Ahhh, vacation. Whether it's skiing or sunbathing, nothing recharges our batteries quite like time away from home and the office. That is, unless that time includes your kids.
Wow, harsh right? The truth is that while quality time with your family is important, so is carving out a little time for yourself, as well as time with your spouse. In my nine years as a mom, I've been on both sides of the mommy coin: frazzled stay-at-home-mom in sweatpants, clipping coupons and rushing to story time, and equally frazzled working mom squeezing in pediatrician calls and overly-involved school projects with work deadlines and meetings. Both of these versions of me desperately needed a family vacation, but also desperately needed a little time away from the family.
Enter Bruna and Jessica, the au pairs we hired when I went back to work full-time. I could write a book on how their presence has helped keep our home in order and my children lovingly cared for as I jumped back into my career. For now, though, let's focus on that precious vacation.
With Bruna we headed to Cape Cod for a week of sun and sand with my extended family. While I worked remotely for a few days and my husband stayed back at home to work, Bruna went to the beach with my kids, packing their lunch and sunscreen for a day of fun. My elderly parents were there with my nephew and kept an eye out for my kids, but there would have been no way they could have handled four active kids at the beach alone. During my actual vacation week, having Bruna meant my husband and I could play tennis one morning, and go to lunch and a brewery tour another day. It also meant that one day we took a family trip to the beach and I spent one whole glorious hour reading US Weekly while she and the kids made sand castles together and my husband napped. Bliss.
Our trip with Jessica was a bit more ambitious " a cross-country trip to Wyoming. By car. No, we are not crazy, but we do thrive on adventure! With kids ages 9, 7 and 3 Â½, we knew it was a big undertaking, but loved the fact that we would show them the country, and Jessica would see so much, too. For this trip, having a third adult to manage everything at rest stops was crucial " while my husband pumped gas and checked the oil, Jessica and I took the kids to the rest room and got them all snacks or let them run around for a bit. Once we arrived in Wyoming, we again had the chance to go out as a couple and have help on hikes or at the pool.
Traveling with your au pair or nanny can be an amazing experience. To get the most out of it, here are my top three tips:
- Set Expectations: For both trips, we talked beforehand about how things would be different on the road. Having a more flexible schedule for the week allowed us to make a last minute decision to head out to dinner, and our au pairs ended up working less than usual since I did not schedule them '˜just because.' We also talked about bed times, snacking, and anything else that would be different while we were away.
- Remember You All Need a Break: On Cape Cod, we encouraged Bruna to connect with other au pairs from the agency to go out shopping or to dinner. In Wyoming, Jessica went to the gym and headed in to town to shop one night. Since we were staying together in closer quarters than at home, time away was important for them, and we wanted them to experience these new places as well.
- Talk Money: Vacations often mean extras " sightseeing cruises, meals out and other experiences add up quickly and can put anyone over budget. Make clear to your au pair what you'll be paying for and what she will need to chip in for, keeping in mind that activities during working hours must be paid by the host family.
So don't delay " schedule that dream vacation with your family and au pair today. You'll return refreshed and ready to take on the world!
Erika Clark is a Senior Marketing Coordinator at Intrax and former Area Director for AuPairCare. Erika has extensive personal and professional experience in cultural exchange, having worked with and hosted au pairs and exchange students. Her family is currently hosting their second au pair from Brazil.