Living up to “the best” Au pair

If your host family is like mine they will have had previous au pairs. I am the sixth au pair for my family. So they have a lot to compare me to. I know they don’t intentionally compare me to their other au pairs, but there’s no way not to. This is a new experience for me, but for them they’ve gone through all of this before.

THE CHILD:

The child or children that have had another au pair will be used to the way that au pair did something. I am lucky in that I could reach out to the au pair before me with any questions. I talked to her about my first couple of weeks and the issues I was having and she explained how she did things and I knew that’s where my issues were arising from. I was doing things differently from how she did them. The little girl was testing me, seeing if I would allow her to do things that she knew she wasn’t allowed to do. Or even possibly she had been allowed to do things and I wasn’t allowing her to.

What you need to remember is you are the new au pair, and you’ll have different rules than the others and even possibly her parents. Often times I would ask her do your parents let you do this, did the other au pair let you do this if I wasn’t sure. But in the end it’s up to you to set your rules. Don’t feel pressured to do exactly what the other au pair did. You are in charge now and if you don’t feel comfortable letting the child do something don’t let them. This may make you a little unpopular at first but you have to feel comfortable in the situation as well.

THE PARENTS:

I think some people forget that the parents are a huge part of an au pair experience. It doesn’t matter how much the kid like you or you like the kid if you aren’t meshing well with the parents. And a lot of times if the child can feel that its parents don’t like you he or she won’t like you either. The parents are the ones that have the power as well. They can control your life, your free time, your spending money, everything about your au pair experience.

My first goal was to create a relationship with the parents. I made sure to ask about their day when they got home from work. I learned what to do if they were in a bad mood. I didn’t just assume I was loading the dishwasher the correct way, but specifically asked if this is how she liked it. I made an effort to get to know them. Asked about their education, their childhood, their likes and dislikes. I have quickly become fast friends with them. Enjoy spending time with them as much as I do my own friends. I never feel like I am being forced to do anything because I genuinely enjoy them as people. I also like coming out of my room and sitting on the couch together or on the patio and talking about life. I believe this is going to help me enjoy my experience here.

THE OTHER AU PAIR:

If your family has had multiple au pairs you will soon learn who the ‘favorite’ one is. Something about the way they talk about her or they tell more stories about her than the others. You will just know, she’s the favorite. She’s the one you will have to live up to. For my family the favorite was their first au pair. It’s not that they haven’t loved and enjoyed all the other au pairs since then, but this one stands out. I am very competitive. For me it’s very hard not to try to make this a competition. I also have to realize I am different, and their time with me is different. The mother no longer works from home, the little girl is 6 instead of 2, I don’t speak German while she did. There’s no way I can be exactly like her. I have to remind myself that I am my own person. The best I can do is try to form a lasting relationship with them. I may never live up to that first au pair, but I can have my own relationship my own experience with them. And it can be just as great for all of us.

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