Rebecca Nelson Lubin
Our first morning on Oahu I woke with a start in the pitch-black hotel room with that strange Miss Clavel like feeling of something being not quite right. The little digital clock beside my bed red 4:45am, which meant at home in Marin it was just before seven, my usual waking time, even though I had gone to sleep here in Hawaii at midnight, after the world’s longest travel day ever. I heard strange sounds coming from the other room, sounds like tiny little feet shuffling unsupervised in feet pajamas. I was out of bed like a shot. At first, I only saw the ten year old, lying on the couch with one of his hand held electronic games, extremely engrossed in combat.
“What are you doing up already?” I asked him.
“Playing.” He sleepily replied.
Then I saw what had piqued my Nanny Radar. The baby was up and out of her crib, toddling around the room.
“Hi!” She called out, running to me and tripping over feet.
“Did you take the baby out of her crib?” I asked her older brother.
“Uh uh.” He said, “She was up already.”
I picked up the baby, shaking my head. Nineteen months old and she manages her first solo assent out of her crib in a strange hotel villa while all of her adults are hopelessly jet-lagged.
“Monkey.” I said to her, and headed to the room service pitcher of coffee that we had thought to order the night before. As I poured myself a cup, I heard a strange muffled sound, like a four-year-old boy calling “Mom” from faraway.
I went into the room shared by the two boys. Both beds were empty. I came back inside the living room.
“Where is your brother?”
“I don’t know.”
I checked the baby’s room. Empty. I went through my room and all the bathrooms. Empty. I quietly tiptoed into the parent’s room, but there was no four-year-old in there either. I came back out into the living room and heard it again. A definite, though muffled call of “Mom!” I looked at the front door of the villa and thought, “Oh hell no…”
The four year old was on the front step, Hawaii dark and warm behind him, one hand extended towards me.
“I found a bug.” He said.
Rule number one of travelling with babies once you land: Stay on your toes. They might go to bed late but they will still wake up early, even in another time zone.
I’ve done a lot of travelling with the families I’ve worked with and I think at this point I can write a really good checklist for both employee and employer to abide to ensure that vacation work goes well for all involved.
I think the most important rule for the employer is this: If you are going to bring your nanny with you on vacation, make sure you can afford to! Travelling with help is nothing short of a luxury. If you cannot afford to pay for a plane ticket, hotel room and food for your nanny, by all means leave her at home! I’ve just read an amazing book written by a famous New York concierge, and he writes that if you can’t afford to tip well, you have no business going out to eat. I think that families who travel with their employees should follow that rule of thumb. Previous employers of mine once asked me to travel with them to a beautiful resort. Once there they informed me that they were willing to pay up to $25 per day for ALL my meals. That, according to the resort prices, would cover almost breakfast. I borrowed the rental car and found a health food store and stocked my mini-bar with Luna bars. Nothing like slumming in paradise!
For the Nanny, the most important rule is to remember that this is not your vacation. I once worked for a rock star whose previous nannies tended to try and escape the bus so they could catch the show. Nannies travelling with families must always remember that they are not there to see the show! They are there to babysit on the bus.
I, however, like to do more than just babysit on the bus. I like to facilitate. For this recent trip I made sure to research the resort where we would be staying and book surf lessons for the kids and spa treatments for the parents. I made sure before we got there that the rental car was booked, that there was a highchair in the villa, and I knew where to go and buy organic milk for the baby. I knew which restaurants were kid friendly and what their hours were. And after that first morning, I called and ordered a larger crib with a tent top.
One trap that the employer and nanny fall into is not discussing the expected hours and compensation that’s a requirement for travel work. Going on vacation with your employer means you are leaving your home and creature comforts and loved ones and routine. Sure you’ll be in a beautiful place, but enjoying the scenery is not proper compensation. Will you be compensated for overnights? Will you be working more than your regular hours? Less? One family I worked for gave me a flat travel bonus of $1,000 per trip and I accommodated whatever they needed. Another family asked me to keep track of my overtime and invoice them after we returned home. The hours racked up and the invoice was high. I was offered extra days off as compensation, but stuck it out for cash. The most important thing to do is to discuss this and work out an agreement before you get on a plane.
And now the rules for the Nanny. You have worked out your compensation and hours and here you are, working in a beautiful resort, smearing sun block on your charge and building sand castles. Be professional. You cannot be professional enough. Do not have mood swings. Do not disappear with the bartender from the beachfront bistro. Stay on the bus and babysit!
I had an amazing time this last trip to Hawaii. I love my employers and I love their children. I worked hard, was amazed that children can and will argue with each other about sand, and ignore breaching whales because they are playing Angry Birds on their iPod touch. I was able to take my family to a secret cove I knew of from my previous visits to the Oahu, and watch them bask in the beauty of what has long been a sacred spot for me.
When you work out all the basics beforehand, travelling with your nanny family can be a great experience. I loved mine. Aloha Baby!