Friday, May 7, 2010

Aupair Chronicle 2

Aupair. Some people see the word and wonder which fancy french word has invaded our already mongrel mixed breed language. Others see a temporary occupation that flocks of australian girls fresh out of university take up as a means to an end in London, on their rite of passage, as its become, the working holiday. The girl who becomes part of the family, helping out around the house, dancing with flowers in their hair, with well behaved children who adore you, in the garden. A common misconception, let me tell you. My name is Jacqui, and I've been an aupair for 9 months.

Since I went on exchange to Germany in 2002 with Rotary for a year, I knew that one day I'd come back to Europe for a working holiday, where I'd have freedom to travel and do whatever I liked, unlike an exchange, where the organisation is responsible for you and your actions, and they dont let you out of their sight. I got a taste of Europe in that year. A Eurotour on a bus full of other exchange students, sharing fleeting experiences in cities, for no more than a day or two, like Japanese tourists. Minus the peace signs. Running around as much of Europe as possible with mum, for the 2 weeks I was allowed to take off school. But I could never go where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go. This is one reason for the decision to definately come back on my own for a working holiday. The other reason, being the other main reason for spontaneous overseas travel. A boy. A Dutch boy to be more specific. Yes he was tall, tanned and had a gorgeous accent. So Im off to the Netherlands.

But what to do there? I'm limited by the fact that I don't speak Dutch. After thinking for about five minutes, I decide that I'm going to be an aupair. It's a sweet deal! You get a place to live, rent free. You get fed, no bills. No expenses aside from your own pub crawl and shopping spree needs. All you need to do is look after kids, how hard can it be? Right now, I can hear the mothers reading this, laughing at me. How hard can it be? Well at the time I imagined uber disciplined Von Trapp children, scampering into line at the sound of the Captains whistle. Without the pine cones on the seats, or frogs in the dress pockets. The Sound of Music has alot to answer for, in regards to the expectations of nannies to be. The children will not run to your bedroom in a thunderstorm. Nor will they sing with you. And I'm pretty sure they won't wear the clothes you fashioned for them from your curtains. And if the mother finds out that youve chopped up her curtains, you're likely to get fired. As a the host mother of a friend of mine said to her "These curtains are worth more than your life.". I kid you not. Chances are, they're from a mega rich family, and your clothes, not theirs are the subject of the looks up and down, a hidden grimace, and a forced smile. Excuse me whats wrong with my trakkie dacks and leavers jumper? This is the kind of family that I ended up at. In the rich and famous area of Het Gooi, the Desperate Housewives cluster of small towns 30 minutes from Amsterdam. The town I lived in, Blaricum, has a population of about 10 000 people, and an average house price of E700 000. One look at the size of the garden of my future home, and I knew I was in one of the houses that bumps up the average. Tennis court, swimming pool, room for a pony. Well, it had none of those things, but Hyacinth is on the right track. Theres certainly room for a combination of the three. They made the sacrifice though, and decided to make room for the Range Rover Sport, the Mini Cooper and Porsche Carrera. And space for the 2 Labrador dogs and 3 children to run around. Im not sure who needed the leashes more. Uh, I really was a good aupair, I never actually put a leash on the children. Tempted, but it never happened.

My aim in becoming an aupair was to use the job as a means to an end, a base for European travel. And to get to know this dashing young dutch man a little better! Obviously, I thought it was going to be fun playing with kids all the time, doing educational things, teaching them the ways of the world... But the expectations I had didnt quite match those of my host family. I knew that I was meant to do the washing and ironing. What I didnt realise, what exactly how much a family of five goes through in a week! And the rate at which it needs to be done! A minimum of an hour ironing every day, barr weekends. I stop ironing every day at 12, because I will not sit there all day and iron. And on holidays or days when the kids arent at school, ironing is to be done before the kids are dealt with. Unless im making their breakfast. Ironing is the number one task of my job. Im sure that my dissappointment is shared by all. No one likes ironing. Im the number one fan of NOT ironing. Anything. If i was shopping and I found the most gorgeous item of clothing, that needed to be ironed all the time, chances are, I didnt buy it. I didnt even know if the iron we had at home worked. Did we even have one? I know Mum bought me some of that spray which "irons" your clothes... After a week the mother decided to get the fathers business shirts done at the drycleaners. Thats how good i was. What a confidence boost in the first week of my year of being a maid. I mean aupair...

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