Author Archives: Barbara Kline

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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blog photo 2- 8.16

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


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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, 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 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.

February 29th, 2016

Don’t Be So Quick To Dismiss

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young girl

I’ve been interviewing nanny candidates for the last 30+ years. Here is a key take away: age is not determinative. What does that mean? It means that great nannies are found all along the age spectrum. Let’s talk about the stereotypes because we all fall victim to them.

Older can connote crotchety, inflexible, unfit, and the list goes on. Those adjectives might apply in some cases but, based on my experience, not in all by a long shot. I see patient, knowledgeable, loving, and committed. Are there nannies who suffer from burnout? Yes. Some nannies need to move on.  Burnout, however, can strike at any age.

Younger immediately says energetic, active, and malleable. While these adjectives hold true with many of the candidates we’ve interviewed, I have also seen those who do not fit the stereotype.

Other than the highly experienced nanny, one of the most frequent nanny requests the agency gets is for someone “young and fun.” Clients ask for a college graduate, who has a terrific personality, is athletic, and– fun.  We understand that taking care of children requires lots of energy, stamina and patience, but being alone at home with a young baby for 10 hours a day is not always scintillating or fun. Having to be at a job at 7:30 AM and work a ten hour day can make even the peppiest nanny tired when she leaves work. While on the clock, iPhones and iPads can help with the tedium. But they are also the reason that many younger nannies lose their jobs.

I love when nannies come back to us after we’ve placed them in jobs successfully. Sometimes their jobs have lasted a decade. They have ten more years of experience and the acquired wisdom to share with their next family. However, they are also ten years older. While one might think that added experience would be viewed as a plus by perspective employers, many parents simply do not want to hire anyone “older” or “old.” I prefer the word “seasoned.”

I am not dismissing the idea of young candidates for nanny positions. In fact, I place many nannies in their twenties who are amazing with children. They often come from large families or are only children who always sought out other children to babysit.  Others are former or future teachers looking for less bureaucracy and more one on one time with children. As I have listened to their complaints, I hear that a lot of them would like to have lives beyond their nanny jobs.  The ten hour days are not appealing. Neither is the social isolation.   While I think that nannying is a great career, some see nannying as a short term job and find it too hard to make it through even a one year commitment. Turnover is not fun for families or this agency.

The message is: Don’t be too quick to dismiss nannies who are either younger or more seasoned. We find talent all along the age spectrum. My advice is to be open to all great nannies –young and old


January 22nd, 2016

Get Out Your Shovel

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snowBack in March of 2014 when we had an unexpected snowstorm, I mentioned that putting a note about snow days into the nanny family agreement would be a great idea. It may be timely to review some of the material that is relevant for the next few months (days) when we are destined to have some real snow—or even a blizzard or two.

We always receive a few inquiries asking about the protocol of snow days in the nation’s capital. Ah, the nation’s capital, a city of federal workers— that fact is exactly why some of the problems have arisen. Here are some basic truths. Nannies are not federal workers. There does seem to be a feeling on the part of many nannies that if the federal government is closed, they don’t have to go to work and should be paid for the time off. Not true. Their employers aren’t necessarily federal workers. Even if they are, they are often considered essential personnel and still have to report to work even when the government is officially closed. Every family has different needs and requirements. The federal government does not determine who has to go to work and who gets to stay home in the nanny world.

Another truth is many caregivers live further out of the city and truly cannot get into work after heavy snowstorms. Some nannies live on streets that don’t get plowed immediately or even for days. Employers have to understand that no matter how easy it may be for them to get to work or how much they need to work, nannies may have no choice in the matter. They may be stuck at home or may require extra time to get to work. Conversely, if a nanny is willing and able to work but told not to come to work, that nanny should be paid for the day.

My best advice is to discuss and decide in addition to holidays and sick days, how many snow days will be paid. Put this in any work agreement or contract renewal paperwork. If you haven’t done this, have that conversation now about how snow days should  handled.

December 21st, 2015

Fire Your PI

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(Photo Courtesy of Luxury Listings NYC)

I just read this article about wealthy New York parents that are hiring private investigators to trail their nannies. Sound wrong to you? I hope so. But I can’t say I’m totally shocked. I will say that I am feeling the need to weigh in with some professional advice.

To the parents with lots of disposable income who are currently hiring private investigators to trail their nannies: Instead of paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to learn about your caregivers AFTER you have them on your payrolls, invest in screening your nannies BEFORE you expose your children to them. It sounds as though you are learning about your caregivers AFTER you have hired them. Note to you: You have this process backwards. Investigate first.

If you are willing to pay top-dollar to trail your nanny, why not use these funds proactively to vet your candidates instead of spending money to trail them? Are you hiring off online list serves? My strong suggestion is to take that disposable income and invest in using a reputable nanny agency that knows how to weed out some of the crazies and incompetents you have hired on your own. Use professionals who do due diligence in checking out candidates.  Could you have found out that your nanny likes to drink before 5PM and is not going to pay attention to your child before you hired her? I think so!  Did you do a thorough background check on her—including her social media outlets? Did you have someone other than you sit down and talk to her about her previous childcare experience? How many references of hers did you personally speak to? (No, one is not enough.) It doesn’t matter if you and her former employer use the same manicurist/hairdresser/trainer.

My professional and personal advice is that if you feel as though your nanny is not doing her job, you are probably right. Invest in working with a reputable agency to hire a new nanny and save the money on the PI service.

I look to NYC  for fashion trends to guide my yearly shoe purchases, but this is one trend coming out of New York that I sincerely hope is  will not go mainstream.