The Paris Diaries: A Day in the Life of an Au Pair
Another entry from my Paris diaries. This time, a full day in the life of an Au Pair. This day, compared to some, went pretty smoothly. I salute all the mothers and nannies of the world. 5:30 AM Alarm goes off. I cringe. I woke up several times during the night and slept very little. I drag my ass out of bed, boil some water in a pot for tea, eat a few pieces of bread smothered in jam, and turn on some jumpy blues music. After downing my tea I dance into the shower, and proceed to get dressed for the day.
7:15 AM I lock my door and head for the metro dressed as comfortably as possible. On the metro a man stares at me as I keep closing and opening my eyes, doing my best not to fall asleep.
7:50 AM Three metro rides later, I arrive ten minutes early for my French class, making an effort not to be the girl who’s always late. I’m already the girl who bought the wrong text book and knows nothing about Canadian politics.
I spend most of the class time yawning, but force myself to participate as much as possible. Somehow everyone knows French grammar better than I do. The girl beside me works for a family with an asshole father, doesn’t have a shower in her apartment, and is going back to Germany as soon as she can.
10:00 AM Back on the metro. Another au pair tells me she works only the evenings, never has to cook or clean, and makes around the same amount of money as I do. She was going to a dance lesson, and I was going back to make lunch for the kids. Not that I’m complaining or anything…
11:30 AM After buying a baguette I stand outside the school doors with all the other au pairs, nannies, and mothers. Eventually the doors open and we shuffle into the courtyard to collect our children.
12:00 PM Back at the apartment the kids play with plastic ponies while I prepare lunch. I add cheese and ham to a pre-made pizza, throw it in the oven, make a salad and cut up some carrots and apples. I empty the dishwasher and set the table. Lunch is difficult because the kids keep leaving their seats. The girl climbs the stairs as she eats her pizza and I try and talk her into sitting down. Listening is not her forte.
After lunch I clean up, help them tidy their rooms for the cleaning lady, and lock up the apartment.
1:15 PM We skip to school. First we all hold hands and skip, then we skip alone, then we hold hands again. The young girl decides what we do. Next we hop. I gladly make a fool of myself, because the kids are smiling, and I’m enjoying myself as much as they are. Once at school they kiss my cheeks and I have a few hours to myself. I go buy some fruit at the discount grocery store, then go back to my apartment where I listen to music and take a much needed nap.
4:15 PM I run up the stairs to the family’s apartment, trying to wake up, and grab cookies and water for the kids. I say hello to the sweet Portugese cleaning lady and run out the door.
4:30 PM I’m outside the school doors again. There are more of us waiting this time. All the mothers are immaculately dressed, well coordinated in their trench coats, neck scarves, designer purses and beautiful shoes. We all hold the French after school snack: something bread and chocolate. I carry chocolate cookies, some cary pain au chocolats, some carry paninis toasted with Nutella, and others carry baguette with thick chunks of chocolate pushed inside.
Eventually I collect the kids, and we head to the park, my body now saddled with two backpacks, three jackets, a bag of cookies and my own purse.
I sit under a grey sky for an hour and a half in the park, watching as the kids run around and play. I speak to another au pair. We laugh and complain about life. The boy gets in a fight and cries when his face is scratched.
6:00 PM Back in the apartment I help the boy start his homework, then listen to the girl do her reading. When she’s finished I go to the kitchen to prepare dinner.
I fry chicken in olive oil with onions, garlic, herbes de provences and cherry tomatoes. I boil big bowed pasta and add tomato sauce. I make a green salad with green beans and a balsamic vinaigrette, and set the table with a baguette and grated cheese. Bon appetit. The kids eat only the pasta and make faces at the delcious chicken. More for me.
7:15 PM Bath time. I read Cinderalla to the young girl as she takes hers, making sure I show her every picture before turning the page. She takes in each image with a focused expression on her face. I scream out voices and scramble words I can’t pronounce. We finish the story in her bedroom while the boy takes his bath, and end with a requested tickle session. “What does tickle mean? You want me to what?” I say, tickling her as she roars.
7:45 PM Parents come home. They are happy with the dinner left for them. Their children are fed, clean, and happy. I take off back to my apartment, where I get a couple of phone calls that warm my heart.
Tonight I’ll go to bed early. Tomorrow is a longer, more demanding day. I want to make sure I can handle it.