I found a second family in Spain

Helen, au pair from Scotland, wanted to improve her Spanish. She found a host family with seven children in Spain. Her conclusion after ten months in Cuenca: “I’ve improved my Spanish, seen Spain, made friends and most importantly, I found a second family that I know I will always be in contact with!”

Helen in Spain and her host children

I have been staying with Marta and her family for nine months and am now coming to the end of my last month with them before I move to a family in Paris.

I wanted to improve my level of Spanish quickly

Originally I came to Cuenca for the summer and planned on staying three months. In the end I have been here nearly a year! This is a true testament to the great experience I have had with my host family and in Spain in general. I came out because I study languages and wanted to improve my level of Spanish quickly and thought aupairing would be a fun experience and it has been. I didn’t realise when I started out though that I would end up gaining another family and that in the end I would love them all so much!

I chose Marta’s family because they stood out to me as being a bit different. There are seven children in quite a close age range (3-10) and I thought it would be a great experience to live with so many kids! It never really scared me off that there were so many children, especially after speaking beforehand with Marta and the kids on skype.

I liked the idea of coming to a small city

I also liked the idea of coming to a small city where I would have enough to do but not feel lost like in a larger city. I’m glad I came here because Cuenca is in a brilliant location for travel and I have managed to fit in travel to lots of different parts of Spain (Madrid, Valencia, Alicante, Granada, Toledo and Salamanca). The Spanish is also very pure in Cuenca and generally, everyone from the extended family, teachers and kid’s friends could not be friendlier.

When I first came it was a bit of a culture shock! Spanish people are a bit louder than British people anyway but in a house with seven kids I think this is even more pronounced. This is something that I love, there has always been someone to play with, laugh with, or entertain and I’ve never felt lonely. The kids had had aupairs before me and welcomed me with open arms, especially after they saw the sweets I’d brought with me from Scotland!

My main tasks: looking after the kids whilst mum works

My main tasks as an au pair have been to look after the kids whilst the mum works with the help of the grandparents. This means helping them get organised for school, and eating lunch with them and helping with homework and activities until Marta gets home. The mornings have always been free and the weekends too, so I have time to go to Spanish class and the gym or to meet friends or explore the city.

At the weekends, I’ve travelled or gone out with friends or a lot of time spent days with the family, especially during the summer holidays at the pool! In the summer we went to their holiday flat in Alicante and it was amazing to spend time relaxing at the beach and having fun with the kids.

The kids are so loveable

I don’t think I could have come to a better family and I wouldn’t change my ‘Spanish family’ for the world. In ten months I have seen the kids grow and change and I love them all like my own family. All kids have their bad days and there’s definitely not a day that doesn’t pass without squabbles and a little chaos but the kids are funny, sweet, loving and so loveable. I’m completely comfortable looking after all of them and although seven sounds like a lot, with a routine and discipline and a brilliant mum and grandparents around, it’s a great house to live in. There’s always something going on, whether it’s a family gathering, a birthday or a trip somewhere and I’ve never been bored.

My host mum included me from everything

Looking after the kids has been a learning experience. Before I came I didn’t have that much experience with kids and I was worried it wouldn’t come naturally but I honestly think that with these kids you’d have to have a heart of stone to not love them all! Marta and the grandmother are great. Marta has included me from everything from the start and made it clear that in their home, the au pair is not there as an employee but as an extra member of the family who is there to lend a hand.

She’s helped me so much with Spanish that I have improved loads and she’s introduced me to everything I need to know about life in Spain. The grandmother speaks no English whatsoever and this has definitely been beneficial for my Spanish! Nati is a typical Spanish grandmother and dotes on her family and is so welcoming and loving to everyone.

I am sad: my time in Cuenca is coming to an end

I really do feel like a member of the family now and I am sad my time in Cuenca with them is coming to an end. I’m heading to France in a few weeks to aupair again whilst I study and hope I’m going to have an experience and a family even half as amazing as my Spanish one. I’ve improved my Spanish, seen Spain, made friends and most importantly, found a second family that I know I will always be in contact with!