Depending on how well you know me, you may have heard about my au pair disaster story. Basically, I moved to Madrid in hopes of learning Spanish through au pairing and it turned out to be a miserable experience. Lesson learned!!
I found the family on Aupairworld.com and it seemed like a situation that was too good to be true. The father was a well-known Spanish comedian and actor, and the wife seemed lovely. There was only one child so I thought, how hard could this be?
When I arrived in Madrid, it was a dreary day and I was exhausted from the long plane ride. I’ve never been able to sleep on planes so I was running on about two hours of sleep. The mother picked me up from the airport and she seemed like the bubbly woman that I had spoken with on Skype just a few weeks prior. We immediately clicked and had a great time chatting on the way home.
When I arrived at the apartment, I was amazed by the location we were in. They lived right smack dab in the middle of the city, next to all the major museums and artsy neighborhoods. I was so exhausted though that the mother insisted I take a nap before the child returned from school.
Once I woke up, it was dinner time. I met the child and immediately noticed that she was wearing leg braces. Her mother informed me that she had a disability that required her to wear braces and ride in a stroller everywhere she went. Let me be perfectly clear, disabilities do not bother me at all. But, in this specific situation, it irked me that the parents had not warned me about this detail ahead of time. Lugging around a stroller for a 5 year old 24/7 is something I would have liked to mentally prepare for, especially when you walk EVERYWHERE in Madrid. There was a lot of extra care that went into watching this child because of her impairment and I had no previous medical training. Again, disabilities are not a problem, but if you were hiring a nanny for your child, wouldn’t you inform them if he or she suffered from this kind of issue?
Anyway, the first couple of days were nonstop with a large learning curve. Not only do the Spanish live their lives in a completely different way, famous Spanish people act that much differently. Sure, there was only one child but that child was spoiled AS SHIT. She got everything she wanted and if she didn’t, there was hell to pay. From the little girl AND her mother.
For instance, after putting the child to bed one night while the parents were at an event, she asked me for chocolate milk and cookies even though it was way past her bedtime. I assumed that this was just a ploy to stay up later so I politely declined and told her to go to sleep. She pitched an absolute fit that lasted for over an hour, until she finally fell asleep. Thinking that I had done the right thing and exhausted from the night before, I was berated by her furious mother the next day. She couldn’t believe that her child was not given CHOCOLATE MILK AND COOKIES AT 11:00PM. EXCUSE ME AM I GOING CRAZY.
Plus, the mother was the most OCD woman I have ever met and, considering I was the friggin’ maid at this point, I was constantly scolded. The clothes were never folded perfectly, breakfast was never perfectly prepared on time, the child’s toys were never lined up flawlessly and color coded?? She even made me rearrange and organize her entire closet one day. I’M SORRY I DID NOT AGREE TO BABYSIT A 40-YEAR-OLD WOMAN.
I worked 16 hour days and was under incessant criticism at every turn. It was like walking on eggshells all day, every day.
This charade carried on throughout my entire stay in their house. Every day, I woke up at 5:30 am and did not stop doing laundry, cleaning the house, and waiting on hand and foot for the entire family until about 11:00pm. I was not paid once and was treated like a slave instead of “part of the family” as they had advertised online. I was not allowed to go out at night and never received one dime for my services. I was the real-life Cinderella.
I repeatedly expressed my concerns to the mother but she just kept telling me that I should be grateful to have this experience. Oh yes, I have a total of one hour of “free time” each day. Thank you so much for your hospitality.
Although the father was awesome to hang out with and I was able to attend a couple of movie premieres, I cried every single day. Living where you work is NOT fun, especially when you can’t ever escape your bitch of a boss. One day, I just packed my bags and told the mother that I was peacing out. She bitched me out until my cab arrived and I never spoke to the family again.
So, in the end, I wasted $1,000 on plane tickets and endured the embarrassment of returning home after only 2 weeks. Before you decide to au pair in a foreign country, ask the family for the following info:
1. Day-by-day schedule so you know what to expect.
2. References of past au pairs or nannies.
3. How and when you will get paid.
4. How much free time you will get to explore the city.
I don’t regret au pairing in Madrid because if I had stayed home, I would always wonder “what if”. Living in a different country can be difficult, especially when you don’t understand the language. So, do your research and understand what you’re signing up for. You may just end up with an au pair disaster story of your own.