Thanksgiving Thoughts about Gratitude

by cv harquail on November 24, 2015

[Two years ago we enjoyed this post on gratitude, and au pairs. Since there are so many new and different readers of the blog now, that I thought I’d post it again.  Following up this post is a chance to reflect what you’re thankful and grateful for in your host family- au pair relationship.  cv]

With Thanksgiving upon us, opening up the holiday season, all of us host moms & dads have a chance to be thankful about what our children and our au pairs bring into our lives.

Part of the reason I think that having an au pair can be so great is that it asks us to open up our families and to share our lives with others, in a unique way. We have to consider our values and priorities, translate these for someone from another culture, consider their personal and cultural values, manage the constant balance between employee and family, and collaborate together to support our children, our au pair, ourselves, and our community.200911250811.jpg

Thanksgiving gives us a (pretty obvious) opportunity to reflect on what having an au pair is bringing to our families, and how strengthening our relationships between our selves, our au pairs and our children can benefit all of us. Whether your relationship is more functional or more familial, whether you feel frustrated or delighted more often than not, there’s something good going on or your wouldn’t be in this relationship.

Take a moment to reflect on all of this, and to share your gratitude with your family and your au pair. (It’s okay to give yourself a pat on the back too, parents.)

Folks enjoyed the article by Christine Kane that I shared a few months ago, and here is another one about Thanksgiving. It’s always a treat to find something well-written and insightful, and since Christine encourages her readers to share her posts in toto, I’m happy to send it along to you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Why Gratitude Makes You Happy and Wealthy
by Christine Kane

Gratitude is more than being thankful one day a year. Gratitude is a practice. For some, it’s a way of life.

Why do some people swear by the practice of gratitude? Why do these people have joy-filled and abundant lives?

In other words, why does gratitude make you happy and wealthy?

• Because gratitude is about presence.

It’s about waking up in this moment and being here – really being here – and noticing what’s around you. Most people are so busy thinking about the next thing, or about their horrid past, that they don’t wake up and look around at their present moment – the only moment there is.

• Because gratitude is about honoring YOUR precious life.

Do you ever compare your life with someone else’s? Do you ever wish your life were better and more like [insert famous person’s name here]? Sometimes we can lose ourselves in wondering how we “measure up” to some standard set by our families or by the media. Comparison is the mind killer. The antidote is gratitude.

Gratitude requires that you validate your own life. (And you really don’t have any other life, do
you?) It forces you to say YES to the gift that is you. The choices you’ve made and the changes you’ve gone through – they have brought you here. Even if here is a place that needs a little adjustment, that’s okay. There are always gifts in any present moment.

• Because gratitude is about attracting.

It’s difficult to attract abundance and joy if you are constantly saying “no” to what IS. You say “no” each time you focus on the future or past, or when you criticize something that is in your present moment.

Attraction is about saying Yes. When you say Yes, you shift.

Gratitude says, “Yes, I love this!” And then more of this is attracted, because the this is what you’re focusing on.

• Because gratitude is about choice.

How you translate any situation is the situation. What you choose to see is the truth (for you).

This isn’t proposing that you live in denial or phoniness. It’s reminding you that your translation of any life situation is your choice. We’ve all heard stories of people who have ignored others’ translations of their talent, their projects, their art, their looks, their lives. These people chose their own translations and succeeded. You always have a choice when it comes to how you look at things. Choose to choose gratitude.

• Because gratitude is about wisdom.

I think people believe they’re being smart if they criticize, complain, and focus on the problems of the world around them.

Smart? Maybe.

Clever? Sure.

But not wise.

200911250810.jpgIt is wise to look for and find the knowing place in your heart. It is wise to choose joy. It is wise to honor your riches. It is wise to focus on and grow the blessings of your life.

• Because gratitude is about recognition.

Use your power of focus to hone in on beauty and on what makes your heart sing. Recognize the spirit in your life. It’s all around you waiting to be noticed. In the words of Franz Kafka, “It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”

• Because gratitude is about receptivity.

Gratitude makes you receptive. It makes you a vessel, waiting to be filled.

I carry a tiny notebook with me everywhere I go. In it, I write down song ideas. I write down quotes I hear. I write down ideas for stage stories. As I do that, I become more receptive, and more ideas and songs come to me. It’s a tool that says to my subconscious, “Send more my way!” And the subconscious always responds.

Gratitude is the same way. It says, “I am receptive! Send more!” And more arrives.

• Because gratitude is about creativity.

Creativity is really all about attention. (So is genius.)

When I write a song, I build a relationship with that song. I spend time with it. I get to know it. I pay attention to it. Artists do the same thing with drawings. They spend time in rapt attention, and the drawing is born.

Gratitude is how we Live Creative. It is a creative act to notice and pay attention to the moments of your life. Some days it’s an enormous act of creativity to find things for which to be thankful.

Start today.

And have a Thanksgiving of presence, creativity, and gratitude! [Thanks Christine!]

Gratitide Cafe by CoreyThrace on Flickr
Cratitidue Tage by eekim on FLickr

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her ‘LiveCreative’ weekly ezine with more than 8,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at www.christinekane.com.

{ 17 comments }

Jeana November 26, 2009 at 8:07 am

My daughters have relationships with focused, responsible young women who are excellent role models. My girls have seen our aupairs devote time to their studies, save money, and spend time with our extended family. They’ve seen our aupairs listen to my advice and tell me that they appreciate that I’m watching out for their safety when I remind them to hold onto their beverages if they’re going out, or to stick together with their friends in new environments. My daughters have witnessed conversations about making wise choices about the people we choose to spend time with; conversations initiated by our aupairs. My children have nurtured out aupairs when they are missing their families. Our last two aupairs have been from China, the country where my children were born. I love that we’ve been able to learn about China in a way that we could only learn from a person who is Chinese and who has lived her life in China. When we return to China in the future, we’ll have two friends to visit! As a single, adoptive parent, having an aupair in our home has given me a backup, which has been an incredible blessing many times when something unexpected happened. The early lives of my children were not good, and I’ve been determined to provide a consistently stable family life for them. Having another adult in our home, who helps in caring for them, at home, has been a tremendous blessing for our family. I take the time to share our experiences because I want other families to be blessed from this experience, as well. I’m also incredibly thankful for our agency, AuPair in America. They’ve been wonderful to work with over the years. The Chicago aupairs donated many blankets that they made recently, which I’ll be giving to The Red Thread Promise, a non-profit organization that provides support to orphans in various parts of the world.

CV November 27, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Hi Jeana-
I always enjoy it when you comment, because you so often share specific examples of what you and your girls enjoy about having au pairs… The examples always share some kind of specific insight, and I bet they are encouraging to host parents (and au pairs).
The project that you organized with the Chicago Au Pairs– having them make blankets for orphans around the world– is a wonderful example to set, too.
Readers, go check out Jeana’s blog post about this, at TwiceBlessedChinaMom (see link in the sidebar on the right of APM…=> )
Happy thanksgiving to you all.

Chicago November 28, 2009 at 4:12 pm

The Project Linus event was a huge success-check it out here…
http://blogs.aupairinamerica.com/chicagoarea/2009/08/30/project-linus/

Jeana November 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Our cluster leader, from AuPair in America was aware of my work with The Red Thread Promise and volunteered to have the girls do this! Isn’t that amazing??? Can’t wait to pass the blankets on!

Gianna November 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I am very grateful that we have had the opportunity to meet so many fine young woman. I am grateful for the memories and grateful for the opportunity to share this special year of their lives.

DarthaStewart November 24, 2010 at 9:46 pm

I am grateful for so many wonderful people in my life. They have truly been a blessing- each and every au-pair has taught me something, and I am grateful for those that came and stayed, as well as those who didn’t.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 25, 2010 at 9:18 pm

One of the best things AP #4 taught us was how to say, “Thank you!” She said “thank you” after dinner and asked us, “How was your day?” when we came in the door. Her politeness trained us to be more attentive to future APs — and each other. Consequently, one of the first things I ask of my AP when I come through door is, “How was your day?” The other thing it trained me to do was to thank my APs for seemingly routine activities that they did well. Some APs have been embarrassed initially by the gratitude, others, puzzled, but all come to enjoy being thanked for doing their job well. There’s no other incentive — no theater tickets, no plane tickets, no trips to the spa — just a honest thank you for doing a job well.

I am grateful, after 8 1/2 years of hosting in 9 1/2 years, what a remarkable job the young women who have come into my life have done taking care of my children. I am honestly able to say that The Camel would not be an adolescent without their help. And my typically developing child (as well as DH and I) have been enriched in more ways than I am able to count.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 25, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Five years later, I am still grateful for the ability to host an AP. Yes, it breaks the bank, but the payoff is wonderful – sharing my home with a series of (mostly) beautiful women (inside and out) who are caring and fantastic with my teenager with severe disabilities. Their presence allows me to have a career, to care for myself as well as my children, and to offer my typically developing teenager the opportunity to have adult experiences with both of his parents (The Camel just would not behave appropriately during them).

I express my gratitude by being as flexible as I am able in giving weeks and weekends off, in being organized enough to post the next month’s schedule in advance, and to be as generous as I am able up front in making the incoming AP feel welcome in a very clean room, and in hosting friends and families members – whether it be one night or one week.

A Russian friend once said, “In Russia there is nothing on the shelves and everything on the table, and in American there is everything on the shelves and nothing on the table.” The truth hurt enough (having experienced Russian hospitality, where the table was laden) that I try to bring everything I am able to the table. Does that mean I bend over backwards at the expense of myself or my family? No. It does mean that I do my best to treat my AP fairly and honestly without holding back.

But, while we’re at it – one of the best ways APs have to encourage my fairness is to express gratitude themselves. Over the years, very few of my APs, when they noticed that DH and I topped off the gas tank in the “AP car” thanked us. Perhaps they felt like they were owed a full tank of gas because we drove a few miles to see a movie in the AP car (leaving them with the minivan to drive the Camel around in an emergency – also suitable for picking up friends at the nearest train station for an evening in). However, those who said “Thank you” always received a full tank of gas, while those who said nothing, sometimes received the cost of the gas to replace what we had used. Generosity of spirit works both ways!

This is my au pair “switch-out” season. Many of you know that I always give the outgoing AP a box to fill with her belongings. Now, the most generous APs who work hard and express gratitude throughout their year receive the biggest box their country will permit, shipped airmail (so it arrives home before they finish their travel month). The AP who needs constant job coaching, who complains about every night DH and I have a weekend date night, or does the minimum, receives a small box shipped on a boat – it arrives well after the travel month. The box is an expression of the amount of my gratitude for the AP year. No matter what, it is a gift. The size of the gift depends on the AP’s willingness to give of herself (mind you I’m not asking anyone to work more than 45 hours a week or more than 10 hours a day – in fact, I’m holding to the spirit of the program and only booking the AP to 5 hours at the weekend unless I give her a half day during the week!).

My advice to au pairs is – Saying “thank you” is easy and a basic courtesy. In my opinion, the APs who use it are more likely to receive a night off to attend a rock concert, join a friend’s family on a goodbye trek to the airport, receive an extra weekend off for a special trip without it costing against vacation time, or get me to host a family member during the least convenient month of the year for me (and yes, it has happened more than once).

To quote Anne Frank (a Jewish teenager who kept a journal while in hiding in Amsterdam during the Holocaust): “Give of yourself…you can always give something, even if it is only kindness…No one has ever become poor from giving.” -Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl

maleaupairmommmy November 26, 2010 at 4:09 am

I’m thankful for the 3 male au pairs that were brave and adventurous enough to do be au apairs. That they taught my kids many different things that they will never forgot. That my daughter has been spoiled by the numerous men in her life at an early age besides her daddy. That by being loved and cherished she will be strong enough to find the right guy like these one. If she does I will be truly blessed. That on bad days they take their job seriously and dig in and just smile saying tomorrow is another day. That they share their lives and what it is like in their countries. I feel truly blessed to have them love my kids like their own. That when my husband and I were feeling overwhelmed today getting Thanksgiving ready and taking care of 3 kids under 7 that we didn’t have to worry our au pair took them out to do errands and they came back happy and some of their engery out. I feel blessed to have au pair mom here to help us out and make us realize what we are doing right and where we can improve on. Thank you Au pair mom

Calif Mom November 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

Watching our au pair the past few days, eager to learn how to make pie crust and taking tons of photos of the table before we ate (which she had helped decorate, with the kids) made me thankful for my decision to pull on the big girl pants and give her a second chance. She has really stepped up to the challenge, adjusted her behavior, and our home is a much happier place these days, even with two kids fighting respiratory infections.

So I guess this experience makes me (yet again) grateful for the downstream consequences of honesty.

And it points out that this sounding board, aupairmom, really lives up to its tagline and “helps host parents and au pairs build great relationships”. For this I am grateful, CV!

And as my husband put it, we are thankful that the things we see as problems in our lives would be seen as opportunities by most of the world. (Amen.)

Deb Schwarz November 28, 2010 at 5:42 am

I am so thankful for the 16 au pairs that we have welcomed into our home over the past 10 years (two at the same time for the first 5 years). We honestly could not have survived with four children under the age of two and no relatives in the area without the brave au pairs who made it all look easy! When people ask me how I survived, I just smile, and say “my wonderful au pairs”. Being an LCC is my “feel good” job because I enjoy helping others who are also separated from their families in this transient world, to survive with some sort of sanity – and to enrich their lives with what au pairs can bring to their family: energy, laughter, life lessons, shared adventures, new perspectives, and love.

I am grateful that our very first au pair, Done, from South Africa from 10 years ago is visiting us next week for the second time in 10 years, I cherished the time I spent with two former au pairs in Australia 2 weeks ago – and I love following all 16 of their lives – adventures, boyfriends, husbands, babies, and amazing jobs all over the world, and for these connections, I am so appreciative.

And – if it weren’t for all these wonderful connections and memories, I wouldn’t be able to get back on the saddle again (yes, girls, I’m in transition again – this last one was the worst ever!), so I am going to put those positive vibes out there that we will be blessed with another wonderful au pair soon.

Thank you, CV, for this forum. I have learned so much from all of you.

Deb

undelete fat files January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

Hey! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the excellent work!

wco hd November 25, 2015 at 2:43 pm

We are new parents (our little one is 6 mo old now) and new to hosting au pairs. Our wonderful au pair came to us when our son was barely 3 months old. We were struggling as new parents to find a rhythm and schedule and so ‘training’ our au pair seemed like a daunting task when we felt like we didn’t really know what we were doing either. Thankfully, this wonderful young woman stepped in with no hesitation and has made our lives immeasurably better in so many ways! She loves and cares for our son so much. He lights up every time she comes in the room. She compliments our little family perfectly and we are so grateful to her for all the ways she helps keep the household running smoothly. We may be new to the program, but we are already firm believers in the good that can from it and look forward to many years with fantastic au pairs!

Mimi November 25, 2015 at 3:34 pm

I’m thankful that HD talked me into hosting all those years ago. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a mother and as an American and my children have benefitted in ways too numerous to recount. We’ve learned as much from them as they have learned from us (both good and bad!) and I’m grateful for the program and for this site.

AuPair Paris November 26, 2015 at 9:04 am

I am thankful for my(..!) beautiful, intelligent kids, who’ve shown me how much more I actually *like* children than just “yeah, they’re cute, I guess…”. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn everything I have learned – how to be authoritative and stand up for myself. How to be angry/in charge but loving at the same time. A whole new language, and the opportunity to actually belong to a place that appears in books and films on the regular. How to be “right” without needing to insist on it in an argument – and when insisting is the right thing to do. How to cook and play guitar, and how to be silly without feeling like a fool.

We don’t have thanksgiving, but that about sums it up for me.

Didi November 28, 2015 at 3:01 am

This is awesome. I am so thankful for everything that being an au pair has brought to me in the last 4 years. I have truly found a second family in my hosts and we are having close relationship even years after I left. After staying in U.S. we’ve helped each other and by participating in their life I learned, grew and matured so much.

Also, AuPair Mom was a lifesaver in those crazy moments, and I love seeing it growing bigger and recognized by new host parents and au pairs.

Happy Holidays.

WarmStateMomma December 1, 2015 at 8:54 am

I’m grateful to our AP for a million reasons, but most recently this:

AP and I took the kids to my hometown for a visit with the extended family. The flight home became very turbulent. With some of the bumps, I was flying up in my seat and I had to tighten my seatbelt all the way to keep contact with the seat. It was all I could do to hold onto my baby and the thought of her flying out of my arms seemed like a very real possibility. (FYI – they tell you not to use a baby wearing thing because the baby could break her spine against the seat in front of you, so, ugh.)

At the same time, my toddler was crying hard and terrified. She and our AP were sitting across the aisle from me and babycakes. Our AP had the toddler’s seatbelt tight and her arms wrapped around my daughter. Our AP calmly, lovingly reassuring her that everything was ok and this was just part of the adventure. She told me she’d take care of the toddler while I took care of the baby.

I was able to concentrate on keeping the baby in my arms and soothing her, knowing my toddler was being comforted by someone she loves and trusts. The experience was frightening for all of us but our mature, loving AP handled it so well. I can’t imagine being on that flight alone with both of my kiddos.

We are immeasurably lucky to have this young woman in our family.

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