In my kitchen, at this very worktop, in fact, I have played host now to many a desperate, deflated Au pair.
Usually, something’s gone badly wrong with her Host Parents, and they’ve found their way to me via my own Au pairs.
As a Mum, it sucks big time to see what happens when these kids have spent money on their visa and their flight, only for their relationship to tank.
Most of them are entirely bewildered when it does, and they’re left scratching around trying to find cheap Airbnb’s or bunking in with friends.
I’m not trying to guilt-trip you or pretend that all Au Pairs are perfect.
But here’s a fact.
In just about every case of Au Pair/Host Family relationship failure I’ve seen or written about these past five years has been caused by a lack of structure and honesty right at the start.
But it’s not always Your Fault.
The way the Au pair relationship is thought about and described is a huge part of the problem.
It’s advertised as a ‘Cultural Exchange’, with a no strings attached kind of flavour.
A bit like one of those foreign language exchanges you can do –only with some chores and babysitting thrown in.
The informality of this relationship is it’s Unique Selling Point – that’s why Host Families who need flexible, affordable care LOVE it.
But it’s also the thing that wipes it out every dam time.
Without structure and boundaries, these relationships flop.
I’ve seen it too many times.
If you’re lucky enough to have an agency who gets this stuff right, they’re gonna help you think through everything and maybe even help you communicate it to your Au pair.
But not always. Don’t rely on that.
If you’ve gone it alone to find your awesome Au pair, you’re gonna need to figure some stuff out BEFORE they even set foot in your home.
And it’s so crucial that you do because in some parts of the world Au pair numbers have plummeted.
Last year alone, 5 utterly gorgeous young people who’d saved hard and barreled into life across the other side of the world as Au Pairs, sat despondently in my kitchen.
Many legions more who are unhappy contact me online.
And you know what I can’t convince a lot of them that there are loads of Host Families who are organised and caring.
So many of them throw in the towel, and head home, a little bit broken by being sucked in by the promise of life abroad and the reality of being spat out with not much to show for it.
Some of these teenagers came through agencies and some through online sites, so it’s not that agencies are full proof and the online sites are not.
The bottom line is US.
We’ve got to help Au pairs keep coming by doing this one tiny thing.
One tiny thing to avoid Relationship Failure.
Host Families need to figure out what we need, in detail and make sure we communicate it to our potential Au pairs.
That’s it, that’s the tedious first step that so many families miss.
Be totally honest about what you really need, what’s happening in your home and put some structure around your relationship.
We’ve got some tried and tested tools to help you figure this stuff out in our Membership Dashboard. Years of research means we now understand exactly which questions to ask YOU, so you get the best relationship possible.
And so does your Au Pair.
It’ll take you about 40 minutes to put down the right foundations for a fantastic Au pair relationship.
And you can feel pretty smug that you’re not going to have a downright uncomfortable relationship within the sacred walls of your home.
Trust me when I say a terrible Au pair relationship can make you so crazy you’re prepared to pull your fricking hair out or at very least dread going home.
But I know, what you’re feeling.
I’ve just gone and made your To-Do List longer.
Please don’t let a lack of energy or confidence stop you taking this one vital step to make your Au pair relationships great.
I can promise you this.
When you decide to do things differently and put a bit of work in at the start, you won’t have to put up with lukewarm relationships that drive you bonkers anymore.
And I’ll be ready to toast you every step of the way from my kitchen, hopefully, surrounded by a glut of Happy Au pairs!