Working as an Au pair is a very popular thing to do, especially among students, in a foreign country during the summer holidays. It is a great opportunity to learn a new language or to improve your existing skills in a foreign language as well as experiencing a new culture and way of life, and of course the best way to achieve this is to completely submerge yourself in it. To find my host family, I used the website https://www.aupairworld.com/en which is free (there is the option to upgrade to a Premium Membership- all the info is available on the web-site) and makes the process very safe and stress-free, however of course you can also find a host family through personal contacts. Au-pairing is also a great way to gain experience working with children because you do not necessarily need to be highly experienced with kids to do it, having done a few babysitting jobs here and there will do the trick.
I worked as an Au pair for a Spanish family in the suburb of La Gavia in Madrid over the Summer. It was a great experience which allowed me to explore a city and culture that I was not previously familiar with and improve my Spanish language skills significantly, however, I must admit, it was a lot more difficult that I thought it would be. Here, I have written you a list of the things that I wish I had been told to consider when looking for and before confirming an Au pair placement in Spain.
First, you must consider where you want to go. Would you prefer to stay in a more rural area like the countryside or a busy city? Or somewhere in between? Depending on the type of experience you are aiming for, this can be a very important question to ask yourself. Also, will may be more things and explore in the city in your time off and during the weekends, thereby leading on to my next point…
2. How Long For?
It is important to consider how long you want to go away for. I spent five weeks working as an Au pair which w1.orked perfectly for me. If you are not used to being away from home for long periods of time, I would say that 4 weeks is a good amount of time. Of course it depends on the person, but you have to remember that if you are au-pairing in a foreign country for the first time, you may be going to a country where you are not completely familiar with the language and the culture, so you do not want to be overwhelmed and a short-ish stay is perfect to avoid this. If you are working in the city, you may want to consider a longer trip as there is so much more to explore in your time off such as the cuisine, landmarks and many different (and cheap) events.
3. Age Of The Kids.
What age would you like the children to be? This seems like a silly question, but it is a very important one. It is crucial to remember that as much fun younger children can be, they can be exhausting and very stressful and you constantly have to be watching them and be aware of any surrounding dangers, but if you are comfortable with this then it can be very rewarding. Especially as younger children tend to get attached much more easily which is sweet, but can make it more difficult when you leave. Older children however can be much easier to handle, however they may be harder to discipline. It really depends on personal preference and your previous experience with kids as an Au pair.
4. House or Apartment?
Would you rather stay in a house or an apartment as an Au pair? Typically, in Spain anyway, the residential areas in and around the city are made up of apartments or flats and the houses are located further outside the city. The family that I was working for lived in an apartment in a suburb of Madrid, which had its pros and cons for me. The pros were that it only took me around 40 minutes to get into the centre of Madrid which was useful for when I went out on the weekends and during the week for my Spanish lessons. However, the apartment was quite small and my room even smaller, meaning that there was little room for me to escape the children when I had technically finished working. This meant that even when I wasn’t working, I was still with the boys and effectively still ‘looking after them’, therefore the working day was much longer than first expected. The lack of privacy also meant that I could not fully relax in my ‘time off’ and it reached the point that I was unable to speak to friends and family on the phone without being interrupted by the children, unless the family were out. Also, being in such a small space meant that whenever the baby woke up in the night, so did I. Therefore, if you are looking after young children, I would recommend trying to find families with larger apartments or houses.
5. Do The Parents Work?
Find out if the parents are working from home or will be at home when you are looking after the children. If the parents will be at home, this can have its pros and cons again depending on the age of the children. While I was working, the mother of the family was on maternity leave looking after the 6 month old baby. I was aware of this before I went and thought that it would be a good thing, and while this was useful when I needed help with the children or had any questions, it actually hindered my ability to discipline the children because if I told them to do something or ever said ‘no’, they would run to their mum. This also meant that the mum would get frustrated because she was mean to be working. It also made it much harder to discipline the children because I felt extremely uncomfortable telling off someone else’s children while their parent was constantly shadowing me and watching over my shoulder. Therefore, I would recommend that you work for a family where the parents are out at work for most of the day, preferably from Monday to Friday.
6. Clarify What Is Expected Of You.
Do appropriate research on what will be expected from you and do not be scared to ask questions. It is likely that you will have a Skype interview or two before your placement in confirmed and this is as much for you to choose the family and it is for them to choose you. Make sure that you have all the appropriate information that you need to make your decision because you want to be sure that you are making the right one. Also, they will like the fact that you are asking questions as it means that you are interested and they will want you to feel comfortable with your decision. It is important that you find out what is actually expected of you during your time as an Au pair as many families might want you to teach their children your native language, arrange trips for them during the day or to just keep them busy. The family that I worked for actually had a very structured timetable for the children which, at times, became stressful if something overran and the timetable didn’t go to plan. After all, nothing usually goes as expected when children are involved! It is important to be aware of whether the parents expect you to plan a structured day for the children so that you can think about this before you arrive.
7. Plan Your ‘You’ Time.
Plan a list of things that you would like to do and see for yourself while you are away as an Au pair. Before I went, I bought a guidebook on Madrid and highlighted all the places that I wanted to see and the things I wanted to do, meaning that I had a vague plan for my weekends off and was able to see everything that I wanted to. I would recommend buying a guidebook if you are going to a city or looking on the internet, there are loads of free websites with lists of ‘things to do’ in major cities that are very useful. As well as visiting all the tourist attractions, you should make an effort to visit more local places and do ‘what the locals do’ to explore the real and traditional culture of the country/ city.