What Foreign Au Pairs REALLY Think of British Parents
By David Wilkes in The Daily Mail
When the au pair greets your demands with a shy smile, you may think it is a sign of deference to a respected working mother with a fantastically busy life.
If so, then think again, for behind that facade, she's probably pondering just what a slothful, selfish and bad parent you really are, according to a study.
Researchers claim that au pairs generally feel any family that chooses to have one 'must, by definition, be either lazy, or lack proper care and consideration for children and for people in general'.
And as for your husband - well, in her eyes he's more than likely a sleazy sexual predator who will try to get her into bed the minute your back is turned.
One au pair, called Petra, was told by the mother of the house where she worked that 'She knew what Slovak women were like, and what her husband was like'. A few weeks later the father told Petra he would be waiting for her - in the Jacuzzi. The au pair quit soon after.
Other au pairs told the researchers they were asked to clear up sex toys and lingerie in their hosts' bedrooms. 'These people have no shame and behave as swines,' said one.
The far from flattering view foreign au pairs working in Britain have of their middle-class employers is revealed in the first in-depth academic study on the subject.
Authors Daniel Miller, professor of anthropology at University College London, and Zuzana Burikova, an ethnologist at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, have just published their book, Au Pair, after a year's intensive research. Dr Burikova interviewed 50 au pairs working in London who, because some changed households, represented 86 host families.
All the au pairs were from Dr Burikova's native land of Slovakia, chosen for ease of her speaking to them and because Slovaks form one of the largest groups of the 90,000 au pairs thought to be working in Britain.
The employees - whose names have been changed to preserve their anonymity as have those of their employers - were found to have a generally dim view of women who think they can 'have it all' by juggling the demands of work and family.
Jarmila, employed by a mother who worked from home selling antiques on eBay, 'was particularly shocked when the mother just seemed to be playing games on the computer and failing to take an opportunity to be with her child'.
Meanwhile, Marika was 'horrified when she was regularly employed as a babysitter ... so that the couple could stay at home and watch TV together without interference.'
WHAT THE AU PAIR REALLY THINKS:
'An English mother has three wonderful children ... she works only from home ... fortunately she has an au pair because to spread butter on toast for all three, to make their beds, defrost their ready-made food for dinner, to vacuum, iron, sweep the floor, this all would be really, really too much for an English mother'
'I'm surprised that children and parents do not eat the same food, and that parents seem to buy healthy food like vegetables and fish for themselves, and not for their children. Meals should be freshly made, as my own mother used to make them'
'HAVE IT ALL' MUMS
'English mothers are constantly talking about quality time and feeling guilty if they were not actually reading to or directly playing with the children. Yet in most cases it was pretty clear they really did mean quality time rather than quantity time, given that it occupied such a short part of the day'
'I was on my own, reading a book. Suddenly the door opened and there was the man of the house, standing only in his underwear. I shouted and he only asked whether he had scared me'
'The British like TV programmes by experts telling them how to keep their home, since they don't know how to do it themselves. This is why they need au pairs'
'SLOW' ENGLISH WOMEN
'Au pairs constantly refer to the slowness of English women. One said it took as much time for her host mother to prepare carrots as it does for her to clean the whole house'