Check in at the Baby Hotel
Diapers and drool are a prerequisite for this Morningside establishment.
Romantic weekends away, an uninterrupted film or a guilt-free late night at work are no longer indulgent dreams for South African parents, as a new Baby Hotel seeks to ease their burden.

Wealthy working or single parents with little time to themselves can now take a break by dropping their little ones at the creche, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotel has tapped into a market of parents who feel stretched under the pressure of juggling work and children, with nurseries imposing strict fines if you are late fetching your child.

"Nurseries are not flexible, they have very specific hours, you have to be enrolled full time to use them. They just don't do an hour or two at a time," says Baby Hotel director Esme Zwennis.

The hotel, in the posh Johannesburg suburb of Morningside, has 50 beds for children up to three-years-old and around 10 staff. A full night's stay costs R545. This includes dinner, a bath and if anyone has a nightmare... free cuddles.

Each baby's name is taped to the head of their white wooden bed to avoid a mix-up. Sherrie Galjaard, mother of 8-month-old Emma, is separated from her husband. She says the Baby Hotel is a godsend. The accountant can now accept last-minute dinner invitations and relax if unforseen events force her to work late.

"Saturday morning, I wanted to go to Pick and Pay to do my monthly shopping. To take a little baby... to Pick and Pay on Saturday morning is not a good idea. That's why I dropped her at the Baby Hotel. I needed a hair cut, I could not take her there either."

Zwennis opened the hotel in 2004, after her own struggles as a divorced mother of 3 in a country where it is increasingly difficult to get a grandparent or aunt to care for children.

"There definitely is a need for somewhere where people can just use us occasionally and not necessarily on a full time basis," she said.

The thought of moving into a new house with twin toddlers of 21 months is enough to send any parent into a spin of anxiety, and the hotel came as a blessing for the Sayed family. "I dropped them off the whole day and picked them in the evening because we were moving. It's so convenient," said Tasleem Sayed, who finds it hard to trust hired nannies.

"When I am gone, they can watch TV or do their own things, and not take care of my kids." Aside from a reliable babysitter, the hotel also provides vital socialisation for its young charges.

"I would not consider having a nanny. Emma is extremely well socialised, she is stimulated all the time by other babies. If she was at home with the nanny, she would not have the stimulation or the educational activities," said Galjaard.

The hotel also caters for newborns, whereas most nurseries only accept babies from 3 months old.

Emma started frequenting the Baby Hotel at 6 weeks, when Galjaard had to start a new job. She shared a room with another newborn whose mother suffered postnatal depression.

The Baby Hotel is already having its own offspring, opening a second branch this year in Port Elizabeth.

Would you make use of a Baby Hotel?

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