The End of the Au-Pair

I told you. I told you I had thought up a great blog post title a couple of days ago which was even cooler than the alliteration in ‘Cycling, Clothes and Cloth in Amsterdam’ (OH WAIT! COMPLETE LOST OPPORTUNITY! It SHOULD have been: ‘Cycling, Clothes and CLOGS in Amsterdam’!!! I can’t believe I missed that!!!!!) Well, now you can see for yourself. Clearly, this is the best blog post title ever. You can admit it. Its alright. I was pretty impressed with it myself when I came up with it a few days ago. ‘I may not know anything else I’ll be writing about,’ I thought, ‘But at least I can be comforted by a snazzy, semi-intellectual title.’ (For those of you who haven’t picked it, it’s a pun on Graham Green’s novel, ‘The End of the Affair’. Its probably less cool now that I’ve explained. Like, when you explain a joke. Oh well. I’ve never claimed to be cool).
Actually, now that I think about it, the title really sounds more like a high-suspense film: The End of the Au-Pair, some sort of B-Grade thriller set in a Southern-European city with a bunch of C-Grade TV Soap actors about the mysterious disappearance of an au-pair. Or, maybe a modern take on ‘The Turn of the Screw’? Something like that? Anyway, whatever. That’s the title and its totally symbolic and cool.
All jokes aside, I’m trying to write this post again. I tried a week and a half ago, but just couldn’t get the words out. Maybe because it wasn’t quite time for me to finish up yet. It wasn’t quite ‘the end of the au-pair’. But, tomorrow morning is my last shift, I am currently in the process of moving my stuff out and hopefully I will be able to sum up things better now.
So, after 10 months, the time has come for me to finish up as an au-pair. Its been a tricky year, for a lot of reasons, but it has also been wonderful for many other reasons. Being an au-pair, I am willing to admit, is much more difficult than I ever, ever, EVER expected. In my initial researching of the experience, I had a very romantic idea of what it would be like (when do I not have an overly-romantic idea of what something will be like?) ‘Oh!’ I thought, ‘It’ll be fun games and arts and crafts activities all day long! I’ll get to dress dolls and play in the playground and run around and climb trees and bake cookies and just generally re-live my childhood for a year!’ There was an element of this, but, when you’re the one who is responsible (as opposed to just the one having fun), things obviously change. When you’re the one who has to be cleaning everything up at the end of the fun times, thing obviously change. When you realise you can’t actually swing on the swings anymore without getting nauseous, nor are you limber or flexible enough to climb the trees anymore, or you pee your pants on the trampoline because you’ve jumped too high and too hard and its not something you feel you can just ignore, being a grown-up and all, then the whole ‘re-living your childhood’ whilst an adult with an adult’s deteriorating body and responsible, anxious mind, isn’t quite as carefree as you would think. Apart from the fact that it wasn’t sunshine and lollipops all day long, there is also something I find awkward about living in another person’s house. I was never even very good at share-housing (I tended to live better with only one other person, or people who didn’t expect us to be in each other’s pockets all day long), so its not surprising the feeling of taking up someone else’s space and impacting their home life felt uncomfortable for me. 
Additionally, I think, from the family’s perspective as well, having an au-pair must be tricky too, unless you just get freakishly lucky (or have very good interview questions), and the person you get turns out to be perfectly matched to your family in every way, shape and form. I’m willing to admit I’m probably not the dream candidate for an au-pair. I was always rushing out, always busy, always so many other projects on the go. I think, in some ways, it’d be more preferable to have some young girl, just out of school, who wants to come learn English, is more used to living in a family, having only just left her own, who is more willing to put time into her host family, isn’t so stuck in her ways, independent etc.
But, anyway. That’s that. Au-pair is not my preferred career choice. Can strike that off the list. I have learnt a lot though. If I ever do have children, I will be a little better prepared for the experience after these past 10 months. So, that’s something. I now know that I won’t ‘break’ little babies, which I was always kind of afraid of. No, I am perfectly capable of looking after them and even making them happy. On some days, I felt like some kind of amazing ‘baby whisperer’, with Baby Brother falling asleep on my shoulder, or suddenly falling silent after hysterical screaming, when I presented him with some new object to look at – a leaf, a roll of Sellotape, a plastic container with plastic shapes inside of it. Of course, there were other days when I was just the normal, everyday nanny, unable to get the baby to sleep, no matter how many ways I bounced him, how many songs I sang, how many bottles I offered, how many blankets I put on him. There were days when I felt like Mary Poppins, or Maria from ‘The Sound of Music’ or Nanny McPhee or Mrs Piggle-Wiggle. And there were days that I felt like Jane Eyre (without Mr. Rochester) and there were days when I felt like… like… Hansel and Gretel’s step-mother. In all honesty though, the fictional character I probably most identified with was the Rosalyn from ‘Calvin and Hobbes’:

So, where to now? Is there life after au-pairing? Let’s hope so. But, first up is a break for 3 months, a break from feeling like I have to earn money (in whatever possible way I can), and just relaxing, reading, writing, cooking good food, going for walks and getting my self back together again. It is my intention to become the ‘best darn person I can be’ all in 3 months. I know the danger in thinking like this. Whenever I start out on some great self-improvement project, I inevitably become less happy with myself, more angry, more depressed, more screwed-up. Which is why this ‘self-improvement’ project is not really about self-improvement, but about looking after myself. I’m just going to look after myself for 3 months. Seeing how no-one is going to do it for me, I’m going to learn how to do it myself. And, hopefully, at the end of 3 months, I’ll be so good at it, I’ll be able to go back to normal, everyday life, earning money, going to work, doing projects etc. and still continue to look after myself. Because, that would be nice. Then, I think, I’ll have it all. 
Me and Baby Brother. He’s more interested in my socks than the camera.

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