Jody Landon, our lead orientation trainer, told me a story that’s  a typical “beginner” mistake and testifies to the importance of clear communication between a host family and au pair.

‘…a new  mom,  who was also a new host mom, was nervous about diaper rash.  She  told her newly-arrived au pair to “change the baby every hour”. Wanting to make a good impression, the au pair worked very hard and did just as she was told.

At the end of the day, the host mom came home, called the counselor and said, “This au pair will never work!”  There was large pile of baby clothes on the floor!   The au pair had done just as asked. She changed the baby every hour, she changed everything on the baby every hour. The poor baby was exhausted putting its little arms and legs in clean clothing every hour.

What had the host mom neglected to say?  Change the baby’s diaper every hour! The au pair might have thought it was odd to be changing the baby’s clothing every hour, but being new, wanting to make a good first impression, and not wanting to question the mom’s approach to childrearing, she followed the directions to the ‘T!’

We can’t possibly anticipate all the mis-communications that we can make, nor can we anticipate all the errors a new au pair might make.  We do our best with communication, thinking pro-actively in an attempt to avoid this kind of error, but more important is how we react to a mistake.  It’s so important to not jump to the conclusion that “this au pair won’t work,” “this girl can’t think independently,” etc.  Rather, let’s look at the behavior without judment, describe what happened, and then look for possible explanations and then solutions.  This was an easy fix and the host family and au pair went on to have a wonderful year together and often look back and laugh at that first day.