Notes from Motherhood:Mum of Four For A Year!

Some of you may have seen my mini bio on the Notes from Motherhood page of this blog and will know that I have 3 kids aged five, three and a half and two. What I didn’t mention is that for the last year I’ve also been ‘host mum’ to Tuuli, a teenage girl from Finland.

Today has been full of mixed emotions for me, because I had to take Tuuli to the airport, wave goodbye and watch her go back  to her ‘real’ family. And, rather than feel sad, I wanted to write this post and share my experience of being a ‘host mum’ this year.

We live in Brighton, where every year the population swells with summer exchange students, and we have friends who regularly turn their spare rooms into full board accomodation for teenagers from all over the world. Last summer we decided to try it out as it seemed like a great way for me to contribute to the household without the expense of childcare. We had two lovely girls from Finland with us for three weeks and everything went so well that we agreed to think about taking on a long term student.

It was not a snap decision as there are many considerations to be made, but we decided to give it a go and were very lucky as Tuuli turned out to be wonderful, and a perfect fit for our family.

The information here is purely based on my own personal experience of hosting a 17 year old Finninsh student on a High School Exchange Programme for 10 months. If you are thinking about becoming a host family then I recommend you do some research before you make up your mind.

How do you find a student?

I used the internet and reccommendations from friends to find reputable language schools and I made enquires with a few of them. Most asked me to fill out an application questionnaire and a representative from the school made a home visit.

What kind of person do you want?

Think about your own family circumstances and decide who you will feel most comfortable with. We chose a teenage girl as we felt this would fit in best with our young family

Long term-v-short term

Although short term students are less demanding of your time due to their busy schedules, we felt it would be too unsettling for our kids to have to adjust to a new person every month. Having Tuuli as a surrogate big sister for the year has a very positive effect on our kids, been great company for me and, as the homemaker,I have found the monthly contributions from the language school a much needed boost to my housekeeping budget.

Preparations

We provided a comfy room equipped with a single bed, easy chair, plenty of wardrobe space (she’s a girl!), a table and chair for school work. We also gave her a radio and cd player, lamp and hairdryer. We did not give her a tv because we have no reception in that room but we also thought that coming into the family room to watch tv would help her to integrate.

Settling in

We gave Tuuli lots of support from the offset as she had so many new challenges to face: leaving family and friends behind, having language difficulties, being in unfamiliar surroudings, experiencing a different culture and living in a house full of strangers. I was so delighted when Tuuli told me that right from the start she felt safe and secure within our home and it gave her the courage to go to school everyday.

Family life

We treated Tuuli as a member of our family and tried to include her in our everyday life: mealtimes, shopping trips, outings etc.

Privacy

I made it clear to the kids that Tuuli’s room was her own territory and no one was to enter it without her permission, I also gave her the resposibility of keeping her room clean and this helped to provide her with a private space within the house. We were lucky that Tuuli was also respectful of our privacy and we never had any misunderstandings.

Teenage angst

I’ve had no real experience of being around teenagers since becoming an adult so I was curious to find out what it would be like, especially since we will have 3 of our own here in about 10 years time! However, my husband is a secondary school teacher and I have confidence in his experience. Peace, stability and the safety of our kids were our priorities, and although we didn’t expect any trouble (drinking, staying out late, causing a rumpus etc) but our feeling was that we would invoke a ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ policy if necessary. It wasn’t! Having Tuuli in the house proved to be lots of fun, really helpful and a lovely insight into future parenting skills. Most importantly, I discovered that a 17 year old , although very independent and mature, still needs love, support and guidance like any child does.

Negatives

Even if your student is a delight to live with, it can sometimes be a bit of a strain having another person in your home for extended periods. If you really need a lot of personal space then you may find taking short term students the easier option.

Personal Opinion

Well worth doing! It was a great experience, we made a friend for life and it’s the perfect solution for stay at home mums.

I’d like to say thank you to Tuuli for being a perfect host student and for becoming our lovely teenage daughter for a year. We’re going to miss you xx

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1 Response to “Notes from Motherhood:Mum of Four For A Year!”


  1. 1 Cheshire Mum July 1, 2010 at 23:35

    What a fantastic experience for you all, safe journey home Tuuli I am sure her family will be over the moon to have her back with them and hear all about her fabulous adventures with you.


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