Plan Ahead for the Holidays. How will your Au Pair celebrate with you?

by cv harquail on October 1, 2008

preparingforxmas-3 I was just stunned to learn this morning that there are only 12 weeks until Christmas. 12 Weeks!!! While my Jewish friends have been celebrating their new year, I have been stumbling along oblivious to how quickly the fall has been flying by…. so thank goodness that blogger Tsh over at reminded me that it’s time to start thinking about the holidays. [Tsh is starting a series on preparing for Christmas , (that’s her badge, left) in case you want some ideas!]

p i & elrina christmas Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, agnostic or any blend of religious and spiritual traditions, the Winter Holiday time is soon upon us/you. For many of us, this is a busy season of parties, shopping, eating, VACATIONING, and visiting. For most au pairs this is a time of topsy-turvy schedules, traveling, lots of new family members, and missing home and family. There is a certain tristesse at holiday time, replete with a longing for what we remember, some wondering about what will come, a focus on family and friendships, and even the mix of anticipation and regret in the approach of the new calendar year.

And what does any of this have to do with you and your Au Pair? Oh, so much more than you think. So, start planning now, to make many of the decisions easier. Consider….

Location: Let your au pair know as soon as possible where you will be over the holidays (at Grandma’s? In St. Barts? (if only….)) and whether she will be coming with you. Whether she goes with you or stays home, she may need to make plans to celebrate and relax while she’s off-duty. If she’s going with you, give your family a heads up so that your au pair has someplace to sleep and some privacy. If you’re at home the whole time, how will your family’s plans affect her (e.g., sharing a bathroom or car with Grandma, your sister’s children also here…)?

Days you absolutely need her/don’t need her on-duty: Now is the time to remind your Au Pair that back when you interviewed her she agreed to work New Year’s Eve — or to tell her that she’s free to make plans that don’t include your car and/or her driving . Now is the time to look at your own calendar, identify which Saturday night you’re throwing your Christmukkuh party, and let her know she’ll be on duty- or not.

Cultural Exchange: Are there things about your holiday celebration that you can teach her about? Can you explain to her how the whole Santa thing works in your family? Are there any holiday traditions from her culture that she might want to share with you? How about any great family recipes?

School Events: Are there concerts, assemblies, or parties that you’ll need her help with, or that you’ll invite her to attend?

School Vacation: Do you anticipate changing her typical work schedule (e.g., from afternoons to full days while the kids are home from school and you’re still at work)? Will she have any weekends free?

Religious services: Will your au pair want or need to attend religious services on Christmas or Christmas Eve? Will she need your help to schedule this in or to get transportation? Will she be singing in the Choir and really want you to come and hear her?

Picture 087 Plan Ahead Projects: Will you want her to help your children write holiday cards? Make family gifts? Shop for teacher presents?

Gifts for her: Now is the time to start taking candid photos for the album you want your kids to make for her. And, you want to start looking for an assortment of gifts for her, that are high in thoughtfulness and not too pricey.

There is much more to say about holidays/vacations and your au pair relationship, and we can go into greater detail in future posts. This first post should help warm you up, and maybe even help to prompt a more intentional, mindful holiday season for all of us.


Rayann October 2, 2008 at 1:51 pm

We’re finding that this is a somewhat complicated issue. For us, the biggest problem is that we typically book our holiday plane tickets WAY in advance for Christmas and New Year’s trips, and I think it’s difficult for our au pair to know what she wants to be doing three months from now. We hated having to force her to make a decision on how she wanted to spend the holidays so far ahead of time, but we had to because of plane tickets. She’s joining us in Las Vegas for New Year’s, and she’s still considering Christmas. We hope she will join us since we consider her part of our family, but we also want her to have the freedom to take the time to travel.

cvh October 6, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Hi Rayann- That seems like a pretty fair decision– to get her tickets for one holiday along with you and give her the option of choosing to join you for the other holiday if she chooses to. It’s also great to give her the CHOICE… that seems to matter most of all. If she makes the choice, regardless of what it is, the ownership of the decision makes it easier to handle any later ambivalence.

In that second case, would your family ask her to pay for her own flights, or the difference between what you paid for your tickets and what (more) she’d need to pay for hers? If it were me, and she decided later to join us at a higher cost, I think I’d be a little up tight paying ‘extra’ so that she could have time to decide… but that’s because we have a tight budget and another $500 could really do me in around the holidays. IMHO, I don’t think it’s bad to ask her to make a decision about the holidays even 3 months ahead– you’d need to plan that far ahead for her vacation/your vacation, too.

The holidays are (just) a bit harder that your average vacations because of the emotions and potential homesickness they can involve.

ost more for her tickets

Talya October 22, 2008 at 7:54 pm

I love that you are letting your au pair in on holiday plans this far in advance. As Rayann mentioned, it may be tough for an au pair to decide this early in the season how she will want to spend Christmas/New Year’s, but better to let her in on plans now than springing everything on her the week of. This way she can make her own choice and plan accordingly.


Talyas last blog with (someone else’s) children

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