Last night I was ironing a pretty Christmas tablecover given to us by the cousin of one of our au pairs, when he was visiting a few years ago. Smoothing out the God Jul! embroidery, I looked up to see the Swedish straw reindeer, the sleigh candle holder, the Dala horse ornaments, and one of my favorite Christmas gifts of all time, a handmade paper mobile of angels. All gifts from Au Pairs.
When I put up these decorations, I’m warmed by memories of au pairs near and distant, and I’m also a little sad.
I get nostalgic and a little emotional at Christmas, even when it’s at my home, with my decorations, my family, and our traditions. The few times in my own life that I haven’t been home for Christmas have been acutely lonely, even when I was having fun. What must it be like for au pairs who celebrate Christmas, to be away from their families at this time of year, maybe away from home for the first time? It must be even worse for au pairs who don’t have a great ‘fit’ with their host families — they don’t have the easy way of joining in, contributing, or easily adding their traditions or voices.
How can we help our au pairs feel less homesick, more welcomed, and more included at this time of year?
Do any of you host parents have strategies for opening up your holiday traditions to include your au pairs?
Or strategies for letting go (of anything) to make more emotional room for her or him?
I’d love to hear them.