Monday, 30 March 2009
I am a young American woman, currently working as an au pair in France for a family near Paris.
If you aren't familiar, an au pair is:
"An au pair is a foreign-national domestic assistant working for, and living as part of, a host family Typically, au pairs are young women who take on a share of the family's responsibility for child care, as well as some housework, and receive a small monetary allowance for personal use.
The title comes from the French term au pair, meaning "on a par" or "equal to", indicating that the relationship is intended to be one of equals: the au pair is intended to become a member of the family, albeit a temporary one, rather than a domestic servant. In the best circumstances, both parties benefit from learning about the other's culture."
I am really enjoying my time while here, but I am having a bit of trouble with the family. You see, I only feel like I am part of the family when it is benefitting them. Perhaps I have too high of standards for how a host family should treat their au pair, but I have friends who are au pairs as well, and tell me these situations aren't normal.
One specific example includes something that happened a few days ago.
The mother asked if I wanted to go to Disneyland with her and the kids on my day off. I agreed, thinking it would be kind of fun, and we could spend some quality "family" time together. She even mentioned how she was happy she was getting a discount to the park because paying for 5 people (her, the three children, and me) can get a bit pricey otherwise.
However, my assumption of being considered a part of the family was premature. Upon arrivial, I realized that I would be the one to pay for my ticket. I was a bit put out because I am currently trying to save my money for travel and school next year. But oh well, I thought.
Anyway, the day was fine. The kids were being a bit difficult to control, and I ended up feeling like I was working instead of enjoying Disneyland. But oh well, right? It all comes with being a part of the family.
During lunch, I took the little girl to the toilettes, and then came back to realize they ordered, got their food, and sat down. Without me. I ended up standing in line (as it was a fast-food type of restaurant) and waiting for my food while they ate. I wouldn't have even known where they were sitting if I didn't run into the mom at the salad bar.
By the end of the day, I was tired and had a headache. I spent close to 40 euro (for the ticket and food) at Disneyland, when I could have stayed at home and saved that money. All I wanted to do once I arrived back to the house was take a nap.
But, oh. I forgot. I am a part of the family. So I was required to give the two little ones baths, while the mom helped the older boy with his homework. All on my day off.
I am trying not to let the situation bother me, but I can't help but think it was a bit inconsiderate, especially since I was led to believe that I would be treated to the day at Disneyland, and then found out I was to pay.
And I am all for acting like a part of the family, but I feel like I am only "family" when it's time to help out the mom with certain things: making dinner, helping with homework, putting the kids in the bath, putting them to bed, etc. etc. In the other aspects of "family", like vacations and dinners and whatever else, I am the one who is paying. In these situations, I am only the au pair. Why should they have to pay for me?
I don't really know what to do. I don't want to bring it up to the family if it will just create unnecessary drama, but I also don't want to be walked all over, either. I don't know how to put my foot down and say "no, it is technically my time off right now" when I see the kids need something or another done for them.
I have been here for six months so far, and have another four to go before I return to the States. What do you suggest I do? Should I talk to the family, or just drop it and accept my position?