Reasons I love being an au pair; take three

There’s definitely days when i just want to get up and leave, like any job. Last week, it seemed like every struggling day would drag onto the next day and so on. Fortunately yesterday——>

out came the sun, and dried up all the rain

and the itsy bitsy au pair found the end of the pain

I’m lame I know, but honestly it was like I woke up in a new world this morning. The sun was shining, the mother was smiling, the kid wasn’t crying… it seemed almost too good to be true. OH! and it was Wednesday, and if you don’t already know, in France the kids either have half days or no school, which makes it by far the most dreaded day by au pairs everywhere.

I’m going to give credit to the big sun in the sky for making this day a heck of a lot better. It’s crazy what a little vitamin D can do for people.

As many of you know something else that makes me happier than the birds is cooking so I whipped up this yummy breakfast pizza before starting my day.

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Upon picking P up from school yesterday I was instantly shocked by how talkative she was. Once again, BLESS YOU SUNSHINE.

This girl is smart let me tell you. She can whip out facts about literally anything, that will blow your mind. Today I was told that women will live longer than men because apparently they are healthier. This somehow leaded to her correcting my pronunciation of words that I consistently have trouble with. I was becoming frustrated, as always, because at 21 years old I have trouble communicating with a 6 year old. Unlike how she normally reacts when I’m wrong by saying “I don’t understand” or completely ignoring me, she corrected my sentence. I must admit it felt a little odd but I enjoyed her being my little teacher.

There was something that she said that really stuck with me at the end of our conversation; a life lesson in fact. “You know you don’t have to be perfect at something the first time, and it’s okay to admit that you are having trouble. You just have to keep trying and you’ll succeed”. Following this I got a hug but it didn’t feel like any forced hug that I had received in the past weeks. It was a genuine sisterly hug which I graciously returned back with a bisous of course.

Oh and might I point out how obsessed I am with this families toilet paper. It truly is the little things in life that bring us joy.
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Growing up is never easy

Something that I’ve recently realized, and has been tough to actually want to come to terms with, is the fact that I’m growing up whether I like it or not.

When we’re younger all we want is to be older, have more independence and be essentially free from rules. So here I am, now a considerably amount older with more freedom than I want sometimes, and all I want is to reverse back time; when life consisted of unlimited ice cream and doing cartwheels on the soccer field.

I’ve been away from home for the past 4 years now but this time is different. I can’t just drive an hour on the weekend to spend time at home or be involved in the annual activities like I used to. I’m used to being able to do anything and be anywhere but that’s impossible in my current situation. I missed out on the annual girls trip which I have gone on with my grandparents, aunts, mother and cousins for years. Of course it’s upsetting not the be able to do everything but that’s life as I’ve come to realize. There will always be things we want to be doing and places we want to be no matter where or what we do.

When I was home I dreamed about being abroad travelling and here I am abroad and dreaming about home. That’s what life seems to be all about; having to make sacrifices simply because we can’t do everything we desire. Imagine having everything in life go perfectly as planned to your utmost satisfaction. Do you think you’d be happy?

More than likely, not.

Growing up I was very fortunate to have the guidance and love that my parents gave me which helped shape me into the person I am today. At home I had a very satisfying life to be honest. I had a car, a roof over my head, a well paying job and was always surrounded by family but that didn’t mean I was happy; or at least the happiest I could be. That’s simply because my time had come to find my place in this world outside of the comfort of my surroundings. Over the past five months I’ve been able to see a whole new person emerge from this body and I’m not about to let her leave.

My happiness is determined by my own choices.

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It’s the little things in life

You know when you were little and sang Christmas songs at school in front of the school, but you really only had one objective; to catch your parents eye and waive at them with that proud feeling. Today I was that parent.

“I will take P to school this morning because the cake needs to be dropped off for her Christmas concert” the mother proclaimed as I brewed my first cup of coffee this morning.

“Oh I can do it considering i’m going to watch her” I replied.

The mother stared at me with a strange look then said “oh really?” I explained that P had invited me the day before probably knowing that her parents both worked in the mornings and was used to not having anyone there. The mother was more than pleased with my decision to go and seemed more surprised than anything. When I was asked to attend there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I would miss it, especially considering her parents couldn’t make it.

I stood in the farthest back row of the parents but managed to stand on my tip toes t catch a glimpse of P on the stands singing her little heart out. When my eyes finally found hers a big smile appeared across her face followed by a 15 second period of waiving to no one other than myself. My heart melted in the thought that here I was, the only one under the age of 40 in a crowd of parents, and this little girl was singing for me. My hand shot up above the crowd with an equally long waive to let her know that I could see her among the other children.

Once the group of children were finished singing their Christmas carols, they all flocked to the tables full of delicious french pastries and cakes. Apparently as I’ve learned that cake is 100% acceptable to consume anytime during the day, especially chocolate. I felt a tap on my back and quickly turned in hope that it was my little artist. Sure enough I was greeted, some could argue attacked, by P with her arms open ready for a hug and a big bisous.

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These are the moments I will remember when i’m looking back on my life.

Also, I’d like to point out how amazing this family has been. To any Au Pairs out there that are skeptical about starting their journey because of horror stories they have read. Don’t be afraid and go into it with an open mind because you never know where the experience will take you. This evening the family and I celebrated the ending of the school year with 3 bottles of delicious red wine might I say, traditional french sausage, fois gros and macaroons. Do I like these foods? Not particularly, okay red wine and macaroons taken out of course because who doesn’t like those. The point is that they are trying to make this the best experience possible for me and god am I ever appreciative. Upon everything they have already done for me a petit pere noel  surprised me with a present, but not just any little gift. Saint Laurent perfume… first a cashmere galleries Lafayette sweater for my birthday and now this? I”m truly blessed.

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Mom, if you’re reading this I now understand the excitement and joy you had when you sat and cheered me on at every sporting event. I never appreciated the fact that my parents would take time off work or rearrange their own plans in order to be there for me but now I realize how lucky I am to have such a dedicated family.

 

 

 

The importance of siblings, in my eyes

She’s only 6. I need to keep telling myself this.

Tonight I explained what student loans were to Perrine and the fact that I had just made my first payment today. She responded with “Why aren’t your parents paying for your school?” I was taken off guard considering that’s not something that i would have even considered being a possibility. I then clarified that 1. I don’t expect my parents to have the obligation to pay for something that I choose to do with my life 2. The fact that I have three other siblings that will too someday be going to university. You wanna know what reaction prevailed from my reasoning?

A big old “sucks to be you”

This is when I became a bit infuriated, okay a lot. I tried to stay calm because she’s 6, only 6 but still! My response probably could have been a bit nicer put but it went a little something like this:

I could care less if I have to pay back my student loans for the rest of my life, work three jobs, or sacrifice my hobbies I will NEVER, and I mean NEVER regret those children coming into my life. I’m a proud big sister and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Yeah maybe things would be different if I was an only child, but in my eyes different being worse off.

Growing up for the first seven years of my life I was an only child and not until now do I realize how lucky I truly am that my 3 siblings came along. Of course having everything to yourself if great but never having those sibling rivalries, sisterly fights or constant arguments. I mean who wouldn’t want those right? Actually, the answer is right; more than right to be exact. Siblings are a blessing at least I know that mine have been. Yes we argue, a lot, but that’s part of the fun.

I often sit here and watch Perrine and think of myself when I was in her situation and her age. I played alone, she plays alone. She’s competitive with everything whereas competition was what I lived for. She strives for perfection; that might as well be my middle name.

Then comes the difficulty for me as I constantly have to come up with things to occupy her because she’s alone. That being said she is extremely independent as I was and still am today so she is able find things to do but playing alone is only fun for so long. She never complains about having to occupy herself or independently find things to keep herself busy but I know that she wonder what it would be like to have another sibling.

When I get annoyed at her, there usually a good reason, but then I have to think about the reason of why she acted out. Maybe she’s bored, annoyed, hurt, who knows. What I do know is that she didn’t ask to be an only child and it’s not her fault she’s spoiled beyond belief. Her parents longed for a child and they were blessed with one and only one, making her their miracle child. Logically speaking this could be a great reason why she is so fortunate but that’s how she’s been and no matter what I want to do about it I can’t. I too was once her too.
What I can do is to be there for her as not only an au pair but a big sister, a friend and a role model. I can’t change the facts or the situation but I can make this year one for her to remember.

winning the jackpot when it comes to finding a host family

Winning the jackpot, now wouldn’t that be nice. Though, I’ve come to realize that money doesn’t always mean happiness and that winning the so called lottery can actually refer to many other things in life, such as family. I really enjoy this quote as it’s been ever so true in my life so far here in Paris. The only reason that I’m even here is the fact that I essentially gambled with finding a family, not knowing what they would be like before arriving. In this instant I won but only because I made the decision to chance the unexpected in hope of hitting the so called jackpot, and here I am a winner.

I don’t want to sit here and boast about how amazing my life is here in Paris but boy, is it ever good. I’ve taken way too many things for granted in my life and being here is something I’m not about to let myself do again. I have the most amazing family here and am ever so fortunate to have found them or for them to have chosen me of all people to be apart of their family for the year. I’ve heard horror stories from other au pairs with their own situations resulting in many of them leaving which makes me that much more grateful.

This past Saturday, which is typically a day off for me, I was awakened by a slight knock on my bedroom door only to find that it was the father, inviting me to go to the supermarket with him to grab some groceries. Some groceries meaning 2-3 weeks worth. Of course I was more than enthused at this idea as it’s become a bi-weekly event for us, actually more like a language exchange date. We talk English on the way there so he can practice and than french on our way home for me. Following our expedition to Auchan we ate an Indian styled lunch that the father prepared and might I say was very proud about. That afternoon the family invited me to go to the cinema with them to watch Paddington, and I accepted the invitation of course. The movie was by far one of the cutest family films I have watched in a while, and being able to experience it with the three of them made it that much better, especially since I’m missing my own family over this holiday.

Yesterday morning, before I left for Paris the family asked me if I would be home for supper this evening and as the majority of Sunday evenings the answer is yes. They were more than thrilled at this response for some odd reason and therefore explained they would be cooking my favorite sweet potato fries which I haven’t had in 4 months, accompanied by a new red wine he had bought of course. This family has no obligation to do these small things for me, but gosh am i ever appreciative. The fact that they are making such an effort to make me feel as comfortable as possible in this foreign country is beyond what I expected when being welcomed into their family. While the mother did the nightly routine with Perrine the father and I enjoyed a bottle of red wine and had a pretty in depth conversation about the importance of spending time with your children. That’s one thing I notice with this family, is that they really focus on making the weekends family time with just the three of them.

It’s just the small things that really make the difference for me.

– Coming down stairs every morning to a fresh cup of coffee already prepared for me.
– the dad gave me his train ticket to London and back (okay this one is a bit more than a little gesture but very appreciated)
– they make an effort to make meals that they know I will enjoy
– after my showers at night there’s always a cup of green tea waiting for me in the living room
– they invite me to their family events and social gatherings as if I’m another member of the family
– they are never more than a day late with my weekly pay

It’s as if I was given the best of both worlds here; a good job and a great family.

We all need a break once in a while

Rest. A four letter word that isn’t frequent enough in my life. I come from a family of people that are constantly on the go so it’s just been instilled in me as being the way to live. Yesterday was a remarkable moment in my life. I relaxed and did absolutely nothing but watch some good old Netflix.

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Maybe it was because I was still recuperating from my trip to London or the fact that I’m sicker than a dog but all I really wanted to do was to shower and watch tv, another thing I haven’t done in the 4 months I’ve been abroad. If you know me well enough you will know that this is something I NEVER do. No matter how hungover, sick, bored, tired I am… I always feel the need to leave the house and wander or do something. I like to think I get this on the go demeanor from both sides of my family. I mean, good luck EVER reaching my mother at home or my 75 year old grandmother who doesn’t stop from 4am on wards when she’s starting her mail route. I feel so blessed to have such hard working women in my life as role models because I wouldn’t want to be any other way. I can say it’s defiantly made me more productive of a person but at some point you just get worn out and need to rest.

So what did I learn from taking a day to just reposée as the french would say?

That I need to do more of it. I feel rejuvenated and so much less stressed, even though there really shouldn’t have been any in the first place. I watched a whole series of The Mindy Project, baked muffins for tomorrows breakfast and did a load of laundry. The whole laundry is actually quite a big accomplishment considering it takes a whole 3 hours just for the washing cycle to do its process. Oh, and why I just decided today to get hooked on this amazing TV show is beyond me. Mindy, my friend you are one funny chick. Upon picking my girl up from school I realized how much better of a mood I was in than I typically am when rushing from Paris to make the train in time. Since I had the whole day to do what my heart desired all I really wanted to do when we got home was to entertain her, which hasn’t happened in a long time since being here. Today I’ve finally realized that while I’m constantly trying to be as productive as I can be with the time i’m given, sometimes the most productive things are actually done with the least amount of effort. This relates back to my struggle with perfectionism and always trying to be the best, make good decisions, and accomplish as many things as I tell myself i’m capable of doing. We often put ourselves such a high pedestal of having these unrealistic expectations of ourselves and then when we fail we’re disappointed. If we lower those expectations ever so slightly and accept that no matter what we do in the course of a day, we will not find perfection, happiness will be found.

Let’s just say, these whole rest days will be happening more often.

10 Reasons why london is better than Paris

I think I have come to the conclusion that I need to stop taking these weekend trips while living in Paris simply because it’s making me become quite negative about the city. Before adventuring to other parts of Europe I thought that Paris was “all that” but sadly in my opinion that’s not been the case. Don’t get me wrong I love Paris without a doubt and am so grateful to be living here for the next 8 months but boy did I ever underestimate the rest of the continent!

In comparison the two cities are pretty similar. They both have well known attractions such as Big Ben the London eye and the tower bridge in London, whereas in Paris there’s the Eiffel tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame. The temperatures are relatively the same with Paris being every so slightly warmer. I’ve put together some of the reasons why I fell in love with London to share with y’all.

1. The people are 110% nicer.
I can’t sit here and sterotype all of the parisians for being rude but i’ve had some pretty unpleasant experiences that have led me to believe so. Upon arriving in London, I didn’t have one person purposly bump into me and if they did ther was a sympathtic sorry to instantly follow. When paying for items at the stores you’re actually greeted with a smile as if they actuall care about their customers; so refreshing from France.

2. There are coffee chains EVERYWHERE.
When I say everywhere, i mean it. I can’t even count the number of pret a manger’s that I passed or the numerious hidden starbucks throughout the city.

3. H&M stores aren’t on every street corner. 
Don’t get me wrong I like a good shopping day at H&M like any other girl but the temptation in Paris is way too much!

4. It doesn’t smell like pee everywhere.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say this scent has something to be desired.

5. It’s clean!
The fact that smoking along the streets just didn’t happen was a blessing let me tell you. I’m not a fan of having people either blow smoke in my face or having a cigarette flung into my face. Another fact was that I didn’t see one person on the streets begging for money, this being said I didn’t experience the metro system so that could be a different story.

6. The museums are FREE.
Oh the magical 4 letter that makes me happier than the bees. One of the main reasons I haven’t made more of an effort to go to ones in Paris yet is because they cost money unless I want to attempt to enter on the first Sunday of the month.

7. The men on the streets selling chestnuts in Paris? Yeah I didn’t see any in London.
I’m sorry, but I really don’t enjoy men trying to pressure me into buying their hot chestnuts that they cook in a shopping cart. It’s dirty, annoying and plain weird.

8. People speak English, my mother tongue.
This is completely biased towards any English speaking people but it was refreshing to be able to understand everything.

9. There are free WiFi phone booths throughout the city.
These converted telephone booths saved my but a couple of times when I needed to connect to WiFi and better yet they were free!

10. I’ll take fish and chips over foie gras any day

The negative?
It’s god awfully expensive that’s for sure. Currently with the conversion rate between CAD and GDP is doubled.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the two cities!

Decisions will be the death of me

I’ll admit it, i’m a perfectionist. I always want to know what i’m doing next and hate change. Of course, I’ve had to step outside of my comfort zone a little bit, okay A LOT, since being here in Paris. I am never 100% of what i’m doing from one day to another which has been a huge change for me, but definitely a much needed one. As I’ve learned the hard way, life isn’t perfect as much as I would love for it to be, and for everything to also work out as planned.

Here I am with about eight months left of my time here abroad and i’m already thinking of “what’s next”. This could be a negative thing of course because when I think, i tend to over think which leads to stress and as we all know, stress is never good. Logically speaking I should at least have an idea of where I want to go when I’m finished, let alone what I want to be doing there. There’s so many questions and decisions to make and yes, I realize that I still have a long time until I make the final move, there’s a lot of preparation that needs to happen in order for some of those choices to even be possible.

Up until today I was dead set against taking another semester of french lessons after Christmas. For one, they are 500 euros every 10 weeks, secondly,I didn’t feel that I’m learning enough in my classes as it is. Of course there’s always something that will make you second guess your decision.  Today in class we we were informed of a professional french class aimed at students that want a more advanced class leading to a certificate in the end which is recognized worldwide. Considering I have an education in the finance industry this could be extremely helpful, but is that really what I want with my life?

How am I supposed to know.

Stats show that people change jobs 5-7 in their lifetime so at least this gives me hope that even if it’s not what I “want” I’ll eventually get there.

Maybe I’ll go back to university or open a bakery but the unfortunate thing is that the only person that can decide that is simply me, and I have no answer. I need to keep my head up and my options open because I am not going to let myself fall back into the stressful life I was living, when really there was no stress needed at all. I tend to get caught up in trying to always make the right choice, which I’ve learnt is not always possible because who can declare the correct choice in any given situation anyways. I have dreams as does anyone, and yes some are unrealistic but this path i’m on currently had definitely given me faith that when you let go and just live, you’ll find happiness which is what we all should want in the end. I’ve grown up watching so many people around me living their lives in an atmosphere that they aren’t happy with and I’m determined not to let myself fall onto that path.

So my decision? I still don’t a direct answer which must mean that I have yet to find what I came here for. Time will tell all.

How I know I’m doing the right thing

When talking to people, and i mean literally anyone in general, the majority of them will say their biggest regrets in life had to do with either not travelling or  taking opportunities when they were presented. Let’s just say I didn’t want to have those regrets later on in life where it would be impossible to reverse my decisions.

Currently I’m at a point in my life where:

1. I don’t have kids
2. I’m not married
3. I don’t have a career

For me, it seemed like the perfect time in life to travel and see places I had anyways dreamed of but never had the opportunity to go. Typically travelling abroad for a year isn’t just a decision you make in the course of a second, but for me on the other hand it was pretty instantaneous. I had nothing holding me back.

When I originally told people I was going take a break from “the real world”, whatever that may be, I had a lot of people that doubted my decision to travel for the year. They would say “but you are throwing away your education” or “Why aren’t you going into banking, if that’s what you took”.

First off, my education isn’t going to be magically taken away from me and will still be there when I get back. Second, I’m only 21 years old and I don’t know if that’s even what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

A spontaneous decision like this required me to make sure that it was a smart one before leaving for a year.

Smart meaning

  • I will have enough funds to get me through the year
  • I will want to travel which also requires money
  • I want to pay my student loans off before I leave
  • I’m going to get something out of this year

Of course there was more, but mainly I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable while being in France, and for me having financial security is a huge comfort blanket. Something that has been instilled in me ever since I was a young girl, was to save money for a rainy day; better said by my grandmother who I know is where I get my frugal habits from. I thought that maybe this experience would be that rainy day that I had been waiting for all these years and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t come here without financial means in order to support myself as I knew that it is impossible to live on an Au Pair salary. Okay maybe not impossible, but in order to actually experience Paris and Europe in general to it’s full potential, 90 euros a week wasn’t going to cut up. I mean, this girls gotta eat too somewhere in there and we all know food isn’t cheap.

Before coming here I was surrounded by my peers and often felt a sense of having to do as they were doing; as in follow the path of school-university-career. Once I finally made the spontaneous decision to make a change in my routine life, I saw that there are other paths and options apart from the one we all think is the “normal” or “safe” one. So many of us choose to remain in the same lifestyle for so long for the purpose of what? There’s so much out there in the world just waiting for people to discover.

I also believe that you learn so much while travelling, or at least I know I have already since I’ve been here these short 3 months. I don’t just mean that I have learnt another language either. I’ve had the chance to figure out more about myself than ever before through travelling, meeting people, being immersed in a french lifestyle and discovering independence.

 

What have you learnt while travelling? 

School Vacation in France, take one.

This week was one that I had dreaded since the day I set foot in paris.

The starting of school vacation.

It wasn’t the fact that I had to spend all day in and out with my girl for the whole week, but I feared not being able to occupy her the whole time. Of course the easy thing to do would be to stick her in front of a tv or an iPad all day but I knew that would be a horrible idea. My vision of this outcome:

Parents come home and ask what we did all day, and of course she’s naive and honest and tells them exactly what she did ( more like didn’t do) .. Didn’t sound like a good idea nor really that much fun.

Then the parents inform me that the grandmother who is 78 is coming to stay with us for the week. Oh! and she doesn’t speak any english, even better! At this point I was feeling pretty anxious to get the week over with and get back into a routine. Like I’ve mentioned, I find comfort with having a daily routine to follow and when things are changed it throws off my whole day, let alone days leading up to it.

I’m going to be completely honest and say I regret my thoughts that I had about this vacation because I’ve had one of the best weeks with Perrine so far this year. The grandmother was one of the nicest ladies I’ve met in my life. I’ve never seen someone care so much about the wellbeing of others, especially Perrine as shes her only granddaughter. I think I was more frightened with her being at the house with fact that she didn’t speak english but it turned out that we could carry conversations in french for hours.

Every morning we sit down and she drinks her large bowl of tea along with her sweet bread and jam and me with my coffee and yogurt, and we talk for at least an hour. It’s been so nice getting to know another part of this family I’ve become a part of. On her last morning there I asked her if she had any other children because I had been told Perrine was her only grandchild but was unsure if maybe there were uncles or aunts. The response that came from this question was not what I was expecting at all and broke my heart. She explained the story of how her other son had experienced a bike accident when her was only 12 years old and has been paralyzed since that unfortunate day. He now has to live in a center a couple hours away from her because she is unable to care for him herself. This really made me think of what this woman has had to endure in her life and yet she still seems to wake up each morning with a smile and continue on with the day.

The day’s consisted of lots of crafts and we even made a trip into Paris to the movies for the first time. I give credit to this grandmother for being so agile for her age. She cooked every single meal and cleaned up afterwards, walked 40 mins to the library twice throughout the week and was still able to find energy to play with her granddaughter. In all, I think that this week and having spent so much time with the two of them has helped strengthen our relationship for the better.

I decided to stay for the weekend with he family even though I technically wasn’t working. Saturday morning started like any other weekend with pancakes and canadian maple syrup of course. Then we played board games as a family and even tried to teach the grandmother a bit of english which was entertaining to say the least. After dropping grandma off at her train the four of us headed for lunch to no other place than Joe Allen’s! I love how the family accommodates to what I enjoy and where I like to eat. After a wonderful meal and service from none other than the owner who I know from home in Nova Scotia (it really is a small world) we headed to a theatre showing by Theatre de la ville. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it ended up being pretty funny, especially now that I can understand french a heck of a lot better than when I arrived.

In all, I had a wonderful week with a beautiful woman and a toothless little girl and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I’m actually looking forward to the next vacation in February when the grandmother will return and we can do it all over again.