I remember feeling so excited when I found out my host parents chose me to be their au pair. 4 bedroom house, 3 bathrooms and a swimming pool in a suburban area in the garden state of New Jersey. 2 boys to look after – a 3 year old who was in school full time, and a 1 year old who took 2 naps daily. What more could I ask for? Don’t get me wrong, I knew I was looking after these kids for 40 hours per week that consisted of engaging in playful activities, diaper changing, feeding, cooking, laundry, etc. But the last thing I expected was to feel depressed.
No job in this world is easy. Being an au pair is like being a full-time mom with an over tiring schedule. When my eldest host kid was in school my host parents would be at work, leaving me alone with the 1 year old. It took my 1 year old 2 weeks to grow fully comfortable with me. These 2 weeks felt like 2 years and often left me feeling depressed.
I fed the baby yet he cried. I entertained him with baby toys yet he cried. I distracted him from feeling detached from his mother yet he cried. I took him for walks yet he cried. I felt incompetent. I felt alone. I felt depressed. How could I not know what this 1 year old wanted? How was I supposed to look after 2 boys for 12 months? It was then that I felt really depressed. But worst of all it made me regret becoming an au pair.
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that parents experience after having a baby. Many women experience it but so do men. It’s also referred to “baby blues” because some women feel anxious or nervous after giving birth. However, as au pairs, you may have a lack of energy or lack of interest in committing to your au pair duties which can further fuel your depression. You may not even feel acknowledged that you spent an entire day with your host kids only for them to run to their parents as soon as they come home.
When feeling depressed, the last thing you want to think is that you are entirely alone. So I’ve gathered a list of tips for you to bear in mind when feeling low.
- Keep active – Ensure you stay energized so take walks with your host kids. Take them to a local park where you can put them on the swings and play with other children. This improves their social skills and some fresh air outside the home can do wonders for the both of you!
- Nap time – If you have young host children, it’s important they rest. Try to schedule naps for young kids and remember that when the baby is sleeping, so should you!
- Communication – As always, adapting to a different lifestyle and culture led by your host family is scary. If you feel upset, lonely or homesick then you should definitely talk to your host parents about it. Chances are that they, too, have felt like this in their lifetime.
- Stay healthy – Your host kids need a daily source of fruits and vegetables but guess what? So do you! Pinterest is a great website to create innovative recipes with entertaining presentations. Remaining busy in cooking or preparing their lunches and dinners can be a fun activity for all those involved.
- Skype/FaceTime family and friends back home – It’s a hit and miss with this. I would recommend you don’t Skype your family/friends regularly because you will miss them more and will often leave you feeling sad.
- Friendships – The more friends you make, the better. You can travel with them in your spare time and organize play dates. They also become your emotional support during your au pair year.
- Take care of yourself – This last one is the most important. Happiness starts with you. Don’t forget that your au pair journey is not only to benefit host parents, but also yourself. Au pairing is a life-changing experience that encourages independence and confidence. You’ll meet different people, taste different foods and travel to different cities. When we’re busy looking after other people we forget to take care of ourselves so don’t feel guilty in taking some relaxation time.
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I am an ambitious and dedicated writer. I have completed my BA in English Literature and Education Studies. Upon completing my degree, I traveled to New Jersey as an au pair where I met my fiance. Currently, I reside in England and work as a Copywriter whilst inspiring au pairs to experience a life-changing adventure!