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Jacqueline Maersch - EurAupair Au Pair of the Year 2015
EurAupair Au Pair of the Year 2015 – Jacqueline Märsch from Germany
The first week went by so fast, everything was a blur. I just knew I was in New York City, everything was like a dream. “Am I really in the States or am I just dreaming?” I walked down the stairs at the airport in Washington D.C. and there was my new family. I was really excited, but also very exhausted and tired. New York and the jetlag did their work on me. I was warmly welcomed by everyone, everyone except from my 2 year old. She was crying and screaming the whole time. My first thought was, “OMG, what am I doing here? Was it the right decision to go to the US? To choose this family?” And then my 4 year old took my hand, looked me in the eye and said: “Don’t worry I’ll show you the way. Just come with me!” He didn’t let go of my hand until we were next to the car. That was the last moment I was scared that I took the wrong path. That was the moment I knew that I was in the right place, with the right family. I was right where I belong. It was fate that we ended up together.
I can’t believe that all that was 17 months ago. Wow! 17 months of joy, happiness, love, friendship, and new experiences, but also 17 months of learning, challenges, and work.
The first challenge I had to master was my oldest boy Erik. Erik is not like any other 7 year old boy. He can be the nicest and loveliest older brother in the whole world, but only when he wants to. He has a mild form of autism so it was a real challenge for me to understand him and his nature, to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing and when he’s doing it. We had a hard time in the beginning and just a few months ago again, too. We have days he just loves me and cuddles with me and shows me that he loves me. But there are also other days he tells me that he hates me and wants me gone for good; he even threw away my toothbrush. My Host Mom Kelly really helped me through that time. She sat down with me and talked with me about it and explained everything to me so I understood why he did it and what’s behind it. I love him and I know he feels the same about me, but at times, it has been hard to see beyond his challenging behavior. But we have worked through it and are now closer than before. I even learned things about myself I didn’t know about before. Now I know that I have a lot more patience with kids than I had expected, that every outburst of a kid has a meaning behind it and that with patience and love you can understand it and help the kid through it.
It was also very hard for me when I first arrived to accept that my friends and family back in Germany are moving forward with their lives even when I’m not there. It was most difficult in the beginning when four of my friends announced their engagements shortly after I arrived and I learned that they would hold their weddings while I was still in the US. Three other friends had babies, one of whom is my godson. It sometimes feels heart wrenching to see videos of first steps or first words and not be able to kiss and cuddle them. But I have fun sending packages with toys and clothes from the US. Through all that I learned even when one door is closing another one opens. Maybe I didn’t see the first steps of my godson, but I saw the first day of Kindergarten for Max, the first time Milly used the potty all by herself, and the first time Erik played soccer. I know I made sacrifices, like all the other Au Pairs, but in the end I can say that it was worth it because I will have my family, godsons, and friends the rest of my life, and I added five more wonderful people to my life forever– the Gerstenbergs.
Towards the end of my first year, I felt that my English was stable enough to join a volunteer fire department. Since I’m a volunteer fire fighter in Germany it was my wish from the beginning, and we eventually found a fire department I was able to join. Before I was able to ride the ambulance, I had to do five different classes, as well as learn the vocabulary and location of all the equipment in the ambulance. That was a lot of work and I spent hours of hours on learning since at that point I didn’t even know the word fire extinguisher. I had to learn it in German first and then translate it into English, which made it even more time intensive. I was really scared, especially before the tests at the end of each class, but I managed every single one. I have been never more proud of myself than when I passed every single class and I appreciate my host family so much for giving me the flexibility and support to accomplish this goal around my taking care of the kids.
But despite all these challenges, and even a few failures, I can honestly say that I would do it all over again, exactly the same way, with exactly the same amazing family. I have overcome these challenges not only through my own perseverance and determination, but also because of the dedication of a terrific host family, incredible friends, and the best EurAupair Community Counselor I could wish for – Kelley Land. She has played a large role in my American life with her endless love, patience, and never-ending ideas for new meetings. She simply rocks!
The biggest lesson I’ve learned since becoming an au pair is that with patience and hard work I can do anything I put my mind to. I also learned that true friendship can endorse great distance even on a longer time. Those challenges have helped me become a better Au Pair. They trained me to be a better mom in the future, and taught me about myself. I have learned and grown through this exchange program. I’m going to take back to Germany all these amazing things I learned about myself and about life. Because of my amazing host family, and fabulous friends I’m going back to Germany as a better version of myself.
Being an au pair is more than just a job or providing good child care for a family, it’s learning about yourself, what you can do and how you can grow, returning home as a different person because of all you’ve experienced. I’m proud to say that my heart will never again be whole because it will forever be in two places – America and Germany. Some may think that sounds sad, but that’s what it means to have more than one home. Springfield, Virginia will always be part of my life, the city where I changed the most and helped me to become a better version of myself. I’ve learned incredible things, found a new loving family and felt the true and pure love of “my” children.