Australians have this amazing, semi-confusing idiom: “She’ll be right.” It expresses the belief that “whatever is wrong will right itself with time.” “She’ll be right” has been my go-to motto over the past two months, for things in Australia have not gone as smoothly as I anticipated them to.
I did everything right. I didn’t rush picking a host family; I was very picky and made sure the family met my standards. I had an account on aupairworld.com (the best one out there, contact me directly if you’d like to know more) where I checked my messages daily and eventually found my host family after chatting with countless other potentials. I asked for background checks, I spoke to two of the family’s au pairs who gave stellar references, and I FaceTimed the family several times before packing my bags. I became Facebook friends with my host mum and was amazed by the amazing life they appeared to lead as a family of Mum, Dad, au pair, and two beautiful little girls. I researched the town they lived in and things to do around town. I also had a contract with the family, and made sure to have the contract reviewed from a lawyer back home. I was confident I was going to fit right in and have the experience of a lifetime.
The fact that I took all of these precautions and completed these necessary steps is the scariest thing to me when I consider how unhappy I was a month ago with my current host family. To make a really long story really short, I was taken advantage of and treated like an accessory. I was over worked for the first three weeks until I started to understand what was going on. My host mum was manipulative, dominant, and controlling, but I was not about to be brainwashed like the three previous au pairs had been. If you’re interested in knowing more just contact me and I’ll gladly go off, but I thought I’d keep this post G rated.
Because of the situation I was in, I was forced to do something that is not my strong suit – stand up for myself. After careful consideration, countless FaceTime conversations with my biggest supporters back home, and a lengthy ‘Pros and Cons’ list in my journal I came to the conclusion that I would quit. Of course I had to have something set up for after my time with the family was finished, so I messaged a handful of families who were looking for a short term au pair in Brisbane and accepted a position with a new family after a measly twenty minute Skype conversation. Safe to say, my standards weren’t very high anymore seeing as I was at rock bottom.
You might be thinking of me in a slightly negative way at the moment. Perhaps that’s because I quit. I quit a job that so many people around the world would envy. I quit a job that permits me to live for free in Australia. And that’s fine if you’re thinking that. I, too, was brought up believing that quitting is bad – quitting is weak. It is often associated with feeling ashamed of oneself. However, the older I get and the more experiences I go through, the more I realize that, in some situations, quitting can be a sign of strength rather than weakness.
Ultimately, I decided that I worked too hard for too long to to make this whole ‘au pair in Australia thing’ happen. I was absolutely positive I was capable of doing the job diligently, making things work, and muddling through until my original contract date at the end of July. However, it would have been just that – muddling through. It would have meant continuing to put up with my host mum’s bullshit, working extra hours without pay, having limited free time, and failing to see other parts of Australia. And who the heck wants to muddle through and have an average time when they are in Australia for 6 months?! NOT ME. After much debate with my host mum, my last day with my current family was this past Friday, March 25th. However, I worked things out so that I was able to move out on this past Tuesday, so I had Wednesday til Saturday to myself to do whatever I pleased. And believe me, those were some of the my best days I’ve had since I started traveling thanks to some very special people.
If you’re an au pair and find yourself in a similar situation, here are my few words of advice:
- Stick up for yourself (as hard as that might be for you). Stand your ground and speak up if you are feeling taken advantage of.
- Communicate with those back home. They know you best and will always be there to walk you through things. It’s also nice to simply verbalize the feelings you’ve most likely been internalizing.
- Make new friends. This may not seem that important if you have a solid support system from home, but for me it made all the difference. I was fortunate enough to meet two Scottish au pairs who helped me through the entire process. They reassured me that what was being expected of me was not normal, and the weekend I turned in my notice they took me out and offered support while still managing to take my mind off of things. Okay, that miiiight have been the alcohol distracting me from the situation, but you get the idea! Kim and Siobhan, if you ladies read this, please know you’re amazing, and I am forever thankful for all you did for me. I also managed to meet some pretty kick ass aussie guys that I spent the majority of my last three weeks with. They gave me a taste of what life out in the bush is like, and they did their country proud. I might even had a ~ romantic fling ~ with one of them that you can read about here.
- Keep your shit together. AKA be level headed and rational. Don’t feel bad for yourself. Instead, think logically, be proactive, and better your experience in the country that you worked so hard to get to.
- Find the positives in the negatives. I wasn’t gonna let the sting of my host mum ruin me or my time. Throughout the past month I have managed to make the most of my time left here. I took trips to Yeppoon, got all of the touristy things in Rocky checked off my list, went on a date for the first time in over 3 years, and managed to get into way too much trouble. I’ve definitely done a few things in the past month that my 82 year old self will smile at.
So there you have it, people, a little glimpse into my Australian life. I flew into Brisbane Saturday night at 6pm as the sun was literally setting on my time in the Rockhampton region. I balled like a baby the entire plane ride as I looked back on the hardships I overcame and the great times had that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams. In fact, the flight attendant had to bring me kleenex not once, but twice, and the guy in front of me was inevitably annoyed by my sobs and sniffling. These were happy/thankful tears though – thankful tears for the people and places that will be forever etched into my memory and hold a special place in my heart.
My first few days with my new family have been amazing. More updates to come on that soon! Oh, and I might even meet an American here, for it’s been over 2 months since I’ve seen a fellow yank. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any questions or comments in the section below!