This post is very long overdue as my Grammy reminded me the other day (shoutout to Grammy K!). I know a lot of people are curious as to what I’m actually doing over here in Spain. “You’re an au pair? What? oh, you take care of kids? ok.” I think the extend to what most people know about being an au pair is taking care of the kiddos. So in this post I’m going to share with you what my daily schedule looks like as an au pair and have some real talk about what it’s really like to be an au pair.
Note: I work 30 hours a week so everything I do whether it be with the kids or house chores add up to about 30 hours. (This is the minimum requirement for au pairs in Spain. Each country has different requirements.)
Video Summary: If you don’t want to read all this (or even if you did read all this) I will be posting a video very soon of my day to day as an au pair.
7AM: Wake up
7:15AM: Wake kids up and help them get ready for school. This entails getting them dressed, brushing teeth, doing hair, and getting shoes & coats on. I used to also feed them breakfast but since about 1 1/2 months ago they have been eating breakfast at school. So that’s all I really do in the mornings. Mornings are pretty easy. Of course, like the rest of us in the mornings, the kids aren’t usually too excited to get up and get dressed, but I really can’t complain.
7:45AM: Make myself breakfast, drink my coffee, and sit and do my spanish homework.
8:15/8:30AM: Once I finish breakfast I start doing my house chores. Everyday I have to do laundry, dishes, clean the bathroom, vaccuum the floor, and tidy up around the house. These tasks are worked into my 30 hours a week that I work. I usually do as much as I can in the mornings before I have to leave for school.
9:07AM: Yes, that says 9:07, not 9:05, not 9:10, but 9:07. At exactly 9:07, I leave my house and walk to the bus stop. It takes approximately 7 minutes from my door to the bus stop so if I leave at exactly this time I’m usually right on time or maybe 1 or 2 minutes early for the bus. Then I hop on the bus that takes me to the metro. It’s a really short ride (like a couple minutes). Finally, I take the metro to the city center. Luckily I only have to take one line and it takes about 25 minutes.
9:50/9:55AM: Get a napolitana from the pastry stand in the metro. Almost every morning I get a napolitana (it’s like a chocolate croissant) from this stand. It’s only 1 euro!
10AM: Spanish class! Every day I go to spanish class at a language school called Luis Vives. I love love love my school and my class. In Europe they have a great system of seeing what language level you are at. There are 6 levels and it’s pretty much universal in all of Europe (from what I understand). The levels are A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. I tested into level A2 before I came to Madrid since I have a lot of previous spanish knowledge. My class is really small and that’s definitely why I like it so much and why it is so different form any other spanish class I have taken. The number fluctuates because people come and go, but on an average day we have 7-8 students in the class. Obviously, with less people it’s easier for our teacher to focus on each student specifically and what they need help with. The biggest thing though that is different about this class is the amount of speaking we do. Never in my life have I actually spoken so much spanish in class. There are so many reasons it doesn’t happen back home in spanish class and I understand that, but talk to anyone who took spanish or any other language back in America in a high school setting and they will most likely tell you they can barely speak that language (I know there are some exceptions, but from my experience and others I have talked to this is the conclusion I have come to). Before I came to Spain, I was scared to speak spanish. Actually, I got over my fear a little bit after living in Costa Rica last summer but overall the fear was still there. But gradually, after being here and being forced to speak every day in class and with my host family, it wasn’t so scary. Side story: I remember my freshman year of college when I took spanish and we had this thing called “Talk Abroad” where you had to videochat with a native spanish speaker for 30 whole minutes and have a convo with them in spanish. I was so anxious about that conversation, but now it’s something I do every day here and it isn’t something that should be so scary. Of course, I still mess up probably every other word and sometimes I can’t say what I want to because I can’t think of the right words, but I’m no longer afraid. I think getting over that fear was the biggest obstacle for me.
11:45AM: After class ends, every day is different. Sometimes I go to lunch with friends from class or go see some sights in the city or just go to the park and read. Other days I come home and relax here or workout. I also finish up whatever house chores I didn’t finish in the morning.
4PM: At this time, I go with my host dad to pick up the kids from school. This 20 minute car ride is one of my favorite times of the day because I get SO much practice speaking spanish. My host dad only speaks spanish and that has been a tremendous help to me in learning. It’s so easy when the other person also speaks english to revert back to english because it’s easier, but when you have no other option you have to find a way to say what you want to say with the spanish words you do know. I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made in my conversational spanish. I remember my first week here I could barely understand anything my host dad tried to say to me and I felt so hopeless. But slowly, I began learning new words (especially words that are used often) and I could see progress. The listening of course came first and was easier than the speaking. There was a point when I remember getting out full sentences to my host dad and telling some story to him and barely pausing to think about it. That was such an exciting moment. That’s definitely a big step in learning a new language, when you go from having to think about every single word individually to thinking about the complete sentence and just stringing words together. Everyone says living and immersing yourself in a country that speaks the language your learning is the best way to learn. I didn’t doubt that, but experiencing it first hand I can say it is for sure the truth. So much of what I learned in the classroom has been solidified in my everyday life here in Spain. Vocabulary that I could never memorize suddenly comes out of my mouth naturally and verb conjugations that I could never remember are suddenly not so difficult. I’m so happy with my progress, but my only regret is not being able to stay longer.
4:30PM-8PM: After we pick up the kids from school, most days we go to the park either at the school or in our apartment complex. This is always fun because I love being outside. We’ll play soccer or ride bikes or play on the playground. When we’re not at the park, we are in the house playing with toys, doing puzzles, coloring, watching cartoons, reading books, or anything else the kids want to do.
8/8:30PM: Around this time, we eat dinner all together and usually watch the news or a game show.
8:30-11PM: After dinner, I’m “free” and the kids will usually go to bed sometime after dinner. At night, I’ll either hang out in my room, watch tv with the fam in the living room, or occasionally go out to some different events (salsa dancing, language exchange, etc…stay tuned in a later post for more about these events).
And then I wake up the next day and do it all over again. At first it was feeling repetitive, but now it’s more of a routine and I do enjoy having a routine. Of course, not every day is exactly the same, but overall this is what a normal day looks like for me here in Madrid!
I hope this gave you some insight into what a day is like for an au pair. Of course, every au pair and every family is different so some au pairs have much different schedules than this. But for me, this is what a day looks like!
Lastly, I’m going to make a few comments about being an au pair.
Comments about being an au pair
- Entering into someone’s family and living with people you barely know is a big adjustment. It’s a big adjustment on both sides, for the family and the au pair. There are so many little things that you have to figure out and just see how the house runs. Confrontation is something that is really hard for me and so I have to really work myself up just to ask little questions. But thankfully, about half way through my time here my host mom sat down and had a conversation with me about things I needed to change and I am so glad she did. I always want to know how I can improve, but naturally I avoid confrontation at all costs. Overall, with this point though I’ve learned communication is key. As long as you communicate on both sides, then the adjustment shouldn’t be too difficult.
- Speaking of my host family though, they are seriously the best!! Shoutout to y’all if you ever read this. I feel so incredibly lucky to have gotten to be with the sweetest family who are just the nicest people ever.
- It’s so much harder than I thought to connect with kids who don’t speak your language. My kids are 2 and 4 and so they mostly only speak spanish. It took me a while to be able to understand what they were saying. Of course, in most kid stuff it’s easy to just play with them, but there are some times when they are using their imagination and talking a bunch and I wish I could understand them and I could reply and engage in whatever fantasy land they are imagining. Overall though, they are young and I can play with them and be fine with whatever they are doing.
- It’s really hard to make friends. I feel like I’m a freshman in college all over again. I know I can half blame myself for not going out more and making a real effort to make friends, but knowing I was only going to be here 4 months I wasn’t too motivated to make friends. Of course, I do have some friends from class and I have met some people on trips and stuff, but in reality it is hard to meet people. But I did put myself out there and get outside of my comfort zone a lot of times since being here so I’m proud of myself for that.
Overall, being an au pair has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I think I’ve grown up a lot and learned so much about myself and life by being here. In my opinion, being an au pair is one of the best ways to live abroad. If anyone has any questions at all about being an au pair, I would love to answer them! Just comment below.
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