OPINION COLUMNS

Taking a family trip? There’s a nanny for that

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Vacations are a time to get away from the stresses of everyday life and the grind of work to spend quality time with the family.

At least that’s what I thought before reading a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

Oh, I was right on the first couple of parts, but apparently there is a growing trend that is taking some of the “family” out of “family vacation.”

They are called travel nannies. Parents pay to have babysitters accompany them to various exotic locales. Then they watch the kids while mom and dad take a spa treatment or have dinner and drinks.

Maybe I should point out that the WSJ’s chief demographic is those with, shall we say, disposable income.

But I still find myself shaking my head at this trend. I mean, it’s one thing to drop the kids off with the grandparents for a week in order for a couple to take a second honeymoon. But if you take your kids on vacation with you, shouldn’t you want to spend time with them?

I think back to vacations I took as a kid. I have wonderful memories, and they all involve family members.

Can’t you just imagine this conversation taking place?

Child: Mommy, do you remember that great time we had walking along the beach one evening collecting sea shells and that awesome sunset we saw?

Mommy: No dear, you did that with the nanny. Daddy and I were having cocktails. But it sure sounds beautiful.

The article goes on to say that some travel nannies even offer vacation-specific skills such as being an expert skier or swimmer. It also says “Nannies usually end up sharing a room with the kids.” Is it just me, or does that sound a bit creepy?

Many hotels now cater to these nanny-toting families. The Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai in Thailand now has “themed babysitting.” Families can choose a theme (such as fairy tale or superhero), and the babysitter comes to the room with appropriate games and costumes. Another hotel in Mexico has a “night camp” from 6 to 10 p.m. which allows parents to go to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant while the kids play pirates and go on scavenger hunts.

Nannies are even left in charge of corralling kids during the traveling portion of the trip, such as on the airplane, allowing the parents to sit back and enjoy a movie or take a nap.

I thought vacations were family bonding time, but this trend seems to just be outsourcing parenting.

Here’s a thought: if you want to have a night out from the kids while on vacation, take another family member, such as a grandparent, with you. At least that way your kid is still spending time with a family member. And best of all, you probably won’t have to pay a cent in sitter fees.

Vacations should be a time when you leave behind all of the distractions of daily life so you can really get to know your family. Just think of all the roadtrips you’ve taken and all the threats of, “I’ll stop the car!” How would parents learn patience if it wasn’t for the family vacation?

But wait, who needs patience? There’s a nanny for that.

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