Kendall's Au Pair Story
Why did you become an au pair?
I just wasn't quite ready for more school and needed a break. I had studied French in middle and high school so I figured France would be a safe bet since I had a little bit of knowledge about the language. The fact that it was Bordeaux was just happenstance, I had no particular opinion on where in France I went.
How did you find your host family?
Lol. When I decided I wanted to au pair, I wrote a resume and CV and got a few recommendation letters and handed them to anyone I knew who said they may know someone in France who could be interested in having an au pair. Long story short - my host mom's uncle is currently living in my hometown with his American wife and kids, and bought his house from my uncle's brother in law. He put us in touch. Turned out great!
What did an average workday look like for you?
My host mom was still on maternity leave through Christmas, so most of that time baby and mom were home, and I would pick up the oldest from school and the 2 year old from her nanny, take them home, and then host mama and I would pretty much be a team to get baths done, dinner on the table, and everyone in bed.
After Christmas, my host mom went back to work and baby was at the nanny's all day, so... I woke up early, got the oldest ready for school, made breakfast for her, and walked her to school.
At 4, I would walk to her school to pick her up, then we took public transportation to the nanny's to pick up the two little guys and we all took the bus and tram home. That was not easy!
I used to sing American kids songs at the bus stop to keep them occupied and not running in the street.
What was the hardest part about being an au pair?
Hmm. There were a couple little annoying things - sometimes I really disagreed with my host parent's parenting choices but we had open conversations about some of those things which was beneficial for both of us.
Also the occasional awkward conversations about money. For example, how much are you going to pay me on vacation when I'm basically on call 24/7? You forgot to pay me this week, if I'm just taking one day off do you really have to dock my already incredibly meager allowance...? Of course, there was also the occasional homesickness (I didn't go home for Christmas! Or ever!)
But, they were all overall pretty solid positive learning experiences, not sure what the 'hardest' was.
Wait, honestly, sorry this is so cliche, but leaving was the hardest part. I wasn't prepared to fall so in love with my kiddos, and definitely not prepared to leave them. Since they were so little, it was easy to love them and they were very quick to bond and show me all kinds of love as well.
It was really really really hard to say goodbye, not knowing when I would see them again and knowing that there was a strong possibility they wouldn't remember me the next time I did and, even if they did remember me, that they'd be entirely different little people. Also, since they were so little, knowing that any communication I did have with them was dependent on how willing host parents would be to keep in touch. I was always ok while I was gone, knowing that my home would always be here and that I'd be coming back and spending lots of time here, and that I wouldn't change all that much in the year I was gone, but the homesickness I have for my host family is different - I don't know when or if I'll back for any extended period of time, and I do know that everything will be different - they don't even live in Bordeaux anymore.
What was the best part?
So many best parts!! I have a second family in France now, I (generally? pretty much?) speak French now, I learned so so much about myself, I was completely financially independent for a while (kinda sucks to be leaning on the parents for rent now...) and travelled so much for the insanely cheap, made so many great friends (nothing like that bond you feel to fellow au pair also having left home for the first time, and then travelling around together.) This one good friend that I met in early September, we literally made plans to Ireland within the first 30 minutes of meeting each other, and we went the last weekend in September and it was crazy fun. Those friendships and experiences were some of the best parts.