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4 ways to take care of your mental health as an au pair

Gabrielle · 17/03/2022

Living in a new country as a foreigner au pair can be hard. Find out some tips from Gabrielle, former au pair in France, to take care of your mental health.

Hey, au pairs!

My name is Gabrielle, I am a 21-year-old Canadian who just came home after spending the last 6 months in France working as an au pair. I had the most amazing time. I also struggled a lot! Au pairing is an amazing job. You get to live wonderful new experiences, see incredible places, taste stunning foods and meet interesting people.

But! The truth is that living in a new country is HARD. 

As au pairs, we put ourselves in very vulnerable and difficult situations, like going to live with strangers we’ve only ever skyped with a couple of times and living somewhere unfamiliar (where we might not speak the language). Without our family or friends back home to guide us, our lives can get a bit lonely and overwhelming at times. (And let’s be honest, taking care of kids is not always a piece of cake!) Plus, did you know that young people (aged 15- 24) are more likely than any other age group to experience mental illness? 


These reasons highlight why it’s so important to make sure you are looking out for yourself as an au pair.

My time abroad taught me a lot, especially how to take care of my mental well-being.  Whether you are thinking of becoming an au pair or you’ve already started on your journey, here are four simple tips on how to take care of yourself, so you can make the most of your experience:


1. Go outside

I visiting-france-gabriellevisiting-france-gabriellethink one of the best things you can do while au pairing is to discover new places on your own. This is a great way to grow as you learn to navigate new places. This is a great thing to do on your time off. Go to a museum, visit a new café, stroll through the local park. Your time as an au pair flies by, so make your bucket list and start ticking off the items asap!

A quick tip: In most cities, you can sign up for something called Free Tours. This is a service where someone will take a group of people (usually tourists) and take them for a walk around a part of the city while pointing out historical facts, the best bars, restaurants, and places to visit. The best part is that you get to pay the guide as much as you want at the end. I did one in Toulouse and one in Marseille and they were both amazing! It’s exciting to get to go back to some of the places we saw on the tour.

I have news for you: Kids need to move. If you want to have a good day with your host kids, bring them outside. Whenever I had my host kids, I would make an effort to bring them out every chance I got. We would go discover any of the local parks. This allowed them to burn some of their crazy never-ending supply of energy. This is such a win-win. When kids get the exercise and stimulation they need, they are much more likely to behave. I believed in this tip so much that I would take my kiddos out rain or shine, and it made the rest of my day with them a million times more pleasant.

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2. Seek Connections

It’s probably not news to you that we humans are social creatures. We thrive on the connections we make with others. Finding a group of people, you can talk to and spend time with, should be one of your top priorities when you start out in a new country. Here are a couple of ways I meet people when I was in France:

  • Meet up – a platform where people post events. I would usually go to pub nights or hikes hosted by ex-pat groups.
  • Facebook groups
  • Language classes

It’s fun to meet people, but it’s especially special when you meet other au pairs. I found that meeting other au pairs was great because we all got a chance to vent and share our good (and our not-so-good) experiences. Other au pairs are living very similar emotions and it can be very beneficial to open up to them about your struggles such as homesickness.


3. Let Yourself Feel

One of the biggest lessons I learned these past few months is that it’s so important to give yourself time to sit with your emotions. Feelings of homesickness can creep up out of nowhere. If you keep pushing them aside, *spoiler alert* you are setting yourself up for a major meltdown. I didn’t get a chance to go home for the Christmas holidays, but I did get to take a trip to Germany, which was awesome. Despite all the fun I was having, I found myself really sad from time to time. It’s so important to allow yourself to sit and feel. This will prevent them from bubbling up later on and will give you the release you need to move on.


A quick tip: Set a 10-minute timer and let yourself cry, scream, wallow and be with your feelings. Then, when the timer is up, get up, blow your nose, wipe your tears and force yourself to do something. Anything! Go for a walk, bake, watch a show, just do something to distract yourself. This hack allows you to release your feelings and move on.


4. Be Honest

You’ve probably heard the saying: “Honesty is the best policy”

During your time as an au pair, it’s important to constantly check in with yourself. You need to communicate how you feel with your host family, with your agency, or with someone you trust

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If you are going to take anything away from this article, let it be this:

It’s ok if things aren't going as well as you had hoped, there is no shame in stopping or changing host families. You have to honor your feelings. Your au pair year should be fun and if you feel like your life as an au pair is not going as well as you had hoped, you need to honor your feelings and act to make it better.  

I hope these tips were helpful. Remember that au pairing is not always easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible. If you feel like it’s too much, there's absolutely no shame in stopping, coming home, or changing host families. I don’t think anyone’s au pair experience goes exactly to plan, but if you make sure to take care of yourself (whatever that means to you), you can make the most of your adventure.

Feel free to share some of the ways you take care of your mental health in the comments.

👉 Read «4 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health as an Au Pair»

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Gabrielle · 17/03/2022



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