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Karina Kolbe - EurAupair Au Pair of the Year 2017

EurAupair Au Pair of the Year 2017 – Karina Kolbe from Germany

It's January, just a few weeks into the new year. "New year, new me", they say. 

Let's start where it all began. When I applied for becoming an au pair, I just finished my apprenticeship to become a kindergarten teacher. I had tons of experience in a daycare, but not so much of babysitting. After my time in the daycare I took a job as a vacation live-in babysitter, which is comparable to the au pair life, just on short terms. To make it short, it made me think twice if I still want to become an au pair. I wanted to know as much as possible about the potential host family, just to give a feeling for their lifestyle and style of parenting. After the skype interview with Amy, Luke and Mavis I was really positive that we'd be a good match. Usually I'm a person who needs some time to think about such a big decision but I just wanted to give them my ok. I had a few other interviews scheduled, so I couldn't make the decision right away, even though I just wanted to say yes! Then finally I was done with all the other interviews and my opinion didn't change at all. This family it should be. Minnesota, 8 inches of snow and wind-chill it should be. 

When I arrived in January it was the coldest I've ever been. It's been far below freezing, but everyone was still smiling. How can that be? The three of them picked me up at the airport. I was nervous, so nervous I thought I wouldn't recognize them. Mavis made some pictures for me, I still wasn't used to the time difference and went to bed early. To be honest, the first few weeks it was weird to live with almost strangers. Of course we had contact before my arrival, we sent photos and emails about our lives, Christmas and New Year’s wishes, but due to my bad experiences before as a temporary live-in babysitter, I was very shy and it was awkward to make small talk. 

It took a while to get used to our different schedules and personalities. We all had to figure out what works best for us, to not block the bathroom when someone has to get ready for work or to make sure nobody needs the car, so I could take it. The first weeks have been tough. Knowing no one, and mostly staying at home because of course it was still freezing cold, kind of helped us to get to know each other better. Amy and Luke were always helpful, to give me advice what to do on the weekends and where to go out. We even went to the gym together every now and then which helped me to make contacts outside of my home.

In February, just a little bit more than a month here, we went on vacation to Mexico. Finally some sun, and temperatures above freezing! I was skeptical about the vacation because we didn't plan much of a work schedule for those weeks, but it worked out just fine! We made many things together and mostly at night I was working while Amy and Luke got some time for themselves and I got some time during the day to do something I wanted to do as well. 

After Mexico, we didn't have to plan too much anymore. We got used to each other's personalities and schedules, it didn't feel like living with my bosses anymore, it felt more like family and that's how we work, too.

Whenever we make our schedule for the month, Amy, Luke and I come together to talk about any upcoming events, where we need to be off. I plan as much as possible with Mavis, but also consider that she wants to play at home with her toys. So sometimes we have days where we play Barbies for 7 hours nonstop or we run around the house and play "fire, water, storm". And other days we go swimming, go to the zoo with extra sparkly clothes for the penguins, or have a play-date.

I can't describe how happy I am here. It feels so good to know, that my way of 'parenting' is appreciated by Amy and Luke, even though we're quite different. It hasn't always been easy. We had weeks and months where we all had to think about ways to handle situations, but we found a way and I am very happy that Amy and Luke are always supportive of my ideas, but also try to help me, when it got tough.

The following months passed so fast I couldn't believe it. We celebrated Easter, we went to the May Day parade and had a great 4th of July. We didn't only make things together, I also made my own experiences. I went on a 15 hour road trip to a festival in Tennessee, went to Duluth with friends, and had probably the best Halloween month ever. 

In October, my mum came to visit me. It was a great time to connect both of my families and Mavis loved to show my mum everything, so my mum joined me for work on some days. Amy and Luke have been great hosts and helped me to make my mum come to visit us. We went out a couple of times or we ate all together which isn't always easy because of our busy schedules.

When the time came to decide if I extend or if I go, it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I never was a person who settles down, I'm more of a person who can't wait to travel again and see other places, but i felt that I just wasn't ready to leave yet. 

Nobody tells you that being an au pair also means, it's going to break your heart. Even though I made the decision to extend for 9 months, it just means that I have a little bit more time with my American family before its time to say goodbye. Right now, none of us wants to think about this. For sure it's no Good-bye forever, but still it's going to be hard, to not see Mavis every day, dancing around and making a party of everything she does. To not make her waffles in the morning and to not trying to find toys that magically disappear in the endless dimensions of her room. To not see her growing as I do now. But until then, we'll make the best of it. We'll have dance parties for putting on clothes, we'll jump in the pool and have sing-a-longs in the car to the radio, let the Barbies and baby dolls have dance parties too, cook delicious plastic food in her kitchen, cook delicious real food (she's literally better at cracking eggs than I) and with pleasure find the smallest itsy bitsy toy in the endless dimensions of her room.

I've changed a lot during my time here. I was always open-minded but mostly too shy to talk to many people. I made tons of friends now, friends from all over the world.

I guess there's something to the saying 'New year, new me'. I am incredibly happy and thankful for this experience and couldn't have asked for a better family.

Read Karina's host family's experience here!

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