Category Archives: Au Pair

How to Annoy Children

(AKA: How to be a Great Au Pair)

To start, when reading them a story, make sure to not use your normal voice. Exaggerate. Use extremes in tone, pitch, and speed and change them often. They love that.

But over time they will get sick of that game. Now it’s is to start singing whatever you say. It could be while reading, but really any time works. It’s a sure fire way for them to respect you as well.

When trying to discipline them, a great tactic is to speak from their perspective saying what their inappropriate behavior is. As in, “I’m Maximilian and I fake cry to get what I want.” Be sure to use a really whiney voice for best results.

If you are a bit of risk taker, like me, you can attempt something a bit more extreme to really annoy them. If the child stubs their toe and starts crying for instance, go to them and inform them the toe must be cut off. Now, in my experience this goes one of two ways: First, is that the child believes you and becomes terrified. This is NOT the goal. If this happens, immediately comfort them and inform them this was a joke and not to be taken seriously.

The second, and ideal result, is that they are so surprised they forget about the toe. And then they will probably continue to say something slightly sarcastic (they aren’t usually that clever) about how wrong you are showing you their childlike annoyance towards you.

One last piece of advice is really for babies only. When you are feeding them, be sure to bring the spoon/fork full of food close to their mouth but then quickly bring it away. It’s also really enjoyable to put the food near their mouth and as they reach for it to slowly move it backwards out of reach.

Please feel free to share your own tips of how to annoy children:D

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Life as an Au Pair

Last night the 2 older kids I work with basically demanded hugs and kisses before putting them to sleep, and despite all my complaints, I realized it will be quite hard to leave Munich and [the kids of] this family. There have been a lot of good and a lot of not so good times and lessons learned while being an Au Pair. I want to always look back on this in a positive light, so maybe this is as much for me as it is for others to get a glimpse into my life over the last 9 months.

In general I like to think I helped the kids with their English. It’s still not perfect, but for being only 5 and 8 years old they do a fantastic job of translating and they no longer say “I want to tell you what”.

I also taught them the term ‘goofball’, which is now how we all refer to each other. The title of “# 1 Goofball” goes to whoever is the goofiest that particular day. Usually me, or the baby.

We discussed time differences a lot: if it’s dinner time in Germany, then it’s breakfast in America (Pacific time) and tomorrow morning in Australia. wow!

I also taught them how to play Tic-Tac-Toe, what s’mores are, the Dizzy Whizzy game (you know, the game where you spin around in a circle until you fall down…), what a knuckle sandwich is- no I didn’t hit them it was all just teasing, and also how California has trees so big cars can drive through them.

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At bedtime I learned I am horrible at making up stories on the spot. Solution? Tell them stories of movies I know they haven’t seen. Mulan, Shrek, Sound of Music, Rescuers Down Under, Hook, and Harry Potter (they even know what different spells are and pretend to use them on each other- expeliarmus, diffindo, stupify etc.) are just a few of their favorites now.

I’m proud to say I taught them the classic American phrase
“I’m rubber.
You’re glue.
whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you”

As for the 1-year-old I have taught him how to ‘High-5’. And the #1 song I used to sing him to sleep: Part of Your World from the Little Mermaid.

I like to think I was pretty good at my job.

IMG_2126For myself, I think this was a very eye-opening experience. It’s not one I would ever do again, but for others it’s worth it. I didn’t like living without my friends. I didn’t like having my home life and work so intertwined. I didn’t like my host parents as employers and as people in general. But it was not all for nothing.

I learned how to properly eat a Bavarian weisswurst.
I am now competent in ironing and properly folding clothes (including dress shirts!).
I can make a mean chai-tea latte with the amazing all-in-one machine the family has.
And I have also acquired a rather intense coffee addiction via that same machine.
I have not, however, mastered the German language.

Not even a little bit.

 

Why I Can’t Au Pair…anymore

I was going to write a post about my overall experience as an Au Pair and how it was not a pleasant one. But it’s really not that interesting, and the people who would care to know the whole story already do. I’ve been complaining to them about it for the last 6 months. Instead of getting whiney, I’ll just tell you how it was all my fault.

To start, I jumped the gun choosing a family/country/city and ended up with a terrible host family…and then just stayed anyways.

I do really care for the kids. Of course there are bad days for us all, but I will miss them when I go. The 5 year old girl has already been talking about coming to visit me in California when she’s a grown up and being the Au Pair for my kids (ha!). Adorable.

Now, during the last 6 or so months in Munich, I spent a lot of time being miserable about my job. A few times I was motivated enough to look into other options for me to stay/work in Europe, but nothing substantial and nothing was accomplished and I didn’t want to find another Au Pair job. I just kept working. I was making friends, seeing old ones, and taking the trips I’d always wanted. Maybe it was worth it to stay…

But I hated the job. Not that it was difficult or overly demanding, I just didn’t like it. I hate playing Suzie Homemaker and cleaning up other people’s stuff. I hate  making beds. And my host mom was an insane perfectionist which drove me insane making everything seem 10xs worse. And once the job did what I wanted it to (get me back to Europe long term), I had even less desire to do it.

And of course I knew living with a family would be weird. But I’m used to living with at least 2 of my best friends and having someone to talk to/drink/watch movies with any given night. As someone who does not party a lot, this was kind of a big deal. I was not close with the parents either- everyone went their own ways after the kids went to bed making us very disconnected. They were also of the upper upper class and treated me (and the 2 other woman who came to help with the kids/cleaning) like it was them  helping us,  not the other way around.

I closed myself off from the family and didn’t go on many outings with them. Sort of defeats the purpose of a cultural exchange, yeah? The job became more of a job to me and less of an experience. And it made me miserable.

And still I stayed and endured.

I wish I had a more clever way of saying this- but hindsight is always 20/20. Life is short. Do what makes you happy. No time like the present.

These are all things I know.

These are things I tell my friends on a regular basis.

These are things I have to learn for myself again and again and again.

I think everyone has that one thing they never seem to be able to learn for themselves. For me, I tend to put up with things much longer than I should. Perhaps it’s the phrase engrained in my brain ‘it builds character’ from years of ballet training. Did wonders for me in the dance world, not so much otherwise.

I managed to make what could have been a fantastic experience into one I might now regret. I kept telling myself it would get better. I’d take a holiday and come back feeling refreshed, only to rediscover each month that it quickly deteriorated back to the horror and stress it was before.

I did it to myself. But I am fairly certain this job just wasn’t for me. Crazy family or not. I have made some wonderful friends in Munich and had many fantastic times. I will carry these memories with me forever and maybe, just maybe, next time I find myself in a messy situation I can look back and remember that it’s best to get myself out as quickly as possible. I will finish out the summer with them and then possibly go work at the same hostel in Portugal I stayed in in March before heading back home. New adventures to begin!

 

..and if I buy you a gorilla?

The 5 year old that I Au Pair for is very intelligent, and we share a close relationship. Many nights it’s just me, Elisabeth and the baby getting ready for bed together so we have a lot of time to talk/read/play together.

This one night she starts asking if she can live with me back in America. I say ‘Sure! That would be so much fun.” She started saying that she would be a police officer…and that she would buy a dog, and a cat, and a parrot (not really that uncommon in the SF area so she’d fit right in). But then she gets serious asking about what I would do if she gets ‘home fever’. How sweet right? So I tell her we would call her mom and dad so you won’t miss them as much and then we can snuggle up and watch a movie together. She even suggested Finding Nemo because she knows I love it so much.

She surprises me by next asking “What if I have no friends?” quickly followed by a panicky, “What if I can’t find where you live? I don’t know where your house is!”

It’s as this point that I realize: she is still imagining herself as she is now. She has very little sense of time, as a 5 year old, and doesn’t know how to think about herself as a ‘grown up’, but she is thinking of logical questions when it comes to moving to a new city/country. I try to keep it light by saying “Well silly, you would have to call me first from Germany so I know that you are coming and I would TELL you where I live.”

I leave then, to go put the baby to sleep, thinking that was that. But 5 minutes later I come back and she’s gotten herself all worked up. What started out as jokes about us going to the beach together in California turned into a life crisis for the child.

She’s near tears and worried now that people will be mean to her and say “She’s not a nice girl”. I try explaining to her that this will be in many, many years from now and she will be able to meet new people easily…or that maybe one of her friends from Germany will come with her and we can all be together. I say she doesn’t have  to move to California for forever, she can just take a holiday to visit me!

But she’s definitely got tears in her eyes imagining that she’s signed her life away to America. “What if I never see my mom and dad again? They won’t love me anymore”. Oh my god what I have I done to this girl??! 

I snuggle close to her and say “You goofball (it’s my term of affection for the kids, they love it), your mom and dad will always, always love you. They would come visit you in California and you can visit them in Germany anytime you want. But you don’t have to leave if you don’t want to.”

And then, after a pause, she looks up at me with those bright blue eyes and says, “And what if I buy you a gorilla?”

My perfectly serious response, “Well, I would say ‘thank you, but no thank you'”.  I got a small smile in return as she realized how silly the question was. I started teasing her about asking me if I wanted a gorilla, of all things, which of course turned into a tickle fight just so I could hear her laughing again.

Kids, am I right?

Eliz&Me

Kids Are Gross

Especially when you are living with kids that aren’t yours. I’ve been a nanny for years and am now an Au Pair which means I live in the same house as the family. It’s a whole new ball game.

There is nose picking, flicking, and eating. There are little naked bodies sitting on anything and everything without care. The other day after asking the nearly 5 year old to wipe the toothpaste from her mouth after brushing, she promptly came up and used my shirt. Uck.

Ezra

Having a 9 month baby means drool and slobber and spit up. Everywhere. And I mean that literally. He crawls and drools. He stands up using the chair/couch/bed/drawers/stairs/my leg and puts his drooly mouth on it. On top of that literally everything goes into the mouth; I happened to start working at the fun teething stage. And I won’t go into details, but I’m sure you can imagine the other fun stuff that comes with having a baby in diapers. meh.

I understand that they are kids. And in general I knew what I was getting myself into, but actually LIVING in the house and having to use/touch these things on a regular basis is kind of grossing me out. If you are thinking about becoming an Au Pair, really think about what you are getting yourself into. 

I found this other post hilarious and seriously true, check it out.

**UPDATE** woke up this morning to discover the kids have head lice which means I’m oiling up my head too, and one has the stomach flu. fun, fun day ahead.