Go Away

August is typically the time of year that I write about taking nannies on vacation or paying nannies when you are vacationing. Not this year. Despite my dislike of what can be viewed as self-indulgent musings, I want to share my experience at the hairdressers this past Saturday. What does my hair cut have to do with my normal blogspace? Not much and a lot.

Here’s the backstory. I have been going to the same hairdresser for more than 15 years. His first language is not English. In fact, unbeknownst to me, when I first met him he only knew two words. Yes and darling. It worked for me. For years. No matter what I asked for or said, he had the same response. Yes, darling. We laugh a lot about that now. He is a wonderful guy who has had much success in this city. But back to the point.

When I saw him this past Saturday, he had just returned from a six day vacation with his family. If you don’t think vacationing makes a difference, you should see my haircut. Not that it’s ever actually bad. Sometimes it takes him 15 minutes to cut, others 45 minutes. Saturday was the 45 minute plus cut. He was definitely very focused and seemed to be enjoyed giving me a great haircut. We-he-talked all about his six days with his wife and daughter and what a good time they had had.

How important it is to be with family having fun! My hairdresser was totally revitalized and I was the beneficiary of his renewal. We all get run down working, working, working – even if we love our jobs. Getting away is a good thing. After, we are better at our jobs. We are better parents. We are better spouses. And the bonus is that we are creating family memories.

My hope is that everyone is getting a bit of a getaway so we can all feel better and be better at what we do.


The summer months of July and August usually include some much anticipated vacation time. If you are a nanny travelling with a family or a family travelling with your nanny, there are few helpful facts to know before taking off to ensure that reality meets expectation.

Unwritten Law: This is the family vacation, not the nanny vacation. That fact should be talked about up front. It’s all about managing expectations on both sides. It would be great to discuss a tentative schedule before departure. Is the family planning to go out for dinner most nights–without the children? Is Sunday morning free time for the nanny for church or beach? Who stays at home with the baby when there is a fun activity planned?

The Law: When accompanying an employer on a trip–whether a vacation or a business trip–an employee must be compensated for all hours worked during the trip, including the time spent traveling to the destination. If the employee’s working time exceeds 40 hours in a 7-day period, the employer must pay the employee for the overtime hours at the time-and-a-half rate. In addition to the regular and overtime pay, the employer is responsible for the employee’s traveling expenses, including airfare and hotel accommodations. These expenses are covered by the employer because the employee would not have incurred these expenses on her own.

A nanny is not paid for her free time when she has no responsibility for the children and has the freedom to go or do whatever she pleases. Over the years, we have heard of nannies working 10-14 days straight with almost no hours off. Instead, it might be best to keep the total hours similar to what the nanny normally works at home to avoid total nanny burn-out. The hours worked can be broken up to cover the times childcare is most needed.

Remember to have that talk before you leave and then have fun!

DC Daycare Degree Dilemma

In case you missed it this past December, the District has new licensing requirements for teachers of infants and toddlers in DC day-cares. These new educational benchmarks are not being well received by current owners and workers. In fact, some of the affected providers will be regularly demonstrating downtown. It sounds as though in addition to the educational requirements, there are also a lot of detailed regulations that are really pushing day-care providers over the edge.

Instead of being known as one of the worst educational systems (and a disgrace as this is the nation’s capital), DC is now to be a leader in the improved care and education of young children. Conceptually this is a great idea. I am all for educating providers and for ongoing trainings. It is important to give babies and toddlers the best start possible.  Simply tending to their basic needs is too low a bar. We know that the achievement gap starts early. And this is where any general agreement about this topic begins to unravel.

How about the financial impact of these new requirements? Who’s paying for this new improved workforce? It costs money to get the required education. Supposedly $3 million in subsidies are being allocated for the support of directors, teachers, and providers. We will see how that goes. But it’s not only money needed to meet the requirements, it is the time it will take to for people to take the courses to meet the benchmarks. And here’s the worst part for the workers: In the end, are the centers going to pay them any more money despite their educational investment?

Currently, there aren’t enough quality, affordable day-cares. These requirements are going to further reduce availability and exacerbate an already bad situation for working parents. As centers close because of these new requirements, parents are going to be scrambling for sure. While the goal of raising the bar for DC day-cares is the right move, figuring out the implementation needs much more thought. And money.

So Long Time Out

Looks as though we are putting Time Out into a permanent Time Out. Time Out was the fashionable and widely accepted method for dealing with non-compliant or badly behaved children.  Even Nanny 911 told us so with her very best British, no-nonsense delivery.

We started to hear from clients that they didn’t want their nannies to use Time Out when dealing with disciplining their children. I have to admit that we immediately thought- another family who doesn’t want their children’s behavior corrected. We stand corrected.

The trainings we have for our nannies always provide solid tips. Our last series of talks for National Nanny Training Day was entitled “Getting to Yes” which followed up on a previous lecture on “Positive Discipline.” What we learned and now share with all our nannies is that to discipline means to teach. Putting a child in the corner, on a step, or in a naughty chair is not teaching him or her anything. If we think that the banished child is cogitating on his rotten behavior, think again. He’s probably thinking about how mean the person is who isolated him. The punishment is unlikely to change future behavior or build skills.

Instead of the corner, try talking to the offender. Get down on his or her level. Ask questions. Give choices. Have a “time in” with your offender.

Daniel J. Siegel, MD  and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D in their book No –Drama Discipline: The Whole –Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind is worth a read.  According to Dr. Siegel:

Misbehavior is often a cry for help calming down and a bid for connection. When the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet.

The books goes on to make the point that brain imaging shows that relationship pain caused by the time-out rejection looks like  physical pain in the terms of brain activity. That bit of science is thought provoking.

Time out has had its day. Time to move on.

Writing A Beautiful Letter of Reference You Don’t Really Mean

We love when nannies come armed to their interview with glowing letters of reference. We know those letters take time to write, and we appreciate the effort that goes into crafting them. But parents, please do not write a glowing letter of reference for your nanny if you don’t mean what you write. The next parents who hire your employee will believe what you penned. And unlike White House Nannies, they may not bother to call you to follow up for verification. They liked what you had to say. It was what they wanted to hear. It validated their impressions. They counted on the accuracy of your letter when making their hiring decision.

I get the problem. If your departing nanny asks for a letter of reference, it may be hard to decline the request. What should you do? Write the truth. How long did she work for you?  Her dates of employment. Was she reliable? Always on time? Not really. Then leave that out.   Did she love your children? Treated them like her own?  Say that. List activities she did. Responsibilities she had. If you have mixed emotions, make it clear that there is a longer conversation to be had and offer to speak live.

For us it is always shocking to speak live with an employer whose verbal assessment is a complete disconnect from the reference letter they have provided. What prompted this blog was a beautiful two page ringing endorsement of a nanny that turned into a complete diatribe on the reference call. What?

The flip side is sometimes we are presented with a very short, uninspiring letter about a nanny who has worked a decade for a family.  Ten years and fewer than ten sentences? Much to our relief, when we reach that long term employer, we get a much more complete and favorable assessment. In that case, the letter-rather than being a help to the nanny-is a disservice to her and any prospective future employer.

Please, keep those honest insightful letters coming. And if you have nothing nice to say, remember what your mother told you.

You Lie, You Lose

Should my children read this blog, there will be smiles and groans. This title phrase was the watchword of their youth.

May I just say how much those four words still hold true in my professional world. Don’t lie. Own your mistakes. Tell the truth. Your cover-up is or may be worse than the crime.

Resume: The embellishment of resumes is nothing new in DC.  We all know a few people have  gotten jobs and then lost those positions when the truth of their experience was revealed. How about those students in Kansas who outed their incoming principal?

College Degree: Don’t say you have one if you don’t. Even if you are really, really close—like a course or two away from that diploma. You can’t say you have a degree if you technically don’t.  Education checks are easy to do. For nanny positions, actual degrees while valued, are not required in most cases.

Previous work history: If you didn’t work full time at a job, don’t say that you did. Occasional babysitting is not a full time nanny job. It is what it is. Valuable and related but not the same.

Fake references: Seriously. Do not EVER do this. Do not use your friend who has no children for a childcare reference. Do not use your boyfriend who is living at his parents house and has no children (but lots of guns on his Facebook page) as your most recent reference.

I’ve always felt we are very good detectives when vetting our candidates. We definitely want to find out any falsehoods before our clients do and certainly before anyone is on a job.

Trust is the most important ingredient in a relationship. If you lie, no one will ever trust you. Certainly not with their children.

Feeling Distracted?

Feeling Distracted? In the  New York Times article, The Guilty Secret of Distracted Parents, the author Dr. Perri Klass seems to want to cut parents some slack on the playground. The pull of technology is strong and so is the tedium of taking care of kids. If you’ve spent any time on a playground recently, you can witness the dynamic first hand. OMG. Did you see that toddler who just waddled in front of the swing? It missed him by less than an inch. Did you see that kid trying to go down while his brother is walking up the slide and they’re fighting over the right of way? I hope you didn’t miss the kid who just fell off the monkey bars and is sobbing in the dirt. Every one of those scenes evokes the same question: Where is that mother? Or worse: Where is that nanny?

I know exactly where she is. She’s talking on her phone or reading her email.

“Your phone can seem to call to you in an especially seductive way when you are a parent on playground duty. And one reason is, let’s face it, that playground duty can get old long before your children do” says Dr. Klass.

“Parenting young children is frazzling to your brain” reports Dr. Jenny Radesky (a developmental behavioral pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics). She was quoted in the New York Times in 2014 and now she’s back being in print being quoted to make the exact same point she made three years ago. Distractions have not abated and taking care of children remains TEDIOUS.

Klass goes on to say, “Enjoy those moments in the playground, and keep an eye on the monkey bars. Safety first. If the kids are old enough and safe enough for you to look away, you may get a few minutes to check in on your adult life,”

I want to go on record as saying that checking in on your adult life at a playground is not the best advice. I have no idea what age is old enough for kids not to be watched.  What I do know is that  kids are capable of getting into trouble in a split second. The author of the article  seems to want to cut parents a break. Hey, parenting is demanding, tedious, and mind-numbing at times. Of course, you can look at your phone. This latitude is not extended to those people being paid to take care of kids. Only their parents. Which probably explains that most bruises and breaks happen on the parents watch not the nannies.


Lock Your Door

This week’s hilarious viral video is a perfect example of why nannies don’t like to work for parents who work from home. Who hasn’t laughed at that very proper dad being interviewed by the BBC when his home office was suddenly invaded by both his children. Let’s get serious. If the person who was watching the children had been the nanny, odds are really good she could have lost her job. Good thing it was the mom! And had it been the nanny who dragged the daughter along the floor to get her out of view, I’m pretty sure there would have been a discussion about potential  bodily harm.

We ask every nanny candidate how she feels about working for parents who work from home. While some are ok with the idea, many say having the parents at home makes it so much harder for them to do their jobs. Kids naturally want to be with their parents and are incapable of distinguishing play time from work time. Nannies have told us they don’t care if cameras are following them as they would do nothing differently. They just need to have their work space separated from the parents – preferably by several metro stops not merely upstairs or downstairs.

Telecommuting for work isn’t going away and will probably only increase. Figuring out how to make that arrangement work is the continuing challenge for nannies and parents alike. One of the suggestions we will now add to our list of best practices is to make sure the home office door is locked!

Talk To Me

The importance of good communication in any relationship is no secret. It’s the secret sauce for success.. You know you have to talk to your spouse. Of course, you to talk to your baby or children. Then there’s your mother and maybe even your mother-on-law.  (I personally love to be communicated with) And, if you are lucky enough to have a great nanny, believe me when I tell you, you need to talk to her. Regularly.

In the beginning of your relationship, you should have a set time to talk every week. Make sure this time is not when she is about to leave after being in your home for 10 hours. It’s the perfect opportunity to exchange observations. It allows you the chance to say thank you, good job, and would you mind…. whatever it is. It should never be viewed as only a time to deliver negative reviews or news. Many times it will be to discuss upcoming events, schedule changes, family news, etc.  It also gives your nanny a perfect forum to tell you things you need and will want to hear about your children.

Busy working people are often like ships passing in the night with the people who work in their homes. Information does not always get transmitted correctly or in the right tone. We all know about the convenience or texts and emails. Nothing substitutes for these weekly in person intimate sit downs. Invest the time and reap the dividends.

Cute as a Picture

During our in person office interviews, one of the questions we ask all our nanny candidates is if they are comfortable texting and sending pictures during the day to their employers. We know that parents want to be part of their kids’ lives even if they can’t be with them during the day. Getting snapshots from the park, pool, or library is a great way of feeling connected.   The question may sound odd or even laughable in these times of total connectivity, but many of our nannies are not millennials and don’t live on their phones. Good news for parents worried about focus.  But what happens to those pictures? Where do they end up- other than with their parents- is worth a discussion. There is a lot of creepiness out there and we want to make sure that none of those adorable pictures make it into the wrong hands. Our advice to parents when they hire a new nanny is to have some ground rules about picture taking and posting. Most of us have Facebook and Instagram accounts no matter what age we are.  It’s worth the time to talk about the sharing of the photos and the settings on our phones. Geotagging, for instance, is most likely oversharing for nannies and their charges. Picture posting is a worthwhile topic to discuss whether you have a new nanny or one who has been working for you for a while. Take a moment to read this post for more helpful info. http://tiphero.com/kids-photo-safety/

To learn about how we can help you find the right nanny for your family, contact us today at (301) 654-1242.