The Stepdad knows a good thing when he sees it. Recently I had a great conversation with an Au Pair coordinator about the surprising benefits that many newly blended families find when they hire an Au Pair. The early bonding stages of a blended family are important. Setting the right tone early and working through initial struggles can make a big impact on how the family functions.
Karen Arbour is a Childcare Coordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair-a company that places college aged, girls with US families. She has seen Au Pairs make a real difference in blended family homes. Having someone to act as the in between person -handing much of the child duties- can help families adjust. With blended families sometimes taking years to settle in and bond, this little nudge early can do a great deal of good -and speed things along. Kids usually experience a variety of emotions when families blend. They are more likely to feel comfortable talking openly about their feelings with the Au Pair, because she is closer to their age and not an authority figure -like the parents. This helps the children more easily vent their anxieties. The Au Pair can share these anxieties with the parents to help them better understand the children’s concerns. Knowing what the children are dealing with allows the parents to help the kids overcome the things they are feeling uncomfortable about.
I had false notions about what an Au Pair was. I also falsely thought that only wealthy people can afford the service that an Au Pair provides. I was wrong. Arbour places many Au Pairs with middle class families. “It’s equal or less than the cost of two kids in day care or after school care -and it’s a much higher quality of care.” she says. The girls Arbour’s company places are from other countries, are college aged and focused on education and cultural experience. They live with the host family and attend college part time. They can work as many as 10 hours a day, with a maximum of 45 hours a week. That’s quite a bit better deal than you get from a child care facility. On top of that, they are more emotionally invested in your children because they are in your home helping the kids, not just babysitting. “Au Pairs can be there to help as you guide the children through what might be a challenging time.” says Arbour.
I think we’ve uncovered another great tool that Stepdads can use in the struggle to bond. This may be a smart way to start off on the right foot. If you need to have a conversation about child care anyway, include this option in your thinking. It could make a positive difference very early in your planning -and lay the groundwork for a successful family.
Karen Arbour Local Childcare Coordinator (LCC) for Cultural Care Au Pair (CCAP)
Au Pairs: Invaluable parenting assistance for blended families
As a Local Childcare Coordinator (LCC) for Cultural Care Au Pair, I have the opportunity to witness diverse parenting choices and effective uses of au pair hours. I recently came across a unique, though increasingly common, family dynamic that benefits from au pair hours in a significant way: the blended family.
Blended families are tasked with a unique set of challenges that can be greatly eased by the benefits an au pair provides. Blended families, a term that describes families where one or more spouses bring with them children from a previous marriage, must manage complex schedules, including where applicable, different custody scenarios. Blended families are tasked with trying to integrate and coalesce to become a unit, in the midst of schedule madness. Au pairs are uniquely positioned to facilitate both of these problems while providing a stabilizing influence for children in transition. When thinking back to my own family situation…
I married a man with full custody of his 4 children. Oh, how I now wish I had known how accessible the au pair program actually is! It’s a miracle we made it through our first few years of marriage. I discontinued my full time career in non-profit services to help taxi my new children around after school each day. At that time we had four children in three separate schools. Our children were in two different after care programs and involved in activities that required me to shuttle non-stop from 3 pm until 7 pm. My husband and I rarely had date nights and when we did, they were solely for planning activities for the children. We felt like we barely knew each other and could have used the extra help an Au Pair would have provided.
The benefits of au pairs extend beyond mere scheduling conflict resolutions. The au pairs provide additional endorsements of parental directives and help establish new blended family routines. Additionally, by removing chauffer – scheduling stress from the equation, parents can focus more directly on family activities that ease the blended family dynamic without also sacrificing the significant benefits of readily available date-night babysitting. For more established blended family situations, the au pairs can provide an opportunity for parents to jointly address long-standing areas of conflict, specifically between siblings, without having to divide and conquer, play good cop/ bad cop or any other contrived strategies. For teenage situations, au pairs can provide added eyes and ears as well as a model of independent responsible behavior. Granted, no au pair influence is as valuable as parental influence, but, done right, an au pair can validate and endorse parental directives.
For more information on hosting an au pair, please call Local Childcare Coordinator Karen Arbour at 203-470-8315; [email protected] or visit www.culturalcare.com.
About Cultural Care Au Pair
Cultural Care Au Pair is the leading provider of intercultural childcare in the United States. Since 1989, Cultural Care Au Pair has placed more than 85,000 au pairs in welcoming American homes. A U.S. Department of State regulated program, Cultural Care Au Pair is headquartered in Cambridge, MA, with their own extensive network of recruitment, screening and orientation offices worldwide and more than 600 local coordinators across the U.S. For more information about hosting an au pair, visitwww.culturalcare.com or call 800-333-6056.
Originally appeared at danbury.patch.com –reprinted with permission by author.