So to (sort of) round off all of my Spain posts (now I’ve said this there will probably be ten more for me to write in the future), here is perhaps the most important of them all…
To summarise: living with strangers sucks.
Now if you have a job, just take 30 seconds to imagine what it would be like to live with your boss. If you’re at school, make that your head teacher.
Are you suitably disturbed?
Well this is essentially the job description of the au pair. To live in a confined space with the people who are paying you.
Add to this the fact that it may be your first time getting on a plane alone, going to another country alone and living without your family and you have the recipe for disaster.
You may think “isn’t it easier going to live with a family, wouldn’t that sort of break you in to the idea of moving out?”
The answer for me was a resounding no!
I honestly felt as though I was Alice and I had just fallen down the rabbit hole. I began to exist in this weird limbo state where my own life was suspended and I was very literally living in someone else’s life for someone else. My contact with my family was completely severed (internet access was few and far between at the start and phone calls costed a bomb) and I had to somehow insert myself into the jigsaw puzzle that was the life someone I’d never met had created for themselves.
*Testing, testing, are you still with me?*
Now I don’t know if this was just my experience or my personality but I found slotting into someone else’s life to be extremely difficult. As there was often at least one of the parents and multiple family members at home while I was watching the kids (I think I met at least 15 other people, and yet wasn’t warned or properly introduced to any of them), I felt like an unnecessary addition, and felt at times that I just wanted to step back and give them time as a family when that wasn’t what I was being paid to do.
I constantly felt awkward and like I was walking on eggshells. Especially as the family talked to eachother in rapidfire Spanish over the dinner table, which for the life of me I couldn’t quite decipher, so I was left to sit in silence and wait for them to finish every night.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t feel entirely welcomed, or necessary. There were so many people buzzing around I felt like I was constantly being scrutinised, either for doing too much or too little.
As they provided all of my meals, I felt like I didn’t want to be even more of a burden on them and so when they offered to buy me extras I chose to decline and instead go out and by my own things. I think in this way my independence worked against me.
I also think that coming after a time when emotions and stress were already running high (A Levels) it was too much of a stark contrast, especially as there was literally nothing to do in the places I was staying. With a rigid routine in place for the kids, it became very slow and monotonous after a few weeks, and I really felt my depression and anxiety creep back in.
On a less philosophical note it was also very awkward to be walked in on in my underwear (old house…no locks…).
Would I do it again?
I wouldn’t write it off, I know that every experience is extremely different. I would, however, choose to be nearer a city or somewhere where there was much more going on. I would also ask the host family to help me make some connections with other au pairs in the area or people my own age…being with kids who can’t talk and foreign adults can be extremely isolating.
Well this post has turned out to be quite deep *puts on scuba diving mask*…maybe I should have taken philosophy at uni…
Please let me know if I have just gone absolutely nuts.
Right, I’m off to go watch some YouTube videos of cats…must regain equilibrium…
P.S. If your brain is all confuddled from this post I refer you to both confused.com to unconfuse you and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQbH3fyGerE&list=FLIbZHbmV9jfdJE_bJaiiSKA&index=18 for the lols…