MY YEAR AS AN AU PAIR
Walking through passport control at JFK Airport, to begin my year as an au pair, I remember thinking, “What if I am making a mistake? What if I should’ve stayed at home and found a “proper” job?” What I did not know then, that I know now, is that my decision to spend a year in New York City, was probably one of the most important decisions that I could’ve made.
That decision led me to many things. It led me to three beautiful children who I will love for the rest of my life. The day the youngest of the three told me that she loved me, my heart melted and I could not hold back the tears. I loved her too, obviously. When the middle child was having a tough time making friends at school, my heart broke for him. I wanted to take his pain away and make sure that he found ‘his tribe’. The oldest was the hardest to crack, because he was the least emotional and the most guarded… but when he softened to me, and let down the walls, he was the one I found it most difficult to part with.
That decision also led me to their parents. Their parents, who are now very good friends of mine. An Australian couple who teased me relentlessly (in the most loving way) about being South African, about the boys I met during my time in the States, and about my poor cooking skills. My favorite night of the week, was a Monday night, when the parents and I had takeout and watched The Bachelor!
My year as an au pair in New York led me to an entirely new group of friends who I plan on keeping for the rest of my days. Naturally, I made friends with the other au pairs in my neighborhood. These special women came from all over the world – Mexico, Brazil, Italy, South Africa and France. I have since been to Mexico and definitely plan on visiting the rest of my au pair friends in their home countries.
Then there were my American friends! One of these friends, Katie, became particularly close to me. Her large family took me in, and I spent many holidays with them. It felt very special to be surrounded by family and friends on holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Near the end of my stay we spent an amazing week together in Beverly Hills, which was definitely one of my highlights! Since being back in South Africa, Katie and I have met up in Tanzania for a holiday.
Finally, the decision to become an au pair for a year led me to New York City – the most vibrant, creative and infectious city in the world! Whilst I was there, I attended art classes, a film course and a writing course. I painted, I wrote and I made a short film. I also had many incredible nights out in hipster Brooklyn, and loved spending my free days shopping in SoHo, walking the Highline, or hanging out at the Guggenheim.
It is because of this experience, working with children and working in the most inspiring city in the world – that today – I am doing what I am passionate about. After my year working as an Au Pair in New York – I knew that I had to follow a career that merged a creative path with one where I would be able to work with children. My year abroad showed me, that no matter what, I had to find a way to incorporate these two aspects into my career. If I managed to do that, then I would definitely be doing something that I love. When I got back to South Africa, I was stumped. I did not know where I would find such a perfect job. After a few months of writing, babysitting and applying for teaching jobs, I found my dream job.
Today, I am employed to write novels for under performing schools in South Africa. I spend time with children in underprivileged schools, getting to know them and hearing their stories. My year as an Au Pair taught me to be calm, patient and understanding. It taught me to listen to children’s stories, hear them when they have a thought and be understanding when they have a problem. My year as an Au Pair showed me how entertaining, smart and emotionally aware children really are. This prepared me immensely for the field that I work in today. After spending time with learners, I write stories that I believe will be relevant to these children and will help encourage them to read. Illiteracy is a huge problem in South Africa, and I feel strongly about helping children to learn to read and write. So far, the project has been a big success – learners have loved the novels and read them whenever they get the chance. Every day, I go to work, knowing that I am very lucky, because I am one of the very few people in the world, who are doing what they truly love.
Thank you, Expert Au Pair, for giving me the most incredible experience, but, mostly, for helping me to get to know myself and work out what I wanted to do.