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Betwixt and Between

Permanent Link: http://ncf.sobek.ufl.edu/NCFE004410/00001

Material Information

Title: Betwixt and Between Au Pairs in the United States
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Milukaite, Agne
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2011
Publication Date: 2011

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Au Pairs
Liminality
Migration
Domestic Labor
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This thesis examines the au pair program in the United States. I argue that au pairs do not conform to a simple explanation or definition. Instead, the young women who participate in the program are better understood in terms of their liminality�a temporary phase that is part of a life-stage transformation similar to a rite of passage. I believe that this program is an illustration of a broader phenomenon of modern liminality which retains aspects of pre-industrial rites of passage but adds to those rites labor as a means of ordering this transformation. My findings show that while this labor is defended as being a positive addition to liminal experience (it provides some structure and added value for those who supervise the participants), it also has a potential to overwhelm the educational and cultural aspects of the experience reducing au pairs to a source of flexible, cheap, and obedient labor.The first chapter analyzes legal frameworks of the program both in Europe and in the United States. I demonstrate that within the legal framework the integration of the educational, cultural, and work components of the program produces an ambiguous legal identity. The second chapter looks at the marketing techniques of the au pair agencies in the United States and shows that the program is presented differently to the host parents and the foreign nationals. This presents potential problems as the families and the young women are given very different expectations of what it means to be an au pair. The third chapter uses aupairmom.com blog to examine how these different expectations are negotiated in the homes of the host families.
Statement of Responsibility: by Agne Milukaite
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2011
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO NCF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Mink, Joseph

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2011 M66
System ID: NCFE004410:00001

Permanent Link: http://ncf.sobek.ufl.edu/NCFE004410/00001

Material Information

Title: Betwixt and Between Au Pairs in the United States
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Milukaite, Agne
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2011
Publication Date: 2011

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: Au Pairs
Liminality
Migration
Domestic Labor
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This thesis examines the au pair program in the United States. I argue that au pairs do not conform to a simple explanation or definition. Instead, the young women who participate in the program are better understood in terms of their liminality�a temporary phase that is part of a life-stage transformation similar to a rite of passage. I believe that this program is an illustration of a broader phenomenon of modern liminality which retains aspects of pre-industrial rites of passage but adds to those rites labor as a means of ordering this transformation. My findings show that while this labor is defended as being a positive addition to liminal experience (it provides some structure and added value for those who supervise the participants), it also has a potential to overwhelm the educational and cultural aspects of the experience reducing au pairs to a source of flexible, cheap, and obedient labor.The first chapter analyzes legal frameworks of the program both in Europe and in the United States. I demonstrate that within the legal framework the integration of the educational, cultural, and work components of the program produces an ambiguous legal identity. The second chapter looks at the marketing techniques of the au pair agencies in the United States and shows that the program is presented differently to the host parents and the foreign nationals. This presents potential problems as the families and the young women are given very different expectations of what it means to be an au pair. The third chapter uses aupairmom.com blog to examine how these different expectations are negotiated in the homes of the host families.
Statement of Responsibility: by Agne Milukaite
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2011
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO NCF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Mink, Joseph

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2011 M66
System ID: NCFE004410:00001


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ACKNOWL EDGMENTS There are many people who continuously supported and inspired me from the beginning to the end of this project. First and foremost I wo uld like to tha nk my advisor Professor Joseph Mink, whose sust ained belief in my project (even at the times when I had no faith in it anymore) continued to insp ire me to move forward. Also, I would like to thank my committee members, Professor Ba rbara Hicks and Profe ssor Robert Johnson, for reading and engaging with my writing (the idea that you will be reading it motivated me to do my best). It was a true privil ege to work with many of the New College professors who had an immense influen ce upon me. I specifically carry with me Professor Steve Miles' phrase: don't take your self too seriously but take your work seriously. Also, I want to thank my friends and family for their support and general awesomeness. Aciu tau, Vejavaiki, uz visa ta vo meile, laika ir geruma per tuos metus. I am grateful for my sister Jovita who was always there for me to connect through telecommunication. And finally, I would like to de dicate this thesis to my mom. Mamyte, your values for education and intellectualism made me who I am today. I cannot thank you enough for giving me the opportunities that you lacked. ii

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CONT ENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ii ABSTRACT iv INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER 1. Au Pair : From Europe to the United States 16 CHAPTER 2. Marketing of the Au Pair Program to Participants 31 CHAPTER 3. The Au Pair Program from the Point of View of the Participants 57 CONCLUSION 81 REFERENCES 85 iii

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BET WIXT AND BETWEEN: AU PAIRS IN THE UNITED STATES Agne Milukaite New College of Florida, 2011 ABSTRACT This thesis examines the au pair program in the United States. I argue that au pairs do not conform to a simple explanati on or definition. Instead, the young women who participate in the progr am are better understood in terms of their liminalitya temporary phase that is part of a life-stage transformation si milar to a rite of passage. I believe that this program is an illustrati on of a broader phenomenon of modern liminality which retains aspects of pre-industrial rites of passage but adds to those rites labor as a means of ordering this transformation. My findi ngs show that while this labor is defended as being a positive addition to liminal expe rience (it provides some structure and added value for those who supervise the participants), it also has a potential to overwhelm the educational and cultural aspect s of the experience reducing au pairs to a source of flexible, cheap, and obedient labor. The first chapter analyzes legal frameworks of the program both in Europe and in the United States. I demonstrate that within the legal framework the integration of the educational, cultural, and work components of the program produces an ambiguous legal identity. The second chapter looks at the marketing techniques of the au pair agencies in the United States and shows that the program is presented differently to the host parents iv

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v and the foreign nationals. This presents potential problems as the families and the young women are given very different expect ations of what it means to be an au pair The third chapter uses aupairmom.com blog to examin e how these different expectations are negotiated in the homes of the host families. Dr. Joseph Mink Division of Social Sciences

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INTRODUCTION Mariya B ikova loca tes the origin of au pairs1 in Switzerland during the nineteenth century when young Swiss women in increasing numbers began moving away from their country homes to cities. Lack of supervision and structure in these wom lives produced anxieties about their ability to maintain their morals, and thus the chu encouraged them to live within a family setting. To alleviat e suspicions and give some structural support, the church arranged a set of host families to accommodate these women who had come to the city looki ng for new opportunities. Besides lodging, families could provide the household skills for their later life as married women and, most importantly, this setting would preserve their reputation so they could get married. Thus, moving away from home and being an au pair would not jeopardize their future status as wives and mother s. Bikova argues that this au pair experience was established as a "true" cultural and language exchanges with a reciprocal sense of engagement rather than as a service to host families. This model not only implied more egalitarian arrangements but was much closer to the meaning of au pair ," which translates as "on par" or "on equal terms." en's rch 2 While it is difficult to know how egalitari an these relationships really were on a day-to-day basis, Bikova argues that at the center of the arrangement was a concern for the young women. Women traveling alone to live in cities were thought to be potentially 1 According to Mark Helpshell men were not allowed to be au pairs in UK until 1993, and majority of au pairs remains to be women (about 90%), the language of my thesis will use the pronouns "she" and "her." Mark Hempshell, Working as an au pair: How to find work abroad as part of the family (Oxford, United Kingdom: How to Books, 1998), 13. 2 Mariya Bikova, "A Family Member or a Family Servant? Why Norwegian families hire au pairs (master's thesis, Sosiologisk institu tt, Universitetet i Bergen, 2008), 3. 1

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exposed to moral degeneracy and w ere seen to need protection afforded in a family setting. They were accepted as family me mbers, a position which would both prepare them for the future and guard their reputation. The family as an institution was likely seen as an extension of the church (as most of the families hosting young women belonged to the church and were supervised by the parish) and consequently could be trusted to guard young women's morals. The concept of au pair has evolved from its early stages as an informal local arrangement to an international trend. Toda y, both in Europe and in the United States being an au pair combines paid domestic work by young temporary migrants with a cultural exchange based on cohabitation.3 In Europe, it is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of au pairs (although it is difficult to obta in precise statistics since many participants come from within the European Union and are not registered).4 In the United States, the au pair program, which officially began in 1986, has grown from three hundred official European au pairs to an estimated 17,000-20,000 from all over the world today.5 Specifically, in the United States of America, au pairs are defined as young adults6 taking part in a visitor exchange pr ogram "under which foreign nationals are afforded the opportunity to live with an American host family and participate directly in 3 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 32. 4 Emma Newcombe, "Temporary migration to the UK as an Au pair : Cultural exchange or reproductive labour?" (master's thesis, University of Oxford, 2004). According to Newcombe, "Significant numbers of au pairs enter the UK each year, rising from 7,720 in 1991 to 12 ,900 in 2001.H owever, this figure only includes nationals from outside the EEA that are required to have visas. Estimates for 2000 put the total figure nearer 60,000." (Newcombe, 3). 5 Nancy Felix, Oh My, Au pair: A Complete Guide to Hiring and Hosting an Au pair (Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2009), 15. Sue Shellenbarger. "Number of Au pairs Increases Sharply As Rule Change Allows Longer Stays." Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition (February 2005). http://online.wsj. com/article/SB11079 9862603550827 .html (accessed October 23 2010). According to The Wall Street Journal in 2003 there were 11,171 au pairs ; in 2004, the number increased to 15,297. 6 However, domestic labor remains to be "women's sphere," and in discussions it is apparent that both host parents and au pairs are predominantly female. 2

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the hom e life of that fam ily". In exchange, "all au pair participants provide child care services to the host family and attend a U.S. post-secondary educational institution."7 This increase in young people traveling as au pairs both in Europe and in the United States has resulted in evolving legal and social structures. However, tensions remain as the families and the au pairs attempt to incorporate the cultural, educational, and work elements of the program. As a result, the participants oscillat e, both legally and culturally, between multiple constructed identiti es. They are migrants, but are not able to immigrate. They are cultural exchange participants and members of the family, but are also thought of as inexpensive domestic labor They are full time workers, but are not allowed to earn a full salary. Scholars have argued about the function and meaning of the au pair program. Some are suspicious about the intentions of the program and argue that there is an increasing focus on domestic labor that results in au pairs being treated simply as domestic workers. Bikova in her study found that Norwegian families preferred au pairs to other child-care options because of their fl exibility as live-in caregivers. Parents could pursue professional careers with their au pairs minding the children.8 Emma Newcombe, in her study "Temporary migration to the UK as an Au pair : Cultural exchange or reproductive labour?" adds that the unique profile of legal, young, and temporary childcare providers is especi ally appealing to middle-cla ss, dual-career professionals 7 Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 22 Foreign Relations. Part 62 Exchange Visitor Program. 64 FR 54539, Oct. 7, 1999. http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/textidx?c=ecfr&sid=c329fb110ea15b0bf4b16f4d88cb4d16&rgn=div5&view=text&node=22:1.0.1.7.37&idno= 22#22:1.0.1. 7.37.2.1.12 (accesse d September 20). 8 Mariya Bikova, "A Family Member or a Family Servant? Why Norwegian families hire au pairs (master's thesis, Sosiologisk institu tt, Universitetet i Bergen, 2008), 89. 3

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struggling to negotiate their work and hom e life.9 Although similar in many aspects to other migrant domestic workers, au pairs are seen as different in important ways. "Domestic workers are considered to have a paid, contractual relationship with their employer whereas au pairs are supposed to be 'on equal terms'." Au pairs are seen as offering help as a family member rather than an employee. However, Bridget Anderson states that despite the fact that au pairs are categorized as a pseudo-family member and white and middle class, they still face the same problems as other live-in workers.10 In Doing the Dirty Work?: The Global Politics of Domestic Labour Anderson quotes a Czech au pair : "you are part of the family, but you are low, lower than them."11 This lower status is reflected in the common practices of au pairs working full days, being permanently on call, and being subject to sexua harassment. Additionally, because of the special status of the au pair program, it is categorized as neither labor nor cultural exchange, the program does not build in protection for the au pairs in their capacity as workers. In the study "'Big Sisters' Are Better Domestic Servants?! Comments on the Booming Au pair Business," Sabine Hess and Annette Puckhaber argue that in Germany au pairs meet the demand for inexpensive domestic labor specifically because the program is exempt from even the minimum legal standards concerning working c onditions and, therefore, is a less expensive option for childcare. l 12 9 Emma Newcombe, Temporary migration to the UK as an Au pair : Cultural exchange or reproductive labour?" (master's thesis, University of Oxford, 2004), 3. 10 Brigit Anderson, "A very private business: exploring the damnd for paid domestic workers" European Journal of Women's Studies, 14(3): 250. 11 Brigit Anderson. Doing the Dirty Work? The Global Politics of Domestic Labour (London: Zed Books, 2000), 24. 12 Sabine Hess and Annette Puckhaber, 'Big Sisters' Are Better Domestic Servants?! Comments on the Booming Au pair Business," Feminist Review no.77 (2004): 70-71. 4

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And finally, som e scholars are concerned that au pairs are now part of the developing gendered global migration of do mestic labor which stems from regional inequalities. Miloslav Bahna, for ex ample, argues that the demand for au pair services expands with a Gross Domestic Product; therefore, countries such as Germany, Norway, and Great Britain are the recipients of the most au pairs while countries like Slovakia, Hungary, and Lithuania export ra ther than import the labor.13 Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza adds that au pairs who come from outside European Uni on lack information of their legal rights, making au pairs "prey to the exploitative practices of au pair agencies." 14 And the lack of protection from the Dutch government allows for the exploitation of Filipina au pairs in particular. But while recognizing some of the same concerns about the labor preformed by au pairs, other scholars emphasize the experience as being part of the life-cycle of these young women, and thus, the program does provide meaningful cultural and educational opportunities. Even if an au pair s responsibilities incl ude domestic duties, they are not domestic laborers, and so the experience of being an au pair allows for a transformation to the next step in life. Borbala C. Nagy, in her study on Hungarian au pairs states that participants experienced the fee ling of inferiority because of their lack of proficiency in the English language and their lowe r-status as a domestic worker.15 However, these same participants rated their over all experience as positive becau se, besides improvement in 13 Miloslav Bahna "Latent Economy of the Au pair Cultural Exchange Programme," Slovak Sociological Revue vol: 37 no.5 (2005): 449-474. 14 Diana Oosterbeck-Latoza "The Filipina Au Pairs in The Netherlands." In In de Olde Worlde: Views of FilipinoMigrants in Europe., edited by Filomenita Mongaya Hgsholm, (Quezon City: Philippine Migration and Research Network and the Philippine Social Science Council, 2007) 192-204. 15 Borbala Cecilia Nagy "Linguistic and Socio-Cultural outcomes of the Au pair Experience in the United Kingdom," Language and Intercultural Communication 8, no. 3 (2008): 188. 5

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the English language, being an au pair allowed them to explore themselves and decide "what they wanted to do in life."16 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller specifica lly use the term "rite of passage" to explain the experience of being an au pair In their study on Slovakian au pairs in London, Burikova and Miller argue that au pairs today, regardless of their country of origin, are similar to middle-class students taking a "gap-year."17 While being an au pair these young women allow themselves to experi ment with a wide range of experiences. Some women alter their personality: "It was often au pair s previously characterized as rather quiet who became more outgoing in London." Others experiment with sexual choices, their sense of persona l style growing their hair long or buying new clothing, or their relationships.18 Most of the au pair s' behavior is explained through the anthropological theory of rite of passage and are associated with the idea of "wildness" a specific period in life marked by the absence of conventional constraints.19 However, this kind of unlimited freedom can also be dangerous. Lack of clear structure and direction can be debilitating and lead to pa ssivity and hopelessness. The result is "a general loss of self-confidence in the face of what seemed like an excess of choice."20 In this thesis, I draw from both sc hools of thought to develop and apply a modified version of Victor Turner's theory of "liminality in order to analyze the au pair program in the United States. Specifically, I wi ll focus on Turner's claims that liminality is a life-cycle transition that involves a temporary absence of status, an ambiguity of structures, obedience on the part of participan ts, and the suspension of rights, all of which 16 Ibid., 187. 17 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 189. 18 Burikova and Miller, Au pair, 159-164 19 Ibid., 163. 20 Ibid. 6

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Turner used to analy ze the period of transition in pre-industrial societies. But I will add to Turners conceptualization of liminality by exploring how the additi on of labor to this transitional phase may alter these rites of passage. Originally, Turner expanded on Arnold Van Gennep's structure of rites of transition that consisted of sepa ration, margin, and aggregation.21 In the first phase of the rite of passage, an individual is separated from the previous state of social structure. The second phase is a liminal phase of ambiguity where none or only a few of the elements from the past or the future states are pr esent. Turner focuses on this phase and the invisibility or absence of regular structures the most intriguing. Liminal structures are invisible because they do not adhere to the ru les of the civilized society; therefore, they cannot be judged in terms of society's normal contradicti ons. He explains that the invisibility of structures should not prev ent us from understanding its meaning "the symbolism gives outward and visible form to inward and conceptual process."22 While the structure of the liminal period is most often invisible, its symbolism can be made visible, interpreted, and understood. In this period, a liminal persona becomes statusless, obedient, and completely accepting of pain a nd suffering. An acceptance of this treatment comes from the knowledge that it is a temporary and transformative experience after which a person is elevated into a new higher social status. A liminal persona, in other words, is outside of the regular structures that order a society; they have neither the rights nor responsibilities that come with position and rank. Liminal individuals are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, 21 Victor W. Turner. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967), 94. 22 Ibid., 96. 7

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custom convention, and ceremony.23 The rite of passage ends with aggregation during which the person is incorporated back into a society's structure of law, custom, and convention with a new role and a new set of obligations. In Turner's description of the liminal pha se, it is clear that before and after the phase, a person has a certain status that allows this transformation to take place. One has to be born gendered male in order to under go a liminal transition after which one can assume rights, responsibilities, and privileges of being a man.24 Or one needs to have been born into a privileged status to be transformed into a chief.25 Besides this initial status, another important part of these tran sformations is the institutionalization of the phase by the community which gives it clear starting and ending points. When Turner attempted to extend his analysis of liminality to modern society, he recognized that while certain components of the youth culture ("beat generation" and "hi ppies") resembled the liminal phase because of a clear lack of structure; he also believed that hippies lacked both cultural incorporation (the recognition as an approved transitional phase between statuses) and the necessary institutionaliza tion guaranteeing that the liminal phase was temporary and transformative.26 In this thesis I will argue that being an au pair is an example of a modern liminal phase. Au Pairs leave their countries and families to join an institutionalized and 23 Victor W. Turner. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. (Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1977), 95. 24 Turner describes Omaha boys who leave their comm unity to be alone in the wilderness to fast and pray. "This solitude is liminal between boyhood and manhood" Victor W. Turner. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ ersity Press, 1967), 100. 25 In Turner's study of Ndembu people of Zambia, he finds that they initiate their chief by taking him from the village to a special construction. The Ndem bu chief-to-be is treated offensively: he is shamed, splashed with medicine, and hit on his bottom. After the liminal period, the chief is installed in full glory to take his high structural status as the paramount chief. Victor W. Turner. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. (Piscataway, New Jersey: Trans action Publishers, 1977), 100. 26 Turner states that they do not have "endur ing structured social tie." Victor W. Turner. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. (Piscataway, New Jersey: Transac tion Publishers, 1977), 112-113. 8

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recognized program for the purposes of obtai ning the necessary experiences for selfdiscovery and transformation. But there is an important addition to the pre-industrial liminal phase that was documented by Turner. In modern practices, labor has been added as one of the potential characteristics that define liminality. And the type of labor that modern liminal individual is expected to perform is generally culturally devalued, perceived as low-skill, and does not relate di rectly to the future status that will be obtained after the liminal phase ends.27 This labor brings three new characteristic s that help define and structure modern liminal phase. First, there is a practical a dvantage for the people who facilitate and supervise the liminal phase; they receive fl exible and inexpensive labor from people who usually would not be expected to perform this type of work (because of their education and status) by taking advantage of the isolati on and obedience that ar e characteristic of liminality. Second, this extraction of labor from the participants is defended because it is argued that the work gives visible and tangi ble structure to the individual undergoing the liminal phase helping to alleviate the da ngers that come from the wildness of liminality. Third, because the particular labor performed is thought of as being lowerstatus and is often considered to be undesirable or suspic ious, special structures are provided to protect the particip ants from being abused, and of equal importance, from the labor performed during the liminal phase becoming permanent. Ultimately, the addition 27 It is important to note that these are different from apprenticeship which provides training for new practitioners of a skill. While modern liminal phase can lead to a career in the field, generally that is not a requirement or expectation. These positions involve low-level tasks and little payment but are presented as providing people with a possibility of self-knowledge and transformative experience. Some of the examples besides au pair program include: internships, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), Teach for Am erica, City Year. 9

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of labor complicates lim inality and creates te nsions between this la bor and the promises of transformation. Domestic labor is often thought to be mundane and unappealing, but within the au pair arrangement, it is constructed as a life-stag e specific opportunity to live and explore a foreign country. Although it could be di fficult to convince educated, middle-class young people to choose to be live-in domestic caregivers, the limin al nature of the au pair program makes this type of labor more appealing by structuring it as a temporary and transformative experience. Even though au pairs do not take on an identity of a domestic worker, their responsibilities include ad hering to the house-rules of the host family, forty-five hours of childcare, and va rious domestic duties related to children: cleaning, cooking, laundry. And while they are responsible for full-time caregiving, they do not have the rights and powers of an adult worker. Foreign nationals who become au pairs generally have had opportunities to pursue education, to learn English, and can a fford a year abroad. Before assuming an au pair position, a person might be a hairdresse r, a Ph.D. candidate, a recent college graduate, a high-school graduate.28 This status allows them to go on an adventure during which they are transplanted into another country. Term s like "exciting life," "experience," and "adventure" appear in the au pair interviews when foreign nationals describe their motivations to become au pairs.29 And these terms are used by the au pair agencies to describe the program as well. By participating in the program, young women are challenged in ways that can lead to a better understanding of themselves and the world. 28 All of these categories are examples found in the Au pair book by Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. 29 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 189. 10

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But enter ing into the United States, au pairs find themselves to be ambiguous entities. Legally, they are be tween a student and a worker. Culturally, they are perceived as similar yet different: even though they are categorized as coming from a similar cultures or statuses, they still can be different in their rou tines, ideologies, and ways of living. And finally, while living w ith a host family, they are c onsidered to be in between a family member and a worker, between an ad ult and a child. They often work full-time (an exaggerated amount of chores) as would be expected by an adult, yet they are in a situation where they do not ha ve the powers or rights of adulthood, sometimes being told what and when to eat, what time to go to sleep and wake up, and being given rules for what they may do even during their time off.30 After completing their participation, au pairs are expected to return to their communities in their home-countries to recommit to their long-term goals and resume their positions as researchers, succe ssful hairdressers, or college students. An au pair 's experience, in other words, is not intended to provide them with concrete skills to achi eve those positions; rather, an au pair is thought to exist outside the long-term commitments and goals that will ultima tely define the young womans future. In order to more closely examine how being an au pair may be considered a modern form of liminality, I have divided my thesis into three chapters. In the first chapter, I begin with the history of the au pair arrangement in Europe, and continue with how the au pair program crossed the Atlantic mimicking its European predecessor while also taking its own shape. What started as a private informal arrangement between young foreign women and host families grew into an arrangement that hundreds of thousands of individuals now participate. European legal institutions attempted to address this 30 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 157. 11

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transnation al movement of mostly young women by positioning them in a special category that has characteristics of an empl oyee, family member, and a cultural tourist but does not completely define au pair In the United States, the legal institutions struggled to fit the program w ithin the legal category of "cultural exch ange" while at the same time recognized that au pairs are full-time workers (they have to pay taxes, their weekly stipend is tied to minimum wage, they are entitled to vacation as well as daysoff). In both Europe and the United States the legal language limits participants to those who are at a specific life-cy cle stage (young adults) and w ho are ready and will benefit from a temporary and exploratory adventur e. Although both legal systems attempt to balance these two roles, and although recently there has been an attempt to reinforce the educational aspects of the program, my exam ination reveals that in the United States there is an increasing focus placed on defining the relationship between host parents and au pairs in terms of labor. The second chapter focuses on the United States and explores the dualistic marketing techniques of the au pair agencies. The websites of the government-designated agencies advertise the program as both an exciting cultural opportunity and as inexpensive childcare. The first image is c onstructed to attract young foreign nationals while the second one appeals to American fa milies, and in some cases even separate websites are created for these separate custom ers. I will argue that this is inherently problematic since the participan ts of the program bring differe nt visions and expectations which then they are left to negotiate in the privacy of host families home. The program does not adhere to regular work or culture cat egorizations and in both continents there is 12

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a certain am ount of informality left for the au pairs and the host families to determine on their own. In the last chapter, I analyze aupairmo m.com, one of the most popular blog for au pairs and the host families. As one of the frequent contributors wrote, it is "a place to come for advice."31 This almost anonymous medium allows for au pairs and host families to share their experiences and expectations and ask for advice about the program. Most of the problems address the issue of au pairs and host families having different ideas about their exact obligations and entitlements. While host families expect inexpensive, committed, and culturally enriching childcare, au pairs' desires seem to be closer to a year of living with a family who are culturally accepting and encourage individual growth of au pair. There are several kinds of blogs that address different audiences and have different objectives.32 However, I chose to focus on the blogs created by host families or au pair s who have participated, or are curren tly participating, in the American au pair program. I focused on "aupairmom.com" because the blog is frequently updated (a new discussion is posted two or three times a w eek), receives the most comments from the readers (anywhere between ten to over tw o hundred comments for each blog post), and 31 Anna[pseud.], comment on Infidelity more of a concern than youd think" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted March 27, 2011, http://aupairmom.com/infidelity-more-of-a-concern-than-youdthink/2011/03/25/celiaha rquail/#comment-17414 ( accessed April 11, 2011). 32 Au pair blogs that are moderated by the staff of the agencies have an objective of marketing the program for consumers, thus I used some of the entries of those blogs in Chapter 2 as a part of the agencies' advertising tools. There are other blogs that are used to introduce the program, such as Au pair Clearinghouse. Au Pair ClearingHouse, "National Consumer Website for Host Parents" Au Pair ClearingHouse. http://a upairclearinghouse.com (accessed October 10, 2010); Best AuPair Guide, "Best AuPair Guide: everything you need to know about working as an Au Pair." Authors who have written au pair program guidebooks have blogs too. Best AuPair Guide, http://w ww.bestaupairguide.com (accessed October 10, 2010); Some of the blogs include: http://www.hostfamilyhandbook.com/, http://aupairwithflair.com/, http://www.suburbanetiquette.com/test01/?p=12, http://theaupairgirl.com, http://www.myaupairbook.com. 13

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engages both au pairs a nd the host families. It is an open forum where intimate and private problems can be discussed almost anonymously.33 My decision to use a blog as a primar y source in Chapter 3 was a difficult one. Ideally, I would have liked to produce ethnograp hy: I would have liked to both observe a range of au pairs and host families at home and collect in-depth interviews over a period of time. However, due to the short time-span of this study, limited resources, and the difficulty of studying the intimate family setting of the au pair program, I faced a dilemma of how to acquire sources that woul d allow me to gain some knowledge of the experiences of the au pairs and the host families. I believe that blogs offered the advantage of being a more comfortable setti ng to share information than a face-to-face interview. The au pair blogs are grounded in the offline experiences that au pair s and host families encounter and serves as a medium that allows host families and au pairs to engage in a dialogue and share techniques in negotia ting these relationships. While scholars have written about the convenience of virtual communities for research purposes,34 studying virtual communities has problematic aspects too. One cannot be sure about the authenti city of the participants. Chri stine Hine in her research on internet ethnography describes the challenges of distingu ishing identities of the 33 While in the mid 1990's blogs were mainly composed by white men, slowly with technology becoming more inclusive, it opened up for women practitioners as well (http://www.postgazette.com/pg/07304/829747-51.stm). And since parenting continues to be important aspect of women's lives, many of the blogs consider aspects of motherhood and social networking between women. These blogs are often labeled as "mommy blogs" (http ://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-droolingminutiae-of-childhood-rev ealed-for-all-to-see-as-mommy-blogs-come-of-age-485573.html). While mommy blogs usually concentrate on children and mothering, au pair mommy blogs concentrate on a relationship between host parent and au pair which for those enrolled in the program becomes a part of being a parent. Some of the au pair blogs are very similar to journals where one person shares her experiences, but other blogs are meant to allow for in teraction between readers, and thus are more like a forum where everyone is welcome to share thei r experiences about a particular situation. 34 Adam N. Joinson "Internet Behaviour and the Design of Virtual Methods" in Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet, edited by Christine Hine, 21 (Oxford: Berg, 2005). 14

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participants as perform ed online and offline.35 Since I only used blogs that are available to general audience and do not require to sign in or register as a us er, I cannot be certain about the identities of those who post on the blogs. Even though I have access to opinions that are expressed in writing, I do not ha ve opportunities to observe the actual relationships between au pairs and host families. Thus my examples are illustrative rather than exhaustive. 35 Christine Hine. Virtual Ethnography. (London: Sage Publications, 2000) 118-142. 15

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CHAPTE R 1 Au pair : From Europe to the United States The concept au pair has evolved from its early stages as an informal local arrangement to an interna tional trend. This increase in young people traveling as au pairs, both in Europe and in the United States, has resulted in evol ving legal and social structures. The official laws governing arrang ements were created after the practice had already started. Therefore, the legal language mirrors some of the established practices while attempting to fit the au pair arrangement within existi ng legal structures. The program is not simply an opportunity for young pa rticipants to travel and experience new cultures; it also involves certain domestic responsibilities. Governments have struggled to articulate these contradictory elements, a nd the legal definition of the program as a cultural exchange has been questioned by scholars and legislators alike. In this chapter, I use historical and legal analyses to trace the origins and evolution of the au pair program from Europe to the United States, as well as to demonstrate its complex, legal status. This comparison details the ambiguous structure of the program which situates differently the expectations of the foreign participants, hos t families, and the government. It also shows that legal language in the United States has become predominantly concerned with labor aspect of the program both to establish th e work responsibilities but also to protect au pairs from abuse. 16

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Au pairs in Europe In 1969, it cam e to the attention of Eur opean legal authorities that young women were crossing borders as au pairs, and the Council of Europe signed an official "European Agreement on au pair Placement." The goal of the Agreement was to standardize legal structures and address "legal, moral and economic implications"36 of these women traveling this way. The document acknowledges the difficulty in categorizing these migrants as either students or workers; therefore, it was agreed that they belong "to a special categor y which has features of both."37 The complexities of categorizing au pairs led the council to offer a fairly vague definition, addressing their responsibility to provide serv ices as well as their right s to a meaningful cultural exchange. Au pair" placement is the temporary recepti on by families, in exchange for certain services, of young foreigners who come to improve their linguistic and possibly professional knowledge as well as their general culture by acquiring a better knowledge of the country where they are received.38 Article 8 of the Agreement indicates that au pairs should have the freedom to have individual time to attend classes for profe ssional or language improvement, as well as time for religious services. Therefore, the families are expected to accommodate the cultural goals of the program and au pairs should not be treated exclusively as servants. The time spent in helping families was limited to a maximum of five hours per day. This idea of an au pair as a helper implies close familial ties so that the au pair does not consider it wage labor but rather a type of work that takes place within the family. 36 Council of Europe, European Agreement on "Au pair" Placement (Strasbourg, 1969), http://conventions.coe.int/treaty /en/treaties/html/068.htm ( accessed December 9, 2010). 37 Ibid. 38 Ibid. 17

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However, this f irst legal attempt to create a structure for the program has been criticized by scholars for not providing sufficient guidance for the agencies placing au pairs; and for leaving too much space for abuse and unfai r treatment under the disguise of cultural exchange and being a part of the family. Sa bine Hess and Annette Pu ckhaber explain that few German agencies offer even minimal labor standards. Additionally, the au pairs they interviewed state that prior to departure they expected to live with a friendly family whom they would help while exploring fore ign country. Instead, they find themselves required to work many hours and are not considered members of the family.39 After the official establishment of th e program, mainly Western and Northern European women continued to travel across borders to live with host families and be exposed to foreign languages and cultures. Th is arrangement was between countries that were perceived as economically and culturally equal. However, the end of the Cold War expanded the participating countries to include young women from post-communist countries. Since there were significant economic differen ces between the European Union countries and non-European Union countries, there was a new discrepancy between the participants: au pairs from less wealthy countries were seen increasingly as domestic laborers, thereby decreasing the cultural value of the program. Au pairs coming from Western Europe to Eastern Eur ope were practical ly non-existent; au pairs coming from Eastern Europe to Western Europe were suspected more of being economic migrants than cultural exchange participants. The numbers of au pairs increased and to respond to the lack of a centralized organizing body, th e International Au pair 39 Sabine Hess and Annette Puckhaber, 'Big Sisters' Are Better Domestic Servants?! Comments on the Booming Au pair Business," Feminist Review no.77 (2004): 69-71. 18

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Association was created in 1994 in the Netherlands.40 However, this did not alleviate the significant differences between the au pairs. For example au pairs from post-communist countries, prior to the enlargement of the European Union41, were dependent on the families for their resident status. For Easter n European women there were very few other ways to work legally in Western Europe42 which complicated significantly the image of au pair placement as a cultural experience between equals. Since women from Eastern Europe did not have access to any other type of visa that would allow them to come to Western Europe to work, they were stereotype d as only interested in the possibility of finding work rather than being a part of cultural exchange.43 Host families rejected or favored particular races or nationalities on account of these imagined differences. In the 2000s, the European Union accepted many post-communist countries allowing most EU citizens to travel freel y across borders without need for visas. However, even though these au pairs are no longer dependent on their host families for legal resident status, many peopl e still see Eastern European au pairs as economic migrants because of the significant differences in wage levels among countries. For example, in 2008 the 300 euro au pair registration fee in Norway was actually equivalent 40 The International Au pair Association, "About IAPA," http://www.iapa.org/portal/page/portal/MenuSecSite IAPA/MenuAbout%20IAPA (Accessed November 20, 2010). "IAPA was founded by leading au pair organisations in 1994 at the WYSTC (World Youth and Student Travel Conference) in Vancouver, Canada. IAPA's main aim is to protect the rights of all au pairs and host families and at the same time establish intern ationally approved guidelines for au pair exchange programmes." 41 While in 2004 and 2007 European Union expanded to accept twelve countries that have lower Gross Domestic Product than the earlier members, older members insisted on a transitional period during which migration would be restricted. For up to seven these restrictions can exist between the "old" and "new" members. For more information see: Martin Kahanec and Klaus F. Zimmermann EU Labor Markets After Post-Enlargement Migration (Berlin: Springer Heidelberg Dordrecht, 2010). 42 Sabine Hess and Annette Puckhaber, 'Big Sisters' Are Better Domestic Servants?! Comments on the Booming Au Pair Business," Feminist Review no.77 (2004): 70. 43 Emma Newcombe, Temporary migration to the UK as an Au Pair: Cultural exchange or reproductive labour?" (master's thesis, University of Oxford, 2004), 17. Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au Pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 188. 19

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to the av erage three-month salary in Bulgaria.44 Hess and Puckhaber argue that socioeconomic differences between Eu ropean countries changed the au pair institution. The acceptance of countries into the European Union hardly diminished the regional economic inequalities which often result in economically weaker countries exporting domestic labor and wealthier countries being the recipients of this labor.45 Since au pair labor is tied to domestic duties, au pairs from economically weaker countries today are perceived as closer to migrant domestic wo rkers than the program originally intended. The citizens of the new European Union c ountries are stereotyped as coming from poverty and willing to endure conditions that au pairs from affluent places would not tolerate. This has resulted in a situati on where old European Union countries import domestic labor from new member countries. Within the European legal framework the au pair program is structured as a temporary situation that has both labor and cult ure aspects. Started as an informal family arrangement, the program has increasingly fo cused on labor provided by au pairs. Additionally, because of economic inequalities in Europe, some au pair participants are categorized as cultural participants, while the participants from economically weaker regions are labeled as economic migrants. 44 Mariya Bikova, "A Family Member or a Family Servant? Why Norwegian families hire au pairs (master's thesis, Sosiologisk institu tt, Universitetet i Bergen, 2008), 12. 45 The flexibility of labor market produced greater equality between educated middle-class women and men but created inequalities where women from "Third World care for the children of wealthy women in the First World." See more: Daiva K. Stasiulis and Abigail B. Bakan Negotiating Citizenship: Migrant Women in Canada and the Global System (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 86-106. 20

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Au pairs cross the Atla ntic As we saw in the previous section, both defining and tracing the origins of the first au pairs in Europe is challenging, and the situa tion in the United States is similarly problematic. Unregulated and unnoticed, au pairs were coming to the United States prior to 198546 when the Institute for Foreign Study approached the United States Information Agency (USIA)47 to officially implement a prog ram. This request for official institutionalization of the program seems to be driven by the fact that it was too difficult to obtain visas for the informal au pair participants. While work visas were hard to obtain, the cultural exchange visas (J) that US IA had the power to au thorize were easier for au pairs to obtain. The J visa, seemingly closer to the initial intent of the European au pair program, would solidify the cu ltural quality of being an au pair rather than stressing the service aspect. In 1986, the au pair program was added to the Mu tual Education and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. Au pairs entered the United States under the J visa, which added a cultural element to the legal status of being an au pair USIA launched a pilot au pair program with two agencies, Experiment in International Living and the Institute for Foreign Study. The agencies were authorized to work with au pairs and host families to take care of legal regulati ons. The programs were to run on a trial basis for two years only. Guidelines for the two pilot programs stated that an au pair would be between eighteen and twenty-five years old and would live in the Un ited States for thirteen 46 Susan B. Epstein, "The Au Pair Program," CRS Report for U.S. Congress., http://congressionalresearch.com/95-256/documen t.php?study=The+Au+P air+Program (accessed November 20, 2010) According to the report, au pairs were coming to the country independently "under private sponsorship for decades prior to the first government sponsored program." 47 Ibid. 21

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months. In exchange for room and board a nd a small stipend of about $100 every week, an au pair would be required to work a maximum of forty-five hours a week performing childcare.48 Once the program underwent legal scrutiny, it became more controversial. While it filled a need for middle-class families to have a helper, the opponents criticized that it did not meet the criteria of the J visa. In early 1986, a U.S. immigration commissioner reportedly sent a letter stating that the au pair program resembled an employment program, not a cultural exchange activity.49 And in December 1987, an interagency panel concluded in their report, "I nappropriate Uses of Educa tional and Cultural Exchange Visas," that the program indeed should not continue to be labeled as cultural exchange. They argued that the au pair program is "not compatible w ith the original intent of the 1961 (Fulbright-Hays) Act,"50 and therefore should not be continued under the J-visa ,51 which was intended solely for cultural exchange programs. There were efforts to change the program to better meet the cultural expectations and concentrate less on the labor au pair provided. The USIA proposed a thirty-hour work week for the same stipend. This pr oposal was declined because the agencies explained that "the work portion of the program was the engine"52 allowing full-time 48 Ibid. 49 Peter Cary and Charles Fenyvesi and Joseph P. Shapiro and James E. Rosenthal. 1988. Should the USIA be importing nannies? U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News: 21, March 21. 50 Timeline on USIA's au pair program. February 1998 http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/GC/G C_Docs/AuPair/timeline.htm (accesse d November 19, 2010). This web site is an archive of the former USIA site as it stoo d in September 1999, and is now maintained as part of the Electronic Research Collection of historic State Department materials by the federal depository library at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 51 Susan B. Epstein, "The Au Pair Program," CRS Report for U.S. Congress., http://congressionalresearch.com/95-256/documen t.php?study=The+Au+P air+Program (accessed November 20, 2010) According to the report, au pairs were coming to the country independently "under private sponsorship for decades prior to the first government sponsored program." According to the report, the letter was sent by USIA to people and legislators who enquired about the au pair program. 52 Ibid. 22

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working parents to m anage childcare. It was an affordable option that also included a special cultural exchange element. The central part of the program was the flexibility and affordability of au pairs for the host families. It made it an attractive childcare option and the cultural exchange was simply a bonus of the cohabitation of the host family and an au pair. Instead of stopping the program, in 1990 Congress gave USIA oversight of eight sponsoring agencies stating that, the au pair program would continue as currently constructed, that there will not be an expansion of new sponsors, and that the number of J-visas being processed will not in crease above the current level.53 Only in 1994 did Congress pass a new bill granting USIA the auth ority to oversee and regulate the program for one year until September 30, 1995.54 That same year, Congress passed a separate au pair provision that made the au pair program permanent so that it would not have to be approved each year by Congress.55 Although the program was gain ing a foothold in American culture and law, it remained controversial. Besides ques tioning the focus on domestic labor, some questioned the exclusivity of the program. The intent was to allow for young Europeans to temporarily migrate to the United States and meet the need for affordable caregiving of American families. Since it was a Western European program to start with, it was limited to European au pairs. It allowed only participants from certain countries to come to the United States to live and be immersed in th e home life of a typical American family. This exclusivity did not go unnoticed. In 1993, a newspaper article appeared in Christian 53 Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship Act of 1990. Public Law 101-454. 104 STAT. 1063. October 24, 1990. 54 Technical Amendments to the Stat e Basic Authority Act (P.L. 103-415) 55 Eventually, Congress separated the au pair provision from the other legislation and passed it. The President signed the bill into law (P.L. 104-72) on December 23, 1995. 23

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Science Mo nitor titled Au pair Program biased to W. Europeans," the author exposed the program's exclusive and discriminatory regul ations, demonstrating that the program was limited to only thirteen Western European c ountries, which raised eyebrows. The author questioned the government's "preference to blue-eyed blonds from Western Europe" while excluding the rest of the world's workers.56 Finally, in 1997, the au pair program was changed to include the rest of the world.57 Shortly after, in 1999, the program was tran sferred to the Department of State, Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau.58 The Department modified existing structures attempting to reinforce the cultural and e ducational aspects of the program. In 2001, it implemented EduCare, an additional type of au pair program whose participants were required to work less (up to thirty hour s per week) and had a greater educational requirement (at least 12 semester hours of academic credit). However, most of the participants come under standard au pair program which allows forty-five hours of work per week and requires only six semester hours of academic credit Despite the educational requirement, before 2006 it was perceived as secondary to the rest of the au pair experience. In 2006, the Department released a notice that reinforced the importance of the education requirement by stating that au pairs must receive their education credits at post-secondary institutions in a formal setting. The emphasis placed on the educationa l component of the program seems appropriate since a student category best describes the au pair position in terms of 56 Snyder, Alvin. 1993. Au Pair Program Biased to W. Europeans. Opnion/Essays. Christian Science Monitor, July 30. 57 Federal Register, Vol. 62, No. 124, July 27, 1997, p. 34632-34634. Federal Register, Vol. 62, No. 172, September 5, 1997, p. 46876. 58 U.S. State Department. 1999. Repeal, Redesignation and Amendment of the United States Information Agency's Former Regulations. http://fed eralregister.gov/a/99-26081 (accessed November 30, 2010). 24

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elig ibility categories for the cultural exchange visitor and J visa holder.59 By federal law, au pairs are required to take part in a formal educational setting for six semester hours at an accredited United States post-secondary in stitution. The host family must agree to facilitate the educational component for the au pair which includes contributing up to $500 in addition to their weekly stipend, allowing time to attend the courses, and providing transportation. This means that host parents must be flex ible enough with their work schedules to accommodate this requirement. The formal education requirement is a part of the cultural exchange that the au pair receives. The second part of the cultural learning happens at a host family's home where the au pair learns about American life behind closed doors. But there is an important te nsion revealed by requiring au pair to participate in formal education. The au pair is a student in terms of her ability to take part in the official Visitor Exchange Program, which jus tifies receiving a J-1 visa; yet the federal government recognizes that the au pair is a worker as well. However, there are more regulations about the labor performed by an au pair than about the cultural exchange. Since labor is essential for the success of th e program, the law demands that even before an au pair enters the country, she signs an agreement that she will perform the maximum of forty-five hours of childcare per w eek, not to exceed ten hours per day. An au pair 59 Other categories include: a short-term scholar, a trainee, a teacher, a professor, a research scholar, a specialist, a leader, a gove rnment officials, and a camp councilo r. Each program is different. For example those who are in training or the internship programs, it is defined in the regulations that these people may not be used as the substitutes for ordinary employment and work purposes, "nor may they be used under any circumstances to di splace American workers." Therefore, those goin g through this program are not hired to be ordinary employers, rather they have to stay with their field and they are not permitted to do unskilled labor, in which definition among othe r unskilled laborers, Household Domestic Service Workers are included (number 26). Therefore, those in the program should not be used as domestic servants. 25

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signs an em ployment agreement that states he r childcare responsibilit ies to a host family which if broken will cause either a rematc h to another family or deportation. However, au pair is a particular type of program with selection criteria allowing only participants that ar e temporary and young. Even though in 2008, when the State Department passed the ruling to allow au pairs to return for a second year, the proposal to increase the age limit to 30 years old was dismissed, since "The Department believes the synergies of the program are enhanced by retaining its focus on participants in this age."60 Therefore, by limiting the age of th e foreign nationals who can become au pairs, the program maintains its purpose. The decision to reject the age increa se is significant for understanding the au pair program as a liminal phase during which a young foreign national is going through transformation and acquiring various experiences that are associated with a rite of passage. In the United States, the age for this kind of transformation is limited to young adulthood, and so the program is designed to provide an opportunity for young people "to participate in educational and cultural progr ams in the United States and return home to share their experiences."61 While this learning can be usef ul for anyone, it is defined as the most appropriate for people in between ei ghteen to twenty-six years old. The anxiety about increasing the age limits could be tied to transformative aspect of the program but also to the type of labor that au pairs perform. 60 U.S. State Department. 2008. Exchange Visitor Program-Au Pairs: Interim Final Rule With Request For Comment. http://federalregister .gov/a/E8-13796 (accessed November 30, 2010). 61 Ibid. 26

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It is a generally acknowledged problem that there is a shortage of high-quality, affordable childcare from presc hoolers to middle school children,62 and the selection of live-in caregivers is similarly limited. The young age of au pairs allows for the image of the caregiver who is not bound to stay in th e position but is in a temporary phase of exploration. After this phase, they simply return to their countries. In addition, middleclass American families who may not feel co mfortable with the idea of a servant, are more willing to hire a youthful caregiver w ho dreams about future plans, has a fun life outside of the home, and has plenty of energy to play with children. If an au pair is an immigrant who does the domes tic labor as part of her cultural exchange, other immigrants who do this type of labor are not as appealing to socially conscious mothers. In "Au My, Au pair Nancy Felix shares what has become common knowledge in today's American live-in caregiving business: many caregiving positions are filled by immigrants who do not have a ch ance to migrate in a legal way, yet they are very useful for a private family institution: "Let's face it: most live-in and live-out nannies are in this country illegally, which m eans that they have no health insurance and little to no savings."63 These types of caregivers are ille gal to hire, and they often come from economic and social hard ships. Participating in the au pair program, on the other hand, is one of the few ways to come to the United States legally by providing caregiving services for American families, and it is one of the few ways for the American families to hire a foreigner and stil l "run for office someday."64 62 See: Edward Zigler, Katherin e W. Marsland, and Heather Lord. The tragedy of child care in America (New Haven: Yale University Press. 2009). 63 Ibid., 17. 64 Nancy Felix, Oh My, Au pair: A Complete Guide to Hiring and Hosting an Au pair (Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2009), 27. 27

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W hile in Europe the au pair is not categorized as an employee,65 in the United States, it is recognized that an au pair comes to the host family to provide full-time child caregiving. The Internal Revenue Service website states that "an au pair is not really a 'student' in the United States,"66 and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service adds that "some J-1 nonimmigrants enter the Unite d States specifically to work (as a researcher, nanny, etc.)."67 In this case, an au pair 's responsibilities are based on providing in-home care.68 Also, legally, the au pair is tied to working only within the host family. She cannot be granted any other work authorization. "Employment is authorized for J-1 nonimmigrants only unde r the terms of the exchange program."69 As an employee, the au pair is entitled by law to receive a minimum of one and a half days off per week and one complete weekend off each month. Also, she receives two weeks of paid vacation. Just like a vacation from any other job, the au pair 's vacation is unstructured; however, the mere fact that th e host family is require d by law to grant the au pair vacation time shows that during the non-vacation time, the au pair is an employee and is tied to the responsibilities and rules of the family, which pays her a weekly stipend, and ultimately determines her ab ility to remain in the United States. In 1994, the U.S. Department of Labor determined that the au pair stipend constitutes "wages" because an employer-e mployee relationship exists between the au 65 In the European Committee for Au pair Standards document, it is stressed that "an au pair is not an employee." The European Committee for Au Pair Standards, http://www.ecapsweb.eu/definitions1.htm (accessed October 12, 2010). 66 http://www.irs.gov 67 http://www.uscis.gov 68 In-Home Care: Some children are cared for in their own homes by a paid housekeeper, maid, governess, au pair or nanny. The home caregiver is generally paid as a household employee. The parents show the wages on Schedule H attached to their Form 1040. This situation is not a child care provider business. The nanny, housekeeper, etc. receives wages but does not incur expenses as a child care provider. For more information on Employment Taxes for Household Employees, see Topic 756 at http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc756.html 69 http://www.uscis.gov 28

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pair and the host fam ily. The au pair is always required to live with the host family and this arrangement is counted into how much money she rece ives for her labor. The rate that au pairs receive is based on a Fair Labor Standards Act.70 In 1997, the au pair wage was set at $139.05 per week. As the legislator s increased the minimum wage, they also increased the au pairs' stipend. As of July 24th 2009, the au pair 's earnings were set at $195.75 per week. Even with this increase, if an au pair performs 45 hours of childcare per week, she is paid $4. 35 per hour. Therefore, an au pair does not receive minimum wage ($7.25 per hour, $326.25 per week) but sixty-pe rcent of it. Forty-percent is left for the host family which provides lodging and food for the au pair In the United States, the au pair is treated more like an employee, albeit one that is paid only getting paid less than minimum wage.71 Additionally, since the au pair enters an employer-employee relationship with the family, her wages are "paid for domestic servi ce in a private home"; therefore, she has to file U.S. individual income tax returns for her gross income (weekly stipend). She is exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes, and au pairs are not eligible for the Standard Deduction, Earned Income Tax Cred it, the Hope Credit, or the Life Time Learning Credit. An au pair files a special form of taxes. She can either file her own estimated income tax payment on a form 1040ES-NR during the year, or she can agree with the host family to file a joint W4, specifying that the au pair voluntary wishes a withholding amount from her weekly wage. Most au pairs are nonresident aliens; 70 Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 22 Foreign Relations. Part 62 Exchange Visitor Program. 64 FR 54539, Oct. 7, 1999. http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/textidx?c=ecfr&sid=c329fb110ea15b0bf4b16f4d88cb4d16&rgn=div5&view=text&node=22:1.0.1.7.37&idno= 22#22:1.0.1. 7.37.2.1.12 (accesse d September 20). 71 Susan B. Epstein, "The Au Pair Program," CRS Report for U.S. Congress., http://congressionalresearch.com/95-256/documen t.php?study=The+Au+P air+Program (accessed November 20, 2010). 29

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therefore, th eir host families would be exem pt from paying federal unemployment taxes on their au pair 's wages making hiring an au pair cheaper than other legal domestic laborers. In terms of wages and taxes, the au pair is comparable to a live-in caregiver more than to any of her other roles. Since the au pair program was brought to the United States, law makers have tried to address its complexities in a range of legal language. It started as an exclusive program for European au pairs with few regulations. As th e numbers of participating countries, people, and governing agencies expa nded, there have been attempts to make it more standardized. Since both cultural exch ange and domestic labor are believed to be critical to the success of au pair program, the laws governing the program attempt to navigate these different concerns While legally host family and au pair enter an employer-employee relationship, they have to work within the structures of the government. The host family is not a regular employer who can independently decide the hours, the wages, or the time a foreign national can stay an au pair nor is an au pair an employee who can decide her own day-to day life since she has to always live with the host family. Although the labor component has been the driving force behind au pairs in the United States, in 2006 the legal system attempted to balance it with emphasizing the importance of the education requirements, thus mediating the realities of the host family's needs and the au pair's expectations of cultural a nd educational exchange. 30

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CHAPTE R 2 Marketing the Au pair Program to Participants Chapter 1 introduced the legal progression of the au pair program. Specifically, it showed how the legal structures evolved from general regulations to a fixed set of rules. The defining features of the pr ogram are not easily classified. Au pairs belong to an "inter-category" in between a nanny and a family member, a student and a worker, a tourist and a migrant. The legal language atte mpts to negotiate between the host parents' need for cheap labor and the foreign nationals expectation for a cultural experience. This results in important tensions. On the one hand, au pairs are supposed to be a family member. On the other hand, they are legally required to work for forty-five hours per week. Chapter 2 turns to consider the various representations of the au pair program by the agencies that operate it. This analysis, based on the internet research of thirteen agencies in the United States of America, illu strates the tensions in the advertisement and recruitment of participants. While the au pair agencies are legally designated to execute cultural exchange program, they focus on the in expensive live-in child care aspect of the program when they present it to th e host parents but when they market au pair arrangement to foreign nationals, it is pres ented as an exciting cultural opportunity. When agencies market the au pair program to participants, generally three aspects are emphasized: money, live-in, and culture. In this chapter these three categories will guide the analyses of the diffe rences and similarities in how the program is presented to the host parents and to the au pairs. Host families are presented with the au pair program 31

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as being the best childcare op tion be cause of affordability, flexibility of live-in childcare, and the culture which is on par with host families' background. For au pairs the program is portrayed as a temporary adventure in the Un ited States that allows one to earn money while living with an American family and car ing for children. These two images create different expectations for the participants who will be living together. In 1986 the American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS)72 was essential in including au pairs under cultural exchange visito r visa. Founded in 1964, AIFS conducted programs that are primarily edu cational opportunities in a foreign country: College Study Abroad, Summer Institute for the Gifted, Academic Year. These participants enter the United States with J1 visa which is fairly easily obtained. In order to broaden its business, AIFS argued for the au pairs to be cultural exchange visitors as well. AIFS was essential in au pair program being designated as a cultural exchange program. While the designation of the program as cultural excha nge made the visa acquisition process much easier, at the same time it also added another dimension to the program. And as a result, the program is si multaneously inexpensive childcare option and a cultural excha nge program. Reflecting dual purposes, the agency ha s developed two presentations of the program. There are two separate websites one of which is for the host families and the other one for the prospective au pairs On www.aupairinamerica.com the host family is encouraged to "[t]rust the world's most experienced live-in childcare program."73 The 72 AIFS American Institute For Foreign Study, "We bring the world together," American Institute For Foreign Study http ://www.aifs.com (accesse d December 12, 2010). 73Au Pair in America: Trust the world's most expe rienced live-in child care program, "Trust the world's most experienced live-in child care program," Au Pair in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study http://www.aupairinamerica. com (accessed December 12, 2010). 32

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website features pictures of young wom en w ith children posing for pictures. Some of them are reading to young children, some ar e dressed in Halloween costumes. On the right side corner there are images of a clock, money sign, and a globe explaining the parents that au pair program is flexible because it works around parents' needs, cost effective, and an enriching cultural experience. These images signify for the busy consumer that the best childcare option save s parents' time and money, while also brings the world to their door steps. The other website of the same agency www.aupairamerica.co.uk is for foreign nationals interested in becoming au pairs While the website for the families has a somber color mood with dark green and blue tones, the website for prospective au pairs is a cheerful pastel colored with predominantly pink tones. On the top of the page the visitor of the website is a ddressed in exciting tone "F or the time of your life. Au pair in America." The picture of a young woman dressed in white flying with a girl on her back exudes the air of freedom, excite ment, and fun about being an au pair Looking for excitement? Welcome to Au pair in America! Working as an au pair in America is one of the best ways to discover the US. Experience everyday life with a carefully selected American family and earn weekly pocket money by providing childcare as an au pair .74 For au pairs even every day experience of living with the host family is presented as a discovery time. By taking part in the program, the forei gn nationals can explore the country, be a part of the culture by living with the family, and even earn money for childcaring all while having fun. 74 Au Pair in America, "For the Time of your Life Au Pair in America," Au Pair in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study (http://www.a upairamerica.co.uk) (accessed December 12, 2010). 33

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While for both, the family and the au pair this program allows an opportunity to get to know the world better, the two presentations of the program emphasize different aspects of the program and create skewed expectations for the family and the au pair For the family it is presented as a norm to expect complete flexibility (since it is a live-in program, au pair is always at home), but for the au pair the program is presented as "opportunity to have the adventure of a lifetime"75 with a freedom for exploration. While for the families program is presented as "a surprisingly affordable solution"76 for au pair it is presented as an opportunity to have an exciting year while earning more than $9000 a year.77 Not all of the agencies have separate we bsites for the foreign participants and the American families; however most of the agencies create and perpetuate different expectations for the participants who play different and unequal roles in the program. Host parents are presented with inexpens ive, flexible, and culturally acceptable young caregiver. Au pairs are presented with an opportunity to earn money while living with a family and exploring American culture. Au pair program for the host parents Affordable and quality childcare is the catchphrase of the au pair agencies when the program is marketed towards host parent s. The employee-employer relationship is an important piece of the arrangement that atte mpts to demonstrate to the families that au 75 Au Pair in America, "Being an au pair," Au Pair in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study http://www.aupairamerica.co .uk/being-an-au-pair.php ( accessed December 12, 2010). 76 Au Pair in America, "Trust the world's most e xperienced live-in child care program," Au Pair in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study http://www.aupairinamerica.com (accessed December 12, 2010). 77 Au Pair in America, "Being an au pair," Au Pair in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study http://www.aupairamerica.co .uk/being-an-au-pair.php ( accessed December 12, 2010). 34

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pair is a great investm ent. Agencies often empha size inexpensive childcare as the core of the program which informs potential custom ers about the benefits of hosting an au pair This focus is apparent in the Agent Au pair home page: "Affordable Live-in Childcare Placing International Au pairs with American Host Families."78 The visitor of the website is assumed to be a prospective host parent who wants to find the least expensive childcare option. The affordable price of the au pair and the valuable work of au pair fulfill important needs of the host family. It is the priority of the au pair agencies to meet the host families' demands for affordable and flexible live-in caregiving. Some agencies compare daycare, nanny, and au pair options to highlight the advantages that au pairs have over other childcare options. While daycare can seem in itially cheaper than having an au pair these centers charge per child, but au pairs receive a weekly stipend: "r egardless of how many children you have, making an au pair a more cost effective solution than most nannies, babysitters and day care."79 Additionally, daycare cente rs charge customers for extra hours. In case a parent is late, "day cares char ge high late fees if you are not able to pick-up your children at the scheduled pick-up time." Even if a child is sick, the au pair can easily meet a "familys requirements,"80 as the au pair lives with the children and can be immediately called upon. While daycare is an institution with structures and rules that might have little flexibility, au pairs are negotiable childcare option sin ce they live in the household with children and parents. 78 Agent Au Pair: Live-in Childcare "Affordable Live-in Childcare: Placing International Au Pairs with American Host Families," Ag ent Au Pair http://www.agentaupair .com/ (accessed January 13, 2011). 79 Au Pair in America, "What Sets Us Apart," Au Pair in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study http://www.aupairinamerica.com (accessed December 12, 2010). Other agencies have similar points. See program costs at http://www.aupairint.com/: our fees are per family and may include multiple children." 80 Agent Au Pair: Live-in Childcare "Au Pair vs. Daycare or Nanny," Agent Au Pair http://www.agentaupair.com/ ( accessed January 13, 2011). 35

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If the childcare cen ter is t oo structured, nannies are pres ented as lacking structure. Live-in nanny salary ranges from $250 to $1000 per week,81 therefore a weekly au pair stipend $195.75 is a very affordable option for the host family. In terms of flexibility, the service is fairly similar, but au pairs are presented as more regulated in terms of being a part of an institutionalized program. Au pairs are CPR certified, required to have 200 hours of recent childcare, have medical a nd liability insurances, and have a support from the agency. Additionally, th e selection process of au pairs guarantee an educated young individual who can assist with children's ho mework, majority of nannies "are either not qualified and/or not required to assist with childrens schoolwork."82 The choice between an au pair and nanny is presented in favor of au pairs because there are strict requirements of foreign nationals who want to become au pairs whereas nannies are not controlled in the same standardized way. Because au pairs enter a pseudo-family relations hip, which naturally signifies a less formal structure, they are positioned in between daycare institutions and nannies. The former is presented as too structured while the latter lacks sta ndards and structures. Au pairs are a golden medium with rigorous appli cation process but flexible in terms of negotiating schedule. Au pairs have a special legal status, he alth and liability insurance, screening process that allows only for the best candidates to become au pairs guaranteed childcare experience, lower co sts, and a cultural component.83 Au pairs are presented not like another domestic employee but more as a family member who has certain 81 Marketdata Enterprises, 2010. 82Au Pair in America, "Au Pair vs. Nanny," Au Pa ir in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study http://www.aupairinamerica.com/compare.asp (accessed December 12, 2010). 83 For Example http://www.aupaircare.co m/host-families/nannies-vs-au-pairs; http://www.interexchange.org/content/93/en/Au%20Pair%20or%20Nanny%20%E2%80%93%20What%20 is%20the%20Difference.html; http://www .aupairinamerica.com/compare.asp. 36

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obligations. While nannies are easier class ified as workers, au pairs are expected to take on responsibilities of a family member rather than an employee. Under the host parent side of the Agent Au pair website, au pair responsibilities are de scribed not in terms of market norms but family norms. An au pair is much more than a baby sitter or nanny. An au pair is part of your family and helps with child care related duties. Hosting an au pair can help your family on many levels. Family member, friend, caregiver, academic tutor, household helper are all ways to describe an au pair In these tough economic times, hosting an au pair can be a cost saving so lution compared to other childcare options as well.84 An au pair is a nanny with extra bonus points. Besides being a nanny, a babysitter, an educator, a friend an au pair is also a family member. Thus, all of the duties of the au pairs cannot be put in black and white because it arises from the needs and expectations of each family. Because au pairs and host families enter this special relationship that is more than just employee-employer, agencies have a role in selecting and matchi ng best participants. Both host families and au pairs pay for these services. American agencies charge each family between $5,700-6,500,85 while au pairs pay primarily for the agency in their home country and some Ameri can agencies also require au pairs to pay either a deposit (which they receive back if th ey complete the program) or an additional fee. This fee is paid to guarantee that partic ipants meet minimum standards. And the fee supposedly covers the cost of matching acceptable families with au pairs which allows for both participants to enjoy their year. 84 Emphasis added by the website. http://www.agentaupair.com/host-family/au-pairresponsabilities/ 85 Marketdata Enterprises, 2010. 37

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The require ments for the host families are meant to ensure that host families can adhere to basic requirements of the program. The host parent s must be citizens or legal residents of the USA, be fluent in the Eng lish language, be able to provide a separate bedroom for the au pair and must earn at least $60,000 a ye ar or have at least $50,000 in liquid assets.86 Additionally, the regulations of the U.S State Department require that a host family fills out two reference forms, one of which must be from a workplace. These requirements are fairly simple in compar ison to more rigid selection process of au pairs. When the au pair screening process is presented to host families, it is presented as a rigorous selection process that only allows for the most committed and fit foreign nationals to participate in the program. As with any employee, prescreening is im portant, and we help you a lot here. We verify that they have no police record, that they are proficient in English, and that they are physically well. We perform a psychometric test and interview them inperson overseas, and we check references th at are given are accurate. We reject au pair candidates often but that said, we don't force you to take any specific au pair.87 American agencies collaborate with agencies oversees who interview and verify that the candidates adhere to these sta ndards. The agency describes it s role in picking the best candidates that are fit to perform live-in child care. The program is described as exclusive to selecting the best candidates that host parents would see compatible with their own middle or upper class background: law abiding citizens, educated, and physically and mentally fit. The selecting process is mo stly concerned with matching host families' demands for private in-home care from available foreign candidates. 86 Exptert AuPair, "Hosting," Expert AuPair h ttp://www.expertaupair.com /Hosting.aspx (accessed December 10, 2010). 87 Exptert AuPair, "What is an Au Pair," Expert AuPair http://www.expertaupair.com /FamiliesAbout.aspx (accessed December 10, 2010). 38

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Af ter unfit candidates have been rejected, interested families can go on the website of the agency to pick their ma tch. Internet and onlin e shopping savvy parents benefit from this method of choosing live-in help. They can compar e the profiles in the privacy of their home. After an interested family submits an application to participate in the program, gets approved, and pays their non-refundable dues to the agency, they can start their selection process. Upon approval, they have access to either all of the au pairs on the market or just the agency's pre-selected ones. The access to profiles plays an important role in advertising the program. Many agencies allow a prospective host to preview some of the profiles. American Cultural Exchange, LLC goAuPair agency addresses the potential host family by urging it to start exploring the au pairs "Start Your Au pair Search Now!"88 The agency's headlines in bold advertise the rapid speed of the program as an "Instant Access" the multitude of profiles to choose from hundreds Au pair Profiles" the easiness to navigate and select exactly what the family wants" custom searches" and the experience "child care experience." Another agency's selection allows for a preview of eight au pair profiles which include a selection of eight au pairs all of which are women. The descriptions include country, whether they are infant qualif ied, age, driver's experience, and a short description of personality such as "open-mi nded, patient, mature and a good listener" and "likes to dance ballet, jazz, and flamenco." 89 The pictures depict attractive young women with happy little children by their side. 88 Go Au Pair, "Host Family and Au Pair Testimonials" http://www.goaupair.com/testimonials.html (accessed January 8, 2011). 89 Agent Au Pair: Live-in Childcare "Afforda ble Live-in Childcare," Agent Au Pair http://www.agentaupair.com/ (accessed January 6, 2011). 39

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This m arketing approach is comparable to that found in Nicole Constable's research on mail-order brides.90 In her virtual ethnogr aphy she describes that nonmembers of the mail-order bride online agencies are allowed see some of the profiles. They display their photographs and autobiogr aphical statements including name, country of origin, occupation, educa tion, religion, weight, height, marital status, and a few sentences about hobbies and inte rests. However, only the subs cribers who pay the fee are able to access the contact information and more pictures, further biographical information, and the e-mail address. Si milarly, the process for selecting an au pair requires registration of the host fa mily to find the perfect match. Nancy Felix, multiple au pair host mother and an author of a guide book for host families, makes an analogy of shopping when explaining au pair selection process.91 Host parents have a freedom of choosing the best-fitting items. One of the agencies under au pair profiles" has different continents to look at au pairs and the caption is "view items."92 While au pairs can accept or reject the offer, th ey are the ones who are selected, chosen, and then contacted by the host parents. Besides focusing on affordabi lity, agencies also present au pairs as exceptional employees who are carefully selected to fit the needs of American host families. Not only au pairs are screened to be the best employees, but they are also screened by the family who choose someone who would fit their particul ar needs. Therefore, parents can trust to 90 Constable, Nicole. Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and "MailOrder" Marriages Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003, 39. 91 On the other hand, the author of the guidebook cautions not to treat it as Overstock.com because "you can't just return an au pair that you don't like just because she do esn't look the same as when you saw on the Web site." Nancy Felix, Oh My, Au pair: A Complete Guide to Hiring and Hosting an Au pair (Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2009), 35. 92 Au Pair Foundation "We connect people with children and cultural exchange," Au Pair Foundation http://www.aupairfoundation.org (accessed December 10, 2010). 40

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leave their children in the hands of young careg ivers who cost little but have a big payoff. As agencies like to point out that besides offering inexpensive childcare, au pair program offers a live-in childcare which meets the need for flexibility of many working families. Modern families with two working parents and increasing pressures at work need somebody to help them. Because ot her childcare options are less flexible, au pairs can better meet the childcare needs. Not only do au pairs have a special legal status that only allows them to work for the host family, they are also always live-in childcare, and they have responsibilities of a family member and an employee. USaupair agency has a special letter to the host families that conveys the hardships of modern families in struggling between work and family. Dear Host Family: I began using au pairs as a child care alternative many years ago. Being a single mom, I was constantly struggling with schedule conflicts between work and the needs of my children. When I required time off from work for child related events, my boss grumbled and my stress level rose. I had tried domestic nannies, but found many were expensive, not dependable, distracted by boyfriends, i gnored my no smoking requests, and more. I worried about the safety of my childre n. Without notice, some would leave, and I would scramble again to find quality child care. Day care centers had waiting lists, plus my children did not receive th e personal attention I wanted them to have.93 This letter is a story of a struggling single mother whos e career and family were saved by enrolling in the program. The problem of scheduling, house-rules, and individual attention were solved by having an au pair who lives with the fam ily. Agencies create an image of dependent au pairs who are dependable to exercise the will of host parents. 93 USAuPair "a letter to host family," USAuPa ir http://www.usaupair.co m/hostfamily/letter.html (accessed January 8, 2010). 41

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The au pair agencies ap peal to professionals with children whose work does not always adhere to a schedule. It can start at different times and end at different times depending on the workload; however, most childcare institutions do not allow this flexibility. Daycare centers are businesses, and as su ch they have strict opening and closing times. Many centers charge parents for each extra minute their child is at the center past closing time. Li ve-out nannies usually want to adhere to specific schedules as well from week to week. 94 Childcare services do not correspond with th e needs of the working families. Since au pairs are live-in, they can accommodate inflexible schedules of the parents and stay with children. While nannies can have other responsibilities, au pairs are legally only allowed to work for one family which results in personali zed and flexible childcare. The J1 visa only allows for the au pairs to work for their assigned host families: "Your au pair 's immigration status will allow them to work only for you. Because of the nature of the au pair relationship, au pairs are generally more flexible than other childcare options"95 The fact that agency informs the family that au pair 's legal status is an important facet in the relationship is inherently problematic. It is presented in the context of au pairs' labor which creates a sense that host family has complete control. While the host family depends on au pair to provide flexible childcare, the au pair depends on the family to allow her to stay in the United States. If an au pair is not living up to expectations, the au pair will either be rematched or perhaps eventually deported. 94 Au Pair USA, "Au Pair, Nanny or Daycare? Evaluating Your Child Care Options," Interexchange http://www.interexchange.org/content/92/en/Is%20 an%20Au%20Pair%20the%20Right%20Child%20Care %20Option%20for%20Your%20Family?.h tml (accessed December 20, 2010). 95 Exptert AuPair, "One of Twelve Federally Designated US Au Pair Sponsor Agencies," Expert AuPair http://www.exp ertaupair.com (accessed December 10, 2010). 42

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According to the m arketing tools of the agencies, au pair offers flexibility of schedule and specialized care that meets the needs of any family. Au pairs can get children ready for school in the morning, greet them and help them with homework in the afternoons, care for a sick child or take them to the doctor or dentist when you can't be there."96 If parents cannot be with their childre n at those important times, the problem can be solved with hiring an au pair who is "an extension of the modern family.97 While agencies have different focuses, the stories of families having difficulty integrating work and parenthood are common explanation of becoming a part of the au pair program n especially brutal winter iladelphia, talked to one of her Host Families who sa id "This week is going to be snowing ny parents th you on call ready for sick days and lifes lit tle surprises, providing the flexibility and In a blog moderated by an au pair agency, a success story of a of 2011 in the Mid-West and East Coast of the United States. Parents are obviously the most affect ed by snow days, but families with Au pairs have nothing to worry about, since chil d care is available in their home in any case. Polina Kravets, one of our Lo cal Area Representative in Ph again, and school may be closed I am so glad I have an Au pair ."98 The blog shows that au pairs are the best choice for the childcare because they can stay with children in the case of emergency. Agencies explain that au pairs are available to stay with children during unplanned and unpred ictable times with which so ma struggle. Flexibility of the au pair is among the most important aspects of the arrangement. If there is a snow day or an emergency at work, au pair is always "wi 96 eurAuPair Intercultural Child Care Programs, "The EurAupair Organization," EurAuPair http://www.euraupair.com/aupair-agenc y.html, (accessed January 5, 2011). 97 Au Pair International: Your local au pair childcare provider, "Au Pa ir Childcare Benefits," Aupairint http://www.aupairint.com/index.ph p?option=com_content&view=artic le&id=54&Itemid=67 (accessed January 4, 2011) 98 GoAuPair, "I am so glad I have an Au Pair," GoAuPair http://www.goaupair.com/Blog/?tag=/canc elled (accessed February 10, 2011). 43

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convenience you need to sim plify your life."99 Even through there is a limit of forty-five hours per week that au pair can work, this limit is negotiated at home between au pair and host family. The ambiguous status of au pair between an employee and a family member allows for the agencies to advertise it as the most flexible childcare option. Au pairs are portrayed as always availabl e to respond to emergencies, "they can provide care when you need itwhether thats in the day time, the evening, or on the weekends."100 An au pair is depicted as a responsible family me mber. After all, a family member would always help in a situation of need. The flexibility of au pairs is written in the legal status of au pair who can only work for the host family but also the fact that au pair is in between an employee and a family member allows for the agencies to advertise it as the most flexible childcare. While the childcare aspect of the program is stressed as the most important for the host families, the presentation of au pairs relies on the image of young people who do domestic labor because of their special liminal status. Au pairs are not domestic workers but foreign nationals who ar e in a phase of making decisions about their future. Au pairs are young, educated foreign nationals eager to explore the United States of America and improve their English skills: The au pair program is very popular in Germ any and many young Germans take a gap year to participate as an au pair in a foreign country. Their main goals are to become more independent, improve their English skills and experience American culture. Improved English skills greatly increases a young German persons job 99Au Pair in America, "What sets us apart," Au Pair in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study http://www.aupairinamerica.com/co mpare.asp (accessed March 12, 2011). 100 Au Pair USA, "Au Pair, Nanny or Daycare? Evaluating Your Child Care Options," Interexchange http://www.interexchange.org/content/92/en/Is%20 an%20Au%20Pair%20the%20Right%20Child%20Care %20Option%20for%20Your%20Family?.h tml (accessed December 20, 2010). 44

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potential, so it is often p opular with students in between high school and college or college and university.101 In this presentation of au pairs to host families, the young people interested in becoming au pairs are not presented as concerned with ch ildcare primarily. Rather, the presentation of an au pair is based on adventure, equality, and ability to relate to the middle class American families. After being au pairs, they will return home to continue their education with an advantage of English la nguage skills and indepe ndence that will help them in the future jobs. Partly because of European roots of th e program, partly because of the images that agencies use to depict au pairs, the program still carries a European association with it. Canadian scholars Daiva Stasiulis and Ab igail Bakan found that agencies recruiting foreign nationals for Live-in Caregiver Progr am (LCP) use "a highly racialized set of practices and criteria in th e recruitment and placement of female migrant domestic workers." When placing workers with fam ilies, the program assesses the quality of childcare in terms of race and ethnicity as a standard practice. Parents see European caregivers as closer culturally to Canadian st andards and thus are preferred for childcare. "A lot of families would like a European, with culture and standard of living similar to their own. They don't want someone who wants to be a nanny all her life."102 Thus, au pair childcare has an advantage for having been predominantly a European affair that allows for young people to exchange childcare for the opportunity to temporarily live abroad. 101 The International Au Pair Exchange, "Au Pair in the Spotlight ," The International Au Pair Exchange/ An Operating Series of Member Synerg y https://www.tiape.org/host-families/what-is-an-aupair/au-pair-in-the-spotlight (accessed March 6, 2011). 102 Daiva K. Stasiulis and Abigail B. Bakan Negotiating Citizenship: Migrant Women in Canada and the Global System (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 71. 45

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All of the ag encies mention the cultural aspect of the program somewhere on their websites but for host parents the "on par" culture of au pairs is emphasized. Au pair program is explained in terms of the cultu ral advantages of having someone to teach children new games, make new dishes, and even teach children a new language. While au pair agencies describe how enriching cu lturally the experience of having an au pair can be, in reality they are advertising a partic ular culture. The visual impressions of the agencies show that this is geared towards a middle-class, racially homogenous families and au pairs who come from "on par" cultures. Many agencies categorize au pairs according to continents or countries, so that parents can choose certain nationalities. The homepage of The International Au pair exchange has a picture on the right side of the page with a young, blond woman holding a white boy both smiling. The picture on the "Bec ome a host family" website is also of a blond, blue-eyed family smiling. Below, there is a smaller picture of visually Asian family with two children. When entering "Become an au pair part of the website, similar pictures appear one of an Asian au pair and another one of a white au pair This agency seems to be specializing in German and Chinese au pairs because in their au pair profiles they have an au pair from China and au pair from Germany. They are also the only agency that specifically states that Amer ican citizens wishing to go abroad to be au pairs in China or Germany can apply though the agency as well. While au pair used to be strictly European program, the laws in the 1997 opened it up for the rest of the world. However, th e program remained predominantly European until 2004 when parents started requesting Mandarin-speaking au pairs.103 This demand is explained in a couple of ways. First, affl uent parents who have adopted children from 103 New York Times, September 5, 2006. 46

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China want to give them opportunity to lear n the language. Another explanation is that parents see the cultural shift and believe that Mandarin will be "the sophisticates language decades hence."104 Thus, Au pair in America started attracting its first Chinese au pairs in 2006. However, agencies have a hard time attracting Chinese nationals willing to come to the United States to become au pairs. Educational requirements and the price of the program require that the au pair be middle class, yet in China, domestic labor is not perceived as an appropriate middle class occupation. For families, Chinese au pairs are an opportunity to give their child ren the advantage of being able to communicate freely since they are little. Many host families want their children to be bi-lingual in another language and constant exposure and reinforcement is the best way to really immerse your children in a new language. [] Au pairs are great language tutors since they are with your children on a daily basis and can reinforce learnings and help your children speak a new language.105 By having an au pair host families receive childcare th at is educational and enriching rather than simply supervising children. When agencies present au pairs in comparison to other childcare services, they stress that au pairs come from a specific status that makes them more qualified to help with intellectual and developmental stages of childcare such as homework.106 Au pair program is presented as different from other caregivers because of the rigorous selection proce ss of the participants. While th ere are immigrants who have valuable language skills, they do not have the institutional prestige that au pair program has been able to acquire. 104 ibid. 105 AuPairCare, "Learn a Language with Au Pair Language Training," Au Pair Care http://www.aupaircare.com/au-pair-language-learning (accessed January 19, 2011). 106Au Pair in America, "Au Pair vs. Nanny," Au Pa ir in America/ American Institute For Foreign Study http://www.aupairinamerica.com/compare.asp (accessed December 12, 2010). 47

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The last image of au pairs that is rarely presented by the agencies, hints at the advantages of au pairs who come from disadvantaged positions. They are more responsible and reliable because of the s acrifices that went into them becoming au pairs. On the blog of the goaupair agency, a host family in Michigan writes about their au pair Carren from Philippines highlighting her re sponsible nature. She is not a typical au pair who comes from a privileged background and is spending a year abroad trying to figure out her future. Instead, she is the seventh child of ten, and she came to the United States to earn money as an au pair to support her family. [] it was her turn to be the provider for her younger siblings education and the opportunity and income as an Au pair provides for this. One of the first things she did upon arrival here was to coordinate how she could most economically send her salary back to the Philippines to pay for her two younger brothers university education.107 This story highlights the struggles of young pe ople in the world of globalization and the commitment and perseverance of this young woman. She came to the United States to escape economic hardship and earn money for her brother' s education while performing childcare for the American family. The fam ily appreciates the hard work that their au pair does for their family, but more importantly, they are taken by her devotion to her own family. This story is exceptional because it shows that there are many motivations of au pairs coming to the United States and economic hardship is one of them. This however is not the image that au pair program perpetuates because it contradicts the idea of au pairs only needing pocket money. This story al so does not fit with the idea that au pairs are on par with families in terms of their status, instead it shows that au pairs may be more desirable when they come from hardship. 107 GoAuPair, "I am so glad I have an Au Pair," GoAuPair http://www.goaupair.com/Blog/?tag=/canc elled (accessed February 10, 2011). 48

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Host families can choose how much cultural difference or similarity they prefer to welcome into their families. While au pair program is still a predominantly Europeanimage driven cultural exchange, it has been expanding in part because of the requests and needs of the host families, who are the primary consumers for American agencies. Thus the foreign nationals participating in au pair program change as the needs and expectations of the families change. This next section of this chapter turns to the presentations of the program for the potential au pairs. Since the American agencies focus on recruiting host families, the information for au pairs is less extensive. However, the emphasis, when it is marketed to au pairs, shifts from affordable, flexible, and cultural childcare to an emphasis on having a year abroad during which au pairs can grow, have fun, live with an American family and all while earning money. Au pair program for foreign nationals When childcare aspect of the pr ogram is presented to potential au pairs, it is not presented as at the center of the arrangement. Even when agencies use the word "work" to describe a component of the au pair year, it is depicted as a fun and playful time with the children of the host families. Thus, the au pair program is not presented as a work experience only, but rather as a liminal phase which involves work. Therefore, the benefits of receiving money, room and board, as well as paid vacation are presented as 49

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som ething special for young foreign individuals who are in a phase of transition, rather than something that they deserve because they are workers.108 For anyone exposed to the labor market au pair earnings would seem low for forty-five hours of labor per week, but au pairs are not seen as belonging to the same labor market as other workers because these women are going through a special period of transition rather than are be ing employed full time. "Spend time with children, live with an American family & take classes at a local university -all while earning $10,000!"109 Macdonald in her study notes that au pairs themselves do not consider the payment low because it is not a wage, but rather "spending money."110 Indeed, the agencies present it as pocket money: "Your host family pays you $195.75 per week. Since your living costs are taken care of, this is simply pocket money for you!"111 The host family provides housing and food, therefore au pair money can be spent for fun. Agencies also remind au pairs that besides money, they receive less tangible benefits such as vacation a nd traveling times, and skills th at they learn from caring for American children. The J1 visa only allows for the au pairs to work the host family, yet just like other workers au pairs are still entitled for paid vacation time. Additionally, au 108 While agencies allude to the excitement and freedoms, in the fiction novels by Melissa de la Cruz the readers are presented with the adventures of the liminal au pairs The author wrote a series of four novels whose main characters are au pairs: The Au Pairs, The Au Pairs: Skinny Dipping, The Au Pairs: Sun-Kissed, The Au Pairs: Crazy Hot The young-adult fiction novels trace exciting summers of three young and attractive au pairs who manage not only to earn $10.000 for taking care of children of the affluent Perry's family but also experience "wildness". They get on VIP lists to exclusive clubs, get expensive alcoholic drinks, go shopping to overpriced stores, find boyfriends, and form life-time friendships with each other. Their coming-to-age story is tied to labor yet it is also a time for wild parties and transgressive behavior after which they all enter prestigious colleges of their dreams. 109 AuPairCare, "The Au Pair Experience," Au Pair Care http://www.a upaircare.com/au-pair (accessed March 4, 2011). 110 Cameron L. Macdonald. Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering (Berkley: University of Ca lifornia Press, 2010), 52. 111 Cultural Care Au Pair, "Become an Au Pair: Why be an au pair?," International Care http://en.culturalcare.com/ho wto/why-cultural-care.aspx (accessed March 4, 2011). 50

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pair visa allows foreign nationals to stay in the country fo r extra thirty days without penalty. During your year you are entitle d to 2 weeks of vacation with pay. Your J-1 visa allows you a 30 day grace period at the e nd of your year in which you can travel throughout the USA. Use your vacation time to see some of the fantastic cities and dramatic scenery that the USA has to offer.112 Vacation time and the m onth after the official program allow for the au pairs to have time to travel in the United States. Besides money and vacation, the program has obvious advantages of giving an opportunity to acqui re skills and knowledge for those who are interested in working in childcare. However, one of the agencies explains that being an au pair can be a great future career builder regardless of the field. Au pairs acquire "skills that will be much sought after by future employers such as: Time management and organization. Fluent English. Working with different cultures. Communication skills."113 The agency expands the positive aspects of caring for children to include any future dreams of a young person. Agencies present the childcare component of the arrangement as a fulfilling experience which benefits au pair as much as the host family. "You may be the one who gets a hug first thing in the morning, sees a child reaching a major milestone such as taking their first steps or be the one who gets the biggest laugh of the day."114 The joys of being a parent are shared with an au pair who can witness and help children to grow. However, even if au pairs are not seen as other immigrant employees, they are still seen different from the parents. They fluctuate between being an adult and a child. 112 Cultural Care Au Pair, "Become an Au Pair: Why be an au pair?," International Care http://en.culturalcare.com/ho wto/why-cultural-care.aspx (accessed March 4, 2011). 113 Ibid. 114 Ibid. 51

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Many agencies, in m arketing the program to the foreign nationals, bring out the value of being a family member compared to being an employee. One of the agencies also explains that au pair not only takes care of children but is also taken care of because she is like an adopted daughter. "As a EurAupair au pair you live as a member of an American host family, sharing in the joys of family living. You become a special 'international daughter,' not a servant."115 The au pair is presented as entering a familial contract that makes her an adopted daughter and stands in opposition of a servant. This sort of description relies on a family taking on a role of in locus parentis to the au pair. The description is accompanied with a picture of a young, darker complexion woman who smiles and is holding a little girl who is blowing bubbles. The picture conveys fun, playfulness, and enjoyment of bot h the young woman and the little girl. The Cultural Care Au Pair website greets au pairs with a slide show of three pictures: a couple of young wo men laughing and playing with children, a picture of a statue of liberty, and two young women at the beach.116 Childcare together with finding new friends and the freedom to travel and see the United States of America are all presented as aspects of being an au pair While agencies mention working with children, they also generally emphasize th e adventure part of being an au pair Get ready for a fun, challenging, a nd life-changing year as an au pair in the United States. [] Youll enjoy a close re lationship with your host family and the children in your care, while making friends with fellow au pairs and people your age. Plus, youll be able to take advant age of once-in-a lifet ime educational and travel opportunities." 115 EurAupair, "Provide Child Care While Living In America" EurAupair http://www.euraupair.com/Aupair1a .html (accessed March 6, 2011). 116 Cultural Care Au Pair, "Au Pair in the USA!," International Care http://en.culturalcare.co m/default.aspx (accesse d March 4, 2011). 52

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The au pair year f or foreign participants is presented as multi-layered and complicated. It is "once-in-a lifetime" opportuni ty filled with fun, traveli ng, education, challenges, and new people. Having a close relati onship with the host family are present together with the relationships outside the family su ch as meeting friends and other au pairs Caring for children receives less emphasis than an opportunity to take courses and travel while in the United States. If the live-in aspect for the modern fam ilies is presented as a flexible around the clock help, for au pairs it is presented as a special access to a new culture. Because of au pairs' status as an outsider, actions such as grocery shopping, watching movies with children, and driving children to school on the American highways are told to be significant cultural experiences ra ther than work responsibilities. When family aspect of au pair program is presented to foreign nationals the discourse concentrates on flexible definition of culture rather than the responsibilities of the childcare services. While agencies encourage au pairs to travel and see famous t ourist sights, living with an American family is presented as a cultural exchange that allows for "the opportunity to truly experience life in the United States." 117 And this cultural exchange begins in the homes of the families. This begins with your host family we lcoming you into their home, not as an employee but as a member of the family. They will share their day-to-day experiences with you, including you in fam ily meals and activities to give you a real inside perspective of what everyday life is like in their home and community.118 117 The International Au Pair Exchange, "The Au Pair Experience: Au Pair in the United States," The International Au Pair Exchange/ An Operating Se ries of Member Synergy https://www.tiape.org/hostfamilies/what-is-an-au-pair/au-pair-inthe-spotlight (accessed March 6, 2011). 118 Ibid. 53

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The contrast between an em ployee and a family member shows that au pair has an access to a special kind of relations hip that can only be achieved by taking part in American culture as a family member. Even when the presentation of the live-in program includes work obligations, they are depicted as fun and exciting because they are exotic and different. Domestic duties for au pairs are special because they allow them to better understand culture and learn customs. "From everyday activities like going to the grocery store or eating dinner, to weekend trips or holiday gatherings, you will be surrounded by American culture."119 While for families these activities are descri bed as domestic work that they will be relieved from by hiring an au pair for the au pairs food shopping and watching movies with children are presented as little adve ntures that allow for cultural emersion. The stories of the agencies marketing au pair program to foreign nationals highlight that an opportunity to live with the family gives them a safe adventure to experience American culture as a part of the family. Because language aspect of the program is an important factor for many young people who decide to become au pairs agencies present the live-in arrangement as an opportunity to improve their English. Communi cating in English with family as well as shopping and watching movies are pr esented as benefits that the au pair will receive by living with family. By living in a host family, going to the store, or watching the latest movie you will learn new words everyday. You will he ar and speak the language daily in social, working and classroom environments so your English will improve within weeks of being in the US. 120 119AuPairCare, "The Au Pair Experience," Au Pair Care http://www.aupaircare.com/au-pair (accessed March 4, 2011). 120 Cultural Care Au Pair, "Au Pair in the USA!," International Care http://en.culturalcare.co m/default.aspx (accesse d March 6, 2011). 54

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Lif e with host family allows for the au pair to learn the English language in a natural and fast way. Besides living with the American family, an au pair position allows for a foreign national to take classe s at an American university as another way to "experience American culture."121 Classroom experience is another aspect of the program that is advertised heavily. Since the United States has plenty of world-wi de famous universities the education part of au pair program is one of the most important aspects for foreign nationals who decide to become au pairs. Each au pair is required to complete si x credits of post-secondary education, and the obligation of the host family is to cont ribute $500 towards tuition. Education is an important cult ural and intellectual aspect of the program and is marketed to attract foreign nationals to become au pairs. The education requirement is stressed as a very important part of the au pair cultural exchange which allows for personal growth and social circle broadening. Since being an au pair is a time outside of regular structure, it can be an opportunity to start learning a new language or take an art class. "Accelerate your English or take up Spanish or Italian with a la nguage class. Learn a fun new skill like photography or painting. Study something you are already interested in like Art or History."122 Taking college classes in a foreign c ountry is an exciting experience, and even more exciting it is to have academic freedom to take any class of interest. The agencies present this opportunity for au pairs as a fun experience that allows personal 121 The International Au Pair Exchange, "The Au Pair Experience: Au Pair in the United States," The International Au Pair Exchange/ An Operating Series of Member https://www.tiape.org/au-pairs/aupair-in-the-us (accessed March 6, 2011). 122 Cultural Care Au Pair, "Au Pair in the USA!," International Care http://en.culturalcare.co m/default.aspx (accesse d March 6, 2011). 55

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growth and an opportunity to take a course th at a person m ight have been interested in but never had time to pursue. In additi on to taking classes that interest au pair enrolling in college classes is an opportunity to m eet young people. "Not only will this help you further your education, it will also give you th e opportunity to make friends with other students in the area."123 The au pair year contributes to the long-term goals of au pairs by providing additional education experience abroad as well as creates a positive experience while participating in the program. The au pair can meet college students who are the au pairs' age. When agencies present the program to participants, different aspects of the program are emphasized. Focus is on affordab le option for full-time live-in childcare services when the program is presented to American families. Additionally, agencies also inform parents that they will be able to control their au pairs because of their special status as in between a worker and a family member. For young foreign nationals, the cultural adventure aspect of th e program is stressed as the core of the program. When domestic labor is presented to the au pairs, it is depicted as cultural experience rather than mundane tasks that they are hired to do. The potential problem with this dualistic depiction of the program is the conflicting expectations. Since the negotiations happen behind closed doors of the host family's home, it becomes more likely that the vision of the flexible and inexpensive caregiver will take the precedence in the arrangement. In the next chapter, I turn to the on-line discussions among the au pairs and host families. 123Au Pair USA "Get Ready for a Life-Changing Y ear: The Benefits of Bering an Au Pair," InterExchange, http://www.interexchange.org/content/21/en/Ben efits%20of%20Being%20an%20Au%20Pair.html (accessed April 3, 2011). 56

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CHAPTE R 3 The Au pair Program from the Point of View of the Participants In the last chapter, I examined various marketing methods used by the official agencies administering the au pair program in the United States. The websites of these agencies differentiate aspects of the program to appeal to host parents and to the young foreign nationals who will serve as au pairs. When it is advertised to the families, childcare is presented as the core part of the program. When it is marketed towards au pairs, the program promises a cultural adventur e. These interpretations are not binary opposites, but they allow for very different expe ctations and goals of the participants who plan to live within the same household fo r a year or longer. This chapter uses aupairmom.com blog to look at the interpreta tions of the program among the participants themselves. Drawing from the examples of th e discussions the blog, I illustrate that the experiences of both host families and foreign nationals are tied to modern understanding of liminality. While both host parents and foreign nationals recognize that there are competing aspects to the au pair program, their priorities differ. Families are proud if their au pair experiences transformation and growth, but their main concern is tied to domestic duties. Au pairs recognize that they are expected to do domestic labor but their priorities are closer to cultural parts of the program. However, since these negotiations take in the homes of the host families, it seems that childcare is the single most important and non-negotiable part of the program. 57

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Designed and m oderated by a mother who has hosted eleven au pair s, aupairmom.com has a stated missi on of "helping host parents and au pair s build great relationships" by facilitating an open forum for anyone to share their experiences or questions about the program. Th e moderator presents herself as a white, married, straight, educated, between 30-40 years old, working mother with two children.124 In one of the blog posts, she shares that he r motivation for getting an au pair was flexibility of the childcare. Being a professor whose schedule is demanding but flexible, her family decided to enroll in the program.125 Even though the moderator of the blog sh ares that the blog was initially intended for host mothers and she "resisted having any au pairs voices at all,"126 the earliest post, which dates back to May 2008, drew comments from both host mothers and au pairs.127 While the title of the blog "aupairmom" focuses on the host mother's experience, the format of the blog creates a safe virtual spac e to have a dialogue about the experiences and ask or share a piece of advice for everyone taking part in the au pair program. This virtual au pair community allows for the readers to ask and to comment on an already available blog post (a problem, a question, a st ory), and if a reader wants to start a discussion topic, she sends a message to the moderator who paraphrases it, gives a direct quote from the author, and asks the readers to comment. 124 "About This Blog: Welcome to AuPairMom.com!" AuPairMom Blog, http://aupairmom.com/about-this-bl o/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 125 cv harquail [pseud.] "Getting an Au pair: What really motivated you?" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted May 10, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/getting-an-au-pair-what-really-motivatedyou/2010/05/10/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 126 cv harquail [pseud.], comment on Infidelity more of a concern than youd think" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted March 27, 2011, http://aupairmom.com/infidelity-more-of-a-concern-than-youdthink/2011/03/25/celiaha rquail/#comment-17414 (accessed April 11, 2011). 127 On the first blog post (http://aupairmom.com/our-home-guidelines/2008/05/15/celiaharquail/) there are four comments. Two of which seem to be from host mothers, one seems to be an au pair and one is ambiguous. 58

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On May 20th, 2010 the moderator of the aupair mom.com took a poll to learn the motivations of the parents who become involved in the au pair program. "Getting an Au pair: What really motivated you?" revealed that the three main reasons for joining program were flexibility, cost, and desire for a meaningful cultu ral exchange. Eightythree host parents (81%) responded that au pair give them flexibility that no other childcare option can. Sixty-seven pa rticipants (65 %) responded that au pair is the most cost-effective childcare option. And 41 (40%) responded that th ey were interested in cultural exchange part of the program.128 Since being an au pair is ambiguous phase with few other responsibilities, host parents see a lot of potential for unlimited flex ibility to create a routine and define the obligations of the au pair This type of flexibility is not easily found in other childcare options. Because host families see childcare as the priority of the au pair program, they schedule au pair's time to fit into their schedule. Au pairs are often given the timetables that are organized to accommodate the child ren's school and after school activit ies, and the host-parents work and plans. A sample schedule includes Monday through Friday beginning work at 6:45 a.m. to prepare childre n to get ready for school and some time for household chores; then, during the day the au pair has free time, and in the afternoon she picks up the children, br ings them to after-s chool activities, prepares meals for them, cleans up, and waits for parents to come back from work.129 Mary Romero describes that 128 Other options included: We/I wanted a live-in childcare provider (34%, 35 Votes) We/I wanted our children to learn another language. (25%, 26 Votes) We/I wanted to host/be part of the life of a young adult. (14%, 14 Votes) Other. (8%, 8 Votes) We/I wanted some control over our caregiver's off-duty life. (6%, 6 Votes) We/I wanted so meone around to witness my insane outbursts from the stress of being a working parent. (4%, 4 Votes) All my friends had au pair s and I wanted to be cool, too. (2%, 2 Votes) http://aupairmom.com/getting-an-au-pair-what-rea lly-motivated-you/2010/05/10/celiaharquail/. 129 Nancy Felix, Oh My, Au pair: A Complete Guide to Hiring and Hosting an Au pair (Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2009), 164 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 84. 59

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parents pref er childcare providers who can undertake a variety of tasks connected to childcare and main taining a household"130 so that when parents come back from work they could engage with children rath er than have to do domestic work. Au pair s are assigned a basic work routine that creates a sense of responsibility and a sense of structure, which in turn, frees host pare nts from mundane tasks of childcare. Cameron Macdonald in her st udy of domestic labor in th e United States observes a special divide in childr earing tasks among various car egivers. While caregivers alleviate mothers from tasks that are associ ated with menial labor, mothers retain a special time with children that has a unique status that is assigned a more spiritual bonding. "The nineteenth-century split between the spiritual and the menial aspects of motherhood lives on among today's in-home caregivers."131 Caregivers are separated from the sacred realm of mothering and ar e only required to perform mundane tasks of the caregiver. Since au pairs' duties include those of a ch ild-care provider, they are expected to take care of the menial tasks during the hours of their work. Au pairs get assigned household chores becaus e of their position as a caregiver but also as a family member It can involve anything from preparing meals for children, vacuuming, dusting, tidying children's rooms, washing and ironing children's clothes. However, because of ambiguous relationshi p of an employee and a family member, au pairs can also be assigned other duties such as emptying dishwasher, preparing meals for the whole family, vacuuming the house. The hos t mother explains th at she expects her au pair to take on a variety of tasks while she is working, so that the mother can spend time 130 Mary Romero, Maid in the U.S.A. (London: Routledge, 2002), 13. 131 Cameron L. Macdonald. Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering (Berkley: University of Ca lifornia Press, 2010), 118. 60

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having "quality"132 time with children: "When Im home, I want to spend time with my kids, not do the chores that the au pair finds distasteful."133 The mother explains that she knows that au pair has enough free time to cook for children while they are napping. Since mother is paying the au pair for those hours, she requires the au pair to do children-related tasks. Besides structuring labor, host parent s can also monitor and influence the behavior and choices of an au pair outside working hours. This creates a sense of trust and stability for the host family. While some caregivers can easily cancel or leave the family, an au pair becomes a part of the household, and another adult who can take on the responsibility of childcar e. Host parents prefer this arrangement because it allows them to have a lot of control over the au pair both while working and even outside of her work schedule. I value the flexibility the AP brings us, as well as the control we have over her off-duty life. In theory I could have the same flexibility by hiring college students to care for my child hourly, but I couldnt control them if they decide to cancel on me because of something that happens in their personal life.134 Both au pairs and college students do not yet have th eir own family, thus they are more flexible about their time. The host mother compares that an au pair and a college student can provide the same flexibility but the au pair does not have a possibility to free herself from her childcare duties because she is always present with the family. Au pairs are required to live with a family and their res ponsibilities are tied to domestic labor. This 132 Mary Romero defines quality time as "activities enhancing cognitive development." Mary Romero, Maid in the U.S.A. (London: Routledge, 2002), 22. 133 NewAPMom [pseud.], comment on "Groceries: Ho w much 'extra' can your Au Pair ask you to buy?" posted on July 6, 2009, http://aupairmom.com /groceries-how-much-extra-can-your-au-pair-ask-youto-buy/2009/07/03/celiaharquail/ (accessed January 3, 2011). 134 Dorsi [pseud.] "Getting an Au pair : What really motivated you?" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted May 10, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/getting-an-au-pair-what-really-motivatedyou/2010/05/10/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 61

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allows for the host parents not only to have control over au pair's work but also, in som e respects, her life. Another host mother shares that she too prefers au pairs to other childcare forms because they are more flexible and easier to manage. "I love that I assign her hours for the week and dont have to deal with beggi ng for a schedule change with a nanny with lots of other commitments and things going on in their lives."135 Au pairs are perceived as having no other commitments and obligations thus always available to be completel devoted to caregiving. She shares that nannies are not as reliab le in staying with a family and they are less flexible in terms of their hours: "I would just say that choosing a nanny is not easy either, they can also leave you, and you may not have as much latitude in assigning their hours." y 136 Additionally, she adds that some nannies choose not to do domestic chores: "With our second nanny, it was hard to get her to do laundry and other basic tasks related to the children."137 Since for parents who hire caregivers being freed from menial tasks such as laundry is importa nt, the flexibility and obedience in children related tasks is an important positive aspect of hiring an au pair. Other caregivers who provide childcare and are not ps eudo-family members might be more inclined to object to certain situations that some au pairs might accept. Students live outside of the family and nannies are a recognized profession, while an au pair is a special category. Willingness of the au pair to obey the rules and fulfill expectations as a caregiver are tied to the liminal phase of being an au pair Burikova and Miller in their study explain that many au pair s are willing to endure various situations, howev er oppressive, 135 Emmiejane [pseud.] "When Agencies Reward Au Pairs Who Lack Committment" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted February 9, 2011, http://aupa irmom.com/when-agencies-re ward-au-pairs-who-lackcommitment/2011/02/09/celiaharquail/ (accessed March 24, 2011). 136 Ibid. 137 Ibid. 62

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because they see th is period "as a trial or as a rite de passage on the path to becoming an adult."138 In other words, they might not be willing to be in these same situations if they were in their more establishe d stage before or after their au pair year, but because they see it as a special time of transformation into something else, they are more willing to lose temporarily control of their lives. Even outside work, au pairs are expected to accept or at least to negotiate the terms to please the host family. Control and as ymmetry of the relations hip are revealed in negotiations that involve uncle ar boundaries of budget, labo r, and cultural negotiations. For example, "Our APs appetite is so big, we cant afford to feed her!" asks for ways to limit an au pair's food cost. The host mother describes dinners that the family eats and that their au pair "always joins us." The host mother a nd the father are in awe when every dinner they see that the au pair eats more than any other adult in the family. While before they used to have leftovers for the next day, now (because of the au pair) they rarely do. Also, for lunch their au pair cooks a full meal with meat while the rest of the family members "all eat sandwiches." The host mother does not want to tell the au pair "you cant eat that much,"139 yet she also does not wish to continue paying so much for the groceries. The moderator of the blog starts with a description on how deceiving it can be to choose a skinny au pair and then realize that her appetite is that of "a bottomless pit or a fledgling linebacker." She acknowledges that part of responsibility of being a host family is to provide the au pair with food "in the spirit of family and generosity." However, if an 138 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 157. 139 cv harquail [pseud.] "Our APs appetite is so big, we cant afford to feed her!" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 7, 2009 http://aupairmom.com/our-aps-appetite-is-so-big-we-cant-afford-tofeed-her/2009/07/07/celiaharquail/ (accessed January 1, 2011). 63

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au pair is abusing the level of ge nero sity that the host family is comfortable with, the situation has to be adjusted to fit family's needs. Being a parent involves providing food for your children, yet the au pair is in between a child and a worker which allows for the host family to decide whether family norms or market norms should be applied. To the question "how to handle an aupair with an appe tite that is so much greater than the other adults in the family?"140 host parent suggests to explain to the au pair the cost of the food so that she understands that she should eat less: "Show your au pair the process that you go through to purchase groceries." "Talk about serving sizes and about cost per serving." "Talk about how you try to economize on food."141 These are just some of the few steps that are suggested to make the au pair realize that she should th ink about the cost of the food. But this problem has a couple of diffe rent aspects and conflicts within it. Concern about the budget is the most obvious explanation of why host parents care so much about au pair easting a lot. While au pair's wage is deduced 40% to cover expenses for the host family, this informati on is not stressed to the host parents on the websites of the au pair agencies. Therefore, host parents might feel resentful that an au pair costs more than they predicted. Macdonal d, in her study on paid childcare in the United States, found that "the nanny's work must not only fit around the mother's working day but also fit inside her paycheck."142 She describes that most of the women she interviewed wanted to hire a caregiver w ho would be flexible and economical so that the mothers can justify that their work outside home (these discussions very rarely 140 cv harquail [pseud.] "Our APs appetite is so big, we cant afford to feed her!" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 7, 2009 http://aupairmom.com/our-aps-appetite-is-so-big-we-cant-afford-tofeed-her/2009/07/07/celiaharquail/ (accessed January 1, 2011). 141 Ibid. 142 Cameron L. Macdonald. Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering (Berkley: University of Ca lifornia Press, 2010), 64. 64

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concern f ather's salaries). Affordability is an important aspect of the program, thus if there are too many unforeseen costs, a family can become resentful. Host families try to cut down on costs of au pair in various ways, one of which is food consumption. Besides household economy, there is anothe r possible interpreta tion to this food problem, and it is tied to the au pair being too different. While au pairs are seen as similar to host parents, they also come from foreign cultures with their own routines and attitudes towards life. The fact that au pair eats more than the rest of the family clearly sets her apart, and makes her too visible and strange to the family. Host parents generally do not want that au pairs would drastically change the fam ily's routines; rather, they wish that they would fit right in, or ad apt, to the host family's ways. The problem of food is also presented in the study of Burikova and Miller. They explain that many au pair s discuss food, "whether too lit tle or too much," which the authors attribute to the issues of self-cons ciousness and visibilit y. They explain that au pairs try to eat invisible amounts of food. For ex ample they will drink some orange juice and some apple juice so that they would not empty the container of either. This allows au pairs to feel less noticeable and less a foreign pa rt of the family. "There is an overall desire never to leave any impression and to hi de the signs of their personal presence from the house and the family with whom they live."143 This self-consciousness about being too visible fits in with the idea of liminal persona as structurally invisible. Turner explains that the subject of the liminal period is "structurally, if not physically, 'invisible.'"144 Therefore, host families try to control the visibility of au pair. 143 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 52. 144 Victor W. Turner. The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967), 95. 65

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Instead of negotiating the food situation, one au pair shares that she started buying her own groceries because she was hungry. She describes that at home she used to eating heartily and healthy and could be char acterized as "a bottomless pit." However, her host family does not provide enough food for her and she is left constantly hungry. "The amount I eat is (was) totally norma l amongst most people I know. Of all my expectations of being in a new culture (1.5months) I never expected that I would feel starved." She shares that her host family comments that they are "impressed" how much she eats which makes her feel uncomfortable Thus, she started buying her own food with her allowance.145 If host parents feel financially limited, an au pair's allowance is very small and is not meant to be used to buy gr oceries, thus she is dependent on the host family to provide her with enough food to live. The blog post "Swimming, Personal Choices and Cultural Norms" is another example where two elementspractical needs of the host family and the desire to alter and control the visible foreignness of an au pair meet. The post addresses a delicate issue of cultural norms and personal choices of an au pair who does not wish to swim with children when she has her period. For th e host family it is very important that children swim everyday and an adult must be in th e water as they swim in the lake that is deep. They chose an au pair who was an excellent swimme r and who has proved she can swim well, however "Our AP wont swim, wade or wear a swimsuit when she has her period."146 It is an issue for the host family because they see swimming everyday as an 145 EUROaupair [pseud.] "Our APs appetite is so big, we cant afford to feed her!" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted August 24, 2010 http://aupairmom.com/our-aps-appetite-is-so-big-we-cant-affordto-feed-her/2009/07/07/celiaharquail/ (accessed January 1, 2011). 146 cv harquail [pseud.] "Swimming, Personal Choices and Cultural Norms" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 5, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/swimming-personal-choices-and-culturalnorms/2010/07/05/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 66

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im portant part of caregiver's duties. While there is a practical concern that the au pair cannot perform her duties as an employee, the discussion turns to cu ltural difference of the au pair and explains that the au pair does not fit in with the family in general. When several au pairs respond to this problem, they relate it to cultural differences that should be respected by the hos t family. One of the readers of the blog reminds that ways of acting during a menstrual cycle are culturally relative: "Just like to you and other people its OBVIOUS that swi mming year round incl udes those days she has the period, to the au pair it might be OBVIOUS that you just dont swim while on your period."147 ThIS au pair explains that there one cannot assume that there is an obvious or right way of acting, and that hos t families should understand and take this aspect into consideration. However, swimming is only a part of the issue as the mother adds that the au pair comes from hotter climate and thus when th e family was at the beach, she was "wearing sneakers, corduroy pants, several layers and a sweater" while the rest of the family was wearing shorts and T-shirts In this picture, the au pair is a visible outsider rather than a member of the family. Therefor e, the mother insisted that au pair "needed, at a minimum, to be wearing shorts and a t-sh irt, in lieu of a swimsuit, and be prepared to go in and actually swim to save a drowning child."148 While the need for shorts and T-shirt is explained in terms of saving a child if drowni ng, it also seems that the family wished that the au pair fit in more with the family rather than looked so different from them. 147 girlAP [pseud.] "Swimming, Personal Choices and Cultural Norms" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 6, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/swimming-personal-choices-and-culturalnorms/2010/07/05/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 148 cv harquail [pseud.] "Swimming, Personal Choices and Cultural Norms" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 5, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/swimming-personal-choices-and-culturalnorms/2010/07/05/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 67

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W hile the au pairs on the blog interpreted this attitude as somewhat culturally insensitive, some host mothers expressed that they feel that young women should not be excused from work duties because of their cultural beliefs about women's bodies. Many of the host mothers express disappointment th at there are young wome n who change their lives just because of the period. "Who kne w so many young women feel so limited by their biology.,"149 Honestly, I cant believe there is anyt hing that a young woman should feel like she 'cant or wont do' because of her period."150 The host mothers draw a distinction between women who have been liberated from their biology and women who are oppressed and burdened by it, and some of them suggest to take on responsibility of educating au pairs to become more like host mothers. The original mother who posed the ques tion explains that she approached the au pair directly and explained that using tampons is "a personal choice, but using them could make her life easier."151 For the host mother this i ssue of swimming pushes her to be in the role of a mother. Just like moth er would explain her daughter about hygiene and what products to use for women, this host mom takes on a task to explain to the au pair that in the United States women use tampons and go swimming duri ng their periods. The response from one of the other mothers congrat ulates the host mother for her ability to change au pair's life. "I think you have been very t houghtful about all of this, and I hope your AP appreciates that. You may in fact have just revolutionized 25% of her life, in 149 the OP [pseud.] "Swimming, Personal Choices and Cultural Norms" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 7, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/swimming-personal-choices-and-culturalnorms/2010/07/05/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 150 West Coast Mom [pseud.] "Swimming, Pers onal Choices and Cultural Norms" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 7, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/swimming-personal-choices-and-culturalnorms/2010/07/05/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 151 the OP [pseud.] "Swimming, Personal Choices and Cultural Norms" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 14, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/swimming-personal-choices-and-culturalnorms/2010/07/05/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 68

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areas way beyond swimm ing!"152 The response seems to suggest that the young woman in question will be more free in the futu re. The outcomes of this lesson are unknown because the host mother does not share online what happened. However, it is clear that if the transformation happened, and a young woman started using tampons and swimming during her period, it would be evaluated as a success story which allowed a young foreign woman to perform her job better as well as look beyond her cultural limitations and grow into a freer and more able woman. Even outside the family, host parents express that they like the transformative aspect of the program. Host mothers share their excitement not only when au pairs are good at helping with children but also when they can witness the transformation of these young women. One of the host mothers shares that when their au pair told her teacher that she is going to the United States to be an au pair he told her You?! Youre going to be an au pair ? Youre too quiet and shy to do th at! But after going through the experience, she changed into an outgoi ng, confident young woman. "She was quiet and shy when she arrived, but by the end of her year with us, she had grown into this beautifully independent young woman who exude d confidence. It was truly a joy to watch this transformation!"153 This type of positive change in personality is a consequence of a good au pair year which allowed the young woman to transform. 152 West Coast Mom [pseud.] "Swimming, Pers onal Choices and Cultural Norms" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted July 14, 2010, http://aupa irmom.com/swimming-personal-choices-and-culturalnorms/2010/07/05/celiaharquail/ (accessed April 24, 2011). 153 HM in WI [pseud.] "How Does Your Au Pair Grow?"AuPairMom blog, commented on January 17, 2010, http://aupairm om.com/how-does-your-a u-pair-grow/2010/01/17/celiaharq uail/ (accessed March 4, 2011). 69

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Another m other shares similar story about the change in her au pair who did not want to go to university but during her year as an au pair she decided to pursue a higher education. My second au pair came with the stated intentio n of never going to university. During the course of her year with us, both my husband I gently prodded her to broaden her horizons and examin e her interests. She is now in her second year of her university degree in Europe and we couldnt be prouded.154 For this host mother higher education holds a lot of value and the family was able to convey the value of it to the young adult insp iring positive feelings about program. Not only this au pair met the responsibilities of childcare, and helped the host family, but the host family helped her as well by convincing her to pursue higher education. The sense of pride for the host parents comes from the fact that they were an important part in young adult's life. This type of positive change allows for discovery of inner qualities and values and creates a sense of the au pair experience being mutually beneficial. Liberating young woman from her biology and cultural limitations, facilitating positive change in personality that allows for more confidence, and inspiring values such as education are desirable changes that are f acilitated by host parents. However, there are other changes that can happen during the au pair year that host parents are reluctant to approve and feel that are less beneficial and more harmful. In the blog post "When Au pairs Get Tattoos" the moderator of the blog shares that it is quite a common occurrence for au pairs to get tattoos while in the United States. The host mother reveals that the perm anence of a tattoo on the young woman's body 154 Sara Duke [pseud.] "How Does Your Au Pair Grow?"AuPairMom blog, commented on January 17, 2010, http://aupairm om.com/how-does-your-a u-pair-grow/2010/01/17/celiaharq uail/ (accessed March 4, 2011). 70

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m akes her feel uncomfortable. She explains this discomfort in terms of her of her uncertainty in terms of he r role of loco parentis. Less than half of our au pair s have gotten tattoos, but each time, Ive worried that Ive let their moms (and dads) down. Most host parents are of my generation (more or less) so I use my own feeli ngs about permanent body decor as a proxy for the feelings of their pare nts, and I feel bad, bad, bad.155 The host mother feels personal responsibility of letting au pair's parents down if they feel about the permanent body dcor as she does. Si nce the host mother is in the role of pseudo-parent, she is not sure about her how much she should control au pair's behavior. Despite the fact that au pairs and host families live together, there is an ambiguity in the relationship which creates uncer tainties of how much cont rol the family has over the au pair. If in their decisions the au pairs cross boundaries too far, they are not only regulated by their host families but legal structures as well. One host parent shares the story of the au pair whom they sent back home because of her inappropriate and illegal behavior. "Our au pair who we have JUST sent home due to underage drinking with a fake ID, got a visible tattoo on her very firs t weekend trip to Miami after a month of living with us."156 Even though this woman might have been able to drink in her own country, in the United States she needs to comp ly with the rules of this country and rules established by the family even outside fam ily's boundaries. Since she failed, the family with the help of the legal institutions interfered to send back the au pair. 155 cv harquail [pseud.] "When Au Pairs Get TattoosDo Their moms cry, or only host moms" AuPairMom blog, commented on June 18, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/when-au-pairs-gettattoos/2010/06/18/celiaharqua il/ (accessed March 14, 2011). 156 Jane [pseud.] "When Au Pairs Get TattoosDo Their moms cry, or only host moms" AuPairMom blog, commented on June 21, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/when-au-pairs-gettattoos/2010/06/18/celiaharqua il/ (accessed March 14, 2011). 71

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Som e host parents decide that, at least at home, they can create rules preventing problematic or dangerous practices One host mother shares th at besides a weeknight curfew and a "no boyfriend at night" rule, they also "dont permit our APs to drive our car other than locally, we don t permit them to drink if th ey are not 21, we dont permit male friends upstairs or in APs room or in our house w/o our permission, we dont permit smoking etc."157 Thus, host parents make stra tegies to structure their au pair's life so that she lives within a similar value struct ure of regular life rath er than liminal phase associated with transformation. Even though this phase of transition is seen as potentially problematic by the institutions and people who supervise the limin al personas, it is the excitement and lack of familiar structures that motivate many young people to become au pairs. For some, the idea of postponing decision making and avoidi ng long-term commitments make this program quite appealing. Instead of directly going into another stage of life, being an au pair is seen as a special time in between two more established stages.158 For example one au pair shares that she joined the program because she wanted to take a break from education. "I didnt want to start college righ t away after 13 years of school (in Germany you get your high school diploma after 13 ye ars of school). 13 years was enoughI needed a break."159 For her, being an au pair is a break that suspends the time before she enrolls in college which is connected to her future, whereas being an au pair is more of an experience and suspension of the stages. 157 aria [pseud.] "When Au Pairs Get TattoosDo Their moms cry, or only host moms" AuPairMom blog, commented on June 18, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/when-au-pairs-gettattoos/2010/06/18/celiaharqua il/ (accessed March 14, 2011). 158 Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller. Au pair (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), 30. 159 ExAP [pseud.] What really motivates th em to become Au Pairs?" AuPairMom blog, commented on May 3, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/what-really-motivates-them-to-become-aupairs/2010/05/03/celia harquail/ (accessed Fe bruary 5, 2011). 72

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For other au pair par ticipants this time is appealing because it is different and exciting life experience that is not attached to the regular responsibilities. While labor is central to the host parents, au pairs are aware that it is one of the few responsibilities they have to oblige to be able to take part in th e program that is otherwise a cultural exchange experience. It is seen as an inexpensive way to travel, experience culture, meet new people, and learn a foreign language. I went to the US simply because I wanted to live there for a while. I have always been always crazy about travelling, gett ing to know new places and new people, speaking other languages But travelling is just too expensiv e (before being an au pair I went to study in NYC for four w eeks in 2008, and I had to save money for a whole year to do that!! !), so I decided to be an au pair Not because I desperately wanted to take care of kids full time for a year.160 Even though the reason to this young woman to become an au pair was not her desire to perform childcare, she does not mind it as l ong as she experiences other aspects of the program that are more appealing to her. While the motivations for this au pair are primarily to partake in a short-term cultural leisure experience, some participants have long-term ambitions that being an au pair can facilitate. One au pair shares that she came to the United States to explore the possibilities of American education. She writes that be sides earning money and living with an American family, she was also excited about the "chance of checking possible performing arts schools."161 From the post it is unclear whether the au pair was thinking about enrolling in school while au pairing, or whether she was thi nking about staying in the United States to study. Regardless, it seems that for some au pairs education is one of 160 Amelie ex au pair [pseud.] What really motivates them to become Au Pairs?" AuPairMom blog, commented on May 3, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/what-really-motivates-them-to-become-aupairs/2010/05/03/celia harquail/ (accessed Fe bruary 5, 2011). 161 English Aupairx [pseud.] What really motivates them to become Au Pairs?" AuPairMom blog, commented on May 3, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/what-really-motivates-them-to-become-aupairs/2010/05/03/celia harquail/ (accessed Fe bruary 5, 2011). 73

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the pr imary factors to participate in the program. As one au pair writes, "Most agencies focus on the (small) academic part of the program and lots of girls re ally think theyll be able to get a degree while taking care of kids."162 However, she adds that being an au pair is a serious job which requires a lot time and commitment thus it is unlikely that many people can negotiate between full-time studying and being an unconditionally flexible caregiver. Even meeting the minimum requirement can be challenging for the au pairs. The moderator of the blog writes that au pairs do not come to the United States to be study. "They are here to work, and live, and travel, and have fun, and learn, more or less in that order." Thus, the educational part of the program is misleading. She explains that education is one of the ways that au pair program is presented and marketed overseas: "the au pair year [is advertised] as a chan ce to 'study abroad' or 'go to school in the US',"163 yet in reality it is very difficult to meet the requireme nt. Scheduling and finances are the main problems that prevent au pairs from achieving their educational promises and requirements. She writes that the childcare must come first in scheduling and it can be very difficult to stay flexible for the au pair if she is busy taking cla sses. Also, she writes that college courses in reality ar e very expensive and $500 is never enough to cover the costs of courses for credit, but also au pairs do not earn enough to be able to pay for their own classes with their weekly stip ends. As one of the potential solutions she shares that au 162 ap [pseud.] "When Agencies Reward Au Pairs Who Lack Committment" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted February 9, 2011, http://aupairmo m.com/when-agencies-reward-au-pairs-who-lackcommitment/2011/02/09/celiaharquail/ (accessed March 24, 2011). 163 cv harquail [pseud.] "Learning About the 'Educational Requirement'" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted June 1, 2009, http://aupairmom.com/learning-about-the-educationrequirement/2009/06/01/celiaharqua il/ (accessed February 9, 2010). 74

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pair and th e host family can agree to skip th e educational requirement. Thus, the host mother shares that the classes or educational requirement has been one of the few rules that she is willing to break because it is too complicated to actually meet the requirement. She shares that she just gives $500 to her au pair because she won't get back her deposit because she cannot meet the educational requirement. Thus, the same reasons (flexibility and price) that make au pair a great caregiver also prevent her from fulfilling the part of the program that is supposed to enrich foreign national. While hosting a young foreigner can be probl ematic because of the aspects that are associated with cultural exchange, some host parents explain that it is this temporary phase and the interest in culture rather than domestic labor that makes au pairs better caregivers. One host mother shares that she prefers au pairs because she does not trust Americans to look after her children. She sh ares that other caregivers fall under the category of "uneducated and have no other optio ns/talents," thus they settle with the lowpaying occupation of childcare. She explains that primarily because the position is temporary, it allows au pairs to be better caregivers "becau se they know its only for a year or two."164 Au pair s are classified as ambitious adu lts who are flexible and obedient enough to perform childcare for a year as a ph ase of transition, thus caregiving as a temporary occupation for the au pairs makes them better employees. The fact that a young person does domestic duties in transition means that an au pair has a status that will allow her to move beyond domestic labor. 164 HRHM [pseud.] "Getting an Au Pair: What really motivated you?" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted May 10, 2010 http://aupairmom.com/getting-an-au-pair-what-really-motivatedyou/2010/05/10/celiaharquail / (accessed April7, 2011). 75

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Another host m other uses more subtle langua ge to explain that she would not hire an American because she cannot understa nd a reason for choosing to be a live-in caregiver instead of pursui ng other opportunities. To say it more bluntly, I want an Au pair [AP] that is (in so me important aspects) like me and will model my values to my ch ildren. It is easy to see myself in the prototypical foreign AP adventurous, practical (improving English is an important skill), higher-edu cation bound, etc. It would be hard to find an American who fit that desc ription and wanted to spend a year living with my family, taking care of my child for quite low pay (compared to what they could make living at home and working). Having said that, I have thought that ther e would be a good market for an AP-like program for girls from small towns transp lanted to the big city it does avoid many of the pitfalls of the program. Small Town America girl would show up knowing how to drive, without any hours restrictions, with good English, no education requirement and familiarity with my appliances. Hmm.my next business venture.165 Even though the motivations she states for the au pair to come to the United States are tied to cultural exchange (being immersed in new culture and learni ng language), her own reasons for preferring an au pair arrangement are tied to something else. She admits that hiring a "Small Town America girl" would be an even better solution than hiring a foreign au pair because she would already be a part of the American culture.166 It is not cultural exchange that connects bo th "Small Town America girl" and au pair ; rather, they 165 Dorsi [pseud.], comment on "A Different Perspective on Cultural Exchange," AuPairMom Blog, comment posted August 5, 2010, http://aupairmom.com/a-different-perspective-on-culturalexchange/2010/08/04/celiaharqua il/ (accessed April 8, 2011). 166 An example of this type of business venture can be found in the nineteenth century Lowell textile mills. When in the nineteenth century Francis C. Lowell brought to the United States integrated weaving and spinning, he decided to avoid "the ill effect s that the factory produced on its operatives and its environment." (Introduction, xvi) Instead of employing poor immigrant families, the daughters of Yankee farmers were employed as operatives in the factory. For women, it presented an opportunity to take timeoff from their "real" calling of being daughters, mothers, and wives. They could move from rural America to work and live in the city while also engage in intellectual pursuits of reading and writing. Lowell introduced a unique system of providing structure to these women by boarding them and regulating closely their behaviour outside work. This way, even though factory work in the nineteenth century and domestic work today would not be seen as typical occupational choices for young American Yankee women, it was given a unique temporary, life-cycle specific experien ce tied to being in a liminal phase. See more: Philip Sheldon Foner and Philip Sheldon Foner. The Factory Girls : A Collection of Writings on Life and Struggles in the New England Factories of the 1840's (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977). 76

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are both in a trans ition between life stages wh ich allows them to ha ve a temporary work position that might not be directly tied to their future. For many parents, the appeal of the au pair program is having a young, educated, ambitious person who is willing to do domestic labor temporarily not because they lack opportunities but because they are in between life stages. Some host parents question the value of the young adults who only come to the United States for their "year-off" vacation. Another contributor posts a story about overhearing Australian au pair s talking and realizing that childcare aspect is not the most important for their au pair ing experience. This year is one big joyride for them, an extended vacation with the benefit of a home base with free meals and laundry and a safety net in case they get in real trouble. The childcare aspect for them is like eating peas; something they have to do in order to get to dessert.167 The host mother realizes that these au pair s see this year as a vacation time during which they have to do childcare but it is a chore ra ther than an enjoyable part of the program. She is offended that these young adults want to have a wild year of adventure and see the host family as only something that always there for them in case of an emergency. The au pairs who come from countries associated with affluence and privilege, are seen as less interested in both caregi ving and becoming a part of the family. In another blog post parents complain about the au pair s who only focus on the au pair year as a liminal phase during which they have fun. Instead, they suggest that being incorporated into family structure is an important part of being an au pair. 167 Calif Mom [pseud.] "When Agencies Reward Au Pairs Who Lack Committment" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted February 26, 2011, http://a upairmom.com/when-agencie s-reward-au-pairs-wholack-commitment/2011/02/09/celiaharq uail/ (accessed March 24, 2011). 77

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There was also a lot of talk about m y au pair year, and no talk about a cultural exchange, getting to know and become a pa rt of someone elses family, and most importantly, taking care of the children. Becau se at the heart of all of this is care for children.168 This host mother is disturbed that her au pair is not focused on childcare. For her, the au pair program is a family childcare option that allows for the participants to explore each other's cultures but most importantly it allows for parents to rely on au pair s to take care of their children. Host parents who commented on this idea of "my au pair year" were strongly against treati ng it as a gap year. One of the often contributing host mothers on the blog writes th at the "year off" concept is a European idea which means that au pair s see it as a year to take from their regular lives to figure things out for the future : "I have noticed that European APs tend to use their AP time to regroup from high school and contemplate their future."169 And while she is explains that she understands this desire, she also thi nks that understanding of being an au pair as a phase in between life stages is harmful to participants. It implies that the year spent as an au pair is different from every day life, which means that au pair treats this period not as sh e would feel about any othe r job in her own country. The minute one does that, one separates th e experience from the continuum of life and negates it as an important, and pe rhaps life-changing experience. Its not your year and its not sepa rate from the rest of your life. The minute one is able to acknowledge the importance of a working year in another culture is the minute one embraces it as part of life (and if you are lucky that this family in which you have landed might become a permanent part of your future), ones experience is richer.170 168 Calif Mom [pseud.] "When Agencies Reward Au Pairs Who Lack Committment" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted February 26, 2011, http://a upairmom.com/when-agencie s-reward-au-pairs-wholack-commitment/2011/02/09/celiaharq uail/ (accessed March 24, 2011). 169 Taking a Computer Lunch [pseud.] "When Agencies Reward Au Pairs Who Lack Committment" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted February 25, 2011, http://aupairmom.com/whenagencies-reward-au-pairs-who-l ack-commitment/2011/02/09/celiaharquail/ (accessed March 24, 2011). 170 Ibid. 78

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The host m other argues interpreting au pair year as separate from regular life prevents au pairs from having important and life-changing expe riences. The idea of liminal period as outside continuum of life allows the participants to separate and even distance themselves from their experiences thus prev enting their own transformation. Host parents who do not see as much va lue in the temporary experience of liminality appreciate au pairs who come from economically weaker countries. These foreign nationals do not have a choice but see being au pair as connected directly to the future because of their economic position. One host mother shares that the au pair s from non-European countries do not treat au pair ing as a year-off because they and their families perceive au pair ing as an investment. it represents a huge sacrifice on the part of their family (because the visas are more expensive and may require a subve ntion to guarantee th eir return, plus agencies offer them less discounts on th e program) and is immediately embraced as part of the continuum of their lives.171 For the host families the attitude of au pair ing as an investment in the future is reassuring because it does not allow for au pair year to be a year of vacation. Rather, it is a year of commitment to hard work to satisf y both host family and "their family." This kind of au pair sacrifice is reminiscent to the st ory of a proud family from Michigan (from Chapter 2) who host an au pair with such strong commitment to her family that she sends her pocket money so that her brothe rs can attend univers ity. For her being an au pair is not a year off, but rather a way to ear n money to be able to support her family. This practical arrangement benefi ts participants differently from what agencies advertise. These young women are seen as enrolling in th e program because they lack opportunities 171 Taking a Computer Lunch [pseud.] "When Agencies Reward Au Pairs Who Lack Committment" AuPairMom Blog, comment posted February 25, 2011, http://aupairmom.com/whenagencies-reward-au-pairs-who-l ack-commitment/2011/02/09/celiaharquail/ (accessed March 24, 2011). 79

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at hom e, and being an au pair is a job opportunity which meets the need of the host family for committed and affordable childcare. This type of attitude towards the program see global inequalities as beneficial to host parents because it allows young women who lack other opportunities to come to the Unite d States to take on caregiver's position. In this type of arrangement cultu re and education become even less important and the focus becomes almost exclusively on labor. In the blog discussions it becomes apparent that there are tens ions created due to ambiguous roles and different expecta tions of the host parents and the au pairs. While host families expect inexpensive, committed, and culturally enriching childcare, au pairs' desires seem to be closer to a year of living with a family who are culturally accepting and encourage individual growth of au pair. While ideally these different expectations can be negotiated, there is asymmetrical power relationship between host parents and au pairs which makes negotiation process unequal. While au pair s are categorized as temporary and transitional young foreign nati onals in the ambiguous liminal phase, they are seen as distinct from other domestic work ers, even if their liv e-in working duties and expectations include domestic labor. Add itionally, life-cycle specific temporary phase allows for more control and higher expecta tions of obedience, flexibility, and even invisibility from au pairs. There are also signs of a possibility of the program increasingly be driven by the labor aspect and ignoring the initial intent of cultural exchange. 80

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CONCL USION Throughout this thesis, I have explored the au pair program in the United States, showing that in the thirty-five years sin ce its official, legal introduction in 1986 it has grown significantly but has always maintained a liminal status fo r its migrant workers. Although the au pair program is constructed as an opportunity to gain a cultural experience during a specific life-stage, elements of labor seem to dominate both the practices and discussions of the program. This results in au pairs having no clearly determined status in the legal system, in the home, or even in the representations of the au pair agencies themselves. Historically, and globally, the au pair has been a difficult role to pin down, and despite recent efforts to regularize the position it remains confused and confusing. Although the term means "on par," the status of the au pair rarely indicates a truly equal relationship with the family. In fact, as my th ree chapters have demonstrated, there is not even much consistency of definition between the governing bodies, the agencies, and the experiences of the participants (whether host families or au pairs ). As Chapter 1 demonstrated, there have recently been attempts to pay more attention to the cultural and educational aspects of being an au pair but the legal language continues to address labor aspects in more detail than aspects of cultura l exchange. In the United States, the legal language officially positions au pairs in between a student and a worker, but labor is typically seen as both the driving force of the program as well as its possibly harmful, exploitative force. 81

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Although the legal sy stem treats an au pair prim arily as an employee, we saw in Chapter 2 that au pair agencies present an image of the au pair that is split between laborer and cultural exchange participant. The websites of these agencies clearly try to appeal to both sides of the au pair relationship, which leads to an ambiguous and sometimes conflicting representation. Ameri can host families receive an image of a flexible, inexpensive, and cultu red caregiver. However, when the agency markets to the young women who become au pairs, the tone switches showing the experience as an exciting year abroad while living and helpi ng a family. Some agencies even establish separate websites for the two parties, presumably to avoi d the appearance of conflict between the shifti ng position of the au pair Not surprisingly, given the ambiguous status of au pairs in the legal setting and in the agencies who aid in their migration, pa rticipants themselves often note significant tensions in the relationshi p between host parents and au pairs. Chapter 3 showed that on the popular au pair blog, aupairmom.com, host parents fr eely assert their expectation that at the core of the au pair arrangement is childcare, fo cusing less on the needs and expectations of the workers. Since the pr ogram takes place in the home of the host family, most parents feel that an au pair's schedule and choices can and should be regulated to fit the needs of the family. Host parents often expect complete devotion and flexibility from an au pair although they do also take pride in the fact that au pairs mature and become more self confident during their stay. Many au pairs, on the other hand, note that the transformative experience plays a ma jor role in their decision to take part in the program. They do not take the pos ition because they plan to continue working as domestic laborers in the future, but rather as a transitional phase before adulthood. 82

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Therefore, even in the h ome, the family and the au pair often have confli cting views of what an au pair really is, but given the au pair's position as a live-in ca regiver, their tools for negotiation (compared to the host family) are quite limited, and they are frequently stranded between their hopes for the experien ce and the reality of the experience. My research relates very well to othe r similar liminal positions, in which young people take time to work between their "youth" and their "adult" phase s in life. After high school, college, or in-between jobs, some young people decide to take part in the Peacecorps, Teach for America, City Year, or a wide range of internships. These and other programs do not expect a long-term co mmitment (they actually are structured to avoid that), but simply give an opportunity for young people to increase their overall understanding of the world and meet new people, while at the same time require certain (often labor-intensive) services for little or no pay. There is a significant overlap in the presentation of these experiences; they sugge st that they are an opportunity for growth, transformation, and change while at the same time structuring the participants' lives with labor. Further comparison with these groups would help broaden the perspective I offer here on au pairs. This comparative research would also be very useful to look at from the perspective of gender, an element that I wish I could have explored more in my thesis. The fact that most au pairs are young women is certainly sign ificant, particularly in its relation to the history of women migrants and domestic labor. Certainly the experiences and roles of men au pairs the idea of women as "nat ural" caregivers, and sexual harassment of au pairs would all be interesting avenues to pursue in greater depth. But perhaps the next step for expanding my st udy would be a comparison to the Canadian 83

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Live-in Caregiver Program, which sim ilarly attracts many women migrants, but focuses exclusively on the labor aspect and after two years of labor allows the caregivers to apply for resident status. The si milarities between this and the au pair program are numerous, but the implications of gaining re sidency drastically change the experience. The liminality of both programs is unmistakabl e, but the outcomes differ in a way that must influence the care-giver's goals. 84

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