Christmas & Holidays with your Au Pair: Post round-up

by cv harquail on November 25, 2011

The Christmas & Holiday season is now officially upon us — just in time to work off that second slice of pumpkin pie.

I think I’m finally figuring out how to do these seasonal celebrations — I’ve got the weekly countdown calendar planner out again. We’ve sent out party invitations and even bought cases of wine for celebrations from now to January 6th. I’m feeling psyched that I’ve got at least this part of our family life happily underway.

One benefit to accruing experiences over time is that you get better at things — but only if you remember what you learned before.

Last year I “learned” once again that  I can never seem to find my Advent Wreath for the 1st Sunday. So, last January I put in in a storage box with our Thanksgiving decorations and voila!! — Here it is, ready to go. I am pumped. balloon highway.jpg

At AuPairMom we’re approaching our 4th Christmas / Chanukah / Kwanzaa / Ashura / Solstice season.

We’ve got three previous years of pretty useful discussion. I’ve summarized the big issues below. The links will take you to the conversations we’ve had in the past about these topics… you can read these convos for some great insights and suggestions.

Even though we have stores of wisdom in these posts and comments, sometimes we seem to want to have the conversations anew. (Why is that, I wonder?   — Is it because we just like sharing tips with each other? Is it that if we already figured it out we get to feel helpful, and there’s always someone new to the situation.)

So, for fresh conversations, here are two ideas.

  • First, I’ll be posting some new polls so that we can see what folks are planning for this year. Next week we’ll poll on gift amounts and on-duty plans.
  • Second, if you have a topic that you want us to address, shoot me an email at I swear on my leftover turkey that I will read my au pair mom email (more) promptly and get those up for us to discuss.

If we summarize all the wisdom into a few key points, here they are:

1. Have a Master Plan. Share this with your au pair.

2. Imagine the cadence, rhythm, style of observance and spirit of your ideal family holiday. Share this with your au pair.

3. Explain your extended family. Explain who you’ll be with and what those people need from you & your au pair. Tell your au pair what to expect and now to behave.

4. Plan a gift giving strategy that includes your au pair. Give your au pair dollar limits and suggestions so that s/he doesn’t go crazy buying stuff.

5. Remember the little things — they might surprise your au pair and delight you.

6. Remember that holidays are opportunities for ‘cultural exchange’. They can be emotionally draining and emotionally rich– your approach will determine what you experience.

1. Master Plan

Have a master plan for your holiday celebrations and share this with your au pair!! Let her or him know the big picture as soon as possible, and put all the details that you can on your family calendar as soon as possible.

2. Holiday Spirit & Religious Observance

Think about the qualities and spirit you’d like you family holiday time to express…. share these with your au pair so that s/he can support you in creating the holiday time that you hope for. Enroll her or him now in your vision– it’s the best way to make sure you’re all on the same page. And, be open to what your au pair might want to contribute from her or his perspective.6134-bears_feat (1).jpg

What about if s/he doesn’t celebrate Christmas and we do?
What about if s/he does celebrate Christmas and we don’t?

3. Talk about and prepare for holiday people and events outside your immediate host family.

4. Gift Giving   

5. Cultural Exchange

How adorable is this lazy little felt polar bear. Aupairs would love him.6. Littler things to think about …

Let me know if there are new topics to discuss, and look for a new poll next week.

Host Parents: Be my päkapikud this holiday?


Images: Enchanted Forest Felt Christmas Trees from Balloon Highway, available on Etsy; Lazy Bear handmade felted Polar bear on Etsy, Polar Bear Pair also on Etsy, but I can’t find the link….


{ 1 comment }

Taking a Computer Lunch November 28, 2011 at 8:49 am

Communicate, communicate, communicate! I actually start BEFORE Thanksgiving, but try to have continual but brief discussions between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Talk about work schedule EARLY! In my experience, European au pairs are surprised that Americans don’t have the week between Christmas and New Year’s off and that they are scheduled to work. My advice – if you intend to have your au pair work – tell her now. (It’s easier to surprise her with an extra day off if you have relatives visiting, then to take it away.)

Communicate how you intend to celebrate the holiday, so she knows what to anticipate. Understand that even if she hasn’t been particularly homesick that she might feel especially homesick now. It’s the same holiday – but it’s also so different.

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