There are endless perks of being an au pair, as I've spoken plenty about in recent posts. What about the struggles and downfalls?
There are just as many struggles as perks, in my humble opinion. Below are some of the challenges that I have faced, and will continue to face as I finish my time here in Italy.
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1. You're living with parents again.
I've found this to be troublesome for many reasons. I moved out when I was 18 and have been living almost entirely by myself for the past year. I can't watch TV or listen to music without headphones at 11 pm if I feel like it.
I have to follow semi-strict rules and keep order in the home. If I do something they do not like or we are not on the same page, it's brought to my attention, which I will then have to learn how to do it their exact way.
2. You essentially live at work.
There have been a few times where I thought to myself, “Meh, I wish I could just go home and relax.”
Being an au pair, that's entirely impossible unless you want to buy a $2,000 flight home last minute.
You are constantly at work, even if you are “off”. I might only work 5 hours a day, but there are plenty of times it feels much more than that. During my off days, I make sure to travel to another city in my host country, or even fly out to a different country.
Those off days are essential to keeping my sanity.
3. The risk of the family turning out bad.
This has become the reality to many au pair friends of mine. No matter how many Skype interviews you do, the family can turn out to be completely different when you arrive.
This is a risk you have to be willing to take.
The parents could turn out fine, but the children could be your worst nightmare or the other way around.
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4. You are officially a reference.
This is something I'm truly struggling with.
I love the family I'm working with, yet I'm having a difficult time with the child.
I've been here close to a month and over time figured out that Italian kids are much different than kids in America, and even other countries in Europe.
All of my au pair friends have told me this, that Italian kids are VERY different from the rest of the kids in the world.
5. The parents' form of discipline turns into your form of discipline.
I don't agree with the consistency of discipline. The child looks at me as if I am the worst being on the planet, yet all I am doing is making sure he does his homework and is clean.
If he doesn't listen, I take away his iPad and television privileges. He will either 1 of the 2 following things: 1. Throw a temper tantrum. or 2. Run to his parents, therefore usually never listen to me.
6. You will not agree with many things and there is nothing you can do about it.
I don't agree with what the child eats for breakfast or the whole day for that matter. It's entirely too much sugar for a child to eat, he comes home very grumpy and is tired around the clock.
What can I do about that? Nothing. I incorporate fruits as often as I can, but he turns them away and only eats a tiny bite of the food, and then starts crying and tells his parents he is starving.
All in all, I'm very happy with my decision to stay for only 3 months.
I get to live and experience the life of Italians, as well as have enough time to venture out and see other countries and cities in Europe.
If your child ends up being terrible, 3 months is a *doable* amount of time to handle.
Any more time than that, and you are better off at finding a family that is better suited for you.
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Would I become an au pair again?
The first week of living in Italy, I was in the honeymoon phase. The kid was really quiet and wasn't showing his true colors yet.
The struggles have only recently become apparent and to be honest with myself and all of you, I would not do it again, and definitely, would not do it for more than 3 months. 3 months (like I said earlier), is a doable amount of time if you are struggling with happiness and comfort.
However, I do recommend leaving your au pair family if happiness is dwindling down day by day.
So many of my au pair friends have transferred to new families, and their second family is usually almost ALWAYS better than the first.
Not sure if it's luck or better research into the family, but this is usually the case.
Last minute advice:
If you're thinking about becoming an au pair, understand what you are getting yourself into. Yes, the perks usually outweigh the downfalls but realize the situation you will be dealing with for the next 3-12 months.
If living with your parents was troublesome, this might not be the ideal situation for you. If you don't like children, this situation is not ideal either.
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Are you an au pair? What are some of the struggles you have faced or are currently facing?
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