Author Archives: Barbara Kline

October 27th, 2015

Food Without Thought

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I was sitting at a local restaurant this past Sunday and I can’t get out of my head what I saw. A mother and son having a late lunch –and exchanging less than 20 words during the entire meal. The boy was somewhere between 6 and 8 years old. He was looking down at a phone while his mother alternated between staring into space or looking at her iPhone. How sad! What a missed opportunity. In this age of technology, many children are missing out on developing important communication skills…like having a face-to-face conversation. Between texting, tweeting, Facebook, iPads, iPhones…etc. it seems as though typing is easier than talking.

When I brought this scenario up to co-workers who have children, they commented on how many times they have seen parents give their kids some form of electronic device during a meal out at a restaurant. Parents look to occupy their children and hopefully avoid potentially awkward situations. It’s easier to avoid having to give a child a lesson in manners, or social skills, or how to have a conversation with an adult. But how will they learn if we avoid these real-life scenarios all together?

I have taken my own children out to restaurants so I have first hand knowledge that those outings can be difficult and sometimes downright unpleasant. We were asked not to return to The Eatery at White Flint Mall when our son was around 18 months old after he and his buddy had been overly rambunctious. That certainly was mortifying and a low point for us. But there were many other times when we went to kid friendly restaurants and taught our children what was expected of them if they were going to be treated to China Village, Parkway Deli, or their favorite: the late, great Sir Walter Raleigh’s.

What struck me personally about the mother/son failure to speak also strikes me when I am driving home through the neighborhoods and I see nannies wheeling children in their carriages while they chat on their phones. Again, this distresses me. Why aren’t they talking to their charges and pointing out the squirrels or the leaves? I’ve talked about that scenario many times with nannies when they come into our office to interview. We talk about our expectations for their interactions whether they are walking down the street or playing in the park. Parents aren’t paying for them to be on their cell phones. That point is clear. When it’s the parent’s failure to make the most of these teachable moments, who’s making that point?

September 22nd, 2015

A Babysitter is Not a Nanny

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If you search online, there are so many nannies available for hire that your head will spin. Upon more careful examination, there are not as many viable options as would appear…

There are many people who take jobs as nannies as their last resort; often when their “real job” offers didn’t pan out. Based on our years of experience, these nannies feel little to no accountability or loyalty to the families whose jobs they accept. These are babysitters taking nanny jobs when they would much prefer working at a non-profit, Fortune 500 company, or for a government agency. The truth is, we don’t have enough really good caregivers who take this profession seriously.

That’s why last week was a particularly gratifying one at White House Nannies.

Three nannies we placed in 2005, who have been in their jobs since then, came back to us to look for new families. Each one had heartwarming stories to share.  They didn’t just have job security for a decade, they developed relationships with their employer/families and got to see the children they took care of grow and evolve. Talk about job satisfaction! Hearing about their wonderful experiences made us smile and share in the vicarious pleasure of these relationships.

Being a caregiver is a profession not just a stop along the way to something better. This is Nanny Recognition Week, and I’m proposing a toast to all our great nannies!

Nanny blog pic



July 21st, 2015

All Choked Up

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I want reinforce the importance of taking a First Aid and CPR course. Don’t zone out yet. This issue became front and center this week when we learned that one of our clients had to perform CPR on her 4 month old baby. He had a heart attack and she was the one who had to administer CPR. WHN requires all its caregivers to get certified not because it seems like a nice credential but because it is necessary for anyone taking care of children. You may never have to use it, but it could also mean a matter of life or death.

infant-cpr[1]This morning we met with a nanny whom we’ve placed over the course of 10 years. Her CPR was expired. We recommended she renew it. She told us while she never had to use it on her charges, it came in very handy when she spotted a choking child in the park. That child’s nanny had no idea what to do. Our nanny had the training and was able to help.  In our own office, one of our placement counselor’s son choked on a baby carrot. She was able to administer the Heimlich maneuver (which she learned in this course) and dislodge that carrot.   I am always shocked to learn that it not a requirement for all teachers to have the certification. It seems illogical to think because there is a school nurse on the premises (not necessarily nearby and not always present ) that a classroom teacher doesn’t have to be trained. If you are a parent, caregiver, or a teacher make sure you sign up for a course. There are online options but we recommend taking this course in person and learning how to do chest compressions. Local hospitals, American Heart Association, Red Cross are some of the places where you can get certified. Make yourself a promise to get this done!



(Photo courtesy of

May 27th, 2015

Welcome Back!

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back to work pic

(Photo Courtesy of CNN

Half of our office is comprised of moms who have young children and newborns. They are just like many of our clients—trying to get their childcare arrangements in order and getting back to work. I’m learning what I can do at White House Nannies to help our new moms transition back to the office.

Here are a few tips we’ve put together :

1. Make sure to inquire that childcare arrangements are in order and working out. Because If they aren’t working, nothing else will be.

2. Pace the work load for  at least the first week. Try not to do a data dump.

3. Allow the new mom to go home early for the first few days. Sleep deprivation comes with new motherhood.

4. Make provisions for a space to pump. Many new moms need to know that it’s permissible and that there is a private place to go.

5. Understand that the new mom needs to eat lunch even if she didn’t before giving birth.

6. Allow for emotions to be in a bit of an upheaval. Hormones haven’t settled down yet.

7. Be prepared that there are more doctor appointments in the first few months of a baby’s life.

8. Ask to see pictures of the baby.

9. Understand that balancing work and family is a huge juggle.

April 28th, 2015

Freedom to Parent

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Meitiv family in Silver Spring who were reported to Child Protective Services for allowing their two children, 10 and 6, to walk unsupervised to a park one mile from their home. We all have our opinions about these parents. Some of us are saying to ourselves: What were they thinking? How irresponsible! Others are thinking: I was allowed to do the same thing as a kid with my siblings. Our parents weren’t questioned about their parenting decisions or worried about strangers abducting us. T hey certainly weren’t being interrogated by Child Protective Services for their parenting styles, good or bad.

The fear, however, that lurks in many parents’ hearts comes from real life horror stories starting in the 70s with Etan Patz. Closer to home, the Lyon sisters were abducted in the 80s. Now both stories are back in the news. Bad things do happen. How much do we allow that fact to color the freedom we give our kids? My husband’s upbringing in DC was very different from the way we chose to raise our children. There was more nanny and parental supervision in the 80s and 90s, more structured activities and less of the parenting mentality “Go out and play and be back for dinner.” Helicopter parenting is the prevailing wisdom of our time. These Silver Spring parents who chose another path have paid a price. Free range parenting has collided with helicopter parenting.

Social services departments are so inundated with serious cases of abuse and neglect that this intervention seems intrusive and overreaching, not to mention a waste of limited resources. There are far too many cases of children living in abusive homes where outside intervention is essential and in some cases, a matter of life or death. I’m not sure that this family is one of those cases. Most young parents I know in the DC area don’t let their children out of their sight—and make sure their nannies display the same vigilance. That even extends to their backyards.

So, how much freedom is too much? At what age should kids be able to walk what distance without supervision? Should a 10 year old be responsible for the care of a 6 year old? There is no book on any of this. Common sense and good judgment need to prevail.

March 31st, 2015


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March is Women’s History Month. Lots of #womenwow trending. I can certainly attest to how wowed I am by the women in my office! This blog is an ode to women who are moms (and those who aren’t) who make it work at work. I see it everyday at White House Nannies. How many times have I heard form our clients, I don’t want to hire anyone with her own children to take care of my kids. Along with that prevailing “wisdom” is the caveat of not hiring anyone planning a wedding or anyone pregnant. I’ve managed to hire successfully in all categories.
At White House Nannies, I am filled with tremendous admiration for how our very talented staff has managed to navigate some of life’s very big challenges with great aplomb.
I have always thought of myself as keenly observant. In my office, however, I managed to miss the morning sickness of two of my employees despite the fact that they both had violent cases that sometime s lasted all day. They were total troopers. They never missed work and they never complained. No excuses. They are professionals.
When clients tell me that they don’t want to hire nannies with young children because they won’t be reliable, I always feel the need to point out that they wouldn’t want their bosses with that attitude. If a caregiver has backup and a history of reliability, I don’t feel they should be excluded from the pool of viable candidates any more than my female clients should be denied work because they are mothers.

One recent Wednesday (my day out of the office) , several of the women in the office dealt with some traumatic news. My pregnant employee had life and death issues with her unborn baby. Good news: the baby was born healthy at 38 weeks! The other mom got a scary report back form her daughter’s pediatrician. The 3rd mom has had her plate filled juggling two young children and an impending move. Yet everyone did her job while supporting each other through their respective crises. They are the same empathetic people on the other end of the wire when frantic parents call this office in need of help. They get it. Hats off to working moms and other hard working women who make a difference.

February 3rd, 2015

Do You Read Me?

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I was once certified to teach although this is a bit of ancient history. I share this only to lend credence to my opinion on an issue in education today. Truthfully, I remember very little about my education courses except Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development or as I always refer to it Piaget’s Theory of Readiness. For some reason, that concept really struck a chord with me and I have referred to it often during the years since college graduation. This theory describes the incremental, developmental learning of babies and children. Recently, The Washington Post had an article written by a distressed Virginia pre-school teacher entitled: “I pushed my pre-K students toward reading. And I feel guilty about it.”

read-booksI hear you, sister. My kids did not read particularly early. Based on what I know, they were normal –read: average. Normal is apparently no longer good enough. I know there are children who start reading when they are 3 and 4. That information is enough to make any secure parent insecure. I just want to reiterate that there is no evidence that hurrying kids to read really helps them. They get it when they are ready. Ergo, my love of Piaget. Parents, please read this next sentence from the article: “No research documents long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten.”

The article also points out that the more time teachers devote to preparing pre-Kers to read, the less time there is for the kids to play. Play is what is truly important at pre-school age, but it seems to be so undervalued and out of vogue these days. Parents, take heart. Your kids are going to read someday—whether that day comes in pre-K or K or first grade doesn’t matter. Surround them with books, read to them, and let them experience your love of reading. Your child will read when he or she is developmentally ready. In the meantime, take the pressure off you and your kids. Let them play!

January 22nd, 2015

Politics Aside

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Putting politics aside, there were two messages in particular that struck close to home for me in Tuesday’s State of the Union. I especially liked the following:

“It’s time we stopped treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

White House Nannies can help only a limited number of families find childcare, but I have always been conscious of the greater need for better access to affordable and quality childcare for all families, no matter whether they are inside or outside our service sphere. Here’s what a dream come true would look like: In addition to the increased tax relief for families with children that the President mentioned in the speech, I love the idea of making community college free so that, among other things, those people interested in making childcare a career could get trained and earn an Associate’s degree in child development. And I’m not just talking about recent high school grads taking advantage of this opportunity.

There is a whole pool of people who work in the childcare field who can’t afford to go to college and who would benefit from a free two-year degree certifying their expertise and experience. The benefit is two-fold. More people might enter the field if given the opportunity to earn credentials and parents hiring these childcare providers would be assured that the people taking care of their children have professional training. As it stands, there is no uniform set of standards to help parents figure out what their caregivers know or don’t know. This free community college proposal reminds me of the old NNEB (National Nursery Education Board) certification in England—a free two-year certification. Every time we met a nanny with that credential we knew we had found someone with meaningful, practical training. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have the equivalent here?

January 14th, 2015


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food for thought

It’s January, so it’s the time of year when every weight loss program in existence is counting on the fact that you have over-indulged during the holidays and are feeling the bloat of those extra pounds you’ve packed on. Many of us are focused on food. Not only in January, but every month of the year. During every nanny interview at WHN, we discuss the importance of nutrition and cooking fresh food for children. Nutrition is an especially important part of the job since the nanny is often responsible for preparing two to three meals each day for the children in her charge.

The Washington Post recently published a pertinent article: “Nine do’s and a don’t” (January 1, 2015) about kids and nutrition. If you are making New Year’s resolutions for yourself about eating less and more healthy, I would love to share some of my favorite tips from the article and from my own experience that could also be resolutions (and new habits) for your children and your family:

1. Feed babies whole foods from the moment they start solids. For those of us parents who introduced a variety of real foods from the beginning and ended up with great and adventurous eaters, we know this is good advice.

2.Explain nutrition to kids at an age-appropriate level. Help your children learn why they need protein and a variety of vegetable and fruits and help them to understand why certain foods with a lot of sugar are not a good choice.

3. Teach your kids how to cook and allow them to be a part of the process even though it gets messy. They’ll be more invested in eating what they had a part in preparing. They will also be learning an incredibly useful life skill.

4. Include protein in every meal and snack.

5. Make family dinners a priority even if you can’t do it every night.  Science has proven that there are many benefits of eating together as a family, including higher SAT scores.

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy 2015!