Adventures in America – Guest post from an Au Pair in Georgia

au pair in Georgia This is a guest post from Agnieszka, an au pair from Poland currently working near Atlanta, Georgia. She will be writing regular posts for us, and you can read more about her au pair experience – as well as advice for others – at her personal blog.

About myself

My name is Agnieszka, and I am a 22-year-old from Warsaw, the capital city of Poland. I came to the US as an au pair in November 2013, and I live near Atlanta, Georgia, with a 5-year old girl named Alicia, and her dad, Nathan. We also have one more member of a family – a cat named Cleopatra, whom we call Cleo for short.

Why am I here?

It  all started when my host dad, Nathan, and I decided to create a series of posts about how children should be treated, which I posted on my personal blog (the link is above). I then got in touch with Talya and was offered the opportunity to share my experience as an au pair, which I will be doing on a monthly basis here.

Why I decided to become an au pair …

My life back in Warsaw was not very easy or pleasant, which is why I decided to make a change. I was working as a receptionist in a dancing school for almost two years, working hard, and more or less just scraping by. I knew I wanted to enjoy life, travel as much as possible, meet new people and make my dreams come true. I was not quite sure what to do and looked into different options. Everything changed while I was on a trip to Slovakia with two friends in 2012, when one of them told me she saw a video of a girl who went to the US as an au pair for a year. The girl talked about how much she liked it, how much she learned, and she also said it was a very good way to become more independent.I was very interested, so after the trip I started to research to learn more and more about au pair programs in the states. At that time, I was not extremely interested in living in the United States, but the more I read about it the more I was convinced it was for me.

It took quite some time to organize my life so that I could go to the US as an au pair. I had to work to save money, get my driver’s license, and finish up my schooling. It was a very stressful time but I am happy that I had a goal and did not give up. I knew I exactly what I wanted to reach so I kept trying and by 2013, after finding an agency and then a host family, I made it to the USA as an au pair!

At the time, my biggest dream was to go to California, but I was offered a job with a family in Georgia, and I am very happy here. I’m enjoying new things, meeting new people, and have opportunities I did not have before. Georgia is not California, but it is a great place!

So … that is all from me today, but I will be back again soon to share more about my experience as an au pair in Georgia. In the meantime, I would love to hear from other au pairs living and working in the US, so please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below, or join our forum!

 

Enjoying the spring with your (host) children

picture of children(photo courtesy of dreamstime)

Now that spring is officially here, it is time to start spending more time back in the great outdoors. If you are in a cold climate, like I am now (and was as an au pair), then you are probably REALLY excited to be able to see the sun and temperatures that are above freezing.

If the winter has been long and hard and you and the children you take care of have had enough of it, then now is the time to plan some sunny day outings. Depending on where you live you may not entirely out of the grasp of coldness, but spring’s official beginning this week should at least give you hope and inspiration.

So what to do now that warmer days are approaching? First, get ready to stash winter clothes – your own, and if your job is to keep up with the kids’ things, then start organizing there things as well. Again, if you live and work somewhere cooler it might not be best to pack up every coat right away, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to start getting things sorted and ready to be put away for the next season. You can also begin to break out the lighter jackets (I’m excited to be wearing my Gap jean jacket now without freezing!) for yourself and the little ones.

Make sure you spend some time celebrating the spring. Of course, do all the regular things like head to the park, pick flowers, play in sand box, and all of those fun things that kids love doing outside. But make it special. Picnics with children are loads of fun, and you don’t have to pack a gourmet meal. Make a few sandwiches and pack them together with some fruit and cookies (unless, of course, your host mom is one of those who don’t let their children eat sugar – I hope for your sake she isn’t! 😉 ), and drinks, grab a blanket, and head outside. But PLEASE remember – if you are going to be outside with the kids for a decent amount of time, don’t forget sun cream to prevent sun burns – this is one of those things I learned by mistake – spent an entire afternoon out with my little one and came home to host parents who were less than impressed by the fact that I had not brought any sunblock with us.

Many cultures have certain rituals and celebrations that come with this lovely time of the year. And of course, with Easter coming up, this is a great chance to introduce more of your own customs to your host family. Is there something you celebrated at home as a child during the spring or Easter holidays that your “new” family might enjoy?

Au Pair Tips part 3 – choosing the right host family

photo by dreamstime

Once you have decided where to go (and to use an au pair agency, then you should be ready to start the search for a family. There can be a tendency for two things here:

  1. To be totally overwhelmed and not know where to start
  2. To simply take the first host family who contacts you because you are so happy to have been chosen

Finding a good host family to work for is a big decision – after all, you are going to spend a lot of time with these people over the next year or so. However, it isn’t rocket science either, and a few tips will put you in control of the whole process.

First, be sure to remember that you do not have to accept the first offer you receive. Shop around a bit. See who is out there looking for au pairs and compare the families. There are married couples, couples who live together but are not legally married (this may be an issue for some, so pay attention to their marital status if it is!), single parents, etc,.

Second, and also very important, is to decide how many children you want to take care of. My personal limit was two, and I actually chose a family who only had one child, but they ended up having another during my stay (which was scary at first because it wasn’t what I had signed up for, but I did survive). Do take into consideration that the family, especially if they are young, may expand. Know your limit and what you can handle, and then choose accordingly.

Third, consider the family’s lifestyle. Do they travel all the time? Is one spouse gone away on business 90% of the time? Do they have hobbies and interests that might be something you are in to (or on the other side, are they excited about something that you can’t stand – a certain sport, for example?). It makes sense that you should choose a family who has similar interests as you, but don’t limit yourself by this. My host parents were HUGE helicopter enthusiasts, which is something that’s never really thrilled me, but frequent heli rides were actually fun and something I would have never experienced on my own.

This should help put you on the path to finding the right host family to work for. I’m curious to hear from others out there too. How did you find a host family? And for host parents, how did you find the right au pair?

long, cold days with kids

Depending on where you are working, the fall and winter can be brutal, especially if you hail from a warm weather climate. Coming from Georgia, the cooler German climate was a welcome change to me while I worked as an au pair. However, days do tend to drag during cold months, and keeping children occupied indoors on the extra yucky days can be challenging. You have to get creative, but there are things to do.

For starters, check out places you can take the children that are indoors. Is there an aquarium or other kid-friendly place, such as a children’s museum, near you? If so, you might be able to get an entire day’s worth of fun out of such a place. If not, a trip to a mall or shopping center could be fun, and will fill at least an afternoon or morning with some activity outside the house. Keep in mind that children may not be very thrilled to join you on a shopping spree for new clothes, however (and their parents probably wouldn’t be either). But do consider taking them to a special store, such as a pet shop, where they can see and maybe even pet some of the animals. Of course, while you’re there, there’s no reason you can’t make a couple quick stops for you!

You can also see if you can get any of your other “chores” taken care of while you’re in charge of the children. Getting the grocery shopping done while you’re on the clock will give you more free time, and will give you something to do with the kids besides sitting at home. Some stores, such as IKEA, which can be found almost anywhere, are great places to take kids. And as long as your host parents don’t mind, the kids can play in the kiddie area, while you get the shopping done.

What about you? What do you do (of did you do!) with your kids on crappy days?