I was fed up. I was tired of being overworked. I was tired of being under appreciated. I was tired of not being an au pair. But mostly, I was tired of being unhappy. So, I caught one tiny glimpse of an escape and I took it, before I even knew if I could have it.
The escape was an opportunity as a summer camp counselor for an outdoor, adventure program—Village Camps, based out of Leysin, Switzerland. As soon as the option presented itself, I immediately gave my family a six weeks notice. I sugar-coated my explanation because I did not want to make things uncomfortable for the next month and a half. I told them I had found a job I was more suited for and I was taking it because I felt, due to the circumstances, I will never get the respect I deserve from their children. It was not easy—I was nervous, genuine and therefore, a little teary-eyed. But in the end, I was relieved beyond recognition.
Audrey took the news better than I could have ever imagined. She was very understanding and, to my surprise, agreed with the counselor job suiting me better. It was her reasoning to why it suited me better that really got to me.
“I knew you weren’t cut out to be an au pair,” she said with ease, “because you have to be really good at entertaining yourself.”
This comment got me riled, but I bit my tongue and managed a nod.
She went on to say, “I expected this, but at least I got you here and now you can move on to other things.”
Now, I was infuriated. Not only am I the Queen of proactively entertaining myself and making things happen in my life, but I was also the one who found Audrey’s family, pursued them to the core and paid for my plane ticket to Switzerland.
**fyi. in the au pair guidelines, the family is required to support ½ of the plane ticket.**
Therefore, I owe absolutely no thanks to Audrey for getting me to Switzerland and if she did not require me to work 11 hours a day, I may have a better opportunity at entertaining myself. Audrey’s idea of entertainment is having the content to sit in front of a computer all hours of the day and the energy and/or desire to go out and begin evening plans after 9 pm.
Her reasons for me not being “au pair material” further surged my motivations for leaving. That was until the dooming feeling that haunts my ability to fight for my happiness and stick up for myself kicked in. That’s right, I felt like a quitter.
So, after only a week, I unquit. I decided that in all of my past conversations with Audrey I only addressed issues that affected me on a personal level—“your kids are ungrateful and disrespectful, I feel like a slave, I wish I had more alone time with them, etc.” I decided to take a stab at changing things on a more professional level. I established a list of terms and conditions that needed met in order for me to stay—I was determined to get a little respect in this house, and if not personally, then definitely professionally.
1) Move my room to the basement–so I don’t feel obligated to tiptoe, whisper and remain unshowered after 8pm in fear of waking up the kids.
2) Since I have to clean the car, then allow me to use it—at least during my two-hour break so I actually have an opportunity to do something productive. At the present, on foot and bus takes me an hour to get anywhere substantial and as soon as I arrive, I have to turn right around leaving me no ability to accomplish any type of daily 9-5 errands.
3) Provide me at least 1-2 evenings off—by off I mean my shift ends at 6 pm so I can attempt to have a normal, adult social life. Currently, I’m working until 8:30 to 9 pm every night with still, a 1-hour commute to any social spots.
4) The most important, help me apply for a visa.
With that said, I left for the weekend so they could think about my requisites and they came back with this:
1) The basement is my new room.
2) I can use the car as long as I fill it with gas and, of course, no drinking and driving.
3) I can have Wednesday nights free (not quite two nights, but I’ll take it).
Can you figure out what is missing? Unfortunately, they would not budge on the one thing I could not do without…a visa.
Needless to say, I quit again.
Audrey’s response was furious, “Who do you think you are? Do you think in the real world you can just go around asking your boss for whatever you want and leave if you don’t get it?”
I took a moment to ponder that and thought to myself, “No, I can’t go around asking for whatever I want, but I can ask for things that make my work life fair, legal and, in this case, a bit more private.”
So I responded in a manner of confidence and professionalism, “Yes Audrey, I do think that, especially if you are unhappy. In this case I approached my boss with fair and professional demands, which they could not meet. In which case, employers move on and find a job that can satisfy them. That is my real world.”
She huffed, and puffed and stomped back up the stairs.
Meanwhile, I started plotting my ambiguous future with excitement and delight.