Super-Mom’s Guide To Travel Nursing With Kids
I am a 30-year-old travel nurse from Columbus, Ohio, and believe it or not, I travel with my three boys who are all under the age of nine years old!
I decided to travel when I was in nursing school. But it was in nursing school that I became pregnant. Twice.
Then I had my third child two months post-graduation with my Bachelors in Nursing.
Talk about chaos.
I did what any new grad nurse would do and I went out and found a job at a local hospital. I went from a Neuro step-down unit and then found a position in Neuro Critical Care at another local hospital that I absolutely loved.
When my kids turned 2, 3, and 7, and I finally got around to my dream of travel nursing.
They say the third child sends you over the edge.
Do My Kids Go To School?
What did you think, that I just took my kids out of school to fulfill my dream? Of course not.
My oldest son attends Connection’s Academy, a free online public school for grades K-12. Though it’s an online curriculum, it is managed by the public school system.
No need to worry about credits and graduation criteria as his schooling is all guided, all I have to do is follow their curriculum and teach him with flexibility.
The organization knows I am a nurse and work weird hours. As long as on my days off we are getting his hours in and schooling complete, they don’t care. I know that sounds a lot easier said than done, but if you have the drive, anything is do-able.
Don’t worry about the backlash of parents saying your child doesn’t have socialization. Any parent or child who has met my children have never known they stay at home. They have amazing opportunities of meeting up with students and, get this, hours at the zoo, museums, or other places of learning counts as school credit hours.
You get the leisure to work around your busy schedule, you get to have all kinds of crazy fun going on your own field trips and most of all you get to be a part of the coolest process, watching your child learn and grow.
My son used to struggle in school and now he is top in his class (no he isn’t cheating and I am not doing his work). It truly is rewarding and without Connections Academy he wouldn’t be where he is now.
I know this is the question you have been itching to be answered, “What do you do for childcare?”
I look on websites like Care.com and SitterCity.com and I am certain there are others for different areas. You search for nanny candidates and you can message them on the site. Always do phone interviews first.
You have access to background checks if you so choose and ability to see any reviews that have been written on them. I search and find people that seem like they would fit my needs and the rules, people who look trustworthy, sound educated, and that have lengthy profiles to give a good viewpoint of their character.
I email as many as I can. I set up phone interviews with whoever responds back. I take notes, then compare all the candidates and set up face-to-face interviews with my children present.
The interview should be about you asking questions and leisurely talking face-to-face, while watching how they interact with the children.
From here it should make your decision easy on who you would prefer to trust with your children while you are gone all day.
I had to request someone to work 15-hour days for the days I worked. That meant also paying overtime. Research local laws. Anything over 40 hours needs to be paid at time and a half.
If you have someone who travels with you to watch the children…lucky you! You have overcome the biggest obstacle.
Ensuring Child Safety
Never underestimate the power of a nanny cam.
I buy mine on Amazon. They are from SereneLife, and are HD. A must-have feature is an included app with which you can watch your little ones. The cams zoom and pan unlike other similar cameras, and I find this a valuable feature.
These cameras have sound, and you can intercom through the cams from wherever you are. The cameras operate via wi-fi, so no cords, yay! I just screw them into the wall in the rooms I desire (umm no bathrooms though). I don’t have to wonder what is going on. They take micro SD cards for continuous recording so that you can rewind and play back if need be. They have very quick and easy setup and instructions to follow.
They should be a requirement for anyone who leaves the home and leaves their children with a sitter or nanny. The nannies should be made aware that there are cameras in the house prior to them accepting the position.
Work up a nanny contract that covers the fact that you have cameras that record audio and video. This is very important and it protects you.
Paying Your Nanny
Speaking of contracts, make sure your contract defines length of employment, pay, and expectations.
If you want to use a payroll company to deduct taxes, Patriot Software has the best nanny payroll system. They even do all the reporting and it is automatic set up for money to deduct from checking account and it is the cheapest I found.
However, because the direct deposit cost extra and seemed a pain, I just ran the payroll and took the net pay and did online bill pay from my bank account.
Now for the logistics of traveling with a child: it is important that there be a DVD entertainment center, portable or built into the vehicle. Bring along some favorite toys like a stuffed animal for the younger ones, or a Leap Pad for older kids.
Take snacks and stop frequently if it is a longer road trip to give them a break from car seats and the car altogether.
I didn’t bring a lot of toys, instead I shopped at GoodWill and other stores for toys on clearance that I thought they would like once I arrived to where I was living.
This decreases the amount of things to take. Always make sure you do something fun on your days off, this gives them adventure and instead of hating the traveling they seem to break in a lot more easier to the idea of being away from “home.”
I took the stipend and found my own housing since I travel with three children. I found short-term lease apartments in good areas. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be royal, it just has to be doable. You are only going to be there three months or so.
I bought air beds for myself and my oldest child. My two toddlers are still in Pack ‘n Plays so their beds fold up nicely for transport.
Air beds are very easy to fold up and put in their carrying bag. I bought the Coleman double air mattress. It rarely loses air and it’s actually quite comfortable. I just bought a nice mattress pad and honestly it was more comfortable than my TemperPedic!
As for other furniture, I bought an adult bean bag chair; yes I truly just said that. It is memory foam instead of the cheap bean chairs for the kids. I already had three Big Joe bean bag chairs. I bring a TV and — expert tip — bring a TV stand and rugs to reduce the wear and tear on the carpet.
On a recent assignment, I bought a dining room table and chair set on Craigslist. Cheap and temporary. For the kids I bring a table I bought a fold-out table with kid chairs for eating and crafts.
I think the first assignment is always the most challenging since every situation and family is unique in what they need. This is also dependent on whether you will be moving your entire apartment that you have now into your new one. If you do that, then you can bypass all of these tips.
For those that have a permanent tax home that will be maintained and paying for two residences, understanding what you will need to buy once you arrive and what you will need to take before you leave home is essential.
I used a 10 foot U-Haul truck to move on my first assignment, but it wasn’t even half full. You should get help to drive it and possibly even tow their car behind the U-Haul like I did. After all, we can’t just throw the kids in the back of the U-Haul, and I had to drive my car.
Once you get through your first assignment, you will likely fill up an entire 10 foot U-Haul truck. But, now you have everything you need for your next assignment and every one thereafter. This is where you will be making the money back that you spent on putting an apartment together. You’ll make even more money on future assignments.
Advantages And Drawbacks Of Traveling With Kids
Travel nursing with kids is doable, and even fun, but it comes with some drawbacks. You typically can’t take the provided housing from your agency. Rent will be more because you have to go with more bedrooms instead of a quick studio or one-bedroom apartment. And you will be required to pay deposits for your own secured housing.
But on the positive side, the kids love doing fun things that they wouldn’t have had access to in Columbus, Ohio. We went paddle boating down a canal, we saw a dolphin show, and we got to eat at unique places and enjoyed many parks.
Before you think this is too much to bear, just remember that travel nursing is very rewarding. You get to travel all over the U.S. and you get to bless your patients no matter where you are. Above all you are making an income that lets you pay for all the activities that travel nursing offers when you are doing it with kids.
Your recruiter will definitely have a lot of tips for you as well!
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By Britney Ullman
Britney Ullman is a Critical Care Travel Nurse landing her next assignment in Kansas City, Missouri. This will be her second assignment and first year traveling with her three boys Parker (age 2), Greyson (age 3) and Zander (age 7). Traveling with children is a lot easier than she could have thought and the adventure is well worth it!