When I worked as an au pair, I was lucky enough to be with a family who did not experience any tragedies while I was with them. Sure, they had a new baby while I was there, and it did get stressful and very busy at times. However, they did not suffer through a job loss, a death in the family, or any other horrible life events during that time, so I consider myself pretty lucky.
But for an au pair whose host family does experience something difficult while they are living with them – what to do? Does the situation change? If so, how will it change? Should the au pair act as if everything is normal, even if it isn’t really? So many questions!
If something incredibly difficult hits your host family, expect some upset, but remember that nothing is your fault and that you need to continue to do your job well. More than likely, the event will not directly impact your job, unless of course, there is steep decline in income due to job loss. In this case, your host family may not be able to continue to hire you. If this happens, your au pair agency will find you a replacement family within a reasonable amount of time, so you will not be stranded. If you did not go through an agency, you may wind up in trouble and having to look for something on your own.
If the situation does not impact your job but is just something difficult, such as a loss of a loved one, then give the family time. You may be living with a host family who is great at masking their problems, or even one who does not get all that bent out of shape when things go crazy. But is something tragic has happened, most families will be impacted at some level.
So give the family time to hurt and time to heal. And expect that things at home may be a bit off kilter for a little while. That’s ok. Everyone reacts differently to tough situations, and when you are part of the family (which you more than likely will be), you are going to feel the repercussions. Just remember to be patient and be available. During this time the host family may need a bit more help, and as long as it is within reason, you can feel free to support them with maybe a little extra help around the house, or by simply letting them know that you are available if they need you.
I am curious to know what other au pairs have experienced. Was life peaceful with your host family? Did the family experience anything during your time with them that was particularly difficult? How did you deal with it?
[note: this post was inspired by the recent loss of a close family member of mine – my uncle, Ryan, who will be dearly missed by all of those who knew and loved him!]