Holiday Gift Exchange: Host Parent to Host Parent

by cv harquail on December 22, 2014

My mom had a wonderful tradition for our neighborhood Christmas party.

She asked every grown up to bring a small gift for a grab bag.  The gift had to be wrapped in aluminum foil so that (1) you couldn’t quite tell what it was, and (2)everything looked shiny.

When folks arrived at the party they put their gift into the Santa sack by the front door. Then, as each grownup left they got to take a gift, unwrap it, and shout ‘ho ho ho’ as they showed the gift to everyone else.

au pair gifts, au pair advice, choosing an au pair(Meanwhile, each child got a cellophane bag of Christmas cookies.)

The big challenge was that the gift had to be something “surprisingly delightful”.  

They could be new, they could be used, they could be re-gifts, they could be silly– but the whole point was to be somehow delightful.

That lead to some pretty weird gifts, I thought.  Once someone wrapped up a can of whipped cream. That was ‘surprising’. But it took a special person to see how it might be ‘delightful’.

In any case, I’ve been thinking about gifts and au pairs and drawing a blank this year about what to write.  We’ve got lots of posts in the archives about gifts for au pairs, which you’ve probably already searched for and read if you’ve been looking for ideas.

But what about gifts for each other? Host parent to host parent?

Here’s the challenge then:

If you could wrap a gift in aluminum foil and drop it into a Santa sack, for any other host parent to pull out, what would your grab bag contribution be?



Taking a Computer Lunch December 23, 2014 at 8:40 am

I think the most important gift is not tangible. It’s communication. Talk to your au pair. Real communication takes work, but it relieves all sorts of stresses in any relationship. If you don’t have a curious au pair, one that asks questions – then be pro-active. Tell her about what to expect, ask her if she’s been making plans, warn her in advance when schedules are about to change, invite her to experience things that make your community famous.

The holidays are so stressful for everyone, that a few kinds words at the dinner table, when you first arrive home, or when you have a quiet moment, can make all the difference. The way you celebrate the holidays are going to be completely different than the way your AP does at home, and you need to remind her or him that it doesn’t make it bad – just different. Reach out and give an explicit invitation to join your family in your traditions, but don’t feel wounded if you’re rejected.

Anonymous December 23, 2014 at 9:41 am

My Aupair just arrived which is a little stressful right before Christmas , but we try to make most of it. I listen to see of there is something they really need , then throw in some fun stuff like gift cards fuzzy pjs a huge makeup
Kit. I also make special ornaments with their name on it or a family ornament with her name included as well as her own stocking with name. I hope this makes her feel part of the family and not an outsider. We also made gingerbread houses this year, a first time experience for our Aupair, Jen

WestMom December 23, 2014 at 10:39 am

Dear fellow host moms, here is my Secret Santa to you…

– A magic dictionary so AP (and DH) can instantly understand what you actually mean, regardless of language
– A telepathic calendar automatically updated with everyone’s activities and responsibilities. Also with telepathic reminders (gym on Tuesday = sneakers!)
– A grocery-delivery service that delivers food along with a menu sure to please everyone in your home! For a small extra fee, they will actually prepare the food FOR you!
– A head hunter that will go door to door internationally to find the perfect AP for your family
– Invisible powers, which would allow you to escape family and go draw a long warm bubble bath
– A ‘I am just human’ free pass for each time you dare not to be perfect: coming home late from work, no more milk in the fridge, clean dishwasher and dirty dishes in the sink when you have to run out, no more money in the petty cash jar, no gas in the car…
– A really nice bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir

Really, You are all doing a great job and I hope everyone cuts you some slack over the holidays… Have a great one everyone.

OpinionatedHM December 23, 2014 at 10:47 am

A headhunter to find the perfect AuPair for me! Please,Please,Please, someone make this happen!

DowntownMom December 24, 2014 at 2:08 pm

A friend of mine is a retired admin manager with lots of hiring experience. I have seriously considered asking her to do the pre-screening for $200 to $300.

hostmominco December 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Those gifts WOULD be delightful!

Emerald City HM December 23, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I want them all!

OpinionatedHM December 23, 2014 at 10:58 am

Since it seems we are allowed to dream big when answering this question. I would implement all of the great ideas found on this site – custom google map, edited and up to date family manual, and all the other things I intend to do but never find the time for – and gift them to another host parent so they don’t have to stress about it like I do each year.

Anna December 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm

A gift card of three weeks of experienced babysitting for those two weeks of au pair vacation plus one week for unexpected contingencies thrown in….

I could’ve really used one myself right now, since my au pair ditched us a month before she was scheduled to end her year (sort of emergency at home, but really, depends on point of view….. breaking her commitment to us in order to not lose something at home). My expenses for childcare (four kids, one a baby) suddenly tripled, plus no money refund from the agency – too late in the year.

TexasHM December 23, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Wow she left and you didn’t get a refund?! What agency are you with if you don’t mind me asking?

Anna December 23, 2014 at 11:15 pm

I am going to try to get something back after the holidays. But if you look at the fine print in most agencies, the refunds are prorated depending on how much time is left. Usually that close to the end there is nothing left.

Carinhp December 24, 2014 at 7:18 am

Sorry Anna. Good luck. Make sure you do not sign any waivers for the agency. Some Au pairs, LCCs and agencies will try to walk HP into signing a waiver to agree that if AP leaves early HP has no objection. That leaves HF sometimes with no right to a protata refund or credit, and often allows the Au pair a free flight home especially in the last 2-4 weeks of her contract. That can leave the HF out of pocket for a couple of thousand plus when you take into account extra emergency childcare cost, time off work, protata lost share of vac/education money/agency fees etc.
we had an Au pair try to pull a fast one where at the point where she had 6.5 or maybe 7 weeks left she was going on 2 or 2.5 weeks vacation (we had been cajoled into to giving her an extra 1.5 weeks due to an opportunity she said came up unexpctedly to travel more…. she had used 1 week earlier). She waited until the stress we had about arranging childcare coverage for her extra long trip settled down and then She advised that she needed to go home and leave the Au pair program 29 days early. Her plan we realized was to avail of the long vacation, then return for about 4 work days to bridge her into being 1 day shy of the 30 day agency rule of thumb and then officially she could say ‘I left 29 days early’ and the agency would try to have us sign the waiver. We were given the guilt trip about ‘how sad she will have to pay her own flight home if you don’t sign’. That would have left us with 4 or so days of childcare out of a period for which we had paid for 6.5 or 7. Our average Au pair cost was around $12 per hour prorata (aggregate cost of high car insurance + education + stipend + agency + share of utilities phone food divided by # of hours PE we use ). It would have left us out of pocket 2000+ extra childcare.
We refused to sign the waiver and ended up going into rematch at that point due to that being just 1 example of the issues with this young lady’s sense of responsibility.

Carinhp December 24, 2014 at 7:20 am

* I meant to say ‘paid for 6.5 or 7 weeks’ not days.

SKNY December 27, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Today was the first time I saw our (American) housecleaner since Au pair left us cold the week before thanksgiving. She usually comes on Fridays but we asked to change this week. Oh well… She commented on how she likes our new (live out) nanny, that nanny interacts a lot with kids, etc… And how my 2yo was always lonely when she was here, and Au pair would sit on couch on her phone all the time, baby would lay alone on floor all morning, while lonely 2yo would spend all morning following cleaner around, chatting with her, sometimes helping, etc. and that now 2yo doesn’t follow her around anymore. She does crafts, coloring, games, etc.
I am still “mourning” the loss of the language exposure, but it was sad to think of my kids like that. It also gave my husband strength to continue his “no Au pair” campaign. Our current nanny is cheaper, more engaged, and drama free.
How sad though is that I so into the idea of the perfect host family/Au pair relationship that I dream we move to a different area just so I can have an awesome Au pair who will help me teach Portuguese to my kids???

TexasHM December 28, 2014 at 12:14 am

We are taking a break right now after a disasterous experience (she was sent home) too and I can relate. EVERYONE saw it wasn’t working/wasn’t going to work but we fought so hard (regretting that now too). Our first AP (married American and newly pregnant) was worried and got really involved and when AP fell apart she eagerly agreed to nanny for the next 5-6 months while we get our heads above water and our mojo for the AP program back. I can’t imagine trying to make the AP program work with a language limitation (serious props to those of you doing it). I’ve been poking around a little on AP profiles and oddly enough, finding it therapeutic! There are some really amazing candidates out there that deserve a chance and our 3 ex-APs were so supportive of us during the whole thing and all told us that we shouldn’t quit because of this experience because we changed their lives. Love them!! Need to focus on the positive and not throw the baby out with the bath water! So glad your kiddos are happy SKNY and best of luck to you! Maybe rematch candidates when your hubs cools off? I bet there’s portuguese speakers with weak English but otherwise strong (I interviewed a couple).

happyhostmom December 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm

I would say the gift of patience in the interviewing process. It is tedious, and long for us. We start early and sometimes find candidates who would be good, but want to come earlier than expected. We spend ALOT of time pre match and post match getting to know the AP. Lots of emails, phonecalls. We don’t rush the decision and try to have the patience to know the right one will come “just like finding the right mate in life” :) It can be hard balancing work, household stuff, kids, and everything else with interviewing, but it’s so worth the wait .I know a few families who rushed and rematch came quickly. Happy Holidays everyone!!! (PS I could use some more right now)

Repeataupair December 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm

If you look for extending candidates maybe you could look for facebook pages and blogs of au pairs ?

I have an active blog as well as a facebook page updated daily and I learned after a couple of months here that my HF found me on google and not through the agency. They read my blog and my facebook page (which are both public), the grandpa as well (he speaks my language), and it really gave them a better idea on what kind of au pair I was. It was luck that I had been online for a couple of days just as they did that and they weren’t actually looking for me but it all worked good in the end.
What I find funny and they commented on it, is that as they were interviewing me, I was writing on my blog about the families contacting me and why I was refusing them, but they also know that I haven’t chosen them just to match but because I thought we were a good match.
But yeah, my blog shows who I am as an au pair, it shows my activities with them, my crafts, etc…

If you speak the language of the au pair, that could be really helpful I think.

AlwaysHopeful HM December 29, 2014 at 7:29 am

This may seem like a dumb question, but how do you search for blogs/ FB pages of rematching au pairs? RepearAuPair, did you have special keywords in your profile that made you easy to find?

Repeataupair December 29, 2014 at 9:25 pm

For rematch I would think it is harder since it does not get referenced very fast on Google, one way would be to simply ask for au pairs in rematch if they have a page/blog maybe by going on facebook groups. I would just go on Facebook groups with lots of members and write something like “Hi – I’m looking for au pairs in rematch that have a blog of maybe a page we can look at”. Anyone genuine who is looking for a HF will have no problem giving you their link.

For me the name of my blog is Repeataupair, so lots of people find my blog easily on google if they look for repeat au pairs. I think they searched “french repeat au pair” or something similar (which is not really what they actually were looking for in a way, but it worked).

Mimi December 30, 2014 at 4:06 pm

For all of us in rematch (’tis the season it seems!), I wish a speedy resolution to your matching process! I hope you find a return of your HM mojo and faith in the matching process that will bring you everything you’re looking for in an AP.

For those of you happy with your current AP, I wish you continued happiness with them and your next match. (And I say it with a smile, not gritted teeth!) :)

For those of you on the fence about a situation, I wish for you to have the courage and wisdom to make the right decision and to not beat yourself up about your doubts or inaction. Love yourself for being human.

And for CV, I wish a return of all the blessings each of us have found here– wisdom, advice, ideas, and friendship. Thank you for giving us the tools to be better people in this process!

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