“I spent the next 20 minutes scared sick of what the mother was going to say to me when she returned…”
I have now been here in Paris for just over a month, after what seems like far more. Congratulations to me!! At this ‘milestone’ I look back on how my time has been so far. The first month can be described in three words, scary, hard and wonderful.
This has most definitely been the scariest thing I have ever done, and considering how it has gone I think I should give myself a pat on the back. When people told me what I was doing was so brave I always wondered why they thought so, I’m really not that brave. However, I think it is time to accept that I am! After all I did travel from England, leave all my friends and family, postpone a potential career post degree, and move in with a completely new family to look after two kids with no knowledge of English. I think that would be scary for even the bravest person! Nearly everyday my fear is tested in some way.
For instance, the fear of ordering a coffee and the waiter not understanding what I am saying (because I am probably saying it wrong), or the fear of posting a big package home knowing that not one of the clerics know English. This was to send my best friends birthday present, so it was of high importance that it got sent correctly, I put it off and off until I had no choice but to go in and attempt to send it (yes Charlotte, you have no idea what I went through to send that to you). Luckily she got it so I survived and succeeded! The moral of this point, fear strikes very often here and often I have no choice but to overcome it, needing yet more bravery.
If someone would have told me how hard au pairing was before I came here I probably wouldn’t have believed them! Well you don’t know until you are in the au pair shoes, and I don’t think anyone will ever know until they do something similar. All of the au pairs I have spoke to have mentioned how they didn’t realise how hard it was going to be until they got here and it’s true. Some people reading this may even be thinking to themselves, how can it be so hard when you are only working 30 hours over the week. The difficulty firstly lies in trying to communicate with the kids if like me you are French clueless and the kids are English clueless. Trying to reason, explain or even tell them to do something is so difficult and the language barrier can sometimes cause problems. For example, when I’m telling the youngest he can’t have anything more for snack time because it’s a snack not a meal and it will ruin his dinner, I am pretty sure he is hearing ‘you are not allowed that because I’m a mean au pair, and I want you to starve’. Obviously that is not the case but without neither of us understanding each other misinterpretations can be made.
Au Pair Discipline…
Secondly, disciplining someone else’s kids is so hard. Each parent has a different way of discipline or lack of in some cases. I have got pretty lucky with my family as they do back me up and are efficient at disciplining. However, when you are left with the kids and you are the one in charge it is hard to know what to do, and where the boundary of discipline starts and ends. You have to make executive decisions there and then as to how or when to discipline, or even to decide whether to allow or not allow something. This can sometimes clash with the parents’ thoughts which can be a scary process. A prime example would be when I allowed the eldest (10) go out with his friends that had called for him. I set a 20-minute timer on his iPod, made him finish his homework first and told him that he must return as soon as the alarm goes off.
This decision was made after he asked me if he could go out and I was unable to get through to his mother to ask. Executive decision made, I let him go feeling confident I had done an ok thing, and made his mother aware of my decision. Next I received a messaged saying he is never allowed out with friends, cue stomach sickness and utter fear of life!! I spent the next 20 minutes scared sick of what the mother was going to say to me when she returned in the next 10 minutes. It was like awaiting your mother scolding you when you know you have done something bad! Luckily she did not get angry and told me that it was the eldest fault as he knew he wasn’t allowed out and he was taking advantage of my lack of knowing. Phew I thought swiping the fear sweat from my face, but if I was in another family this could have ended in a completely different way.
Last but not least, it has been wonderful! Paris is the most beautiful place and I would never regret having the chance to be able to experience such a beautiful place like this. I love being able to visit new places whenever I am free and learn more about the culture! I have cycled along the seine river, sat outside the Eiffel Tower at night just because I can, visited a chocolate museum, walked around Le Marais, dreamed hopelessly through the windows of designer stores down the Champs-élysées, had many great wines in lovely little bars, gazed at tremendous views of Paris from a church, castle and department store and I have even been to a swing dancing social and actually danced!! I even get so excited at the prospect of my best friend visiting me here just so I can show her all the things I get to see and enjoy all the time. I don’t think anyone will understand why I love it here until they see my world!
All in all, a month on I am older and certainly wiser! Here’s to another 10