One of the most common questions I get asked from people regarding the hosting of an Au Pair is ‘how do you handle living with someone else?’ This was definitely a question my husband and I asked each other when we were considering hosting an Au Pair as a child care option.
For a lot of families, including us, has you residing in a humble 3 bedrooms, one-bathroom house. If you are a family of 2 parents and 2 children, this space feels cramped all ready, let alone introducing another adult into the mix!
Space isn’t the only concern families have however… People like their privacy, they enjoy their own space and alone time, and they worry about how the dynamics of day to day life can change and impact what has been working well in the household to date.
From my perspective, it is about changing the way you view this situation and look at why you are considering hosting an Au Pair in the first place – you believe it is the best child care option for you and your family! Here are my top 5 recommendations to consider when you are contemplating the question ‘how do I share my living space with another person?’
1) This is not a permanent decision! You are not deciding to live with another person forever! This is for a placement period of 6 months!
2) What can you learn from this experience? Trust me, as the adults of the house we have learnt a lot so far such as the importance of sitting at the dining table as a family for dinner each night. Before hosting an Au Pair, my husband and I would put our daughter to bed, get dinner sorted and sit in front of the TV using the coffee table to balance our plates. Since having an Au Pair, we enjoy our evening meal together at the table and actually communicate and enjoy our meal! We have learnt how to share our space, it’s ok for someone to sit in your place on the couch every now and then! We have learnt how our parents must have felt when having a young adult in the family home (let’s just say the phone is always glued to them haha) – a taste of what’s to come!
3) What can your child/children learn from this experience? I don’t know about your kids but my daughter LOVES having people over! It’s like a constant source of entertainment! Your children get to experience what it’s like to have an older brother or sister, having a roommate, and it is a great opportunity to teach them boundaries and the importance of peoples personal items and space.
4) This is a cultural exchange programme! What an amazing opportunity to experience how other people live day to day, what they eat, what they find entertaining, what is ‘the norm’ in their household. It is amazing to see how some of us are so similar yet so different at the same time!
5) Still worried about the space? Here are a couple of options/ideas for you:
a. Whilst it can be a little crowded at times, it is not like everyone is always at home together at the same time! We live in a busy, social society and are always coming and going. With the room you provide your Au Pair in the house, ensure there is a TV/DVD player so they have the opportunity to escape and have their own time which in turns, give you time with your immediate family;
b. Treat them as a member of the family! It is amazing the shift in your thinking and approach to having an Au Pair reside with you if you treat them as part of the family. Don’t treat them as a guest, be yourself and enjoy the experience;
c. Set some guidelines and boundaries. Think about how you can make it work for you and your family. Do you want to ensure you have some private time with your partner on the couch at 9pm each night, then talk about this!
d. Do you have space on your property for a caravan? Another option can be to look at accommodation options on your property for your Au Pair so you each get your own space;
e. Can you build a granny flat? This is what my husband and I did. We converted our carport into a granny flat with a room, kitchenette and bathroom. This not only adds value to our property, but also provides our Au Pair with their own living space. In saying that, we still hang out together in the afternoons, eat dinner together as a family and watch MasterChef in the lounge room!
I’m not saying there won’t be teething difficulties for both parties, sharing your space with anyone can be a challenge (I struggle with my husband at times haha!). I can honestly say though, I enjoy having our Au Pair live with us and feel we grow every day from the experience.
If you have any questions in regards to sharing your living space with another person, please feel free to send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.