Every holiday my DH and I have the same holiday conversation: Should we ask our Au Pair to be on duty?
Scheduling your au pair to work on and around holidays, family vacations, and birthdays (yours and hers) can be challenging, because you’re once again right on top of the question– What does it mean for your au pair to be ‘part of the family’ and also to be the person who’s paid to care for the kids when the parent(s) need(s) childcare?
As Franzi points out: “The whole emphasis on family and togetherness that Thanksgiving brings along could raise expectations and misunderstandings regarding the AP’s role in the whole festivities.”
Your au pair may want to be ‘part of the family’ and participate in the celebration… then again, you may need her to be the person in charge of the kids. And then again, in many families, everyone pitches in whether it’s their paid job or not.
On Christmas and Easter the answers are always influenced by the church-going preferences of our au pair, but on Thanksgiving the issues are much more focused. Plus, Thanksgiving as a holiday is all about family and togetherness— so the ways in which you include your au pair have to jive with that.
Can your au pair be ‘part of the family’ and ‘on duty’ at the same time?
Thanksgiving is usually a holiday when I cook, so I’m very busy. The extended family comes here, so there are several people who our au pair has met only once or twice, sometimes never. And, there’s not much main activity besides cooking, eating, and cleaning, so we seem to have a lot of people wandering around wondering why we don’t have a television where Granddad can watch “The Game”.
Add a few diaper changes, some little people needing naps, cousins arguing over who gets the drum set for Rock Band, and some Aunts and Uncles who just really need a glass of wine, and you can see how having someone officially in charge of the kids looks like a good idea.
More often than not, we do schedule our au pair to be on duty at Thanksgiving. Usually this is around any other plans she might have (e.g., Thanksgiving day parade, soccer game, etc.), and it does not include being on duty during the actual dinner itself.
I’ve found that not only does it help to have our au pair watching the girls, but also it helps her have something to do so that she’s not sitting around trying to engage various relatives in conversation or asking me if she can stir the gravy. After all, she is an expert with the kids, she can organize crafts, help kids make videos, arrange the Battle of the Bands, and even take them to the playground down the street to work up an appetite.
A few times we’ve even had my sister’s au pair come for dinner, the au pairs have been on and off duty together to make things a bit more fun for them.
I’ve found that our au pairs generally like feeling needed and appreciate the chance to contribute to making the family celebration go well. Especially if our au pair can relax during dinner and have some time with no demands, no one has seemed to mind being duty at Thanksgiving.
And, needless to say, knowing that my kids are being cared for while I ‘flip the bird’ is something I am totally thankful for.
What is planned for your au pair this Thanksgiving?
[Note: Having our au pair on duty does not mean that she is necessarily responsible for my sisters’ kids. Our au pair will help with the playground supervision of a group that includes cousins, but not with diaper changing.
Also, I start my turkey roasting it breast-side down (using gravity to enhance juicy-ness) so a big moment is when I “flip the bird” over to the fancy side. There have been years when the bird has resisted…. another story.]
Thanksgiving Table by Ann & Lane of Flickr