A long time ago, I was experimenting with doing a vlog (a video post), but I never posted it because I looked kindof dorky. Also, a few months later, the lovely Susan Robinson of Cultural Care started her AuPairAnswerMom vlogs, and does them so well that I thought I’d just stick to text.
But then I got this email, below, from a Host Mom who’s interested in gift baskets (or Welcome Baskets) that are sent to incoming au pairs at Orientation.
Hi CV. I hope I’m not asking something that has already been asked, but I’m wondering how many families order the gift baskets at the au pair school. Our 4th au pair is arriving in March and we’ve never ordered the gift basket. Now we’re wondering if our girls feel totally left out. Our last AP said she didn’t care about it, and that the things in it weren’t anything she would want, but I’m now wondering if she was just being nice. What do other HFs do?
Thanks. I love the blog. It’s fascinating to see what others think about AP-related things. Jenna
Since I already had this vlog, and post, somewhere in the hopper, here’s my answer. …
I thought it might be nice for her to be welcomed, maybe with some mini-Snickers bars, some photos of the kids and a baseball cap, and get a little extra cash to pay for her snacks on her way down to Virginia. Plus I am a total sucker for presents. Wrap a pencil in some tissue paper, tie on a ribbon, give it to me, and I’m in heaven. However, I must go against my general present giver-and -receiver preferences this time.
Based on the comments on our earlier posts about orientation, I’m revising my recommendation on gift baskets, and I say:
Enough with the gift baskets
Well, many reasons–
- Gift baskets leave some au pairs feeling special and other au pairs feeling left out — we don’t want to put any au pair at an emotional disadvantage by thinking– even for a minute– that his or her host parents don’t really care.
- Gift baskets have become a revenue opportunity for agencies. I don’t begrudge them a bit of profit, but I do think that the agencies exacerbate the problem by having several options, each more costly than the last!
- Agency-sponsored gift baskets aren’t very ‘personal’. They aren’t made by you, or your kids.
In my opinion, the gift basket thing has gotten to be more about making money, spending money, and making the welcome less personal– and that’s not what it’s supposed to be about. Plus, the social drama around gift baskets has overwhelmed their purpose.
The point of sending anything to Orientation is to welcome your au pair and help her or him get excited about meeting your family.
You might still want to send your au pair something (other than a formal gift basket) and if you do, send a package with:
- Some photographs
- A welcome note from you and/ or your kids
- A hat, T-shirt or town-based souvenir (like, postcards of the park near your house)
- A NYC guidebook
- Candy for him or her to share with roommates
If your au pair is taking an extra flight, train ride or bus trip to get to your home from orientation, consider sending her or him up to $10 – $20 explicitly for her to buy snacks or lunch. You’d buy her lunch if you were picking her up in your car, so it doesn’t seem like too much to send some food money. But again, just a small amount.
Remember, you’re not trying to win your au pair over with generosity or munificence. You just want to help your au pair feel welcomed.
It’s possible that, really, what you need is a warm phone call.
All of which would total less than $25.
What are your feelings about Gift Baskets? Next post up is a poll!