Elisa's Au Pair Story
Why did you become an au pair?
When I was figuring out what to do for that summer, I knew that I wanted to do something that involved French, since I was majoring in French at university. Some internships fell through, so I decided maybe I could travel a little over the summer.
I hadn’t been to France since I was 14, and I really wanted to go back and experience everything again at my current age when I was much more advanced in French language. It was a way for me to immerse myself in the language and culture while still making a *tiny* bit of money. I was more concerned about finding a family than where the family was located, but since my family lived near Paris it was alright.
How did you find your host family?
I used the website AuPairWorld to find my family. I would say that it was a little harder to find a family that only wanted someone for the summer months because au pairs are usually there for at least a year, but I was in communication with a few families and eventually chose mine based on how we connected when we Skyped together and how sweet the kids seemed.
What did an average workday look like for you?
Every day was different in my house because the girls went to two different schools on different days and the baby only went to the crèche two days a week.
On Mondays, the older girl went to the international school in the morning while the younger girl went to the French school. I ran the carpool for this with some other kids in the neighborhood. Then, the younger girl would come back home for lunch, and the older girl would go to French school and eat lunch there. After lunch, I would run a carpool to the international school with the younger kids who were at the French school in the morning.
On Thursdays, this schedule was switched, and the younger girl went to the international school in the morning and the older girl went to the French school. Then I would go get the younger kids, drop them off at French school, come home to make lunch for the older girl, then run the carpool to the international school.
Tuesdays and Fridays were easier days, because the girls were at the French school all day and they ate lunch there. The baby went to the crèche on Mondays and Thursdays, since we were driving around all day to bring the girls to the different schools.
There were some times when I would drive to and from the international school (25 minutes away) four times a day. On Wednesdays, my host mom’s mom (the kids’ grandmother) came over, but the girls also had activities like golf and gymnastics on Wednesday. Every day after school, the girls had other activities to do like gymnastics and horseback riding. I spent a lot of time in the car when I was working!!
What was the hardest part about being an au pair?
I think for me the hardest part about being an au pair was trying to be friends with my family while it also being a job/work relationship between us. I had to advocate for myself when things weren’t going right, but I didn’t want it to be rude or cause tension in the house while we were all living together.
For example, I had to talk to them and explain how much I really needed some time to myself during the week and even during the day (since I was really working from the minute I woke up until after dinner), but I was scared because I didn’t want to make things weird between me and my host parents.
My host mom worked me a lot, but she was also understanding of these things when I talked her through it even though her way of communication was different than mine. It was difficult to adapt but it helped me grow and learn more about myself.
What advice would you give to someone about to go through the experience?
I would first tell a new au pair that location is actually really important. If you don’t like small towns, make sure you get a job in a big town or a city. It can make all the difference. I was living in such a small town, and I never met anyone else there who was my age. There was nothing to do at night, no restaurants, and it was quite boring. I would only do au pair again if I could be in Paris itself and living in the city where things are much more lively and interesting and where I can meet other people to spend time with.
In addition, I would tell someone to just open their mind and build a relationship with the kids, while also making sure to advocate for yourself with your host parents and make sure that they don’t take advantage of you and your contract!!! That’s so important.
What was the best part?
Even though it was really hard to learn to take care of three kids when I had just barely learned to take care of myself, I think the best part was the relationship I developed with the kids and how close we still are now and how the family will welcome me back to visit at any time.
I was my family’s 6th au pair, and they are still close with all of them, and it was special for me to be a part of the girls’ childhoods and their lives as they grow up.
Also, being able to exponentially grow and improve my French was important to me and has helped me a lot as I went back to school and I’ve continued in my French studies.