Disclaimer: This post is whining about being an au pair. Don't say I didn't warn you.
There are a couple things that no au pair should have to endure (but does). These things go along the lines of ironing the boxers of an eight year old...
1. The "sneak attack" babysitting. Like, for instance, having "weekends free," in your contract, but the family may ask you to babysit on an occasional weekend night. Occasional I can do, I am happy to do even. Not at least once a weekend for eight consecutive weekends... Oh and that trip you, the au pair, wanted to take in December to Vienna? You know how you, the au pair, said it could either be the first or second weekend in December and that you'd be willing to work around the parents' schedule (meaning her sister's birthday party in Paris that the kids can't go to because they can't miss Catechism again) to fit her trip in... Only to find out (from your French teacher) that the following weekend they have RSVPed to a party Friday night thus cancelling your trip? That sort of sneak attack babysitting.
2. Summer homework. As I have already lamented about summer homework I won't go into it. But making your au pair make your children do homework in the summer time is just cruel and unusual punishment.
3. Speaking of cruel and unusual punishment... I've been thinking of them a lot, because if/when I meet Mark's music teacher there will be a world of hurt coming towards her. I'm sorry what music teacher gives a 3rd grader A RECORDER?? (Only the world's most annoying instrument next to the kazoo). I remember getting a recorder in the 5th grade, sure it was still annoying but I'm not sure we got to take them home. (And if we did then I apologize to my mom & dad. Certainly taking the instrument home is a way of punishing parents/au pairs--it's so exciting and new that all the child wants to do is play it over and over. Cruel.
4. Extra curricular activities. Actually I kind of like them. I get to hang out for an hour or so while some one else is in charge of the child's learning/well being/life. The downside? The preparation and post-activity work required. Sure swim classes are great, especially great for the parent because you can make the au pair: prepare the swimming bag(s), take the two five year olds, get them out of many layers of winter clothes, into swimsuits, to their class, out of the pool, into the shower, dry their hair, into the layers of clothes, into the car (with a snack because they'll be dying of hunger) to their respective houses, pick up the elder at his respective swim lesson, get them home, unpack their wet clothes, hang them to dry (while making dinner, making sure they do the homework that is due the next day, and practicing the piano), have them eat dinner, change into their pj's, brush their teeeth (while you clean the kitchen) and be reading to them when the parents get home from work. See, extra curriculars are easy.
4.a. Extra curricular: Hockey. Now I know I come from "The State of Hockey" (Minnesota). But I am not originally from there so my athletic allegiance doesn't lie with hockey. And now it never will. Mark plays hockey. Great, good for him. Mark this year decided to try goalie. Definitely brave of him (no one is going to shoot hardened rubber disks as at me thank you). Hockey was on Monday's so Anna would ask me to come home earlier so I could watch Stephanie while she took Mark to hockey. Fine, no problem. Except now there's a goalie practice on Wednesdays so I have to take Mark and Stephanie to hockey. And not just take him to hockey like drop him off out of the car with his back and stick. I have to dress him. And let me tell you, getting an eight year old into full hockey goalie equipment sucks. Yes, it sucks. I don't know why parents do this to their children in Minnesota. Sure athletics are beneficial to children but by the time he's gotten all his pads on I've had a full body workout. So not worth it.
I think all au pairs can empathize with this generalization: We are there to help out parents, absolutely. But au pairs are also expected to do what the parents won't. I'm there to stay with Stephanie when Anna takes Mark to X, but when Anna can't be there guess who has to take both to X? And make sure they are clean? And start dinner? And clean up from dinner? The au pair.
It just makes you appreciate all the hard working parents that do it on their own, day in and day out. And yes, I had a babysitter (I guess the right word have been nanny--she didn't live with us but she was there a lot in the afternoons). So my parents had a little extra help, its true. We had my beloved babysitter R. for what a couple years? Not for that long, and I loved her, Jack loved her, my parents loved her (we're still in touch so clearly Jack & I weren't too terrible). I remember her picking me up from my half-day preschool, eating fried rice & watching The Price is Right with her, making cookies. But all those formative memories? Carving pumpkins, Trick-Or-Treating, dyeing Easter eggs, even bathtimes and getting dressed in the morning? Those were all my mom & dad. So thanks M&D. Love you. (Oh and thanks for not taking advantage of R!)