Oct 26th, 2020, 02:00 PM

Adventures in (Parisian) Babysitting

By Thalia Weissman
Image Credit: "Man Punishes Daughter By Offering Free Babysitting" by thedailyenglishshow is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The AUP Babysitter’s Club

Living in our little AUP anglosphere, it can be easy to forget we are in a French world. So when, like many college students, we look for a job, it can be limiting. I would say the majority (at one point, myself included) of the student body who have part time jobs are babysitters. As a babysitter you have a wide range of experiences to baking cakes together to screaming at each other in different languages. Okay, maybe not the last one, but something similar. This article is just a few anecdotes from babysitters from AUP. 

Image Credit: "Dawn and the Impossible Three" by Vernon Barford School Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I'll start with myself. I arrived back to Paris August 1st, and since classes didn't start until September 23rd I needed something to kill time with. I thought I could work at a bookshop, but that fell through, so I ended up becoming a babysitter. I showed up to meet the family and was immediately surprised to find not two but three boys (the classified advertisement said I would be watching two). Well, I wanted the pocket money so I thought why not? It was a struggle. I found out immediately that none of the boys spoke much English. The oldest one (11) knew enough to say "how are you" and "I am good". To get by day to day was fine but there were a couple of instances that did not go well. One night, I fed them dinner, a normal night, then they decided to eat yogurt after dinner like a dessert, so I thought okay whatever. Then the littlest one (6) grabs sugar and I say no. The little one and middle one (9) tried to convince me it was fine. I tell him he's lying to me, and the little one claims he's not. A real back and forth of yes sugar no sugar. Eventually it became yes sugar but I thought it was way too much so I dumped some out. It was chaos and mutiny! I later learned that the French put sugar on yogurt. In the United States that's unheard of so I thought he was taking advantage of the fact I am not fluent in French and just the babysitter. Oh la la (as the French say), it was an extreme night of culture clash and tears (by me, not the six year old). 

Ria Phi spent her summer here in Paris babysitting . Like me and many others Ria thought babysitting would be the perfect way to learn French and make some money in the process. Ria was watching the son (age 5) of a family friend. That's a "little kid," as in needs a lot of assistance, so Ria became a bit protective over him. She coddled him and tended to him with fondness. Like all mothers, this boy's mother watched Ria's and the son's interactions. So, one day the three of them are together when the boy falls and Ria immediately rushes to him to make sure he is okay. One would think that the boy's mother would delight at the sight of her babysitter being attentive to her son, but her reaction was almost the opposite. She told Ria to not rush to him like that and that she "babied" him too much. Ria didn't understand, the little kid was five, not a super independent age. But Ria learned that the French try to teach their kids immense independence at a young age. Being from the Philippines, Ria has not heard of letting a five year old be fully independent and on their own. Just like me, Ria experienced a culture clash in child care.

Image Credit: "Powerpuff Girls evil mirror trouble" by jawavs is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Savvy Newton had been babysitting since she was 11, so it just made sense for her. She loved seeing kids, and it was a nice break from the stress of life and school. While Savvy babysat in France she watched three girls, the older two not needing her much. The younger one, the only one she actually needed to take care of, was like a little French teacher for Savvy. One day Savvy was trying to explain a hairstyle, and since in French class in the U.S. they don't teach you that set of vocabulary, she only understood what the little girl meant via a Barbie doll. One day the little girl decided to teach Savvy by having Savvy read (not uncommon in a classroom) a book the girl had memorized, and then would proceed to correct Savvy's French every step of the way. As with Ria, she was a bit shocked by the independence of French children. The older two were 10 and 12 and they would use the oven without parental supervision. One night the older girls decided to make a chocolate cake and just did it. At 10 neither Savvy nor I would have done that without our parents present. Also, since French children are so independent at age 10 and 12 they are allowed to walk home without parental supervision, which is a lot more uncommon of in the United States.

Lastly I interviewed Tori Callelo, also an American. Unlike, Ria, Savvy, and I, who do it as an after school job (or at least I used to until I quit), Tori is a full time au pair and a part time graduate student. She has been babysitting since she was 12 years old and did it all throughout college. Then, on her travels, she found a former au pair of her current family and it just fell into place. Tori, like myself, found the French diet quite shocking. It was her first breakfast with the kids when they decided to eat things like bread with Nutella as a fully balanced meal. She thought since she didn't speak French that it was them taking advantage of the fact she was the "clueless American girl" but little did they know she had the mom on speed dial. Their mother assured her that this was not out of the ordinary and that chocolate for breakfast is common. Not just chocolate on bread, but cereal with chocolate milk and Nesquick on top is a Parisian mother-approved diet. In the United States breakfast is an important meal and one you don't typically eat sweets with. 

No matter where you come from, babysitting in a foreign country is difficult. The culture is different, the language may be different, and child care to begin with isn't easy. Collectively we shared some culture shocks and learned a French phrase or two. If you are a student at AUP and looking for an after school job babysitting is definitely one of the more rewarding ones. On the AUP website you can go to "my AUP" and under "Tools" should be classified ads, that's how I got my job. Bon courage to those of you who still babysit!