A little introduction
I’m Maike, I’m 26 years old and I am from the Netherlands. Before becoming an au pair, I worked as a teacher for 4 years and had extensive experience babysitting during my high school years. I wanted to go somewhere where I could speak English and somewhere far away. If I could go somewhere abroad, it better be a big adventure. I was in doubt whether I wanted to go to New Zealand or Australia. As my Dutch agency said there are usually more hosting families in Australia, I choose to go for this adventure.
Preparations to find a host family
I started to look quite early for a family and therefore it took a while to find a family that felt good. Most families wanted au pairs to start earlier but I couldn’t. As I was older than most au pairs and had quite a bit of experience, I had lots of matches. At one point I had 12 families on my list! That meant that I could be a bit picky. Some families didn’t respond, and other just didn’t seem a good fit for me. I had one rejection, because of my ‘late’ start date and one family that wanted to have me after only one chat. I didn’t really get the feeling with this family and therefore I decided to reject them, even before finding a new family. Luckily, on the same day as I rejected the generous offer, I also had a chat with my current host family. That conversation felt so much better, so I was really hoping that I could become their au pair.
First impressions of my host family and our living situation
I had a really nice chat with my hostmum the first time we met. She immediately told me that she had usually 3 to 4 chats with candidates, before she’d make a decision. That sounded good to me and gave me the time to consider other families on my list as well. In the following weeks, I had the opportunity to meet not only the host mum but also her sister-in-law and the boys, aged 7 and 8. Additionally, I had the chance to connect with their previous au pair. The boys' ages appealed to me, and the prospect of living in a coastal city rather than more inland was enticing. They live on the Gold Coast, straight on the beach where I have my own room and share a bathroom with the boys. After the conversations, it felt so good that I just had a gut feeling that this family was the right fit for me.
My day as an au pair
My typical day as an au pair begins early at 6.30 AM. By this time, the boys are usually already awake, so I start my day by preparing their breakfast and packing their lunch. Sometimes, the hostmum takes the boys to school, but on other days, I walk them to the school bus stop so they can catch the school bus. After this, I have some free time until the boys return from school. During this time, I make myself breakfast and tidy up the kitchen from the morning rush. I often use this downtime to go kickboxing or go to the beach.
The first few months, the youngest one did only half days, so I picked him up from school at 1PM and engaged him in schoolwork I had prepared. Now that he is doing full school days, I pick the boys up from the school bus and take them to their activities or back home. We practise their reading, play boardgames or do other fun activities. Sometimes I make dinner, sometimes my hostmum does the cooking. I take the boys to bed every day and read them a bedtime story. I usually work during the week and have my weekends off but sometimes when my hostmum is away, I work in the weekends as well.
My au pair duties
I have to make sure the boys are ready for school in the morning, pick them up from school, doing their schoolwork/reading, play games/entertain them or bring them to their after-school activities. Sometimes I cook as well and I always bring the boys to bed. When the mum is away, I work in the weekends. Then the youngest ends up in my bed often as he is scared at night, so we have a little sleepover. I am very lucky that my host family has someone that does washing/preparing dinner/cleaning 3 times a week and even another cleaner coming once a week. My duties really revolve around the kids and I do not have to do any housework.
My best family moments
One of the moments I will never forget is the time that my hostmum was away, and I was planning to take the boys on a trip to their grandparents. Their grandmother would pick me up, but she called last minute that a friend of hers offered to give us a lift in their helicopter. So, instead of driving there, we took a really big private helicopter. This was such a cool experience that I will never forget!
Also, when we went to the airport the mum had ordered a big car for all our suitcases but instead of a car, they ended sending a limousine. That is quite an entrance to get to the airport!
Another exciting trip is coming up in a month: we will go to Europe for 5 weeks and we will even visit the Netherlands (Amsterdam). There we will meet up with my family and I have the opportunity to spend some days with my family and friends. We also spent 6 weeks living in Melbourne, which was really nice! But other nice moments were the moments when the boys mentioned how much they appreciate me or when the youngest told me I felt like a second mother to him.
Making friends in Australia
For me it was quite hard to make friends, all the girls I met left after a few months, and they were a lot younger than me. And as there were not that many Smart Au Pairs living in my area, there weren’t that many events. Luckily, after an au pair meetup I met lots of nice girls, so we have a nice group now.
Living in Australia and cultural differences
Australia has offered me a unique blend of experiences. I love the laid-back beach vibe of the Gold Coast and the chance to interact with Australia's distinct wildlife. I really like the fact that the animals here are so different. I also really had to get used to the way the kids were raised, it was different than I was used to and other than I would do it in my own classroom. The au pair days will come with ups and downs, I do remember a day that I said no to the kids and then they went to their mum, and she said yes. That moment it didn’t felt like the kids took me seriously, I wrote a letter to my hostmum to express my feelings (as that was easier for me than confronting her in a chat). She was really understanding and helpful, we had a good talk the day after and since that day our communication had become better.
As a teacher, I recognized a lot of the youngest in one of my students I had in my class last year. I learned so much from au pairing and think this will really help me understand my students better in the future. I choose to go for an au pair exchange so I could go travelling and explore. Now that I have seen Australia, I can’t wait to discover more of the world and travel around. I am even making plans to go to New Zealand and Central America before heading back to the Netherlands.
My advice for future au pairs
For those considering becoming an au pair in Australia, my advice is to communicate openly with your host family and not hesitate to express your feelings. It's crucial to remember that it may take some time to adapt to your new role and surroundings. Even I, with quite some experience, had moments of doubts. I thought the first few weeks were the hardest, after 3 weeks I was really settled and started to enjoy my experience. And also, you can get bored sometimes but just remember being bored in Australia is waaayyy better than being bored back home.
Best time of your life!
During my 6 months in Australia, I had the opportunity to explore different parts of this beautiful country: from Noosa and Fraser Island, to Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast (and Europe is already calling). Sometimes I even got some extra days off which makes au pairing the best way to work and travel.