Birthday Gifts for Host Kids: Yes and No

by cv harquail on July 26, 2010

YES

Any au pair with any sensitivity to the host child under her or his care should get that host child something to mark the child’s birthday.

NO

It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be something as simple as a specially-selected yet store bought card with a photo insider. But, no, you Au Pair’s shouldn’t spend much money on a gift for your host kid. Host parents know not to expect au pairs to spend lots of money– we know how much you’re paid, and how much things cost.

It can be heartbreaking for a child (or an au pair) to think the a person who spends so much time with them has somehow forgotten or overlooked them on their special day.

Here as in just about everywhere else, it’s the thought that counts more than anything.

Explains MTR:_il_fullxfull.160021136.jpg

I know that au pairs do not earn a lot of money, but I expect an au pair to acknowledge my child’s birthday with even the smallest and cheapest of gifts. An au pair who knows my child would easily find $10 worth of things in Michael’s that my daughter will be very happy to receive. Our first au pair was with us for 1.5 months when my older daughter’s birthday came. She did not get her anything at all. Not even a card.

Most recent was my younger daughter’s birthday. Au Pair gave her a pillow pet that my daughter was craving, she baked her a cake from scratch (made frosting from scratch too), got her 6 fancy mylar balloons, one for each year of her age. The pillow pet is the most favorite toy now and the balloons are still around the house 1.5 months later, although they are seriously lacking in helium.

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I just want to add, that although our current au pair gave all of us gifts for our birthdays and cards for other holidays and they were all very appreciated, I did make it clear that we, host parents, do not require or need any kids of gifts. She should really spend her money on herself. She did not listen to me.

Has your child ever been super-delighted by a birthday card or gift from your au pair? Or some other special gesture that celebrated the child?

Images: Happy Birthday Banner, by Devany on Etsy

{ 60 comments }

MTR July 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Oh wow, CV, you made me into a post! I am so honored! :)

I just reread what I wrote and want to clarify that I was describing two different au pairs in my comment. It was not a case where one au pair got something for one of my kids and nothing for the other.

PA AP mom July 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I expect that an AP will at least acknowledge my child’s birthday. She would certainly expect us to do something for hers. We make sure she knows that host dad and I do NOT want her to buy us anything.

Our AP took each of our boys out for an AP day out for their birthday. Lunch at their choice of restaurant and one special activity. Oldest chose a movie and younger chose mini-golf.

NewHFinCA July 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I have a situation where my new au pair actually arrives on her birthday! She’s turning 27 (she JUST made the cut, since she will still be 26 upon her arrival at the au pair academy), and I thought that we could take her out to dinner after we pick her up at the airport and get her a small birthday gift (bracelet/earrings/??) to present to her at the meal. I’ve also gotten her a “welcome to your new home” gift of bath items (shampoos, lotions, etc) & cute notepads that will be on her bed when we get home. Do you think this is appropriate? It’s probably not very often that an au pair shows up on her birthday & with this being my first au pair, I want to make it both memorable and a good start to a long, positive relationship.

So far, we’ve had many emails to each other and have been able to Skype a few times. I really like her a lot and want her to feel as welcome as possible.

Thanks!!

DarthaStewart July 26, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I think that’s great. My new au-pair had a birthday two weeks before arrival, and we sent her a small box of goodies. I think that worked out well.

The things my kids have appreciated most have been photo t-shirts with pictures of them with the au-pair on them, videos made by the au-pair, photo albums, and the like.

One au-pair made a pair of footprints on father’s day when it was our second daughter’s first father’s day, and that set of footprints is still in my bathroom in a place of honor 9 years later. (Footprints stamped on a piece of paper)

Simple stuff is awesome!

JBLV July 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm

NewHFinCA, that sounds great. For my AP’s birthday, I got her an Amex gift card. I try to steer away from jewelry only because it can be so personal. Some of the things you may want to consider are:

* Clothes gift cards
* Starbucks gift cards
* T-shirt with the name of your city/university/etc.
* Gift certificate to get a manicure or pedicure

pia aupair July 26, 2010 at 3:43 pm

this is so american. i do not like gift cards because it shows you how much you are worth to somebody. a real gift is picked with thought about what a person might like so i think jewelry is appropriated.
i do also like the tshirt idea!

PA AP mom July 26, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Our AP loves getting gift cards to spend on “American” items. I don’t think it has anything to do with “what you are worth to somebody”, unless it’s a gift card to somewhere an AP wouldn’t usually shop. If it’s to her favorite restaurant, coffee shop, etc, then it’s perfect.

aupair21 July 26, 2010 at 3:56 pm

these are all great ideas! i am fortunate to have a hostmom who knows exactly my taste and i have received both clothes and jewellery over the past years, but i also LOVE giftcards! giftcards are very convenient (especially starbucks!) and in my opinion, not “not personal”, or whatever pia aupair claims. then again, i am happy for anything i get and appreciate the fact that my b-day is recognized -gifts or not.

kat July 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm

i think for a person who you have never met in before its a good idea (eventhough not exactly sure what they are) but otherwise a personal gift is better.

Melissa July 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Although I too am a huge fan of gift cards and have bought them for my APs in the past, I have come to realize that they are an American thing. I try to also get a small gift, such as picture frames or bath/body lotions, along with the gift card, to add a more personalized touch to it.

Chev July 27, 2010 at 12:10 am

I’m a huge fan of giftcards as long as they’re for a place the person you’re buying them for would actually shop. I had my birthday a week after i’d gotten to my HF and my HM took me out for dinner and gave me an Amazon giftcard – i’m a huge reader- This year i got the same present because it was just as right for me now as it was then :D We even went out to the same restaurant except this time my HD and the boys could come too :D

ExAP July 27, 2010 at 10:56 am

Maybe your kids are old enough so they can draw something for the new AP?!

If she’s really nice and a great au pair, there is always Christmas where you can do a bit more for her than you usually would =)

Perfect Host Mom July 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I had this exact experience our first year (turning 27 on the day of arrival). We always buy some note cards w/international stamps, lotion, a Chicago sweatshirt (we live in Chicago and most of our girls have come from warm climates), and we also frame a little photo of her family for her in her bedroom (often au pairs include a family photo as part of their application). In addition, for our arriving birthday au pair, we bought her a bunch of mylar balloons and the kids painted a wooden picture frame for her (personalized with her name and a photo of the kids). We also bought her a small gift from all of us based on some of the things she told us about her interests. I would stray away from jewelry, as I have found from 4 au pairs that is is really hard to choose jewelry, even after a year or two of learning her tastes. I wouldn’t necessarily nix a gift card, although culturally I have found that au pairs sometimes (initially) find gift cards/money to be impersonal gifts. One gift card idea that might be fun would be to buy her movie theater passes. Almost everyone likes to go to the movies, right?

NewHPinCA July 27, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Thank you so much for this idea. I actually have some movie passes that I’ll include, too, and I think that notecards w/the international stamps are a great idea. Did you happen to include everything together for her? I was thinking that I’d give her a b-day gift at dinner and then the “welcome home” package on her bed when she gets to our house.

The kids would love it if she got balloons, too, and will help her find us in the airport. Too bad they’ll end up taking them as their own once she makes it to our house. ;-)

Thanks to everyone for their input on this… I realize I never answered the initial question, though. I do believe that APs should get some sort of gift for the children on their birthdays, but love the non-monetary ideas the best. Photos, cards, sleepovers are all such great, personal ideas.

Perfect Host Mom July 28, 2010 at 10:45 am

We gave the birthday gift separately from the welcome package – just as you suggested. Have fun!

2boys2girls July 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm

For our children’s birthdays our current AP came up with a wonderful idea – she gives them each a “sleep over” certificate to have a sleep over in her room. They watch movies together, eat popcorn, and she tells them bedtime stories. The kids LOVE this as they get to hang out in a room that we don’t usually allow them in, it is “alone time” with a much loved AP and they get to stay up a bit later than usual (which to them is a big deal). It is a loving gift that costs very little but means so much to our kids (and us!)

CSNanny July 26, 2010 at 3:48 pm

That is so sweet and thoughtful! I think that is way better than a store bought gift! When I was an aupair, I bought the little girl a gift for the first bday I was with her. But she was so used to material things, that it really didn’t mean much to her. So, for the second birthday I was there, I took her to lunch on a day I was off, and then I took her to a book store to pick out a book, and we donated it to her school.

cv harquail July 26, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I love this idea of a ‘sleepover’! I think that gifts of experience, whether it’s a sleep over, a trip out for ice cream just the two of you, a beauty parlor day, are the best of all. You get the memories (especially if you take photos), but your child and your au pair get some time to savor the very best parts of having/being an au pair– the closeness that can be shared between them. (sniff, sniff)

NorCaMom July 27, 2010 at 7:29 am

What a fantastic idea!

AnnaAuPair July 28, 2010 at 9:25 am

What a wonderful idea. My hostkids were a bit too small to do that, but I think I will give the current AuPair a hint in that direction :)

SotaGal July 26, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I love when our AP’s acknowledge our kids birthday! The most special ones are the personal gifts…letters (I write a letter to each child for their b-day for their baby book and our beloved AP’s have embraced this idea and added their own special letters and others have chosen not to), cards, photos in albums or a collage for their bedroom wall. I’ve also loved the special “dates” where one on one time is arranged. It is so special when there are 3 kids to get one on one time with parents or AP, the kids just light up when it is “their” day. The sharing of cultures is great too. We have done everything from waking kids early to celebrate on their b-day, tearing open gifts as soon as a guest arrives (our Argentine AP was shocked to hear that others do it differently! We tried to make her wait so she could experience our traditions and it was FUN (for us) torture for her!), flags all over the house inside and out for the birthday child and special b-day treats.

aupair21 July 27, 2010 at 1:41 am

im glad this topic came up! gift-giving is probably my favorite thing in the world so there is no way i would not buy my hostchildren gifts on their special days. (in my family, we also give gifts on valentines day and easter, so unfortunately i have spent WAY more money than i probably should have on gifts for the kids) the problem is, i feel like my host children already have way to many toys (and they always expect to get new toys, and they better be fabulos ones too!) so i have noticed that they dont seem to appreciate it so much anymore (which is bad i would say). they are always used to getting fun toys and they will pay attention to it for 5 minutes and then say “what else do i get?” and i really dont want to spend more money on things that they like for a few hours and then kind of forget about it.
therefore i like the sleepover-pass that someone mentioned. the problem is, my kids have had many sleepovers in my bed already so that would not be super special to them.. i really want to try to come up with something that they can really appreciate and remember (not something store-bought if possible) the last birthdays i have been giving them books and cd’s which they seem to still love, and that is great i think! does anyone have good gift-ideas that you think your children would love (and that an au pair can give) ? i would love to hear:)

NorCaMom July 27, 2010 at 7:31 am

My kids really enjoy photo books with pictures of their adventures with our au pairs – first of all, kids love seeing pictures of themselves of course, and also it is very special and personal for them! And of course, it’s something that they love to look at after our au pair has moved on to her next adventure, as well.

PA AP mom July 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

I agree with the idea about a photo album or scrapbook of the AP and kids together.

Another thing my boys love is when the APs bring something back from when they travel. My son’s favorite gift he received from our AP is a key chain from Toronto with the Canadian flag on it. He clips it on his backpack, baseball equipment bag, whatever. I asked the AP and she said it was around $4. Very inexpensive, but treasured all the same.

aupair21 July 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm

thank you NorCaMom and PA AP mom, those are great ideas! It is true that children love photos of themselves! when i think about it, my hostkids always get all “awww” when they see pictures of themselves when they were younger, so that is definitely an idea i will consider! especially a scrapbook can be made very fun for a child to look through.

StephinBoston July 27, 2010 at 8:58 am

My kids appreciate anything special the au pairs do for them. It doesn’t have to be toys, some au pairs have many photobooks and the kids still look at them all the time and cherish them. I was stunned to hear my 3 year old tell me how AP#1 gave him this little monster truck he still has, he wasn’t even 2 when she left and he still remembers her so fondly. That always makes me smile. It really is about the thought, not the $$ that was spent on the gift.

anonmom July 27, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I think the au pair should absolutely recognize the child’s birthday! Whether it is a store bought gift or a handmade card- it matters not. These are young children, and ostensibly, the au pair is living as a part of your family. At least all of our au pairs have been family members, and as such they have acted as part of the family. Our current au pair ‘gave’ my daughter some ‘alone’ time where she and her au pair friend are going to take her out at night and go to a store or Dave and Busters, alone without her siblings. This is a great idea, since it is hard for each child to get alone time with a parent or caregiver. I don’t mind if the au pair ‘ignores’ mine or my husband’s birthdays, but I have to say none have ever forgotten. One au pair made an awesome birthday cake for me, decorated as something I love- it was so thoughtful. Another gave me a collage of pictures she took of the children, and on the back of the frame, (a cardboard backing) she drew a very amazing picture and card for me. I actually thought that was the gift before I realized I had to turn it over! (And I was thrilled with the handdrawn picture!)

Long Island Host Mom July 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Just posted part of this on another Bday party comment. My au pair worked my daughters party with an au pair friend this year. (I didnt have to pay my au pair extra – but i did and I know she appreciated it) She also bought her a Barbie watch. My future au pair who is coming in Aug heard it was my daughters birthday and she mailed a homemade gift all the way from Germany with a homemade card – she made a small purse from yarn & fabric. This is one smart girl…already she has made herself a part of our home and a part of our daughters life !! We are hoping things work out as she seems to be the type of young woman who is thoughtful and could be a great influence on our daughters life…We cant wait for her arrival…and even though my daughter will miss our current au pair – I think the transition has already begun !!

pia aupair July 27, 2010 at 1:48 pm

i have the same problem like aupair 21 i love getting things for my kids especially since i am not driving with them and we are always stuck in the house. so new, exciting and useful things are much appreciated by everyone. the first year i got them a bobby car which is a sit on push car (very popular in europe) with a push handle for me. so they took turns riding it down to the playground. i made them an advent calendar for both years i spend here and filled it with things like dora silverware, place mats, hair clips, little crafts and a lot of other stuff that was useful. but i spent way too much money on them.
last xmas i got them a little gym class since they didnt need anymore toys at that point. it cost me over 250$ but i really enjoyed spending my time with them there. even though i would have preferred if my hostmum would let me go with them by myself so tehy would get the ‘my aupair took me to the gym’ experience but she didnt wanna miss out. it kinda ruined it for me since the girls alway wanted to do everything with mommy instead of me :( but i am still happy they enjoyed it.
for their birthday i got them preschool prep dvds, books with a story that mentions them by name, books in my native language and other educational toys or crafts.
i am leaving in less then 2 weeks and i got them both a used bike as a farewell present. i already gave it to them over 2 month ago so i wanted to see them use it. now i got them each a vtech learn laptop and a book to wrap and take to the airport.

for my host parents i always tried to do something special. the first year i made handprints for my HM bday. i made step stones for mothers day, angel fotoshoots for xmas, calendars with crafts and scrapbook pages…etc
for special occasions i made crafts with the kids for grand and great grandparents. tee light glasses for halloween, handprint frames for grandparentday, xmas ornaments and windchimes for the 4th of july…

good thing my time here is over now course i am running out of ideas ;-)

MommyMia July 27, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Wow! Pia, you sound very crafty and creative, and very generous. I’d say that many of your “big” gifts are way more than any host kids/families would expect — but I bet they will treasure you and their memories. If any other APs are reading this and feeling like they wouldn’t be able to swing it financially, I’d suggest talking to your HP. We have some very cute advent calendars that a former AP sewed for our girls one year, and I know she spent waaay too much on the “little” gifts for 50 pockets. I would have been happy to give her some money, some saved-up trinkets, Michael’s discount coupons or ideas of things to fill it with, had she only asked!

Jan July 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I bet your host parents appreciate the gifts you have made for them. An au pair gave us two coffee mugs with pictures of the kids on it. I love those mugs!

I agree – if the au pair wants to make something for the kids or needs help with a gift, I’d be more than happy to help finance it. I actually have this in writing in our au pair book, but very few au pair’s have taken me up on it.

Mumsy July 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm

My AP’s all gave my kids something small ($10 or less) for their birthdays and the kids really appreciated the gifts and the cards. Even though they all returned home, they still send birthday and Christmas cards to us every year and we send them birthday and Christmas packages. We hope that our kids will maintain their relationships with their former AP’s forever. Perhaps our kids will AP for their old AP’s one day. :)

MommyMia July 27, 2010 at 6:30 pm

As our kids get older, they’ve started saying that they will go to AP’s house someday and help take care of her children! Then they usually add “And we’ll let them eat candy and ice cream whenever they want, and stay up late, and watch TV all day, because you don’t let us do that!” I’ve got to get that recorded on video to save for them when they have kids of their own!

tracy cota July 28, 2010 at 1:19 am

Our au pairs have always bought birthday and Christmas presents for our kids. They have always been inexpensive, and it has meant the world to my kids. Some have gone to the dollar store, and made cards, and it has been the thought that counts, that has matter most. In fact, our first au pair who bought my daughter a suitcase with Barbie on it. 3.5 years later, she still uses it. The au pairs have all made cards for the kids. And our au pairs have all always given us a framed family picture (with themselves in the photo) for Christmas. One even made a shutterfly type book of her year with us. That is one of my favorite gifts of all time. An au pair who thinks to buy/make/create a gift for her host children, no matter how small, gives more than a smile to everyone in the family.

AnnaAuPair July 28, 2010 at 9:20 am

I wouldn’t even think of NOT giving my hostkids anything. I know that my HP didn’t expect me to get them anything, but I also know how happy they were when I did.
One of my hostkids had his birthday about 2 weeks after I arrived. As I came to them through rematch, I didn’t have the time to prepare anything and I didn’t know the kids that good by then, so I just got something small and funny.
I don’t like giving expensive, but useless presents, so it took a while to find something for the other occasions, but in the end I always found something we would all enjoy :)

Victoria August 14, 2010 at 4:09 am

I always gave my kids presents for their birthday, valentine’s, easter and christmas. I agree, on that salary (and with 4 children) I was never able to afford expensive things but I didn’t have to – my kids were always appreciative of the little details I had for them.
For the twin girls 5th birthday we had a picnic at their favorite park with all of their favorite foods and we fed the ducks. Later on I took my girls to a pottery place for their birthday because they had been talking about it for weeks and they painted a piggy bank each. They wore birthday girl crowns (haha! 5 year old twin girls!) and they absolutely enjoyed their day. I took a lot of pictures of our birthday outting and I attached those to a letter I wrote for each and that I later included in my parting gift to them, at age 5 they would not be able to appreciate a written letter but I wanted to do it so they could have something to read when they were older and they’d remember our special day together.
The parting gift I made for my host family included pictures of all of my adventures with the kids and our outtings as family – and tons of letters I wrote for them throughout my year with them and I put all of those together in a thick scrapbook-looking album that I gave to them the day I had to part.
My point is… I never spent much of any of the gifts but I made sure they were personal and special, something they’d treasure for years to come.

Disturbed Host Mom February 14, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I am revisiting this today because I am unsure what to do about a Valentines Day gift for our au pair. Both of our children’s birthdays have passed without so much as a homemade card, the same goes for Christmas. I gave her a beautiful Pandora charm bracelet with 6 charms for her birthday (just before Xmas) and she then asked me not to buy her anymore charms for Christmas. She told me she wanted an iPad. Um…she didn’t get one, but she did have a good 10-12 gifts under the tree, which she seemed very unimpressed by. I also sent her younger sister a Disney Princess dress and some other clothing for Christmas, and my thanks from her was a scolding for not purchasing the correct size (one size too big). I have also been hearing about trips that her other au pairs HFs have planned…in a way that sounds as if I owe her something that she’s not getting. We have taken her on two trips, one was to Florida where she did not leave the condo at all, choosing to Skype during her off times. Anyhow, I have a big box of Godivas that I am not sure about giving her today. Her “entitled” attitude is very off putting, but the gift-giver in me feels like I need to celebrate the day. What would you do?

Should be working February 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I would give the chocolates, or if you want to save those for another time, get her a smaller or less expensive box of chocolates. Then I would set up a meeting for 1-2 days from now to talk about attitudes around gifts.

If she accepts the chocolates at all graciously, then start the meeting with saying how you enjoyed her pleasure in receiving them. Then say you want to explain that some of her reactions to gifts and vacations and comparisons has been troubling you. You could explain it as a ‘cultural expectation’ that people be grateful, not scold, not ask for expensive items, etc. And then present the proper behavior around gifts and vacations as ‘American’. If she expresses no graciousness in accepting the chocolate, then you can say that you have noticed her behavior around gift-receiving (and giving) makes a bad impression on you and other Americans, and go ahead with the same spiel.

I don’t believe that this is a cultural issue, however, instead it is one of bad manners and entitlement. Nonetheless I think if you want to keep this AP it is a tactful way to say your piece and hopefully modify her behavior.

Anna February 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I still have a silver necklace with a beautiful heart that I bought for our au pair four years ago to give her for Valentines Day… and I didn’t, because I didn’t feel like it.

She was much less overtly ungrateful, but ungrateful and outwardly uncaring nevertheless. I didn’t feel the love that the gift was meant to express.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I wonder how much is lack of gratitude and how much is imperfect English ill-translated. You live with her, and I suspect you know. The reason I say that, is that I have had AP’s who haven’t quite mastered idiomatic English who have used them incorrectly and have come across as quite crass.

I had one AP who trained me. When I returned home she asked me how my day went, and after she ate dinner she thanked me. It taught me to slow down a little each day. I learned to thank her when she did something typical but more than I had asked of her. I learned to give little treats (a phone card back when they were used or a canister of the cashews she loved) when she did something exceptional.

If you are not getting the manners you wish to receive from your AP, try kindness. It has worked for me.

My advice – be bigger than she is – give the chocolates.

Tristatemom February 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I didn’t want to respond to your post, but I kept thinking about it. So here it goes.

First, wow, what a generous host family you are! My AP got one (!)charm for her birthday. Since you enjoy giving gifts, and already have the chocolate, I would give it out of that spirit.

Don’t mind her bad manners and entitlement attitude at this point, but maybe you can have a convo one day about your perception/feelings? Not giving her a gift today would seem childish to me (I would have let her have it for scolding me about her sister’s present.)

Disturbed Host Mom February 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Thanks for your reply!

I think my post was unclear on a few points.

1). It was her sister who was scolding about the present. It was just translated via our AP to let me know why I wouldn’t be receiving a “thank you” or photo of her in the princess dress (I got one for my daughter also…they are the same age and I thought it would be fun to exchange photos in their matching gowns).

2). I think my hesitation in deciding whether or not to give her the gift is the letdown that is probably coming my way when she sees it for what it is…not an iPad or an itouch. I dont expect effusive thanks, but when the standard is a shrug and small smile (or nothing at all), it makes me feel bad, kwim?

southern host mom February 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm

You know, I am big on gifts and holidays small and large, but after reading your post, I hope you don’t give her a big box of godivas. I am so disappointed to hear how she responded to your generosity, and the nerve she had insulting your VERY generous pandora gift and asking for an ipad. Give me a break. We had this situation with a previous AP. We still gave her gifts, but it was really disturbing to hear her requests (primarily via passive aggressive facebook posts about what all the other APs were getting for holidays and the amazing trips they were all going on). It was childish and immature. I did not confront her b/c we were almost done with our year, but I would hate to hear you reinforce the extreme entitlement with a big box of chocolate. I’d rather see you give her a v-day card from the kids and a small gift card to starbucks (5-10).. then have that conversation with her about cultural expectations around gratitude in a few days.

Melissa February 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm

This would be one of those issues that would really get under my skin! Maybe it is cultural and I need to be more open-minded about such things, but honestly I can’t believe someone would have such terrible manners. I like to think we are generous to our APs in other ways (car for their sole use, laptop, take on vacations, get them something special now and then, etc), but I do not give expensive presents for the holidays or their birthday. Based on other posts here on this topic, I would guess we probably give less than is typical — usually a few small presents and a gift card or two. I don’t feel obligated to spend as much on the AP as I do my children (not that we go overboard with the kiddos presents either), because she is not a child, she is another adult. I certainly wouldn’t buy my sister or cousin an iPad and I can’t imagine giving an AP one, let alone her actually asking for one.
You don’t say how far along you are in your AP’s year or whether you like her or have any other issues. That type of attitude would make me worry whether she is similarly “me” centered with other things as well.
I would give her the chocolates and use that as an opportunity to share your frustration with her. I would be very clear as to how it makes you feel when she reacts the way she has in the past, and how it is perceived by you and likely by others.

Disturbed Host Mom February 15, 2012 at 1:23 am

Thanks for your replies! I kind of went half way….instead of giving her the Godivas, I got her a box of Russell Stovers. Still perfectly nice, but I am saving the Godivas for someone who will appreciate them more.

We are about 8 months in with this au pair. We’ve had some issues in the past but have been able to work through them. She is trustworthy and I feel good leaving my kids with her. However, she is here to make money, and that’s it. It’s hard to have a great relationship with her as I know that we are just a dollar sign in her eyes. This will be the first time that I probably will not continue to have a great relationship with an AP after they have gone home. She’s here to “do a job” and then go home, no interest in looking back. Kinda sad!

Taking a Computer Lunch February 15, 2012 at 8:48 am

Very sad indeed. I assume at this point you are not extending with each other, and she has 4 months left in her stay. Once she returns her packet saying that she will go home and you start looking for the next AP, the relationship may get a little more tense. However, the “countdown” months will start at the ten-month mark. Tell her how much you appreciate the work she has done, and remind her that you still need her to maintain that same quality of childcare. Point out the kids will be confused and hurt if her attitude toward them changes.

German Au-Pair February 15, 2012 at 3:35 am

With things like that I always wonder if a talk would change anything. Yes, she could see your point of view and look excited the next time she gets something. She can be polite and say “thank you” to meet expectations and cultural needs. She can fake real excitment and meet your needs.
But will that actually make you feel better? Knowing that she doesn’t really appreciate it but only pretends to do so?
You should talk to her about this but what you REALLY should do is to lower your expectations. Some people are very ungrateful and you should just find ways to protect yourself from disappointment. Like giving her something of less value and not expecting her to be as grateful as she should be.

I kind of have the same problem but with my host kids! I couldn’t decide which of the two gifts she wished for to give my little girl for her 10th birthday so I gave her both. I expected her to be really happy about it (I know I would have been) but she said thank you, got one out of the wrapping paper and ignored the other one until the next day. I was disappointed but that is just how she is.
For Christmas I got her something that was way more expensive than I wanted it to be and of course she didn’t really appreciate it (but with that I have hope that she will appreciate it in the future so it’s okay).
Same with my boy.
My mom sent gifts for them as well. Her response was that she liked his better.

As a result I tell everyone who wants to bring something for them, that they shouldn’t spend much money or put a lot of effort in it as they will be happy to be given a gift but certainly won’t appreciate whatever it is.

Sometimes you simply have to change your behavior and expectations.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 15, 2012 at 11:01 am

I don’t think any HP wants faked excitement, but a “thank you” is a civil means to convey gratitude that someone has gone out of their way to do something for you that is not required of them. No one is “owed” a gift. (Now, I must admit, when I give something and I’m not certain it will be received as I intended, I do enclose a gift receipt so my AP may quietly return it and exchange it for something she might prefer.)

I’m sorry your HK don’t have better manners. When my son was 2, we made up “Prince” stories, in which he was the ruler. One of the stories was about how he, as the prince, received gifts from his subjects and even if he didn’t like the gifts, they represented a sacrifice on the part of his subjects who did not have as much money as he. In the story, he had to be generous in his thank yous, to show his appreciation of that sacrifice. As a result, my son knows how to thank his friends and relatives for gifts.

Kids love stories, and if you have found that your HK are less than gracious, perhaps if you weave a tale in which they play a role, and in that tale, show gratitude.

German Au-Pair February 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Well my kids always say “thank you” and if they forget, ine of my hostparents will remind them. Also my hostparents encourage them so be happy about it with questions like “Wow, isn’t that thoughtfull/cool/sweet”
But that doesn’t change that they usually don’t show REAL appreciation for long. When I was a kid I was over the moon about almost every gift I received. I guess it has something to do with me not being used to getting almost everything that I wanted.

Should be working February 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I actually think the AP should show some ‘fake appreciation’ in such instances. Who cares if it’s not fake, it’s polite and makes everyone feel good. I know that in some cultures (definitely my experience in Germany) complete honesty and sincerity are valued more than other people’s feelings, and Americans can be seen as superficial and fake. But in fact this could also be seen as a rhetorical difference, an etiquette issue, a cultural issue. People here are supposed to act warm, really a bit excited, and genuinely grateful for gifts here, even if they are not. My children learn this and I see a lot of American kids being taught this (even if the HKs in the post below are not). Having lived in Germany, I can say people there were thrilled with my kids’ positive attitude and good manners, and it was hard on them when ‘honesty’ meant ‘lack of consideration for other kids’ feelings’.

German Au-Pair February 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I know that it is a cultural requirement and for me it’s not even an issue because I am actually excited.
But I think it’s one thing to expect it but a totally different story when you know by experience that the person you’re giving the gift is in fact NOT appreciating it. So I think you should ask her to be polite and say “thank you” but explaining to her that you show some excitement even when you are not excited…I just don’t see the point, I would feel extremely annoyed if, after I talked to her, she would suddenly start faking excitement even though I already KNOW that she is not. Maybe it IS a cultural thing, I would expect politeness but I wouldn’t get anything out of it when I already know she is faking it.

However, in Germany it is usually just acceptable to tell your true feelings about a gift to people you are close to. If you get something from a friend, extended family member or someone you just casually know, you are excited, period.
Within the close family, it is okay to even ridicule a gift. (My mom gave my dad a distance meter once and he had absolutely NO use for it. We were in tears of laughter and every single birthday she gets to hear about that again.)

But even our excitement is different from the common American one. There is an American author who blogs about the cultural differences and he said: When a German thinks the American is making a total fool out of the gift giver, the American is really happy.
On the other hand this author says that every single time his relatives or friends gave a gift to a German they came to him and complained that the Germans didn’t like that gift because they were not appreciating it in a way the American would have.

HRHM February 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I would love to read this blog – we are looking at German APs this time and I think the perspective would be interesting. Could you post a link? Thanks!

German Au-Pair February 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I sure can, but the blog is written IN German but BY an American. It’s more about explaining the US to Germans than the other way round, though.
http://usaerklaert.wordpress.com/

If you don’t happen to speak German, those might be of help for you:
http://german-way.com/blog/2010/10/04/cultural-differences-comparing-the-usa-and-germany/

http://germanyfromanamericanperspective.blogspot.com/

http://adaabroad.blogspot.com/

I hope it’s okay to link them here?

If I can be of help in any way, let me know. I am active in a lot of German au pair forums and have read sooo many stories about and from German au pairs in general.

German Au-Pair February 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I tried, HRHM but so far my comment with the link is awaiting moderation.

CAmom22 February 15, 2012 at 6:01 pm

TACL – I love love love the Prince story. What a great way to teach about gratitude and that it’s not about the gift itself but rather the kind act that deserves the heartfelt thank you.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm

There have been times when my son has received a gift that he already owns. He never embarrasses the gift-giver with “I have that,” because he understands that it is the thought that counts. The Prince story really helps kids think about other people and their role in their lives.

I’d rather have an AP say “Thank you for thinking of me,” than over-enthusing for a gift she doesn’t like. If she over-enthuses, then I might mistake it for pleasure in the gift and buy more. To me, it’s okay to say, “Thank you for thinking of me, but it’s too small/I prefer blue/etc.” That permits me to learn more about the AP and to graciously find the receipt so she may return the gift and exchange it for something she would rather have.

What would make me grind my teeth would be “I didn’t want a sweater, I wanted an iPad” or “My best friend’s HF gave her an iPad.” To imply that a gift is too cheap is rude.

As for HK ignoring gifts – if it is something you can share with them, it might spark interest. If it is something they’re expected to use alone, it may take longer. Kids tend to get way too many gifts and may be too overwhelmed to pay the “proper” amount of attention. It’s okay to call their attention back to a gift they have recently received, and especially to those given months ago that may be ignored.

Gianna February 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Origninally, I was inclined to think that the whole issue of birthday gifts is one of cultural differences . However , I have heard so many sad stories from aupairs and their friends about host families who neglected to recognize or celebrate an aupair’s birthday that I think it is not a culural difference at all. Most aupairs reasonably exspect that their host families will celebrate their birthday in some nice way. So it seems reasonable to think that young adults would extend that kindness to their host children. I think that this is something that all of the agencies should talk to their trainees about at the training sessions. ” This is how you should act if someone gives you a gift “. ” These are some ideas for simple gifts for you to give your host children ” . ” These are the times when American families exchange gifts “. Etc. I think it would save a lot of hurt feelings.

German Au-Pair February 16, 2012 at 10:25 pm

That really seems to be an issue, too! I have heard many, many stories about really sad au pairs, too. They expect that their birthday will be a big deal as it is for the family at home. But MANY au pairs I talked to were really disappointed when what they got from their hostparents was a giftcard and a “Happy Birthday” while storming out the door in the morning.
If education about cultural things like that should happen, it should happen on both sides.
I know that in many ways an au pair should not be treated as another child but the birthday issue is different.
When you are far away from family and friends who would have otherwise celebrated with you, greeted you happily in the morning and basically just really acknowledged your birthday, it makes you feel sad and horrible lonely when your hostfamily doesn’t seem to care.
I didn’t have my birthday yet and my expectations of other people are generally low, but I can imagine the disappointment of someone who is really looking forward to their ONE and only birthday in America and then it’s really just a big nothing.
So maybe hostfamilies should consider treating their au pair like another child for this one day -in terms of big excitement and happiness at least.

NoVA Host Mom February 17, 2012 at 4:31 am

And this might also be an example of an AP being treated as an adult and not as a child. Yes, I’m all about the birthdays and love any excuse to celebrate anything (including the opening of a bottle – lol), but in lots of families, adult birthdays are in fact *maybe* a card left for you in the morning (to read before heading out the door to work) and maybe a favorite dinner or not, or even just a “Happy Birthday” in passing but no other recognition.

In those families, birthdays are celebrated for the children so if you are not a child (and AP who are hired to be solely responsible for my children are not also children themselves) then your birthday is not celebrated. Not saying it’s how I do things, but it is how some do things. Just another thought before deciding that all HFs are just mean for not flipping out about another adult birthday. A little Devil’s Advocate, if you will.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 17, 2012 at 8:01 am

We generally give our APs two options: 1) we’ll take them out for a nice restaurant dinner and they may invite a friend or 2) we’ll cook a nice dinner for them and they may have as many friends as they’d like. Some APs have opted for a third – “please get out of my way so I may throw a dinner party for my friends,” which is fine with me (just so they realize we’ll be home on the early side to put the kids to bed). I do give them their birthday off (even though I work on my own birthday). I make them a cake.

However, a good question for you to ask your HF, is how do you celebrate your birthday? Birthday mornings are only a big deal for children – for adults it’s usually the same morning routine and a dash off to work. DH and I might buy special brunch food for the weekend nearest our birthdays, we might treat the other to a special dinner out at the weekend, or we might cook a special dinner and make a cake to have after dinner. In our house, gifts are given after dinner. While the children might get a family dinner and a birthday party, adults rarely throw themselves birthday parties.

But you will have a happier birthday if you set aside the expectation that your HF will treat you like your own parents do. Think of it as another notch in your cultural experience in whichever country you are living.

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