that we happened to need her probably more than she needed us. People like her don't come around very often!
We are currently in the matching process again for au pair #4. It's always hard when the au pairs leave (even au pair #2). However, even with the pain of them leaving, we are so happy that we finally jumped in with the au pair program. It's made our hectic life so much better and much more fun! We have the time to spend with our kids...quality time that with daycare we never had.