Taking your Au Pair on a business trip

Tips for Taking Baby and Au Pair on a Business Trip
by CV HARQUAIL on MAY 30, 2012

What can you do to make it easier on you, your au pair and your baby when you all take a business trip together?

I’m a first time host mom who’s going to be taking her au pair with her on a business trip with my 8 month old daughter.

My au pair understands that the hours might be odd, and that I may need her to be on duty more than 10 hours for some of the days. She’s happy to accommodate my schedule, and I’m expecting to be deliberate about accommodating her schedule a few times in exchange.

But other than this issue with scheduling I was wondering if other HMs some advice on issues on business trips. I’m still breastfeeding so I’m planning on coming back from the conference many times a day for feeds.

We’re staying in an extended stay hotel down the street from the conference. I’d appreciate any advice. Thanks so much ~ BusinessMom

Dear BusinessMom–

Back when I was working full time and breastfeeding each of my babies, I really appreciated that I could bring our au pair with me on business trips.

Managing the au pair and the baby was the easy part.

Like you, I made sure to find us family-friendly hotel accommodations that had extra room for our au pair to sit and play with the baby, to prepare simple meals, and just to hang out.

We also stocked up on a few grocery items so that our au pair did not have to take the baby and herself out to a restaurant for every meal. These two adjustments made it much easier for the baby to keep her schedule and for the au pair to feel comfortable even in this strange place.

For our au pair, I identified a few touristy activities within walking distance of our hotel. Even though the baby had no interest in the National Zoo, the Space Needle, or the Mall at The Grove, our au pair was able to explore these places with the baby in tow. I also gave our au pair a ‘pay per view’ movie budget.

I did have our au pair bring the baby to me in the conference center when it was time for the baby to nurse. I would scope out the environment and find a place that was easy for our au pair to reach and reasonably quiet and private. Once, I even nursed the baby in the childcare area of the conference (even though we weren’t using the childcare service, they let me into the space).

The harder part was the demands the arrangement placed on me.

I was torn between wanting to immerse myself in the business trips themselves, and wanting to be there for my baby and au pair. For me, business trips always feel demanding, even when they are for conferences I enjoy. I feel like I have to be ‘on’ 24/7 at the event, and this is exhausting.

There was little to no down time when I was back at the hotel. Our au pair was lonely without company, and I had to spend some energy connecting with her. Plus, I did need to relieve her and care for the baby. There was no time for the usual business trip fun, of soaking in a tub that somebody else would scrub, or jumping up and down on a bed that someone else would make.

I felt as though I could never, ever rest.

Also difficult for me was letting go of the baby after she’d been brought to me to nurse. Once I relaxed with my daughter and snuggled her, it was harder than usual to give her back to the au pair, button up my shirt and march resolutely into the business fray.

Worse, when my colleagues did see me with the baby, it was hard for me to figure out who I actually was, that professor doing the interesting research on corporate reputations, or the adoring mommy with the sweet-cheeked little cherub.

That was my experience, and maybe there are some ideas in there for you.

Other moms who’ve taken babies and au pairs on trips, what have you done that’s made it easier?

Image: attendee at “Type A Mom Conference”??? Some rights reserved by kelbycarr

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Comments:

Seattle Mom
I took my au pair & two children with me on a business trip to DC last March. My kids were 3 and 13 months at the time. Also, I lived in DC for many years before moving to Seattle, and have lots of family there, so it was a slightly different situation. We stayed at my MIL’s house (which was both good and bad.. but that’s a whole other story), and my conference was 2 days long and then we stayed on for 3 extra days for fun.

Things that helped me and the au pair:

I sat down with the AP and discussed all the pertinent details ahead of time, especially with regard to my expectations, when she would have free time, sleeping arrangements, etc.

I made it clear that this trip was going to be a lot of hard work, but I would give the AP free time whenever possible. I told her what the hours would likely be ahead of time, and what kind of help I would need on the plane.

I allowed the AP to have the 3 vacation days completely free during the day, except that I needed her help for bedtime (tough for me to do alone in a new place and MIL was no help). If I didn’t take any vacation days this would not be possible, but I would try to build in some time for sight-seeing if at all possible. Encouraging the AP to tour with the baby might have to suffice, or encouraging her to go out for dinner by herself (maybe give her some money for dinner and a cab?).

For the 2 days AP was working, I suggested places she might visit with the children, to get them out of the house. Unfortunately one day was raining hard, so they stayed inside as they had no access to a car and everything was a long walk away. The next day they went to the playground and the grocery store, which was enough.

I borrowed a box of toys and needed baby gear (high chair) from a local friend.

This was a tough trip with a lot of hard work for both me and the AP. Like CV said, I felt like I was “on” the whole time I was working, and while I didn’t have my kids near me during the conference I was a bit torn between wanting to call the AP and find out how everything was going, and needing to focus on my work. Plus I was kind of stupid when I booked the flight and ended up arriving in DC at midnight the night before an early morning conference- so I was totally zonked. My kids & AP were tired too.

It was really fun and worthwhile though, mainly because we got to see a lot of family & friends in a short time. I wanted to try to pack more into the short time but the kids could only handle so much. Still, we managed quite a lot.

I would consider doing another business trip with the AP & kids in the future, if it makes sense- we would need a kid-friendly place to stay, and kid-friendly things to do. If I couldn’t take any vacation time at all I don’t know if I would do it, I might just try to go alone. Expense is another factor- it really depends on how expensive flights are. My younger daughter is now 15 months old and I still think she is too little to leave overnight with daddy & AP, but in a few months it might be ok.

Seattle Mom May 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm
I forgot to mention, my AP also got in touch with APs she knew (mostly from the internet) in DC, and got together with two of them. I think one of them she knew from her training, and the other was from the same home country- they have a strong network in the US. This way she had a “local” person to hang out with and guide her. I would have been fine with a playdate with local AP kids too, but her AP friends didn’t have similar-age kids.

DCMomof3 May 30, 2012 at 9:54 pm
I’ve done this a lot and would suggest the following:

1) Get a room with a mini fridge and microwave and help the au pair plan some meals for her and the kids – easy things like microwaveable mac-n-cheese, fruit, etc. If just traveling with a baby, this is still a good idea for the AP and may help with heating up bottles, baby food, etc.
2) Stay at a hotel that has a free breakfast in the lobby so she can eat at her leisure in the morning and stock up on fruit and juices for the day. This is a must with older kids since they seem to love getting to pick their cereal and the whole breakfast buffet adventure can kill a solid hour.
3) Have the AP help with the packing. Have her lay out outfits for baby each day, diapers, wipes, etc. Then you can just approve everything before it goes into the suitcase. There are 2 benefits to this – first, it helps you to get organized and second, it helps to have the AP actually have to think about the outfits, bibs, etc. so she sort of has a clue about what the baby will need each day while you are gone. For this one, in my experience, the pre-approval (and re-do where necessary) is a must unless you want to end up with 4 pairs of pants, 1 shirt and no pajamas.
4) Stay someplace that has some activities within walking distance, if possible. The AP may just want to take baby out in the stroller or wander through a local museum. If its someplace you’ve been before, give her a little itinerary each day to keep her somewhat busy.
5) Check out activities for babies at local library or museum.
6) Plan for AP to swim in the pool with baby if you want her to.
7) If breastfeeding, stay within close range of your meetings so you can get to baby if necessary.
Bring extra suits for yourself in case baby messes up one of yours.

Looking back, I would say that there is no easy way to do business travel when you have a baby. I’ve had the experience of bringing a 3 month old baby and AP on a trip and rushing from meetings to breastfeeding and back to meetings (and finding AP frantic with screaming baby in the lobby of the hotel b/c he couldn’t wait anymore for me) as well as the experience of trying to pump on an overseas flight and then arriving at the hotel so tired that I used the wrong converter plug for my pump and blew out the lights on my floor of the hotel (and fried my pump in a Middle Eastern country where obtaining a new one was not going to be easy).

However, as the kids get older, doing business travel with the kids and AP can be fun. Especially if you get to go back often to a place you like and you can really give them some solid guidance on how to have a good time.

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