[tweetmeme source=”FrenchNad” only_single=false] Celebrating fathers all over the world reminded me of the important, often underappreciated role, host fathers play in their au pair’s life. Because they are usually less emotionally involved with the choice of their childcare provider, or they do not work as closely from day to day with the au pair, it might be easy to forget how their involvement can truly make an impact in their family’s experience with the program.
Although mom is eager to get some help with the children and around the house, I often hear reluctance to participate to the program from the father’s side. Why?
1. A fear of losing their privacy: no more walking around the house in their underwear… >> Solution: Your family will need to find the au pair with the skills, and the personality (very important) to “mesh” with your lifestyle. If the privacy issue is a big concern, finish up the basement or locate her room in the opposite corner of the house, so that you have a portion of the house dedicated to your privacy.
2. A concern about the au pair’s young age and how she would fit in their family: “Would she be a friend/ employee/ temporary daughter?” >> Solution: Remind dad that although their primary responsibility and the objective of the program is flexible, live-in childcare, the au pair is expecting to become “in par” (part of) the family. S/he will be a responsible young adult that does not require additional parenting, however, they will look up to both of you as their “host parents”.
3. The cost examiner: is the value we are getting for hosting an au pair worth the cost and privacy loss? >> Solution: host dads often become the more enthusiastic half of the couple when they realize how fantastic it is to have a hands-on flexible babysitter when he wants to take mom on a date night, how great it is to have someone live in and help with the household chores, and how much his children are benefiting from the friendship and cultural exchange… SOLD!
Once host dad gets to know the au pair, the relationship will be similar as with a niece or cousin: a distant family member that chose to share life with your family for a year or two by providing childcare. But when s/he is off the clock, sometimes s/he will accept your invitation to go to the zoo, other times s/he will have her own plans with friends. In forging a relationship with your au pair, you will want to know what s/he enjoys doing outside of her working hours.
I still remember when I first met my now husband in my Spanish class (one of the 6 credit hours required for the program) and I called home to let my host dad know someone was taking me home. When I arrived, his first question was: “So who drove you home? I hear it is A BOY!!!??”… and I blushed. I never thought he was “the one” at the time, but I really appreciated that my host dad cared enough about my choices, and most importantly about my safety… he wanted to know I was choosing my friends wisely, especially when it involved someone else driving me.. and that someone else was a boy.
If like most families it is host mom that runs 100-miles-an-hour getting everyone situated and organizing the schedules (yes, plural… for each family member including the au pair’s working hours…), she is the one most closely involved with the au pair. And two women (for the case of a female au pair ) working that closely together can sometimes create tensions and emotions… That is where super-host-dad comes in and helps mom to calm down, communicate the issue with the au pair, and resolve it right then instead of building up frustration. My host dad was quite good at that one as well!
Thanks to all the host fathers out there for contributing to a successful au pair year… sometimes you don’t have a clue what mom and the au pair deal with from day-to-day, but we still appreciate you!