Having a life,on a family vacation\
According to a recent survey in the UK,working parents prefer the stress at their jobs to a family holiday,with two-third of the respondents confessing they dont look forward to even a week-long trip with their children. The pressure of entertaining kids over long flights,queues and fatigue-induced tantrums can completely take the fun out of a vacation. Lately,Ive been part of some animated discussions regarding holidays,and one of the most urgent issues of travel for some Delhiites is how to organise a visa for a maid or domestic worker to accompany the family.
Ive learnt through friends that getting a visa for household staff to the US is far tougher than procuring one for the UK. And Spain and France are almost impossible. India being India,there are touts operating,specifically in visas for the household help. Someone I know has sent her housekeeper for training on how to ace the US visa interview. Since the landmark judgment in March,where an Indian maid was awarded $1.5 million after accusing her employers,an Indian diplomat couple,of harassment and slavery,the rules have changed. Domestics face something of an inquisition they have to attest that theyre not made to work more than eight hours a day and have weekends off,before their visa application is considered.
Any honest parent will agree,a family vacation is an oxymoron. Travelling with kids is backbreaking work,requiring Gandhian patience. You will enter more McDonalds and KFCs in two weeks than you will in an entire year in your hometown. Sure,the scenery changes a little,and there are rare moments of quiet enjoyment. But if your idea of a time off is idling with a book and long naps,the hassle and sheer drudgery of the exercise of travel always comes as a rude shock.
Having said that,the concept of travelling with a domestic help is a very Delhi thing,or rather an Indian attitude to parenting. While it might be entirely true that I cant handle my kids on my own,Im not sure how comfortable I am with the whole world seeing that. Not to mention the huge intrusion on my privacy. But parents,too,deserve an occasional escape from their children,even if its just for a couple of hours in the evening. After enduring innumerable evenings watching lousy movies like Indecent Proposal in matchbox-sized hotel rooms while my son slept,I got proactive last year and explored the foreign babysitter option.
If youre not a paranoid parent,finding a sitter in big cities like London and Paris is eminently doable,provided the child is four-plus. On a friends advice,I discovered http://www.babysitters.co.uk where,after an initial registration fee of £10 (approx Rs 800) for a lifelong membership,you can hire a babysitter for £ 7 (approx Rs 700) an hour. Post-midnight,you have to pay his/her return cab fare. Its not exactly cheap but,dipanita for a couple of nights,its a justified indulgence. The first day,we had a Hungarian PhD student in her twenties who was also trained in first aid. If the parent asks,the sitter will show you an ID proof and verifications. Its a good idea to make a pleasant but firm introduction to your child before you hightail it out of there,but even better if your child is already asleep. Of course,he should know his parents are going out so he doesnt freak out if he wakes up.
If your child is very young,you may not want to go very far off. Sitters are so much in demand in London in the summer that you need to book two-three days in advance. Another popular website is http://www.rockabyebabysitters.co.uk,which is slightly more expensive. Im told France has similar options,one of which is http://www.paris-babysitting.com but English-speaking babysitters cost more. If youre going to a familiar place where there are friends and family on whom you can rely,nothing like it,but if you want to enjoy a vacation with kids abroad,you should tie up the childcare before you board the flight. Then,the endless sightseeing and fast food restaurants become surprisingly bearable.