Hello, dear friends! My name is Anastasia, I am from Russia and I would like to share my personal au pair experience in the Netherlands with you! Have you ever had a dream? I think every person has a dream. So do I. I had been dreaming of going to Holland for more than a year and it almost took me that long to make it true…
I used to be an active and open-minded person during college. Upon graduation, I became a really calm girl with sad eyes though… I went to the U.S. twice when I was a student. Afterward, I thought it was time for me to find a proper job and think about my own family. My parents and relatives told my that the good times were over, that I had been abroad and seen the world already.
I started to work as a florist in a shop (I liked it a lot), but I was still dreaming to see Europe, to live abroad for a while, to be something else than just a tourist and to prove myself that I could get along with small kids who actually aren't from your family (because I have three nieces and I knew how to deal with them, but not with absolutely unknown kids of other cultures)…
Sometimes thoughts come to my mind out of the blue… so one day, I realized I really wanted to go to the Netherlands. I didn’t know anything about this country; I just had three words that explained my connection to it: flowers, cheese and bicycles. I didn’t even know au pair programs existed in the Netherlands, so I was really happy to know that I had such an opportunity to go there.
I applied for this program through a Russian recruiting agency which had a partnership with a Dutch au pair agency. It took a while before I got an answer. I just hoped and thought all dreams came true... And I received an answer from a host family with 2 boys, aged 5 and 7. You can’t even imagine how excited I was when they called me… I think I forgot all my English skills, but I was eager to be part of their family, and they chose me.
But because I was registered in an agency, I didn’t have any direct connection to the family – They called me when I couldn’t save their mobile number – and it was also really difficult to get answers from the agency in the Netherlands. After several months of paperwork and complicated relations with the au pair agency, I was finally in Holland right before Christmas, on December 24. The host father picked me up from the Schiphol airport and took me right to the dinner table.
My childcare experience started, but not in a very usual way because it was holiday time. Being around five unknown children (“mine” + three children of relatives during the holidays) who are playing football in the room on a high podium is not easy at the beginning. I was scared they would fall down from it… Thankfully everyone was safe and sound and my daily routine wasn’t so stressful.
Regarding childcare, I take and pick up the kids from school twice a day, prepare some sandwiches and drinks at lunch time. I also keep them busy after school (play active games, walk in the park or some activities like drawing, painting, working with clay, making hand-craft things from natural material). Sometimes I give them a shower and take them to bed but not really often (once a week). As for household, I take care of the dishwasher, make laundry dry and clean the whole house (vacuum, wash the floor...). I also water plants, iron (not too often) and run errands (once or twice a week if needed).
So I have plenty of time for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any opportunity to attend Dutch language classes because I live in a small city, but my host family provided me with books and CDs. From time to time I work on it – I can’t speak Dutch, but at least I can follow the meaning of conversations. Also I've been going to zumba-fitness classes and to the swimming pool for several months.
And, of course, I try to travel as much as I can – I’ve been on vacation to Barcelona, Spain and I’ve also visited Belgium, Germany and France as well as many other places in the Netherlands. And you know what is interesting? Several days ago, I found a note with the places I wanted to visit a few years ago. Only one of them is still undone: the trip to the UK. The rest came true!!! I mostly travel with the friends I met here, but I also spent some holidays with my host family several times, and it was nice, too.
Time flies fast: I've been here for more than 9 months already… During this year, I had a lot of impressions and memories – time to get used to the family rules, drawings from my boys, playing football and “Red Hat with Wolves” on the trampoline, tears and laughters, tooth fairy stories and collecting Pokemon cards, of course lots of falls and scratches and special moments that I will never forget.
Once, the elder one found a button and said: “Take it. When you are home, look at the button and remember us!” There are words that make me cry and be emotional… And you forget all difficulties every au pair has during the year. I know for sure that in case of problems or misunderstanding between you, the kids and the parents, you have to be patient and open-minded… And the most important thing: talk to your host family, listen and respect each other!!! That’s why I like being in this family: they respect me and look at me like an equal person.
I don’t know if I made these kids grow or had an influence on them in terms of good manners, but they did make me grow, mature and more responsible. At the same time though, they showed me that I can still look at the world through the eyes and imagination of a child – be curious and creative, and believe that I can fly to Mars if I have many balloons :)
Will I stay in touch with my host family afterwards? Sure. Will I miss them and the misty country full of flowers, bicycles and many other things? Of course. I could tell you so much more about being an au pair, but the main thing I wanted to share is that if you feel like it’s your dream, go for it and you will succeed. And don’t lose hope like I do now. So… wish me good luck on finding a host family in Belgium this year, and cross your fingers :)