30 Jul London calling – The AuPair
Writing this article to all the fellow Au Pairs or aspiring Au Pairs out there. It was one of the best times in my life but also quite a difficult one. Hoping to inspire you that even thought you might face challenges on your way this was a great opportunity for me personally and professionally as it has opened many many doors for me afterwards. The Universe won’t throw anything at you that you can’ handle and I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I am.
Thinking back when I was 18 travelling to London has not always been my dream but I knew that I wanted to go abroad, and America just seemed too far away and too big of a thing at the time, so I ended up in London. I wanted to move abroad, and I don’t even remember why it just somehow hit me one day and I decided it was time for a change.
Little did I know that I would end up staying there for almost 3 and a half years. It might have been my calling after all I just didn’t know it yet.
Being only 18 I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how I would start figuring out my next move, so I decided to become an Au Pair. That seemed easy enough paying an agency, they help you find a family, you can even choose the one you like the most, well on paper anyways, you call them, chat with them on skype and here I was all set and ready to move.
The family that I found was a small family with 2 children in North London, close to North Finchley. Arrangements for them to pick me up at the airport had been made and off I went a couple of months later.
Saying goodbye to my parents wasn’t a big deal as I was really ready to go and super excited for this adventure. I guess that’s when my drive for adventures started which I wouldn’t want to miss ever. Getting there my English was you know good enough to get around but not to advanced. Grabbed my bags from the luggage claim and outside I went looking for my new host mum. I found her rather quickly, thankfully she had a sign with my name on it.
Not going to lie I felt rather strange going with this stranger in her car, living with them and all these new rules that I was about to face. Don’t we all have that thought in the back of our heads don’t get into a stranger’s car, that your mum tells you from very early on? Little unease but there was no other choice and I got in, thinking it’s a woman with 2 kids, how bad could it be.
Getting to their house it was kind of what I expected it to be, but I mean what was there to expect anyway I had only ever traveled with my parents before that and I didn’t know anything about London so far. Had my own room, the host parents seemed nice enough and the children real cute, a little baby and a two-year-old. Thinking back, I was not older than 18 but pretty confident that I could handle anything.
The next few days I kind of got used to the new situation and way of living, with a new schedule which seemed rather strange with a lot of cleaning time and almost no babysitting. Also strange why did the mum never leave the house and if she did she would always take the children with her. After a while I was cleaning most of the times and I just started thinking is this what it’s supposed to be. Cleaning vs. babysitting? I watched it for a while, but I seemed to only look after the 2-year-old Saturday morning when the parents slept in. A very strange schedule I started thinking more and more.
A week later I stared English classes in a local church that I found nearby. The class was cheap enough so that I could afford it with my weekly pocket money of 80 pounds. This doesn’t seem like a lot but I did not pay for housing or food so that was all my spending money. Whilst transport is not cheap in London, I got around quite a bit and managed with my little resources. If you don’t have much you don’t spend much right. Given the weird situation that I had noticed at home slowly becoming the cleaning lady of the house and not looking after the children at all I was lucky to make a couple of good friends and fellow Au Pairs in my English class. We started talking and I told them about my schedule. All agreed this was not what the tasks of an Au Pair should be. I was trying not to get to upset, but this just wasn’t at all what I had pictured it to be. Not that I mind a bit of cleaning, not at all, however I was there to watch the children though, learn some English with them and get out and about not be stuck at home alone all day.
After about a month I decided it was time to go and talk to the host mum. I remember her words clearly and how nervous I was, I mean I was Jung how do you tell her I am not here to clean your house all day everyday but please don’t throw me out and btw I don’t have money for rent. As we talked, she got clearly upset and I actually found out that her thoughts of an Au Pair is cleaning lady not nanny. Realizing there was no way of me staying there any longer I went ahead and called the agency. The host mum wanted me out in a couple of days when she realized this wasn’t going to work out, so I had to choose a new family that was available fast. When I left, she didn’t even look me in the eye or said by. I quickly turned around and waved to the little two cuties that were sitting at the top of the stairs not allowed to come down to see me off as I walked out and closed the door behind me.
Luckily the new family came to pick me up and well within a couple of days I was in a new home, a new bedroom, a new strangers house. This house was way livelier, so I liked it immediately. One boy aged 5, a bigger brother and sister who would move out soon and a mom, divorced but her ex-husband coming around every night to visit Henry. Being a super long day and quite emotional I decided to sit with them a little bit and then go to bed. I was exhausted.
Waking up the next morning I followed my same pattern see what my schedule for the week looked like, trying to find my way around the house, trying to get to know everyone and slowly trying to get into a routine again. Pretty fast I discovered that also in this family something was wrong, and I didn’t actually realize until a little later until I came home one night after having been out with my new friends and found the mum sleeping in the living room. You might think what’s wrong with that, little to say that the front door was wide open, and she was sleeping on the living room carpet. I didn’t quite know what was going on at the time, so I came in closed the front door, switched off the TV and went up to my bedroom. Henry was already asleep, so I decided to do the same feeling a little unease and confused. I also didn’t have a lock on my door which was always a little, well when you feel sacred and you can lock the door behind you, you usually feel saver, at least I do. So, I tried to sleep without the lock on the door but been very well aware that something was not quite right at all.
Over the next few weeks, I got to know the little boy much better, we actually got along really well. Took him to school every day, took a nap after or did some light cleaning, made some more friends who I started hanging out with on the weekends, jumped on the metro quite a lot to go into the big city and enjoyed my nights out and days in London. After all I started loving London more and more every day. I even didn’t mind as much when I came home to strange scenarios again with the window broken as she accidently threw something that seemed to smash the glass or sleeping on the kitchen table or hearing loud snoring from her bedroom. She minded her own business and so did I. Only seemed to do it when Henry wasn’t there or at least when he was asleep. After a while I pretty much did whatever I wanted to and let’s be honest for an 18-year-old I was having a blast with no supervision.
After a while things got pretty bad, I am not quite sure what happened, but I started finding hidden alcohol behind the couch, behind the computer and in the kitchen. Never in the fridge but hidden everywhere else. Henry found a beer behind the couch one day and handed it to me. Small comments like mum must have hidden this back here, from a 5-year-old pretty disturbing. He must have said something to his dad at some point as soon enough child protective services came to the house and interviewed me. She was nice enough and I knew she didn’t do anything or would never do anything to harm Henry, she loved Henry and being as Jung as I was, I did know that something wasn’t right at all and no little boy should be growing up like that. I didn’t lie but I also didn’t want to be in this situation and didn’t say more than I needed to. As long as I was there, as long as they had an Au Pair Henry would be save and I was taking care of him at all times, so I knew he was fine. After that visit Dad came around a lot again making sure all was in order, which it was, however the drinking didn’t stop.
She even asked me to buy her liquor once which I was really frustrated with but didn’t’ quite know how to say no so I just went and did it.
After 6 months of, well I did actually have a great time and a boyfriend at the time, I decided it was time for me to move on, not quite leaving London, I was not ready for that, however moving on from this family and babysitting. I got myself a room in a long-term rental hotel/motel in Finsbury Park, went out and applied to all kinds of restaurants and soon enough found a job as a waitress. I now had a place, a job and started my own thing in the greatest city.
At that time, I had just turned 19 and couldn’t wait to start my next adventure even if it was well kind of only down the road from my previous one.
I never looked back to this experience or have any regrets and would definitely go back and be an Au Pair anytime again, even with the difficulties that I had to unfortunately face. I don’t regret this time at all, I learned a lot. A lot about myself and others and a life that I now know I don’t want for myself in the future. To respect others and not to use them as something less just because you think you can and to treat alcohol with respect and in a save way, it can get pretty dangerous and ugly fast and you’re heading down a path that you don’t want to find yourself in.
Seeing all that and being that Jung has thought me a lot even if it was scary but again that just made me stronger and thought me that being scared is not always a bad thing it helps you grow and I am sure had my time there been any different I would probably be a different woman today. So no regrets, looking forward, making the best out of a situation and dealing with it in your own way and again when you’re done you will know and you will move on and there is nothing wrong in moving on to the next chapter in life.
To experiences in life, and the lessons you learn from them, even if you might only realize them way down the line!
by Petra Emma Jones
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