When we welcomed Karol, our third au pair, to our family last summer, we had high expectations, as our first two au pairs had been wonderful additions to our family. She immediately fell into an evolving routine with our two-year old daughter, Caroline, taking her to the pool, library, and parks. Caroline adored Karol from the beginning (though she had quite a bit of difficulty saying her name!). Karol helped expose our child to new, healthy foods, and Caroline went from being a very picky eater, accommodating only a few foods (mainly cheese, chicken nuggets, goldfish, and pasta), to truly enjoying an array of healthy American and Colombian dishes.
However, to be honest, those were all things we had expected from an au pair, and it soon became apparent that Karol would more than surpass these expectations. After matching but just before Karol arrived in the U.S., she got her first surprise: We were expecting our second child, due about 5 months after Karol would arrive. She took the news beautifully and made us feel very secure that she would love our baby as much as we would.
Then, shortly after Karol arrived at our home in New Jersey, I was made an offer for a new job in Delaware, and in a whirlwind of only a few weeks I had left my current job, accepted a new one, made arrangements for temporary housing in an apartment complex, and we had put our house up for sale.
Karol left the friends she had worked so hard to make in the first few weeks and the neighborhood she had just learned to navigate and moved with me, my daughter, and our dog to a small apartment near my new job, while my husband stayed behind to settle up the sale of our new house. I spent many sleepless nights before the move worrying about whether we had made the right decision and how my family would handle the transition to a new job, two new homes (one temporary, and one permanent), a new state, and new routine, all while being "down a man" since my husband would not be able to come with us immediately.
I could not have done that transition without Karol. She put all of us at ease, allowing me to throw myself into a new job without worrying about my family. And while we eventually found and closed on a new home, Karol absolutely made the best of a difficult interim living situation and unpredictable schedule, going as far as to help my daughter seamlessly transition to a "big girl bed" and begin potty training, all while in a strange and unfamiliar apartment. Once my husband rejoined us in our new house (now our third in as many months), Karol took initiative identifying activities for Caroline in our new town, and she even found a friend for Caroline! When Caroline started her first day at "school" a month after the final move into our new house, it was the first time she was left alone by a primary caregiver. It was also Karol that dropped her off the first day, and each day thereafter. Thanks to Karol's calm and reassuring nature, there was not a single tear from Caroline, and she absolutely loves going to school.
In what was no doubt a very challenging and unsettling (but ultimately exciting) few months for all of us, Karol has helped Caroline blossom – the exact opposite of my fears. Caroline continues to be a great eater, is communicating more and even speaking some Spanish, and grows more independent each day. In a few weeks our life will once again be turned upside down, when we welcome a new baby into the family. I have every confidence that Karol will continue to be our family's rock through this new adventure. We are so lucky to have her.
The Shue Family
Kennett Square, PA