Living with 12 kids never gets boring

Au pair Kristina shares her experience as an au pair in America with us, with some tips for future au pairs. Her unique experience: She came into a big family with twelve kids!

Kristina and her host children had a wonderful time together

Things get off to a rocky start

My name is Kristina, I'm 22yrs old and live in a small country in the middle of Europe. Like many girls I wanted to be an au pair the USA. I was so excited when I found a host family there and couldn't wait to meet them. But when I arrived at JFK airport, where somebody was supposed to be picking me up, no one was there for me and I started to get a bit worried.

I was alone in the biggest city in the world that I'd never been to, and I didn't know what to do. I waited and waited and then this random guy asked me if I was ok, he chatted to me for a while after I explained my situation to him, and then eventually a woman came and picked me up. After spending some days in New York I then flew to Ohio – Dayton, where a very nice looking woman was waiting for me with her best friend – Bob. They took me to Loveland where I spent my next year as an au pair.

Meeting the family and settling in

When we arrived everyone was already in bed, so I just went to my room. It looked like a closet – no windows, and just two doors, which were like wardrobe doors that I could not lock, but it was nice enough - I had a bed, one small closet, a mirror and a chair. Next morning everyone was at school so I had a good look around and explored the area I was going to spend my next year in. I lived in the middle of the woods, in a huge house with 2 goats (one of which was pregnant), 27 chickens, 2 horses, 2 Bernese mountain dogs (one of which was dying), a rabbit, squirrel in a cage and 3 cats. And there were deer, many more squirrels, birds and foxes everywhere.

I met the kids when they came home from school – there were 12 in total. Twelve kids in one house! Plus the two parents and mum's best friend Bob. The two youngest children were 5, and turned 6 the following year. The rest of them were aged 7,7,9,10,10,11,12,14 and 16. As the youngest two only went to school for a couple of hours a day I didn't have much time to myself. I woke up at 6.30am everyday to take them to school, from 9-11.30am I had free time, at 11.30am I'd pick them up from the bus stop, make a list of chores for them to do, do some cleaning and then occassionally we'd find some time to watch TV or play outside. All three of us would then go and pick the others up from school, and then I had to make sure they did their chores before snack time.

I try to make things more exciting

After snack time we'd do some more cleaning, and then play outside or watch TV again if we could find time, before making dinner at 6pm. Then after dinner we'd do homework and go to bed. We did this every single day – it surprised me that they did so much cleaning and hardly had time to do anything exciting. I did however try to do something fun with them everyday, like: cooking, baking, playing outside, fashion shows, playing princesses and knights, hide and seek in the house or in the basement in complete darkness, singing and dancing competitions – something different everyday. Once we even made a huge clubhouse in the living room and watched TV eating S'mores, just like on real camp!

Finding my feet and friends of my own in the community

As you can see living with 12 kids never gets boring and I wasn't ever bored whilst being there, but the only thing I would say is that despite everyone being very nice, they weren't my kind of people, or the type I would normally talk to. As well as being a part of the family's life in Loveland, I also attended church there, where I became a kids ministry leader and took part in the big christmas musical and nativity play. I made lots of friends there, and had a sort of tradition going with one of the girls in particular (who also lived in the same city).

Every Tuesday we'd go to this same bar where we played Trivia as part of an “old men's“ team. It was always good fun and we loved it. The men were the same age as my grandpa, and we became friends with the Italian DJ there.

I also went to California with another friend, who I met on the last day of school – she was wearing exactly the same shoes as I was! The trip took two and a half days, and I met my boyfriend there. It's almost a year now since I came back from the states and we are still together. Other things I did included going to baseball, football and ice hockey games. I flew over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter and went bungee jumping in Florida. I loved my time I spent in the states and if I could go there again I definitely would. I would even go back and stay with the family with 12 kids again!!

One thing I've forgotten to mention is the au pair meetings, which I didn't find particularly helpful at all. The other girls just spent the whole time complaining about the two or three kids they were looking after and how busy they were. I told them to shut up and to think themsleves lucky it wasn't 12 kids they were taking care of! I went once and never again, therefore finding my friends outside of these meetings, either in the bars and clubs or at church.

Conclusion: face up to problems, and show an interest in the children

So I'm telling you girls, there is nothing you can't do. It's just a question of making the right decisions so that you can get over any problems and let the experiences make you stronger rather than running away when things get a little tough. There are no such things as bad days, just bad moments! Everyday can be a good day if you want it to be, it's just up to you to make it special! If you show the kids that you are interested in them (what they do, what they like etc.) then they will like and show an interest in you. For those of you only wanting to go to the US to travel and have fun, maybe au pairing isn't the right thing for you. The kids will notice it right away if you are only interested in yourself and not them, so think about what whether being an au pair is the right thing for you beforehand.

I guess that's all really, other than saying that I don't regret any of it, I totally loved it and would do it again. For all those of you looking to go and au pair in the states, I hope that you too will have the best year of your life, because this is the biggest and best experience you will ever have – trust me!