I’m not sure what category this goes it, but this is my tale of life as an au pair/nanny to an evil host family. Names and details changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent.
Fresh out of high school, and barely eighteen, I decided to go work as an au pair/nanny to a family in Spain. We connected over an au pair website, and we seemed perfect for each other. I learned otherwise.
The family had two sons, Pablo (age seven) and Tomas (age three,) who were total hellions. Tomas especially. Both parents worked demanding jobs, and by the time they came home, both children were eager to spend time with them – but they were simply too tired, and told me to “keep the children out of the way.” Tomas would scream and scream for his mother, who did not want to see him, and I was berated for letting him misbehave and disturb their relaxation. Whenever the parents did spend time with the children, they let them run wild because they were too tired/stressed to discipline them. Tomas threw the most horrific tantrums at least twice a day, over the smallest issues, and would throw things, stomp around, refuse food, and scream and cry on a regular basis. I hated it but also felt bad for him, since I’m sure he would’ve been a sweet kid if his parents had given him just a bit of attention.
The parents were very stern, exacting people. They would make pie charts to plan out their mornings, and get upset when anything would deviate from it. The dishwasher had to be loaded perfectly, a specific certain way, and the mother would practically panic if it was done wrong. Once I accidentally left a scratch mark in a pan, and her husband literally had to calm her down and take her to another room, she was that upset about it. I absolutely HAD to take the boys to the park EVERY day after school/daycare, rain or shine, and if I dared to let them watch TV or play with their toys, I’d be reprimanded. (I discovered later that they wanted me to take the kids to the park to tire them out, so they’d have peace and quiet in the evening.) After dinner, and on weekends, was supposed to be my “time off” to spend as I wished. I spent most of the time off in my room, but apparently to them this meant I was always available. I would be called down to help them and spend time dealing with the kids. They would make subtle, sarcastic comments about how I needed to “help out” and not do the “bare minimum.” Once the father was sick, and I asked him if he needed help making dinner. He said he didn’t and I was free to go, so I went to my room. I later got in trouble for not helping him!
One incident I remember in particular – one of my errands for that day was to pick up medicine from a pharmacy. I was proud of myself for having done so, since my Spanish was not the best at that point. I put it on the counter where I knew the mother would see it. After dinner, when I’d retreated to my bedroom, she came flying up the stairs and began to scream at me. It turns out that the medication had to be refrigerated, and since I’d left it out, it was ruined. Terrified by her outburst, I apologized and said I wasn’t aware, but she continued her tirade, telling me it was common sense and I should’ve known better. She yelled and waved her arms for another ten minutes, telling me to “use my head,” and went stomping away back down the stairs.
I’d hoped for a great relationship with a family from another culture, but it was not to be. The morning I left, they didn’t even bother to wake up and say goodbye to me. (It even stated in the contract that they were supposed to help me to the airport, but they didn’t. I had to shell out a hundred euro for a taxi.)
I was originally supposed to stay for a full year, but I was so unhappy that I ended up leaving early. It was such a negative experience that sometimes I wake up thinking I’m still there, and have a mini panic attack. Several months after I left, I was job hunting, and I emailed them and asked for a letter of recommendation. What I received was several pages to the effect of “she’s a nice girl but doesn’t put in much effort.” Needless to say, I did not use that letter! 0416-09