Au pair life
About the good and the bad. About the moments that you like to tape the kids to the wall and the moments that you have to say goodbye but don’t want to because you love them.
I have a couple of au pair experiences in Australia.
What is an au pair? An ‘au what?’
An au pair is someone who takes care of your children. Most of the time he or she (mostly women) lives with the family. Duties go from doing fun stuff with the kids to homeschooling them, to taking them to music lessons.
Side duties are doing groceries, some cooking and some cleaning in the house. But this all depends on what you arrange with your family. It is important to talk about these things before you start so everybody knows what is expected.
It’s not a get rich job. It’s more an experience for life. You get paid in food and accommodation that are provided together with a small payment. There is also such thing as ‘Demi pairs’. Then you work fewer hours each week, you do get food and accommodation, but you usually don’t get paid in money.
In my case, I had a side job that I could do in the hours that I wasn’t needed for the family. So, in that case, it’s easier to save some money. Food and accommodation are provided. The money from the au pair job is enough to do some fun things and from the other, you can save. Of course, this must fit with the hours of the au pair job.
How to find an au pair position, host-family?
There are a few options for this.
How to choose the right family
Follow your guts. Only do it if it feels good, you are going to live close together, you want to feel at home there. Think about what you want or not want, what is important for you?
Every family has different things they want or live in a different place, it is good to think about certain things before you talk with the family.
Like what tasks are you fine with to do, helping the kids, driving in a car with the kids, teaching the kids (homeschooling), cleaning, groceries, cooking, etc.
What kind of family do you like? How many kids, which age, pets, etc.
The location, where do you want to be an au pair? Which country, which city? If you go to a country with a language you don’t speak, check if the kids speak a language you do speak so you can communicate with them. This was a reason for me not to be an au pair in Portugal.
Last but not least the payment. How much do you want to earn? Most of de ‘payment’ is that you can eat and sleep with the family. Often the experience is more important than the payment. But check around what is normal in that area and if you do more chores or more hours you can bargain for more.
Sometimes a family asks for a live out au pair so you do the same as a normal au pair but you don’t live with the family, the payment should be a little more then.
Before you start working you talk with the family, a video call or if you are already in the country you meet each other. This is really important, check if it feels good, what kind of people are they? Do they fit with you? Talk about what they expect from you. Check if the things you want or don’t want are how you like them.
It is important to both completely know what you expect from each other before you start the job to prevent that you are disappointed later or not happy with how much they expect from you.
If they have a previous au pair you can ask for contact details and contact them to check how their experience was.
Au pair experience:
I was blessed with a wonderful family. Two young kids, a boy from 2 and a girl from 4. All with there own character and personality. I felt really welcome and useful, which gave me the freedom to be myself completely as well. Both parents were really busy with their job so that’s why they hired an au pair. The kids were lovely and there was a lot of joy in the family.
All kids are often so funny and adorable without knowing it. These two as well, I could smile a lot about them but also laugh a lot with them. We did fun things like going to the park, zoo or beach but we also did the things that had to be done and made it fun like doing groceries.
Music on and singing together in the car was also a good thing I will always remember.
The mother-in-me experience
First of all the mother-in-me has woken up definitely. If I see a child, especially if I’m responsible for it, I’m a 100% mother. The more I started to know ‘my children’, I started to understand what works what doesn’t, the more I also got protective over them. If you lose one of them out of your eyesight for ten seconds in a big shopping centre you feel the worry coming up already.
The other side is that if you are too often with the kids, sometimes it’s just too much. Your tired, kids tired, everyone tired, but you still have to do a few things. Well, I can tell you then there is less patience with everyone and everyone is getting a little annoyed by each other. Sometimes till the point that I think where is the tape? I’m going to tape them to the wall. Only ones I really had enough of it because I was exhausted and the kids had their moment to try everything that was not okay. But also then: In the end, everyone is in bed and the next day everyone has new energy and everyone loves each other again. It just belongs to the thing that they called ‘mother’ or in this case ‘au pair’.
It’s not really awkward but you are a part of the family and you live there and sometimes it feels strange to be around in their private life. Like I’m there for the kids but at a certain time the kids are in bed and I’m still in the living room. Hanging around, watching tv, eating dinner etc. Then it’s just you and the parents and for me, it felt strange sometimes. I can image they want to have their house for themselves and have just there own life but then suddenly there is another person also sitting on the couch. On the other hand, you really get part of the family and that can be very special.
I can tell you nowadays most au pair families get to know each other online or through Facebook. You don’t know how things will work out. Sometimes is a great experience like above and sometimes it’s the worst.
I also had a bad experience. Where the family didn’t get along, where people were overstressed and too much alcohol seemed necessary to make life going. Where whatever I did was not enough and I was blamed for all kind of things and yelled at.
So both are possible. The good and the bad. From both, I learned a lot.
If you had a wonderful time with the kids and they were also happy with you, but then you leave… It’s a story that often happens. With the good experience I had, it was sad to leave. The last week I often thought ‘this soon will be coming to an end’ and that made me sad. The family was so lovely, the kids great. I loved them, they loved me.
I had to go because my visa was running out. Somewhere I was also happy with it. Back to my own life, travelling again. But of course, the kids have a similar experience. They let you into their life, they share their stories, they become close friends with you… and then you leave. It must be strange for them too.
Want to know more adventures in Australia? Continue reading here…