21 November 2016
50 things I've learnt from working as an au pair in the south of France
So I am currently sitting on the eurostar somewhere between Paris and London, about to start the next leg of my adventure and I have decided that it is time to write my blog post on the things I learnt, or mostly experienced while working as an au pair.
To sum up the story for those of you who don’t know. The last three months have been a little ‘pause’ in my travels while I have been working for a French family in the south of France as their au pair. I was looking after two boys between the ages of 2 and 4, and boy was it difficult at times!
Over the three months I would write down things in my little moleskin notebook or in the notes section in my phone, things that I learnt or things I thought were funny or interesting.. or just different to what I’m used to. A couple of months in I decided that it would actually be quite funny to write down my experiences in a top 50 things I learnt sort of way. Not only in just looking after toddlers, but also just living in France and experiencing the french culture to a max. So below, in no particular order, are the top 50 things I learnt working as an au pair in the south of France.
- No matter how difficult as day was, at the end of the day I always have my room to go back to - they aren’t my kids.
- It’s probably the only time in my life where I’ll be able to ignore the screening children in the middle of the night - those are the parents jobs after all and out of my hours.
- 3 shelves of cheese and yoghurt in the fridge is perfectly acceptable.
- Meaning, eating cheese fondues and raclettes are too!
- Eating dinner at 10 pm at night still isn’t normal to me, and I will never get used to it - the Australian half of me doesn’t like it.
- Afternoon tea is a must
- When children insult your french you just got to tell yourself that at least you can speak two languages.
- Netflix is a lifesaver - the perfect way to switch off at night.
- Children will cry at least 5 times a day - each - and that is no exaggeration.
- I never thought I would say that I hate school holidays.... but I do. Having the children at home all day everyday is not my idea of fun!
- Baking with the kids was something I thought would be fun! But soon found out to be very frustrating and I just wanted to bake alone.
- Same goes with play dough... it was really fun in the first month... but it then became a mess and disaster and it's everywhere in the house now. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found some in my bag in a few months time.
- I will not miss going into the shower only to find 400 toys on the ground.
- I also learned that when a child walks into your room early in the morning on your day off. You just have to ignore it and let it go.
- Cream is a staple in French cooking... hardly any meal goes without it!
- I still dislike weekends just as I did in Australia... they are my biggest work days. And I dread them.
- Always take the kids out in the morning if they aren't going to school. Never ever ever just think activities indoors will be a good idea. They go crazy. NEVER DO IT.
- The same goes for the afternoon. Basically, top tip I learnt - take them out to the park as much as possible!
- I have been able to experiment with cooking, I've learnt a lot of new recipes which is great!
- My diet has been very high in dairy and sugar... which a) isn't good for your health and b) is not good for your skin. Which I very quickly learnt. But hey, you've got to enjoy life a little.
- So many memories from my childhood… the same french kids TV shows, the same afternoon tea biscuits and so many more things…
- I have become the master in cooking soups, since a light dinner is a must once you’ve had a proper french lunch.
- Also I have tasted about every transitional french cheese winter dish that you can taste!
- I can relate more than ever to that internet meme "although it is frowned upon to call a child an asshole - it is not illegal" - just saying... there have been moments when I've thought about that.
- I will never ever get used to a 2 hour lunch break. I do not like it. You shouldn't close everything to have lunch for 2 hours!
- I will also never get used to EVERYTHING being closed on a Sunday... like I mean everything!
- French doctors are basically made to prescribe you with every medicine possible... you will come out of the chemist with 8 different boxes... no joke! (although they do work...)
- I miss living with animals in the house.
- I love love love French food - although I already knew that
- Au pairing is hard work! and it is a joke that I ever thought it would be a breeze.
- Letting a child fall in wet concrete is not the worst thing you can do.... and yes it is exactly as it sounds. I let the child fall into setting cement and had to run back to the house as fast as we could so that he didn't set in stone! But yes, I've done worse....
- Which has surprisingly been don't listen to the kids when they say they can watch certain cartoons which aren't age appropriate (it was my second week... I didn't know what a 4 year old could and couldn't watch...)
- I have learnt how to wipe a child ass. Need I say anymore?
- I have also learnt how to put nappys on.
- No matter how many times I have buckled a child into a child’s car seat, it will still take me 10 minutes to do so.
- I also never learnt how to put the table part back onto the high chair… it was impossible to do!
- The amount of times I have wanted to tell them “you aren’t 2 years old stop doing (insert something stupid)” and then had to stop myself because they are 2 years old…
- I have had no social life for the last 3 months… living in a small french village equals in old people and young families.
- In summer I spent most of my time off at the pool and reading books
- And in the autumn months most of my time going for walks and planning my travels ahead.
- Basically I learnt that when you have time off do not stay in the house… you need to go out and get fresh air away from the children.
- Always bring the pram when you go out for walks. Or you’ll end up carrying two children the whole way home.
- Also, always bring a change of clothes when you go out. Every time you don’t, they will have an accident.
- My love for french supermarkets continue… but shopping with toddlers is an experience for sure!
- I also learnt that I am better with children than what I originally thought…
- Also, always, always, always supervise children when they are painting… or you’ll end up with paint all over the walls! I swear I only turned around for 30 seconds - no joke!
- In saying that, it taught me that toddlers can do A LOT in 30 seconds!
- My french has improved a lot and I have learnt a lot of new words… both sophisticated adult words as well as more childish toddler words…
- When you don’t understand what the youngest 2 year old is saying, the 4 year old is your best translator - so keep on his good side.
- And finally, I learnt that as much as the last three months have been hard work… I love my adopted au pair family and I really am going to miss them all!
I mean… I learnt so much more, both about children, France but also (as cliche as it sounds), about myself. It is an experience that I will never ever forget and I want to thank you wonderful au pair family for having me and teaching so many great things!
Lesson 51. I do not think I will ever be an au pair again - it is bloody hard work!