As Hurricane Irma battered the Caribbean and Florida coast, there was one person at the forefront of my mind; someone who meant a lot to me, though I’d known her but a few short days: Sandra, the babysitter who watched my 15-month-old daughter, Esme at Atlantis Paradise Island Resort during a trip to the Bahamas earlier this summer.
Anyone who’s ever had a babysitter or nanny knows the special bond you form with them as you raise your children together (we all know it takes more than a village), but as it turns out this connection can happen pretty quickly, as I found out with Sandra (pictured with Esme below), who transformed a short trip away into an experience I'll cherish for the rest of my life. Needless to say I was relieved to get Sandra’s reply on WhatsApp today confirming that she—and the resort—were OK.
There’s been a lot of discussion about kids clubs of late—whether they’re a godsend for tired, stressed-out parents, defeat the purpose of spending quality time together as a family, or worse still, whether it’s even smart for parents to trust their kids with a complete stranger.
Millennial moms like myself have been adulting for a while now with the likes of Uber and Wag for dog-walking, and now with babysitting apps like HelloSitter, we’re used to outsourcing more than just our laundry to people we don't know. Sure, these are our kids, not our dirty socks, but the idea of trusting your nearest and dearest to a system of background checks and ratings is becoming commonplace—so what makes it any different on vacation?
Of course I had the panic: a stranger with my baby? While I lounged on a beach chair? No no no no no. This was also my first non-family babysitter; I’d been lucky enough to have my daughter’s father look after her during the day and a very supportive family ready to step in whenever we needed a night off. So I had reservations. But it dawned on me: with the stringent background checks done by the hotel and the fact that these professional babysitters were on staff (I got a whole profile with personal details on Sandra when I checked in—hence how I know she likes to wear white to parties), not to mention the fact that I would only be a short jog away from the room at all times, what better place to have my first experience with a babysitter? I went with it. Sandra accompanied me to events, roamed the resort with a rented stroller, and stayed in the room when Ezzie needed a nap. It made all the difference.
It’s not just lounging poolside that’s on the table for grownups at a major resort like Atlantis: there are casinos, bars, restaurants, clubs, parties, an adorably quaint new ice cream parlor called Sun & Ice at The Coral—its newest property catering to families, spas, golf, water sports, and, of course, the local area of Paradise Island to explore.
Meanwhile when you’re with your kids, there’s a whole host of activities to keep them squealing with joy, from something called The Dig, which mimics the lost city of Atlantis with stunning acquarium exhibits, the Leap of Faith, a terrifying waterslide in the shape of a Mayan Temple, marine life to gawk at, and breakfast to be had with the Dolphins. (If your child's 3 or older, Atlantis also has one of the best Kids Clubs I’ve seen. And did I mention they have a concierge just for the kids?)
Having a babysitter really does mean you can have your guava duff and eat it, too.
But there’s another benefit that’s not so obvious. You get to see and experience a destination through the eyes of a local; someone who really knows the resort; someone who really cares for your kid. I knew what to eat at the Junkanoo, a Mardi Gras-like celebration that’s unique to Bahamian culture (conch fritters), how to order my Grouper (lightly fried) and everyone at the hotel got to know my daughter’s favorite stuffy.
Plus having someone who really knows what she’s doing look after my daughter meant I could learn a few things from her. And somehow, amazingly, when I got back from a much-needed dinner out, Ezzie was sound asleep in the hotel-provided crib. Without me needing to give her a play-by-play on how to put her down at night. The woman really was a pro.
I like to think of myself as a mindful mama: I love traveling with my daughter and I relish the chance to show her the best experiences I can. Having a babysitter on vacation meant I was able to experience things as a person, and it meant she got to experience more on the trip than I could have ever given her on my own.
If you have the opportunity to travel, give a babysitter a try. And if you go to Atlantis, ask for Sandra. And tell her I say hi.
Julia Dennison is the Digital Director of Parents.com.