Birthday Parties for Host Kids: Should Au Pairs Be Expected to Attend?

by cv harquail on July 26, 2010

It took me several years to figure out the whole birthday party thing. By the time I realized that most parents expected to stay for the party– and that I had to feed them — the kids were old enough to be dropped off. That was when I learned that you have to have room for the occasional sibling who is also dropped off without warning. But by the time I could deal with huge random numbers of kids, I had to figure out how to watch dozens of them at some activity while each one had to be escorted to the bathroom- one at a time, of course.

All of the birthday party craziness has been made easier when I’ve been able to have our au pair help. Not only have our au pairs helped to welcome guests and serve cake, they’ve also be great with supervising the scavenger hunts and painting faces for the “Warrior Cats” party.

Every birthday party has been more fun with an au pair’s help. But, even more important, every au pair has loved to play a key part in creating this experience for our children.

For us, the girls’ parties have always been a time that I’ve had our au pairs on duty– but even if I hadn’t, they would all have wanted to be there. So, I was a little surprised by that regular commenter, anonymous, who asked:

Is it okay to insist that an au pair should be around to celebrate the kids birthdays?

Just the nature of that question suggests that all is not right in HostParentVille. But, to the rescue with advice, come:

Host Mommy Dearest:

Here is my take on it. You can try to match with an AP who wants to be part of the family. You can look for an AP who will actually care about your kids and will want to share in their special things like birthdays. If you find that you failed to host an AP like this you *could* schedule her to be on duty during the times you want her around, but then again, if she doesn’t care enough to be there, do you really want her there?

I refuse to schedule my AP just so she will be there to celebrate. She is explicitly invited and I tell her I would love for her to come, but if she doesn’t want to be there (and doesn’t already have some pretty important plans that conflict) then honestly I don’t want her there moping around.

If she doesn’t want to be around for the kids’ birthday celebrations I might question whether I made the right decision to match with her or not.


I would not insist. As Host Mommy Dearest said, if she does not want to be there, you would not want her there anyway. Our first au pair was with us for 1.5 months when my older daughter’s birthday came. When we had a family birthday thing, she was there for may be 20 minutes, ate some food, and left to go out with her friends.

Our current au pair has been with us over a year now. She has celebrated all of our birthdays with us and gave us all gifts. The actual birthday party was at the kids amusement park where it was organized in such a way that she would not have been able to spend any kind of quality time with kids or us. She fully planned to be there, but I explained to her how the party will work and told her that although she is always more then welcome, she probably would not enjoy it (I know by know what she might enjoy and what she won’t).

She did not go to the party, but made from scratch cake was presented to my daughter the next day (on her actual birthday) while I was at work and they had a huge cake party for all their stuffed friends. I got pictures at work of the whole process. (awwww!)



We have always given our APs invitations to our kids’ birthday parties (our first AP made it clear that she wanted to be invited, not just told). For a long time, before he started school, my son’s best friends were the children who were cared for by other au pairs and nannies – and these children and their APs and nannies were issued invitations as well. I make it clear to the APs that they are not expected to purchase a gift for my son and daughter, and if they do, not to spend a lot of money.

My son’s birthday parties tend to be complicated – he wants a bike race, or a mystery hunt, or something that involves leading kids around our home or neighborhood. Having the AP on hand is necessary. One year our AP and her best friend got to lob water balloons at the kids while they tried to solve the “Mystery of the Stolen Treasure.” I think they had a great time, and seeing the kids whack at a pinata later, moved my AP to get one for a party she threw. For my son’s birthdays, we tend to schedule work hours if the AP is needed to make an event happen. We try to make it clear that they may invited their best friends to attend – there’s always more than enough food.

The Camel’s parties tend to be more sedate, although last year we went to an indoor water park for the entire day, and while I invited my then non-swimming AP, I made it clear to her that I didn’t want to pay the steep admission fee if she wasn’t going to get into the water. She demurred.

What other insights and stories about Au Pairs and Host Kids’ Birthday Parties? Share below….

See also:

Birthday Gifts for Host Kids? Yes and No

Image: Party Munchkins by ViolaStudio, available on Etsy


Au Pair in CO July 26, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Two of my best friends from my home country just scheduled a vacation to Vegas, and I will be going there with them. Unfortunately, this will happen on the weekend of one of my host kids’ birthday. My host mom never tried making me change my vacation to a different time just to have me home at the birthday party, which I really appreciate. Since I won’t be there on his birthday, I’ll make sure to do something special with him while I’m on duty on Friday, so he doesn’t feel like I’ve forgotten his birthday just because I’m going away on the actual day.

2boys2girls July 26, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I think kids are actually way more flexible about the “timing” of things than adults sometimes. Recognizing his birthday on the Friday by doing something special will really be appreciated by him. Your celebration with him also won’t get “lost” in all of the excitement of his “official” party. One of my APs was also in Las Vegas for my daughter’s birthday and our AP gave a quick five minute call during the party to wish her a happy birthday. My daughter was so surprised that the AP took five minutes out of her vacation to call her. She kept saying, “Can you believe “AP” called me…FROM LAS VEGAS!!!” (Her five year old brain thought this was a technological miracle). It was a small gesture that went a long way. Have fun with your friends in Las Vegas!

aupair21 July 27, 2010 at 1:30 am

as an Au Pair who has always been scheduled to work on birthday parties, I see nothing wrong about expecting your au pair to attend your childrens’ birthday parties. To me, it’s like a long playdate with “a few” more children than usual ;-)

NJMom July 27, 2010 at 7:18 am

I have always had my AP’s (who have been great and VERY connected to my kids) participate. I can’t remember if it was scheduled work time or not but it was never an issue. I have never regularly used all my AP’s hours anyway … Our first AP helped my husband sort through tons of b’day part stuff and assemble goodie bags while i was on a business trip and would only return the night before. Our second AP saved the day when my older daughter and I came down with the stomach flu on the day of my 5 year old’s b’day party at a gymnastics place. (Daughter still talks about, “Remember the time you missed my party, mommy.”) So I can’t really imagine them not being there for the parties but, again, I have been lucky to have APs who really felt a huge connection to my kids. Something I am very grateful for!

NorCaMom July 27, 2010 at 7:27 am

I am feeling very grateful for both of our au pairs to date, who not only expected to & wanted to be present for our kids’ birthday celebrations, but also brought their au pair friends over to celebrate as well.

maleaupairmommy July 27, 2010 at 11:39 am

For me it is an expecation I don’t ask them to particpate most have or stay long. This is part of their “experience” and why they came IMHO. Yes they do have lives and I don’t care if they go do something before or after. Though I have male au pairs and this has never been a problem they happily decorate, get ballons, help get the kids dress, and this is on their day off. This year my au pair was great and helped with the bopsey twins birthdays (not twins but everything thinks they are as they are only one year and one week apart). He made ballon hats or animals for all the kids and was a great joy to have around. Something that I apperciated so much. Au pairs and their kids are always invited and I ask that if they want them there please invite them. I would be severely dissapoint if they weren’t there but being on vacation is another story I would understand and at least hope they take the time to call to remember their special day is all. Just like as a host mom I make the au pair’s birthday just as special as the kids. In our house birthdays are an all day event with a special homemade cake decorate creatively.

CS Nanny July 27, 2010 at 11:46 am

I had the opposite problem. I couldn’t get her parents to attend the little girls birthday party. Both years, the mom handed me her credit card, and told me to either buy stuff and have the party at home, or have it hosted somewhere. Neither her mom or dad ever came. The mom was just too busy shopping and getting her nails done.

aupair21 July 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm

wow, your life could have been taken straight out of “the nanny diaries”. may i ask how old you are? i am just curious

CS Nanny July 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I’m 25, and I have considered writing a book about my time as an aupair. I worked for one of the wealthiest families in Switzlerand, and it was definitely an eye-opening experience.

Jan July 27, 2010 at 6:49 pm

This makes me sad. Those poor little girls.

My 2 cents July 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Conceptually I am not in favor of making them attend. Having had the experience of a hurt child after one au pair did not come downstairs to even say hello I do it now whenever I sense anything short of excitement to attend. It’s just too important to my kids.

Long Island Host Mom July 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm

We made a Luau for my daughters 8th birthday this year. My au pair helped decorate and she knew that she would be working the party as part of her hours. I asked if one of her au pair friends would help at the party as well. She did…I paid both girls for the extra time and extra help. I was able to enjoy my daughters party with her and her friends. They also did clean up and it was well worth the extra cost. (I didnt have to pay my au pair extra – but i did and I know she appreciated it) 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 !!

calif mom July 29, 2010 at 11:06 am

Once I was able to attend but not organize a bday party. I asked our au pair and an au pair friend to run the games, and they had a great time, even though it was on a Saturday. I paid the other au pair for her time, but it was part of my au pair’s week, and everyone was fine with that.

[And yes, huge, blazing red flag that AP isn’t excited about it and asking if she can help. APs of all sorts tend to *enjoy* kids’ parties!]

West Coast Mom July 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm

This was the first year ever that our childcare provider did not willingly and happily attend our sons’ joint birthday party. She was invited, of course, but did not even RSVP. Just didnt show up and went to hang out with her BF. The kids were confused, and I was angry. It was confirmation of what we knew already – that she was not the best AP for our family. A few months later we sent her home after receiving complaints that she was mean to our kids. Looking back, the birthday absence seemed to be the beginning of the end.

NewAPMama July 30, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Our aupair asked us what we were planning to do for our oldest child’s birthday, and if she could help. She said that if we only wanted it to be close “family and friends”, that she understood, but she seemed sad when she said it. I told her I couldn’t imagine leaving her out! I feel very blessed to have an aupair who cares about our kids as much as we do.

Victoria August 14, 2010 at 4:23 am

I was always invited to all celebrations, not only kids birthday parties but also host parents birthday dinners and I was happy to be there with them – I felt part of the family and wouldn’t have it any other way. I also helped with whatever I could, getting kids dressed and ready, serving cake, keeping an eye on kids, helping with games and activities, etc.
I think that if your au pair does not want to attend, she certainly doesn’t feel part of the family or isn’t connecting with your kids and that is a cause of concern IMO.

Kira N. August 28, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I wish I had read these blogs before I had an AP!!! Our current AP, about to leave this week, was invited to our son’s 3rd birthday party at a local playgym (a really fun activity center for kids – i.e. no need to help with setup or cleanup), within the first month of her arrival. Not only did she show NO interest in attending, when we shared with her that this is important to us, she “gave in” and then was on her cell phone the whole time, never interacting with us. Had I read this blog, I’d have know that something was amiss, but I just figured “well, this is her free time, so I can’t force her to enjoy.” The next few months weren’t much better, and we basically survived the year, but it’s never been a great match. I’m glad she’s leaving and sad that we really didn’t have a family-like relationship with her – she just never really wanted to be with us and viewed this as “just a job”. I firmly believe that au pairs are the way to go for childcare, and I wish I knew more about how to be “on alert” as HM so I could have seen the warning signs earlier that she wouldn’t be a good fit!

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