Christmas Tip: Make sure your Au Pair has a stocking

by cv harquail on December 10, 2009

200812111017.jpg If you are a first-time host family, and if you celebrate Christmas, you might find yourself caught off guard when you begin to incorporate your Au Pair into your family traditions.

Some families will want their au pair to help select and decorate the tree, others won’t. Some families will invite the au pair to their church’s celebrations, others will not.

But whatever you do, make sure that your au pair has a stocking to hang!

In my family, both children and adults hang stockings for Santa. (Adults get small little stocking gifts (chapstick, Hello Kitty tissue packs, sparkly hair clips from H&M, chocolate coins, and always a tangerine).

You’ll want to include your au pair in this tradition. .. 200812111017.jpg ( Check out this earlier post on Holidays, too.)

{ 21 comments }

Anna December 11, 2008 at 5:58 pm

I just want to share our experience. We are Jews, and we don’t celebrate Christmas. All our au pairs were Christian, so they didn’t share our Jewish holidays.
We did welcome curiosity and left it up to them if they wanted to attend any family holiday dinners or lunches, when we had guests over. We didn’t offer them to come to the services with us, but one au pair expressed curiosity to come for Shabbat morning service, and we would welcome it (she never did follow through though).

However, I knew that Christmas is a big deal to our au pairs, and they will miss home a lot during that time. So I asked them when they wanted time off during this season, encouraged them to celebrate with friends and get invited to other host family celebrations, and I did give them a Christmas gift. I don’t think they expected a gift from us for a holiday we don’t believe in, nobody else in the family got gifts for Christmas obviously, so they were touched.

Mom23 December 10, 2009 at 5:37 pm

We are Jewish as well. We don’t give stockings, but we do make sure our au pair has 8 wrapped gifts just like the kids do. Some of small, like stocking stuffer stuff, but some are substantial (usually some gift cards and movie tickets).

One thing I do for our former au pairs is to make up a calendar of the kids (through snapfish) and mail it to them at the holidays. They seem to appreciate seeing how the kids have grown.

MommyMia December 10, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Our AP was so excited to see that she had a stocking with her name on it, hanging with all of ours on the mantle. She told us that her family last year (she is doing an extension year) didn’t include her in any of their holiday activities, nor did she have a stocking. It’s such a simple and inexpensive keepsake – use a Michael’s coupon or get one at WalMart and personalize it with fabric paint or markers and I think any au pair would be really touched by the gesture. Like CV, our adult stockings usually just have some chocolates and inexpensive treats. One of our family’s traditions is a new Christmas ornament for each child, so our AP will also be getting a meaningful ornament (I can’t say what, in case she reads this and recognizes her favorite thing to collect!)

CV December 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm

MommyMia & PAapm-
I think it’s a lovely symbol of inclusion, to have a stocking there with everyone else’s. :-)

PA aupair mom December 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm

We ordered a nice stocking from Pottery Barn with her name on it. We hung up the stocking while she was in NYC for the weekend and imagine her surprise when she walked in and there was her name with all of ours. She cried because she said she felt so special.

PacificNW_mom December 10, 2009 at 4:43 pm

We also do the personalized stocking thing and our au pairs love, love, love it! For one au pair, I kept the stocking after Christmas (in the shuffle of putting the holiday things away it ended up in storage) and then sent it to her filled with Christmas presents the next year when she was back in her home country. She loved it!

Jeana December 11, 2009 at 7:50 am

We also try to provide a small ornament to remind our aupair of her year with us. Of course, it needs to be an ornament that can make the trip home, safely. I’ve found some really nice wood ones, that would represent our country. I’ve also invited our aupair to include an aupair friend for any of our family celebrations. I know her friends, and they are lovely. She has one friend whose family will be traveling during the holidays, and I’ve told her we’d be happy to include her friend in our festivities. This can be a tough time for aupairs who are accustom to celebrating Christmas with their own families, so a little extra chocolate might help, too!

Sara Duke December 11, 2009 at 9:27 am

We always fill a stocking for au pairs and then try to have lots of little gifts to open with the family (because who wants to watch a family open presents and have nothing to open?!)

This year we have an au pair who has never celebrated Christmas before (she’s from China). While she learned about Thanksgiving from an English-speaking kindergarten where she worked, Christmas is completely foreign to her. What have been other people’s experiences with au pairs who have never celebrated Christmas?

NoVA Host Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:32 am

We ordered a PBK stocking with her name on it (since I was ordering one for the new baby, and our daughter’s is from there as well). Even though she does not celebrate Christmas (due to her religion), she was very touched I included her as well. I promised not to put any gifts in it, and we won’t be giving her any “Christmas” gifts (I am permitted to give them to her any other day but the 25th, so I will probably do it Christmas Eve or something like that). Still, she is enjoying the tree and the decorations and everything. She even surprised us by coming with us to pick out the tree. We just let her know what we will be doing and then let her decide what she is comfortable with and what she wants to participate in.

Busy Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:22 pm

This is a great tip. I still feel guilty for not having done this for our 1st au pair. After years of having live-in nannies who spent the holidays with their own families, it never occurred to me. This year, our AP has a stocking!

CV December 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Busy Mom-
That’s part of our secret plot here at AuPairMom– to tell you all the things we missed, so that you won’t! heh heh heh cv

Former Au Pair December 12, 2009 at 4:33 pm

I still have my stocking from my year as an au pair! Actually, my host family was going through a crisis at this time of the year (death of my host mom’s father to cancer :( ) so they said I should try to get a real break for Christmas with the extra pressure and work that was put on me during that time…
And I know I needed to overcome homesickness. So friends from Texas, with whom I lived with their 5 kids for 1 month during my high-school years, invited me and truly made me part of their family…
I had a stocking (which I still use), Old Navy gift card and pajamas, we each had an ornament on the tree, Christmas brunch together… It was one of the best Christmases ever!!
And when I got back, I felt “pumped up” and full of energy to support my host family in this difficult time.

Sota Gal December 13, 2009 at 10:00 pm

We have ordered a Pottery Barn stocking every year for our au pairs as well. We started the program with our 1st in early December so we’ve always had those early holiday arrivals and this really helps to break the ice. We wrap it up and let the kids give her their own personalized stocking. It also starts the conversations of our holiday traditions, what we’ll do and when and finding out what they want to participate in. After their year is up, I send the stocking home in a care package with Christmas gifts, a calendar of the kids, a DVD from holiday school programs and pictures and letters from the kids.

We tend to go all out for Christmas with lots of events and activities, and include our au pair in everything that they want. What we do for our kids we do for our au pairs – Snowman Breakfast at Nordstom, decorating the tree (including the OLD holiday music that my parents listened to when I was a kid), telling stories of our families since they don’t live nearby and parents have passed away, Trail of Lights, driving to look at lights, pictures for holiday cards, cookie baking and decorating and matching pajamas for the entire family for Christmas morning. I have also had our au pairs have a small holiday party of their own, with only their friends, not ours or our kids at our house and have them invite friends over that may not otherwise be celebrating Christmas with their host families.

AnnaAuPair December 14, 2009 at 3:09 am

Having a stocking made me feel like part of the family. I didn’t expect anything, so I was even more happy about it. Thanks to my HF who included me in everything I didn’t feel homesick at all :)

I just wanted to add one more thing: A lot of AP-Friends of mine tell me, that they get real big, expensive gifts – they are nice, but don’t really feel personal.
Here’s an advice: I’d say for most AuPairs it’s a lot nicer to get something small, but personal and well thought about, than something bis and expensive that is just that: big and expensive.

Hill Mom December 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Any suggestions for stocking stuffers?

PA aupair mom December 14, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I put in lip gloss/chapstick, gift card to starbucks, a few pairs of inexpensive earrings, some American candy, some scrapbooking stickers and pens.

just some ideas.

MommyMia December 14, 2009 at 5:02 pm

You could also add movie passes/tickets if your AP likes going to movies. I have considered for our current, fabulous, AP adding some “coupons” that could be exchanged for “one hour off early on a Friday” or “select two items you like from the German deli” or other things she would enjoy as a treat.

PA aupair mom December 14, 2009 at 5:47 pm

the coupons are a great idea!!!

Anonymous December 14, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Christmas decorations ready at my house!….no sock for me!! :(

Sara Duke December 15, 2009 at 7:48 am

As for what to put in the stockings – I put in warm socks with wool for au pairs who come from warm climates (you can get them cheaply at Target and they come in fun colors), lip balm, hand lotion, Purell to guard against my germballs — I mean children, a phone card, an iTunes card, stamps, chocolates, nuts. My current au pair is very private, but the ones who leave their stuff out or make it clear what they like – I try to make the stockings fun and reflect their interests. My goal, with the exception of the gift cards, is to try to fill the stocking as cheaply as possible (for the kids too).

For under the tree, I try to purchase a lot of inexpensive items – it’s no fun for the au pair to watch the family open presents long after hers are open. (We take turns in our house, so everyone can see the gift.) I try to make them reflect what is needed and some that reflect the au pair’s personality. I try to pay attention to favorite colors, whether the au pair always wears stripes, what size she prefers. My husband and I have a policy that items needed for the house (like the electric heater for our au pair’s basement bedroom) are not Christmas gifts.

This year is a first for my family — we have an au pair who has never celebrated Christmas before (it’s not a religious holiday for us – we embrace the gift-giving and charity toward others). For au pairs who do celebrate, we go out of our way to find foods from their countries (special Swedish soda, gingerbread house kits, chocolates, cookies) and encourage them to add their tradition to ours. We ask them to regal our kids with stories of how the celebrate Christmas.

CV December 15, 2009 at 9:50 am

Sara,
I like your policy about household needs vs. gifts. I do the same kind of thing with kid stuff: if they “need” a new backpack, that’s a family expense, but if she “wants” a handbag, that’s likely to be a gift.
The only time I wavered on this and got our Au Pair some monogrammed towels from LandsEnd for Christmas, I belatedly realized that they’d be hard to get home (we shipped them to her) so it was a dumb move on my part, all around. Live and learn.

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