Leftover Thanksgiving Tips for your Au Pair Relationship

by cv harquail on December 2, 2009


Do you have any Thanksgiving Leftovers leftover?

We got cleaned out by my sister, who took several tubs of Gladware back to her house, leaving us with just one day of warmed turkey and too much cranberry sauce.

Luckily, she overlooked Enid’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. DH and I polished that off all by ourselves.

But it’s not abut the food– it’s about the memories.

What are you and your au pair going to remember about this year’s Thanksgiving? What will your kids look back on?

Even more specifically, what do you want to keep in mind for your au pair next Thanksgiving or even for the next holiday? (I know, who can think about Thanksgiving with the next celebration right around the corner???)

Give us a report, a recap or a recommendation!

Thanksgiving Leftovers Lunch by Mfitzhugh on Flickr


PA au pair mom December 2, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Just before Halloween I showed our current au pair Thanksgiving pictures from last year. She was most impressed with all the food and the family football game after dinner. From that point on, she couldn’t wait for the football game. It rained most of the week leading up to thanksgiving and I could tell that she was disappointed. By some strange stroke of luck, the weather on thanksgiving day was nice and dry and we were able to have our football game. We got muddy and it was fun.

My mom took tons of pictures of us playing and I made a copy of them for our au pair. She said she will cherish them. A great memory for all of us.

Calif Mom December 2, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I confess to reading these past articles about holidays with a twinge of sadness. Our current au pair is sweet, caring, skilled, patient, and responsible (is even being gracious about paying for the car damage!), but has not chosen to ‘join in’ with our family activities or learn many new things (I’ve tried!) . We really like being hosts, sharing our country and culture, so to speak. It is not us creating the distance–we are very welcoming people and are generous with time and invitations to do things, even just going to Costco when they first get here, or whatever. I keep finding my feelings hurt, though I know it is not intentional.

Here’s the source of this distance: our au pair is a very religious person–which is fine with us, we have a church too–and the perhaps hidden downside of this is that she has found her support network, her ‘home away from home’ and friendships in a church community with people from her country. As I said, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this at all, but I have to confess that it hurts my feelings a little, and it is sometimes hard to explain to the kids why our au pair is always doing things with them instead of joining us. I don’t want to ‘require’ that she join us as part of her duties, that seems wrong. Even host Dad has felt these pangs. We would have liked to take her to our friends’ farm when we went picking, for example, but she was always booked. Invitations to bring her friends along didn’t go anywhere, either. Those are real cultural experiences that she has missed. I guess I feel badly for her, too, that she is not getting diverse experiences because she is mostly hanging out with like-minded friends from her own country.

I know that these are not really things to complain about, but more sadnesses, missed opportunities. As for Thanksgiving, well, I am thankful that she hasn’t asked me to drive her to the 7-11 to buy cigarettes, like Pointy Boots did! :-)

But it does make me think hard about Next AP, and how important it will be for me to select someone who wants to be more a part of our family, but not wanting me to be her mother. :-)

PA au pair mom December 2, 2009 at 7:52 pm

I understand what you are saying. Our last AP made friends with the students at the local medical school and spent all her free time with them. We started scheduling her to work on holidays and special events. The kids were upset about her non-participation in family events, so HD and I discussed it and added those days to her schedule. Not every holiday, but the big ones, Thanksgiving, Xmas, Xmas eve, boys’ birthdays, etc. She was off on New Year’s, her birthday, every single weekend (except 3).

She ended up having a good time with our family on all the occasions that we required but I know that had she not been scheduled, she would have skipped every celebration, except maybe xmas.

Our AP now is totally into being part of our family. She spends time with friends too (very important) but she also spends a lot of time with us doing family things.

Anna December 2, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Calif Mom,

I think that actually your complaint is serious. She might be a great au pair, but when one party in the relationship is not happy, things are not going so well.
I would talk with her, and maybe talk with the program coordinator.
Cultural exchange, openness to it, and trying to become part of the family are part of the program. She could’ve stayed home and enjoyed the company of like-minded same-language-speaking coreligionists just the same. She is losing out a lot in her year, missing a lot of growth and learning opportunities by behaving like that, and shortchanging your family by not developing a deeper relationship with you and the kids. YOU are her home away from home, not her church.

NewAP Mom December 3, 2009 at 1:33 am

OK, we’re getting way off track, but I don’t really agree with this. I don’t think that integration into a family on the au pair’s off time is necessarily a given. I think it CAN be, depending on the au pair and the family. But it’s something you should clarify upfront. If it’s not working out the way you’d like, of course the best thing you can do is communicate your disappointment and try to find a happy medium. But I know that we were looking for an au pair who had her own “weekend life” and are happy that we found one, and so is she!

PA au pair mom December 3, 2009 at 2:20 am

I agree that if you want an au pair to work during the week and be “on their own” on the weekend then that’s good too…..as long as the au pair wants that too.

every family has different ideas about what the experience should be. the key is finding an au pair that has the same ideas as your family.

Anna December 3, 2009 at 8:30 am

I agree it is not necessarily a given (nothing is a given unfortunately), but when one party is unhappy with the situation, a compromise should be found.

TX Mom December 3, 2009 at 12:26 pm

CA Mom,
I feel your pain. Keep it in perspective though. I think we are in similar shoes (or pointy boots) and have had to rematch because of childcare or child/AP relationship problems. It is FANTASTIC when you have an AP that is great with the kids and a great family member, but so far of my AP’s who are great with the kids, I have a 33% success rate that they are a good family member. When I chose 2 AP’s who I thought would be both, we ended in rematch. Enjoy the AP who is a great childcare provider for the sanity it brings your household.

NJMom December 2, 2009 at 3:46 pm

We took our AP to the city the night before TG with the kids to see the Macy’s Balloon inflation and then have a nice diner out. It was totally nutty, way more crowded than I expected but I hope it’s a memory she’ll have. I’m not sure that I would do it again given the crowds but it was a good one-time experience!

Steph December 2, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Calif Mom: I completely understand your feelings, I have the same situation right now and I do find it sad. Doesn’t make her a bad au pair at all, actually she is great with the children. I just miss a closer relationship, family dinners and the occasional activities together. Sometimes its hard to connect when you feel like your au pair wants to spend as little time as she can with you. I did explain that to her and she’s making an effort to be more involved but I really struggled with asking because if I have to ask, then she probably doesn’t want to do it.. Just like you, I will revise my criteria and the way I interview future candidates. I really do enjoy the cultural aspects of the program and since I have a house full of boys and work from home, I really enjoy some girl time too!

Calif Mom December 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Thanks to all–I didn’t mean to subvert the conversation, and yet am sorta glad to hear others share this same feeling.

Yes, Steph, I absolutely feel that if I have to ask, it’s just not the same as choosing to be with us.

TX Mom — yep!

Anonymous December 2, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Our AP chose not to spend the holiday with us as well. It made me a little sad to especially since she is leaving in a month.

Calif Mom December 3, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Anonymous, I know what you mean. When they get ready to leave they really start to detach even more. Our first decided to fall head over heels in love in her last 3 months (coincidence?) and it was really tough. We felt like a boarding house! Hang in there, and don’t take it personally. She will be sad to leave you and your familly, too, but this is pretty common.

New AP Mom December 2, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Our au pair helped me cook Thanksgiving dinner. She’s a good cook anyway, but it gave me the opportunity to teach her all about Tablespoons vs. Teaspoons and cups and how to decipher English cooking vocabulary. And it made cooking a lot more fun to have her help!

Then we had our friends over and we all had dinner together. It was fun.

We have a great balance of family involvement this time around. I made a big point to ask what kind of relationship our au pair wanted during the interview questions, so maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s just luck. Probably both.

aussiegirlaupair December 3, 2009 at 4:18 am

Thats sounds great when I am an aupair next year in the states I hope I have the opportunity to help cook the Thanksgiving Meal :)

happy mom December 3, 2009 at 12:35 am

Thanksgiving was an amazing confluence of wonderful events that created a memorable meal and warm experience to welcome our new au pair. Our au pair had arrived a week before Thanksgiving and brought cheese and wine from France for the Thanksgiving table. A dear guest had roasted a turkey flavored with seasonings from her native Peru. Quaint desserts passed down from a midwest childhood and Asian stir fry completed our delicious multicultural Thanksgiving meal. A guest had brought the game of Scrabble to play. The au pair and the many children in attendence laughed and joked while they figured out whether a funny sounding word was real or pretend.

Babsi December 4, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Unfortunately I didn’t spend a good Thanksgiving in my host family. I came here to America (3 months ago) with the intention to enrich my life, learn about American culture, become a part of the family and be a lovely, caring au pair.
But I have to realize that I am failing! Thanksgiving made me realize.
I was so excited when this Holiday was appoaching. I dreamt of a great family dinner at the grandparents’ house in Chicago, but a few days before Thanksgiving they told me that they missed to orginaze the trip. So the mothers’ grandparents came over. Grandma cooked all morning long, I tried to helped in order to integrate myself into the family – like I always do and to learn about the American way of cooking (my host mom cooks very rarely, and in case she cooks, it is something from the fridge like dumplings or pizza). During Grandma cooked the rest of the family was watching television without much conversation.
At 2p.m. Thanksgiving dinner was ready, the child got all the attention by crying during about one hour. at 4p.m. the grandparents left and Thanksgiving was over.
I am so disappointed. We did a small Black Friday shopping, but it was boring though.

I am sad reading this blog, because I realize that some host families have the same problem like me, just the other way round. I feel sorry for those host family because I cannot understand those selfish au pairs. I would like to give my best and be the most wonderful au pair, but actually i feel like I have post-it on my forehead with the note: “Just the nanny”. I miss those family events like Baseball games, Black Friday shopping, having dinner together etc.

Oh no, Christmas Time is approaching…!

CV December 5, 2009 at 11:51 am

Hi Babsi,
Good for you that you tried to integrate yourself by helping out — even though things still didn’t turn out well, you can feel good that you personally made an effort.

Your comment also reminds me to mention that holidays often don’t live up to the hype. Sometimes a particular family’s traditions are not much like how a holiday is portrayed in movies, and that can be disappointing. But worse, I think, is when families themselves would like something different but for whatever reason can’t pull things together to make the holiday be what they’d like.

Lots of times we as parents & host families let ourselves down by not planning ahead, by not being clear about what’s most important to us about a holiday, by letting grudges and misunderstandings (not to mention, a lack of generosity) get in the way of building relationships in our families… Maybe what you learned this Thanksgiving was a little bit about how ‘reality’ works for some families.

That said, maybe too there are some things that you can do in advance for Christmas? Maybe you can do something for or with the baby that could start a tradition (e.g., photo Christmas ornaments) or give your host parent(s) a gift certificate for a few hours of “elf help” where you help them get the holiday organized (my DH really loved it when our 6 ft tall ap helped put lights on the tree– it felt like a real gift to him from our ap).

Calif Mom December 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Exactly what I was thinking as I read Babsi’s post. Sometimes Thanksgiving sucks for hosts, too! Especially if Grandma wanted to take over my kitchen, that would not be a happy day!!! :-)

Our au pair and kids are cutting out paper snowflakes after school on plain white paper. They will be wonderful taped to our windows all winter, not just for Christmas.

aupair... December 5, 2009 at 1:32 am

I had my thanksgiving day with my host family cause I really wants to live a american life, but what I got was eating on the kid’s table, with 10 kids all by my self in a diferent room from the rest of the family… I really thought that could be better!

CV December 5, 2009 at 11:16 am

I’m so sorry to hear that…. especially if you weren’t even on duty, the kids table can feel like Siberia. I hope that your host parents rethink what it means to have an au pair before the next set of holidays, so you can be included in a more loving way.

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