By Rose Dermott
So this last week has been difficult, it has gone from bad to awful!
My host mum has been getting angrier and angrier at me for little things, such as putting dishes back in the wrong cupboard, or not making the dinner quick enough. I am really trying to do everything she asks me, according to her high standards. However the more annoyed she gets, the more I panic and do things wrong! I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed by living in a new country, speaking a foreign language and meeting her expectations. I’ve found myself questioning whether I want to stay with this family, or in Paris at all!
I asked other au pairs if their host mothers ever speak to them in that way, or make them feel as useless as I have been feeling. Most of the answers were unequivocally ‘no’. Although they did agree that often the host mothers are more difficult to get on with than the children. One friend told me that her host mum believes that she has been flirting with the children’s father! Whereas another friend told me that she is not allowed to eat with the family because she is viewed as ‘The Help’, rather than a part of the family!
If you are an unhappy au pair, wondering whether your family is suitable for you or not, I believe it is important to compare your situation with that of other au pairs. I believed my situation to be normal before friends told me that their host mothers were very sweet and accommodating. However, after comparing my situation to the other dire cases of au pair ‘abuse’, I realised my family could be a lot worse.
Since I get on really well with the children and their dad, I saw moving families as a last resort. To make myself feel safer I created a new Au Pair World profile, so that if in the future I feel like I need to leave my current family, I have other options. I then built up the courage to talk to my host mum, which was terrifying! I told her how upset she made me feel sometimes, and how she has sometimes brought me to tears with her harsh comments, such as ‘what do I even pay you for?’! I think she was horrified at how upset she had made me, she apologised and explained that sometimes she talks too harshly without realising.
Since then she has been so lovely to me, always asking how my day has been and apologising for accidental harsh words. I don’t think she realised how awful she was making me feel and once she did, she wanted to make amends. We have had a few conversations about the things I can do to improve at my job, as well as things she can do to make me feel less uncomfortable. Now I think we are finally friends and we are both working harder to make the situation better for everyone.
Never let your host family make you feel useless
If you are feeling unhappy with your family, you need to ask yourself whether you think you can cope with it for a bit longer, in order to give yourself a chance to resolve any problems. All families live differently and it takes time to get used to a new way of doing things, especially in a foreign culture. Talk to other au pairs who have moved families if you need advice, as well as talking to your au pair friends about their own situations. But you should never let your host family make you feel useless or unhappy. If you do need to find another family quickly, there are families still looking for au pairs on websites such as Au Pair World or on the au pairing Facebook groups.
Before deciding anything, try talking to the family about how you are feeling. It could improve your situation and the stress of moving families might not even be necessary.
Read more: Still not sure what to do? Take a look at our article on Au Pair Hours and Pay