Every au pair experience is a different one, but here’s a day in my life....
I typically start work at 7am every weekday morning. There are instances when I’m asked to begin earlier or later depending on a change in the family’s schedule. Communication is key, and I discuss the overview of the week with my host parents at the beginning of each week in addition to updating one another each evening. I meet my family in the kitchen, where the kids are either waiting on breakfast, having breakfast, or having already finished.
The little one tends to wake up earlier and often has already eaten and is well into a morning of play, building Lego inventions or drawing masterpieces. My host mum takes on brekky and makes lunches while I sit with the children to keep them on track with their eating. As it’s the morning, and sometimes everyone can be a bit cranky, sitting and making calm, morning conversation helps the two from going at each other.
The next hour is the bulk of the work that I do in the first half of my day. Getting the kids back upstairs to get dressed for school is never as easy as we wish it’d be. Whether it’s a piggy back ride for Ali or getting on the phone with a “secret agent” who has requested a special mission of Ben, we usually manage to at least get up the stairs. Once upstairs, our tasks are as follows: teeth cleaning, dirty pyjamas in wash basket, uniforms on, suncream on, hair brushed/styled. Ali is pretty self-sufficient and will do much of her getting ready on her own with a bit of guidance, though toys in the bedrooms are a classic distraction.
Ben is a bit more work, needs more help with his teeth and suncream, and still doesn’t totally understand that “getting ready” time is not play time. I do my best to coerce him and to make it fun but also to teach him responsibility. The faster he gets himself ready, the faster he gets to play again before it’s time to go. I then head back to Ali to do her hair, which is often a fun time, as she reads a book or does some writing, and we have a little girl talk. In the meantime, their mum has been getting herself showered and ready for work. I aim to have the kids ready and downstairs with socks, shoes, watches, and hats on for when mum is ready to go.
I’ll get school bags packed with lunches, water bottles, and any homework, library, or music books needed for the day and have everyone ready to go out the door. I get big hugs and kisses at the front door or as I’m strapping them into the car, and then they’re off and I get to take a deep breath.
Once the kids are off to school, I do a quick tidy. If I wasn’t able to earlier while upstairs, I’ll go back and make beds and make sure the bedrooms/bathroom isn’t a complete mess. We’ve been working on getting them to make their own beds and tidy up their own toys-- some days are better than others! The most tidying that needs to be done in the mornings is in the kitchen, getting counters wiped down and all breakfast dishes in the dishwasher.
I find it hard to eat first thing in the morning, so I usually have my own brekky around this time (8:30 or so). One day a week I wash and change the kids’ bed sheets, so if it’s sheets day, I’ll make sure to get a load in the washing machine early on. I tend to do this on Mondays because there’s also usually a bunch of folding from the weekend that needs to be done. I rack up more hours of work on Mondays and use it as an “at home” day to stay in my PJ’s, get things done, and lazily recover from my weekend in between baskets of laundry.
Each day of the week, my host mum will come home with the kids at different times depending on their after school activities, ranging from 3:00-5:30. While it wasn’t one of my set duties when I signed with this family, cooking dinner has become routine for me because I love doing it, and it helps the family out a great deal. I’m usually cooking to some extent when they arrive home, if it’s not already on the table for a 5:30 dinner.
Afternoons are for tackling some homework, encouraging some happy play time, and piano practices. Some days are jam packed, with the kids coming home from swimming straight after school, having showers right away, being fed, and then a singing lesson for Ali and play time for Ben that leads right up to stories and bedtime. We aim for 7-7:30 bedtime so that we’ve got happy, well-rested kiddos the next day.
Overall, the three of us (me and my host parents) are a team. My host dad works a busy job and will help out whenever he’s able to, whether it’s preparing breakfast, a day here or there bringing the kids to school in the morning, or reading bedtime stories if he gets home early enough. My host mum and I are the main co-parents during the day, constantly gauging the children's’ needs. Sometimes they just want mummy time, and it’s most beneficial for me to focus on the cooking, washing, bag packing, etc. so that she can have the energy and attention for the two of them. Sometimes we split up after bath time, each taking a child to his/her room to get ready for bed and listen to stories, occasionally switching halfway through so that both little ones get Mummy and Alaina time.
At the end of the night, once both are asleep or at least well on their way, the two (or three) of us will chat for a bit over tea or while cleaning up the kitchen from dinner. We reflect on the day, how the children have been, any updates on what needs to be done in the household, etc. The wonderful thing is that our relationship goes past just caring for the children together. We have truly become a family, and I’ve found guidance and friendship in both of my host parents, who engage me in conversation about their own personal lives as well as show interest in mine.
Now you’re probably wondering, what about all that time in the middle of the day during the week-- what do you do? It’s true that I seem to have heaps of time on weekdays while the kids are at school. I’ve met other au pairs who take this time to go into the city centre, find new places to eat, museums to explore, etc.
I don’t have anything against spending my day like that, but it’s not the day I would choose to plan. I have LOVED the fact that I have so much free time to truly focus on myself! Think about all of the people who work jobs from 9-5 every weekday. Self-care is difficult to fit into early mornings and late evenings. I thrive in the middle of the day.
After I get my morning duties finished, you can find me running the streets of my neighborhood or hiking one of the local trails; down at our local coffee shop chatting it up with the baristas or typing away on my laptop at a copywriting project for the New York-based company I work for; taking a nice long swim after a sunbake or a good workout; laying in a bubble bath with a face mask or cozied up in bed with a good book on a rainy day. The list goes on.
I would never have the opportunity to take such care of my mind and body as I do now. It helps me keep my weekends clear for fun and adventure, in addition to helping me be my best self for the children each morning and evening. As someone who intends to stay in this city for the long term, I think my choice in how I spend my time makes more sense. I understand au pairs who are in Sydney for just 6 months wanting to utilize every free moment to explore the city. And there are weekdays that I take the occasional adventure. Sometimes I’ll hop on the bus and head to a new cafe or a park in another suburb or closer into the city. Sometimes my friends are free from work and are keen for a shopping day, beach day or bush walk. But ultimately, I save the “adventure” for my weekends, living them up to the fullest with my best mates. Meeting new people and exploring new spots.