Author Archives: Barbara Kline

November 22nd, 2016

Thankful

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Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

It’s a WHN tradition to share with you what we at WHN are thankful for this time of year. We wish all our families and nannies the Happiest Thanksgiving!

Barbara is thankful for:

Best White House Nannies staff ever

New members (son-in-law/daughter-in-law) of our family

Old members of our family

Nutritional labels

Elastic

35 years of married bliss

Great doctors

 

Richard is thankful for:

35 years of delightful marriage to my boss

Wonderful, loyal and hardworking staff of White House Nannies

Our skilled and caring providers who do such an amazing job

Our many loyal clients who help us grow and prosper

Our children finding and marrying such wonderful spouses

The good health of my family and the staff here at WHN

 

 Annie is thankful for:

My two adorable children who keep me on my toes and teach me how to be a better person

My loving husband who works hard every day

My mom and mother-in- law who adore our kids and would do anything for them

My job and wonderful co workers

The ability to meet exceptional nannies every day who share their love for children

 

Stephanie is thankful for:

My loving husband, Matthew

Fresh produce at the local farmers markets

All of Netflix’s original content

Warm blankets and crackling fireplaces

The fact that coloring books for adults are now a thing

My mom still baking me a special batch of my favorite holiday cookies every year

 

Denise is thankful for:

Family & Friends

Bob

Health

Some Redskin victories

Costco runs for the office

 

Michelle is thankful for:

My two sweet busy, busy, busy boys

Strong coffee

My wonderful husband

Trips to the beach

The holidays and family gatherings

 

Kaylyn is thankful for:

My family

My friends

The wonderful people I get to work with at WHN

All of the free museums in DC

Coffee

Hungry Harvest

 

Brittany is  thankful for:

My fiancé

My family & friends

WHN & my colleagues

Halo Top

Vineyards

Trips to Colorado

 

 

 

 

November 2nd, 2016

Positive Discipline

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Here are some of the words our WHN nannies used to describe themselves at our Positive Discipline training this past weekend:

Happy, loving, caring, patient, calm, consistent, positive, responsible, self-motivated, organized, respectful, nurturing, confidant, reliable. They also said they were good listeners, good communicators, good multi-taskers, and good planners. They believed in teaching good manners and instilling a love of reading. They agreed that having a sense of humor was a must.  It was an impressive gathering to be sure.

I learned a lot about everything my husband and I did wrong in the discipline department. I texted both my children apologies right after the session. The quote from Rudolf Dreikurs: “A misbehaving child is a discouraged child” really got me. Can I please suggest strongly that parenting classes are a really good idea since kids don’t come with manuals? This child-rearing is not easy no matter how old your children are or how smart you are.  New and better theories are always evolving.

Way back when, discipline was mainly punitive and physical. Then we had years of the naughty chair or the time out step. Often the punishment was harder on the parents than the kids.  To discipline is to teach and we all could all learn more and better ways to do just that!

October 26th, 2016

You Are Not Exempt

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For years I told people if Zoe Baird had come to White House Nannies, she would have been Attorney General. I wasn’t kidding.  Clearly we would have steered her away from undocumented workers and we would have advised her to pay her nanny taxes. I was pretty annoyed she did it her way. Now we hear her name (along with other illuminati like Caroline Kennedy) being invoked again as vetting season is upon us in the new administration. How many people have been disqualified for office because they failed to withhold taxes for their household employees? Apparently, there are a lot of disappointed office seekers out there according to the Washington Post article.

Not to be snarky, but I have to ask: You really didn’t know you have to withhold taxes from your nanny or housekeeper? You are smart and educated and want to be a Supreme Court Justice. No, your nanny can never be considered an independent contractor.  The other concept that seems to elude people is overtime. It’s the law and you don’t get to pick an arbitrary number to pay. Here’s an example of creativity that we’ve seen in a contract: We pay $20 an hour and will pay $25 for any hours worked over 50. While at least the concept of overtime was addressed, it was not computed as required. Time and one half for any hours worked over 40 hours in a seven day period. Period. No variations on a theme.

The idea that you have track money you pay for occasional babysitting is also often-and somewhat understandably- ignored or forgotten. If you pay any childcare provider over $2,000 in a calendar year, employment taxes need to be paid. That means if you went out 25 Saturday nights and have paid your regular babysitter $80 each time, you’ll need to pay taxes.  If your babysitter or nanny decides she needs a W2 and you don’t give her one, she may contact the IRS and then you will have penalties to pay in addition to the taxes.

Here’s a final thought. If you need security clearance for your next job and you haven’t paid taxes on your household employees, you could be in serious trouble. So not worth the risk. Especially in this city where aspirations for higher office are the norm.

September 14th, 2016

The Break-Up

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No, absolutely not! You cannot break up with your nanny by email or text. It’s never boring at White House Nannies. I’m sharing this story not to shame anyone but to dissuade anyone else from considering this kind of break-up. I know there may be some similarities in dating and finding a nanny. But NO ONE- neither your significant other nor your nanny- wants to be ditched/axed/let go/fired so impersonally. It verges on cowardly, it’s certainly not kind, and it’s not very smart. Even allowing for the fact that you feel your nanny is not doing her job as she once did. She has a relationship with your child. She knows all the neighborhood nannies. She knows your family inside out.

How should you handle this icky break-up?  You take the high road. Seriously. Get on that high road right now. Be resolved. Be kind. But don’t retreat even if there are tears. You’ll just be at this same juncture in the near future.  She was great when she was great and now she’s not. Thank her for what she did do for your family. Tell her your current needs and hers are not aligned. Give her some severance. Wish her well. Allow her to say goodbye if your child is old enough to notice that she will be MIA. Closure is good. Little white lies are ok here.

I repeat. No good will come of breaking up with your nanny by tech. Take heed!

August 3rd, 2016

Nanny Makes the Match

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There is nothing more fun, other than seeing your own children get married, than seeing their lifelong friends find true love and tie the knot. This past weekend our family headed up to New Hampshire for a beautiful outdoor wedding at the home of former DC residents.  While their 1700’s home had plenty of history, it is our shared history that struck me. This family has been part of the fabric of our lives for the past three decades.

Guess how we all met? We had a very active 18-month-old boy that needed to work off that pre-verbal, toddler energy. No better place to run around for us than Lafayette Park in NW DC. Our Bolivian nanny Maria met Argentinian nanny Analia who was taking care of a little boy just the same age as ours.  That foursome bonded. We then met the parents and the rest is history, our history.

Despite all living in separate places for the past 15 years as the boys dispersed for high school and college and then the work world, this past wedding  weekend brought the two families together once again –the groom, his nanny, and his old friend.  What are the odds that both young couples are now going to be living near each other in LA? Both sets of parents are already planning a joint visit in the fall to see them on the other coast. The boys were talking about how great it would be if their (future) kids became friends.  And all because two nannies in a park met and introduced their charges over 30 years ago!

Blog photo 8.2016

June 24th, 2016

APPsolutely Not

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Hello Sitter. Hello Kitty. Sorry, that’s where my head goes.  Parents in NYC, you are now one click away from a last minute great night out without a worry about who’s taking care of your kids.  That’s what this new app wants you to think.  The Hello Sitter app allows you to order up childcare the same way you call a car service.  Holy cow—I know parents are busy, but this is really a dangerous concept.  It was inevitable that technology would take us to this app. After all, we go online to order our groceries, our clothes, our toys, our household supplies, our movie tickets, our plane tickets, and the list goes on. Tech is in every industry. Why is it wrong here?  Let me count the ways:

Background checks—what are they checking ? You need to know.  Also, can we once again stress that the National Criminal Data check is not a thorough check even though it sounds mighty impressive.  How about those misdemeanors? Not on the terrorist watch list??? Phew! And as one mother interviewed stated—Because you aren’t a criminal, doesn’t mean you aren’t a psycho.

Childcare references- how many and who’s calling them? Are they real former employers or friends? What is the range of their childcare experience?

Pathology is often hard to see or assess.  Cursory checks are not going to rule out some really sick folks who should not be taking care of anyone’s children even if they cleared the legal background checks.

Staffing is not just about algorithms. We’ve tried it. When dealing with children and families, we know high touch trumps high tech.

For nannies, this app is not the safest idea either. Where are you going? No explanation for how those employers are checked out. Who talked to the parents? Are they really parents?

As an agency owner who has been in this field for over 30 years, I know how long it takes to check out every candidate for a childcare position and how hard it is to maintain a highly vetted group of on call nannies. It also takes experience to determine which jobs to take and which to decline. As a parent, peace of mind is the last thing that I feel when I hear “Hello Sitter.”

June 8th, 2016

TAKE MY ADVICE

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babywalking

It’s peak nanny hiring season for the next number of months. There have been several recent blogs and articles which have laid out some important information for parents in the search process. Here are some highlights of helpful tips I’ve read (including some of my own) for parents new to this process and for others who consider themselves veterans:

1. Choosing to hire in home childcare –a nanny- is expensive.  For your money, you are getting one-on–one care for your child or children in the comfort of your home. No frantic rushing to daycare in the morning or lack of flexibility on the home stretch.

2. Nannies do not like negotiating their salaries or even talking about them, but they do like getting paid a living wage. Agencies are helpful in salary talks – a reason a nanny may want to have representation.

3. Paying legally is the right thing to do in addition to being federal law. When you pay legally you are also able to take advantage of the childcare tax break.

4. Overtime is not an optional concept. You have choices: pay a blended rate or straight time and a half for all work over 40 hours in a seven day period.

5.  Nannies need to eat lunch and catch their breaths during the day. Taking care of children is exhausting work as most parents will acknowledge Sunday nights.

6.  That laundry list of’ to dos’ for nanny downtime will probably not be well received. However, anything to do with the children (laundry, rooms, toys, food prep) goes with the job.

7.  Nannies are not paid to sleep on the job.

8.  Parents DO need to pay nannies while THEIR kids are sleeping.

9. 10 hours a day of developmentally appropriate play is not a realistic expectation.

10. Parents need to state the hours for the job as they are not as they wish they were. Coming home late every day will insure a short-term, unhappy employee.

April 29th, 2016

The Wrong Questions to Ask

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How old is she? Can you send pictures? These are the ONLY two questions that we were asked recently after referring highly qualified potential nanny candidates to a family. These are not uncommon inquiries but also not the most useful ones a parent could ask.

Another (legal) version of the first question could be: Can she physically do my job? We have a lot of steps. We have three active kids. Can she kick a soccer ball with my son/daughter? I’ve already written the ageism blog (See: Don’t Be So Quick To Dismiss) There are very peppy, active people over the age of 30. Even over the age 50!

The second request is the one that really gets us. Hiring a nanny is not like finding your true love on Match.com, OkCupid, or eHarmony or a hook up on Tinder. While I often refer to the hiring process as a little like dating and clearly think that chemistry is an important element in finding the right person, how a person looks should not determine whom you interview for a nanny position. Here’s where the internet has made all those EEOC laws fuzzy. On online list serves, nannies are posting their own pictures. Agencies like WHN would be the posters and that’s where we are not clear on the anti-discrimination laws.

In the following scenario, you can guess who gets the immediate interview: Susie from the Heartland, Maria from El Salvador, Genet from Ethiopia, etc.  In an instant, Susie is booked despite only having 3 years of babysitting experience as opposed to Maria’s 10 years as a nanny, and Genet’s 5 years. The adorable nanny from California that was hired from Care.com and subsequently arrested on abuse charges was quite adorable—if you were judging from her photo. She looked like the girl next door. In all my years of business, the only person whose background check revealed a felony charge was a blue eyed blond from Utah. Her employer brought her to my office because she didn’t need her anymore. Clearly, this mother had no idea she had a felon taking care of her kids.

The point is great nannies are from everywhere and come in all shapes and sizes and ages. They should be judged on the following: their experience, references, work history, personality and finally their chemistry with your family. You will see the real beauty in your nanny as your children thrive under her care.

March 22nd, 2016

Not Fair

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It’s a recurring and infuriating truth in the nanny profession. I find myself having a variation of the following conversation- a lot:

The money you earned in your last job, you might not get in your next position.

I have to say I am distressed at how many times and ways I have to have this compensation conversation with nannies who are looking for new jobs having completed 5 or 10 or even 15 years of devoted service to families. Why is it that nannies climb 10 steps on the financial ladder only to be pushed back to the 5th rung when they leave a job—even with stellar references? Is this the only profession that work experience and a solid track record do not equate to increased salary and the hope of financial security?  Think Sisyphus pushing that rock up the mountain.

Here’s what I say to nannies:

I know you want to start a new job caring for an infant once again since you loved helping raise the kids you are leaving. You like being in on the ground floor. That’s great. Here’s what is not so great: That infant’s parents are most likely younger than the family you are leaving and may not be able to pay you what your current family with more earning power can. The new parents are starting their careers and are looking to pay a more entry level salary despite wanting experienced caregivers with terrific track records. I know. You’ve been working for 10 years and deserve more money. Not only is it possible that you will not make more money in your next position, I am simply hopeful a new employer can match what you are currently making. But there is also a real possibility that you may have to take less.

Who wants to deliver that message?

Childcare is a serious profession. How are we building a much needed workforce if caregivers have no prospect of increasing their salaries?  If there were no people to take care of working families’ children, this city would grind to a halt. The metro closure has nothing on the chaos that would result from having no quality childcare!

It’s a conundrum. I know and understand the issues. What I don’t have are the answers.