February 2014 I decided to submit an application to become an Au Pair in France as a “joke.” I didn’t think I would get any responses, and I highly doubted that anything would come out of it.
Within 24 hours I had families contacting me and asking for more information and interviews – one week later I had signed a contract. I couldn’t believe it! August 18th, 2014 I flew out to begin my new life in France.
Living in another country is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Every day came with a list of challenges and with a list of things that were easy at home, becoming obstacles to jump over. But, luckily, I was raised with a strong Irish work ethic and Scottish stubbornness that matches none other – backing down is not an option.
So here they are, my adventures, my ups and my downs. Thanks for joining me on my adventure!
“Once upon a time …”
I got laid off from my job. Ha. They gave me one week notice, which is insane and possibly illegal (at least morally). Needless to say, I hit panic mode. I applied for any and every job I could even remotely be qualified for. Then, when nothing happened, I started applying for jobs I was only meagerly qualified for.
This is when I stumbled on adds for taking care of kids. “I can do that,” I thought, “how hard can it be?” I was raised in a family of 5, with a hard working teacher for a mother, and the responsibility of partially raising my younger siblings, so becoming a second “mother” to random kids seemed like a natural enough transition. While applying, I decided I only wanted to work with larger families (3+ kids) so I didn’t get bored. And when I found one that said 5 kids, I knew it was perfect. I don’t know why, but in my mind I convinced myself that the more kids, the busier I would be, which would make working so much easier.
So I emailed off my resume. And got a response! I went in for an interview that week and it went great. They said they would email me back that week. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I think it was somewhere around a month later that I heard back that I got the job. It was nerve wrecking to say the least – mainly because, after months of no work, I had eaten through my savings and didn’t have the next months rent.
When I first started working as a nanny I thought I would work there for 1 year tops, since that was what my contract was for. As the months went by, though, I realized I may need to stick around for a bit longer. See, the family only consisted of 3 kids when I started, all biological children to the parents. Within 6 months there were two more who had been adopted from Africa.
For those who know about adoption, you know it’s a huge transition. There are a lot of aspects that have to come together to make it work, and one of them is the stability of the people around the kids. So I gave myself the time limit of 2 years. After that I would have to move on. It wasn’t that I hated my job, but I’ve seen people get comfortable in “good” jobs that are going nowhere and only realize 5 years later that they’ve wasted their time.
This year, at about 1.5 years I started wondering what I was going to do next. I loved my job, and I was determined not to leave it unless something amazing came up. There was no way I was ever going back into the world of zombies, windowless cubicles or retail.
One day, while I was making dinner, my roommate asked me about whether or not I was still thinking about becoming an au pair. I had completely forgotten that I ever wanted to do that (although I had since I was a kid), or that I had told her about it being on my bucket list. But I thought, “What the hell? I have nothing else going on in my life right now. Why not see what happens?”
I hopped on Google and typed in “Becoming an au pair” and clicked on the first link that came up – a site called AuPairWorld. When I first started filling out the profile, I did it as kind of joke. I didn’t think I would get any responses, and I had no hopes about finding a family. But, within 24 hours, I had three families asking for more information and whether I would Skype with them. I couldn’t believe it!
I set up some interviews with families and found some amazing people, but it wasn’t until a few days later that a family in a little town south of Paris sent me a message. They seemed like the sweetest family on earth, and as soon as I had Skyped with them I was sure that they were the family for me. Although the glamour of living directly in Paris seemed like it would be a great experience, I remembered how overwhelming London was for me, and I knew that the countryside was a better fit.
Becoming an au pair in France is a lot harder than it sounds. There are mountains of paperwork, hurdles to jump over and red tape to tangle yourself in. But, through it all, I’ve been so lucky to have an amazing French family to work with. I feel so empowered knowing that I’m taking a directional step in my life; one that is going to produce boat loads of stories to tell my kids someday.
If you’ve ever considered becoming an au pair, I would highly suggest the website I went through. It’s completely free to make a profile, and provides a platform for you to meet families, and for you to talk to them beforehand in a safe space. If nothing else, it’s an awesome opportunity to see what your options are!
It’s crazy to think that a year ago I had no idea where my life was headed, and now I live Europe. Sometimes crazy things, like getting laid off, land you in places you never thought you’d be. But the beauty of life, is that those places sometimes lead to better opportunities than you could have imagined.
*Update – after things didn’t work out with the first au pair family, I then ended up in Paris with a new fun family with four boys (5, 9, 19, 21) all of which are mischievous balls of energy who I adore. Life is about being flexible!