Thursday, August 25, 2011

One Week In


Things that I want:

1. A written list/schedule of what I'm supposed to be doing every day, so I have some sort of structure and know what is expected of me.

2. To know what days/times I have off more than 1-2 days before so I can actually make plans with my friends and not feel so isolated out in the suburbs.

I've been here a week and these things are really stressing me out. Though I may just be interpreting her intonation wrong since I don't always understand 100% what my host Mom is saying in German, I feel like she sometimes thinks I'm a bit dumb for not doing something she told me days ago in a list with 10 other things. Usually I'm given a long verbal list of all the things I might have to do, but sometimes she just does them and sometimes she is all "I'm late for work you really need to brush his teeth with him!" How am I supposed to know what I should be doing if sometimes I'm asked to do it and sometimes it's done by somebody else and no one says anything to me? I've asked for the past several days if we could sit down and write down what exactly my responsibilities are and when I need to do them, so I'm not always so shell-shocked, but no one seems to ever have time. We were also supposed to talk about my au-pair contract because there's a lot of things written in it about how many nights off and days off I should be getting and can request off, that I'm pretty sure I'm not currently getting. Mostly I just need to know when I'm actually supposed to be working so I'm not always following people around, stressed that I should be doing something.

I'm supposed to be in charge of getting the 5-year old dressed and brushing his teeth in the morning and sometimes getting him ready for bed. I have not even once been able to successfully get him to brush his teeth. Every single time he runs away, grabs a toy, hides. I take the toy away, he screams at the top of his lungs and slaps me. I say "Nein! Du darfst nicht mich schlagen!" in my best stern voice and hold his hands, let go, and he slaps me again. Yesterday I got spit in the face and also hit in the face with a small plunger. When I try to make him food after school he will purposely grab a bottle of water and pour it on the floor in front of me. I'm trying really hard not to let it get to me and hold it against him, but I can't help but dread when he comes home from school and really do not enjoy his company. At least the parents back up whatever I say to him, but if this doesn't get better in a few weeks I think I'm going to seek other employment because I can't deal with this for a year. They want me to eventually bike with him alone to his kindergarten, but he absolutely does not listen to me so I'm terrified he'll just bike into the middle of the road in front of a car with me, not to mention I'm still not super fast on my bike as I'm not used to biking all the time, so while I totally don't mind riding the bike and enjoy it, I can't keep up with him and he doesn't listen if I say to slow down. It's just frustrating because the Mom tells me to simply take his toy away and pick him up, but it's not so easy when he's racing around a couch, kicking, slapping and spitting at me.

Luckily the other kids are fine, sometimes they want to watch TV a bit longer and I have to turn it off on them, but they generally listen to reason or will joke around for 5 minutes and then do what they're told. I knew going in I didn't have much experience with the really young kids, but I didn't think it would be this bad.

I'm at a low point and I'm going to give it a month to see if I feel better about everything. I'm just really frustrated and feel like I have no control over anything and no ability to have my own life. I feel like I have a lot of sporadic free time during the day, but never quality free time where I can actually meet with people and be social. I don't need to always be out partying, but I can't always just sit here alone as it makes me feel a bit trapped. I just found out the family's first au-pair only stayed 3 months. The most recent stayed a year, but it seems she didn't really go out much as the host family seemed really surprised that I wanted to go to a club with my friends on September 3rd and said I'd probably have to walk the dog, even if I come back at 3am, as they go out sailing that day (or something). Their last au-pair is married and still lives here, so maybe that explains it.

We'll see. I really don't want to have to leave, but if I end up continuing to feel so crazy I might have to. I've only been here a week, so I imagine it will get better. Besides the 5 year-old and the family not being very good at clearly delegating responsibilities, things are good. They let me get whatever food I want from the store, are paying for German classes all year even though they don't have to, I get to be really active and feel generally pretty healthy, I like the breakfast and Abendbrot routine. The Dad taught me how to fix my flat tire on my bike this morning and while it's sort of isolating out here, it is beautiful and I like all the bike paths. I like their dog, taking her for walks and speaking Dog-German (yesterday I let her off the leash and she ran in someone's house, oops) and I like how the oldest son is very understanding and takes time to explain to me how things in the family work and what I should be doing, tells me when he wants time alone to do his stuff, etc. The fact that I speak German from mornings to evenings is very helpful too, as I do really need to be fluent by the end of the year. I just really need more of a balance between work and life and to be given a better idea of what I should be doing and a more solid schedule. I know the family is stressed in the morning getting ready and running around between afternoon activities, but I get stressed because I feel like they think I suck since everything is always told to me quickly as a side-comment.

So there you have it.

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