Dear Au Pair Moms & Readers,
I need serious advice and thought you would give me great advice as I love your blog! I’m 21 and am working in France as an Au Pair. I arrived last Wednesday (a week ago tomorrow) and have enjoyed it so far as I love the family and feel really welcome, but there is something that I don’t know how to handle at the moment.
Firstly, and most importantly, I feel like I’m being taken advantage of in a way.
I was told I would work 7.30am-5pm Monday to Friday- which is already a lot (just over 52 hours a week). The host father arrives back from work at 4.30pm and I expected at 5 he would take over taking care of the kids. However, he just sits in the garden smoking and talking on the phone, leaving me to look after their hyperactive 5 year old daughter and their 10month old daughter until 7.30-8pm when the host mother arrives home from work again (however, the 5year old is in school from 9-12, then I pick her up for lunch and she returns 1.30-4.30 so it’s not too busy in the day).
This has resulted in me so far having 12+hour days EVERYDAY. I get really tired and have no time to do other things I’d like to do such as explore the village, read, or even Skype my family and friends back home. As by the time 10-11pm comes and I have dinner (they eat really late) I’m almost ready to pass out and fall asleep almost straight away knowing that I have to get up at 6.45 again the next day to do another 12hr+shift!
I spoke to my brother yesterday and he said that as soon as my shift is up, I should tell the father that I am going into town. It’s a good idea but I can’t drive and they live in a tiny village with no shops or commerce or even buses, and the nearest town is 18km away!!! They had told me they lived in a village but I didn’t expect it to be this small!
The thing is I feel bad to just sit in my room and read as the 5 year old always comes and knocks on my door asking me to play– she really likes me and has taken to me really quickly despite the fact that my french isn’t great. Also I can hear the baby crying and I find it hard to ignore her or to tell the 5year old to play alone! And then even when the mother comes home, I feel bad to stop helping as she’s so tired after work and although she’ll take charge of the baby, that still leaves the 5year old in need of someone to play with. She has become my shadow, and although it’s nice to know that she likes me, it means I get no time to myself. Also the room is barely private as the door doesn’t shut properly and the 5 year old comes in as she pleases.
I really don’t know what to do as I want to help the family out as they’ve been so hospitable. I genuinely want a break from looking after kids all day. But it’s difficult to just sit in my room because 1) it seems rude, and 2) the 5year old always disturbs me anyway. As I can’t get out of the village without asking them for a lift, I have to stay in the house and if I stay in the house, not helping out doesn’t seem too nice. However, what I do now will set a pattern for the rest of my stay so it is important that I clear things up now. I even was working on Saturday even though it was my day off- the host mother needed to pop out for a while and asked if I could watch the kids but she didnt come back for 2hours and even when she returned she was very busy so I ended up braiding the 5year olds hair, playing with her and watching the baby!!
Have you got any advice on what I should do? Do you want more background info? I’m a student from England; I learnt french at school though I don’t speak it too well but it has already improved a lot from spending a week in france and I can communicate with the family; I am here for 3 months for the summer; I am being paid 300euros per month; I get on with the family really well and I know they really like me (I went to a family function on Sunday with them and I heard the host mother telling someone that she likes me a lot because I make and effort and have a great personality).
Any advice or ideas for me? Thank you!
Photo: dejeuner en la terrasse from globevisions