My Au Pair Experience – Gap 360’s New Au Pair Coordinator!
Being an au pair in the US is a great way to work abroad and experience a new culture. Looking after small children is really good fun, of course it can be exhausting and challenging at times, but it’s also tremendously rewarding and I can’t think of any other job that makes you laugh out loud every single day. It’s a really fun job to do and will give you times you will never forget. I still have dreams about the tiny children I used to look after, and they now have children of their own! Au pairing has to be one of the best ways to gain experience of working with children: you are with them 24/7 and have to be responsible, reliable and ready for anything. It’s a great start if you plan to go into teaching or youth work and looks fantastic on your CV if you want to be a nanny in the UK.
I speak from experience as I spent a year with a family in the Rockaways, New York, looking after their three young children. I was working on a summer camp in Pennsylvania and one day towards the end of the summer and ended up chatting with one of the camp owners. I told her how much I’d loved working on the camp and that I wished I could carry on working with children in America after camp was over. It was my lucky day, she’d just been talking to her friend in New York who was looking for an au pair!
After camp finished, I met the family at a diner in New York. We had bagels and coffee and got on really well. They offered me the job! I was nervous (particularly as I hadn’t even met the children!) but knew it was going to be a brilliant experience, so accepted there and then. I moved into their house, by the beach in the Rockaways. I had my own room at the top of their huge, rambling house and I could hear the ocean and seabirds on the beach from my window.
I quickly got to know their three lovely children. It was my job to look after them during the week and some weekends. I got them ready for school and drove them to softball practise, swimming lessons and friends’ houses for play-dates. That lovely warm summer seemed to last forever, I remember walking along the sand on our way to trick or treat in the local neighbourhood. Their mum, Shirly, was a great cook. Originally from the Lebanon, she taught me how to prepare the kind of food the children enjoyed: rice, falafel, vine leaves, although just like any other American kids they loved pizza and pasta too. In the spring I went with the family on a trip to Florida and had a great week teaching the youngest one to swim in the sunshine.
On my days off I’d go into Manhattan shopping, visit MOMA or the Met, or wander around Greenwich Village, taking photographs and wishing I could join NYU. I started to feel more like a local than a tourist. I had a few friends in New York that I’d got to know while working on camp, so I had a good network of people to relax and hang out with on my evenings and days off. I helped my friend Orlando paint his apartment in Harlem and rollerbladed with my friend Jen in Central Park. I was always too busy to feel homesick, but of course I missed my friends and family. This was all in the days before email and Skype had been invented, so I had to rely on good old fashioned letters from Blighty to keep me up to date! A couple of friends from the UK came to visit me while I was there and the family lent us a car so we could explore the east coast.
The year I spent au pairing was one of the best travel experiences (and jobs!) I have ever had. I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys working with children and I would urge them to consider spending a year as an au pair in the USA. It’ll be a memorable year that will stay with you forever.
I am really looking forward to helping you off on our American adventure… It’s all waiting for you!