I’ve been thinking about this post for a little bit now, and I think I’ve got enough in mind for a substantial post.
Wherever you go, whenever you meet people, the question of occupation always come up in conversation. It’s inevitable. When I tell people that I’m an au pair, I either receive confused looks or “oh wow, how cool!”
I would say that the actual sentiments of the job fall somewhere in between the two responses above. Saying the ramifications of my job out loud sound pretty easy and straight forward, and for the most part it is. As an au pair you are dealing with children on the daily. Small humans that have their own personalities and minds and navigating that can be a challenge. Especially when dealing with multiple humans and adding a language barrier. So here are a few things I’ve learned since starting this journey as an au pair, and I think they are definitely important things to consider if being an au pair is something that interests you 🙂
- The process might take awhile, but it’s worth it. Getting my visa was the most challenging part of this process. There was so much paperwork that I needed in order to apply for my visa. As a US citizen we can travel to just about any country and stay there without any sort of visa for 90 days. That’s great, except when you’re moving somewhere and you’re staying for a year. There are a few different visa options, but I opted for a student visa. It was the easiest to get and plus it gives you some incentive to find a school to study at while you’re over there. I have some friends who didn’t opt for a student visa, they got a working visa or didn’t get one at all. Your host family should be more than helpful in this area, especially if they have had previous au pairs. I’ve got a visa, and I know that I can’t be kicked out of the country…haha. Better safe than sorry, right?
- A love for children. To me, this seems pretty obvious. Your main part of your job description is to take care of children and work with them on their language skills. You are going to be with children basically 24/7. Prepare yourself for this. Even if you are not “on the clock” you still kind of are, since you’re in the house. This is a fine line, but finding that balance is essential if you are going to be an au pair. Your personal space definitely will get smaller and smaller the more comfortable you become with your kiddos and them with you. As I’m typing out this post my munchkins are chilling in my room: one is laying on my bed and the other is climbing all over me as I’m trying to type…what’s mine, becomes theirs. To an extent 😛 Sharing your things becomes a lesson you’ve got to relearn 🙂
- Living with strangers. Also another obvious one; unless you are fortunate enough to know the family you will be working and living with. I’ve heard stories about au pairs having awful experiences with their families and sticking it out for a short time, then booking a flight home. Fortunately this has not been the case for me! Make sure you do your research before you commit to a family. Email them, skype them, talk to their previous au pairs. Talk to other families before you decide on one. By talking to multiple families, you can get a feel for what you are looking for and whether or not a families expectations match with yours. Try to get the best picture of what your potential family will be like. Granted you won’t really know what they will be like until you meet and live with them, but it’s always good knowing something about what you are walking into. After skyping with my family I was pretty much sold on them, but their previous au pair had wonderful words of praise about them, so that was my deciding factor, and it’s been a wonderful experience!
- Patience. Not only with your new family, but with yourself. Especially if you are going to a different language country, patience is going to be a constant theme in your life. The kiddos will drive you crazy, being with a different family, in a completely different environment, and to top it off a different language…patience is a MUST. After being in Spain for a few months, I thought I would be fluent and spitting Spanish like a native haha. Boy was I wrong! Yes, I’ve definitely improved my Spanish, but it is something that is hard to measure. I understand just about everything, and I can respond…but I’m working on the response timing 😀 Don’t put pressure on yourself, you’re doing just fine and you will come out stronger and with amazing memories after this experience.
- Go with the flow attitude. Children are messy. Life is messy. Life with children is double the mess. Sometimes accidents happen. Things don’t always go as planned. When a dish gets broken or someone pees their pants…I take a deep breath and handle the problem. That’s all I can do. It also helps me to think about the fact that I am helping raise two small humans. Everything I do is to help them and this whole thing is a learning process. (Sheesh! I sound like my mother! Haha) Take each day as it comes. Each one will be different. Each with their own set of challenges and praises. Take ’em as they come and don’t dwell on things much.
- You are living out this amazing opportunity. Make the most of it. One of my best friends reminded me of this the other night. And she’s right, I’ve only got a certain amount of time living here in Spain. It’s all coming to an end really quick! I should be taking as many opportunities as possible. Make as many memories as I can. This is truly an experience of a lifetime and I want to enjoy every single moment of what I have left!
- Know that, at the end of the day, you can always go home. Before moving, I told myself this once, maybe twice. It is a true statement, but I didn’t want to have that at the front of my mind nor have it as a crutch. I was determined to stick it out and not give up, unless things were utterly awful or something super serious happened back at home. Honestly things have never gotten to a point where I’ve ever considered going home sooner than planned, but it is a nice back-up to have. Just in case.
Well I hope this little list of tidbits has giving you something to think about, or has helped you if you’re thinking about jumping into au pair life. I won’t lie and say that it’s a walk in the park, but all the tough times are overshadowed by the amount of laughs had, fun times and overall wonderfully great experience I’ve have here.
If you want to talk more or have specific question, don’t hesitate to ask! 🙂