Au Pair in France needs your advice!

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Should I stay with the family or go home?

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Au Pair in France needs your advice!

Post  clareeeh on Thu 07 Jun 2012, 2:33 pm

Hi,
I'm an Australian girl currently au pairing in the country just out of Lyon, France. I've been looking after 4 boys aged 4,8,10,15 for a very rich family since Feb this year (4 months exactly this weekend...) but I am seriously doubting how much longer I can take it!

The family are generally nice enough and have all the best intentions, they have paid for just about everything for me, provided me with a car that I can use whenever I want, take me skiing at their house in the french alps in winter and this summer to their house on the coast too. Sounds perfect, not quite.

When first talking to the family they described themselves as "dynamic", such an understatement. The boys are horrid. The youngest throws THE biggest tantrums that I've ever seen in my entire life to get his own way, which he always does. I swear that both he and the 8 year old have some form of attention/ concentration/energy problem (ADD comes to mind) because they are just wild. No other way of explaining it, I can't take them anywhere as they just run a muck and I cannot control them at all. The 8 year old spits on me and hits me and does not listen ever and never does anything I say, he is just impossible. The 10 year old is full of attitude, always telling me what to do and that I do everything wrong and gets so so worried and stressed about it despite me telling him that I understand what I need to do and how I am meant to do it and its not for him to worry about a million times. The eldest isn't that bad, I don't have a lot to do with him except for driving him around sometimes but he doesn't really like to speak to me much, and I did try very hard to warm up to him but I eventually gave up.

The parents are just as bad as the kids. They are always soooooo stressed and full on yell at the kids for silly things like dropping a serviette on the ground during dinner, but fail to discipline the kids and let them just do what they want. Burping, farting, swearing, screaming, tantrums and running around are all daily occurrences during meal times and the parents just sit there and get frustrated and yell at each other and only occasionally get serious and give the kids a smack on the bottom if it gets to throwing a plate of vegetables across the room (happened more times than you'd believe). The mum is polite to me, sometimes asks how I am depending on her mood, lets me know if there is shopping I need to do things like that but never actually has a conversation with me and really makes me feel like an inconvenience and simply an employer. The dad is better in that respect but neither of them understand when I say that it was physically impossible to do the homework with the kids simply because they didn't want to and were unbearably difficult and always make me feel like it's my fault and that I'm not doing a good job. I feel like i'm doing more than an au pair is meant to as well, all the family washing and ironing (and trust me with 4 boys there is a lot of it), I always have the majority of the dinner ready (besides leaving things like boiling the pasta or turning on the veges to the mum), I do the general cleaning like the dishwasher, set the table, sweeping, mopping ect. and plus I look after the kids at least 5 hours a day after school until bed and on the weekends too.

Simply I'm stressed out, lonely, bored, frustrated and have no idea what to do. I was really looking forward to this year as an au pair, I spent at least 6 months doing a lot of research, had profiles on many sites, spoke to heaps of families looking for the perfect family that I thought I could become a part of. Hasn't happened. I don't want to go home just yet, as much as i'm not enjoying my self here and am missing my family and friends- it's not homesickness that is my issue, but I go to bed every night holding back tears of stress and frustration dreading the next morning. Our agreement was that I stay until Jan, I currently have a return ticket with no date and right now want to book the next flight home but feel like if I did I would be taking the easy way out, quitting, letting down the family and being even more of an inconvenience for them.

Ramble over, if your still here please help me! Any thoughts or opinions would be much appreciated!

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clareeeh
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Re: Au Pair in France needs your advice!

Post  languagelearner24 on Fri 08 Jun 2012, 3:58 pm

Hi Clareeh,

Firstly, I am so sorry to hear that you're not enjoying your time as an au pair; I think anyone would be lonely and frustrated with that family!
You seem to be in two minds about whether you should stay or not, yet I'm wondering if you are looking at your problem as objectively as you think you are. You say the family have 'the best of intentions', yet making you do all their housework, ON TOP of five hours' childcare a day (do you even get a day off?) is, to me, downright exploitation. I don't mean to sound harsh, but that's how I see it. I'm working as an au pair in Germany myself at the moment, where I'm legally not allowed work for more than 30 hours a week. I don't know what the legal rights of au pairs in France are, but I'm guessing the expected work hours are around the same.
But, then again, I don't know your full situation. Are they paying you extra for this housework? I think you need to objectively weigh up your reasons for staying versus your reasons for leaving. In your post, you give plenty of reasons why you should go, but I don't really sense any reason why you feel you should stay other than loyalty to the family to stick out the 12 months. But maybe there are other reasons for staying? Are you learning a lot of French, for example? You need to decide whether the postives outweigh the negatives. Myself, personally, I don't think any situation is worth staying in if it is causing you to cry yourself to sleep every night. And, regarding wishing to honour the agreement with the parents, have they kept their end of the bargain? Were you aware you would be doing this much housework before you came? And, as you say, it appears the two younger children have behavioural problems which they failed to inform you about. You say you're afraid of 'letting down the family', but, to me, they are the ones who've let you down. As an au pair, you are supposed to be treated as an equal member of the family, not as a servant. You are worth more than this! You need to stand up for yourself. Easier said than done, I know.

I know it must be frustrating to have spent so long carefully picking a family and then have it turn out so badly! But four months is a long time, and I would think the family are unlikely to change their behaviour at this stage. That said, if you are determined to rectify the situation, I would sit down with the parents some evening (soon) and objectively discuss your concerns with them. Perhaps focus on the father more, as it sounds like he is the more understanding of the two. The problem, as I see it, would be that you've already spent four months doing X amount of housework for them, so I'm not exactly sure how you could turn that situation around without it getting ugly.

To be perfectly honest, if there is no legal obligation on you to stay and you decide to leave, I would put this down to a learning experience. Being an au pair is always a gamble, but you will know in future to agree with the family beforehand (preferably on paper) what you are expected to do, and make sure that this suits YOU as much as it suits them. Remember that, at the end of the day, the family is getting as much out of this exchange as the au pair (if not more).

I hope some of that is helpful. Good luck with it, whatever you decide to do, and remember, at the end of the day, you need to put your happiness first.
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languagelearner24
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AU PAIR NEEDED ASAP

Post  robertmorgannn on Wed 25 Jul 2012, 4:06 pm

I'm Robert Morgan from NYC. I need a nanny/au pair for my little princess. I want a live in nanny asap. If interested, please send your CV to robertmorgannn@yahoo.com for more details about you. Thanks.
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If I were you ...

Post  nalua on Wed 22 Aug 2012, 9:20 am

Hi, I hope I can help ...

I'd start by making life easier : My view is if you need to iron kids clothes you aren't drying them the ''correct way'', T-shirts in clothes hangers, for trousers on bottom of the legs place a peg on so they dry legs up ... etc, ohh socks and underwear !?! don't bother . If parents winge, remind them that the more time you have to ''wear off'' kids bateries hungrier, quieter meal time will be ...
I've dealt why a 4y girl like you described. As horrible as it sounds create the ''pudding only if you DESERVE it'' -for lunch only, you want them to go to sleep after dinner- the smalest atempt of tantrum means ''-no pudding for you today, you don't deserve it because ... '', and mean it, you eat yours, well behaved kids eat aswell. Apologising right after tantrum really means -I flip, apologise and still get what I want- . You don't want tantrums at all. What I would make sure was whenever there were signs of tiredness, hunger etc. we adults know more easily we can loose temper, I'd warn they are escalating to a tantrum then would say ''-WE need 2min before discussing this-'' slow deeeep breath then return to dialogue.

Understand: Deserving something is not a bartering ''currency'', I mean NEVER say: ''- I'll cook/do this IF you ...-'' what you should say is : ''- This pudding I'm making is for those who behave-''

If I were to recite the amount of times she tested her boundaries on me, how I curbed each of them, lol, I'd write a huge book. And trust me in a few weeks she learnt my ''system'', respected it, and we had loads of fun together.

A tip : Passionfruit is soporific, so is lettuce.
If they are HUNGRY before dinner, that's all they'll do during it.
Don't single out the eldest, 10min of tv for the others will not cause brain damage but will let you have/give exclusive attention to him. But beware, energetic/agressive tv programs will make some influence on how the youngest play. If he still doesn't warm to you I garantee he will apreciate a lot if you let him ''decide'' something. Like ''- I'm cooking potatoes for lunch, what is your favourite way of eating them? Mashed, etc?

Think of this as a univ. degree, essential and life saving experience you'll learn and practice before having your own kids. lol but true.
Best of luck Smile
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Hi there!

Post  CorneliaMc on Tue 11 Sep 2012, 11:01 am

Wow. I cringed at your story! That is truly a nightmare. And for it all to be going down so far from home! Aie aie aie!

I don't know your name, but mine is Carson. I'm a brand new au pair in France; been in the Aquitane region for a little over ten days now. I'm looking after a little boy named Loup (Wolf in French--how cute is that?). I came to this forum hoping to find posts from au pairs in my region who, like me, are hoping to find a friend. But then I read your post, and your awful account of life with this family, and wow, does my heart ever go out to you...

I think you should leave this family, but not necessarily cash in your chips and leave the country altogether, or the au pair profession. I'm assuming that you have some kind of Visa that is allowing you to work in France. Well, why not put it to better use and seek out another family? Do you have a contract with them? Even if, who cares? I agree with another poster, in that you don't owe them a thing after the disregard they've shown you.

You posted is in July, maybe things have panned out for you by now. I would be curious to hear your end result. Maybe you're already back in Australie! Write back if you like. And you need to talk/vent, you have people that want to listen/help.

Bon courage,
Carson
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