I met with an au pair and host family recently and left in tears. That has never happened before! Here was this young 19 year old guy who arrived in the states a few weeks ago, eager to improve his English, take care of kids, experience our culture and meet new people. As part of the Cultural Care orientation we talk about homesickness. Most au pairs look at me and shrug shoulders or shake their head. He quickly said YES! His eyes welled up, and I instantly knew he was hurting. His host mom said it’s his girlfriend. He misses her. We began to talk about what he was going to do in the coming weeks and months to stay connected. Trying to lighten things, his host mom half jokingly said I thought you said you were going to break up with her before you left?! He said I thought I had to but I changed my mind. I was so touched by this. His host mom laughed and said its okay, you didn’t have to. He started to tell us how hard it is for him and his girlfriend, and his host mom said yes, its always harder on the person who is left behind (telling us she had done both). She went on to say you are in a new place, doing new things, busy, and trying to make your way. Your girlfriend is home, in the same place, same people and surroundings, and just thinking about you all the time. For some reason, this hit me harder than I imagined. I had never really thought about it like that before but having someone in pain right in front of you willing to talk about it made it all real. He confirmed what she was saying. Although I had never been the one “left behind”, I did leave the love of my life (breaking up not long before) when I transferred and went away to college. It was the hardest thing I have ever done! And unfortunately, I was in so much pain myself at the time that I never thought about how difficult it might have been for him. Sadly, we never got to discuss or resolve any of it. The host mom was partly right, I was in a new place, had new people, school and classes, and so many new things to distract me. Being busy was good but it didn’t take away the heartache, pain, or the fact that I missed him so much. This au pair was feeling the same about his girlfriend. It was an eye opener and makes me think many au pairs may face this on top of culture shock, trying to integrate into a new family, and having to overcome the language barrier when they arrive. This is a lot for a young adult!
We talked more about how they could use Skype, text messaging, the free vonage phone calls, and email to keep in touch. Suggested how possibly planning a vacation with his girlfriend could help them both look to the future while keeping the love alive. I tried to reassure him that he would be okay, if he gave himself a chance, and talked openly with his girlfriend about what they were both experiencing. Something I never did…but should have.
I let the au pair know that I’ve had many au pairs in my group, some that lived with me personally, who came with a boyfriend/girlfriend, and left a year or more later still together with that person….some married and other to be wed soon! It is possible for a relationship to survive….however, you both have to want it and work at it.
As I drove away, still surprised that I hadn’t thought about how the “other person” might feel, Separate Ways – Worlds Apart by Journey came on the radio…and as the tears began to flow…this post was born.
So, to the guy I “left behind”, I am sorry! It wasn’t because I was over you, that I didn’t think about you, or that I didn’t love you…I did. All the time. It was because I was in so much pain that I didn’t realize how it may have affected you too. And, on this Valentine’s Day, as we have gone our separate ways, I wish you love, health and happiness! You are forever in my heart.
To my au pair friend, I hope you and your girlfriend are able to stay connected and remain in love even though you are literally worlds apart! I wish you the best of luck during your year here in the states…..and in your relationship.
Happy Valentine’s Day…….
Have you had to leave a loved one behind? We’re you ever left behind? Was it painful? How did you deal with your feelings and emotions? Were you able to stay connected? What advice do you have for others going through a similar situation?