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Advice & support needed - au pair. Long, sorry!

(15 Posts)
moos209 Sat 01-Aug-15 12:20:31


I'm an au pair currently working in Spain for ~9 weeks over the summer. It has been nothing like I imagined it to be - I realise in my immaturity that I expected child care to be a lot easier so I completely take the blame for not asking enough questions/doing enough research (I thought I had done plenty; obviously not).

I have had issues with how I have been treated by the family since the get go: I was left in the middle of a strange city at 1am on the second night. I was given no instructions on how to get home and no way of getting in contact with the parents (in hindsight, I should've asked for a number). I was left feeling very upset that a guest (albeit a working guest) could be treated like this right at the beginning. In fairness, it has improved since then but I still have a number of issues with my work and I don't know if I'm being unreasonable or if the family are expecting too much from me.

a) I get up every morning at 8.45ish (no complaints there!) and load/unload the dishwasher and then reload it because no one apart from me puts anything in there, and I set it off 99% of the time. I also take the time to wipe down the surfaces because they are usually covered in detritus.

b) I then sort out the entire family's washing - hanging it out/removing it from the airer and folding. I was told that I didn't have to do the parents washing, so I didn't for the first few days and it was never removed from the airer, which meant there wasn't enough room for the children's clothes. It is just easier if I do everyone's washing.

c) I will then do the children's breakfast, chivvy them to brush their teeth/get dressed/make their beds.

d) We do the homework which takes ~2 hours (if they sat and worked, it would be 45 mins max) because they like to go off and play with their pet hamster or go to the toilet, despite me always telling them to go to the toilet before we start to work and to put the hamster in his cage.

Whilst all this is going on, the parents are in bed and often don't get up until 11.30ish, by which time I've been up for three hours, have done all the chores, and am (usually) making headway with the children on their homework.

I also try to encourage the children to play games like Taboo with me, and I spend a long time trying to find creative ways to get them to practice their English skills. Obviously they view this as work and often refuse to do it, much to my dismay. They often ignore my requests to do things because they are consumed by their pet hamster/the television/their iPad and I just feel a lack of respect from them.

I wouldn't have a problem with doing what I'm doing but I am the only person who does the dishwasher/washing machine/gives the children their breakfast (they're 11 and 9 and should be able to make their own breakfast, in my eyes). I feel like I do too much for them and I only get one day off a week, but this is my first time au pairing and I think I need some advice from more experienced people.

Any help would be truly appreciated, I'm feeling very downtrodden by this all and I don't think I will ever au pair again (dramatic sounding, oops haha).


moos209 Sat 01-Aug-15 12:22:38

I also forgot to mention that, after we discovered my phone didn't really work out here, I was promised a mobile phone to keep in contact with the parents if I went out alone with the children. This was nearly 4 weeks ago and despite me asking several times and the parents saying it was coming/they were buying it tomorrow, it still hasn't materialised.

QuiteLikely5 Sat 01-Aug-15 12:26:28

How many hours a day do you work?

If you are only responsible for the dishwasher, homework & breakfast it doesn't sound too bad.

Someone did post here recently from Spain and she too was quite shocked at the amount of work she was required to do and it seemed that the spaniards expect a lot more from an au pair than what the Brits do.

Regarding your one day off you really need to look at your contract. Usually it's two days

QuiteLikely5 Sat 01-Aug-15 12:26:56

I'd be tempted to leave tbh!

moos209 Sat 01-Aug-15 12:39:57

I'm with the children from 10-3ish and then often for a couple of hours in the evening, getting them to shower/brush teeth/go to bed, so around 8 hrs.

I know the dishwasher/hwk/breakfast/laundry doesn't sound a lot, but the dishwasher and laundry are twice a day and I'm the only one who does it. I appreciate I do sound like a whinging child who hasn't quite got what she wanted but I am the only person in the house who puts things in the dishwasher. I also lay and clear the table for all the meals (which again doesn't sound a lot, but I'd expected some help for it) and also help with making the lunch and evening meals. I do make the evening meal once a week when the parents go out.

I never got a written contract, it was only verbal and nothing was written down. I'm beginning to regret not asking for a hard copy!

Yes, I've wanted to leave every day but they seem to enjoy having me here and the mum uses me as a sounding board for all her (very) personal problems and issues

DragonRojo Sat 01-Aug-15 12:52:16

what are you getting out of this arrangement? is your Spanish improving? are you having fun? if not, just leave. There is no point

ZenNudist Sat 01-Aug-15 13:04:07

So you're doing a 48 hour week for what pay exactly? I know you're getting food and board. Do you get out and about to enjoy your time off?

Leaving you without any way if contacting them when you're out with the children is irresponsible.

Expecting you to do all of the chores whilst they do none is unreasonable. Surely they cook for you? You aren't cleaning the house are you?

You can search other au pair threads to see what a reasonable list if duties and amount of hours to work would be and then sit down with your employers to see if you can agree a better arrangement . If you don't have a written contract then it's very much open to agreement.

Try that before just leaving?

traviata Sat 01-Aug-15 13:12:11

A few things stand out from your posts;

You expected chid care to be a lot easier. Does that mean you have not had much experience with children? That's fine, starting as an au pair is a reasonable way to get that experience, but perhaps it comes as a shock that in general children just do not co-operate/ sit down and do their homework/ put the hamster away when asked. I have DC aged 13 and 11, and I can't remember the last time they just got on with the task at hand, particularly homework. They are constantly messing about and wasting time. So perhaps you could re-assess this part of your frustration and lower your expectations?

Laundry/dishwasher etc; are you being paid for this time? If so, my feeling is that you do what's required of you. Even if it feels like the family are being selfish or lazy. Provided you are actually being paid for 8 hours a day, I think you may just have to accept that this is how the family want your time to be spent.

is the problem that you want to feel like a member of the family, and you are being treated as the hired help?

rookiemere Sat 01-Aug-15 13:30:11

I was an aupair many thousands of years ago. Looking back I wish I'd had the confidence and negotiation skills that I have now.

On paper your au-pair role doesn't seem too bad. I guess the thing about laying the table shows that you aren't being treated as a member of the family but as a dogsbody. Can the children not be asked to do chores such as clearing up after themselves?

Re the parents clothes - just stop doing their laundry. If you find their clothes in the machine when you get there, put them in a basket and let them know.

I feel a bit sorry for the DCs tbh. It's summer holidays - of course they want to be playing with their pet or mucking around on their i-pads. I can see that you want to get the English bit out of the way, but you might have more success if you let them play for a bit, then set them down for an hour before lunch.

Duckdeamon Sat 01-Aug-15 13:49:06

Parents in bed til 11:30am!

I would ask for two days off a week.

just shove the parents' washing to one side and do the kids stuff only.

You can always slack off on the English lessons / games / homework if that makes it easier, let the parents worry about that.

moos209 Sat 01-Aug-15 14:22:56

Ok, thanks for all your advice. I do realise that it is not fair for the children to be doing homework during the holidays, but it isn't as soon as they get up - they get around an hour to have breakfast and muck about before we start work.

I guess I do expect too much of them really, I think I'm just a bit blind to it; I know I would have thrown a wobbly had my mum brought in some random girl, kicked me out of my bedroom and made me do maths/read a chapter of a book in a foreign language 5 times a week! They've had au pairs for the last 5 years so I didn't think it would be a major problem. When we get down to the homework they do seem to enjoy it and then they're free to do whatever they want - the beach, the park, watch a film, play games etc.

I'm being bitter about having to do the chores when no one else does, but I suppose in the grand scheme of things they're really not major issues - I help with the cooking, but I'm not asked to hoover/clean the bird's cage. I just thought the chores would be shared out a bit more!

Would it be within reason for me to ask for Saturdays as well as Sundays off? They've nothing structured on Saturday so I feel like I'm just sat around trying to stop arguments.

With regards to the money, I get paid 60 euros a week. This is more than my friend, but she works set hours (9-3) and isn't expected to do any chores, only to teach the children English.

Thank you for all your help, I know I come across as immature and that 'oh, children don't do as I ask, shock horror!!!'! I think I just needed somewhere to vent and to ask for advice on what I should do.

moos209 Sat 01-Aug-15 14:23:45

Bird? I meant hamster!

chloeb2002 Sun 02-Aug-15 15:31:21

I've sat on both sides of the ap fence.. When I was an ap I worked hard! You name it I had to do it. I certainly wasn't a part of either family that I was working for ( it was a shared agreement) and was the hired very lonely help. That said it gave me the confidence to move on.
Since having ap's for the past 7 years we have learnt a lot! Ap's are part of our family. They have all ( in the last 6 years) spent a whole 12 months with us. We don't have a written contract either. I think from reading here in comparison to speaking to local friends with ap's that a contract is a very UK thing. We are in Aus. Our ap's are expected to tidy up a bit if I'm at work. They will for example hang out or bring in washing, empty dishwasher. However I also empty it, do washing, hang out ap's washing if shes going out. It's a back scratching agreement.
As for phone, it's a necessity. Suggest you will buy one and then they can reimburse you.
Being in bed till 11:30. Lucky buggers. Don't they work? Or do they work very late?
Homework should not be your responsibly alone.
Use the hamster for English lessons.
Check you are getting an experience from this too. Why did you want to ap. to get a job in childcare? To travel the world? Ensure you are getting what you need from the experience. grin

Karoleann Sun 02-Aug-15 22:07:28

Our last August pair when to Spain after us and lasted three weeks (she'd already been an apriong with us for 8 months). It's a very different culture, they stay up much later and so do the children.
I don't think you're job sounds too bad, just don't do the things you aren't meant to. Concentrate on teaching the kids English and they'll probably be happy and yes, I would certainly ask for one extra day off a week.

LatinForTelly Wed 05-Aug-15 23:06:25

For the hours you sound like you're doing, 60 euros a week is an utter pisstake imho.

We've had au pairs, and they have done a mix of childcare / chores but always within v strict hours (5 hrs for 5 days). Chores were almost entirely washing, washing up and easy meal prep (sandwiches) within their hours.

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