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Miserable Au Pair - really need advice

(211 Posts)
flossiebee123 Mon 02-May-16 11:56:11

Hi everyone,

I'm a 20 year old English girl who has just started working as an au pair in France. I'm absolutely miserable and already desperate to go home. I started last Tuesday. I get paid €80-€100 a week, depending on 'how well I do' for around 35 hours, although I would say I've already done more than that. The father told me how much I 'get right' determines how much I get paid. If I do something wrong, I get paid less. I get given a car so I can take the kids out to places. I am supposed to have 2 days off a week when the mother is off from work.. although today, one of the kids is sick (on the mum's day off, therefore supposed to be my day off too) and she's left me at home with a very sick kid and has gone out to meet her friends. She's taken my car so I can't go out, and won't be back til late evening.

So much has happened and come to light in the past week and I feel very torn about whether to go home or not. Deep down I know I am unhappy and won't last (I'm meant to be here for 4 months) but I'm so shy that I don't feel I can approach the parents, especially as they have been quite kind in some ways.

On the first day I arrived, everything was fine, I just followed the mum around and met the people around them. We had a chat about what I had to do, and that was fine. In the evening, she went out so I was left alone with the dad and the kids. He basically gave me a lecture on how important it was that I make a good impression on the first day and in the first week, which only added to the pressure. The younger of the kids, the boy, is very full of energy and sometimes plays up (although not when I'm around). That day, he did something a bit stupid and I was expected to discipline him. They told me about one of their other au pairs who wasn't that great in their eyes because she wouldn't tell him off. I don't feel comfortable shouting at other people's kids but it's what they seem to expect.

The next day, we went to all the kids' activities, and it came out that I was expected to drive them to their activities, which was never mentioned. I understood I would have to do some driving, but not entirely take over the parents' duties. I was expected to remember my way around after one drive. I also found out I'm expected to drive the kids' friends to the activities as well, which was again never mentioned. At the end of the day I sort of had a breakdown because she wrote up a 'planning' for the next week, and I found out I will have to cook for them which I was promised I wouldn't have to do, but I actually wouldn't have minded had they been honest about that straight up.

They have a camp site at which they spend the summer. I was told we wouldn't be going there until July, but I got told when I arrived that we are supposed to go there every weekend. In their emails, they promised me an all equipped caravan so I could have my own space. At the weekend, we went there and they had left the electricity and water disconnected, and I can't use the toilet or shower because they're broken. They lock the house at night so I can't go in, so I can't go to the toilet if I need to. I had no heating so I was really cold. Friday was supposed to be one of my days off too, but one of the kids (the one that's off today) went home sick from school and I was expected to drop everything and go to the camp site.

I was promised a smart phone so that we could keep in touch easily, and so I could keep in touch with my friends because the area I'm in is very isolated. They lied about this, then my actual phone didn't work because they couldn't be bothered to find the charger so I've been having to use my English phone. It's only today when V is sick again that they bothered to find the charger.

I have had next to no free time because of all the chores I'm expected to do, I haven't even been able to explore the area in the time I've been here. They leave the house in a tip in the morning so I spend most of my day cleaning, then I have to go and get the kids from school and do all my evening chores and jobs. Even on my days off so far I have just been cleaning. I was supposed to be off yesterday and today but have spent both days looking after the kids. I completed all the housework the other day, they came home and moaned at me because the cat was still in the house.

In the summer, it's only going to get worse as the parents don't have any time off so I will be working 7 days a week without any free time. I get a few weeks off while the kids go away to their grandparents', but I already feel so exhausted and unhappy. I don't know if I'm going to last that long.

Am I being unreasonable? Is it wrong of me to want to go home? I really don't want to let them down because they're a really nice family but I'm so unhappy and don't want to be here at all.

notapizzaeater Mon 02-May-16 12:01:54

Lives too short, they've not kept yo there side of the bargain, I'd be off !

LaurieFairyCake Mon 02-May-16 12:03:29

They're not at all nice!

They've broken every single promise they made and expect an actual slave! You get paid according to how well you do shock
They don't give you the days off they're supposed to
And they've given you a load of extra duties
And I fucking toilet over night !

Go home right now.

LaurieFairyCake Mon 02-May-16 12:03:56

And NO toilet overnight

dailymailphequers Mon 02-May-16 12:04:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Naoko Mon 02-May-16 12:12:07

Go home. They're exploiting you.

annandale Mon 02-May-16 12:13:15

Are you there through an agency? If so, call them for advice.

If not, pack your bags on the quiet, make a list of what you are prepared to do, hand it to them, expect them to kick off at which you just walk out; but if they don't, give it one more week.

If you do it again, go through an agency.

Kidnapped Mon 02-May-16 12:16:34

What do you want to do? There's no point staying with this family even if they have assurances that things will be different. They've shown you that they expect you to be the family slave.

Would you rather stay in France but with a different family who will hopefully be nicer? Are you with an agency? Can they help you?

If you just want to go home, that's fine. You'll have to talk to the parents, tell them that the job isn't what you expected and that you will be leaving. Maybe give them a week to find someone else if you are feeling generous. If they kick off about that then you just leave immediately.

WellErrr Mon 02-May-16 12:19:43

Go home.
This is not typical, they are exploiting you. You don't owe them notice it an explanation.

wallywobbles Mon 02-May-16 12:31:17

OK just to be clear I have au pairs and I am in France. I think you should quit, but I'm going to give you some information to look at so you are coming at this from a position of a bit more knowledge and strength.

First, instead of going home, have a look at the HelpX and Workaway sites and see if you can find another family to go to. You wouldn't be a proper au pair but you'd see a bit of France and if you were unhappy you can just leave.

But to your current problem. The first thing you need to be sure of is if you are a stagiaire aide familiale or an au pair.,comment-engager-une-fille-au-pair,142,5535.asp has a lot of information from the hosts point of view. - this sets out the legal stuff pretty clearly

The au pair contracts are amazingly restrictive in France. Your contract sounds totally illegal. I don't think you can work more than 5 hours a day, but you really need to find out by looking at the French government sites.

Whatever, you definitely cannot work more than 30 hours. (You need to keep a record of hours worked, and you need to ask whether they will be paying overtime or time off in lieu).

You should be following a minimum of 10 hours of French lessons a week. Its up to them to sort this out for you and pay for it.

You can be asked to baby sitting in the evening - up to 3 times per week.
You might only have 1 day off a week.

My stagiaire aide familiale costs me around 11000€ a year, over and above food and accommodation, partly because I pay her school fees and of course the social security which is a bloody fortune.

They should be declaring you to URSSAF using a Cerfa 11469 form. My guess is that they are not.
You should go to your local URSAFF office and ask, you must be declared to them in the first 8 days of your employment, but by the family. Also CPAM (for health care) in those first 8 days.
You should have signed an official contract which is drawn up by the DDTE, and they also have to sign off on you being an au pair.

It's not a simple process to host in France. But it doesn't give them the right to treat you like this. Employment law in France means that workers are extremely protected.

flossiebee123 Mon 02-May-16 12:43:10

I'm not with an agency, I went through a website to find them because I can only do it til September (returning to uni after). I think after this experience I'll stop because I don't feel like I want to run the risk of ending up with another family like this. The reason I chose this family is because they are lovely people, the mum herself was an au pair. They are very generous in other ways, they gave me half for my plane ticket and have taken us out to eat but I just don't feel happy here. I feel like I'm constantly being scrutinised.

They do some of the household chores but it is mainly me who does them while the mum is at work. They have a cleaner too but if I left the house in the state it's in when they go to school/work, I would probably get told off. I woke up this morning to the mum going out and calling me to wake me up to look after the kid. She's also left a note on the washing machine asking me to not put the girl's dance clothes in the tumble dryer instead of telling me directly. I don't know these things but it seems as though they expect me to grasp everything or know it all already. I'm really stressed about tomorrow and Wednesday because the kids have activities and I have no idea where I'm going but she's written me directions that I'm meant to read while driving.

I don't know if I'm being overdramatic but this is not what I expected at all. I love the kids but I can't see myself carrying on like this.

KindDogsTail Mon 02-May-16 12:47:00

Flossybee123 it is such a shame you have been treated so badly and that your family has not kept to any agreements.

It is lucky that WallyWobbles knows so much.

Have you thought of making a time table with grids covering the dates and times for the time you have been there then filling it in to show how much you have done including hours?

Then you could also make 2 pie charts - one with the agreed activities, another with what actually happened. They could include times spent if possible.

Last a list of agreements on one side, ticked or crossed with the broken agreement described on the other.

Maybe on paper you could show them.

This would be to see if they change and you could stay, or to show them what they have done if you decide not to stay - which would be understandable to say the least.

The father sounds especially annoying.

flossiebee123 Mon 02-May-16 13:06:30

Thank you so much WallyWobbles for all your knowledge and links.

I don't actually have a contract, and no I'm not being declared. I think because I'm an EU citizen they just don't see the point in declaring me. The job is cash in hand. I don't get language lessons at all (let's face it, I don't have the bloody time), and I don't have social security. I'm only meant to be here for 4 months so I don't know if that's something they saw fit to do. I have travel insurance covering me at the moment. They have employed me as a JFP, so I'm well aware of the 30 hour time limit. She said at first they wouldn't need me much, but obviously that's a lie. As I said though, I don't have health insurance paid by them or anything. I have not submitted any paperwork or anything like that. I think I've been pretty foolish.

My boyfriend is French and based in Bordeaux so that's why I wanted to come here, so I can improve my French alongside seeing a different part of the country and helping a family out so I can earn money. I'm actually nearer to Nice, so not anywhere near him. The distance doesn't bother me as we're obviously used to it but as the summer approaches I will have less time to myself to be sociable.

I was in touch with another family who seemed to be doing things very much by the book, but I expect they have found someone else now. I really do just want to go home.

The father is very annoying and gave me a lecture on what I can/can't mention to the people who work for him. They are really nice people but I just feel so uncomfortable when they're around. When it's just me and the kids we have a great time, I'm just watching videos with the little one now, but when the parents come home I really struggle. The mum has yet to come home or check on the kid.

Booboostwo Mon 02-May-16 14:03:43

What they are doing is both illegal and unfair. I am also in France and au pair rules are very strict here. Your EU nationality is neither here nor there, they are avoiding a lot of taxes by not declaring you. In addition they don't sound like nice people to work for.

Can you just leave?

TheoriginalLEM Mon 02-May-16 14:08:35

Oh love go home! This IS NOT how you should be treated, just pack up and leave. GO home and regroup . Find a nicer family and start again.

IceMaiden73 Mon 02-May-16 14:11:42

I'd just pack up and leave x

CallMeMousie Mon 02-May-16 14:30:47

Pack up and leave! Life's too short and they're treating you awfully.

Another thought - is your hometown twinned with anywhere in France? When I was your age the twinning committee (or whatever it's called) arranged for me to stay with families in our twin town and teach English/do some light au pair work. It was great and all the families were well vetted.

If you're boyfriend lives in Bordeaux, can't he find you some work there? Maybe in a bar or a hotel, or perhaps put up a card and do native speaker conversation lessons for children and adults? You should be able to pick something up and be near him for a couple of months (disclaimer: my experiences of casual work in Europe are all 15 years old and I know the economic climate has changed since then!)

LyndaNotLinda Mon 02-May-16 14:57:53

Just walk out. They aren't nice. They're employing you illegally.

Grab your stuff and leave.

sandgrown Mon 02-May-16 15:05:27

I ended up in a,situation like yours many years ago. Fortunately I had a return ticket so I sneaked out one morning and just left a note. I sat at the bus stop willing a bus to arrive before they found out I had gone!

Kidnapped Mon 02-May-16 15:06:21

I'd be tempted to stop off with the boyfriend for a while. Bordeaux is a decent size place. You could pick up some bar or babysitting work there as we head into the tourist season. It's already May now so I'd want to stay in France for the summer rather than heading straight back home.

But if you really feel that you want to go home then you should do that ASAP.

flossiebee123 Tue 03-May-16 09:56:27

I think I will be able to just leave if I give them my notice. I do feel very bad though as they told me yesterday they really want me to go out and see the area and I'm free to do so. They paid me €100 today. I've totted up my 'hours' and today I'll have done well over 40, nearly 50 hours in a week. The mum spoke to me last night and said she thinks the kids really like me, so I feel kind of trapped.

We're off to the campsite tonight, we'll be there all weekend which I'm really dreading. The kids are away from Thursday til Sunday, so I'm off. I was hoping to go see my boyfriend but he's working nights all weekend so there's no point in me going. I'm at home today with the youngest because he's still sick.

I have to take the eldest child and one of her friends to their singing lesson tonight, and I'm worrying because I don't know the way. I'm also absolutely dreading tomorrow because I have to take the kids to all their activities and at one point I'll have 5 kids in the car so if I get stopped I'm going to be in a lot of trouble. I also really don't know where I'm going tomorrow either so I'm feeling really anxious.

I would love to go be with my boyfriend for a few months but he lives with roommates and I don't think I could cope with their lifestyle as he's the only one who works in the flat. I would probably get very resentful living there because they're at home all day every day doing nothing and I'm always exhausted after a week there.

I definitely haven't been declared and I'm absolutely dreading living out of the caravan in the summer sad

LyndaNotLinda Tue 03-May-16 10:16:44

How are you free to go out and see the area if you're working a 59 hour week??!

They're relying on you being a nice person so that they can exploit you. And if you take more kids in the car than you're legally allowed to, you're a fool. You'll get the rap, not them.

Don't give notice, just leave. You owe these people nothing

Radiatorvalves Tue 03-May-16 10:29:37

I had a pretty miserable AP experience in france when I was your age.

Speaking as an older wiser mum and employer of APs, you need to leave. You could sit down and explain to them that what is happening is NOT what you signed up for and you cannot continue. You do not need to work your notice. Sure it would be nice, but in the circumstances, they are in breach of contract, so you can walk out immediately,

Good luck.

There are some lovely French may well find another one for the rest of the summer. Don't give up hope.

SnoozeButtonAbuser Tue 03-May-16 10:32:38

Tell them you are NOT taking 5 kids in the car. They can tell you which kid not to take, or you won't take any. Tell them you worked 50 hours last week - write down what you did each day. Tell them you didn't get even 1 day off, let alone 2. Then tell them you aren't happy and you are leaving at the first opportunity which is [whatever day ASAP]. You keep saying they are nice people. NO they're not. At all. leave.

potoftea Tue 03-May-16 10:33:52

I think your expectations of how you should be treated are quiet low. These people may have some nice ways and actions but they are not treating you well or fairly. You seem reluctant to criticise them and are blaming yourself for not being up to standard. But lots of people here are telling you, they are exploiting your good nature and being there for the next 4 months will make you very unhappy.
Cut your losses and leave. Its a life experience and not everything we try turns out well, but you've given this a good try but its not a positive thing for you, so move on. Could you spend a week in Bordeaux maybe staying in a hostel and see is there any work there, before deciding to leave?
But as a mother of students around your age, I want to fly over and drag you out of there, you are worth so much more than this treatment.

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