I have been the child you might be au-pairing for, ever wondered what it’s like to be on the “other side”? Curious what those children can share with you once they’ve been growing up?
With his blogpost I am going to talk about my experiences with how it’s like to have been raised and loved by many Au-pair women. Do you have similar experiences or have you been an Au-pair yourself? Share your story with me in the comments:)
What is an Au-pair?
For all those ones who might not know: An Au-pair is a woman or a man that gets welcomed into a family who has children and helps and supports that family in their daily life. Often the Au-pair comes from another country and culture than the family. Their activities typically involve childcare, household duties, cooking and grocery trips. Of course this Au-pair also gets resources from the family: a decent salaray, holidays and days off, their own private room, the possibility to join a langauge course. And most importantly: access to become a full and loved family member that joins on family trips and fun activities.
I am a proud Au-pair child
I can look back on 10 years of being au-paired! They accompanied me on my first day of school and said goodbye to me when I left my own family to live in South Africa for a while. In my home country Germany this way of family support was and still is quite unusal and my family was often confronted with lots of question what those young women are doing in our home. Since both of my parents worked full-time this kind of support system worked out nicely for all those years. My little sister and me had wonderful young women looking after us, each of them for one year as this is the common time frame. In total I’ve been au-paired for from the ages of 6-14. The women were mainly from different parts in Russia, or Eastern or Southeastern Europe. My parents all selected them according to specific critera, but I remember one of the most important one was that they already had an average to good understanding of the German langauge to minimise language barriers. The whole selection took part via a specialsed agency for matching Au-pairs and host families.
They do get an intimate look into the dynamics, pitfalls and dramas of a family, they become part of that family’s story and history.
The childrens’ perspective
Childhood: Of course when you are a child you experience things in a very specific and often non-judgmental way. Looking back now as a young adult myself I can say: when I was little (6-12) the Au-pair women were like second Mum’s to me. In a really good way and never competitive or toxic to my Mum or Dad. They are around you, so many hours of the day and especially when you are young they have a strong educational and role model aspect to their role additionally to all their other duties. I remember our first Au-pair had to install a little “block” inside the sweets drawer: otherwise my little sister would have eaten all of the them in a second, or the first Au-pairs comforting me when I was sad that Mum was on business trips for a few days.
Twens and Teen years: The older I got the more I perceived the Au-pair women as the older sisters I always wished for but never had. In my early teenage years (12-16) they often came along with me to do shopping trips and listen to all the High-School nonsense you have to share at that time, also great thanks to one of them who got me highly addicted to the series Friends. Still my favourite one!
What I learned:
- You cry for each and one of them & learn to say goodbye
When there is one thing I learnt: A year is a long and short at the same time! I always cried my heart for all the women who got close to my heart and then after a year they leave. But also children do get over this rather quick: I knew the new Au-pair would come soon and the whole family was excited to meet and welcome her. Even though I know goodbyes from an early age on, I practically know all about it. Still hate it, still suck at it.
- You welcome parts of the world into your family
From an early age onwards you as a child are confronted and have to deal with people who are different to you: they speak another langauge, might look different to you and do things differently than your parents and social circle. I learnt tremendously much in being open and welcoming towards other cultures and different personalities, it also showed me that no matter how different you are, you will always get along.
- How to deal with cultureschock
When you are little you don’t really understand this concept the only thing I knew every Au-pair had this time when they cried and were less cheerful than usual. Sometimes they wouldn’t play so much with me.This time would pass and they would sometimes even change their whole apperance and leave differently to how they arrived. Now looking back at it what I experienced as a child was a typical cultureschock. It follows typicall patterns and almost all the young women had it, for me as a girl now who loves to travel and live in different places seeing and experiencing this schock from the different perspective helps me dealing with my own ones when I have them in different countries.
- Accept that your family is different
Of course having an Au-pair in a culture were it’s unsual and not common at all, people might react towards it with sincere curiousity or mistrust and refusal. My family has been confronted with both and as the Au-pair child I think it’s important that this topic is dealt with in a very natural manner. Meaning that it’s the parents task to talk about those things and ensure to the child that they are loved and cared for and that this additonal person is there to add even more love and support. I’m glad my parents always did that and that we could show many people along our way that an “unconventional” lifestyle also leads to a happy and fullfilled life.
- You have sisters all over the world
I am in loose contact with a few of the Au-pairs and I know that if I would have a problem now I have sisters all over the world which I could ring up and they would help in a second. This is such an amazing and humbling feeling I did not want to miss that. My absolute dream is to make a trip to Russia via Eastern Europe and the neighbouring Asian countries to meet you all again!
Thank you so much to: Julia, Maria, Galya, Khazu, Alsu, Irina, Olga, Nadeshda, Juli, Olya for all your love and support! I learned so much from each and one of you, and you all made me to the woman I am today! What you have done for my family and me is beyond words <3
“Wherever you go-go with all your heart”