Some families who have hosted more than one Au Pair may be familiar with this story… you get plenty of applications and you think you’ve found “the one.” Your first few email conversations go extremely well and you are excited that you may have found the perfect applicant. Then she drops the bomb… she ______ (insert appropriate selection… “smokes occasionally” or “has food allergies” or “has a pet she’d like to bring” or “has a serious boyfriend“). Now what? Do you just accept it because everything else about her is exactly what you were looking for or do you continue your search?
Smoking… although not as common as it used to be, smoking is a habit that most families are uncomfortable with and thus this is likely to be a deal-breaker. If an Au Pair feels compelled to tell you she smokes “occasionally” then she probably smokes more than just the odd night out at the bar. If you have a problem with people smoking around you, you also likely have issues with people hanging around your children smelling like ashtrays. Never make concessions for your family. If your Au Pair has a smoking habit in her home country, she is unlikely to give it up when she arrives in Canada, no matter what she promises you.
The pet… need I say more? You have to be VERY sure you are ready for a pet in the house if this is part of the agreement. Kind of like other people’s kids… other people’s dogs may not behave as yours would. I have actually been in this situation and accepted an Au Pair with a dog because our own beloved four-legged friend had just passed away and I really missed having a dog in the home. Although it never materialized into a “problem” for us, I think we were lucky and it could have been a nightmare.
Food allergies… although seemingly not a huge concern, food allergies can make things VERY difficult when it comes to meal preparation, grocery shopping, special occasions etc.. I have hosted an Au Pair who was lactose intolerant. What this meant was the purchase of separate lactose free milk every week, lactose free margarine, lactose free ice-cream and yogurt etc… not only was I conscious of what ingredients I put in my dinner-time meals but I also was label reading like crazy at the grocery store. I sympathized with my Au Pair’s sensitive stomach, but there came a point when I just couldn’t cater to her diet at every meal. In a busy household, a food allergy can have a big impact both financially (buying expensive lactose free products) as well as in time researching meal alternatives etc… It’s not as simple as it may seem.
The boyfriend… this has been something I’ve counselled against in the past. Since I was a prospective Au Pair in my early 20’s and backed out of an Au Pair gig in Mallorca, Spain, due to insecurities about leaving my then-boyfriend, I am reluctant to hire Au Pairs in serious relationships. This isn’t to say it can’t work, but it definitely contributes to homesickness and cold feet. The last thing any family wants is to have their Au Pair pining away in her bedroom, sad because she not only misses her family, but ALSO her boyfriend. This can be a recipe for disaster if the Au Pair chooses to go home and leaves the family without childcare. If you find an Au Pair who admits to being in a relationship, ask lots of questions… we go into this in more detail on our Membership pages.
There are many great foreign Au Pairs looking for host families in Canada. You should never have to make concessions or sacrifices when choosing an Au Pair. Despite how perfect she may seem, if something crops up that brings her down a notch in your scale, then keep looking. Consider how her habit, lifestyle or whatever it may be that you are concerned about will effect your family and how your household operates; sometimes, it just isn’t worth the headache, heartache or hindsight.
Canadian Au Pair Solutions