One thing I wasn’t expecting when I arrived in America was the realization that being an Au Pair was something to be ashamed of.
“Ooh foreign girls”, one guy said. “What are you doing here?”
“Studying.” My friend smiled brightly. “And traveling.”
I soon learned that almost all Au Pairs are hesitant to admit that they look after kids for 45 hours a week.
Why the lie of omission?
Most of my friends don’t come straight out and lie; when someone assumes they’re studying they just go along with it instead of correcting them. But why the reluctance to admit what we do?
I asked some Au Pairs why they think some of us are ashamed of our job and the responses varied:
- One friend told me it’s easier to fit in when people assume we’re studying since most of the people Au Pairs hang out with are at college.
- A younger Au Pair told me she won’t tell her American friends because she’s worried they’ll think she doesn’t know how to have fun since she looks after kids and therefore must be boring and responsible.
- Another Au Pair told me the older Au Pairs don’t want to own up to it because they feel that they should be doing something else at their age, and once they tell someone it changes the way they’re perceived.
- Thanks to some girls, Au Pairs are seen as being easy by some American guys. I don’t blame these girls for having fun-we’re in America for a good time not a long time, but it sure makes it harder for the rest of us to be respected. I’ve seen this myself, and now I won’t tell a guy what I do until he’s actually gotten to know me.
- It’s also not that hard to make the jump from Au Pair to maid. Sure we’re not actually cleaning the house (well we’re not supposed to be), but we’re doing the kids’ laundry and cleaning up after them.
- Changing diapers and wiping runny noses isn’t exactly a glamorous job. When someone asks how your day was they don’t really want to hear about the epic tantrum your host kid launched into in the library.
The good thing about traveling and living overseas, is that you can reinvent yourself and become someone new. Personally, I don’t know if I agree with actually lying about being an Au Pair though. By lying about what we do, we’re reinforcing the idea that being an Au Pair is something to be ashamed of.
And I don’t think it is anything to be ashamed of. We’re stepping outside of our comfort zone, living in a different country, traveling, and experiencing new things. Let’s be proud, and educate other people on what an Au Pair actually is.