“That’s what I like to call a Happy Parisian Moment”
Have you ever wondered if you chose the right family? I did. Three different times. When I decided to be an au pair I chose the first family that offered to hire me. I was about to move countries, ticket in hand, when they cancelled our agreement. But I told myself that I wasn’t going to let this stop me from moving to France. So when I arrived in Paris I started looking for a job and it took a month for me to find a family that wanted me, right when I was deciding to give up. So there I was, living with a French family in a fancy Parisian neighborhood…it was the dream! Then I realized that most au pairs weren’t paid 75 Euros for 37 hours a week, so I wondered if maybe I could do better. The problem is that once I’m comfortable, I can basically bear anything. So for a while I just let stuff go…even whenthe parents said mean things to me and made me work more than I should. I even had trouble with my visa for a while and I had a pencil thrown at me and I stayed. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I leave then? It’s scary to try and make changes when you live in Paris.
But the day I decided to change families changed my life. On one hand, it meant I was going to stay in France for at least a few more years because I made it my goal to study here. On the other hand, it gave me the courage to stand up to this family and tell my boss that I was leaving. I had never done that in my life – and I’m sure I’m going to have to do it a lot more, so I figured I should get used to it. So there I was, in front of www.aupairworld.com again, updating my profile. And I desperately sent more than a hundred different messages to all kinds of families! (There was even a family that lived on a boat! A boat!) But I knew what I wanted: Less hours, more money, maybe even a flat on my own (I’d met a few people living like that and I figured I had the right to live like that too, right?).
On the verge of desperation I went to my friend’s dinner party and met a few very nice au pairs. We all ended up taking the train back to the city together and, obviously, talked about our different host families. This girl told me about her experience and about where she lived, to which I happily replied that I lived a few blocks from there. We decided to get some coffee, looked each other up on Facebook of course and, well, never really met for coffee. Nevertheless, I think Paris has made me believe in destiny because I was walking down the street to go to work and randomly ran into her. That’s what I like to call a Happy Parisian Moment. So we had coffee the next day and talked about our plans for next year and how her host family was looking for a new au pair and she’s helping them find one. About how she lives on her own and has an amazing flatmate. About how she’s very happy with all of it and how sad she is to have to leave Paris soon. But she promised to give her host mom my contact information. And for weeks I’m waiting for an email, but nothing. Nothing! My friend says to me: don’t worry; they’re a bit unorganized, they’ll write. And even though I met her for coffee a lot and ran into her host mom a few times on the street, they were taking a whole lot of time to write an email. So I met other families and had a blast. None of them was perfect; I was ready to give in. And right when I was about to go to a family’s house and agree to work for them, I got the call. Not an email of course, it had to be more dramatic.
Salut Sandra, ça va? Is not what you expect to hear from your possible future host mom. It felt good. And when I met them it all went well. They liked that I’d had experience before and that I speak English. But most of all, they loved the fact that I’m friends with their present au pair. However, they told me they’d give me a final answer on Friday. Meanwhile, the other families were expecting me to answer, and I don’t think I’ve ever had people being intense with me. When you’ve already been an au pair before, most families look at you as if you were some kind of god. Strange but true. So I was flattered; I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way again (unless I decide to do one more year as an au pair, which I don’t think will happen). Anyhow, on Friday night I got the email and as my fingers pressed open, I felt like some part of me was dying. And when I read that it said: Sandra, we forgot to ask…do you cook? I answered: Yes. And five minutes later they wrote back: Ok great. Welcome to our family! So I jumped up and down.
One month later I moved out, in good terms thankfully, and moved into my amazing flat with an amazing flatmate (the story of how I moved out is as crazy as ever; let’s just say it involves the chickenpox). It’s the au pair flat that welcomes au pairs from all over the world, especially the au pairs who’ve lived there before. Oh, and the host family? I had the best two years with them. Best Decision Ever. What’s that expression? Third time’s a charm? Yes. That’s the one. At least for me!