In just reading my blog, it may be difficult to have an idea of the type of person I am. Hopefully if you have an interest in the topics discussed on my website, you will cross the bridge and e-mail me your questions, thoughts and maybe we will even have the opportunity to speak or meet at an international event sometime.
But I have to admit: I am one of those bubbly and positive people with a “sanguine” personality. That means I am mostly always happy, my glass is half full, I have a lot of energy, but I can overlook details, lack punctuality and I have to work on organization (see book “Personality Plus” – a must-read for anyone interacting with people… which is everyone I’m afraid!).
The responsibility of parenthood added to numerous other responsibilities such as spouse, friend, employee or business owner, sister, community leader, requires organizational skills… whether you are melancholic, choleric, flegmatic or sanguine.
Whichever childcare option you use, parenting requires organizing:
– a calendar with weekly appointments/ obligations/ activities for each child
– a nutritional system for each child (breastfeeding or bottles for infants; snacks and lunches for toddlers and children)
– clothing for each child for each activity
– grocery shopping for the family
– time for homework and adherance to school project deadlines
– time as a family around dinner or a daily activity
– a fair share of household responsibilities with your spouse or family helper
– any many more depending on your family…
With the option of hosting an au pair, the level of organization is the same, except that the above have to be communicated effectively with the newest member of your family. The “system” you use to keep everyone and everything on track needs to be taught to your au pair within the first couple of weeks.
There are several tools Cultural Care Au Pair provides to help you do that:
1) Host Family Handbook
This is a booklet you receive upon applying to the program. It provides expectations about the program and advice to help you get started as a new host family. The Host Family Handbook contains detailed information on the matching process, program guidelines and rules, cross cultural dynamics and communication.
2) Household Handbook
The Household Handbook is an interactive tool to help host families document all of the important information your au pair should know about your family including information about you children (likes, dislikes, discipline), household rules (curfew, smoking, car use) and community information (location of library, stores, schools). Host families can access and create their own custom Household Handbook on their Extranet. An email copy is generated and sent to the host family once the handbook is completed.
A sample of the Household Handbook can be shared with you at your host family interview so you can get some ideas about what you will want to communicate with your au pair. It is important to complete the handbook before your au pair arrives, so you can use it as a training tool. Depending on your au pair learning skills, she will want to read it first, or go over it with you as you show her around.
Your coordinator can review the Household Handbook at the Two-Week Orientation with you and your au pair to make sure that the au pair understands all the information and your family “system”.
3) Communication Log
The Daily Communication Log is given to all host families to provide a tool to facilitate daily communication in the home. Just like you expect daily reports from your daycare provider, a communication log is a tool to enable your au pair to write down all events of the day in an agenda you will keep. Whether your child fell that day or learned new words and skills, you will want to ensure you have a record even if schedules are too busy for you and your au pair to touch base every night.
The log also enables you to communicate weekly work schedule, appointments, chores and tasks to your au pair. Communication is definitely two-way and requires daily efforts.
The log includes standard pages for daily, weekly and monthly communication as well as contact numbers, emergency information and important information regarding the children. I encourage you to keep it in a convenient place for daily use, so that nothing gets lost in communication…
Hopefully you will “click” with your au pair right away and love her personality. But either way, remember there is a “honey moon phase”, and keep in mind that she may have habits and a personality type you are not used to. Keeping an open mind, preparing by getting to know your au pair as much as possible before her arrival and discussing any issue as they arise will be key to make the program a success for you!
Maybe books like “Personality Plus” should be on our host families and au pairs reading lists?