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How many is too many au pairs?

Let me start by being very clear. We have been BEYOND blessed by our au pairs over the years and their impact on our family and our children cannot ever be properly expressed. We have built a global family that spans the nations of Brazil, France, Germany, South Africa and Australia plus an Italian that we didn’t even host but who vacationed with us and spent her travel month visiting us that’s been adopted into the group!

We took in and housed au pairs that were removed from homes long before I became a local coordinator for an agency and we love learning about other cultures and seeing how much the au pairs grow and change during their program year.

This is the only form of childcare my girls (younger two) have ever known and they don’t understand why all their friends don’t have au pairs! They idolize the young women we have hosted and now that I am a local coordinator they really love getting to know the larger group of au pairs and regularly sneak their way into my monthly meetings or set up elaborate greetings and spreads to make them feel welcomed.

All that having been said, years ago I confided in my South African AP that it was getting hard on me. I explained that I felt like every one of them takes a piece of my heart with them when they leave and I wasn’t sure how many more pieces I could give away and survive! (And that was 4 APs ago!)

My husband has a running joke that he can tell how great the AP was by how far I am able to drive after dropping them at the airport at the end of their term before I have to pull over because I can’t see straight from ugly crying. Sometimes I don’t even make it out of the terminal let alone the airport!

The last couple of times I have been lucky enough to be able to call on my village which includes a few other host mom/local coordinators and the conversation is something like this:

Me: “I am never doing this again! I hate them! Why do they all LEAVE!!!!”

LCC/HM friend: “Oh babe. Did you just drop (AP) at the airport? How far did you make it?” (They know the joke.)

I’ve had a couple times over the years where I was exhausted or dealing with family or work drama or when we have picked up a short term AP to fill a gap where I have told myself I just wasn’t going to get as attached and be more of a cordial employer and less full blown completed integrated family but I’ve never actually been able to hold that boundary – they are just so great!

We have a WhatsApp group with all our former au pairs where we all chat everyday to stay in touch and keep them updated on the kids/family and unbelievably they are all close with each other as well! Many have overlapped or they met when previous APs have come “home” to visit during their term and there is a beautiful spirit of community in that group (and lots of sarcasm and making fun of each other and love and support) but as the number grows so does the effort in integrating all those extended connections.

We talk all the time about leaving the program at more obvious stages (kids age out or schedule/needs change or jobs change or parent decides to stay home etc) but is there a stage where long time host families hang it up because they want to leave at the top of their game and feel like their global family is big enough?

I remember telling a seasoned HM friend when I was on AP2 that I was so worried I wouldn’t ever find someone better than AP2. She laughed out loud. She said it wasn’t about finding someone better but assured me that we could find multiple rockstars that would all have their own strengths and gifts and leave different fingerprints on our kids. She was so right!

But at this point we are on our 8th successful au pair quickly approaching a decade as a host family and while we probably need an au pair to drive for another couple of years I do wonder – how many au pairs is too many?

For those that are no longer hosting – how many total au pairs did you host? Why did you stop hosting? Did you ever feel like it was hard to continue to make the emotional investment? Au pairs – if you came to families that had lots of previous APs they were still in touch with was that a plus or a minus? Did that help or hurt your experience? Everyone – when does it make sense to retire from hosting?

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