To Extend Or Not To Extend?

“…so, when we face hard choices we shouldn’t beat our head against the wall trying to figure out which alternative is better. THERE IS NO BEST ALTERNATIVE! Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here.” – Ruth Chang

As an Au-Pair in the USA you have the option to extend your program. An Au Pair term in the USA is 12 months long. Au Pairs have the option to extend for another 6, 9 or 12 months with the same family or another family within the USA.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who need to make their decision around 9months. If you have not been in this situation to make this decision you might think it’s no big deal. For a lot of people this decision leads to a restless heart and a sleepless brain at night! It’s understandable. We can’t see into the future. Your whole life ahead you will find moments like these where you need to make a decision that can impact your life ahead or your life for a while. Either way it’s important and this decision making process is a perfect opportunity for you to grow in a certain area of your life.

What are your options?

– Return home after 12 months.

– Extend with the same host family

– or another host family in a different State.

– Extend with a different family in the same area.

– Extend for 6,

– 9 or

– 12 months.

What potentially influences your decision making:

– Your relationship with your current host kids.

– Your comfort or discomfort in your current town.

– Your relationship with the host family.

– Fear of not finding a new host family and having to return home.

– Fear of not getting a long with the new host family and going into rematch.

– Going through the whole matching process again or

– having to deal with your current issues with your current host family.

Discuss this topic with your host family as well. Hopefully you both know how the other feels regarding extension. But I’ve heard of au pairs who hardly have open discussions with their host families and this leaves both parties in the dark. If you’ve reached this point then I know it’s hard to bring it up. I’d like to encourage you to stand tall and ask to discuss the possibility of extending. You’re a person who needs to make a decision that’s best for you and your host family. If you as an au pair bring it up they might appreciate this. If you are a host parent reading this then I want to encourage you to talk with your au pair about this. Take the lead and don’t wait for your au pair to take the lead. It’s okay to want to extend just as much as it is okay to not want to extend. For both parties. But communicate. Let each other know what you’d expect of each other.

Once you and your family are on the same page, you know in what direction to make your decision.

Guidelines to help you make the decision that’s best for you! Remember that these are guidelines. There’s no template to make this decision since every situation is different.

1. Normally during this time people have a lot of opinions about your life. Such as it will be at any other time you need to make a life decision. Take the opinions for what they are, but remember that no one has the knowledge of your life the way you have. Only you have a clear, full view of your own life. So take the time to analyze opinions and apply advice where it’s useful. At the end of the day it’s your life, take ownership of your decision. I believe that we already know within us what we want to do, we just need to go through certain things to discover it for ourselves.

2. I know! – Leaving the children behind is the worse! It will be challenging to do so after 12 months the same way it would be after 18, 21 or 24 months. Fact is, it’s challenging. Now or later. Don’t let your love for the children be the biggest factor when making your final decision.

▫️Story: I met a wonderful au pair from Mexico. She completed her first year on the West Coast. For her second year she matched with a family in Virginia (East Coats). During her second year she kept contact with the host family on the West Coast and she went to visit them as well before her second au pair term ended in the USA.

3. Reevaluate what you’d like to do in your second au pair term. If it’s more traveling and exploring then a new State is probably a great option. If you’d like to take more time to focus on other things like growing in certain skills or doing short study courses then it might be a good idea to stay in an environment and routine you already know. This includes if you’d like to further develop your English.

4. Consider how old the children will be in your second au pair term and how their schedule might change. Will the age and change in schedule still be something you’d be able to handle?

5. “Time flies!” Is a popular term that we hear a lot. That does not make it less important what you fill your time with. Use the old method to write down pros and cons to help you figure out what the best decision for you will be.

▫️Story: I have a friend from Germany. He returned home after 12 months. He regrets not extending for another 12months in the USA.

◽️My story:

When I first embarked on my journey to the States I was certain that I would not extend! I was sure that I will not be staying in the States for more than 12months. A lot can happen during the first months that influences your long term decisions. Early on I fell in love with the twin boys that I took care of. I got along with the host family and things worked. I settled in the area and had friends around every corner. That did not assure my decision to extend. My host family asked me early enough that they’d like me to extend with them. Then the decision was up to me. A lot of my friends extended in different States, to experience different travel opportunities and so forth.

I finally decided to extend with the same host family, then I just had to decide if I’d extend for 6,9 or 12 months.

I met an au pair from the Netherlands. I met her in her last few weeks and we became friends instantly! The closer she came to her last day in the States the more she had regret not extending for at least just another 6months. She had a great relationship with her host family and a fun group of friends in her area. One evening I listened as she made this statement and it hit me; I feared to be where she was at that time. I did not want to look back knowing I had an option to stay longer. If I was going to extend 6 months I might as well extend for 12 months.

At the end, my conclusion. With all honesty I can tell you to be an au pair for two years with the same host family has its challenges. For both the au pair and the host family. But for me personally the reward was bigger. I certainly don’t regret extending with the same host family for another full term. The relationship I’ve build with not only the children but the grandparents and extended family are forever a part of me. Looking back, I would not have had it any other way.

That’s my story and not every story will be the same.

At the end of the day you will have to be responsible for your decision. It’s a part of your life and it’s part of your journey! It’s all about what you make of it!

I personally known it can be a challenging decision to make. It might not be a big deal 5 years from now, but right now it is. Give yourself a break, analyze your facts and make a decision that sets your heart at ease.

Don’t be a drifter, don’t let someone else determine what you do in life. Be the author of your life journey. Write your own story the way you want it to be. -Inspired by Ruth Chang, watch her TED Talk on YouTube:

Written by Nitanja @ Au Pair Buzz

11 July 2018

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