Elishia is a South African, currently living in Southern California, working as an au pair. She has been on the job for 10 months, and will continue to finish out her 12 month contract before heading off with her au pair savings on an Asian adventure.
This experience has been one that she will not soon forget. I recently spoke to Elishia about her time living with the family and what she does. While this is specific to her family and her situation, it does show a very good portrait of what an au pair can expect during there time at work.
A typical day in the life of Elishia the au pair revolves around the family and specifically, the children. She wakes up in the morning to have breakfast, then gets right into her day, helping the kids get ready for school. She'll make snacks or clean up after them, and help out as the parents require.
After driving one of the children to school, she will have the other to look after for the day. For the most part, this includes playing with the child, taking him to the park and making lunch. "It's kind of like hanging out with the kid all day," she said.
After the day she will pick up the older child at school and that will conclude most of the day.
The family Elishia works for has two children, one of three and another of five years. They are both boys, which can be a handful at times. She has learned to work with them, and ultimately, the old saying "boys will be boys" is said time and again.
Breaking up fights, and laying down the law of the house is not always easy. When Elishia was new to the job she would get called names and told things that only a child would say. Telling her she has "bad hair" or telling her to go home. This is where patience goes a long way for the young au pair. It is a skill you must have and one that is very valuable. Luckily, she is working for a very understanding family who supports her when the kids get out of hand.
Days as an au pair are not to be more than 10 hours per day, and no more than 45 hours per week. These are part of the requirements that are set to keep people from getting taken advantage of.
Early on, Elishia didn't know what to expect with her new host family. There are many horror stories out there of families behaving badly, but to really know what something is like you have to do it for yourself. And that's what Elishia did. She felt comfort in the fact that her au pair organization will back you up if you feel you're in a bad situation. As well they have regular monthly au pair meetings in her area as well as a manager who will regularly check up on how the au pairs and families are working together.
It can also be hard living in another part of the world, but as with anything, the more you do it the better you get. Now she has adjusted and is very much enjoying her time off and looking forward to successfully finishing her contract.
One perk of an au pair job is that you are living as part of the family during your time there, so if the family goes on vacation, you often get to join them. Since starting with her host family, Elishia has joined them on a trip to the Carolinas as well as Yosemite National Park.
In addition to that, as an au pair she is given 10 paid days off during her year in the country. Elishia spent that time on a road trip driving up the California coast. She has really been able to take advantage of her time in the states, by doing things many people don't get to do.
Elishia lives with a family in Irvine, California, helping support two children of a working family. She gets her own space and when she is off the clock for the day, she is not expected to be working.
"My time is my time", she says. "The family understands that I need my time to myself and has no problem if I want to go away for the weekend for get some distance."
Like every other travel job abroad, she found a company that hires au pairs, applied to that company, went through the application process and got hired. Turnover is huge in most travel jobs, and this high turnover means there are plenty of openings for you to find a job.
Being an au pair has taught Elishia some valuable life lessons about patience, American culture and living abroad. When asked what advice she has for future au pairs Elishia reminds you to be patient.
After working in the US for the past year, Elishia is ready for another adventure and will soon be heading to South East Asia to travel and enjoy the fruits of her labor. What a great time to be a traveler.
How to become an au pair - a quick how to with links to the sites can can gets you palced with a host family
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