Believe it or not, I find it more challenging to deal with my toddler/baby at weddings and large family events versus traveling. When it comes to our travels, if it is just the four of us (my husband, myself, and our babies), I can manage. I can keep things on our preferred schedule, handle the crazy tantrums the way I want, and take action based on how I want. When it comes to a large event, like a wedding, it is not about me and my kids schedule and there are way more cooks in the kitchen, so we are not really able to do what we want.
For most wedding events, I would naturally assume that my kids will not accompany us, ask a friend or a babysitter to come watch the kids, and my husband and I would attend the event. Other than getting a handful of cute photos, there is really no upside to having young kids at such a formal event. They don’t want to be there and chances are that they are killing the ambiance. However, my sisters wedding was an exception for us. Because my immediate family, relatives, in-laws, and best friends were all ‘front and center’ guests, I was a little low on baby sitters. And because of early dinner and bed times for the kid, it was critical to have a dedicated resource for the kids. I wanted my husband and I both to be present for the events, so we decided to incorporate a part-time nanny into our budget – and it was well worth it.
Protocol for Hiring a Caregiver for a Typical South Asian Wedding Week:
Be realistic about the events and available support: Initially, I thought to myself, we can manage without hiring someone, and between my husband, myself, and our relatives at the events, we will be fine. However, the reality is that even in our day-to-day life with two young kids, things are hectic. Throw a wedding into the mix, and we are probably always running late while getting ready and juggling socialising at the events with taking care of our children. Our loved ones offered to help out with the kids, but when they are all dressed up and enjoying themselves, the last thing you want to do is ask them to chase around your hyper and cranky babies. Yes, hiring a nanny is an added expense, and of course if it is not feasible, you will figure out a solution. If you can factor it into your budget, however, it is worth the investment to be able to enjoy yourselves a bit more.
Identifying the Caregiver: You want to find the most credible, qualified, and communicative caregiver you can. The fit has to be there between you and her/him, as they will be in charge of your precious little humans! When I was in Atlanta, I used the app, USIT, a few times and always had great experiences with college aged babysitters. In London, a friend has used the app, Bubble, and had a great experience (although I have not personally used it).
For my sisters wedding back in Atlanta, we won the lottery with the best pediatrician by day/nanny by night, Ashita. We found her through word-of-mouth, which usually works well for us. I asked her to come for a trial-run, and she was so wonderful with our kids that I asked her to come much more often than I had initially planned!
Informal Written Contract: We lucked out with our wonderful nanny, who was flexible with us. However, I recommend writing out some form of a written contract, even informal, such as hours, hourly rate, and certain expectations on both ends. It does not need to be fancy, but it helps to have all this information in a consolidated document or verbiage to be referred back to. Based on education, skill set, and the area that you live in, you will likely finalise an hourly rate. Ask around and do some Google Searches to determine what is appropriate. Of course, you have to stay in your budget, but remember to be fair to the person who is responsible for your humans and pay them what they deserve. I believe having the expectations written out will minimize risk for miscommunication in the future.
Scheduling in Advance: For most South Asian weddings, there are several events to factor in. Let your caregiver know the days and times ahead of time. If there is a particular dress code, Factor in time to get dressed and commute times.
Providing lodging during the wedding events: If the event is at a hotel and far away from your caregivers home, and you need late night and early morning childcare, it could be worth it to get a connecting room or room next door for the caregiver. Keep in mind, she/he is human and will be exhausted, in addition to the fact that your child will have certain needs at night or early morning, and having the nanny there could make things easier for everyone! If you are asking them to stay, make sure to cover the parking expense as well.
Event Process: When you are asking the nanny to come help out during the event, factor in time to get ready for the event. Our kids schedules remained pretty consistent even with the wedding events, so they needed their meals/naps/bedtime according to what they were used to. It helped that the nanny had come often before, so the kids were familiar with her and complied. Our nanny attended the events with us and helped coordinate our entrances with kids, ate her food and fed the kids, and after any photos, she took the kids up to the hotel room. We made sure to get her own room and covered her parking expense as well. This approach worked well for us.
All in all, be clear with your partner on how you envision the event to run, if a paid caregiver is feasible for your budget, and if so, conduct a thorough process to find the best match for your family. For us, it was absolutely worth it!