If you’ve been wondering what I even do as an au pair, then keep reading! This is a bit of a long post, but I’m walking you through exactly what I’ve been doing for the past week eight weeks and what I will keep doing for the next five weeks. Hope you enjoy!
My host family’s son is not too keen on taking selfies with his au pair.
I wake up at 7am every weekday (and more or less at the same time on the weekends because I always plan a lot for those completely free days and also because my internal alarm clock is en fuego). Once I’m dressed and ready I head downstairs, taking my bag for the day down with me.
I head to the kitchen to make myself breakfast. This past week I’ve been having my favorite overnight oats, but nearly everyday for the first seven weeks I ate three-ingredient pancakes topped with Greek yogurt. For these, I use one banana, one egg, and a handful of oats. When I eat (devour, would actually be more accurate) this meal back home, I’ll use skyr yogurt and sprinkle strawberries on top, but I haven’t found skyr anywhere here and my host family said strawberries are out of season so they’re not at the grocery store (I thought this was so funny because “in-season” and “out-of-season” aren’t really of concern to my family; we’ll buy whatever fruit we want at any time of year and it’s definitely not a good thing LOL). Regardless of these slight variations from my pancakes at home, I’m happy I’ve been able to start my day with such a complete and normal breakfast!
If I’m heading out for the day and don’t want to eat out at a restaurant, I will make my lunch while making my breakfast and I’ll pack it in a Thermos. To be honest, I haven’t used my Thermos in a while because I’ve been eating out much more often, throwing caution for my health and my wallet to the wind. I’m going to try and rein myself in a little for the last month, though.
While I eat my breakfast, I’ll usually watch Snapchat stories, which, despite me following about 15 people (and five of them being the Kardashian-Jenner sisters), actually takes up a good chunk of time (I think it’s because while I’m sleeping in Spain, people in America are enjoying the most eventful parts of the day). I’ll also check emails on my phone and browse Instagram for however long it takes me to finish my food, then I’ll wash my dishes and any pans I used. This typically gets me to 8am.
8am is when I wake the host family’s son up, thus officially starting my morning work hours. He wakes up fairly easily; I just open the door and say “Hi, good morning” and he starts to stir. I’ll say his name a few times before he lifts himself up and hops off the bed. He heads downstairs to use the bathroom and to get dressed. I’ll usually sit on the couch next to him while he changes his clothes, prompting him as necessary to put his shirt or socks on if he’s being sluggish.
Once the boy is all dressed, we head to the kitchen and I pour him however much milk he wants that day (usually not that much) and pop his beloved Star Wars mug in the microwave. While his milk warms, the boy pulls his favorite biscuits (Tosta Rica, if you’re wondering) and a spoon out of the pantry and utensil drawer, respectively. He then starts breaking his biscuits in half and shoving them into the milk, making for a soggy breakfast meal. I get why this meal might appeal to a four-year old, but I have also seen both his parents eat the same, which I don’t entirely comprehend.
I usually just sit next to the little boy and browse on my phone while he eats. For my first month, I would actually just sit and watch him eat and try to make conversation. Once I realized I was just talking to the air because he can’t provide robust reposes to me, I starting using my phone a lot more while spending time with him (while he’s getting dressed, eating, while he shuffles his Star Wars cards, etc.). The quality of my attention towards the boy has definitely decreased with time… two weeks ago, for example, I actually showed him cartoons on Netflix after breakfast while I sit in the kitchen and went on social media. I know, I’m terrible, but unless you’re fully keen on little kids, especially ones you can’t communicate much with, then you’d do it too.
At 8:40am (I set an alarm on my phone so we never miss this time), the little boy and I leave the house to walk to the bus stop. When I walk to the stop on my own it’s barely a 5-minute walk, but the little boy always stops to pick up leaves, step on ants, point at dog poop, and do a dozen other miscellaneous things, so the quick stroll to the bus stop can turn into a 15-minute schlep.
The morning bus stop
We get on the bus, which arrives at about 8:53am. It’s a public transportation bus, not a school-specific bus, and I think that all the buses used in the Madrid suburbs were formally coach buses. They’re all larger and more comfortable than the dinky yellow things I used to ride to school in.
The boy’s school is about four stops away from his house, so the bus ride only takes about 5 minutes. And since his school doesn’t actually start until 9:30am, we are always ridiculously early. But, as I said above, I like to leave the house early in case he walks extremely slowly or in case we’re delayed in leaving the house (like we were the two times that he decided to sit on the toilet at 8:38am to umm… relieve himself… this boy definitely needs more fiber in his diet, if you catch my drift…). A devious part of me also likes leaving early because it means I have to play with him for less time at home. I know! I’m the worst!
The front gate of the little boy’s school
At 9:20am, the front gate to the school opens and the little boy runs to stand in line outside his classroom. I sit on a bench and say a few “hellos” to other parents and their children that I’ve come to recognize by now. At 9:30am, the teachers come outside to escort their respective line of students inside. The minute I see the curly haired bun of the little boy’s teacher, Aurora, (they call their teachers by their first name! so strange and surprising to me!), I dash off the school’s property so I can begin my day, whether that means schlepping into Madrid for some city time, going to the nearby Starbucks to write a bit, or even heading back home to be a sloth all day.
There is a really nice outlet mall with a Starbucks near my host family’s house. I go there fairly often to take advantage of the free wifi for some writing! Also, sometimes I’ll just sit in a Starbucks in Madrid because I don’t feel bad about using their wifi and not ordering anything, while I do feel a little uncomfortable doing at small, local cafes. (this is the Starbucks in Callao, BTW!)
The little boy’s school ends at 4:30pm. It weirdly ended at 3:30pm during the whole month of September and the teacher apparently left the kids at 1pm when some afterschool program leader came to stay with the students. I was really confused by this whole thing so I asked the dad of my host family about it and, of course, he knew nothing of the matter.
If I’m in Madrid, I’ll try to leave wherever I am by 3pm so I can hop on the metro back to the Moncloa station then take the 45-minute bus ride back to the ’burbs. The bus ride alone sounds long, yes, but it goes by surprisingly quickly. The combination of the sometimes half-hour metro journey with a bus ride can be a little time-consuming, though, so I used to read but now I’ve started writing to make productive use of the time.
If I spent the day at home or at the Starbucks in their town, I’ll leave from those places at 4pm and get the boy. Regardless of where I was before, once I get the boy, he’ll usually play at a little park that belongs to the church next to his school. Then, around 5:30pm, we’ll head home. For the whole month of September, the boy didn’t play at the park and we would just head straight home on the bus. But, this month, he has been playing with his friends at the park and one of his friend’s moms has kindly driven us back to our street each day. It’s so incredibly nice of her and I’m just glad she does it because it saves me from an annoying trip on the bus. Also, I like the fact that the boy has started playing with his friends at the park after-school because it means less time I have to spend entertaining him at home… yes, I’m evil!
Once we get home, I ask the boy if he wants a snack, which, if he says yes, is just more of the cookies he ate for breakfast. Then, I’ll have him do a page of handwriting practice from a workbook because his dad asked me to have him do this. The boy doesn’t like doing this, and lucky for him, since we’ve been staying at the park so much, he’s barely done them recently.
At around 6pm, I give the boy a bath. He’s always reluctant to bathe because he doesn’t want to stop playing, so I always have to explain to him that the quicker he has a bath, then the longer he’ll get to play after. Unfortunately, this logic goes above his head and he keeps fussing a bit.
After his bath, the boy and I will play until around 6:30pm when his parents will start coming home, one of them with the little girl who spent the whole day at the nursery. If it’s not too late, I’ll also give the daughter a quick bath. This is when I start itching to be released from duty. I’ll usually make small talk with the parents until finally asking, “Is there anything else you need me to do?” When I hear the blessed words, “No, you’re good! Thanks,” I’ll either leave the house to go to Madrid for dinner, or I’ll eat something at their house once they’ve left the kitchen (so I can have peace and quiet).
After dinner, I’ll retreat to my cave of a bedroom on the third floor and watch some Netflix (ATM I’m watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) for the rest of the evening. I try to get to bed between 10-11pm. My bedtime is always later when I go into Madrid, which is why I try not to go to Madrid in the evenings too often.
I’d show you a picture of my room but it’s décor and vibe and not entirely my aesthetic… so, instead, here are the stairs I ascend to get there.
This is my daily routine almost everyday! Thursdays are a bit different, though, because the boy has speech therapy after school. We take the bus to get there. His appointment ends at 6:30pm and one of his parents will pick us up. We actually used to take the bus back home from the speech therapist, but since we were arriving home at about 7:30pm (mostly because the bus stop was far from the speech therapist’s office and also because the boy walked very slow), the parents decided to pick us up in the car because they thought it was too late for both the boy and I.
The office where the little boy has a speech therapy appointment once a week. Speech therapy in Spanish is logopedia, which is literally the hardest word to pronounce.
Friday provides another exception to this schedule. On that wonderful day, I only have morning duty. That’s actually why I’ve been able to travel so much! After dropping the boy off, I’ll travel into Madrid and then to my destination for a great little weekend getaway. The extra time for travel that this little schedule nuance allows was actually part of the reason I chose this family! And, as you can see, I’m only really working for 3.5-4 hours a day and some other families that I considered were asking for much more, so I think I got pretty lucky with this family!
The sweet monster himself! Happy I only have to deal with him and not some horribly, devilish little child!
I hope you enjoyed reading this very long post! I know many people back home were confused about what in the world I’m doing as an au pair and how I spend each day so I hope this cleared things up. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts on the whole au pair life! Thanks for reading!