Alot of people ask me what the difference is between an aupair and a nanny. Its pretty simple, a nanny is only responsible for the children, no household chores, and they get paid more. An aupair, aside from the washing, ironing, dog walking, picking up of children from friends, school, hockey, gym, dancing, more ironing, making beds (childrens and parents), cleaning bedrooms (childrens and parents), dealing with vomit and various forms of excrement... you actually have to look after the children for hours on end as well. We also get paid less than a nanny. So why on earth would anyone be an aupair rather than a nanny? Because you need experience and qualifications to be a nanny. Any random off the street can be an aupair. Its often so that any old random off the street IS an aupair. Do you know who your aupair actually is? I have met an incredibly diverse range of people who have decided to become an aupair. Metalheads with peirced faces who are so high on magic mushrooms theyre too scared to go near the moshpit at a concert, cropped bleached lesbians with tattoos, almost alcoholic college students and art types who smoke pot in the morning before taking the kids to school. Alot of aupairs find their families through websites without going through an agency, which means alot of the time the family will only see a few pictures of the girl, talk on the phone a few times and exchange emails. Thats all I had to do... and I was locked in for a year to look after some peoples kids Id only seen one picture of. So what happens if the girl takes out her 2 lip, 2 eyebrow and nose peircing for the photo, hides her dreadlocks and momentarily hides her bottle of valium for the picture? True story. You really dont know, alot of the time, exactly who it is that youre entrusting your children to. I've met girls with severe depression, eating disorders, drug problems, binge drinking... who think that coming to another country to work will help them escape their problems. The sad thing is, most of the people who can afford aupairs around here are rich, and have rich, snotty kids. The parents often have some kind of addiction problems, even if its only shopping or coffee. But if you have problems at home and think coming to europe to look after a set of snobs will help you, think again! It'll send you into a relapse, I promise you. In the case of those with clear heads coming over, this experience will very possibly surge you into the depths of lone drinking or smoking. When I say smoking I dont mean cigarettes. Were in the Netherlands here.
But the children are only really half of your worries. The parents are the other half. Alot of parents have very particular ideas of how theyd like their children to be raised, as most parents do. However a normal parent is most likely going to be the one to enforce the boundaries and rules, not a stranger from another country who, 70% of the time, cant speak the language of the children they're meant to be looking after. The parents usually have schedules, rules, timetables, which they print in spreadsheet format. Which they hand over to you, and then leave for work, with a couple of wide eyed children standing, staring before you. In my case, I had no schedule, and the mother didnt work. So in place of having a just the military regime to follow, I had a military commander who would make sure I was doing everything right. Unless of course she was out having her manicure, pedicure, facial, getting her hair done, shopping or having coffee with friends, which she did often. She also prescheduled her visits for about 9:30 in the morning so I would have to take the children to school instead of her having to do it, to just add another job to my list. The things that she picked me up on, that I was doing wrong, was quite extensive. After Id ironed things, I wasnt folding clothes the right way. The towels were also not being folded correctly. One girl had a coffee cup thrown at her for letting the kids open all the jars of peanut butter. When its pouring with rain, and the aupair needs to pick up the kids from a playdate, would you let them take the car? Theres insurance to think of, is she a good driver? Sometimes if you dont want your aupair to drive its not totally unreasonable. But what if youre home? Would you make the aupair bike in the rain to get your children? The answer is, 9 times out of 10, yes, the aupair goes. Who on earth ARE these people that we aupairs entrust our life changing, fun year away to? So many aupairs get treated really badly, because for some reason, some families seem to think that its a priveledge for us to be in their family looking after their children. They think theyre doing us a favour. Yes its very generous that they allow us into their home for a year, but theyre paying us to perform a service. You would think the parents would be happy to have someone to look after their children, grateful to have dinner cooked when they get home, and the washing and ironing taken care of! Throwing a coffee cup across the room doesnt covey these feelings of gratitude at all. Getting the dinner you made for the family thrown in the bin, because Mum felt like a bacon and egg sandwhich, also doesnt convey any gratitude.
The thing is, were actually robots. We have no feelings, no need for a social life or adult conversation. We dont need to be appreciated, or thanked. After we've performed our daily tasks, and finally getting the chance to go out and meet our other robot friends, we dont mind that our host mothers get mad at us and have words because I didnt ask to go out. I wasnt aware that a 23 year old woman needed permission to leave the house. Does being an aupair actually mean that youre under house arrest? Why doesnt anyone tell us this before we go?!
This robot demands an explanation!!