I met the family twice before the trip. The second time was on a Saturday when I just came to spend an hour playing with the children. They didn't pay me for my time, which was annoying but I didn't want to risk losing the gig, so I didn't say anything.
They asked me to sleep at their house the evening before departure to ensure we were all together and on time. I did. I arrived at 7, left my bags in the foyer, but for an overnight and offered my assistance. I ended up playing with the children, running to KOHLS with one child, returning, running to a 24 hour pharmacy later that night, picking up the living room, playroom and bedrooms of the children and cleaning up the kitchen. This was in spite of the fact that I did not eat that night at all. I stole a pack of cheezits and took it to my room. I was told we would be leaving the house at 510 so I should be ready by 500. At 430, the oldest child came in my room and said, "Mommy wants to know where you are". I finished getting dressed quickly and went to find the group. None of the children were ready and mom was standing there in this ridiculous fur robe with a cup of coffee looking at me like I was insane.
Cut to our flight to Costa Rica. We flew coach and all sat together, we had two rows. I ended up in one row with three children and the parents were in their row with no children. The children played, walked, roamed, cried, screamed and ate, non stop. I was getting this strange feeling in my stomach that I had never had before. I later came to recognize it as anxiety.
It took forever to get through the airport and in transportation to our house we were going to stay at. The kids refused to be buckled in. They were climbing all over me as we made a very long drive through the foreign terrain. The middle child was screaming for her regular nanny. I couldn't even look out the window. The kids had my head spinning. I was getting increasingly anxious because it was not looking good. One of the children took off her pull up and threw it at me. The father looked at me with a raised eyebrow. Then he said, "it's almost over."
I was told we would be staying in a private house. I wasn't expecting what we pulled up to. There was a six feet wall around the outside and an electric gate. When we drove in, it was absolute paradise. I could see the ocean sparkling in the background, some small buildings and a massive house full of windows. Once inside, we were greeted with the house staff. 7 people, including a butler, driver, housekeepers and cook. They introduced themselves. The mother looked at me and said, "lets get unpacked and get going". I set about separating the luggage and putting it in the correct rooms. The children were playing musical bedrooms. Staff followed me wherever I went. Whatever I started, they finished. The children were all unpacked and sitting in the kitchen eating lunch when I came out of my room. My room was on the ground floor next to the pool and it was the size of my apartment. It could not be accessed from the main house but only from the porch outside the main house. I went to help with lunch but found myself instead served. I was offered a pina colada. I looked at my employer and she said, "it's up to you, but the kids will have you in the pool and ocean all day..." I decided to pass for now.
I took the kids to the pool. One wanted to go to the beach which was about two hundred feet from the pool. I negotiated with the kids to stay at the pool for this amount of time and then go to the beach. One of the staff heard this and said something like, "I will set the chairs". Two staff hustled out to the beach and set up chaise lounges, a table, stacks of towels, beach buckets and toys and a tray of fresh fruits, cheeses under an umbrella. Over the next eleven days, it was clear to me my main role was to be the eyes on all of these kids in the water. It would have been awful if not for the staff and the fact that the parents understood their children were a handful. I was worried I wasn't doing enough the first days as I had no domestic responsibilities at all. I was served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Coffee was brought to my room every morning. The days were long. There were lots of screaming kids, temper tantrums and fighting. Children were overtired and then not tired. Bedtime was hard because the children were so amped up by eight or nine, having taken a nap around 3pm for an hour.
Starting the second night, I began to have a drink with my diner. And then another. This made bedtime much more doable because I felt energized and a kind of happy buzzed. I chased kids around the pool and up and down the beach applying sunblock and floaties. I had sand in every crevice of my body. Nobody got sunburned, except me!
The father told me on the third day, "if you can get the kids to stretch past taking a nap, I bet they'd go down earlier and you could have a little more time to yourself". I hesitated and asked, "do you think that would be okay with X, she asked me to give them a nap". He said, "You are keeping them happy and busy, so whatever works for you works for us".
I managed three days with no naps and one day when the children were all asleep by 710. The staff was always offering to help with the children or watch the children. The only time I was comfortable with that was when they were sleeping and then because of the detached set up of my accommodations. On the fourth day, the mother asked me if I would go for a run with her. We went running for the next five days in a row together, and good thing because the staff made us anything we wanted anytime of the day.
When I came back from our run the first day, the oldest kid was standing in h/h swimsuit looking at me annoyed. The child said, "Im hot and waiting to go swimming". I felt guilty and the mother said, "well good. After breakfast, X will take you swimming." I suggested I would skip breakfast and she looked at me like I was nuts. I sat down and she told me, "don't you dare rush. "Child" has movies and a tote full of toys to play with. Enjoy your breakfast."
I didn't talk to the parents much on the trip. But the interactions were pleasant and thoughtful. They went out for some boating adventures and dinners without us, but it made no difference. The children didn't want to go so they didn't cry. They stopped asking for their nanny. The staff would help get children dressed, changed, apply sunscreen, even come to me with a towel when I got out of the pool.
I will never ever be on a trip like that again. All my fun was child centered. I didn't do any adult activities, except running and a few quick swims in the Ocean on my own. What a taste of luxury. And so surprising because in retrospect, I think the employers intentionally didn't boast about what kind of vacation there would be. I didn't go shopping and we were in an isolated location, but one day the mother and father took the youngest and went shopping and came home with BAGS of stuff for me. A dress, a bathing suit, running goggles, t-shirts, a paper weight, etc.
The trip back wasn't as hectic because everyone was exhausted. I didn't care that the children were all in my row, on me and under me. I didn't care that the people in front of us kept pointedly turning their heads every time a seat was kicked. I had no more anxious feelings. When we got to the house, we were a bit early because there was a car coming for me but it wasn't due for about forty minutes. I offered to help with the kids. I got them set up with games and started unpacking. All of their stuff had been expertly repacked by the staff. The children all hugged me when I left. The father handed me an envelope and thanked me and said, "We had a great time, I hope you did do". I said, "are you kidding? Thank you. That was AMAZING! I almost feel bad taking pay!" The mother said, "Take the pay, and take our call, because we'd love to have you travel with us again."
I was invited to go to Hawaii with them two months ago but could not due to a previous commitment. The family has a beach house in Maine and the mother asked me if I would be available to go with them and she listed multiple dates. It doesn't sound as luxurious, but it still seems pretty bitchen. P.S. the envelope contained a check for $2,000. I'm counting the days until June 25th when we will go to Maine for the first of what I hope to be four trips I will make with them through Labor Day.
More to come?
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