This post first appeared on Au Pair, Oh Paris.
I’ve been an au pair for a little over a year now. And that always surprises people since I’ve never been a big fan of children. And I’m still not one of those people that turns all googly-eyed when they see a baby.
The whole reason I decided to become an au pair, was that I wanted to live in England. And I figured it would be easier to find a flat and a job if I was already there. Little did I know that I would come to love my host family and sign up for another year as their au pair.
When I first started looking for a host family, I sent out dozens of messages. The host family I’m with now was only the second family I interviewed with. During that initial conversation, I fell in love with them. The kids were adorable; the mum told me about all these literary things that we would do, and the dad just asked me about films. They seemed perfect. But they also advised me to talk to other families before committing to them.
So I did. But none of the other families made me as excited about moving to England as they did. All I wanted was to be their au pair. And here I still am, eighteen months later at the start of my second year as their au pair. I love my host family (and I’m pretty sure they love me as well).
But I meet a lot of people who don’t get on with their host family at all. Just a couple of weeks ago, I went out for a coffee with a girl who was here for the summer. I asked her how she liked England and whether or not her host family was nice. She started a thirty-minute rant about how the kids never listened, and the host parents didn’t really seem to care. It was clear that she’d been sitting on those things for a while and that she really needed someone to talk to. Someone that would understand. Once she was done talking, she asked me how my host family was. All I could reply was: “They’re all right. I quite like them”.
Because how do you talk about how amazing your host family is when someone else is clearly not having a great time? This is something I struggle with myself. I figured it would be a good idea to find some things to do that might make your friends feel better and that give you the chance to talk about your situation as well.
1. Stop feeling guilty
Just because they are having a horrible time, doesn’t mean that you have to feel guilty about your awesome family. Maybe tone down the enthusiasm a little bit if they are really down, but you can still talk about them. If they’re really your friends, they’ll be happy for you!
2. You are allowed to complain about your host family
Complaining helps us to either accept a difficult situation or to find a solution for said situation. It shouldn’t matter that your au pair friends have it worse. If something happens with your host family that you just want to complain about, go ahead. You have just as much of a right to complain as they have. It doesn’t matter that they’re not as bad as your friend’s kid who kicks her hard enough to cause bruises. Everyone has their own problems.
3. Let them get it all out
Give them the chance to rant to you without telling them about your own family. Venting is a great way to relieve stress and the best way to show empathy is to just listen. Try to give them some advice and then encourage them to move on to more positive topics.
4. Go out and do things together
Try to cheer your friends up a bit by going out and exploring different places together. This gets them out of the house for a bit and can distract them. If they are not enjoying their time, they’ll get homesick.
5. Make a list of things that are great about their host family
When in a bad mood, people can forget the good things in life. There is no way that your friends’ host families are all bad. Ask them to tell you about all the things they do like about the kids and host parents.