Au Pair: 5 Reasons For Going And 5 Reasons For StayingPosted By
Let's start with the reasons why you should rather stay home...
... Since it's always better to start with the negative and difficult stuff, here are some things you might consider when deciding for an au pair stay abroad.
Disadvantage #1 - Adjusting
Of course, the ideal scenario is that you don't change a thing in your daily routines and your way of living. The truth is that you will most probably have to adjust to the schedule and the needs of your host parents. And sometimes, adjusting can be really though, especially if you are staying in a country with customs very different to yours. Nevertheless, it's a part of the overall experience and the bigger cultural gap, the more it will teach you.
Disadvantage #2 - Finding Friends
Now that's something I found very complicated in some locations and in other it was very easy. If you are living in a larger city, there is a really big chance of other au pairs being in the area (plus, you can meet locals or travelers in language classes, gym, cafés, etc.). Obviously, if you are in a small village, chances are you are the only au pair there (and probably the only non-local). I have experienced both, and I have to say that when I was in a small place with pretty much no friends, it got tiring real quick and after 3 months I was really happy to leave, even though I saved quite a lot of money since I didn't spend it by going out.
Disadvantage #3 - Miss and Be Missed
You will (probably) be in a far away country among strangers, in a family full of strangers, taking care of strangers. At some point, you will probably miss home, where you didn't have to change your parents' bedding every week, babysit every Saturday night or be the only person in the household who cleans (if you are lucky, you will never experience any of this). It's pretty normal that you will miss your home, and rest assured your homeland misses you too. At least my parents insisted on having me on Skype every other day and if I wasn't online for a bit longer, I better had a very good explanation. Nevertheless, from my own experience, the more time you are abroad and the more friends you make abroad, the less you need to stay in touch with homeland. And that's not always a bad thing.
Disadvantage #4 - Sometimes You Just Cannot Have Fun
This point is closely related to the very first one. Sometimes it's really hard when you have to take care of kids all day long (especially if they are little), and you must be alert every second while you are with them. Which means, that you will most probably have to cancel at least one party you'd love to go to and your friends are going to, because you have to work the next morning. Or worse, you have to babysit the very night. Occasionaly, if you try hard enough, you will learn to really enjoy playing with kids and it will make you a grown-up kid yourself. Who needs to get drunk at parties when you can build your very own train station instead?!
Disadvantage #5 - Kids Don't Know What Having Time Off Means
It's kind of understandable. Small kids won't get why you prefer staying in your room when their mommy and daddy come home, rather than continue playing some extremely funny game. If you grow to like the little ones you take care of, you will most likely end up playing with them during your time off anyway. It's not a bad thing to play, but let's be honest, sometimes we just want to lay down in silence and do nothing (which is hard to explain to kids) and if you like them, it's also really hard to say no to them. So you just play for a little while. And for a little bit longer.
And now finally to the good stuff...
...Because these are the reasons why it's all worth it.
Advantage #1 - Independence
While you are on your au pair stay, it may seem you have to adjust and you actually lack independence, but trust me that at the end of the day, you gain a lot. By taking care of others, having responsibility for them and challenging your boundaries, you will become independent in pretty much every single area of your life.
Advantage #2 - Contraception For Free (Almost)
Being a full-time mom of 3 at the age of +-20? Even though your status is not "mom", believe me, you will taste how being a mom is - in a great detail. You will leave with a very realistic idea of what parenthood means and (probably) become very scared of it happening to you anytime soon.
Advantage #3 - Minimalist Living
Going away for a year with a 15kg checked bag and a handbag is challenging. But it will help you realize you don't really need the majority of your stuff and it will subconciously lead you towards minimalist way of living. The other scenario is that you will realize you have a serious problem with being a shopaholic and a hoarder. (Happened to me, first the shopaholic problems, now I lean towards minimalism.)
Advantage #4 - Live Differently
You will be able to have a really close look at how people live in other countries. This opens many doors for you, and it will help your personality grow by miles and you'll become much more open-minded.
Advantage #5 - The Experience
And then there is the overall experience. You will remember being an au pair for a long time (can't say forever as I've never experienced that) and you will learn a lot of things. One of the first things I have learnt as an au pair was how to light a gas stove to make a coffee with a weird looking coffee maker (didn't know what a moka coffee pot is back then and we had only an electric stove at home). You'll also improve your foreign language skills, meet friends from all over the world, and even though you will be looking forward to going back home after a while, the place you stayed will have its place in your heart forever.