When Being Civil Goes Out the Door

I always used to be one of those au pairs that said I was so fortunate because I had an incredible family. And I meant it. I really did enjoy my family and legitimately liked spending time with them. S … Continue reading

Well, when I was a kid….

I remember being a kid and I hated when adults would try and tell me what it was like when they were kids. I hate that even now. Honestly, I do not think much changes beside the person’s perspective.

That being said. I can proudly say that when I was 8 years old I could do the following things: bathe myself; eat with a fork properly; play by myself for longer than 10 minutes; sit through an entire movie; say please, hello, and thank you; go to the toilet to go to the bathroom;play nicely with my sister… so on and so forth. Now, I really don’t think that list makes me a genius or even out of the ordinary at all, right? Well, I am actually really starting to wonder.

When I was in class yesterday, some of the au pairs were talking about how our families we live with raise their children. I did not grow up in an abusive household at all. My parents spanked me a very few times growing up. They were never ones to yell at me in public… or at all for that matter. But, I did get reprimanded. My parents are the furthest things from lazy. They put in time and effort. They taught me to talk to adults and be polite. They encouraged my freedom but also highly valued time spent with family. Now, I am not sure if this is a cultural thing or a common trait among those with au pairs but parents here seem to raise their kids very different. I am not saying they don’t do the aforementioned things but they seem to do it in a very different way. An au pair in my class commented on the fact that the parents seem to encourage bad behavior. If the kid screams and cries, they get what they want. Why? I personally do not understand. There is a mom in our class and she said sometimes there are so many things going on that the parent just needs to think about the present. I completely understand this. And yes, there are many, many times I do the same. But, I also think the overall big picture is important to think about. I think parents with au pairs are so busy that when they are with their children they don’t want the kids to be upset. So, they shower them with love and give them everything they want. I also understand this. And this very well may be the way to do it… I just don’t know.

Example. Edgar is 4 years old. An age where I seem to think you can walk by yourself and feed yourself. However, he demands to be carried and fed every time. Yes, the easiest thing to do is give in and get him to stop his screaming. But what is this teaching him? Last night, I spent 20 minutes trying to get him to eat on his own.I believe it is important to work with him so he understands that this is something he needs to do. I mean he’s 4! He would make a little progress and then revert back to crying. However, I was not going to give up. Then his mom just sits down and feeds him. I felt a little disheartened. 20 minutes was wasted. Here I am thinking I’m helping the kid grow into a normal person and apparently I am actually just blowing steam.

I am in no way saying my way is right and hers in wrong. They are both very good parents. With being an au pair, you constantly have to remind yourself that you are watching the kids, not raising them. I want to do things with the kids that my parents did with me. I know I am not perfect but I do feel like I have good qualities that I learned from my parents. However, what is the point if that is not ultimately the goal of the parents as well?? Again, I am by no means saying one way is right or wrong, I am just curious about the differences in raising children. I constantly remind myself that I am here to watch the kids and continue what their parents are teaching them. It is hard to go against my instincts sometimes but again happy about this learning experience.

Being an au pair is so weird because you are an outside observer to someone’s life, someone’s family. There is so much to be  learned here and it is an experience like no other. I feel like I have grown so much. Patience. Patience. Patience.

Wednesdays (aka the day of hell for au pairs)

For some reason the French think its a good idea to put kids in school from 8:30am to 4:30pm. When I say kids, I mean they start at age 3. Edgar is turning 4 on Saturday and this is his second year in school. Ridiculous, right? At the age of 4, I am pretty sure my mommy dropped me off at pretend pre-school twice a week for half a day. Anyways, I guess to balance this madness the French have decided the kids get every Wednesday off. And every 6 weeks they have school, they get two weeks off. Pretty sweet I guess. However, the people in charge really did not think of all the poor souls who decided to sign up to be au pairs.

Being an au pair is really not that bad. I have to say we are all pretty good at complaining. Yes, basically it is slave labor. But hey, you get to live in a foreign country. During the week, work is bearable…

  • Wake up at 7am– get the kids ready, fed, and take them to school
  • Back home by 830am
  • Usually it is in this period of time I take a nap…
  • 11:30am– get ready for class and have lunch
  • 12:30pm– out the door to catch a bus that is, lets face it, 9 times out of 10 late.
  • 1:40pm-3:40pm– French class
  • 4:20pm– bus home.
  • 5:10pm– get home and drink tea before insanity starts
  • 6:00pm– get the boys then craziness sets in… goûter, baths, playing, fighting, cartoons, scooby, dinner, the list goes on.
  • 8:30pm– parents and i eat dinner
  • 9:30-10ish– lock myself in my room and spend ridiculous hours on the internet.

But on Wednesday, this all changes. You have to think of 13 hours of entertainment for ninos. Yes, they have sports for an hour a day each but that really doesnt help much. Even taking them to the park and killing a few hours doesnt help. The day lasts forever…..

However yesterday, as I sat in the sun “watching” my kids play in the park, (but really reading my book), I decided that life is not all that bad. I think the reason why all au pairs complain is because of the whole weirdness of the situation. What is being an au pair? You are basically this young girl hired to raise someone else’s children, (yes, I say raise because I strongly believe I am doing more than watching a few kids), and live in your boss’s house. I went from recent college grad without a care  to full-time mother. I cook, clean, and basically my whole life revolves around these two little kids. Add this with trying to be 20-something, have a social life, and see the world. This is where things get off balanced and we see the constant feeling of dissatisfaction with au pairs. All of us moved to a foreign country to get an experience. Little did we know that the major experience would be growing up because of the job aspect of it. Dont get me wrong, I am still so happy that I made this decision. I also highly recommend au pairing if you can find the right family and situation for you. Just know, you will never be ready for what you actually signed up for.

I always tell my mom that the one requirement of being an au pair is a sense of humor. I realize that I have a ridiculous life and no where in a traditional scheme of things does it make sense. But it is mine. I am doing what I wanted and what many people are too afraid to do. I took the leap. Sometimes I want to kill the kids or dream about living in the middle of Paris, but I have to say this was the best decision of my life. I have grown more in the past few months than I ever could have imagined.