Trial Au Pair for 2 weeks in London
Hi! My name in Paula and I am from Germany. This winter I visited a family with an au pair for 2 weeks in London and I got to know the life as an au pair very well. Therefore I want to share my experiences as an trial au pair with you so you can imagine how an au pair year may look like. I wilfully wrote “may” because I only visited this one family and you have to consider that every host family is different and you can not expect your year to be for example exactly like the au pair year of some of your friends. I think a huge difference is also the country where you are staying for this period. In general in USA it is normal to stay for 1 year which is actually a pretty long time, whereas in the UK it is also possible to stay for only 6 months but I would really recommend to stay at least 6 months so you can get to know your host children and they can get to know you. Besides it is really exhausting for the kids to change the au pair every 3 months because you have to keep in mind that it´s not only new for you but also for your host family when they decide to integrate another family member.
Daily routine and duties of the au pair
So anyway, the au pair in my family didn´t had to work so much, only one hour in the morning to get ready and walk the kids to school and 3 hours in the afternoon from 3 pm, where we always picked the kids up from school, to 6 pm after dinner. Besides she only worked Monday to Thursday because the host mom didn´t work Fridays. The first thing that I thought was really surprising was that also the little girl who was 4, already goes to school from 8.45 am to 3 pm just like her older sister who was 7. So you can already see while the kids are in school you mostly have time for yourself to either take part in English courses, go to the gym, meet other au pairs or just enjoy your leisure time. I think this is also the time where you can explore the city you are living in because in some families you may also have to take the kids to bed and afterwards you might be too tired to go out anymore. On some days the au pair here is also asked if she could either wash all the bed linen or do other light household exercises which she is supposed to do while the kids are at school. But in general she is only responsible for a clean kitchen after cooking for herself lunch and after dinner with the kids. So just before her host mum is coming from work at about 6 pm, she sweeps the kitchen and cleans everything up.
And as I said before looking after children is really exhausting and you will be surprised how much work it is because kids can be very difficult and I´m sure you will have to face situation that are completely new to you and maybe totally strange but you will learn a lot from it. But of course you will also have so much fun with your kids while playing games or role plays with them. What I think must be so fascinating is to watch your kids grow up because you live with them a whole year and their behaviour will change over the time, that´s why you will also have worse times when the kids are just not willing to do what you want them to do. In addition I could often watch the girls fighting or screaming at each other which I think everybody can remember when you had siblings that you were in a fight very often, but sometime I could also see them playing with their dolls together for hours and everything was fine, there was not one fight between them and they were just peaceful playing. Those were really great moments for us because they were so happy together and we had some time to relax.
Another point which is also important I think is that you are responsible for the kids and you have to take care of them. Your host parents trust you to take care of their children and that´s also a challenge you should not underestimate. Referring to this the au pair also told me that she realized how much she grew up with this tasks and that she changed her way of seeing the world and especially of facing problems. One example was that one day when her kid said she couldn´t go to the ballet classes because her stomach hurt so badly and we weren´t sure what to do because she looked pretty sick in that moment but we decided to go anyway and let her decide whether she can dance or not when we arrive there. Already on the way she was running ahead so the pain couldn´t be so bad but in case she was really sick we would have made the wrong decision, so these are difficult situation you have to face and solve by your one.
Difficulties and problems that you have to face as an au pair
She also told me that the older sister (7) is very difficult at this time because she refused to go to school one morning and I was really surprised because she is actually already quite old and also a role model for her sister. Besides she is very picky with her food and it can be quite stressful to convince her to at least try this vegetables for example. The most frustrating situation is when she likes it after discussing 15 minutes with her, but of course she would never admit it afterwards. Added to that we quite often had the problem that the girls or especially the younger one wanted to play with her sister her favourite game but the older one didn´t want to play that game. So they could not agree to play one game together and it ended in an argument which was arduous to settle.
I also talked so much with the host mum and she as well as the au pair affirmed me that the girls are way more stubborn and hyperactive in winter because firstly they are not that much outside and they have less transaction in the sun and the weather or something just makes them unwilling to behave like you want them to.
I also thought about education because as an au pair you are more or less with the kids all day and in some families the kids barely see their parents on a weekday. Therefore you are also the person who raises the kids in some points which is quite difficult especially because you are not their mother. I noticed this because when the girls behaved badly, the au pair just said that they are not getting sweeties today or that they are not allowed to watch TV in the evening. In the end the kids were usually allowed to watch TV because they immediately changed their behaviour and sometime in my opinion the consequences could have been stricter because I think the children´s behaviour was inappropriate but you must also consider that these are kids and that´s just how kids are.
But in the end I think the au pair I worked with was a really good one because she was strict and confident with the kids so that they knew they will get a “punishment” for their behaviour and the kids love her even if they sometimes said they don´t which I think was pretty cheeky. Sometimes when they were grumpy they just said thing that could have hurt you like “I don´t like you” or “You are not my mother and I don´t have to listen to you” but in the end whether you like it or not you have to deal with it and must remember that they love you and are saying things without meaning it.
My conclusion and decision whether I liked being an au pair or not
So honestly I think I really saw all kind of days and all kind of behaviours from crying and screaming to laughing together and jumping as well as dancing.
But anyway I am really into the idea of becoming an au pair because I realized how much fun it was for me to prepare snacks or dinner and keep the kids occupied. Besides I also read a lot about au pairs and blogs and I was so excited to becoming one even if I´m still in school for 1 year. I also love traveling and looking for children so I think this would be perfect to get to know another country with other cultures. Particularly because of my experiences here I think in UK it´s pretty cool to be an au pair especially for European because for Christmas for example it is so easy to fly home and visit your family even twice a year.
Anyway I would also like to go to America although I know that the schedule and everything would be different because in America you must have a driver license to become an au pair and in UK some families might need a driver but you don´t necessarily need one. One reason is of course because they drive differently than in most other countries and the other is that the school and everything is mostly pretty close to your house and you just walk the kids to school and to sports in the afternoon.
There is still one thing I wanted to talk about and it didn´t concern the family but just the region or just UK because one day I saw in the park a little boy and on his school bag was something similar to a dog lead, so his parents really took him like a dog in front of them. I guess the reason for it was that he can´t run away or something but I was really speechless, so I talked with the host mum about it and she said she was also really surprised when she saw it for the first time but some parents think it´s the best way. So for me it was completely strange and not understandable but I also only saw it once so I don´t want you to think that every British parent take their kids like a dog. And besides this one strange thing I must say the English people are very welcoming and friendly so I actually felt comfortable all the time, especially when you need help you can be sure everyone is pleased to help you.
All in all I am so happy that I had the opportunity to live as an au pair for 2 weeks and I think I already made so many new experiences and it really helped me to know what I want to do after my graduation. Probably being an au pair!