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I am a writer until 4:30 pm (and all day Wednesday), when I transform into what is essentially a babysitter with ten minutes of teaching English thrown in. I put on my running shoes, older jeans, and a shirt that can easily sustain spills and various orders before heading out to a shift that is never dull or the same. I like to see myself as an aunt figure at work; giving extra TV-time for good behavior, making funny jokes, and handing out chocolates. This means that I am also extremely happy to return to my studio apartment after the children’s parents have arrived, and just see my boyfriend rather than a mess of toys and/or vomit waiting for me.
With that said, however, I have not only seen it all, but more than I ever thought possible. I have been gifted with wonderful theatrical renditions, sweet homemade gifts, and even souvenirs from various vacations. At the same time (literally), however, I have been locked outside on a terrace, been punched in the face, and had a wonderful seven year-old wield a butter knife at me. As all parents know, watching children is work, so as you begin planning your trip to Paris this season with the kids, chances are high that you will want some much-deserved “grown-up” time. Luckily, Paris is a city that is more-than-ready to accommodate your needs.
There are several routes you can take to finding a great babysitter–either for just a night of dinner and drinks or someone to aid you during the entire trip. The best way to start is through personal referrals. If you have friends or family in Paris or even if you “once knew a girl from college who spent a year working here” type of thing, chances are, they have someone who they use on a regular basis to watch their children and can easily make an introduction for you. I have met many different families on vacation from all over the world in this respect.
Ok, so you don’t know anyone. Not uncommon, especially if this is your first trip to the city. Now, you are faced with two choices: search on your own for free or pay an agency a small fee for a pre-screened babysitter. I highly recommend the latter, but should you want to search on your own, there are several websites I suggest. Craigslist is still relatively unknown in Paris, so the bulk of people looking for work are Americans, who are usually students. The website Bebe NouNou allows one to conduct a more specialized search. One can look for people who are located in the same arrondissement they will be staying in, and also scroll through a list of candidates who have posted their resumes to the site. Here, however, you will find people of every nationality, so there is a smaller chance that your babysitter will speak and understand English at a competent level. Additionally, for free, there are tons of expat message boards for mothers who are now living in Paris. A recommendation there could also lead you to someone wonderful.
As the old saying goes though, “you get what you pay for.” Do you really want to spend your time in Paris meeting with several candidates to watch your children for just one night? Or worse, pick someone through the Internet before you arrive, only to find they have lied about their age, language, or experience. They might not even show up at all! It is with this in mind that there are numerous agencies in Paris that specialize in meeting your exact criteria for a babysitter, who they have not only met and interviewed in-person, but who has received excellent feedback from other families as well. Complete Paris can not only provide you with a babysitter for a booking fee of €20 euros, (plus the hourly wage, which is generally €9/one child, €10/two, and so on) but can also equip you with whatever key staples you were not able to transport from home, such as a stroller, training toilet, or French-language tutor. The website is also entirely in English. Should you have some French under your belt, another great agency is Babychou, where for a fee of €14, your needs for the occasion, and also overnight stays, can be met.
Ok, so you have found your babysitter for the time you require. Now, how can you help them help you? Quite simple: organization, full disclosure, and play money. It’s a well-known fact that children work best when on a schedule, which is not the easiest thing to maintain on vacation. With that said, however, let your babysitter know the exact times that your children eat, brush their teeth, and go to sleep. Also make sure you include the tiniest details of how they go to sleep–do they prefer a story, a song, or just to be left alone? Honesty is key, which means if your child has a certain eclectic feature, tell your babysitter! I once watched a child whose mother told me that should she wake up in the middle of the night crying and scared, I was to carry a bowl upstairs with me, as she would projectile vomit. I held no judgements, and was thankful to know that should an instance arise, there was a nice, white, ceramic bowl sitting on the dining room table for me to use as a shield. There is no embarrassment in divulging these things, (chances are, you will never see your babysitter again) but rather the contrary–your babysitter knows the correct way to respond, should anything unusual to them occur. Additionally, if you are having your children watched during the day, make sure to leave your babysitter a few euros, should they pass an ice cream stand on a hot day. After all, this is a vacation for your children as well.
Although traveling with children requires extra work, it is something that should be applauded. No matter what age, a trip to Paris will leave a lasting impression. With insider tips and people who can meet your needs, the unexpected that usually comes with children, can easily be taken care of. And if you are in a jam, you can always call me.
circle photo by vastateparksstaff (Own work) [CC BY 2.0)], via Flickr
girl photo by Chris Winters (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
carousel photo by Jean-Pierre (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr