Why do I write perfect in inverted comas? Basically because there is no such thing as a “perfect Host Family” or “perfect Au Pair”! Everyone has their own flaws and let’s just face it. It is important for both: Host Family and Au Pair, to realised that truth at the very begging of the matching process. Even when we are looking in our lives for partners or friends, we know that “the perfect one” does not exist. No one is perfect, yet we may always find someone who will be close to our dreamed “perfect”. Logically, there is the same situation during matching process for Au Pairs and Host Families.
I may sound like a broken record but I will always repeat that my Host Family is the best I could ever have! (And, no! I am not writing that only because I know that they may read it). I honestly think I am lucky to be their au pair! They were my third family that I have talked with during my matching process and I will always remember that after seeing their e-mail to me, I told my friend at work that I have my perfect match! I was excited to schedule Skype talk with them and I couldn’t wait for every other e-mail we exchanged through the whole time after confirmation of our match (which happened few days before Easter).
Not so long ago, I have been asked about the whole matching process and how to choose a good family. That’s why I decided to write post about it in order to help new au pairs that are just starting their journey or are still thinking if it is the right way for them. Please, future au pairs, remember about one extremely important thing – it is not a job for everyone! Being an au pair is not only about great Instagram pictures, travelling (much more expensive in USA than in Europe, for you information) and drinking Starbucks coffee every morning. Being an au pair is first of all about providing the best care to the children! I am rather frankly with my opinions, so I am not going to tell you only the things you would like to hear from me. This is demanding full-time work connected with education component. This is not babysitting when after few hours of playing with kids you can get back to your own house and drink wine while relaxing. You have to be aware that you will be living with Host Family in their house. There are going to be bad and hard days – I can assure you of that. There are also going to be wonderful days that will flow fast – that’s the other sure thing. It is just important to realised that being an au pair is more or less like being a parent, definitely not a babysitter. So if you think that your life will be all about partying, travelling and having great time with American friends, well I must tell you that you’re wrong. Of course, you will experience these thing too! Nevertheless, you have to be ready for getting up early, screaming and crying, having different views with your host family and basically having tough day. So if you are not scared and aware of what are you devoting yourself to, continue reading and I will share my tips on how to find the best Host Family for you!
First things first, so understand that “perfect Host Family” does not exist! Be ready to go on compromises and you will find the family that will be close to your ideal one! The most important issue for me when I was looking for my Host Family was the attitude that potential family had towards au pair. I did not want to be only an au pair that takes care of children and is not included into family’s life. From the very beginning, I wanted to be the part of the family! That was something I was looking for. I just had a desire to be someone who will be present in their life even when I am not expected to do so, someone like an older sister for kids. As mentioned above, the moment I read the e-mail from my current Host Family, I felt that they treat their au pairs as part of the family. I liked the fact that my Host Mum send me contacts to their previous au pairs so I could contact them and ask about life with them. For me it was a clear sign that they treat respect their au pairs and want the best year for both parties. I loved the idea of talking with their current au pair whom become my friend! She is also going to visit our Host Family this year after spending her vacation with my in Florida and on Bahamas.
The first impression was important for me! During my first Skype talk with my Host Mum, we have very quickly found a lot in common. We are both chatty (really chatty! J ) so we talked for almost 2 hours, or even more, despite of the time difference!
Usually au pair are required to prepare a short movie for the future host families. As far as I am concerned, I did not do that. Well, I did but I uploaded my video after matching with my Host Family. Interestingly enough, my Host Family send me a short video with the first e-mail. Thanks to that I could see their hobbies, how they liked to spend their time and I could fall in love with my boys from the very beginning. So if you ask me, the first impression is important! Sometimes, it will take you just ne Skype and you will know that this is your match. In some cases, it may take up a few Skype talks with different families. Regardless of which situation you are in, never doubt and always listen to you own intuition. I have seen on different groups that au pair are asking another au pairs which family they should chose. If it works for you, then ok, but I did not consult my decision with anyone. Choosing you family is you independent decision because you are going to live with them foe the whole year, so listen to you inner voice!
Being active and honest
When after reviewing the profile of you Host Family, you feel like they might be a match for you, remember to reach out to them! Show them that you care and you want to talk with them via Skype or WhatsApp. Even when you are really busy and you don’t have time to talk with them soon, just let them know! And if you don’t feel like you want to talk with that family it is fine too! In both cases, you have to let them know! I find it extremely rude and irresponsible not reaching out or not responding to the family you have on your profile. They will understand if you want to live in California or if you don’t feel like taking care of 4 kids, yet you just have to tell them honestly.
I suggest reading the Host Family application few times and writing down everything that you would like to know more about. Being prepared for the interview is a must-do for every au pair! Ask about all the things you are unsure or just curious. I will prepare another post about the questions you definitely want and have to ask you future Host Family – so stay tuned!
If you already get through these steps and finally scheduled Skype conversation with them, don’t get too nervous. East to say for me, I know but I was in the same place as you are right now. What made me feel less nervous was the fact that I was just prepared. Try it, maybe you will find it helpful. If you don’t understand something, just ask them to repeat. Host Families know that English is usually our second language and they will not expect you to be as fluent as they are. Oh and hey! Something to be proud of! You can speak two (or more languages)! I mean that is something to be proud of yourself even if you are making small mistakes!
Already done with “skyping” and you feel like it is not what you are looking for, you may always give them second chance. However if you are just sure that you don’t want to spend the whole year with them, don’t waste their and your time. Let them know as quick as possible, yet show them that you appreciate their time and interest, be nice but remember that you have to feel it in 100%. It may happen that you will have to say “no” to 10 families and the 11th one will be your future Host Family!
Stay in touch
Match! You found them and you are so excited but terrified on the other side? I know that feeling. I remember that after I said yes to my Host Family, I ran downstairs to my parents, grandmother and brother to tell them that great news! I was so happy that I was jumping, singing, laughing and crying at the same time. After that excitement, I went back to my room and I remember that I just came off my hinges. I was so scared when I realised that I devoted myself to take the best care of someone’s children in different country so far away from everyone that I love. It just lasted for few minutes because I realised that this will change my life forever and I was right. I am totally different person than I was last year – in the positive way!
Staying in touch with your Host Family is important and will develop better relation with them prior to you arrival. You can just send them an e-mail from time to time, tell them what are you doing or even ask about few things! I remember that I was asking my Host Mum about the weather, what should I definitely take with me from Poland and if they have a lot of spiders in Virginia J (just kidding, but you can always ask about that!).
Work on establishing great relation with them from the very beginning and it will be so much easier to adopt quickly after your arrival. You can also stay in touch with their current au pair. This is what I did and it was great way to have someone whom I kind of knew when I came to their house.
I know that California sounds wonderful, right? All these movies that we remember about California life and all these Instagram pages. Sounds like the best destination for the au pair. You will be sunbathing on the beach every single day after work and life will be just so much easier in California. What a nonsense! I have heard so many times that a great Family is being rejected just because they do not live in California.
As long as I understand, that we have our dreamed plan how our year in United States should look like, I will never understand how can an au pair reject family just because of their location. Seriously girls? I know that it is possible to find wonderful Host Family in California, yes! I am not trying to tell you that it is impossible. What I want you to realise is that sometimes we focus too much on localisation instead of the family. One thing I realised while being here and listening to different au pairs is that the less someone has the more they are willing to give you!
Every au pair is different and this is good since the families are different as well, yet while you are focusing on finding “Cali Family”, you may lose your “perfect match”. At the begging of my application I had similar views and I thought that I will find a family in California or Florida because it is warm and nice and my year will be just easier to spend in those places. Thankfully, I had someone on my way who told me that this is ridiculous and I should look for a good family not for a good place. I cannot imagine sitting and crying just because I don’t get along with my Host Family and thinking that I am happy because I am sitting in California’s beach. I decided that Virginia will be my home for the next year. Why? Because of the wonderful Host Family that I have found there! I have never really heard about Virginia before but it did not stop me from coming here and I did not even had a second of regretting that decision.
If you really want to go to California, then do that! It is still fine and no one is going to judge you! We have to follow our dreams and I will always agree with that. However, bear in mind, that even if we think that we will be happy only in Cali, the reality might be different. If you have a desire to go to your dreamed place in United States, but you have a great family on your profile from different state, consider them! Don’t miss you match just because of the location!
Understand rules and expectation
As I stated above, being an au pair is MOSTLY about taking part of children! This is what is expected from au pair. Americans have busy life with hectic schedules and they really need someone who can work up to 45 hours (never more!). You have to be sure of what is expected from you when looking for a Host Family.
Make sure you are ok with their rules concerning car usage, Internet and phone service, curfew, sleepovers, parenting style and their lifestyle. More important thing than location is whether you will be able to live with these people for the whole year. Spend a good amount of time of making sure that you feel comfortable with what Host Family expects and offers to you. No one wants to go to rematch! I know that au pairs are often saying “oh, well, I can always just take a rematch and find another family. It is not a big deal”. This is not exactly true. You can take rematch but no one can assure you that you will find better family or any family – in that case you have to get back to your home country.
If you don’t feel comfortable with cameras, do not go to the family that has them in every room (they have to tell you about that earlier!). Hate cats? Try to find a family that doesn’t have them in their household. By the way! You are not responsible of taking care of the Host Family’s pets and never let yourself said that you are. Of course, if you want to do that you are welcome. But this is not your responsibility and it is worth knowing before coming to USA. Chose a family that has similar lifestyle to the one you have. Chose wisely – that is my best advice.
To sum up, I know that the matching process is difficult and stressful. We want to be sure that the family will be the best for us and our experience won’t be disappointing. I was in that place to few months ago and I remember how afraid I was. My approach was to behave naturally and be open-minded. I did not focus on one thing and I was always very respectful to Host Families that I had on my profile. Just to mention, I was extremely busy when I was preparing myself for that year so it was hard to me to schedule any Skype conversation, yet I was always responding my Host Families. I just wanted them to know that I am still there being interested but I need some time.
Be responsible, open-minded and let them know about you schedule. Prepare yourself before interview and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And most importantly, be patient! You don’t have to rush, give yourself some time and bear in mind that you are going to spend the whole year of your life with those people, so choose wisely! Good luck!