As au pairs, we are constantly being faced with goodbyes and long periods of time spent away from the people we love…
An inevitability about a job that involves daily contact with children is that you will encounter, at some point, illness. Little kids are infamous stewing pots of colds, coughs, flus and tummy aches, picking up whatever they can find lingering around amongst their peers at school. In a true playground game manner, these little bodily niggles are swapped and traded and, undoubtedly, find their way back to the house infecting whoever they can find there – including us.
Both today and yesterday were spent waiting in anticipation of my youngest’s return from school but alas a few doses of the ol’ ‘Doliprane’ and he was fit as a fiddle and trotting back off merrily to school (presumably to pick up the next round of sicknesses). This did luckily allow me to spend the day with one of my closest friends here as it was her 20th birthday. Little treats filled the day such as a cheeky Speculoos McFlurry session (McDonald’s calories become nulled on birthdays in fact), photo booth fun and an impromptu tea and gossip gathering. After a truly lovely morning we were all called up to action and headed forth for to the front line for an evening shift. This was followed by one of the loveliest evenings I have had yet in Paris where a large group of us met at the ‘Bar 10’ in the Odeon area that specialised in Sangria.
Pitchers upon pitchers were passed and exchanged around the table and good conversation and jokes flowed as pleasantly as the sweet Spanish cocktail, making for a truly lively and jubilant birthday atmosphere. A cosy and quaint atmosphere was present in this small bar that gave off such typically Parisian vibes (not entirely helped by the fact that at one point from out of the jukebox came Edith Piaf belting out ‘Je ne regrette rien’). Said jukebox was a focal point of the evening as we graced the bar-goers with what we regard as musical classics such as Backstreet Boys ‘I want it that way’ (yes we did all sing along, all ten of us, shamefully but oh so loudly!) It was time for the birthday cake to emerge accompanied by a loud rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ (as if we hadn’t drawn enough attention to ourselves already) and then and we proceeded to gorge upon it’s chocolately goodness before all parting our separate ways hurryingly in attempt to catch the last metro. Myself, the birthday girl and our other partner in crime headed back for a cosy sleepover in our snug pyjamas in order to close off the day’s celebrations in style.
In true Wednesday tradition I voyaged off to Maison Laffitte for the ritual coffee and chat session with my best friend. Only today it was a bitter sweet engagement as it was going to be the last time we saw each other for two weeks. As always there is disruption to routine with the school holidays and this time a concoction of me returning to England for a week and her going skiing with her host family the following week means our little duo will be apart for a hefty two weeks.
Upon saying goodbye and boarding the RER once again (feeling mightily glum) I received a text from the lovely lady herself reading:
“We are so used to having to say farewell to people. At least in means that the next thing will be a hello”
She is so right. As au pairs, we are constantly being faced with goodbyes and long periods of time spent away from the people we love and it is, at times, very difficult. We can’t help but feel a bit glum when we catch mothers and daughters linked arm in arm perusing around the streets. It can’t be left unsaid also that we have to, on a daily basis, witness a family scene which inevitably prompts a few pangs of nostalgia every now and again for our loved ones back at home. There will always be a little sense of emptiness in this job, even if it is just a little niggle that only rears its head every now and again but, as my friend said, the next thing after a farewell is a hello (and that’s always super exciting and joyous!)
Today being truthfully one of the coldest days I have ever experienced in my life (so much so there were even intermittent periods snowfall spotted tumbling from the grey skies) called for one thing and one thing only. A cosy day tucked away with a film. Today’s showing was the very intense ‘Gladiator’. My friend and I chomped our way through the gruesome scenes by way of distraction on a variety of Marks and Spencer goodies (a few homely British comforts never went amiss).
A cute evening session with the children (including snuggles and teddy bear games in order to comfort my poorly little fella) was followed by a group sleepover which, again, was an act of farewell before we all flee our separate ways for the holidays. Instead of focusing upon how sad we were to be parting we filled the evening/early hours of the morning with music, funny face swapping app amusement and exchanging our cultures and languages with one another.
I feel like a semi-pro on the antics of Denmark and Austria now thanks to my two new lovely friends and I find this to be one of the greatest things about au pairing as a job, you are constantly upon a cultural exchange with not only your French family but also all of those other au pairs from lands afar that you encounter. It’s a fascinating and enriching experience that I truly love every second of.
My final day in France before I trot back across the English Channel on the Eurostar has arrived. Only now have I really had time to be excited about the upcoming week-long stint in the motherland as other antics have kept me both busy and distracted. It’s always a strange mixture of excitement and nerves I think in regards to being exposed to fragments of your ‘other’ life (or ‘old’ life as it seems to repeatedly be referred to over here). As like most au pairs, I really felt the effects of the post-Christmas January blues and it truly took me a long while to ‘get back to normal’. Whilst I worry about this coming back when I return to Paris from my little adventure en Angleterre, I’m sure (with spring just looming around the corner) it won’t take long to re-fall in love with this fabulous city. So today I’m going to pick up a tasty bubble tea before taking my feet off to stroll the banks of the Seine and to see the pretty little Miss Eiffel in act of a temporary ‘farewell for now Paris’.
By Alice Warde