Friday, March 19, 2010

french friday - part trois

Bienvenue!  Thanks for coming back for the third edition of French Friday!  Today you're in luck because I was able to round up a guest post from a real live au pair (nanny) living in PARIS to let us peek in on her life.  Cool, huh?  Yeah, I've got connections...  Enjoy the following post written by Besty (one of the sweetest, coolest girls I've ever met) and then check out her blog, Qu'est-ce que c'est?, for more updates from this amazing mademoiselle.

Bienvenue to this week’s edition of French Friday. Instead of Katie’s normal French Friday, I am doing a guest blog. I am Betsy, Chad’s cousin and Katie’s wannabe sister, and I am writing to you straight from the heart of Paris where I am currently an au pair. Basically, I am going to describe my life here, both as an au pair for a French family, and how I am completely in love with France, as well as a few other things. With a glass of kir (a popular French aperitif made with current liqueur and white wine) in hand, and Frank Sinatra in the background, I sit in a cozy Parisian apartment and begin my story. Enjoy!

Once upon a time, I dreamed of living in France. As time went by, that dream became hidden behind many other dreams and life in general. Then one day, the following thought popped into my head: You have to do it. Go to France if only for a summer. It’s now or never. Carpe Diem.

And so I did. I lived in Paris for two months during the summer of 2008. Life was wonderful, and I longed to experience life in France for more than just a summer with a real job. The summer quickly came to an end and my heart ached to leave. Of course I had to go back and finish my last year of college, but I made it my goal to come back, not just as a visitor, but to live. After many hours of Google searches, I came to the conclusion that the only way I could possibly afford to live in France would be to live as an au pair for a French family. An au pair is like a nanny, but not exactly the same. It is a different arrangement. The family searches started slowly, and then around January, the requests flooded in, and I found what I thought to be a good match. After lots of paperwork and arrangements, I was all ready to move to Paris at the end of August 2009. 
My departure date quickly approached and before I knew it, I was saying a very sad, tear-drenched goodbye to my parents in the airport. I arrived in Paris, spent a little over a week being a tourist, and then met the family in person for the first time when I moved in. They were very welcoming and kind, and the kids were fun and so cute.  They are currently 3, 4, and 7 years old. I was pretty excited about everything. My friend had been an au pair for a family and it turned out horribly, so I was feeling pretty lucky. After just a few days, I fell right into routine with the family, and I was able to understand the kids better. They were with me every day all day for the first week, and then school started (phew!) and my normal au pair life began.

The au pair experience is far from perfect, but from what I have heard, I am with a good family. After a few weeks, I felt a little taken advantage of because I was working a lot more hours than were in the contract (30 hours max) and doing a lot more cleaning than was in the contract. Actually, the table of hours and duties in my contract was being only mildly followed. I had a talk with the parents, which shortened my cleaning duties a little, and I think made them more aware of the fact that I was in fact keeping track of my hours. Anyway, my average day goes like this: I get up at 7 to help get the kids ready. They leave around 8:20 and then I start cleaning and ironing (I iron pajamas! Insane.). This can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes a day. Then I am free to do my studies, wander, or whatever until I leave to pick the kids up from school around 4:15. I pick them up, give them a snack, play, do homework, bathe them, feed them dinner, etc. until one of the parents come home, usually around 8:30. Most French children do not have school on Wednesday, so I have the kids all day. My job, also apparently includes two nights of babysitting a week, which I was never aware of before. Luckily, the parents hardly ever go out on the weekends and I just consider my “babysittings” to be part of Wednesday and Thursday night since I am often not done until the mom comes home around 11 or midnight. My weekends are free. I do have to be available during the days in case a kid is sick, so I really cannot get another job, which is a bummer. I am paid 250 euro a month, which is not much when you live in Paris, but I get by.
The kids. These kids are used to having a nanny or an au pair take care of them. I actually feel bad for them because they do not see their mother a lot. Luckily their dad is around a little more than her. They see her a little in the mornings, sometimes before they go to bed, and during the weekends when she is not busy obsessively cleaning the house. Because of this, my job can be hard because they blame me for their parents being away from them. Luckily the oldest understands, but the little ones often go into tantrums because they want their parents. The first few months were a nightmare with the oldest because she challenged me at every chance she had. She was a little monster every day; biting me, screaming, hitting me, throwing things down the staircase, kicking, etc. Thank goodness things are much better now. I used to walk to the school to pick them up with nervous cramps in my stomach. It took a lot of time and bonding before she stopped doing that. Now it happens only once in awhile and it is not to the degree that it was. When the kids are not being bad, they usually get along pretty well. They can be very sweet, loving, and fun. They love playing make-believe, especially the Sound of Music, which I introduced them to.

This sounds bad, I know, but there are some major upsides to my job. I get to live in Paris! I love the French language, French culture, and the beauty of Paris. I am learning French by completely surrounding myself with it everyday. I love living here, I love my friends here, and I have a French boyfriend. He is the best part. During my days when I am not cleaning or watching kids, I like to wander or get coffee with friends. Most of them work during the days, so usually I see my friends on the weekends at little bars or restaurants. Somehow, I have fallen in love in Paris (so cliché, I know), which I never thought would happen. Now the hard part is figuring out how to stay in this country. I so desperately want to stay here. My year in Paris is more than halfway finished, I wish I were already done being an au pair, but I wish I had more time to figure out my relationship and how I can possibly stay. Believe me, I am working on it. Once again, Google searches have occupied many hours of these past few weeks in my search for jobs on the French Riviera (where my boyfriend is moving and I plan to live if I can).
Overall, I wouldn’t trade this year in. I wouldn’t have done it any differently. I have learned French, which was my major goal. I feel like everything has somehow been part of a major plan. I have no idea what will come of my life here, but I can’t help hoping that my future includes me ending up in France for good, teaching English or something at a bilingual school, starting a family, and spending my evenings drinking café crème or kir while looking out into the sunset on the Mediterranean. 


Wendi@Every Day Miracles said...

WOW! What a neat little peak into the french life. :)
But the explanation of those tantrums... *shudder*

The Sneaky Mommy said...

c'est magnifique!

Wow! Even with trantrums and ironing pj's...that does sound like a fun life...for a bit!
Katie, you should probably go over for a visit! :)

Elizabeth said...

WOW (for a 3rd time). What a fun/crazy/stressful/lovely/hard/challenging/exciting/lovable/tiring job... It's hard to imagine the life of an au pair...thanks Betsy for sharing! Katie, I'll go visit her with you. You shouldn't travel alone.

This Heavenly Life said...

What a good post! I love knowing there are people out there who do such spontaneous and adventurous things. The closest I come to adventure is when I take both kids to the recycle center alone.

Okay, that's not entirely true.

I'd never go to the recycle center without Justin's help :)