Becoming an Au Pair
Tell us about yourself!
Hi I’m Ashling Bourke, I’m half Finnish, half Irish but I was born and grew up in Malawi, Africa. However, I’ve lived in Italy for the past three years and now I’m currently studying at the University of Stirling in Scotland. I’m studying management along side accountancy & finance and leisure management and consumption for my current semester. I’m an only child. I love the Divergent book series but I don’t particularly like the movies. My hobbies are tennis, ultimate frisbee, singing, theatre and I also write a blog of my own.
Where and when were you an au pair?
I was an au pair from January 2015-April 2015 in Parma, Italy.
Why did you choose to go au pairing in that particular country?
Since I was already living in Italy, I wanted to go somewhere where I could be far away from home but close enough to be able to return back easily if I ever felt homesick or any other reason to return home. I also wanted to become more fluent in Italian as one of my goals for my gap year.
What was the ‘aim’ of your year as an au pair?
Since I was on a gap year, I wanted to earn money except in a job that revolves around children as I’ve almost always formed an instant connection with young children just from babysitting. I also wanted to gain experience in useful skills such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of children which I know I will need in the future.
How did you find your au pair family, and what tips would you have for those beginning their own searches for potential families?
I used Au Pair World to find my au pair family. These are my following tips for anyone who wants to become an au pair for the first time:
- Pick a family who has had an au pair before- I’m saying this because one of the problems that I experienced with my family since it was the first time for both of us was that neither of us had a clear idea of what an au pair should be doing and so I ended up having way more household tasks and working more hours compared to other au pairs I met who had a lot more experience.
- When you do an interview, pick questions you wouldn’t even think of and observe things carefully- I just asked very basic questions and formed an immediate judgement based on good family or bad family, but the family who I thought was an good family, turned out to be an extremely difficult family. I also should’ve picked up on the fact that the children were already not “welcoming” towards the au pair as they refused to say hello but I took that as shyness.
- Do make a contract with the family!! Au pair world provide contracts and I highly recommend this as it literally saved my life.
How did you find the first few weeks moving in as an au pair with a new family? Are there any things you wish you’d have known before beginning?
My first few weeks were quite pleasant to be honest, I was very patient toward the children as I knew they would need time to adjust to the new situation and I formed a good relationship with my host mum.
Life as an Au Pair
What was your daily routine like as an Au Pair?
- 6:45am wake up and get myself dressed and ready for the day.
- 7am prepare breakfast for the children and also eat my breakfast.
- 7:15am wake up the children, they eat and get dressed, brush their teeth.
- 7:45am everybody puts their shoes/coats on and we head to school together.
- 8am the children are at school.
- 8:30-9:30am I unload the dishwasher and put the laundry out to dry.
- 9:30-10am I go out and do the food shopping.
- 10-11am I either go out jogging or do English lesson prep or chill.
- 12pm I eat lunch.
- 1-4pm I teach English lessons to teenagers (separate from au pairing)
- 4pm pick up the children from school.
- 4:30pm I prepare a snack for the children, depending on the day get them ready for football or swimming, they watch TV or we play ball, Lego or I try to do some English activities with them.
- 6pm I set the table and help prepare dinner.
- 7-10pm the children watch TV and I have my free time.
- 10pm children go to bed and I read them 3 English children’s stories.
- 11pm lights out and everybody goes to sleep.
What was the deal with school holidays?
I was allowed to go home but I had to be prepared to come back as soon as I was needed which was possible for me as I lived about 2 1/2 hours away from my au pair family.
What were your best and worst experiences as an au pair?
My best experiences were when the children were having a good day and we would play games together, have pillow fights or watch movies together. My favourite moment was about a month after I had been there, the children took turns to read the English books and it was truly amazing to hear them genuinely want to accomplish a difficult task of reading in another language!
Unfortunately I had a lot more bad experiences than good experiences. 95% of the time, the children were extremely difficult…they would just want to watch TV, they would refuse to go to bed until their mum returned from her social life, they would sometimes try to kick me out of the house, I had to call their mum everyday for stupid things like “the kids are crying because I turned the TV off” and then she would just give in to them. The mum would force me to give up my free time and sometimes days off for her social life needs, she would constantly remind me that she’s paying me from the money she inherited from her father, she charged me a commission rate for my English students as she found them for me, she was constantly judging me by saying “you’re too nice, you’re too strict…” She also managed to convince me to hate her husband (they were living in separate countries and trying to get a divorce) who at the end of the day, cared more about my involvement with the children than she ever did.
If you experienced any problems or issues with the family, how did you resolve them?
I tried my best to talk to the mum about these problems that I mentioned above but normally she would just tell the children off then they would act like perfect children for about a day and then go back into the behaviour described above. In the end, I decided to leave as I couldn’t stand it anymore and my contract said I could leave with immediate effect and so I was luckily able to leave within 12hours of notice but normally you would have to stay on for another two weeks.
Socializing and leisure
What advice do you have for making friends as an Au Pair?
Join the Facebook groups, there are loads and I’ve met so many au pairs through that!
How were you able to fit socializing with the commitment of your hours as an Au Pair?
I only had Sunday’s off so one of my au pair friends and I would go to a nearby city/town and spend the day exploring the area.
Would you do au pairing again?
Honestly, based on my first experience…I’m unlikely to do it again but I do still work as a babysitter which has made me very popular 🙂
How easy was it to feel part of the community? Did you make friends outside of the ‘au pair’ world?
Despite my bad experience, I would still recommend it because you learn sooo many things and not everything in life will be perfect or go well so don’t be put off by the fact that it could go badly.
Find out more about Ashling over on her various social media platforms: