This One Goes Out to My Girls

Today was my last au pair meeting. All my friends were there, including bottles Champagne and Orange Juice. It’s so sad to think about these meetings not being a part of my weekly life. This is where I’ve made most of my closest friends in der Schweiz. I come to these meetings to vent about the frustrations of this “job,” the annoyances of the kids and parents, to socialize with people older than 6 and less than 40. They were something to look forward to every week and I will miss them. But more importantly, I will miss the people who are there.

Dear Au Pairs,

You are amazing. You do the work of three people: yourself, the Mom, and the Dad. You raise children who are not your own, and adjust to a lifestyle that is completely different from the one in which you grew up. Battling tantrums, ironing underwear, playing imaginary games, and grinning and bearing it are a part of your daily life. If it wasn’t for you, well, their life would still be fine. Because you are a luxury. Unfortunately, you are not treated as so. The pay is that of a pauper, the respect is non-existent; you are actually looked down upon by many Swiss people, who cannot believe you would do the job of a servant. And for the most part, you are one in a long line of au pairs for the family. That is, you are disposable.

That being said, you have taken on the role of live-in help to help fuel your quest for world domination! Well, perhaps not domination, but certainly conquest. Because of this job can live in a centrally located, efficiently run country, giving you access to numerous countries in the continent. Some days your hardest task is wrestling a child into sports gear. This is not a brain-busting job. No deadlines, homework, exams, or progress reports. Your friends at home are envious of your carefree lifestyle, as they should be. You have the life. I salute you, child-rearing domestic worker. Your job is hard and trying and can sometimes make you want to set your hair on fire and run, screaming out of the house. But, this job comes with the ability to explore the world at your every whim. Take hold of the opportunity, and seize all those free hours you have. The time to leave comes all too quickly.

Because you might not get it from the family: I appreciate you.

All the best,

Swisstina

In my mission to check off any remaining “must-dos” on my list, today I went to Viadukt with my friend Nicole. Despite the brrrrrrone-chilling cold, we strolled down the sidewalk peeking in and stepping inside some of the stores. The Viadukts were created many a year ago to help expansion of the city. Now,  SBB rails sit on top of the shopping center, continuing to shuttle patrons in and out of the city. Located in the Hardbrüke district, the area has a cool vibe and is a great place to spend the afternoon. Nicole and I popped in the shop on the very end of the line, Restaurant Markthalle. I had a delicious meal of wild boar in a ragout sauce over the creamiest, cheesiest polenta I’ve ever had. I’m not usually a big polenta fan, but this one will make anyone change their mind.

Viadukt

Plus, I had great company. Nicole is so much fun to be around. She ranks pretty high as someone who willingly spends her weekends with another au pair’s family, in order to help with a Scottish-themed party. Sounds pretty specific, and it is. I will be forever grateful for her help that weekend in Laax. I always have side cramps after being with her from all the laughter. Like I said, I’m really going to miss my friends. Such a great afternoon!

Nicole dazzling everyone with her amazing artistic skills. Immediately, she was the children's favorite.

Advertisements

I Promise I’m Happy!

I recently had a realization that I spend a significant amount of time talking about the things I don’t like or that frustrate me in regards to this job. I suppose it’s simply easier to talk about the bad things, and usually make a good joke out of it, than walk around singing the children’s praise. Why is that? I wish I could tell you, but I will spare us all the philosophical tangent and get to the point of my writing. I want to share some of the things about the kids I really like or think are really fun.

-Taz has this tendency to become my little echo and pick up on some of my frequent sayings. It always catches me off guard and almost never fails to make me smile when I hear him say something that came straight from my vocabulary. For instance, about a month ago I asked him if he thought what we were eating was delicious. He looked at me quizzically and say, “What is this delicious?” I explained that it means you are eating something you really like and think tastes good. The next day at lunch he told the Mom, “Wow, Mommy, you are a great cook. This is so delicious!” It was perfect and so sweet coming from his mouth. The other day we were making cakes out in the sandbox and he asked me if I wanted apples in it. “Of course, that would be great.” And would you like bananas in it? “Yes! Please!” And how about some delicious? “Mmmm yes, as much delicious as possible.” If ‘delicious’ came on the shelf you can bet I would have bought it all up by now. He is a very affectionate little man. Sometimes we will just be sitting at the table eating a meal and he will reach over, hook his little arm around my neck and say, “I love you” and rest his head on my arm. I can’t help but love him back in those little moments.

-Little Bean is also wonderful. She too has taken on the habit of picking up my colloquialisms. It started when I would say, “Beep, beep” if she was standing in front of something I needed to get to, such as the trash can. Later while she was pushing some cars around on the floor one ran into my leg. “Beep, beep,” she said through a mouthful of nuggi (pacifier). Now, she and Taz are routinely getting in little traffic jams around the house just so they can say, “beep, beep” to each other. The wee one also learned something that stopped me in my tracks one day. Let me preface by saying that Little Bean and I had a slightly tumultuous relationship to begin with. She wasn’t so keen on me being the new person to take her away from her Mommy and it took some time for her to bond with me. Obviously this had me a little upset as she would shriek and thrash her body around whenever I came to get her out of her crib (I wish I was exaggerating). After about a month or so she came to trust and like me and now I can safely say (knock on wood) we are fast friends. So, one day I was walking her downstairs after changing her diaper and she locked her arms around my neck, nuzzled her head next to mine and said, “Big hug!” I couldn’t have appreciated a big hug any more. There is something about a hug from a little kiddo, totally unprompted that just makes you feel good. Oh shoot, now I’m starting to tear up…

-For the most part, Taz and Little Bean are good together. Taz likes to be the big brother and LB is happy to tag along. Since it has gotten so nice out we have been in the routine of taking long walks in the morning. In my particular village and there is no shortage of cows and other livestock. The kids love these big beasts and frequently request to stop and talk to them. Only happy to indulge in this request, I will stop the pram and let the two little ones yell, “MOOOOO!!” as loud as they can at all the cows. It’s actually pretty funny and the cows don’t seem to mind. They usually continue to grind whatever blades of grass they’ve been working on. Sometimes I will join in and we certainly look like quite the trio as we stand and holler at the cows. The kids are always hoping for a conversation with a bovine but I have yet to tell them that probably won’t happen. I just don’t want to disappoint them.

-As for Rapunzel, well that is a different story. I have tried, really I have. For us, though, it just doesn’t work. I have attempted to find the wonderful qualities about her that are hidden underneath a layer of royal snobbery but even with all the best mining equipment, I cannot find them. We just don’t get along. I don’t put up with her bossy attitude and I don’t let her get away with trying to call the shots. It’s tricky because I hardly spend time with her as she is in school for most of the time I work. Maybe that’s why I don’t make more of an effort to like her. Today, however, I picked her up from school, as usual per Fridays and asked her if she wanted a piggy back. She was giddy with enthusiasm and eagerly climbed aboard. We galloped, skipped, and walked our way home and it was actually really nice. There was no whining or complaining and I was genuinely happy to be in her company. As soon as we stepped through the door and she saw someone had played with some toys she had designated as being “hers” for the afternoon she immediately started crying and throwing a fit. I remembered why we have such a hard time getting along: I just can’t see the value in getting upset about such petty things, and much as I’ve tried, I can’t seem to break down the meaning of, “No use crying over spilled milk”  well enough for her. She certainly isn’t a hopeless case in my book, but she is just one tough nut to crack.

Fame

After my 24 hours of servitude I was in great need of time with friends. Luckily, I was treated to a pseudo-middle school sleepover on Saturday night at Kristen’s. Thanks to my recent acquisition of magazines I was able to bring a few to the party. Turns out there were already several there and by the time the six of us were settled amongst the pull-out couches and nail-painting station, we were swimming in a sea of glossy paper. It was fun to catch up on current trends and find out what kind of shorts and dresses I will be wearing this summer. We exchanged stories about our charges and families, and eventually the conversation turned to the people we were reading about: celebrities.

Being caretakers ourselves, we couldn’t help but discuss the merits of many of the celebrimoms in our magazines (Kate Gosselin, Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon). What would it be like to be a nanny of a famous person? If we think we have children that seem entitled now, what would it be like with kids whose parents could buy them the world (Hello, Brad and Angie)? We also had an interesting conversation about the spin the tabloids put on certain stars. Our view is shaped based on what certain people decide to share with us, most of it being false anyway.

I think we were all struck by the impact celebrities have on our life, whether we like it or not. How did this monster get created? I am completely guilty: checking people.com when I’m bored, reading the magazines, and when I was home, watching E! I suppose I am just humored by how influential these perfect strangers are.

On an equally significant note, it was warm enough to wear shorts while running outside today. I can’t decide if people were looking at me funny because of the fact I wasn’t wearing full pants or because my legs are so pasty white. I’m pretty sure these things could glow in the dark at this point. Bring on Spain and the beach!