When I first arrived as an Au Pair in America, I had a remarkably easy schedule. It was almost unbelievable to me, having previously worked 3 jobs at once during university – to then have a schedule of working 20-25 hours a week!
My daily schedule consisted of picking up my host child from nursery school around 1pm, which was only a short walk from our apartment, usually followed up by a playdate with one of her classmates or a trip to a bookstore or toy store, then home, dinner, bath and bed by 7:30pm. I had weekends off and overall a lot of downtime to explore New York City.
My au pair friend Klaudia and I spent lots of our time walking around the city, going thrift shopping, getting donuts at Dunkin’, grabbing a drink at a pub that was in between our apartments (which we declared ourselves regulars at after our second visit), visiting Barnes & Noble, eating bagels on the steps of the Met, or any number of other typical American/New York things that we could come up with to do.
All of that changed the second weekend of March, when New York State announced that it would be going into lockdown the following Tuesday. One day, Klaudia and I were having a picnic in Central Park, the next I was wearing a mask to the grocery store below my apartment building and she was headed out to Connecticut to isolate with her host family.
In truth, I had thought about returning home. However, after some long talks with my host mom and some even longer talks with my own mom, and one short talk with my host dad (he is the best, and also sometimes a “man of few words”), I decided to stay, and it is one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Before lockdown, I didn’t see my host family much outside of my working hours. On my off hours, I was wrapped up in exploring the city, and so I spent most of my time out of the apartment.
All of that changed when lockdown began. I went from barely seeing my host family, to always seeing them. The host parents were the same loving and compassionate people that I had thought they were when we first matched. We started having little family “check-ins” to see how we were all coping with isolation. While I had already begun to form an incredibly close bond with the little girl in my care, our relationship has only become more and more strong throughout isolation. She is my little best friend.
Furthermore, lockdown has allowed me to really get to know my host parents in a way that I hadn’t before. My host mom has not only become like a second mom to me, but also a close friend and confidante. My host dad, with his quick wit and unrelenting sarcasm has been such a great source of comic relief in rather trying times. While I never would have wished to be on lockdown going into my au pair year, in a weird way, I am kind of thankful for it allowing me to become so close to my host family.
Perhaps one of the best parts of the Au Pair in America experience is you can gain another family in another part of the world for your entire life. Lockdown has really allowed me to solidify my relationship with them in ways that I don’t think would have been possible given any other circumstances. While lockdown may not be the ideal situation, it has definitely bonded me and my host family for life.
Another one of the reasons that I am so glad that I chose to come to America for my au pair year is that I will be able to come visit my host family so easily in years to come. My host mom and I have already talked about how great it is that I will be able to visit them again after I go home.
Future and current au pairs alike, if you are at all hesitant to stay or to come because of COVID, let me reassure you that it is still worth it. It may not be the year you had envisioned, but it is still special in its own ways, perhaps even more so than you ever could have imagined.