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au pairs in ireland

'If you said no to the children they would just scream and sometimes punch you'

Au pairs are working in up to 20,000 Irish homes – many working around the clock for not much pay.

WITH THE COST of childcare being as much, if not more, than paying a mortgage these days, many Irish families are turning to au pairs.

A recent report from the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland says that au pairs are working in up to 20,000 Irish homes, and many are being subjected to exploitation or abuse.

Au pairs often come from countries to learn English and generally get about €100 pocket money to help out with the children.

However, the latest report finds that many are working around the clock, caring for the children as well as carrying out all domestic duties, such as the washing, cleaning the house as well as preparing all the meals for the family. spoke to one au pair who travelled from Europe to be an au pair. She has worked in Ireland for over a year. She wishes to remain anonymous.

‘It wasn’t what I expected’

“I came to Ireland as I wanted to learn English. I came to work with a family, and I expected to be friends with the family and help out with the children, but it was not what I expected it to be. It was something totally different.”

The family in which she was to work for was organised by an agency, she said, stating that all of her friends used one of these agencies to find work with Irish families.

“I came over by myself, but while I was attending college, I soon realised that pretty much every one of the friends I made were working as au pairs.”

shutterstock_112244531 Shutterstock / William Perugini Shutterstock / William Perugini / William Perugini

“I had only been in Ireland and with a family one week, when they told me I had to go. They said there was no connection with the children and I had to leave. It was very disappointing.”

This was very stressful, she explained, as she was worried about money and getting by. She said the agency gave her another family to work for.

Working around the clock 

The family were from a good area in Dublin. Both husband and wife have very good, well-paid professional jobs.

It was fine at first, but after a month I began to not feel comfortable there. I would get up every day before 7am and work until 7pm when the parents came home.
There was too much housework, and it was not well paid for what it was.
Before I came to Ireland, I thought being an au pair would be helping out with the children, playing with them, minding them while there parents weren’t there. But I had to do all the housework – cleaning the whole house, bedrooms and kitchen, do all the ironing, clean the toilets and prepare all the meals. There was a lot to do.

She said she also had to bring the children, who were quite young, to and from school every day.

shutterstock_280159361 Shutterstock / Tetra Images Shutterstock / Tetra Images / Tetra Images

Children’s behaviour 

There were also issues with the children, she explained, adding that they had never been shown any sort of discipline.

“The children were so spoiled. They could have whatever they wanted and if you said no, they would just scream and sometimes punch you.”

There was not enough consequences for the children from the parents after such behaviour, she explained.

This was not just in my case. After speaking to my friends, this was something that happened often.One friend of mine was not allowed to close her bedroom door when she left the house. The mother said her child liked to play in her room, with all of the au pairs things. These were her personal things and her personal space.

Once, the child found headache tablets on a shelf in the au pairs room. The mother gave out to the au pair for having them, and said she wasn’t allowed keep them in her own room.

Nothing was mentioned that perhaps her child should not be in her room playing with her things.

She said that her friend had since left Ireland as there were too many issues. Other issues included being called on the phone to come home to babysit when her and her friends had time off at the weekend.

One of the children had also not been potty trained, despite being over the age that this would be expected. She said that things like this that should be done by the parents were left up to her.

The children are just children, so you can’t blame their behaviour on them.They want to be with their family, their mother and father. They want them to be doing these things, but you are the person with them all day and then putting then to bed.

They hate you because you are them instead. They can’t understand it, as they are children.

Would she be an au pair again? 

It was not what I expected  and I wouldn’t do it again, but my experience was not as bad as some of my other friends. But, I have to say, the experiences were mixed – some people only worked 20 or so hours a week, and it was fine.It depends on the family you get, but you have to be lucky.

Read: Irish man saves a woman’s life on a London street>

Read: 22-year-old recovering alcoholic tells how he stopped drinking eight cans of cider every night>

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