Caring for cute little children, making new friends, traveling, crafts and strawberry cupcakes – the overall image of an au pair is very pink, glittery and happy. It doesn’t take a blog post to tell you, that this is not all of it. And even though, I couldn’t be more satisfied with my job and would choose the same host family again and again, there have been some moments that truly challenged my stamina. Here they are, the hateful 7 (or something):
1. Boogers, Boogers and Boogers
Kids are adorable. They are like little grown ups, only with weird head-body proportions. They make dentist appointments for their teddy bears (like moms), play with imaginary money (like bankers) and declare war over who called whom stupid (like Donald Trump).
But one thing that really only develops with age is control over their snout. If you think about working in childcare or getting kids your own, be prepared: there will be boogers. Sometimes it seems impossible that such a small person could produce such an amount of snodder, but they do and it’s gross. Tissues seem to kids more like a nice recommendation than a necessity, so they just use whatever item is closest. Sleeves, hands, jackets or my favorite cashmere sweater – everything becomes covered in clear-green slime. That’s not the worst part yet. If somebody ever sneezed into your mouth (not a dry sneeze) you’ll know what I’m talking about. So be prepared, kids come with boogers, boogers come with kids.
2. “Boys can’t do childcare”
If I had a dollar, every time someone told me what boys can and can’t do in the last year, well, I’d probably have around 36 $, but it’s still annoying. I don’t want to bring up the whole gender discussion and I do realize that in comparison to other discrimination issues I am complaining on a very high level, but can’t people just have a minimum of imagination? Is it really that hard to get your brain to recreate how a boy could possibly be able to do a braid? Here are pictures, btw:
Learn how to do all of those braids, practice them and then you can come talk to me again. And if you think, boys can’t do crafts, think again.
And if you think, boys can’t
- put a dress on a girl
- snuggle with kids
- play with kids
- be sensitive
- listen to problems
- paint nails
- kiss away a boo-boo
or do any of those weirdly gender-linked things, think again. It’s not like testosterone automatically blocks you from taking good care over kids, I mean look at Liam Neeson.
I do realize that probably more women are good with kids than men, but we should have learned by now that that doesn’t mean one should generalize. So put away your pitchforks and torches, the 19th century is over. I am good with kids, deal with it.
3. Always the bad guy
No matter what style of parenting you try to execute. The kids will hate you for it. You are that annoying voice in their ear that tells them they won’t get any more treats or they can’t have that sleepover. How dare we teach them table manners or math or not to hit their siblings. We are the controlling instance that keeps them away from ever having any fun. “Oh you got me a canoe trip for my birthday? Well, if you are making me bring my plate to the sink, I will still hate you”. Or: “You built me a Mercedes G 65 AMG out of cardboard for halloween? Oh, but you also didn’t cook me dessert last night, meanypants.”
And somehow everything is always my fault. They lost in a board game, so obviously I cheated. They don’t want to finish their food, because somehow I made them choose the wrong kind of cereal. I think, until they grow a little older, I will just have to translate sentences like “you made me drip, you are so mean” to “you were right, I should have tied my shoes”
And all the time, life could be so easy. There’s a big number of television shows, audiobooks, movies and youtube videos to just put them in front of for a couple hours. I don’t have too cook them healthy food or teach them table manners, we could just go to Smashburgers every day. But that’s not right, that’s not parenting. So I guess until they have their own kids to take care of, I’ll just have to be the bad guy.
4. Holiday Dinners
5. Your social life sucks
Ok, here’s the deal: it is fairly easy to get to know people as an au pair. There are regularly scheduled au pair meetings, there are Facebook groups, there are events like festivals and concerts and there is Starbucks. Kids are a very light conversation topic, often families provide you with a car (like mine does) and people in America are usually very open and friendly – the perfect conditions for getting to know other au pairs. Often those friendships are very pressured, though. Everybody kind of needs to have friends so you just go bowling or something, even though you don’t really feel like it. There is a lot of smalltalk, complaining about host families and drinking coffee. I’m not saying, that’s a bad thing, but if you don’t only want this kind of friendships, or just don’t like coffee, you could have a hard time finding people, who are not au pairs themselves. Insider Tipps like tinder can work, but once you get to know somebody, it is hard to keep up a friendship, due to your weird work schedule.
So yes, you could go out every night with the au pairs you’ve met and who also happened to become your best friends, but there is absolutely no guarantee. The chances that you will find real pals near your workplace are as high as everywhere else in the world, only that as an au pair you will very likely have to get up every morning at 6 to at least give yourself a few pep-talk-morning-slaps on the cheeks and grab some pants before the kids have to be ready for school. Meaning that going out the night before a workday will suck out your life energy faster than watching an entire season of ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’.
My conclusion: as long you are super confident, have a flexible work schedule and really, really like coffee, you should be fine. Otherwise you’ll just have to spend your time in front of a computer, writing blog posts all day. Eating cereal that is meant for kids. In your running pants. Alone.
Gosh, I need a life.
6. Snow days
You planned to practice that huge piano assignment, go to the gym and call your parents during the time the kids have school? Well, it’s snow day, so nope, not gonna happen. Somebody somewhere decided, those 2 inches of snow at 7 pm will simply make recess too dangerous. That means, over the whole day you will try to squeeze in at least 20 minutes of piano practice. But even with great host parents, that try to give you some time off, it just won’t happen.
As soon as you come close the music room, somebody can’t find their glasses, and that won’t take much time, right? While you are searching for those glasses, you notice that huge mess, somebody made in the playroom, so you work on that. After the playroom is clean, you hear the laundry machine. You finished the laundry really quickly and slowly fight your way back to the practice room, but suddenly somebody wants to show you that new handstand they learned and what kind of monster would say no to that?
That way you can spend an entire day wandering around, basically doing nothing. One thing I like about snow days, however, is how excited the kids get. For them it must feel like a second Christmas, plus I get to spend more time with them. So snow days do have their positive sites, I’m still looking forward to spring.
7. Everything has an end
The closer you get to your host family and the end of your time as an au pair, the more often you think about the day you will have to leave those people. One year seems like a long time, but effectively it goes a lot faster than you would think. Every picture I take with the kids makes me think about how I will look back at those photographs in disbelief how tall they have grown, how long their legs, how thin their faces and how mature their minds have gotten. I really feel as a part of this life here and the fear of maybe be forgotten some day escorts me through my days.
But even though my time as an au pair will end, WhatsApp and cheap traveling make keeping contact a lot easier. Yes I will be sad to leave but I am also excited to see the kids grow with time maybe even take care of their own host kids one day.
As an au pair, you will make a lot of experiences, learn a ton of things. Not everything will always be pink and glittery and you will probably have some hard times too, but what, if not this do we have chocolate for?