Submitted by Joyce Wilson, TeacherSpark.org
Planning a family vacation can feel daunting during "normal" times, so planning a safe family vacation during a pandemic may seem like an overwheming task for some working parents. The thing is, school breaks can seem overwhelming too if you're feeling stir-crazy, so here are some ideas that can help you plan with prudence and increase your odds of haveing a great time.
How Can You Travel Safely?
While COVID-19 cases waned early in the summer in the United States, they’re now back up now across the country. If you want to vacation safely, you’ll want to consider a few extra things when planning a trip.
One piece of good news is that it’s still possible to stay at a hotel, and hotels are vastly less risky if you’re vaccinated. Risks may vary by location, so be sure to check with hotels ahead of time to make sure they are taking reasonable precautions to protect you from the coronavirus; you may want to ask about their cleaning procedures and mask policies for their staff members.
Another thing to consider is your the vaccination status of fellow travelers. If you're traveling with a group, keep in mind that young children are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. The good news is that if they do get COVID-19, they are less likely to get sick than adults. The bad news is that when they do catch COVID-19, they're pretty good at infecting unvaccinated adults.
RV traveling can be fun for the whole family, while reducing interactions with non-family members. Between April and June of 2020, surveys say RV rentals went up tenfold as people searched for a way to vacation without exposing themselves to too much risk. If you’ve never driven an RV, it's easy to find safety tips online.
Vacationing at Home
Given that risks associated with travel are increased right now no matter how you go about it, one way to reduce risks is to vacation from home. Most people are pleasantly surprised when they take the time to deliberately explore things they take for granted most days.
A movie night at home with the family isn't a new idea, but there are lots of ways to turn a movie at home into a lifetime memory. Consider printing tickets and creating a snack counter. You could even include a budgeting lesson by pricing the snacks, giving each child a snack allowance, and then forcing them to make some tough choices. Or maybe they'll work together to purchase a variety of items to share.
Another idea would be to plan a camping trip in your own backyard. If you’re not used to camping, there are guides you can follow.
If you’re short on ideas for fun things you can do with your kids at home, the Internet offers plenty more ideas and some people have raved about "staycations" that have included putt-putt golf, star gazing, a trip to a local bead store, getting take-out from an unusual restaurant, taking bike rides, picnicing, hiking, painting, ... well you get the idea :) And many activities that you might assume can only be done by traveling, can also be done virtually, such as going on a live African safari.
How Can You Stay Comfortable With Your Kids At Home All Day?
While staying cooped up with your kids might seem inherently stressful, there are ways to make it work. Involving your kids in housework can keep the whole family busy while also making it easier to keep the house neat. If you can’t imagine how you can get your kids to join you on chores, slowly introduce them to cleaning in ways that won’t discourage them, and think about rewarding them with a treat after the project has been successfully completed.
The bottom line is that while the pandemic may prevent you from going on traditional trips to crowded places, it doesn’t mean you can’t vacation at all. With a little creativity, you can stay safe and still have a great time with your family.
Editors note: Our family staycationed one year after my husband had been laid off and we were living off a single income for the first time. We'd taken many nice trips in the past and had started a practice of ranking our vactions each time we returned home from one. Our kids, 12 and 7 at the time, rated the staycation as the second best trip they'd ever taken; they only ranked our trip to Hawaii as higher. I, on the other hand, was feeling sorry for myself and muttered, "The way things are going we'll probably spend a week playing board games in the basement for next year's vacation." Our seven year old son instantly replied, "That would be a blast!" In that moment I learned that our kids valued time with us having fun and they didn't care where it happened.
Being a Human is Hard Work
Submitted by Kelsey Sprowell
I had a profoundly human experience on an airplane this morning and after tumbling it over in my mind, it seems fit to share it.
First, some background: I should have been home from my business trip by now. My flight from Louisiana to Dallas was delayed by more than three hours last night so I missed my connection to Cedar Rapids and was rebooked on a flight this morning. At the gate, the agent changed my seat; when I boarded, another woman and her elderly mother were sitting there, so I picked another. The steward came through and reshuffled us again, and then we sat on the tarmac for a while waiting out a storm. I overheard the woman behind me tell the steward that she’d never traveled with a baby, and I noticed she had an infant. All of this is to say: it seems like a Godwink that any of this happened in the first place.
A half an hour into the flight, I was caffeinated to the gills and absently reading some stories saved on my phone for exactly such an occasion when there was a big thud, and then gasps. The passenger behind me had fallen asleep and dropped the baby. She picked up the baby, who had startled, but not cried. The passengers around us looked around uncomfortably - what do you do when someone drops a baby?! I threw my phone in my bag, unbuckled my seatbelt, got up, and reached out my arms for the babe. I had a million thoughts at once: this one looked about four months old, and this was obviously Grandma, not Mom. People, babies are so freaking hard, and when my girls were that little, I often felt like the only reason I didn’t drop them when I fell asleep is because of some biochemical muscle activation that kicked in because I grew them myself, and this lady clearly didn’t have that advantage. I flew with my kids a bunch; it’s like traveling with a bobcat and all of the materials in its enclosure. No one offers to help, but everyone offers judgement. Grandma handed me the baby as I told her, “I’m a mom, my babies are at home, let me hold your baby so you can get some sleep.”
After I sat down again I noticed that the woman across the aisle from me was crying. I held her gaze for long enough to prompt her to talk, and she said, “I’m sorry. I’m flying home from dropping my son off at rehab. I’m so scared.” I asked if she wanted to sit next to me, and she said no. I asked if she wanted to hold the baby - by this point Grandma had fallen back asleep - and she said yes. We took turns passing the baby back and forth.
After Grandma woke up, she told me the baby’s name was Peanut. The woman across the aisle told me her son’s name was Max and that he’s 22. I cried with her getting off the plane, because I know that mama love, and I can imagine what her heart feels like leaving her kiddo in Texas. We all parted ways, and I can’t stop thinking about any of them.
So if you’re the praying type, remember Peanut in your prayers, and also her mom and grandma, and definitely Max and his mom, too. And for God’s sake, go out of your way to be nice to people. Being a human is hard work. The world needs it.
When our kids were ten and 15 we took a family trip to Europe. It felt like a big deal at the time, and looking back on the trip now it was a big deal. At least for us. It was the first time the kids had been outside the US, and we'd all spent months planning and talking about the trip. My husband and I had done a fair amount of international travel for business, and we thought it was important for the kids to have some of those experiences too.
Our adventure started in Rome. After flying all night, we landed at the airport where we were to board a train into the city so we could check into our hotel. After retrieving our luggage (another funny story) we went in search of the train. Still a bit groggy and disoriented, we pointed out airport "differences" to our kids, as we all took in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.
After only a few minutes we had to stop and regroup. We just couldn't seem to find the train station that the guidebook assured us was right in the airport. This was in 2006, so pre-smart phones, which meant we had translation books and hard copy guidebooks. My husband and I engaged in a bit of intense debate as we tried to determine the best way to find the elusive train station.
At this point, our ten year old son, who is never afraid to speak up, suggested that maybe we should head in the direction of the train icon posted on some of the airport signage. My husband and I looked at each other and laughed as we told him, "Good idea!" We then wondered how we'd managed to miss that very obvious clue ourselves. Our belief was that we were the European travel "experts", and we hadn't left much space for the kids to become experts themselves. We hadn't even recognized them as valued members of the "team".
That experience, combined with the recognition and observation that many parents (ourselves included) insist on being the experts, leaders, and sometimes even saviors when they interact with their kids, changed the way we traveled as a family from that point on. We recognized that the kids were often as capable as we were, and we gave them opportunities to prove it.
We all seem to want our kids to excel in so many areas ... unless we're around. If we're around, we often reserve the role of "expert" for ourselves. It feels so darn good. For us. But what does it do for them?
As I mentioned in my recent Paris in the Springtime story, I vacationed alone in Paris last month. I landed back in Denver on a Friday evening, and in a mostly unplanned turn of events, my 23 year old son boarded the same plane and headed off to start his own solo travel adventure just a few hours later. I traveled alone in an attempt to add adventure to my life, and he traveled alone to visit friends he'd met when he studied in Sweden during his junior year of college.
Since returning from my trip, people have said many interesting things to me including these comments from two very capable young women: "I wanted to do that, but my dad wouldn't let me" and "I could never do that!"
These comments got me thinking. My experiences got me thinking too.
The first thought is that, for me, traveling alone felt safer than traveling with others for the following reasons:
I'm so glad that my son had the opportunity to travel alone while he was living in Sweden, and I'm glad that he's willing to keep doing it now. Business travel is often a solo trip, so these experiences will only help him as he establishes his career. Experienced travelers are best able to focus on their job responsibilities when their work requires them to function away from their home base.
If we want our daughters to be able to take advantage of opportunities to earn as much as our sons, we need to help prepare them for the work ... which often requires travel. It doesn't make sense to pay a person with less experience the same as a person with more experience.
Instead of teaching our daughters to be fearful, let's teach them to be capable.
Paris in the Springtime
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Paris was my most recent vacation destination. My husband was unenthused about spending time in a place where he would encounter so many language and logistical challenges, and I somehow tripped across the concept of "solo travel" on YouTube, so the next thing I knew, I was off to Paris ... alone.
Some people I encountered were surprised when they learned I was on my own. Others, all working moms, got it. It seems that people who have masterminded family vacations while juggling a demanding full-time career can at least relate to the appeal; doing only what you want and when you want to do it. I'm happy to report that it was just as luxurious as it sounds.
Before I left I had some concerns about spending 12 days on my own, so when I came across the concept of Airbnb "experiences", I booked a few; a small jazz concert, a "rooftops tour" and, the one that sounded the most interesting, "Make your own silk scarf in Paris". I'm not much of an artist, but this "experience" was described in a way that made it sound doable. And it turned out to not only be doable, but thoroughly enjoyable; it was everything I hoped it would be and more.
Our host, Marie-Sophie Boulanger, met the three of us who had pre-registered (Sharon from Hong Kong, Amy from the Bronx, and me) at a metro stop near her home in Montmartre. Then we were wisked into Marie-Sophie's home in a Parisian Haussmann building where we spent the next four hours creating our own silk scarf ... with lots of help from Marie-Sophie and the added bonus of making new friends. It was really fun!
But why do I share this story with you? It's because Marie-Sophie is a working parent and that was evident while we were in her home. It was Easter week, her 12 year old twin sons had the week off school, and she had to work. That meant that her boys were off at a day camp while we were there. And guess what? There were some issues; changes by the camp leader, phone calls from her sons, and adjustments that needed to be made. Amy and I, former working parents, could relate! We'd been there and done that. And watching Marie-Sophie juggle her work and her family only helped us appreciate the experience more.
We were reminded that working parents, wherever they may live, are all facing many of the same challenges.
Pointer to HBO's new Docu-Series Being Serena
Working moms on Reddit brought our attention to the new five-part Docu-Series on HBO* called Being Serena. The series chronicals the most recent events in Serena Williams' life; from winning the Australian Open while pregnant in April 2017 right up to attending the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
But it's the stuff in-between those events that is most interesting ... and inspiring ... and thought provoking ... and relatable.
For those who don't know, Serena is married to Alexis Ohanian, one of the co-founders of Reddit, so it's especially interesting that Reddit led us to this program. Talk about a synergistic relationship!
Working parents (both moms and dads) are likely to appreciate Serena's story and find themselves relating, thinking, and being inspired as they watch.
* It appears that Being Serena is also available via On Demand until early July. More info.
When in Rome
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Work required me to travel internationally on occasion. I usually viewed these trips as sacrifices since they took me away from my family along with being tiring, if not exhausting. Once I made it to the airport, I usually appreciated the change in routine, and once I made it to the hotel, I usually appreciated the opportunities to meet new people, see new things, and discuss new ideas.
But I rarely took any extra time to explore the area on my own after the business was complete. Instead, I felt compelled to get back to my family and "be there" for them ASAP. (It occurs to me that this sounds downright crazy as I write it so many years later.) Thankfully, there was one time when a colleague and I decided to take an extra day to explore Rome on our own.
Thanks to this fun, flexible and very accommodating colleague, I had a great day as we explored the city. In fact, it was so great that I vowed to return "soon" with my husband and kids (14 and 9) so that they could explore these wonders too.
Thirteen months later, the four of us were sitting on a plane heading to Rome where we experienced, what later became known as, "the best vacation".
Work experiences often make us better parents. And sometimes we need to indulge ourselves in order to understand how to leverage those experiences so that they benefit the whole family.
Oh, the Places You'll ... Pump!
Submitted by "Human Rights Mama"
Note: This is not a sponsored story. Neither the author nor Working Parent Stories have received any form of compensation from the businesses and services mentioned below.
As a lawyer specializing in policy advocacy for refugee rights and the mother of two, I've found myself pumping in a wide variety of places including New York City, Geneva, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, and Brussels. (Not to mention on airplanes to said destinations.) I have also purchased pump replacement parts in nearly all of these cities, as I seem to forget one key part on every single trip. Target stores are a blessing to all women who need quick pumping solutions!
Figuring out where to pump can be a challenge. On many trips I need to walk or take transit between multiple meetings in a single day. It's often hard to find places to pump or nurse when I'm away from home and on the go; especially in big cities. Thankfully there are some apps and websites that crowsdsource good places to pump, including momspumphere.com. When in doubt, I’ve found it helps to ask the Internet.
Hotels have been the most accommodating in my experience. They usually offer me an empty room or an office, even if I'm not a guest. And like many, I've had to settle for the gross public restroom on occasion.
Airports often have lactation or baby rooms now, which is in credibly helpful. San Francisco International Airport has a great room on the new pier in Terminal 3; it has become one of my favorite stops before boarding a plane.
My favorite ad hoc location was a Nordstrom dressing room near Washington, DC. It was quite comfortable, though I am sure the other patrons were a bit confused by the mechanical sounds coming from my room :)
And what to do with all that milk? Thankfully there are services available to ship it home in a chilled container. I’ve used Milk Stork, and FedEx has options as well.
Submitted by "Human Rights Mama"
As a lawyer specializing in policy advocacy for refugee rights and the mother of a 3-year-old and 10-week-old, I've had a number of experiences that only seem "funny" in hindsight. I share them in an effort to encourage other working parents because it isn't always easy, but we get the job done (at work and at home)!
When my son, our first child, was 3.5 months old, I took a required work trip to a conference in Europe. It was my second week back from maternity leave and my employer was very supportive, encouraging me to bring my spouse and baby along. Having them close enabled me to more easily focus on my work; leading a staff retreat and attending human rights hearings at the UN all week. My husband was extremely supportive and happy to come along to help, but the universe kept throwing obstacles in our way. At the time I was exclusively breastfeeding and quickly discovered that I did not have the right electrical adapters to enable me to pump. Plus there weren't many electrical outlets in the city restrooms anyway.
As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, it was 100F degrees outside, and it was humid too. But we made it work.
Instead of seeing some sights as he'd planned, my husband brought the baby to me every three hours for feedings. The thing was, my husband rarely had the right badges to get into the buildings, so he had to wait for me out in the heat. Or sometimes we met in an air-conditioned grocery store to pass the baby back and forth. Then he would pack our little boy up and try to get him somewhere cool for a nap. He must have logged 50 miles of walking that week!
In one of my favorite moments, the UN refused to let the baby through security because he didn't have an official badge from an accredited organization. That meant that I missed an entire afternoon of hearings at the Human Rights Council. I believe they were talking about women’s rights in that session ...
The irony was not lost on me.
Speaking of Business Travel
Pointer to a Yahoo! Lifestyle video featuring Anne McClain
Some working parents fret about the need to travel for business. Astronaut Anne McClain, who will be heading to the International Space Station in November, offers a balanced perspective shared by many. Some of her thoughts have been included in a short Yahoo! Lifestyle video (<2 min). Enjoy!