Every year around the holidays, the Care Team and I notice that families are struggling to find the right gifts for their caregivers. I know from experience – finding that ideal present can be surprisingly difficult. Our caregivers occupy a very special and unique place in our lives. It can be hard to believe that from a simple online profile, they become so much more: our sanity-keepers, peacemakers, stress-relievers, lifesavers, and trusted allies. We call them when there's an emergency. We call them when we need a break. And, every day, we trust them with the most important things in the world: our children, parents, pets, and homes. So how do you say that super-special thank you?
Idea #1: The Gift of Relaxation
You know that your caregiver could likely use some relaxation time – because you know exactly the kinds of messes they've been cleaning, the kids they've been running after, and the dogs they've been walking. Spa gift certificates, including pedicures, manicures, massages, and even time at the hair salon, are all great gifts. Stop by your local spa or salon to ask about a gift card or purchase online. A great fit for babysitters, nannies, housekeepers, pet sitters, and senior caregivers.
Idea #2: The Gift of Good Cheer
Help your caregiver eat, drink, and be merry with special treats that they wouldn't buy for themselves. I'm partial to gift baskets with a mix of healthy and decadent options, like pears with chocolates. To go even healthier, check out local options, such as farm shares and co-ops for potential veggie deliveries to your caregiver's doorstep during the growing months. For the decadent route, find near-by specialty stores and support your local community with wine or cheese basket gifts for your caregiver.
Idea #3: The Gift of Tech
Giving that perfect tech-toy can be a great fit for more than just the younger generation of college caregivers. I know our housekeeper is always plugged into her iPod and favorite playlist. IPod nanos are currently about $129.00, and iPod shuffles are even less: $49.00. If your babysitter is already rocking out with an iPod, consider an iTunes gift card. Another great gift this year is Amazon's Kindle at $79.00. (And just a nerdy techie sidenote: after Black Friday, their latest Kindle Fire tablet, priced at $199.00, is rivaling Apple's $499.00 iPad).
Idea #4: The Gift of Heart
Since caregivers can play such uniquely intimate roles in our lives, consider making a homemade gift if you are looking for a more personal way to say "Thank you." Get the kids involved. Visit the local craft store for fun ideas like homemade soap or candle-making kits. Take a great picture of your nanny playing with your kids, and have your little ones help you put together a festive magnetic frame for the fridge or even a beautiful ornament for your caregiver's tree or home. Snap a picture of your dog in a Santa hat - this is also a great idea for pet sitters and dog walkers.
Idea #5: The Gift for the Whole Family
Finally, think about giving a gift that your caregiver's entire family will enjoy. If you want to go the food route, don't forget to take any food allergies into consideration. For example, if anyone in your caregiver's family has a gluten allergy, find gluten-free baked goodies, and create a unique food allergy-friendly basket. Buy a subscription to a print or e-magazine, like Living Without for food allergy families or fun kid magazines, like National Geographic Kids. If you have any pics of your caregiver with his or her family, add them to digital picture frame for a great family gift.
As you review these options and try to decide on how much you should spend in time and money, think about your caregiver's relationship with your family. I generally recommend going bigger for nannies, housekeepers, pet caretakers and senior caregivers that have become honorary members of the family. Consider smaller gifts for occasional babysitters, pet sitters, and dog walkers. And of course cash is always welcome, but do you know how much to give? Tune in next week to our article on tipping.
Check out these articles for additional reading:
Holiday Bonus Guide
Outsource Your Holiday Stress