If you celebrate Christmas and if you don’t, the quote-unquote Holidays are a time of year when many people think about giving, some people think about getting, and most of us think about both.
If you were to search for information about Christmas Tips for au pairs, you’d discover that the commonly-advised amount is "one week’s pay and a gift from your child/ren." Truth be told, $170 a good bit more than I’ve ever set out to spend on an au pair gift. This amount is more than we budget for any person in our family (including kids — and I say budgeted, not spent). Am I cheap? I don’t know….
Over the years I’ve given au pairs different combinations of ‘cash and prizes’, depending on how easy they are to shop for, how much money I’ve made that year, how long they have been with us, and frankly how much I liked the job they were doing.
What I recommend
Given that your au pair may learn of ‘holiday tipping conventions’, and that other host families will probably be following them, give your au pair cash and prizes valued between $100 and $170. I’d say $75 is the lowest you can go; it’s less than half a week, but still a nice chunk of change, and more than she’d make in an (illegal) evening of extra babysitting. I would not not not go over $170 — that puts too much pressure on other families in your cluster. (Remember, we all must Resist the Amenities Arms Race! )
Give your au pair some cash, a small personal gift, and a personal note or thank you card from you.
The cash is what they really need, and it should be easy to take home. I think a crisp $100 bill makes a good impression and feels more special than a lump of 10s & 20s. A $100 bill is also hard to spend, so she might be more inclined to save it. (LOL)
The small personal gift takes the generic, mercenary edge off the act of giving money to someone who is in a (more or less intimate) relationship with you. Plus, it’s just so easy to find pretty girly things to give a young adult woman. What’s more, you want your au pair to have something to open under the tree (if that’s what you do).
The most important thing to give your au pair, however, is a personal note from you and/or your partner . In this note, write specifically about a few memorable events, a few behaviors, or a few attributes of your au pair that have meant something special to you. Be specific; that shows that you’re actually paying attention to who she is. Think about this note as something she might put in her scrap book, so write it for posterity. Her mother might read it, or even her own kids someday.
What your au pair really wants and needs… is to know that you appreciate her, recognize her for who she is, and celebrate her strengths. Money can’t really show that, but a heartfelt note can. And should.
In addition, have your child or children make a gift for your au pair.
A Christmas ornament, a special drawing, a mini-photo album, some project from school– the more personal, the better. It’s with your kids that your au pair has the most significant relationship, so help your children create something to give your au pair that she can remember them by.
Off the board…
The only time I ever deviated from my own advice was last year… our au pair had arrived from Sweden in September with only her cellphone as a camera. How was she going to capture her travels, her friends, her year, with a crappy cell phone camera?! So, we got her a nice quality digital camera for about $100. I felt a little bad that she might have preferred cash, but frankly I had to impose my own values and make sure she could take adequate photos. (C, were you okay with that?)
Anna shared a question about Christmas /Holiday gifts and tips:
I am a second-year hostmom; with my first au pair the relationship was easy and I gave from the heart, not expensive gifts, but appropriate and appreciated.
With our second au pair the relationship is more reserved, and I get a feeling that she is expecting more. We are not rich, and I don’t want to spend more on her gifts than I would on the ones for my husband’s birthday say (my limit for him is $90-$100, and we don’t exchange gifts on any other occasion). I am hoping to spend $75 or less on each occasion (her birthday also falls in Dec). Is it fair?
What advice do you have for Anna? Weigh in, below, and share what you think is appropriate!