Your Au Pair’s Room: Give her a choice of pillows

by cv harquail on March 15, 2010

When it comes to bedding for your au pair’s room, there are three criteria that must be met:

The bedding must look clean.
The bedding must smell clean.
There must be enough bedding.

201003141712.jpgIt’s a bonus if the mattress is new, if the bigger bed fits the room, or if the sheets are her or his favorite color. But if the bedding you offer meets these criteria, you’re good.

Still, you might want to do a little bit “more” for your au pair. After all, you want her to sleep well. You want him to feel at home and comfortable. And, within limits, you want to make sure s/he has what s/he likes as well as what s/he needs.

One area where I’d go a bit crazy is with bed pillows

Turns out that, even if your kids are willing to keep using the only extra pillows you had laying around when you switched them to a ‘big kid bed’, adults actually have preferences. Some adults like one kind of pillow over another, and some like to have more then one pillow. Who’d a thunk it?

A few years ago we had a whole bunch of people staying at our house for Christmas, so I went out and bought around eight new bed pillows of different firmness and types. (I had to get a non-feather one for the nephew with allergies.)

After everyone left, I had all these nice pillows, and a new great idea: I would let our new au pair pick from among the pillows the one(s) she liked best.

Much to my surprise, she picked the two oldest, schlumpiest feather pillows. I’d have never chosen those for her– I’d have given her the Martha Stewart ones for side sleepers, because they have a pretty blue border, and I would have given her something she didn’t like quite as well as what she chose for herself.


I have to say, I think she liked choosing her own pillows. In a weird and small way, it was a chance for her to actively make herself at home, and feel comfortable.

See also:
Your Au Pair’s Room: How much mess can you take?
Your Au Pair’s Room: Advice
Privacy and Your Room

The three of us from Sint Smeding
My favourite pillow from Mòni


PA Au Pair Mom March 15, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I agree that something as simple as a few new pillows can make a huge difference. When our first AP arrived, we went to Kohl’s and let her pick out some pillows. She chose 2. After her year was over, we donated them to our local animal shelter, along with her comforter. We then let our new AP choose her own comforter and 2 new pillows.

Just one small, and not very expensive way, that the AP can make the room her own. And the animal shelter was overjoyed with the donation of bedding for their animals.

TX Mom March 15, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Great idea for the animal shelter! I think going to the shelter with the kids would be a great “au pair transition” activity.

Should be working March 15, 2010 at 5:21 pm

No way I would do that, Tex Mom–my kids would never let us leave until we had adopted one of the animals!!

MommyMia March 15, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I’d have the same problem, Shoud be working! Luckily, a troop from our girl scout service area collects bedding for the local animal shelter for one of their annual service projects, so that’s a great excuse to renew the linen supply for AP and the family (the puppies and kittens don’t even mind if the towels are stained with hair dye!)

Italian Au Pair March 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I would feel very offended if the bedding I used for only one year would be sent to an animal shelter. (its like telling me to my face that I am not “clean” enough or something like that)

I understand that its a helpfull donation!!! But to be honest, what would you think if your daughter is an exchange student and her hostfamily gives away her blankets after she has used them?

Anonymous March 15, 2010 at 9:29 pm

There’s no need for the AP to know, if you do it after she leaves. I think you’re reading too much into it, in all honesty.

Anonymous March 15, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I think it’s not that the outgoing au pair made it dirty, but rather that the incoming au pir gets brand new, fresh things of her own. Some people just don’t like to sleep on ‘someone else’s’ pillow.

Taking a computer lunch March 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm

We don’t send bedding off to an animal shelter, mainly because we couldn’t afford to do it. We do wash everything, including pillows and mattress pad and make sure the room is clean. I had one AP who hated the new pillows we put in the room, and used her boyfriend’s body pillow when he moved away.

PA au pair mom March 15, 2010 at 11:37 pm

She had already gone back to Germany before I donated them. She didn’t know that I was doing it but she loved animals, so I think she would have liked the idea.

PNW_HM March 15, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I second the whole pillow thing. I personally can’t sleep without certain pillows, so I try to make sure we have lots and lots of pillows, and lots of different kinds, for APs and guests.

Anonymous March 15, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I had an aupair who donated many of her clothes to the Salvation Army rather than schlep than home with her. Granted , her parents at home where comfortable but I still thought it was a lovely gesture by a real lady. She took my older daughter with her to make the donation – it was a wonderful sharing experience. She also invited my 2 daughers to root through the bag before she donated it. I remember doing this when my older sister went to college.
I realize that most aupairs buy alot of clothes to take home.
This girl had gone shopping with me and bought herself a beautiful dress in a good shop,
We gave her a gameball from one of my daughter’s softball games. It was wonderful all aroung

Taking a computer lunch March 15, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Most of our APs end up donating clothing they will not need — either to their friends or they leave it for us to take to our local charity that works with retarded adults. If I’m to cart it, I do go through it and take out items that would be useful to future APs. We have some AP items: a down coat, a Polartec jacket, a rain jacket that stay in the house for AP use. This is very handy for APs who come from warmer climates than ours. Our current AP bought a cheap winter jacket that would not have kept her warm this winter. Sure it was cute, but when the winds blew she chose the warmer one. (I also keep a selection of waterproof pants that no longer fit me for use during the winter.)

If APs leave behind books I leave them in the AP room. I try to refresh the selection of local and regional travel books every few years.

My kids are used to passing down clothes to neighbors and cousins, and we constantly weed through our belongings (in with the new out with the old and make a donation to charity). We throw away very little – Craiglist and Freecycle make it possible to get rid of almost everything we don’t need.

NannyKelly March 16, 2010 at 6:38 am

As an au pair, I would have loved a different pillow! Mine was obviously some very old, rejected from the rest of the family pillow. It was tiny, the size of a throw pillow. Pillow sizes are a bit different in Europe, but still, it was lumpy and hardly resembled a pillow! They also gave me a body pillow (lumpy as well), which I propped under the little pillow so it resembled somewhat of a normal pillow.

Kudos to the families who think enough of the au pairs to get them new pillows and pillow cases! =)

My 2 cents March 16, 2010 at 10:57 am

I hadn’t thought at all about this to be honest since in our home we recycle bedding around until it’s obviously well-used and should be scrapped. I thought this is what all families do and in the spirit of that don’t buy new stuff unless it’s needed. I do ask if they are comfortable with their bedding and room and such, so if there was a problem there’s more than an opportunity for them to feel safe speaking up. We provide a big bed with at least 2 pillows and clean, but not new, bedding.

I would be fine with requests for different materials so long as they were reasonable. I would not consider requests for new materials because someone would prefer a different color or style to be reasonable. I get the whole it’s their room thing, but think for me this falls more on the personal style/personal products line and so, just like a college student, if they want something else they or their parents can buy it and take it with them when they leave.

KittyGirl March 16, 2010 at 11:08 am

I think the pillow advice is great. I always ask my aupairs -what’s your favorite color in the interview so their room can be like them. I then say -well your room is pink and yellow or blue and white or whatever I have right now. Is this ok or do you want something else? I always pick pottery barn teen /early 20’s style so its not like Grandma. Though honestly all au pairs say – just anything nice. I believe to polite. Which is really nice. But all my aupairs do NOT like pets in their room. The pic is cracking me up. Just like you don’t want the kids in their room – you shouldn’t let your cats in the aupairs room …. Not very polite I’m thinking?

Karin Six March 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

From an LCC Perspective: This is a very sweet & thoughtful gesture! I am sure your au pairs appreciate your thoughtfulness!

'sota gal March 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I never would have thought to let our AP’s choose their own pillows…one more thing to add to my list of worries! :) When I decorated our AP room, I went with input from our first AP as far as color goes, but went with high quality bedding similar to a boutique hotel. I have had to replace one set of sheets (I like to have 2 for each bed in the house) but the duvet has held up well over the 3 years of use. I clean/launder everything in the AP room with each transition and have 4 pillows on the bed, so she can at least choose from the two different types of pillows I have there…. What amazes me is that they have all marveled at how many pillows Americans have on their beds – then I show them mine which is half covered with pillows!!!

Making a note to add pillow shopping on our next excursion!

HRHM March 18, 2010 at 10:24 am

I think the pillow idea is nice, but also think the new sheets/comforter every year is a little overkill. I’ve been using the same ones for 6 years on my bed and they are fine. The AP ones are barely two years old and intact. It seems wasteful to me to change on a yearly basis, unless there are holes or stains (even if you are donating them)

Hula Gal March 18, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I think the point of the blog topic was to provide a selection of different pillows and let the au pair pick the ones she wants. I totally agree that buying new linens, pillows and towels is wasteful and unecessary. If they are clean, fresh looking and not stained than please, in the interest of financial prudence and preserving resources, keep these linens for the next au pair. Don’t feel pressured to start replacing linens annually because you want to keep up with the HP Joneses.

PacificNW_mom March 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm

We provide four pillows on the au pair bed and I also tell the au pair before she comes to bring her own pillow if she has a favorite as American pillows are different. We’ve had au pairs for 2 1/2 years and they all have had the same linens/comforter. I don’t buy myself or my kids a new comforter every year – don’t know why I’d buy one for the au pair. Everything is still in good shape (haven’t had any of the nail polish or hair dye incidents that others have experienced). One fun thing we have in the au pair room are those glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. They were there when we bought the house and all of the au pairs have been surprised & loved it when they turn off the light the first night and the ceiling twinkles!

Tracy Hall March 23, 2010 at 11:50 am

I was a live-in nanny for years and the worst thing was when the bedding was noticeably old and worn out. If it was in the newer category or it was from the guest room or something, I really could care less. I usually got a new set of sheets from the parents though.

Previous au pair April 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

I had the tiniest bed and the mattress was badddddd. When I arrived my host mum said she had just bought a new one so I didnt want to say anything as I was worried about that i might come across as rude although I could almost feel the springs so I have no idea what she was talking about? I was thinking it was just a common standard bed for au pairs but when I stayed over at other friends houses and they stayed at mine I realised. Even as my friend and I were walking she commented on the size of my bed. Oh and after 6 months of staying in the same bedroom and it felt like my ‘place’ my host mom wanted to change my bedroom into a workout room. and put my room in their office which was much smaller. Just saying this to make people remember that the au pair is living in your house for a year and needs her own space to have time to herself and to feel comfortable when in her off time sometimes.

cv harquail April 29, 2010 at 11:50 am

Wow. That seems kindof mean to me. I wish that your host mom had waited until the end of your year. Would it have made a difference if she had asked you about whether you were okay with a switch?

PA AP mom April 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

That hardly seems acceptable to make you switch in the middle of the year. I could understand, I guess, if the host mom was having another baby that needed space, or an elderly parent moving in, but a workout room seems like a really selfish reason.

Previous au pair April 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm

well she did ask me but due to a number of other situations that had occured when she asked whether things were okay and she didnt consider my response I felt I didnt really have a voice in situation. I ended up leaving the family shortly after this.

former extension au pair in CA April 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

i brought my own 2 favorite pillows:)

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