Being an au pair is a great example of how travelling with someone can make a big difference to your trip. If I had been travelling solo I don’t think I ever would have thought of au pairing, but because of Joey’s background working with kids we had considered it, even before leaving the UK, as a great way for us to work in Australia and I’m so glad we did.
How au pairing works can be down to the family and what specifically they are looking for but generally it allows you to live with a family, sometimes in the home, sometimes in a pool house/granny flat situation on the property, in exchange for work plus an extra payment on top. This extra payment normally isn’t much as the bulk of your wage technically goes to covering your bed and board, yet it is enough to be able to get out and about and do fun things on your days off. Where this situation works great for us as a couple is we have the advantage that one of us can be around for the kids while the other works. In our case that was me. I ended up working at a local pub, which I had a lot of fun at and was casual enough that I could still help out with the kids. If you are solo you may still be able to work a weekend or evening job to top up funds as long as it doesn’t interfere with the family’s schedule so it is a great way to save to continue travelling.
We found Claire and Josh by simply putting up an ad with a bit about ourselves on a facebook group for connecting au pairs and families. They messaged us early on in the trip and seemed to be just putting feelers out for lining up someone in the future so it was a pleasant surprise when, during our farm work, they messaged again looking for a more definite date. It seemed like fate that every time we were wondering where to turn next on our trip a message from them came through solving all our problems. They were friendly and open about themselves and their family and from the beginning it felt like the right fit.
I remember driving to Tocumwal feeling slightly nervous at how I would be around kids. I love kids but I had never been solely responsible for one before. I had no doubt I would have fun with them, it was the taking care of them, the practical stuff, knowing what was wrong and right for that age and being able to tell them no from time to time or calm a tantrum down that I was nervous about. Joey had my back though and I would soon discover that you figure out a lot of that as you go along; things kind of just fell into place and where I didn’t know what to do or how to handle something Joey could help.
On our first day we arrived early evening and got to meet the kids as they were getting ready for bed. We would be looking after Claire and Josh’s three children, Eliza (7 years old), Lachy (6 years old) and Lincoln (4 years old). Three would be a handful at times but was also where working as a couple meant we could tag team who we looked after or even take a break if it got a bit much. On that first night though I felt thrown in the deep end as I ended up reading the three kids multiple stories as Eliza climbed on my back hugging me. At least they seemed to like me straight away!
And I liked them straight away. Eliza is a typical girly girl and loves all things make-up and hair and also enjoys bossing her younger brothers around. Lachy practically lives outside, comes home with bugs in his bag he collected from school and loves David Attenborough and animal facts. We bonded over dinosaur knowledge too as he reminds me a little of myself when I was younger. Linc loves paw patrol, fire trucks and police cars. He is a strong willed little guy but he’s also easy to get laughing.
Being a part of family life meant routine, something we hadn’t experienced much on the trip so far, so rather than take you through every normal day I thought it would be nice to share my favourite memories of our time in Tocumwal with the family.
- Getting cake and birthday hats for each of our birthdays, all a part of being made to feel welcome.
- Also getting to celebrate Lachy’s and Josh’s birthdays too!
- Plus helping Claire to decorate the cake!
- Blasting music and dancing with Eliza, being silly to make her laugh or trying out different moves.
- Epic nerf gun battles!
- Linc telling Joey he had shot his girlfriend after I played dead from a nerf gun bullet then, after Joey saying he would need to find a new girlfriend, Linc reassuring him that he was “Just tricking you, Joey.”
- Taking the kids to the local pool and playing mermaid games – no one ever wanted to get out at the end of the day, including me!
- Getting to meet a couple of previous au pairs who came back for a visit, sharing travel tips and ending up sitting under the verandah enjoying the rain and lightning during a massive storm.
- Getting a job at a local pub and getting to meet new people and join a friendly team. The pub had just reopened under new management so it was also a great experience to see it grow and develop over the time I was there.
- Beach days by the Murray river, floating in the cool water and sun-baking on the sand.
- Drawing dinosaurs with Lachy and always being amazed at how many facts he knew.
- Coming home from work to find them watching Dr Dolittle and finding the guinea pig dancing and singing hilarious, loving the fact I knew it and did the dance too.
- Joey shouting out hello to every little thing we passed, just being silly but making the kids squeal with laughter.
- Not being able to walk out the door to work without the kids running at me with open arms, wanting hugs.
- Visiting Richglen, a beautiful cafe that also sells homemade olive oil, jams, chutneys, salad dressings and all sorts. I took full advantage of as many taste testers as I could and we lost track of time enjoying a cold drink in the garden full of flowers, herbs and sculptures made of recycled things.
- Taking walks through the bush.
- Making ice lollies out of fresh squeezed orange juice and laughing as we tried to get a selfie altogether eating them but the kids had different ideas.
- Building Lego creations with Linc.
- Reading with them all, helping Lachy progress with his school reading and especially reading bedtime stories. I even made up their own story about Princess Eliza and her two brothers and the adventures they got up to, which they loved!
- Taking the kids to pick out an item each to donate to the firefighters to help in anyway we could while the bushfire crisis was ongoing.
- Baking cookies, cakes and making a ginger bread house, which always resulted in mostly trying to make sure most of the icing went on the cakes and not in their
- Browsing the local market when it came to town, resisting stocking up on lots of homemade goodies and cheap books!
- Helping Elfis the Christmas elf cause mischief around the house and seeing how excited the kids were to check out his latest prank.
- Being a part of these three amazing kids lives even for a short amount of time, getting to see them through the end of one school term and the beginning of another, having the summer to go on adventures and have lots of fun and joining in the excitement of Christmas. It has been an experience I will never forget and was more special than any job I could have imagined doing here in Australia.
P.S. I would like to say Linc was super sad we were leaving but I think he was more grumpy about having a photo taken! Bless him!