The Harsh Reality of Being an Au Pair: Part IV (Exposed)

We got to know the au pair that lived in the house with us quite quickly. She’s 19, comes from Finland, and this was her third family in Australia that she was working for. She was getting paid $300 per week but had to work over 70 hours each week. She barely had time to get everything done during the day because while the kids were at school, she had to look after the horses and do all of the cleaning. She was supposed to have weekends off but usually when she came back from Melbourne on Sunday evenings, we saw her out feeding the horses because Ali “didn’t feel like doing it,” or giving Chloe a bath and getting her ready for bed. Chloe always has to sleep with someone, and she sleeps with her mom every night. When her mom wakes up in the morning to go to work at 6, she brings Chloe to her brother’s room until it’s time to wake up. Occasionally, the mom will spend the night in her apartment in Melbourne, meaning Chloe will have to sleep with the au pair, who says that she never gets enough sleep those nights (plus it’s like working a 24-hour day). Katariina said that the only reason she was staying was because she’s now able to get along with the mom, and she had less than two months left when we first moved in. I remember sitting with Ali one morning in the kitchen while she told me about all of the previous au pairs that she had beforehand, what they did wrong, and how she got rid of one because she drove too slow. She said that she likes Finnish girls because they are strong (aka are better at handling how she treats people) and hardworking. 
Katariina went to New Zealand last week with her friend for a holiday so she found another Finnish girl to replace her for the week. She wrote a multiple-page list about what the new au pair (Julia) would have to do in order to survive the week. Julia was very good at keeping the house clean (it was the cleanest we’ve seen it in weeks!) and telling Chloe no (Chloe would constantly come up to us to complain because she wasn’t getting her way). However, within the first hour of Julia arriving, Ali told us her concerns about it not working out. Sonia and I told her it would only be for a week, and it would be fine. Halfway through the week, Julia confided in us that she felt like she kept doing everything wrong because Ali never seemed happy with her. Sonia finally got to see first-hand what she meant when she happened to be in the kitchen at the same time that Ali got home. Julia had done all of her chores in time and prepared dinner for the family, and then went outside to keep Chloe entertained. Ali came home and asked if the plate of steak on the counter was her dinner and Julia replied yes. Instead of saying thank you and acting pleased, Ali said, “You mean the plate with all of the flies all over it? Would YOU eat that? That is disgusting!” Everyone in the kitchen (five of the tenants) stayed completely silent because it was so awkward to be around. Ali then said she would just throw it in the bin and make something herself. Sonia came upstairs to tell me what had happened and I instantly had flashbacks to my time in France. She was so shocked and said that no one should ever talk to another person the way that Ali had talked to Julia. The next day, when Ali was still at work, Sonia told Julia that it wasn’t okay how she was spoken to and that we’re here if she needs anything. Julia struggled to hold back tears and she told us how she was having such a difficult time. I’m sure it felt like the longest 5 days of her life. She said that it made her extremely thankful for the previous family that she had worked for because she had never been treated so horribly. 
Katariina came back from New Zealand, but she only had two weeks left until she’d be going back home to Finland. She was therefore in charge of posting ads all over the internet in order to find a replacement au pair. She said that they finally found a girl from Chile but when they video-chatted with her, her English wasn’t very good. I’m pretty sure she was quite concerned that the new au pair wouldn’t survive, but I think she was desperate to find anyone because she was having difficulties finding someone new. The new au pair moved in on Wednesday (Sonia got a message the hour before she arrived, asking her to move back into my room so that the new au pair could have her room) and she was supposed to train with Katariina for the next week and a half before Katariina went back home. The new au pair (Gabi) was extremely nice; she’s 26, married, and she’s planning to stay in Australia for about four months before meeting with her husband in Southeast Asia to explore the countries there. However, Sonia and I were concerned that she wouldn’t survive with the way that Ali talks to people. Since Katariina and Gabi get weekends off and it was Easter weekend, Katariina went into Melbourne and then Sonia and I made plans with Gabi to walk into town on Saturday. 
On Friday, Sonia and I worked half of the day and then came home at lunch. We were surprised to see that Gabi and Katariina were still doing farmwork when we got home, even though it was their day off. Katariina went to Melbourne and then we watched a movie with Gabi. The next morning, I got up early to do my laundry, which was when Ali came and vented to me about the microwave. After I finished hanging up my laundry, I walked into the kitchen to see poor Gabi cleaning the microwave. At about 10am, we were all ready to go but then Ali said that she wasn’t feeling well and needed to go to the clinic, and left Chloe at home for Gabi to look after. I assumed she wouldn’t be back for at least a couple of hours, and I was right. During that time, Gabi was talking to us in the kitchen and burst into tears because she was having a difficult time being away from home, and she was finding it hard being at the house. We felt so bad, and we told her that we’ve both been au pairs and we know exactly how she feels. Gabi had to give Chloe a bath and then when Ali came home, she told Gabi to shovel up all of the horse crap. I was shocked! After she finished, we were finally able to walk to town. Sonia wasn’t feeling well and stayed at home, so it was just me and Gabi. On the walk, Gabi said she was very appreciative with how patient we were with her English and she shared that she felt like Ali wasn’t as patient with her. She expressed how she wasn’t feeling totally comfortable at the house, and I shared that Sonia and I have felt like that for weeks, so she wasn’t alone. I told her that she wasn’t stuck and if she was unhappy, she should leave. The lucky thing for au pairs in Australia is that they have a Working Holiday Visa so with that, they can get a job anywhere else. Unfortunately for me, in France, I ONLY had an Au Pair Visa, so I didn’t have the option to go anywhere else other than to a different family to au pair for. I said that maybe she should apply to the tomato farm, or to some of the shops in Warragul, and then maybe we could find somewhere new to live together. I think Gabi really appreciated the talk that we had, and I think it made her feel a lot better about being there. Gabi was also concerned because Ali, Chloe, and Gabi were supposed to go to Melbourne for the following week, and Ali wanted Gabi to take Chloe around Melbourne on Monday (her day off). Gabi had never been to Melbourne before (she had only been in Australia for less than one week!) and she didn’t feel comfortable taking a 7-year-old through a city that she didn’t know, especially when she wasn’t confident about her English. She also said that Ali never asked her any questions about her life or who she was, and that if she had a daughter, she would never leave her with a random person without getting to know her first. We walked back home and a half hour after we returned, Ali came home again and called Gabi down. I went downstairs to start making dinner and walked into the conversation, so I was finally able to hear how Ali spoke to her au pairs. Gabi was saying that she didn’t understand, and then Ali spoke as slow and as loud as possible: “CAN. YOU. FEED. THE. HORSES.” Gabi replied yes. Then Ali said “AND. TURN. ON. THE. LIGHTS.” So Gabi said yes. And then Ali goes, “And there’s a bunch of shopping in the car, so can you take it out and put everything away,” she says WHILE SITTING ON THE COUCH WATCHING TV. Again, I was shocked and almost intervened to say no, it’s her day off! By that point, it was already pitch black and Gabi had never fed the horses on her own. I couldn’t believe it! Anyway, after that, Gabi (obviously) came to the conclusion that the next day, she was going to tell Ali that she no longer wanted to work for her. Sonia, Gabi, and I spent the evening writing an application for the tomato farm and translating Gabi’s resume into English. My only concern was that if she told Ali, Ali would end up kicking her out that day.
However, we didn’t even have to worry about that because at 8:56am on Easter Sunday morning, Gabi received a text message from Ali saying, “Hi gabi are you going to feed the animals it’s nine o clock.” Once again, I couldn’t believe it. I told her to just reply, “I thought that on Saturday and Sunday, it was my day off.” Five minutes later, we heard Ali outside Gabi’s room and Ali went on and on, “You don’t work for Katariina, you work for me.” “You agreed to feed the horses this weekend on Friday and I expected you to do it” (she didn’t, or if she did, she didn’t understand what she was agreeing to). “I’m paying two girls and Katariina’s on holiday in Melbourne and now suddenly, you want a holiday too and no one’s getting any work done” (Ummm… it’s Easter Sunday??). “You were lying when you said your English was good. You do NOT have intermediate English. You obviously got your boyfriend to do the talking for you when we interviewed you” (How do you get someone to talk for you during a Skype interview? Also, goes to show how much time Ali actually took to get to know Gabi, as she is MARRIED). “I think it’s better if you pack up your stuff and I’ll drive you to the train station.” Sonia and I were listening the entire time since our room is right next to Gabi’s, and we were absolutely dumbfounded about what Ali was saying. Katariina also told us how Ali wrote her at least five times telling her how much of a nightmare the new au pair was. I couldn’t believe someone could be so horrible. I was so angry and so ready to leave because I couldn’t deal with this woman’s attitude any longer. Sonia went to check on Gabi, and she was in tears and didn’t even understand most of what Ali said to her. Sonia told Gabi to call her husband and mom, and then she could come talk to us when she was ready. We helped show her how to find hostels in Melbourne and how to use the transportation cards. She then packed her stuff and was out of the house by noon.
The previous evening, by chance alone, we finally found a new house that was looking for new tenants in Warragul! It would be available the following weekend (April 7th), so I wrote and asked if we could view the house. They said we could come the next day after 2pm, so Gabi and I were going to go together. However, because Gabi had to go to Melbourne instead, I went to look at it for both of us. They were in the middle of renovating everything so they were painting the walls and going to put new floors in, but I was desperate to get out of Ali’s house. I signed a contract that day and transferred my bond money in order to secure a spot for me and Gabi. Therefore, Gabi only needed to stay in Melbourne from Sunday to Saturday, and then we’d be able to pick up our key at 9am on Saturday (tomorrow). Walking out of that house after signing the contract, I felt such a huge sense of relief. I was elated because I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with Ali any longer, or watch her bully everyone around her. 

 

Originally, Gabi was supposed to spend this past week with Ali and Chloe in Melbourne since Chloe had school holidays this week. During that time, Katariina was supposed to spend her last week back at the house to look after the horses and clean the house. However, since Ali kicked Gabi out (after FOUR days, only one of which was supposed to be an actual work day), Katariina had to go to Melbourne to look after Chloe while Ali went to work. We were surprised to see that Katariina had come home on Wednesday at about 3pm because she had a bunch of stuff to get done before driving back to Melbourne the next morning. She sent me a screenshot of the actual list that Ali sent her, which was an absolutely ridiculous amount of things for her to expect Katariina to do in the span of one evening (with only 3 hours of sunlight remaining). Since this was Katariina’s last week of work, she was planning to spend the next week in Melbourne before her flight home, but she said that Ali was trying to convince her to stay for one more week since they didn’t have another au pair to replace her. I think Katariina was struggling to say no, so we’ll see if she comes back next week or not.
 
Anyway, I’m extremely excited to move into my new place tomorrow!! It’s been nice having the family out of the house for the past week and it’s a lot more peaceful and less tense when it’s just the tenants in the house. Gabi has now been offered a job at the tomato farm so everything seems to be working out the way it should! This is the last of my au pair posts – it’s hard to show the way that people are treated in writing (especially since you can’t actually hear the way she talks) but I hope I got the point across!! I’m hoping that by sharing this, more and more girls will realize that although au pairing may seem like a great option to move to a new country, it may be more worthwhile to look at other job options! Thanks for reading 🙂 

2 thoughts on “The Harsh Reality of Being an Au Pair: Part IV (Exposed)

  1. Why THE HECK would an au pair be in charge of finding her replacement… If I quit, I quit. I don't have to wait until I find a new worker before I can leave! So unfair!!

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  2. Well, I am one of the following aupairs and made my decision to quit after 4 days.It makes me feel a bit better to read that I'm not the only one she's upset with.When I arrived the house was a mess! I spend my first two days with cleaning all day long – while Ali sat on the couch in front of her phone (well who'd guessed haha). The day she wanted to show me everything ended up with me asking her where to put things and where to find x y. She couldn't give me proper answers so I just tried to sort things myself. (Btw the aupair room wasn't even prepared, she was an hour late and I was told to look after Chloe 15 min after we first met ….)After the last days of tidying up and cleaning I told her that I'm not a maid and I wouldn't tidy up HER room where she just slaps down everything. And that she need to find someone else replacing me. I have her a week to figure out how to deal with it.Today she came home and said “all my aupairs has helped me, but you are not” (because I didn't wash 5 cloth items to safe water, as we ran out of water the day befor!!!). I told her that she needs to find an other person and I'm not the right one for helping her. “I need to spend the whole day cleaning tomorrow” (Anzac day). Well yep. I guess that's your part then. Not mine.(Bathrooms still disgusting, microwave still disgusting, still not organized, still “the asians”, still she wants to kick people out but doesn't, still a mess everywhere… nothing has changed)Well, I guess this lady might not change and always will have trouble in cooping with humans. Thanks for sharing your story. Just got a hint about this story after my discussion with Ali tonight.

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