Having a live-in au pair has added years to my life by lessening the stress that is a known cause of disease and premature death. The au pair is my second pair of hands, the “wife” I always joked about wanting when I first had my second child. Frankly, I shudder at the thought of life without one.
However, I didn’t always feel this way. Before getting an au pair, I had many concerns, a few worries, and one big fear. For example:
Classic host parent worries
- Will my children start to love the au pair more than me?
- Will the au pair laze around and do nothing all day, or just the opposite, will the au pair make me look slow and old?
- Will my kids and my au pair get along?
- Can the au pair be trusted with my children?
- Will the au pair always be around so I lose "alone time"?
- Will the au pair run off with the family jewels or worse, will she run off with my husband?
Whoops, what was that last one?
The unspoken fear
What a thing to suggest – of course, your husband isn’t lowly enough to be swept away by the charms of a younger woman! But I thought I would throw it in there because hey, it was there lurking in my mind as I, a middle-aged post-baby weight woman, perused the profiles of so many lovely young girls.
It’s not that I was that insecure or that I didn’t trust other women, and I certainly didn’t feel that my husband would ever do such a thing. It’s just that one hears about men running off with other women all the time, and there I was, still getting over one birth and about to deliver another child, completely hormonal, completely dependent on my husband, and feeling like a complete twit for having such a concern. I could be wrong: maybe it is not the most malignant fear that lurks deep in the heart of even the most smugly married woman. But just in case I have raised an issue that is not exclusive to me, let’s talk some sense to this silly little idea.
First off: A reality check
To a young girl, your husband is an old man. Hey, he’s probably old enough to be her father, so he’s not really going to appeal. If an au pair is looking to find love in a foreign land (and many of them are sensible enough to say they don’t want this kind of complication to deal with when they will ultimately be returning home), they are going to be looking for someone young, attractive, and single.
In my experience, most au pairs are normal girls from well-adjusted homes with mostly intact families. The last thing they want is to take off with your old man. For the record, I have never heard of the au pair running off with the host father, though I do know a woman whose au pair started dating her nephew and another where the au pair dated the host father’s brother.
Seductive au pairs are a stereotype perpetuated by men with overactive imaginations and libidos. I have had some fabulous looking au pairs in my home, but none of them were the least bit flirty. Plus, I made sure they were aware of the on-duty dress code we used for au pairs in our home and were not running around in teeny shorts and tube tops.
Setting the right tone together
I have, however, been at dinner parties where, when other men overheard we have a German au pair, they then had the gall to ask if she wore plaits and low-cut tops (Bavarian beer garden style). Or they did a kind of wink-wink, nudge-nudge thing to my husband. Thankfully, he is a man of dignity who knows that certain castration would await him if he were to respond to these flippant statements with anything other than a puzzled look. And seriously, my husband and I work together to create a tone and an environment where the au pair is part of a joint family endeavour that supports family life and childcare rather than unlikely fantasies.
If you are worried about anything in this area, then simply put some boundaries in place that are going to make you feel more at ease until you get to know your au pair and then realize you were such a silly-billy for even thinking such things.
About the author:
Clarissa Mosley is a psychologist and mother of five boys. Having hosted over 15 au pairs, Clarissa has now incorporated her psychological knowledge and experiences as a host mother to write a guide book for parents on how to successfully host au pairs. Her book Au pairs with Ease is available in Kindle format on Amazon.