Author Archives: Barbara Kline

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.

November 23rd, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

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Thanksgiving 2015


Denise is thankful for:

My family—including our newest addition my brother- in- law to be and my amazing friends

Our wonderful WHN temp team


Chile and Florida vacations



Annie is thankful for:

My two adorable children who inspire me to be the best mom I can be!

My loving and supportive husband!

A job that allows me to help people every day!

Good health!

Family members in the area that love and support our two children!


Michelle is thankful for:

My kids finally sleeping through the night!

All of the “Mommy I love you” s !

My loving, hardworking husband!

Being a part of the WHN team for the past 7 years!


Stephanie is thankful for:

A good night’s sleep

Philadelphia sports teams

My loving and caring fiancé, Matthew

The deliciousness that is bacon

Spontaneous road trips

The smells of the fall season and the beauty in the color of the changing leaves


Kaylyn is thankful for:

My amazing family

The wonderful people I work with at White House Nannies


Cranberry sauce

The Green Bay Packers


Brittany is thankful for:

Joining the WHN this month

Virginia vineyards and wineries

All the cupcake and macaroon shops in DC

My wonderful friends and family

Chai lattes


Richard is thankful for:

My good health and that of my family

My son and his wonderful new wife and for my daughter and her terrific fiancé

The dedicated and hard working staff @ WHN

An incredibly dedicated group of caregivers

For the indulgence of the WHN staff while I still work on finding my “inside voice”

As always, for my wonderful wife


Barbara is thankful for:


My son and new daughter-in-law

My daughter and my son-in law to be

My sister and brother-in- law

My husband

Caring and compassionate doctors and staff

Lycra, spandex, and elastic

Dark chocolate

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