We recently returned from nine days in Breckenridge, Colorado. This was my ninth trip. This time we stayed in a condominium with three bedrooms. The parents had one room, the three children one room and I had my own room. I am grateful that I never had to negotiate travel accommodations because the people I work for are considerate. Because they value their privacy as much as I like mine, they choose accommodations that put some measure of space between us. This condo, although only three bedrooms, had the master unit on the third floor, the main living level on the second and the two other bedrooms/bathrooms on the first floor. When the youngest was younger, her would invariably end up in my room or the parents room, regardless of where he started. I was okay with that, in fact I tried to steer him towards me so they could have their space.
Vacationing with a family after working for them for five years is different than say our first trip together. We know each other. I know how to make things fun for the children and the family, how to carve out time for myself and how to make sure the trip is fun for the parents. This was my third skiing trip with the family. The first time I went on a ski trip, the youngest was only 6 months so my days were on the long side, with little downtime. This last time, I would get up with all the children in the moring and feed them breakfast. The parents would either be up, reading the paper, working out or sleeping. I would get the children ready for ski lessons and get myself ready. The youngest went to a half day ski program, so I had from 830-100 free every morning for myself. Having learned to ski with this family, I too went skiing. I took one lesson and took runs wherever I could fitting it in time wise with checking on the children and drop off and pick up.
I would pick the youngest up from his ski program and we would go to have lunch together, either out or back at the condo, depending on what he wanted. He often wanted macaroni and cheese, and while I preferred sitting at a cozy table eating a French dip sandwich, I let him choose most days. :)
As we were lunching, I would text the mother and let her know what was going on. Most days, she would be skiing herself, shopping, having a spa day with her husband. One afternoon, she and I went shopping together in town for the afternoon with the youngest. That was an example of the give and take of my job. We walked around, she bought souvenirs for the children, a painting, a jacket, etc. If she saw a store interested me, she would take her son and go ahead to the next one and say something like, "take your time, we'll be next door." That afternoon was especially mild and we sat outside and had a snack with the child who had hot chocolate. She ordered us both an alcoholic drink she had wanted to try. We people watched. I took some photos of her and her son walking and interacting. We went back to the condo and she stayed with her son (and husband, now home) and I went to get the other children. The family always had dinner out with their children, but for some exceptions. If they wanted a night away, maybe they would do that once, but usually, we always had dinner together. In the beginning I felt pressure to always go out with them. But now, the children are older and can behave without constant nanny interaction, I feel fine saying, "would you mind if I didn't go tonight?" I think having good communication is important. I would never just say that but give something more specific as "I would like to read tonight, or take a bath, or go workout". I don't interact that much with my male employer. He is nice, but reserved. When we go out to dinner, the youngest will still need to go to the bathroom. He is a boy and so the father will always take him. As he turned four or so, that used to always make me feel bad, like it was my job to get up with the kids, every moment.
Vacations are a lot more fun now that the children can do things. Bedtime routines are easy. The children all bathe on their own. After dinner, the parents generally just read or watch movies. The children will also watch movies with their family. The youngest two like to play boardgames and always seek me out. I make sure that I give each child the option of quality time everyday. Even the oldest, who needs me less and less. I ask him if he wants to take a walk in the night and look for animal prints or anything that captures his attention. He doesn't always want to, but I know the things he likes to do. I mention this all because I know many nannies who families start out treating well, but as soon as the family starts being nice, the nanny seems to stop fulfilling her end of the bargain. My employers are good to me because I am invested in them and have a good work ethic. They have offered things to me that I say no to. That is important. You can't say yes to everything. You have to give back.
The mother treats me as a professional that she is friendly with. I wouldn't say I am a member of the family, but I wouldn't say I am not. We don't hug. We talk about politics, religion, the children, her family, but there are things I would never say. I know her well enough to know when she is in a bad mood and she knows when I am. But, not always. I'm sure I've annoyed her. The first time we went on vacation, was another incident. I was excited to go away and we were all flying commercial. I didn't have an appropriate suitcase so I started looking online for luggage. When I moved onto their property, they helped me unload my stuff, so they saw some of my things. I had a really ratty suitcase. I mean, it was hideous, I know. As I started to pack the children for her, I set out their suitcases and begin the process. She asked me if I had started packing. I said, "not yet" but that's all I said. She made some comment about my suitcase which was kind of funny, and I chuckled. Then she made another comment saying that no one would ever try and steal from me because of the suitcase. That rubbed me the wrong way and I got quiet. In retrospect, it was no big deal, but then, being fairly new and all, I felt I was being mocked. I continues my job and was quiet around her, not so much because I was mad but because she had said what she said made me think she thought lowly of me.
Two days later, I ended work and she thanked me for having the kids all packed so early. She said she was neurotic about packing but saw how methodical I was and was so grateful that she hadn't taken that task off her plate. Then she said very causally, "I think I made a comment the other day about your suitcase that might have hurt your feelings. I hope you have a great weekend and get yourself ready for the trip, I think we're all going to have a lot of fun.". I smiled and parted ways. I walked to my cottage on the front porch was a Neiman Marcus box with a three piece luggage set. Beautiful, lime green and high end. I was shocked.
I'm looking back and this is long and wandering. I have had some trips that were harder than others. When the youngest was younger, I am the one that stayed and missed all the fun stuff, but I wasn't expecting anything other than that. On our last trip, I made a great album for the family of pictures of them and the children. The mother loves this because I think most of the photos of her with the children are taken by me. She is the one who takes the photographs. My employers have never gone away with or without me without buying me souvenirs. They aren't always grand, sometimes it's just a great sweatshirt. One year they pushed me to do parasailing and all stood around and watched and took pictures and cheered me on.
One tropical vacation kept us all housebound for a day and a half. We lost power for an entire day. Everyone was miserable. The weather was such that we were supposed to stay inside. There I was entertaining the children with charades and card games and reading for hours on end. I finally went to the mother and said, "I just, I just, I j just have to get out of here." She looked at me all surprised and said, "Um, okay, what do you want me to do?" She went to the children and gave them three choices of what they could do and said, "AJ needs a break, so let's give her some quiet time, okay". She literally helped me pry off a shutter so I could get out of the house and get some air. I came back feeling like a psycho. She just looked at me with raised eyebrows and smiled curiously. I came back and started a marathon game of monopoly with the kids and gave it every bit of energy and enthusiasm I had.
This summer, she and I are taking all three children to Austria for three weeks. I'm very excited about this. Staying with a family for this long and working out the kinks is a great thing for me. I'm pretty sure it's a great thing for her and I know that I am able to provide the children seamless care whether in their home, on vacation with them or while their parents vacation. I don't think I would ever invest the energy and love I have invested in this family in another. When my job ends here, my nanny career ends.
If this isn't in line with what you are looking for, I understand. I could be specific about any one trip, but I think that would come off boastful.
Care to share your travel adventure with the ISYN readers? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.