Au Pair Guilty Pleasures

Being an au pair can be totally draining and frustrating. It’s like parenting, but without the reward of unconditional love. Between all the negotiating, complaining, crying and rule-enforcement you have to deal with, sometimes you just need to TREAT YO’ SELF.

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Any au pair can tell you that the time you get to yourself is precious, and needs to be spent wisely.

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1. Naps

If only I were a mathematician, then I could write you an equation for the amount of energy I spend trying to get A to take a nap and its proportion to how much I then need a nap. Oh, the sweet, sweet irony. Sometimes, napping is the ultimate priority: one of my friends told me she decided not to punish herself by keeping her kid home from soccer when he forgot his homework, “I just wasn’t going to deprive myself of my the-boys-go-to-soccer-nap.”

 

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2. Chocolate

I partially blame this on the family for always having chocolate in the house… I only have so much self control. After a long day, you just need something to take the edge off. Since I live with the family, binge-drinking is off the table and thus chocolate is my frequent substitute. Hiding in the kitchen alone with a piece of dark chocolate is often the only way I get through the afternoon.

 

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3. Other snack binges

I have enough self-control to stay out of the sweets cabinet when the family is home, besides my vice mentioned above, and I’m pretty shy about making myself food in general (usually I eat my meals with them, I don’t cook for myself). Technically they’re supposed to feed me as part of the whole au pair deal, but I don’t think that means that the fridge is open 24 hours… But once they leave? It’s pretty much a free-for-all. I feel the least guilty about the leftovers I polish off, but I think they might have noticed that their jar of cornichons (little pickles) is emptying itself more often than usual.

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4. Baths

My host mom has the most magnificent tub in the master bathroom. I’ve always been a shower girl, but after giving A a bath in this tub 3-4 times a week, I jumped at chance to use it the first time the family left me home alone. That plus glass of wine, a face mask and some Netflix… Bliss.

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5. Netflix

Ah yes, it deserves its own special mention. I take special pleasure in the fact that I spend so much of my free time watching Netflix and yet the kids are only allowed 30 minutes of screen time per day… Suckers, being an adult is the best. Again, it’s ironic that I often choose to watch the old Disney movies that I could watch with the kids, but its so much better to watch them with my chocolate and snacks pilfered from downstairs… Even if I can’t take a bath and didn’t have time for a nap, at least I get to fall into a blissful Netflix-induced-coma at the end of the day.

Oh hello there…

So, I started this blog post about my New Years Resolutions, and I failed to post it. How ironic. Here it comes, with some updates since I wrote it….

Long time no see! As an au pair, my schedule is essentially that of a stay-at-home mom, except that I don’t cook or clean or really do any household chores. But I do the kids’ laundry AND my own… And keep my room clean… That counts for something, right? Anyway, my point is that it’s amazing how having so much free time means I get essentially nothing done. Not to worry, my dear blog-followers, that’s all about to change.

This rest of this post will be about New Years Resolutions, so if you’re over that you can stop reading now, since if you’re an avid blog-reader like me you know that everyone posts constantly about this throughout January.

I had actually started doing monthly resolutions before the year ended, after learning that it takes about 21 days to make a habit. It’s been pretty successful, and so far I’ve worked my way to being a Makes-Her-Bed-Every-Day Person, and a Takes-Off-Her-Makeup-Before-Going-To-Bed Person. Here are a few I’ve been working on for the month of January:

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1. Preparing for the Real World

I took this year off as an au pair to figure out what I want to do with my life. 4.5 months in and I’m finally starting to figure it out. I HAVE figured out that when I find an opportunity, I need to be ready with a well-made resume and portfolio. I finally replaced my fried computer charger (the third one I’ve had to buy) and I’m proud to say that I revamped my resume and started to really put together my portfolio. Real world, I’m comin’ for ya.

[UPDATE: I got a graphic design job! It’s for a luxury men’s grooming company, so get ready for me to wow you with my knowledge of razors and shaving products. I start on Monday, and I’m so excited, especially since it means I get to interact with adults and buy new work clothes. Oh, and I’m finally making real career moves.]

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2. Stop Hitting Snooze Every Morning FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

I have a problem. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I just literally can’t. It’s amazing how motivated I can be before I go to sleep at night with all the best intentions to ~*be productive*~ early in the day. And then it comes to that early wake-up call, my sleepy brain has so many excuses and it’s so good at justifying why I shouldn’t have to get out of bed. This is my resolution that isn’t going well. I’ve tried putting my alarm across the room, turning my lights on once it goes off, everything! Maybe it’s just too ambitious.

[UPDATE: I think my main problem is that having an entirely free day means things like working out, getting dressed, etc. etc. can wait until the hours and hours of free time I have after I drop the kids off. Now that I have a job that I have to go to in the morning, I think that I’ll have more of a motivation to get up and at least put on makeup before taking the kids.]

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3. Healthy Lyfestylez

Yes, okay, I know this is the resolution that EVERYONE has. But I figured I should try being a eats-healthy-exercises-regularly person to see how it works for me at least once in my life. I started doing Popsugar’s 2015 Fitness Challenge, so we’ll see how it works out [pun intended]! I can always go back to being lazy, right?

[UPDATE: I’m on Day 26 of the Fitness Challenge, which is probably the furthest I’ve made it in any fitness challenge, ever. When I went on a run last week, I RAN THE WHOLE TIME, which is a big accomplishment because I’ve been trying to “start running” for probably my entire life after age 14.  As for healthy eating, I’m working on it. The hardest part is saying no to the fresh baguettes and bread the family constantly has in the house…  When in France, right? I stopped stealing the kids’ disgustingly-delicious chocolate snacks and eating more vegetables, though.]

Podcast Picks

First things first, if you’re not listening to the podcast Serial, you should be. That’s all I’ll say about it, because everyone and their mother, including my mother, is talking about it. I’ve been listening to podcasts since before Serial came on to the scene, and I love them. I usually listen to them during my hour-long commutes on the mètro, if I’m cooking or walking somewhere by myself, and even when I go on runs. I’m not a huge music person in the first place, and I love listening to podcasts rather than music because you’re (usually) learning something through what’s basically osmosis, which I am totally qualified to say because I listen to a lot of podcasts and I science now.

Here are some of my favorite podcasts at the moment. Check them out as you fly/train/drive to your holiday destinations, and then when you get there you’ll have plenty of new topics to talk to your relatives about! Or you’ll be hiding in the bathroom trying to finish listening to all the episodes of Serial before your Aunt Marge spoils them all for you.

cover170x170 1. Slate Serial Spoiler Special

Since Serial is only once a week, and no one else in my life is up to date on the episodes (Mom and Moonie, I’m looking at you), this podcast helps me get in a little more of my fix. S.S.S.S. is released Friday morning, and it’s a perfect debrief on each episode that really makes me think about the aspects of the case differently. In my opinion, it’s way better than Serial Serial, but I’ll admit that I listen to both because I have a problem and I’m addicted but I admitted it so it’s okay. I’ve also linked to Slate’s entire webpage dedicated to Serial, so you’re welcome for that.

TAL 2. This American Life

Basically, have some respect and check out Serial’s roots. Sarah Koenig, the narrator on Serial, started out on This American Life, and TAL provided most of the funding for this season. And Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, is also the Editorial Advisor of Serial, and I think he’s awesome. Their stories are different each week, and they’re told beautifully. I’ve been falling asleep while my parents listen to this program on the radio in the car for decades (slight exaggeration), but I’ve only recently started to appreciate the quality of TAL.

ted_radio_hour 3. TED Radio Hour

TED Radio Hour is the podcast that started my addiction to podcasts. I could spend hours watching TED Talks, but now I listen to this 50 minute podcast instead. The episodes are curated on a different subject each week, with three or four TED speakers highlighted and interviewed by Guy Raz. Sometimes they replay episodes, but I would recommend going into the archives and checking out Success, Overcoming and Getting There as well as subscribing to the weeklies. TED Talks are all about changing your perspective, and this podcast often blows my mind.

WWDTM 4. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

This is a quiz show about the week’s news, both the relatively normal and very strange. The narrators and weekly guests are all hilarious. I should warn you to be careful when listening to this in a public place, because I can’t tell you how often I get weird looks from people and then realize I’m walking down the sidewalk smiling or laughing on the train (this behavior is especially strange in France).

pchh 5. Pop Culture Happy Hour

This one is kind of my guilty pleasure, but not because it’s a bad podcast. Let me explain by starting with a confession: I don’t watch a lot of movies… I mean, I do, but the list of movies I haven’t seen would probably horrify you, especially if you’re a *Movie Person*. Most of the movies I watch are on Netflix, and I don’t really watch new movies in theaters. I DO watch TV shows, but apparently not the ones that end up getting talked about on this show, so far. Anyway, here’s the part I really feel guilty about: I often use the conversations in this show to cheat and talk about movies or TV shows I haven’t seen when people bring them up in conversation… Yeah, sorry, and mostly I’m sorry to myself because I think I just revealed a lot about myself to all of you. BUT the group of people on the show are interesting and funny, and I couldn’t make a list of my favorite podcasts without including it. So, I’m giving you permission to listen to this podcast even if you’re not a *Pop Culture Person*.

I hope this post inspires you to venture outside of Serial and try some of these other podcasts. I have at least ten podcasts downloaded and waiting to be listened to, but these ones are my tried and true favorites. Let me know what you think, and if you listen to any others please share them with me!

Nice try.

–Scene 1–

I’m putting together the snack for the kids in the morning. M requests one type of cookies, the kind that A doesn’t like. Great! Then sees me put a different type of cookies in A’s snack, and changes his mind that he wants that type of cookies. Drat. Pouting ensues when I inform him that A won’t eat the other type, and there’s only one pack of this type, so the odds are not in his favor today. M complains that since there’s only one pack, it means A must have eaten a pack the day before. I move on with my life because there are a million things in the world more important to me than what kind of cookies they eat for snack.

–Scene 2–

I’m doing laundry, and hear a crinkling noise in the pants that M wore yesterday. Hmm, intrigue. What’s that? The wrapper from the cookies he INSISTED that A ate yesterday? AHA. HARD EVIDENCE. I WILL TEAR HIM APART.

–Scene 3–

Me: Oh hey M, look at this wrapper from the cookies A allegedly ate yesterday. You know where I found it?

M: Uhh, where?

Me: IN YOUR PANTS POCKET.

M: *sheepish grin*

–Scene 4–

I cry quietly to myself because apparently cookies do matter to me. However, I am unsatisfied by his lack of guilt. Mental note to use this deception to my advantage at a later date.

Madrid!

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Sometimes being an au pair is all fun and games and crafts and snacks. However, as any of the au pairs that I know can tell you, even the ones with well-behaved kids need a serious break every once in a while… And the kids I work with are often challenging. Thankfully, one thing French people believe in is vacation, and the kids get two weeks off of school every seven weeks. One of those weeks the family usually travels, and at the last minute I chose not to travel with them and I went to Madrid instead!

I had low expectations, partially because I didn’t know much about Madrid, and partially because I was traveling alone. However, being by myself ended up being one of the best parts of my trip: I was able to spend exactly as long as I wanted at each place I went (this especially important for me in art museums); I was able to divide my time how I wanted between seeing sites and the plentiful shopping; I was free to meet new people and decide to go to a rooftop bar with them at midnight; when I wasn’t feeling well on Friday (read: hangover), I could lay around all day in the park and read and nap without feeling like I was wasting anyone’s time.

Here are some of the better photos from my trip:

Downsides to traveling alone: I still don’t have the hang of eating in restaurants alone; almost missing my flight on Saturday because I woke up late and there was no one else to make sure I got up in time…

While traveling alone was great, one of my favorite parts of Madrid was meeting new people. From girls in my hostel to friends of friends (aka new friends), here’s some proof I didn’t spend the entire trip alone 🙂

So to the beautiful city of Madrid and the wonderful people I met: thank you for reminding me why I love traveling, and why I decided to take this year to live in Europe. I’m already craving more Spanish sun, buckets of beer, and tapas! I’ll be back when I’ve mastered French and I’m ready to move on to Spanish 😉

Any suggestions for where I should go next? Do you like traveling alone or with other people?