Au pair: Live-in Vs. Live-out

As an Au pair there are many reasons to live both IN and OUT  of the family home, here is my list of pro's and con's to help you decide what matters most and therefore what will suit you best...


                    LIVE-IN                    

    PRO'S    
  • Meal times with the host family: Not only is this a great way to bond with your family daily it also saves you a lot of money throughout your stay not having to buy food. This may seem 'cheap' but for someone on a budget it is essential. (Warning: I did put on a stone from eating delicious Italian food with the family... but I very much enjoyed it).
  • Being part of the family and contributing more than just 'working hours': Spending time with the family while the parents are there shows your commitment to them and makes for happier relationships.
  • Company: For someone who has never lived alone moving to a foreign country and living in your own apartment may be too isolating. Having the safety net of a family close by is a great way to ensure you never get lonely.

    CON'S    
  • Hard to find privacy: Especially for introverts who may not be able to 'switch off' in the company of others this may cause problems.
  • You may be on call at all hours, even in your time off: The temptation to leave the child with you while they pop out on an errand may be all too much for some host parents who rely on you being there in your spare time. 
  • You may have a curfew: As a live in Au pair you will have to be careful what time you return home from a 'night out' with your Au pair friends. Even if your host parents are generous it can still cause you anxiety having to worry about waking them or the children on your return.

                    LIVE-OUT                    

My Live-out/Live-in Apartment (below host family) in Milan


    PRO'S    
  • Freedom: Time off means time to do what you want. You are free to come and go as you wish at any hour without the worry of waking your host family.
  • Community: If you're in a central location your apartment is likely to become the meeting point for all your Au pair friends which is great for creating a solid friendship group. (Don't let it become too much of a party pad, this is disrespectful).
  • Alone time: When you need peace after a long day taking care of children living-out feels like a god send. Also good to have some privacy if you happen to make any weepy home-sick calls moaning about your host family  (it happens, you'll bounce back).

    CON'S    
  • Location: You may be a considerable distance away from your host family meaning you will have to travel everyday to do your job. This is ok in places with good transport links but you may feel isolated from the family having to travel to get to them.
  • Food and cleaning: You will probably have to provide for yourself meal wise if you're not living with the family, this is not easy to do on an Au pair's wage. You will also be responsible for keeping your apartment in good condition, which can be an extra unwanted chore if you're already working long hours.
  • Isolated from family atmosphere: You will miss out on quiet evenings and spontaneous moments with the children watching films and playing games. This might mean your relationship with them suffers as they see you as only 'part-time'. The better the relationship you have with the children the easier and more fun your 'job' becomes so it's worth considering whether living-out is worth this sacrifice.
If you're still having doubts please read 'Should I become an Aupair?' to put your mind at ease!

Should I become an Au pair?

Before I give you a straight up answer (Yes, you should become an Au pair), let me tell you about some of the (pretty amazing) experiences I had and some of the not so great ones of other Au pairs I met along the way.

Here's a short vid of my time in Milan;

 Spoiler: 

 How much you enjoy your experience as an Au pair generally depends on how lucky you get with your host family. So choose carefully.

I was lucky to arrive in Milan to a lovely family whom I met on Aupairworld. They wanted me as more of an older friend for their 10 year old son than a Nanny which I was more than happy to be. Having picked me up from the airport (where I cluelessly arrived with no international credit to call anyone..duhh), they immediately did all they could to chill me out with glass after glass of Prosecco. This effort to help me settle in continued for weeks in a wonderfully Italian way, (mostly food offerings), needless to say I was convinced I had won the host family jackpot, unbelievably it was not just me who felt this way, almost all of the Au pairs I met had very positive experiences.

Unusually for an Au pair I was given my own apartment just below my host family's. On reflection it was this privacy and separation from the family which allowed me to relax far more than I would have been able to as a 'live-in' Au pair (living in the family's home). Unlike some of my friends I didn't have to worry about staying out too late. I could return home at any hour without waking anyone up but also had the option to spend meal times as one of the family which felt like the best of both worlds (this also helped my tight budget). 

See 'Au pair: Live-in Vs. Live-out' for more help deciding whether or not to live in the host family's home.

Cue; Photos of us partying like Italians and returning home past the sex shop at 7am...





However there were other families hosting my Au pair friends who held more of a 'value for money' mentality, using au pairs solely for cheap childcare. This is not what Au pairing is founded on; the French word 'Au pair' means 'an equal'. It's easy for an over worked Au pair to forget this and fear appearing ungrateful whilst living under the family's roof but it is essential that you speak with your host family if you are unhappy with your workload or feel you're not being treated as 'an equal'.

Amongst the Au pairs there was always a new host family 'horror' story. One Au pair was left to clean up a smashed bottle whilst blood poured from her hands. Someone's host dad had got slightly too flirty after a couple drinks, (gossiping about host families makes up 50% of Au pair convo). However the majority of negative stories that Au pairs so love to tell involve over worked Au pairs who are expected to work all hours with no days off.

Fortunately there is a way around becoming a stressed over-worked Au pair.... 

  • Be picky about who you work for
  • Demand a Skype/Facetime interview
  • Ask the right questions
  • Does the family seem genuinely interested in getting to know you as 'an equal'?

Generally a Skype interview is a great way to get an essence of how the family works together, if possible ask to meet the children as how they behave is an indicator as to how much of a challenge you are undertaking. 

 And if it all that fails and you are stuck with horrible hosts... Don't be afraid to make the decision to leave your host family if they are negatively affecting you and do not make an effort to include you in their lives. There is always the option to find another host family who will appreciate you whilst you are out there. It can be done, and what's more you can meet the prospective new family in person to ensure they are genuinely kind people before you decide to change.


Overall there will always be positives and negatives in every Au pair experience. Whether you end up looking after naughty children or wonderfully thoughtful ones, the key is to find a host family who want an Au pair for the right reasons.  The right family will want you to form caring relationships with their children, not just act as staff. They will be interested in getting to know you as a person and learning from your culture as you are surrounded by theirs. Although it may be tempting to go for the family offering you the biggest salary and the city centre apartment you will find that the real joys of becoming an Au pair are from the relationships you form with the family and the fellow Au pairs you will meet along the way.

Good Luck

Any questions feel free to comment :)


Shot by the Taliban at the age of 15 for seeking an education, today Malala celebrates her 6A*'s and 4A's at GCSE

A heart felt congratulations to Malala Yousafzai for her well earned success at GSCE (6A* & 4A's), achieved against all odds.



Only three years ago Malala was shot point blank in the head by the Taliban in North-west Pakistan on her way to school... for going to school. Since then Malala has continued to fight for girls education globally as an activist, author ('I am Malala') and the youngest Noble Peace Prize laureate, all while studying for her GCSE's. (Scroll to see Malala's new film trailer about her incredible life so far).

Malala's rightfully proud father
Ziauddin Yousafzai (a former headteacher and girls education activist
) tweeted out her results  this morning, we imagine much to the embarrassment of humble Malala.


Malala continues work through 'The Malala Fund', their slogan #booksnotbullets leading the cause. Here is the trailer for 'He Named Me Malala' a film about Malala's incredible life so far (in theatres this October)...



Malala's biography 'I am Malala' is so far from many modern day over embellished bio's, she tells her powerful story with no need for exaggeration. Definitely a must read along with her first blog which she wrote for the BBC under a pseudonym whilst living under Taliban Rule. It reads with the same poignant immediacy of Anne Frank's Diary. Read it here. 

21 Essential Items to pack for University

As the end of Summer quickly approaches it's about time for you to take a nostalgic look around your childhood bedroom and decide exactly what you want to take with you on your first step to adulthood. After a year at Uni here's my advice as to what you really need to bring... 


1. Multiple Phone/Laptop chargers
Phone chargers have a hard time at uni, (I got through 6 this year). Spares are a must. When your phone dies... your charger breaks and you can't afford a new one, despair sets in. Also laptop chargers are likely to break when you need them most, it's a fact.

2. Back up Food
For when you accidentally spend all your money on a night out and Pret a manger. 
Cuppa soup and Ryvita saw me through about 2 weeks of what would have been starvation before I learnt to budget.

Here's a quick list of basic Supermarket things you should try and get (your parents to buy for you) before you go;
  • Toothpaste
  • Laundry detergent
  • Washing-up liquid
  • Washing-up sponges/scrub
  • Toilet roll
  • Bleach
  • Lots of Shampoo (it's expensive)
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • 3kg bag of PASTA
  • Cooking oil
  • Big bag of Rice
  • Pasta 'n' Sauce/Cuppa soup
  • A couple bottles of Vodka/Wine
  • Sauces (ketchup, mayo, dressing)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Bread for freezer
  • Spreads- Marmite/choc/jam/peanut
  • Stock cubes (If you plan to cook)
  • Pastes (e.g curry, tomato, garlic)
  • Spaghetti
  • Jars of Pasta Sauce
  • Jars of curry Sauce
  • Tins of Beans/Ravioli/Spag hoops
  • UHT Long-life milk (good to have)
  • Lentils (If you're into them)
  • Tea/coffee/hot-choc
  • Sugar/honey (for your tea/cereal)
  • Cereal
  • Cling film/sandwich bags
  • AND AS MUCH FOOD AS THEY WILL BUY
3. Bed covers, Duvet and Pillows
A couple sets of bed covers will do.

4. Towels, face cloth and Bath mat
Bath mat might not seem necessary (it is). Here's a cute heart shaped one.

5. Extension Lead
So vital as often uni rooms only have 2 plugs a long distance from the bed. For only £4 from Amazon it's so worth it.

6. Laundry Hamper
You need one, pop-up is good. 


7. Coat Hangers
They probably won't be provided. If you feel like investing in some I like these.


8. Bedside Lamp
For reading ect. (Some halls provide one). Lighting can make a big difference to your mood after a stressful day, so i'd say the £10 for a lamp like this is definitely worth it...




9. Desk Lamp
Halls lighting can be too intensely bright/dull for evening work.

10. Decoration
Fairy Lights, teddies, pillows, pictures, BLU-TACK and pins if they provide a pin board.

I'll just leave this here...

11. Study Supplies
It's easy to forget amongst everything else but the basic back to 'school' stuff is important too:

  • Pens (Pen pot), basic stationary ect.
  • Lined Paper/ Printer Paper/ Note book
  • Files
  • Highlighters
  • Calculator (depending on course)
  • Memory Stick
  • Printer (depending on course)
  • Books, Recommended reading
12. Speakers 
For party time/watching films. Sonos Smart Wireless Speaker £158.74

13. Headphones
Preferably sound proof! I found myself using my head phones with no music and just noise cancellation on while I worked. Very good for zoning out. 

14.Clothes and Shoes
Just bring the clothes and shoes you actually wear as you won't get much space, this can be a hard task.


15. ID, Certificates and Documents
You will likely have to show your Exam Certificates or results slip to register at the uni. You may need your passport to withdraw money if you loose your bank card or want to change address ect. Although not great to take your passport on a night out, you may also need it as back up ID.

16. Kitchen Appliances & Cooking Equipment 
I wouldn't invest too much in plates/cutlery or glasses as you probably won't have much to show for it at the end of the year no matter how careful you are! 

Here's a basic list:
  • Plates, bowls, glasses, mugs
  • Cutlery
  • Pans
  • Baking tray
  • Tea towel
  • knives
  • Colander
  • chopping board
  • Cooking utensils
  • Tupperware
  • Kettle (for your room)
  • Microwave Rice steamer (10 min rice LIFE SAVER)
  • Bottle/wine Opener
  • Blender (If you want to make soups/smoothies)
  • An IRON to look smart when you can be bothered
17. Cleaning Stuff
Like Bleach, disinfectant for when things in the kitchen get furry, window/mirror cleaner, bathroom cleaner and cleaning cloths.

18. Musical Instruments and Music
Don't be afraid to bring it along if you play, you won't annoy your flat mates they will probably be loud anyway. :P  But remember to lock your room if your instrument is valuable (most halls doors are self locking).

19. Bathroom Scales and an Iron
Not essential for everyone but definitely items I used!

20. Medicine
Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Plasters, Germaline, contraceptive pill (stock-up at your GP before you go) and Lemsip. Freshers Flu doesn't affect everyone but be prepared just in case!

21. A laid back attitude and a friendly smile ;)
It's very easy to get worried about not being prepared at this point. Just remember anything you do forget you can easily buy there or borrow from a new friend. Throughout the year you will likely learn that you don't need all the luxuries in life to survive happily as long as you have friends to have a laugh with. Cheeseeee.

(Slightly more than 21 items but a pretty comprehensive list)
Good Luck :)






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How to: Separate Blog posts onto different pages in Blogger.

You have your blog home page featuring all of your posts but now you want to get organised and categorise your blog posts into pages (like the ones shown below). Here's how...



It's true Blogger doesn't make it easy to create a multipage blog. It is almost impossible through it's static 'pages' feature which is only intended to create pages that hold static (not regularly changing) Information such as 'About'.

There is however a sneaky and very easy way around this problem...

1.

Create a 'New Post', it doesn't matter what content you put in this post only that you use the label feature to 'label' the post with the name of the page/category you want to create. (Shown Below). As I wanted to create a category named 'Fashion' for my blog I labelled my blog post 'Fashion'.


2.

Go ahead and Publish this post. I know it's not up to your usual standard of blog post, but trust me.

(You can remove this unfinished blog post after completing all steps listed below.)

3.

Click 'View' on the Post you have just Published. (Shown below)


Now scroll to bottom of post where the labels for the post are shown (as seen below) and click on the label you created which should be linked. 



Once you've clicked on your label link the web address should have changed to something like...
www.your-web-address.com/search/labels/your-label

Now select and Copy the whole web-address.

4.

Now return to your Blogger Dashboard and click the 'Layout' tab on the left of the screen.

This will show you the layout of your blog. If you have used a blog template from Blogger you will likely have a layout box named 'cross-column' which holds your 'pages'. Click Edit. (Shown below).

If you have used Template from elsewhere you may have a box named 'main menu'. Click Edit. (see 2nd picture below).

For Blogger Template Users:


For other Template Users (i.e. me):

5. 

For Blogger Template Users:

After you've clicked edit a dialogue box should appear named 'Configure Pages'. Click 'Add external link'. (Shown below).


Another dialogue box named 'New Page' should pop up. In the Page title box put the name of the page/category you are creating e.g. Fashion. In the Web address box (arrow points to below) paste the web address you copied in step 3. Click 'Save Link'.

For Other Template Users:

After you've clicked edit a dialogue box should appear named 'Configure Link List'. In the 'New Site Name' Box write the name of the page/category you are creating e.g. Fashion. In the 'New Site URL' paste the web address you copied in step 3. 

Now press 'Add Link' (Shown below).


Once you've pressed 'Add Link' the 'page' should appear in the list. You can use the small arrows by the side of the page name to change it's position in the list. 
Now scroll down and click 'Save' (Shown Below).

YOU'RE DONE!

Now view your blog. With any luck your new page should appear on the main menu or 'pages list' of your blog like so...


Any questions please feel free to comment. 

Nervous Café writing


Excuse the half formed sentences I was Café writing…

I begin this blog post as I sit in a Café, one of my low key favs; (Finsbury Park Café). After a year of Café writing on a regular basis there are still unpredictably dingy days where I struggle to write anything other than a stream of consciousness. I’ll admit it; I am a ‘nervous café writer’.

There is definite skill to writing in public, first; becoming oblivious to all around you, that baby screaming, the slow jazz playing and the people speaking Italian/Arabic (?!) on the next table. This is a hard switch to flick for most of us writers, as generally we are hard-wired observers.

As if that wasn’t enough Café adversity to overcome after 15 mins of successful writing you let the ridiculous notion creep in that you have outstayed your welcome. ‘I should buy another drink’ you think, ‘they are a business after all’.  STOP, don’t dig yourself deeper into that extortionate cappuccino debt that all the writing in the world couldn’t repay, no need…

Here are some reassurances for the nervous café writer, all of which I remind myself of on a regular basis…

You are an essential part of the furniture, every café needs a resident writer, you are good for business, you create ambiance, in fact they should be paying YOU to be there… relax.

No one can read what you are writing; they can only see your fingers moving and a mass of text. Write what you want about them, make them characters in your best selling novel and then kill them off, they will never know.

Daydreaming is not the sin of all sins… you see a woman struggling with a difficult toddler, your future; ‘How will I cope chained to my laptop with a toddler hanging off me, how will I café write! I will be stuck in the house forever.’ Having empathy for strangers and being able to capture the essence of someone from a moment’s observation is a writer’s skill, hone it, daydream away and don’t berate yourself, more often than not a passing daydream will lead to a great idea.

Warm-up. Write something short and sweet to get your brain going. For every lengthy essay/article/novel I write I have a Writing log, where I begin by explaining my mood and surroundings and why exactly I am struggling/cant be arsed to start writing. This usually makes it apparent what’s stopping me and clears that mental block. (This can also be amusing to re-read afterwards.)

And as for Wi-Fi passwords… my advice, live in unconnected ignorance, 3G is sufficient to get you any information you need on your phone. If you do choose to connect just remember… what’s known can never be unknown…or you could always delete the Wi-Fi key (but it’s unlikely you will). Many a writing sanctuary has been stripped of it’s magic with the introduction of Wi-Fi, beware.

Give yourself a break. Like revision you need a break every 20-30 minutes. Don’t expect constant concentration from yourself, it’s unobtainable.

You will become oblivious to your surroundings; you will write through a busy lunch hour without realising. Good Luck.


And the bubble burst; going to take a daydreaming break, see you later.