Friday the 21st of September marked 21 days of me living in Belgium. Can I believe how fast time goes by? definitely not. Have i settled into my new surroundings? yes and no.
Studies show that it takes about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and be replaced by a new one, but it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit.
My fourth week here has probably been my most emotional week – it coincided with the anniversary of my fathers death, and I had to make some brave decisions regarding confrontation. Nobody likes to confront others, but nobody likes to be taken advantage of either..
We’ve all heard horror stories of young nineteen year olds taking a gap year, catapulting themselves into the “big wide world” and working as an au pair for a family – underpaid and overworked but grateful for the opportunity to experience life as an adult, in another country. I’ve had a few experiences during the last three weeks where I wished I was a naive 19 year old..
It wasn’t until I spoke openly to young mothers in my french class, who asked whether I’m enjoying the au pair experience, that I realised that I was not being treated as an au pair on a cultural exchange programme, but rather a full-time nanny.
Fast forward to the middle of July 2019! I am now four weeks from the end of this au pair experience. After some difficult confrontations as well as some awkward inspection meetings with the government I am finally ending this au pair year on a high note. Boundaries have been set and adhered to, and now that we have all got to know eachother (and the time together is coming to an end) we are getting along quite well. The young moms in my french class have also become very close friends of mine, and spending time with them every Thursday was a highlight of my week.
Being an au pair, as silly as it sounds, has probably been the most difficult thing I have had to endure. Looking after other people’s children, in their own environment, with the parents around but not able to give the children the attention they are so craving – and therefore need from me, kind-of-difficult.. Not to mention living trapped within this environment – whether good or bad. Something I really appreciated about my previous job, was after a good or a bad day, I was able to leave the office and unpack my day over a glass of wine with friends or family (my mom). Now I go up to my bedroom and try not get too down or frustrated, desperately wanting a cup of tea but not wanting to disturb anyone by putting the noisy kettle on. Counting down to Friday to be able to spend time with Michael (sorry M for having to hear a weeks worth of highs and lows in the car ride from Brussels to Keerbergen) was something I was lucky to look forward to every weekend.
While I’m so grateful for the year spent in Belgium, getting to know new people, a few new cultures, and especially getting to spend quality time with Michael – being an au pair is not something I’d jump straight into again.
New skills for my CV:
- Play endless soccer and hide-and-seek
- How to entertain a 3yr old and 8yr old simultaneously,
- How to entertain a 3yr old and 8yr old simultaneously, while preparing supper
- Get a three year old to walk to and from school
- Put up with tantrums
- Answer awkward questions
- Make up songs on the spot
- Make the worlds healthiest lunch boxes
- Cook supper for a family of 6 with odd ingredients
- Master of public transport
- A big strong girl
I’ve also learnt that being a mom is damn hard. So much respect for my mom choosing to be at home with us when we were this age. What a difference it made in our lives. Also huge respect for single mothers who need to be everything at once as well as carry the financial burden of raising a family.
Soon I start packing and adjusting to a whole new life again.
Goodbye for now, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre xx