Updates and open thread – by texashm – aupairmom

Ali and CV did a great job representing the au pair program/host parent perspective on the PBS segment. Kind of perplexed by the statement by labor activities Ai Jen Poo that “We’re talking about a workforce that’s working incredibly hard and still not able to make ends meet doing this work.” when au pairs have all their basic needs covered by the program and have their stipend to cover all the extras like vacation travel. Au pairs are in a short-term, youth-only, exchange program – it’s not a career! But on to the topic at hand…

I would love a discussion on how to provide safety guidance for au pairs without interfering with freedom. The U.S. is far safer than many of the countries where au pairs come from and it can create a false sense of security.

I’m concerned about things like exposure to rufies/ghb and safety with online dating. There have been a few horror stories in my PNW city and yet it’s been hard to get some of the au pairs I’ve hosted to seriously consider strategies to keep them safe (like always tell someone where you’re going and who you are with, never leave your drink unattended, etc.). I want to respect boundaries as these are young adults but I’m also the host parent and feel a tremendous amount of responsibility. Have other host parents been effective at conveying this message? Is it something au pairs have to hear from their peers?

On that note, we also talk about their personal safety as well as the safety of our children. No boyfriends/men around them, always have close eyes on them (abductions, child trafficking, etc.). It’s a very real problem and they are some of the most vulnerable. Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into it, but our APs seem to understand we’re looking out for their safety. We also always tell them that no matter what, if they are in a dangerous situation or uncomfortable, we’ll come and get them or get them a ride. It’s happened. We’ve had that 3am phone call, and we were all grateful we’d had the conversation. We know they’re likely going to drink under age, party, meet up with guys etc. We just ask they try and make smart choices, be safe, and if they get into a bad situation to get out or call us. Having those heart-to-heart conversations and sharing what’s happened to other APs and that we’re here for their best interest has gone a long way to build trust. They know we’re “big brothering” them, but they also know we care, and they can trust us.

And I’m with you PhillyHostMom it frustrated me too that the au pairs in the story stayed illegally and agreed to work additional hours for more pay (against the rules) and then complained that they didn’t get paid extra vs admitting it was against the rules in the first place and they put themselves in a situation that left them with no recourse.

I also got fired up listening to the reference to “poverty” wages when others have mentioned – they have no bills!!! You can hardly say au pairs are living in poverty when they have private rooms in a host family’s home full room and board included! I know many families that don’t have $200 extra free and clear per week! I’ve had several APs save thousands of dollars and go home and buy cars, pay for school, travel for weeks all over the US etc. Doesn’t seem like someone making poverty wages would be able to do any of those things!

Now, with that having been said, I am equally frustrated by families that give the program bad press by asking au pairs to work on the side for their businesses, asking them to work overtime with or without extra pay, watch their friends kids and otherwise do whatever they want in spite of the program rules. Au pairs are in a vulnerable position given that we sponsor their visa and provide the roof over their heads so we as host parents have to take the high road and follow the rules!

It’s probably too late now, since she’s leaving in 2 weeks, but I’d love a post on navigating the end – and helping our au pair through it as well. We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience with this one and it’s super hard for her – she feels like new AP is coming over and “taking over her life” and is just really sad about it. And I get it – these are “her” kids, “her” room, etc and while she would NEVER be anything more than supportive of the new AP (on of our girls asked her if new AP was her “best friend” and while i could see her die a little inside, she told her she liked new AP very very much and was excited for her to come live with us) I’d like to hear from others what helped ease the transition. I’ve tried just to talk to her and to validate her feelings – what she is feeling is OK and I’m here to talk about it.

I also love the ideas mentioned above – safety tips, life lessons. We joke with our current AP about what we were thinking when we didn’t fuss when she went to Bonnaroo a few months after she got here – it felt weird telling a 20 year old (who i trusted to watch our kids) that I was nervous for her safety (it was all fine) so ways to navigate that relationship (especially in the beginning before a rapport has fully developed) would be great.

I’d like to see a post on how to involve au pairs who are super independent into special family events or vacations. We tend to recruit independent au pairs who spend their time off away from us. Clock strikes 6 and our current au pair is usually grabbing her stuff and headed to her room. She has her own bathroom and entrance, so we rarely see her on the weekends. She has long days with young kids, so I totally get why she doesn’t spend her off time with us. This personality usually works great for us. We work long hours and have very young kids, and we just want to hang with the kids and relax in the evenings and weekends. We still chat with her on a daily basis and she’s finishing up her 2nd year. BUT it would be nice if she would participate in family events and not feel like we’re forcing her – like the kids birthdays or when we go on vacation and come with us to play mini golf 1 night. My daughter begged and cried for her to eat 1 meal with us while on vaca. It was sad. She clearly felt forced – even though she worked very little hours over the week and had no where to go but her room. She’s always been like this, so it hasn’t been a change from the 1st year. We’ve stopped bringing her to family holidays (even though we give her an open invite) because we can see she doesn’t want to be there. She still has a few months left with some really special events coming up, and want to see how we can involve her in a way that isn’t totally forced but so my kids don’t have to beg her to come.