Tag Archives: au pair

Story-time: Why I Became an Au Pair

I got a job!  I believe I mentioned this in my last blog post (titled “Ariel Got a Job!”)  As I generally assume my mother is the only person who checks my blog regularly (and even she isn’t a subscriber) I figured I would reiterate that fact.  One of the first questions I got at my new job is: “where did you work last?”  It’s a pretty safe ice breaker, and for me seems to open up a conversation because the next question I get is invariably: “A what?  Au pair?  What’s that?”  Well, as the always-factual and ever-omniscient Wikipedia states, an au pair is:

“[A] foreign-national domestic assistant working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family’s responsibility for childcare as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use.

The title comes from the French term au pair, meaning “on a par” or “equal to”, indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals: the au pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a domestic servant. In the best circumstances, both parties benefit from learning about the other’s culture and will remain on good terms long after the au pair has left the family.”

Or, as I’m more likely to say, “a nanny.”

I was an au pair in Denmark for six months.  My contract was for a year, but with the economic crisis etc my HF had to let me go.  I had a ton of reasons for deciding to become an au pair.  I wanted to travel.  I was a full-time student paying her way though college (read: poor) who couldn’t afford to take a year off without a job to support her while abroad.  I’ve babysat before and am good with kids.  An excerpt from the private blog I kept for this experience reads:

“Becoming an Au Pair, to me, is a way for me to begin traveling and learning how to be on my own in a place unfamiliar to me without having to leave the comfort of a family or draining my college savings. I desperately need a break from school (three years of doing poorly in college after all those awkward years in K-12? I’m exhausted) and I spend so much of my time at work or thinking about work and school that a year/year and a half of taking care of children will be such a vacation.”

It goes on to say that I understand that childcare is, in fact, work, but the point remains the same.  I was a full-time student with two part-time jobs when I applied to an au pair agency.  I had no idea what to major in, but was at a point in my education where that decision should have been made.  I was stressed out, skipping classes, failing (true story: I failed the same math class three semesters in a row.)  I needed to take a break from school, slow down, experience life.  Au pairs  work 30-45 hour work weeks (depending on the country) and receive room and board along with a stipend of between $300-600/month (also dependent on the country.)  What could be more perfect for a college student wanting to go places and experience a different culture and language?  So I applied (a process deserving a post of it’s own,) waited to hear back from a family, agreed to match, and was off!  (A lot of time actually lapsed between each of these things, but that’s not relevant here.)  And I’m so glad I went.   But all that’s stories for later.  Right now I have to get ready to meet a friend for lunch.

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