I was meant to au pair in Italy in March, but due to there being a family emergency on my host family’s end, a delay in my apprenticeship, and an outbreak of coronavirus- that was put on pause until May this year.
I am so excited to go out and experience this. I want to travel and learn as much as I can and make my way through my long list of countries to visit while I’m still young and free enough to do so without hassle.
I suppose it’s quite a good thing that my trip got postponed. The universe always knows what she’s doing, I guess.
I had a job fall into my lap where I would nanny for a girl every evening during the week. From the first moment I met with her and her mother to discuss the ‘terms’ of my nannying- I knew I would learn a lot from this experience.
I have my fair share of experience with kids. I am one of ten in a very messy and complex family, I have a niece and nephews, I have a younger foster sister who has additional needs- and I have babysat before.
But that’s all sort of within my own bubble.
One of the reasons I am so set on travelling and being immersed in different cultures is so that I can draw on different perspectives and choose all the ones which resonate best with me to use in my own life.
I want to see the way people raise their children in accordance with their beliefs. I want to see how people’s relationships with food shape their life. I want to see how people’s dedication to their faith shapes them and impacts their mental state. I want to start again of my own will.
The girl I nanny for is hindu, the food I cook is Indian, I help her study for boarding school exams, she doesn’t own a TV. She is grade 5 in ballet, does a different after school club every night, she plays violin, guitar and piano- and I am learning SO much from her. In the respect of guitar chords, verbal reasoning and general philosophy.
The first thing that struck me was her incentive to succeed.
It fascinated me. I would love to have an inspirational influence on my children the way her parents have inspired her.
From what I can see, the parenting is stern yet loving.
I expressed an interest in learning the culture when I began nannying so the girls mother lent me a copy of the Thirukkural, which teaches the main values of hindu culture in a series of couplets.
It seems important to these parents that they invest in their children as much as possible. From what I can understand, there is a want to do good in life as people realise that following these virtues brings happiness in life. It’s not like you slave away in the hopes that when you pass you will be rewarded.
Religion and ‘rules’ which can seem strict are in the interest of having a happy life- not answering to someone.
I suppose it’s intrinsic motivation.
When I was 12 I didn’t really care for my future at all. I didn’t think about it. I wanted to pass my exams while they were going on but I didn’t really care too much about the whole thing.
I came home from school, moped about, watched YouTube- and to be honest that was pretty much it.
That’s the case for most 12 year olds here. It’s thought to be ‘freeing’. I’m not saying it’s a good or bad thing to be at either ends of the scale, but I think it’s important for the youth of today to be motivated to be happy. Maybe a little more clued up on how to make themselves happy.
I asked the girl about her motivation today and she said “anything else would bore me. I look to some of my friends and they play video games all day- to me that’s not really living life”.
Her parents work long hours at good jobs. A psychologist and a gynaecologist who has to work in London to keep her Visa.
They have demanding jobs which are charitable. They give and help.
Yet in their absence- they make sure their child is cared for. They would rather be minimalist with a variety of hobbies than live lavishly with little to dedicate themselves to.
This applies with their careers, their belongings, their children and their pets.
They also make sure that they unwind to manage the stress of it all. Her mother does yoga each morning and meditates each evening.
I really like that as an example for how to raise your children. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have the house you want, or live on a tight budget when you have the freedom to spend more- but I do really like the way the priorities of this family are made clear.
The girl knows what’s important.
Something I found interesting was that in hindu culture- they do arranged marriages. So while the girl doesn’t think about her marriage, her life is somewhat revolved around her future and she’s very conscious of it existing.
When I grew up, as previously mentioned- I thought nothing of my future.
Personally, I am glad that I am under no pressure to think about marriage or who I will be with. But I am interested. I wonder if it takes the stress off? If it diminishes the distraction over the girl and helps her concentrate on making the most of her single status (even if she is 12).
Her mother thinks of what will make it easier for her to succeed and become more ‘desirable’- but in a far different way to the way western cultures would do it.
It’s not about beauty pageants or looking unnatural. It’s about soul development, learning virtues, and being a desirable candidate for appealing careers.
Apparently air hostesses are very desirable hindu brides- so it is important to be cultured. But the girl is influenced to better herself in a variety of ways because her talents are what will make her more appealing to mothers of her future husband.
Vedic astrology is also used to determine compatibility of a couple.
I am trying to wrap my head around it but vedic astrology seems far more complex than western- which is my area of expertise.
I asked the girl how she saw her future- and she spoke much the same way I would now at the age of 20 just as she was sat there aged 12.
“I don’t really know what to do. I have so many little hobbies and skills that I struggle to narrow it down to something I can commit to. I want to keep learning though”.
Other things I have noticed is the gratitude her mother has for me. She is very kind. I messed up a dinner one day because I found it difficult getting used to a new way of cooking, so the mother showed me how to use all their food and utensils and left some recipes for me. I think they appreciate my willingness to learn.
That is what I have found so far. I’m gonna keep noting what I like about from each culture just because it seems the right thing to do to make the most of these experiences.