Working as an au pair has its attractions, but there are still rules.
By Joanna Jones
I was still seventeen when I finished my ‘Leaving Certificate’ in Ireland, having been one of the younger ones in my year. Rather than go straight to University, where I had enough points for the course I wanted to take in Biology, I decided to take a year out as a family friend (actually a second cousin of my mother) in the US needed an au-pair for the year and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
Thus in July I found myself swapping the delights of North Dublin for the warmth of Johns Creek, a sort of well-to-do suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, in the southern US. The Callaghan family I was with was fairly well off and had four children: a baby girl (about twelve months when I arrived) and three boys aged seven, five and three.
The father, David, was a civil engineer, while the mother, Frances, was an architect. She was planning to go back to work part time, so I was to look after the girl three days a week, and then generally help out on two other days.
The family were all really friendly and soon I felt very much at home. The baby girl was really sweet, just starting to walk and talk so it was never dull. I suddenly also had a car, which I could pick up the boys from kindergarten and school. To start with the boys were of course a bit resentful and difficult, but quickly accepted me as a sort of big cousin in the family.
I had plenty of time off and I was introduced to some girls at the local high school, which gave me plenty of opportunities to socialise. I found myself as a surrogate member of their social scene meeting up in the evenings and weekends.
The “deal” I had with David and Frances as I called them was that I had a formal curfew of 11 pm if I was on duty the next day. There were exceptions to that – for example I rapidly became a popular babysitter for their friends, and it was good supplemental money for me. On those nights I would come back whenever I was finished. If the following day was off then they were pretty relaxed, within reason, as long as they had a rough idea when I was due back.
It was a babysitting job that indirectly led to me finding that all between Frances and David was not what it seemed. I was sitting for some neighbours a couple of doors away on a Thursday night. They were not due back till around 1 am, but at 10 pm the car pulled up. It was clear that the mother had become unwell at the party and once they had reassured me there was nothing I could do I ran across the road back ‘home’.
It was as I opened the front door that I heard a loud slap and then a muffled shout from Frances, coming from their bedroom. I paused, not sure what was going on. There was another slap and screech. Suddenly I was very scared to go further. Another slap. By now I worked out that Frances was being hit, and hit hard, presumably by David.
Half of me wanted to charge upstairs and stop him, but the other half was in fear. I also could not understand it. They both seemed happy with each other and David always seemed a reasonable, kind guy.
Eventually discretion won and I slipped out, sat on the veranda and waited. In the night quiet I could just hear occasional noises, usually very muffled wails from Frances, as the ‘beating’ went on in fits and starts (there were a couple of pauses of five minutes or so, then slow regular slaps, and a couple of flurries of smacks all close together) for about another twenty minutes. As a result I waited an extra twenty to ensure it was all over before finally letting myself in again (quite noisily) and going to my room.
I called: “I’m back. They came home early as Mrs Daly was not feeling so good.” to their shut bedroom door on my way past, receiving an acknowledging call from David on the way past.
The following morning, Friday, Frances was at home. After taking the kids to school and kindergarten I was helping around the house while keeping more than half an eye on little Tracy toddling around the house. We were having our usual morning coffee together when she said: “You’re very quiet this morning. Anything the matter?”
I was flustered and immediately said: “No,” then after a minute changed it to: “Yes”. We had got on well together and talked openly on most things so I took the plunge.
“Last night I got home at about quarter to eleven.” I started staring at my mug.
“Yes.” She said questioningly.
I looked her in the eye and continued, probably rather too bluntly: “Actually Mr and Mrs Daly got home at ten. I was at the front door around then. Is David beating you?”
I watched the shock of the bombshell sink in, and she stood and walked over to the window. Eventually she turned around and sat down. I noticed as I had earlier that she did so a little more slowly than normal.
“We were hoping to keep that secret from you. However…” She started, then paused. Her face was already flushed as if she were blushing with embarrassment. She took a very deep breath and then said: “Okay, David spanks me. I would not call it beating, as it is consensual and it is only my bottom that is involved.”
I just looked confused. The difference to me between being ‘spanked’ and being ‘beaten’ seemed rather semantic to me. And, what did she mean by ‘only’ her bottom – was that not enough!?
She continued blushing redder and redder as she did so, “Maybe I should say that I am happy that he spanks me, perhaps even want him to spank me.”
More and more confused, I could not imagine ‘wanting’ to be spanked.
“Don’t get me wrong. I actually hate the spanking itself, but if I do something we both agreed was wrong then I find it an emotional release to take the punishment and have it over with.”
I nodded but in truth I did not really understand.
“Look,” she said. “I am sure you find this strange but can you trust me that he would never spank me unless I agreed in advance that I deserved it and second he has never hit me in anger. You may find this strange but I love David more because he does it, rather than less.”
“Okay.” I said eventually.
Frances still felt the need to reassure me. “David is a good husband, what he is doing I promise you is what I want.”
I just nodded and with that she moved the conversation to other things.
Frances must have told David as a few days later he spoke to me and said pretty much that it was ‘consensual’ and asked though that I would keep it to myself. After some thought I said as long as it was something they were both happy with then I would respect that.
He asked if I had any questions and, after I looked uncertain and he encouraged me, I asked the one thing that had been nagging at me. Does their regime work both ways.
He took a long time before answering. “I don’t feel the need to be punished in the way Frances does. So in practice no. However,” he continued. “If she felt I had done something really stupid and felt I deserved it, then I don’t think I would say no, but it has not happened yet.”
I suspect that as I knew, things became easier for them. On a couple of occasions I took the kids to the playpark on a Saturday and I suspect the opportunity of the empty house was put to good use, especially given some of the little signs that one could see once one knew what to look for.
It would be fair to say it was the unspoken secret that every few weeks David took her hairbrush and/or his belt to his wife’s backside, at more or less her tacit request.
It was not until around Christmas that things affected me. In general we had a good relationship, and Frances and I ironed out difficulties as we went along. However, unlike a job, one is living in the home so there is not the same potential to switch off.
In early November I got a boyfriend. He was a bit of a ‘jock’, fun but rather full of himself and a bit spoilt. It was clear David and Frances did not really approve of him, but it was difficult for them to say anything. I had by this point turned eighteen and I was not their daughter in any case.
However, I did need to play by their rules, and on two mid-week dates in a row he brought me back after my agreed 11 pm curfew. On both occasions I had asked him to take me home earlier and there were delays. First time was around 10 minutes and only a gentle “be more careful” was said. The second time was nearer midnight, and both of them were furious and perceptibly worried for me.
The following day Frances laid it on the line, stick to the rules or accept sanctions. We had a discussion and eventually a “grounding” formula was reached. I apologised again.
I told my boyfriend, Jack, that he needed to get me home at the agreed time, but I don’t think it sank in. The very next date was to a party and I could not get him to take me home – he always insisted on driving me – I had agreed a time of 1 am with David and Frances and around 1.30 I gave up, told him he was dumped, phoned for a taxi and went outside to wait. I should have phoned the Callaghan’s too but the cab company said ten minutes and it was only a ten minute drive. I waited outside for an hour before a police car pulled up. Apparently David had phoned the party sometime after 2 am and panicked when told I had left. He had called the police in his worry and was now driving the route looking for me. The officers were very kind and gave me a lift home.
Having got the story from the police I was dreading getting in, and true enough Frances was in that state between delight I was safe and fury at what had happened. The fact that I had been drinking at the party (not much but enough to smell it on my breath) and that had clearly clouded my judgment did not help, especially given the age restrictions in the US.
David returned from his search about 20 minutes later. I could not apologise enough, but both of them were clearly extremely upset. Eventually we agreed to discuss it in the morning. I went to bed feeling miserable.
I knew, based on the rules I had agreed with them, I was going to be effectively grounded for the Christmas season – a terrible time to get that sanction. I accepted I had been stupid and deserved to be punished but desperately wanted to go to the various parties I had been invited to, not including those of my now ex-boyfriend of course.
As I lay awake at night feeling both guilty and terrible about myself I thought of Frances and her spankings. As the morning approached more and more I felt perhaps that is what I deserved for being so stupid.
Eventually I got up, found a paper and pen, and wrote a letter. I wrote it to Frances as I could not bring myself to say directly, even on paper, what I felt to David. I held nothing back in telling her how sorry I was and how awful I felt at the worry I had put both David and her to. I said I fully accepted responsibility and that I deserved the three week grounding. However, I asked that she consider giving me a spanking instead. At seven in the morning I put it in an envelope and put it under mug on the breakfast table, and went to bed.
I meant to sleep for just an hour or so, but it was nearer 11 a.m. when I arrived in the kitchen. David had apparently taken the kids out to the park and planned to go on to MacDonalds with them for lunch.
We talked about nothing, well breakfast/brunch for a while, before Frances asked about last night. She put the folded letter on the table as she did so.
I won’t go into the detailed discussion but I basically tearfully explained what had happened and apologised again.
She then asked about the letter. I very nervously explained my feelings, told her I knew it would be very sore, but felt I knew I deserved it given all the worry I had put them to. I also admitted that the Christmas party season was a motivator, but did point out this was my first Christmas away from my family and wanted to have the ability to experience all the facets of that. Eventually I talked myself out.
She looked at me a very long time before telling me that she had talked to David. David was not happy as he was not sure I really understood how seriously he took the incident – they were my sponsors and responsible for me in America was the key point. He eventually had agreed, but only after Frances had assured him that she was certain I would not break curfew anytime during the Christmas period.
I felt the first chill at this point as I realised I really was going to get spanked, and then a second as I also realised that Frances was going out on a limb on this.
Suddenly she said: “Shall we get it over with.”
Shock hit me. No time to prepare mentally. I froze.
“Trust me, it is not going to get any easier if we wait.” She continued.
Eventually I nodded. My throat suddenly felt very dry.
“Okay. I am going to give you exactly what I think I would deserve if I were in your position, taking into account it is the first time, and you are I believe truly sorry. First go up to your room and strip to your top and panties. Then, leave your door open and wait for me in the room corner with your nose to the wall and think about what is going to happen and why.”
I replied: “Yes, Miss,” before slowly making my way upstairs. I had never called her that before but it seemed natural for the moment.
After a brief detour to the bathroom I did as I was told. I was acutely self conscious as I unbuttoned and slid the jeans down that I had only put on half an hour previously.
All too soon I was ready, and selecting the only clear corner in the room, faced it and waited.
It was nerve racking as my body anticipated what was coming. Never having been spanked as a child, and being just too young to have experienced ‘the leather’ at school (more an issue for boys in any case) I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was I had let Frances and David down, and now was going to pay the price.
It must have been half an hour before Frances arrived. I turned as she came in but brusquely was told to get back in position.
She came up behind me and I suddenly felt my rather bright pink knickers disappear from my rear, landing around my ankles. I gasped.
Lifting my feet in turn she removed them completely and placed then on my folded jeans. I now felt very, very vulnerable.
I heard her adjusting things and then leave the room. When she came back the order came. “Turn around!”
I gulped. First my duvet was now folded in four in the middle of the bed. Second she had two implements in her hand – a fairly small wooden hairbrush and a thick piece of leather. It might have been a belt to her, but it was thick and ‘only’ 18 inches long. To me it looked very much like “the leather” my father described the Christian Brothers using when he was a schoolboy.
I was soon in the position. Bare bottom in the air over my duvet, top tugged out of the way. At her suggestion I buried my face in my pillow with my hands holding it in place.
I felt the cold wood of the brush rubbing the bare cheeks of my buttocks. Then…
I gasped as the pain hit.
Splat! Splat! Splat!….
My mind went into overdrive as the blows rained down hard.
It was not long before I was grunting and gasping. Only a little longer and they were screams and wails. The blows came thick and fast and all my pleas and begging fell on deaf ears as Frances turned every inch of my butt (as she would call it) and thigh tops bright red. Throughout she lectured me on how much David and her had worried last night and, when I wriggled, to keep still if I did not want more.
Eventually she stopped and waited for maybe ten minutes as I calmed down.
“How old are you Anne?” She suddenly asked.
“Eighteen,” I replied.
“Right I am going to divide that by three and give you six with the strap to finish. Be thankful you’re not thirty-five like me!”
I gripped the pillow tighter as she laid it on my already very sore rear.
I screamed – it was agony. I could not imagine the effect that could have on a schoolkid’s hands in my father’s day.
She was taking her time but I was already crying again.
By the time all six had been given I was indeed bawling like a baby and all I could say was how sorry I was. After a few words on how well I’d taken my spanking in not moving she left me to calm down, suggesting I clean myself up before lunch.
After a shower I went down and apologised again and thanked her for not grounding me. I was still emotionally a wreck and found myself for the first time giving her a hug, more as a daughter than anything else.
After an apology also to David on his return, the incident was never mentioned again and I was careful to ensure Frances’ trust in me over Christmas was not misplaced.
I would like to say that was the only spanking I got, but that would be a lie. I found that something had awakened in me. I shared Frances’s ‘need’. As a result if I did something wrong then I got, at first at my request but later also at Frances’ suggestion, a number of bottom blisterings when the boys were at kindergarten/school, David at work and the baby girl was having her nap.
Spanking me also, I think, awakened something in her that certainly was not welcome in David’s life. He had a bad habit of coming home late when her parents came across. One evening after they had gone I heard her in their bedroom talking loudly as she laid it on the line with him. The next day when I came back from taking the kids to the park, at her request, it was clear David despite showering had red eyes, and was having difficulty sitting comfortably.
He was never late for a meal with his in-laws again during the remainder of my year in Georgia!
As for me I had a great year, including a fantastic four week summer trip with them in an “RV” (Camper Van to me) travelling to the west including the Grand Canyon near the end. However, I also of course acquired a life-changing habit that fortunately now is satisfied by a very understanding husband.