by Holly Hadley
Making the Decision to Become an Au Pair
“Taking Time out of Studies…”
Why au pair? Well, I became an au pair through a site called au pair world and, if I hadn’t found this site, I might never have become one. It all happened because choosing a major at university was too much for me, and after over a year of taking subjects that I wasn’t sure were the right fit, I’d had enough of the guessing game. The choice to leave temporarily rather than lose my ambition in courses (that I wasn’t really sure about) was the right decision for me and now I’ve become a better student for it. I feel optimistic about my studies and my future now that I’ve managed the anxiety that comes with finding your own unique path.But when I’d signed up on au pair world, there was no way of knowing whether I was making the best choice, the only thing I knew for sure was that I had to make a change.
I’d given myself one condition for my gap year; that I had to be busy and doing something memorable with this time rather than simply working to save up some money. My worst fear was that I’d be waiting around for the year to be up, and return to university just to face the same exact problem as before. So I turned to something I knew was a passion of mine: travel.
This was my list of options:
- Join an animal rescue center in Costa Rica for about a month http://www.jaguarrescue.com
- Find a job in London and live with my relatives
- Raise enough money to take a trip with Free the Children and help a community in Africa or South America http://www.metowe.com/volunteer-travel/youth-trips/ecuador/
- … And finally, to become an au pair https://www.aupairworld.com/en
My mom had done it, and the baker at the restaurant that I served in told me good stories about her experience as an au pair. I could earn some money and have a place to stay in a new city. Other perks interested me too, such as paid French lessons, meeting other au pairs, and becoming fully immersed in a country’s culture as opposed to just visiting as a tourist. In December 2013, I gave it a go by creating a profile, just to see what offers I might get, and messages from families in France and Italy were overwhelming me. The au pair world site honestly made it so easy, and I felt like the people I spoke to were real people who were genuinely searching for an au pair. I did just over ten interviews by Skype, but I narrowed my search to Paris. I finally mademy decision by searching for a family that made me feel comfortable during our interview, and who I thought I could trust.
“Why Paris, and Why this Family?”
The decision to au pair in Paris wasn’t a difficult choice to make. I grew up in Canada, where students are required to learn at least the basics of French, so I thought French would be the most fitting language to attempt. I’d also visited the city once before with family, so I could confirm all of the hype surrounding Paris’ magical beauty, it’s tasty food, and also it’s fashionable women and men taking their Sunday promenades. Lastly, if the worst came to the worst, I’d have family in England. Just a $70 ticket and a one hour-long flight from Paris would get me to safety should I need to escape a bad situation.
I also had an advantage that I didn’t realize was so crucial to my popularity with many families. The fact that I was a British citizen allowed me to work in France hassle free—no need for a visa and therefore no need to wait. Families could have a native English speaker fast and, since I was searching over the Christmas holidays, families who needed an au pair for January were panicking about not finding one in time. So I had many options, and I’m sorry to confess that I still managed to make the wrong choice. I agreed to au pair for a family that paid me too little, did not live up to their promises, and omitted to tell me the truth about their circumstances. I will quickly say that they were not bad people. They were actually quite kind at times, especially at the beginning, and my memories with the girls that I was looking after still make me smile. I do think that they truly cared for my wellbeing, however if I’d known what I know now, I would not have chosen to work for this family…
Look out for my next post with a list of questions to ask the family before you leave!
Article and photos by Holly Hadley