Tag Archives: children

Travel | What it’s really like to work as an au pair in Australia?

imageUnless you’re sitting on one heck of a trust fund or you’ve just won the lottery, Australia is pretty impossible to travel long-term without working. I worked lots of different types of jobs during my first year down under – hospitality jobs in a theatre and a bar, I got my hands dirty working on a farm, I even became a sales manager! Talk about variety, but one experience stood out above all the rest, for all the wrong reasons. You always hear about backpackers taking an au pair jobs while in Australia – for some it makes them brave enough to move over here having a job already lined up through an agency. For others, it’s a nice break from hostels and a chance to have your own room and live with a family for a while. It can be a great way to get childcare experience for those hoping to work in this industry, or in teaching, in the long run, but it can sometimes be totally different to what you expected.

My time as a nanny was without doubt the worst job I have ever worked in my life. I had never once underestimated the workload I would be taking on, the fact that I wasn’t that keen on children or what the job would entail, and yet I was still horrified by my own experiences. Saying some of it out loud to friends really showed me quite how much I put up with while I was there, and because of this, I wanted to write this post so that other backpackers travelling Australia will be a bit more prepared than I was. I’m not just going to focus on my terrible experiences, because that’s just not fair, I know several people who have had amazing experiences working as au pairs for really lovely families, but I also know some who have really struggled. This post is here to give you all the information so you can make a decision for yourself whether the job is for you, and to know what to do if it doesn’t work out.image

My experience

“I worked as an au pair for three months in Charleville – we’re talking 800km west of Brisbane – which was an incredible opportunity to experience real outback Aussie life. I took the job at the last minute when I struggled to find anything else and on first glance it looked like a good opportunity. It offered me $300 a week plus my own annex, food, gym membership and car/scooter access. I was looking after two boys (6 & 7) who were at school during the day, when I would have cleaning tasks to complete – I would get them ready for school and do drop-offs, then look after them after school, take them to their activities and prepare dinners. It sounded like the dream job for an au pair, but the reality was very different.

“I was never told that one of the children I would be looking after had special needs and with limited experience of looking after children I think this was vital information. This child actually turned out to be the most precious, he was loving and kind and sweet, and once we settled in he was great to look after. Saying goodbye to him was hard after several months together. The other child however, was spoilt, overindulged by his parents who were never there, he bullied his brother and was violent towards me. I don’t blame the child for one second, but the constant changeover of nannies in the home plus a lacklustre attitude to parenting hadn’t helped. Neither had the way his mother spoke to me, which he keenly imitated.

“Every day I would be kicked, punched, slapped, pinched and spoken to like I was worthless by both child and adult. I would be told I should be dead because everyone hated me, or that I was selfish and lazy. I worked 12-14 hour days dealing with every body fluid going, scrubbing, cleaning and cooking for the family and most nights I would finish late, sometimes several hours after I was supposed to finish.

“The family had no respect for their home, it was filthier than most hostels I have stayed in and they would constantly throw rubbish everywhere. Their menagerie of animals would leave trails of droppings across the floor and would piss on the carpets. One weekend, I had cleaned the house on the Friday and left it spotless, the family went on holiday that Sunday and left me to do a deep clean of the house. When I went in on the Sunday, there was rotting food laying all over the kitchen, there was rubbish everywhere, clothes scattered, shit on the floor, there was no end of filth in a house that had been pristine less than 48 hours earlier. It was this spiteful behaviour that became my daily life.

“There are some even worse things including abuse over social media that I won’t share on here, but I want you guys to understand, I worked my arse off for this family and was treated terribly. It makes me really sad that I never got to experience the amazing bond you can get with some families as an au pair, but I could have done no more to make that happen. Despite this, my outback experience was one I will never forget for the amazing people I did meet along the way, it’s just a shame my working life left so much to be desired.”image

Holly’s experience

Holly is an English girl I met while I was working as an au pair, she was a real rock through my three months there and helped keep me sane on many an occasion. She was also working as an au pair for a local family but had a completely different experience to mine. Read on to find out about her job:

“I found the job on Gumtree, I must have applied for around 50 nanny jobs in total and only two ever replied! The one I got and another one prior to that but decided this one was a better fit! I worked for a family in Charleville, in outback Queensland. I was only supposed to work there for three months but ended up staying with the family for over a year, and even moved towns with them!

“I didn’t get a very big wage which was the only thing I didn’t really like about the job, I worked from 7am till 9pm, six days a week so it was long days and very intense! I got $300 a week which doesn’t sound like much at all but I was quite lucky because my family paid for me to live in a house in town, I ate with them 6 days a week and they also provided me with a car and fuel (mainly for work purposes but I could use it in town socially) so the money I earned I got to spend on what I wanted.

“I looked after twin girls, they were five months old when I arrived and 17 months by the time I left, so I saw them change and grow up so much while I was there including crawling, first steps. I was pretty much their second mother, my involvement with that family was pretty intense. I cooked, washed, cleaned, fed, changed, bathed, shopped, played all day! Some days I had the twins just by myself which was hard work and other days the mother and I both looked after them.

“I honestly LOVED this experience. Charleville is so out of the way its not somewhere your average backpacker would’ve stumbled across but I’m so glad I did. I love the town and have made some great friends through it, and the bond I had with the family is one that I think will last a long time. Obviously not everything was perfect, things rarely are but on a whole I wouldn’t have changed this experience at all. At least I can say I’m prepared for my own children now. And I don’t think I ever would have done a lot of the things I have if I hadn’t come out here, I can’t say going to a rodeo or mustering cattle was ever high on my list of things to do but I did them out here!

“What advice do I have for other people interested in doing something like this? Say yes to everything! Life is too short to say no or be too scared, especially when you’re going to a completely new town by yourself. Just be brave and get stuck in! Enjoying yourself is the most important part!”image

Coping with your au pair job:

You might get lucky and have an amazing experience like Holly, or you might suffer like I did, but if things don’t turn out the best with your au pair job – here’s how to cope:

  • Try and have a Skype chat with the people you will be working for before you actually go there, it can help put your mind at ease and prepare you a little.
  • Make sure your job role is clearly outlined before you start – hours working, what your package (accommodation/food/transport) will include.
  • Nanny jobs can often be found on Gumtree instead of through agencies – this can be a good way of finding work. But make sure you vet them as much as possible beforehand – safety above all else and never go to an outback job without letting someone know where you’ll be.
  • Be prepared to work long hours and have a job that will take over your life, but also make sure you have boundaries and allow yourself to have nights completely off from the job.
  • Make sure you get your pay – don’t leave any outstanding when you leave as some will try to get out of paying you.
  • Make sure you get payslips and if you have to drive a vehicle for them, make sure you are insured.
  • Try and raise any problems – if you feel confident enough – with the family and see if they are open to discussion.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no – you’re an employer, not a slave.
  • If you’re somewhere outback, make the effort to get to know people in the closest town, don’t be stuck out on your own with a crappy job. My friends got me through three months of that job – I couldn’t have done it without them.
  • If you’re going very rural – check out this post I wrote on 18 things you learn from working in the Australian outback
  • If you’re in the outback or somewhere secluded and don’t feel safe, contact a friend or someone who can offer advice and get you out of there.
  • If you’re with an agency, contact them and raise concerns, see if they can transfer you to another family.
  • If you’re doing it for a second year visa and think you can battle through, see if you can stick it out, don’t risk finding an even worse employer and losing the hours you have worked.

imageIf you need any advice or have any questions about au pair work, leave a comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter.

Have you worked as an au pair in Australia -what was your experience like? Where else in the world have you worked as a nanny?

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Fairytales & Legends Day | Norfolk

imageOn Sunday, I had a chance to live out all the dreams of five-year-old me. I was helping out a friend by working an event she had organised in the town where I live – Fairytales and Legends was right up my street, a day filled with Disney princesses, superheroes and dragons. First of all, serious kudos goes to my friend Abbie Panks who organised an absolutely amazing event that filled the town with families and countless excited children in fancy dress and face paints. It was an amazing feat, especially if you know quite how many other responsibilities she has that take up huge amounts of her time. I was so excited to be a part of the event – let’s be honest, anything that gives me an excuse to wear a pink crown and lots of glitter is automatically awesome – but this was such a fun day.imageI was dispatched straight away on important glass slipper and treasure placement, followed by princess liaison duties – yes I will be updating my CV accordingly. And then was sent off as an escort for Batman, Captain America and Spiderman for the day. Essentially I was a bodyguard for Batman, I was mistaken for Captain America’s girlfriend and spent the afternoon preventing Spiderman from being rugby tackled by kids high on e-numbers and groped by some rather forward grandmothers. It was absolutely hilarious. Later in the afternoon I also managed to sneak some photos with the princesses and hung out with Olaf and the girls from Frozen, plus had a lovely chat with the Fairy Godmother. A pretty good day in all! I won’t chat on any longer – instead enjoy some of my pics from the day.imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Did you go to the Fairytales & Legends event – what did you think? Which is your favourite Disney princess?

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The Decision: Travel or Love?

love mapAs you read this, my travels will have already started and I thought it was important to write this post and share what has probably been the hardest part of my decision to leave. The first thing everyone has asked me upon finding out I was going travelling was “are you going with your boyfriend?”. When I replied no on each occasion, I saw the same surprised blank faces in front of me – particularly when I announced I was going it alone. I’m not sure why it is such a shock to people as I’ve always been quite an independent person – but clearly it seems quite odd to a lot of people that we would be able to go without each other for any length of time. To paint a picture for those who don’t know us, me and Wolfy have been together for well over eight years. We’ve survived all sorts, including me moving away for university for three years, and defied all those who said we’d never last or that we weren’t suited – amazingly there were a lot of people who felt that way. But we made it this far and we seem to be doing better than okay. So I can totally understand why people think “they love each other, therefore they must not be able to live without each other”.

Relationships always face difficulties at some point – a hurdle that pops up out of nowhere, whether a problem between the two of you, or interference from outside sources. But when you’ve been together as long as we have, and from as young an age, sometimes the problems that crop up are actually just dreams that pull you in opposite directions. We’ve all got dreams, big ideas and hopes for the things we want to achieve, see and do – but what happens when they clash with those of the one we love? Well we’re faced with a big decision about what to do. This is actually something that’s been playing on my mind a lot lately because I have a few friends who, although in slightly different situations, have struggled with similarly big decisions. I guess it is a common theme in our twenties that we will be faced with big choices over our relationships – our teens are the easy time, although they may not feel like it, when nothing really tests us other than ourselves. Even the separation of university is something that can be easy to live with because to an extent we still have a choice over distance and whether we want to go the distance. But by the time we hit our twenties, we are looking at careers, new homes, marriage and babies in some cases, and travel. There are so many more factors that will affects our relationships and we will be forced into difficult decisions.markI’m not the only one who has found this, I actually know several people who have found lately that they have had to choose one aspect of their life over another. One friend has chosen to move two-and-a-half hours away from all of her friends and family, leaving behind a job she had worked her way up to, in order to follow her boyfriend. He was moving to a much better job and she had to take a pay cut in order to be with him, but for her the decision was the right one for her because she loves him and wants to be with him. Now they are able to live together, instead of breaking up or living hours apart. A couple I know came to an end after the subject of travel was broached, they had been together for years but he didn’t want to travel and she passionately did – so they finished and she started planning her trip. I know of another couple who broke up because the guy wanted to settle down together, with big plans for marriage and babies, but she wanted to keep her freedom and to work on her career first, so they broke up and moved on. What do all of these couples have in common? They’re all in their twenties and their lives are ever changing and evolving – sometimes couples are on different wavelengths and that can mean different directions.

For me and Wolfy, I know that we are on the same wavelength but that after eight-and-a-half years we are being pulled in different directions. For me, I’m in a job that I just can’t do any longer and I’ve reached a point in my life where I want to experience something new. It was a choice between moving away for work or travelling, and that decision was a simple one for me. For Wolfy, he regrets not putting in the time and effort for his studies and has realised he needs a change of career, so for him, the move is to retake his A-levels and go to university. The timing for us isn’t great and we don’t want to be apart, but we also both realise that we have to follow our individual dreams in order to be happy together. Neither of us should have to put our individual dreams on hold at this age, surely we will only end up resenting each other if we try? I’m not saying it’s going to be easy – because I know it won’t be. Saying goodbye earlier this week was the hardest thing I have ever done. But for us, this isn’t a break up, more like hitting pause on things until we can resume play. We hope that it will be just six months until we are reunited in Australia – that might be naive on our part, or it might be a mature decision that works out really well. Either way, all we can do is hope that things work out for us. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason – I’m not always sure what that reason is but I know that it will all work out in the end. And I’m treating this just like that – it doesn’t mean being separated is any easier, but it does mean we can hope that if we are meant to be together that it will work out.sgp 4

I’d love to hear your stories of when you’ve been forced to choose between love and your career, or family, or even travel, like I have. Did it work out for you? Or do you still regret the one that got away?

Ab Lucy sign off

Guest post: Writing Therapy, Self-Help & Bereavement

Picture by Julie Jordan Scott

Picture by Julie Jordan Scott

I thought I’d share with you a recent guest blog post that I wrote for the Youth Service at the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust. I was really pleased to be asked to contribute to their new Youth Blog – an exciting platform, which will feature on the service’s website. Over the next few months, the new blog will include advice, information, musings and real-life stories from special guest bloggers, to support the emotional health of young people in the region. I hope you like my post and if you’re interested in becoming a guest youth blogger too, there’s more info at the end of this post. You don’t need to be an existing blogger, nor do you have to be from the region, you just need to have an interest in supporting the wellbeing of young people. You can also read my guest blog post here.

I’m pretty lucky to have not suffered any mental health problems in my life, but I do know a surprising number of people who have suffered with anxiety, agoraphobia, depression and various other conditions. And with two parents who used to work as mental health nurses, it is an issue that is never far from my mind. Not being any kind of expert on the medical side of the subject, I thought it was important to take a look at ways of coping with the struggles of being a teenager. All too often, teenagers come to attention for the wrong reasons because they don’t know how to cope with the emotions and struggles going on in their own lives and end up misbehaving or acting out. What is important, for all of us regardless of age, is to have an outlet for our stresses and worries. For me, I love to write, to go to the gym, and to be by the sea – these are the things that help soothe me. This post is all about writing as therapy and helping yourself to cope.

Picture by Erin Kohlenberg

Picture by Erin Kohlenberg

“Being a teenager isn’t the easiest. Take it from someone who knows, someone who has been there and done, or seen it all. I was lucky, I had a good group of friends and a great family around me to see me through it all, everything from bad boyfriends to constantly changing friendships and grieving for loved ones, but not everyone is that lucky. It’s one of those times in our lives that, when you look back on it, flies by, but at the time can seem never-ending. All those petty dramas, fall-outs and rows can seem life-changing and devastating at the time, no matter how much your parents or teachers tell you it isn’t the end of the world. Well it is for you, and sometimes it is hard to imagine a life the other side of the wall that has built up in front of you, and is holding you back.

Trust me, you’re not alone. I’m now 24-years-old and I still feel like the world gets a bit much sometimes. The problems are still very much the same – boyfriend dramas, worries over friends and family, trying to do your best at school or work but failing… But now we have a whole load of other ones to deal with as well, like money, buying houses, unemployment… the list goes on! My point is, we are all dealing with our own dramas and worries, and while it is easy to get caught up in our own heads sometimes, it is important to realise that others do understand what we are going through. It might not be easy to talk to them about the problem, but knowing they understand can help make things a bit easier by offering some small comfort.

So what happens if it all builds up and you can’t cope any longer? It’s important to have an outlet for all this worry, stress and anger, otherwise it will only take over your life. I let things get too much earlier this year and had to take a big step back from everything because I just couldn’t cope with even basic stuff any more. I let it take over my life and it started to ruin my life – don’t make the same mistake. I turned away from my passion for writing when actually it was journalism and blogging that helped bring me back to reality and to get my life back in order again. Writing is such a release for me – for some it is music, poetry or art but for me, writing is the most soothing of all. Despite being pretty articulate, I’m actually terrible at expressing my emotions in person – typically British! My boyfriend and I will row better over text than we do in person, because otherwise we just laugh when we try and explain the problem to each other!IMG_6816I’ve always found it easier to write down my feelings and thoughts, and it provides me with such a sense of calm. It’s almost like I’m counselling myself by putting pen to paper and just writing down the problem. I find it actually helps put the whole thing in perspective and that it helps me see a light at the end of the tunnel. When my nan died it was a shock for me. She had been ill for a while with cancer of the throat, but how poorly she was had been hidden from me and my sister so she could enjoy her last few months with us. I wasn’t fully prepared for her to go so quick and when she died I really struggled to cope. What got me through was taking it upon myself to plan the memorial service and writing a tribute to her, which I then read out in church. Reading it out is, to this day, still one of the hardest things I have ever done, but the writing of it really helped me to say goodbye in the best way I knew how.

Writing can be such a great tool for coping with your problems – that’s why I became a blogger, to fill the void left alongside journalism. Blogging helps me to deal with issues and problems in life, alongside writing about my passions. Whether you write a public or private blog, it is a great way of keeping a diary in the modern age – you can access it anywhere at any time – when you need it most. And sharing it with others can really help those who are suffering or struggling, just like you.”

Would you like to be a blogger for the day? Perhaps you have a story to tell or something you’d like to voice about a mental health issue? Well, now is your chance. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the NSFT Youth blog. The Youth Service is not only inviting young people in the region but also teachers, mental health experts, parents, carers, service users, friends and the local community to talk about a range of topics including: recovery, stigma, therapeutic interventions, loss and bereavement, self-harm, friendships, stress, anxiety, bullying, eating disorders and any other issues affecting young adults and children. For more information about the Youth Service, click here, and if you’d like to contribute, contact the team of editors to find out more.

What helps you to cope with struggles and problems? Do you find writing therapeutic?

Ab Lucy sign off

How Miles Jupp put me off kids for a very long time…

miles-jupp-285b-lst037822I’ll be honest, I don’t often get excited about seeing comedians, rather I tend to go along with little to no expectations but I think this is by far the best way to see them. With so many different styles of comedy, and now with so many panel shows and “Live at the Apollo” types where you get to see snippets of their acts beforehand – it is all too easy to form an opinion of the comedian, and their act, without any real idea of what they do. However, going to see comedians hit the stages in my home town can often backfire slightly because I end up having to write stories about them before they arrive, giving me insight into their style and jokes.

Friday night saw me heading to the Arts Centre to watch Miles Jupp (the tickets were a Christmas present) after already having written a story earlier in the week about his work. I was left intrigued to say the least, having not previously seen many, if any, of his television appearances and realising that not only was he a multi-award-winning comedian, but that he had actually sold out the venue and several others along his tour. I was impressed and curious to know just how he would be entertaining the crowd that night, particularly after being told he focuses on everything from domestic imprisonment, fatherhood and hot drinks, to the government, the ageing process and other people’s pants!

We arrived a little early to meet the others for a drink and found out that Miles was running late and was stuck in traffic – we hoped he would make it on time, but mentally I was running over all the cracker jokes I learnt at Christmas just in case. Thankfully he made it on time and the show actually only started a minute late, but it was worth that short wait and he more than made up for it with a fantastic show. I will dive right in now and state that Jupp was officially the best comedian I have seen live in Lynn, and I have seen quite a few over  the years. His first half was brilliant, focusing on life through the eyes of a parent to FOUR children, all aged under four!! His stories about dealing with local youths, his dishwasher and his family life had the audience in fits of laughter throughout. As probably the only two in the audience without children, we watched on and laughed partly through horror at some of his tales about dealing with having four children and all so young. Certainly put me off a) having so many and b) having any number of kiddies any time soon!

After a quick break for ice cream and people-watching in the audience, it was time for round two which was just as good. I often find when watching comedians that the second half tends to drag slightly – usually the theatre is too warm, the seat is too hard, there is someone coughing behind me or I’m just waiting for that big last punchline. This was possibly the first time that none of these things have bothered me. Jupp’s fast-paced comedy, and equally fast-paced speech, kept me hanging on his every word, often taking a second to catch up with the punchline while he had already moved on to the next quip. I loved his observations of real life and his way of taking something so simple (like the previously mentioned dishwasher) and turning it into something truly dramatic and hilarious. I’m not one for spoilers, and certainly don’t want to ruin the show for those yet to see it, but his big finish was a side-splitter and saw him finish to riotous applause from the audience who had been hanging on his every word from the second he walked on stage.

I was very impressed with his set and would really recommend you get along to one of his shows if you can, or check out some of his TV appearances. Click here to go to his website.