When Childcare Becomes Family: A Lifelong Relationship With Our Former Au Pair


It was difficult the day she left. I depended on her tremendously and a strong bond of friendship had formed between all of us. Leading up to that date, it did not hit me until her ride to the airport pulled out of the driveway. Whether it is because of our busy schedule or denial that she had to return to her home country (or both), it hit me like a ton of bricks as the door closed and my daughter began to cry.

It did not help that the day was cast in a deep gray in the early morning hours of her departure. I think we just didn’t know how to say goodbye to someone who had become such an integral part of our family and daily lives.

If I start from the beginning, I will focus more on how she came into our lives. At first, I was hesitant to commit to an au pair program as a host family. So many stories were floating around about bad experiences and situations that just didn’t work out. I had difficulty grasping how someone I barely knew from so far away could just live in our home and become part of our family for a year, maybe two.

However, from the outset, we had an instant connection, and she had an immediate, genuine care for my kids, which was evident from my first observation of her in our home. Despite the expected and usual adjustments to a new home, a new family, and a new way of life in a foreign country, she blended into our lives relatively seamlessly.

She exuded a calm patience and a genuine compassion for caring for my kids. She also showed a natural instinct to teach creative activities and lessons, especially with my youngest who was two months old when she came and two years old when she left. I strongly believe that his intellectual development flourished in part because of her approach to teaching him Spanish and English, and devoting so much time reading to him. My daughters as well, through her experience and talent with art and language.

My children care for her like family; an aunt or cousin living with us to extend our family. I was hoping for this type of relationship between her and my children. What I didn’t anticipate was the lifetime friendship that would form between us.

Deciding on long-term childcare can be stressful. We went back and forth discussing the pros and cons of a live-in nanny, a local nanny with full-time hours, a part-time childcare situation, daycare, and an au pair program. Fortunately, we had a such a positive experience with our first au pair that we are considering going through the program again. Additional ways the program enriched our lives was learning and teaching about different customs within our cultures, learning a new language, and forming a lifelong relationship.

Although saying goodbye was difficult for our family and especially for our children who did not quite grasp the logistics of why she had to leave, we explained that even though she is not with us everyday, she is still a major part of our lives. Also, that we can communicate and be in touch often through letters and calls.

I knew it would be a hard adjustment when she arrived, but I had no idea that it would leave such a void when she left. We want her to know that she means a lot to us and our door is always open.


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