There's no two ways about it, becoming an Au Pair is terrifying. For most, you leave your family and friends behind for an extended period of time, you move to somewhere completely new and you basically have to start life from scratch. For the nutters (like me) who choose to move somewhere with a whole different language, life is particularly difficult because the normal every day things like going to the shop, getting a coffee, calling for a taxi, suddenly become a huge obstacle. As I said, becoming an Au Pair, is terrifying.
I found my host family through the website 'Au Pair World' which had been recommended to me by a friend who was Au Pairing in Madrid. After a lot of emails and contacts from various families (including a nudist French family), I finally settled on a family of three from Parma, a small city in the North of Italy. I was always pretty calm about moving away, but from the moment I woke up on the day of my flight, I had a sudden overwhelm of panic. What if I didn't get on with the family? What if they were mean? What if I made no friends? What if the child was awful? Basically, all the 'what if's' most people probably thought of during the build up, flooded me when it was far too late. I started to silently freak out, and this is a bit 'tmi' (sorry sorry) but at the air port I was the awful kind of sick where you have nothing in your stomach but your body feels like it needs to be free of everything. Needless to say, I was terrified. But I said my goodbye's, I made it on the plane and after a two hour flight and a 20 minute wait for the family to pick me up (where I text my parents a LOT saying they might need to book me a flight home because nobody had arrived at the airport), I had made it to my new temporary home.
|a collection of pictures taken of Parma|
As far as host family's go, I won the HF lottery. A lot of Au Pairs are asked to do light chores, prepare the children before school (aka 6am starts), make the family meals etcetc... I had never intended to land a family like mine, but when I did, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a small miracle. On arrival I was taken to my own apartment, 2 floors above theirs with a kitchenette, a bathroom, my own wifi and a satellite television. The 'Italian Phone' I'd been dreading to receive wasn't, in fact, a Nokia brick, but a new iPhone 5. The whole family spoke good English, my host parents get Edoardo ready for school in the morning so my earliest day begins at 3:30, they have a lovely housekeeper/cook which means my sole responsibility is looking after their child and it only took me a couple of days with Edoardo to realise, he is probably one of the best behaved children I've ever come across.
Despite this dream life it sounds like I have, I would be lying if I said Au Pairing wasn't hard. Not only do you have to come up with hours of entertainment, but it's often hard to strike a balance between being the lovely Au Pair you want to be, but also being strict and letting the child know they can't over step the mark. You also have to understand that you're there to play with the child and if they suggest something you don't want to do, you need to grit your teeth and do it anyway. One afternoon, I played two hours worth of 'Real Life Angry Birds' which is a game I can't even begin to explain, and you definitely don't want to hear it anyway. As well as work, I think the hardest thing I've found whilst being over here, by a mile, is socialising. I never took into account how hard it would be to meet people when there's a language barrier. Albina, the Au Pair before me was lucky enough to meet some American's who introduced her to their friends and so on and so forth, but I didn't really have that kind of luck. Eventually, through various means, I met some people and actually made a life long friend in Alexandria, who was an exchange student at the city's University. But once she'd left, I was once again in a kind of friendship limbo. I've made some other lovely friends, but I'd be lying if I said my social life is anything like what I thought it would be. I thought being in a University town would make life easier, but unfortunately, because exchange students arrive together, they already have friendship's formed, and there are lots of societies held to meet other exchange students which obviously I couldn't go to. My biggest advice for someone considering to become an Au Pair, is to move to a big city, a capital or a major one in the country. Because there will be other Au Pairs there, all who know what it's like, and all who arrived with no one.
|Some of the amazing people I've become friends with here|
I think Au Pairing varies for each person. It depends on where you live, it depends on your host family, their life style, what kind of jobs you have to do. But as an overall account, I can say hand on my heart, I am so happy I did this. In the second month I had a sudden bout of extreme homesickness, and the first few weeks here were some of the hardest of my life. Everyone says if you get through the first two months, you'll be fine, and they're right. But nothing really prepares you. My whole experience could have been totally different if it wasn't for Edoardo. Being an Au Pair gives you a whole different connection to the children you're looking after. For the duration of the day, you're their mum, their dad, their teacher, anything you can imagine rolled into one, and it creates a unique relationship. I can't even put into words the love I have now for Edoardo, and out of everyone and everything I will miss here, I will without a doubt, miss Edoardo the most. For the last 6 months, my whole life has revolved around him, and I just feel so so lucky to have met such an amazing little boy (ooooh look at me gushing!).
I couldn't recommend this experience enough. In half a year, I've discovered a whole new culture, I've learnt the best part of a new language, I've lived by myself, I've moved away from family and I've made friends I will probably keep for the rest of my life. Au Pairing isn't for everyone, but if you go about it the right way, you will have the experience of a life time. This has been one of my most requested posts but I knew I'd always want to write it at the end of Au Pairing so I can give an honest account, and with just 2 and a half weeks left, that's exactly what I've done. If anyone wants Au Pairing advice or has any questions, please feel free to comment or email me through my 'Contact Page'. I hope this has quenched your thirst for knowledge about my time abroad.
Ciao for Now!