The term “au pair” is French, meaning “at par” or “equal,” indicating that the au pair is intended to be treated as a family member. Au Pair USA believes that this is the true spirit of the au pair program. This perspective has been especially important during the COVID-19 crisis, as stay-at-home orders have affected family members equally and required that everyone spend more time together in their “bubble” than they may have expected. We’ve been checking in with our participants to see how things are going and are glad to hear heart-warming stories of how this time, though challenging, has actually deepened their relationships with their host families.
Jacqueline, an Australian au pair living in Maryland tells us: “While both of my host parents worked throughout lockdown, we still ended up with a lot more time to spend together as we were unable to leave the house! In the very beginning, the six of us (grandmother Donna and the kids included) would take car trips on the weekend and head out to drive-through Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts and play a few Pokémon Go Battles – the kids are obsessed with Pokémon Go! Being home with both kids the whole day definitely strengthened our relationship, helped them understand my role and responsibility towards them, and improved their attachment to me. I think they now see me as less of a “babysitter” and more as part of the family.”
Jacqueline goes on to say, “Lockdown also allowed me to REALLY bond with Donna and my host mom Maria. Every Saturday night during lockdown, we made a point of having a ladies’ night and heading down to Donna’s space to watch a movie. It was always really lovely to have that time where none of us were responsible for the children, and we could just focus on enjoying each other’s company. Overall, the lockdown was really a blessing in disguise as it pushed us to form stronger bonds fairly quickly! I’m so grateful for such a wonderful host family!”
It’s not just the Au Pair USA au pairs who are benefiting from this extra bonding time. Host families, too, are forming lifelong friendships with their au pairs.
Host mom Mallory in Georgia shared this about her au pair: “Johandri has changed our life! She is so much more than childcare help; she has literally become my little sister. The thought of her leaving already makes me sad, as I can’t imagine daily life without her here! She is kind, patient, and fun. She is organized, and she has completely become culturally submerged (open to trying everything). Our children adore her. We adore her. We are so thankful for this incredible program for giving our paths the opportunity to cross! She will be a part of our lives forever, and I cannot wait to see what the next 1.5 years will bring!”
It is clear that COVID-19 has brought new challenges to families and au pairs alike. However, it is clear that our host families and au pairs are able to find a silver lining to this difficult time. While this was not the experience families or au pairs were expecting, they’ve been able to use the time to develop deep and meaningful relationships and learn to be truly “on par” with one another.