Author Archives: Barbara Kline

June 20th, 2014

Swim—or Sink

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Summer has just begun and already there has been a rash of drownings. All are devastating and often avoidable tragedies. When we interview nannies, we ask if they can swim since there is a great likelihood that they may end up in the water with the children they care for. It’s always surprising to us that people who grew up in island countries never learned to swim. I am convinced that relying on the lifeguard at a pool is not good enough protection, especially in the case of younger children who do not know how to swim or who are not yet confident swimmers. Someone needs to be in the pool next to the kids. I have a strong memory of my son at three when he raced in a flash to the steps of the high dive and jumped off. Only one problem: he did not know how to swim. Fortunately, my husband was able to rush in and catch him as he rose to the surface. The next week we enrolled him at an American University swim program where he learned to swim. I can still replay that scene as if it were yesterday.

Now in addition to worrying about your standard drowning, there is something called secondary or dry drowning. This is quite scary. The CDC reports that there are ten such drownings a day. Secondary drowning involves the inhalation of water into the lungs, either after a near drowning or as the result of a sudden rush of water.

“They initially look well, and then over — usually the first six to eight hours, but it can be as much as 24 hours out — they can develop a lot of increased trouble breathing,” says Dr. Erik Schobitz, medical director of the pediatric emergency room at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.

After a near drowning, a child can develop an inflammation or swelling of the lungs called pulmonary edema, which limits the body’s ability to get oxygenate blood.  Inhalation of pool water can also lead to chemical pneumonia, or lung inflammation caused by the chemicals in the water.

“That is why we have to watch them carefully after any one of these near drowning events,” Schobitz says.

Lindsay Kujawa, a blogger (Delighted Momma), who went through this frightening experience with her own child suggests that “… if your child has experienced a near-drowning experience, watch for a sudden change of personality or energy level. You can save your child’s life if you act quickly and get them medical treatment immediately.”

Summer and lazy days spent sunning and splashing at the pool are synonymous, as they should be, but it never hurts to be reminded that even our favorite sunny day activities involve risks. Have a wonderful summer and please swim safely!

June 5th, 2014

Early Bird Nanny Needed (McLean, VA)

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A McLean family is seeking an experienced and early-rising nanny to help care for their 1 year old. The nanny will be responsible for preparing healthy meals and some general household tasks.   The ideal candidate is energetic, active and loving and comfortable with a parent who works from home. The schedule is 6/-6:30am to 2/4pm.

Start date: July 2014

Pets: No

Location: McLean, VA

June 5th, 2014

Nanny Manager Needed (NW, DC)- FILLED

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An energetic, flexible and smart nanny manager is needed to help care for a 10 year old and 9 year old and manage their schedules and activities, in addition to some household organization. Driving is required and one parent works from home several hours each week. The anticipated schedule is 7am to 6:30pm three days a week and 7am to 9pm two days a week.

Start date: June 2014

Pets: 1 dog

Location: NW, DC

June 5th, 2014

Nanny Needed, Live-Out (Arlington, VA)- FILLED

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A loving, nurturing nanny is needed to help care for a newborn. The family is seeking a nanny who will be interactive with the baby and promote learning and development. The ideal candidate is able to travel occasionally with the family. The schedule is Monday – Friday 7am to 5 pm.

Start Date: August 2014

Pets: 3 cats

Location: Arlington, VA

June 5th, 2014

Nanny Manager Needed (McLean, VA)

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A busy McLean family is seeking a nanny/household manager to help care for an 8 year old, 5 year old and 4 year old. The nanny manager will work in coordination with another nanny, supervise and manage the children’s afternoon and evening schedules and activities, and take care of some light housework. Driving is required. Excellent salary and benefits for the right candidate. The schedule is Monday – Friday 12pm to 8pm.

Start date: June 2014

Pets: No

Location: McLean, VA

June 5th, 2014

Household Manager/Personal Assistant Needed (DC)

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A very nice DC family is seeking a resourceful and well-organized problem solver to oversee and manage their household. The household manager will be responsible for general household maintenance, staff management and coordination, and household finances, files, schedules and errands. The ideal candidate has some experience with Microsoft Office, Intuit Quickbooks, HTML, and general systems management. Wonderful working environment. Very competitive salary and benefits. The schedule is Monday – Friday 9am to 6pm.

Start date: ASAP

Pets: None

Location: DC

May 30th, 2014

A Bad Rap

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One out of four adults has a rap sheet (NPR, All Things Considered, May 29, 2014). Seriously, that does seem like a lot of people. Why am I writing about criminal records?  It’s not about the obvious: weeding out those really bad potential caregivers. Here’s the deal. There are tremendous “collateral consequences” resulting from youthful indiscretions. How many college students have some form of alcohol or other substance abuse on their records? I’m here to tell you a lot and too many. Who ever thinks about his or her future while at a frat party? Who is thinking her underage partying may impact job offers  after college? No one. The biggest issue under consideration for many teenagers and college students is who’s got the cups and booze for beer pong and where are we setting up the table?

Flash forward 5 or 10 years, and a background check is run on this young adult who is now out in the real world. The report comes back clean. Phew. Thank goodness that the crucial 7-year mark has passed. Look again. Those charges that were dismissed or thought expunged can still show up on some online judicial case searches. Oh, the glory of the internet and the glut of information to be found on it. Many data banks have outdated and incorrect information listed. Too bad.  This data, whether accurate or inaccurate, is in the public domain. Anyone who looks hard enough can find all those stupid things today’s young adults did in their youth (assuming they were caught). These inanities will follow them. They also present us with the unpleasant task of telling prospective employers that the terrific candidate they are about to hire has a past, however harmless it may be.

Here’s where I come down on this issue.  I am all for forgiveness if the charge was long enough ago and petty. Clearly, anything that could be construed as potentially harmful to children is another story and that candidate is history. I know I have evolved to this point of view. Before I had teenagers, I was much more of a hard-liner. Now I can see the gray and understand youthful indiscretion much better. Trust me, this evolution was not without pain. The take away: Make sure you have a very thorough background check performed on anyone who is going to take care of your children. If something does come up, forgiveness may be what the situation calls for. Or not.

April 30th, 2014

Parental Involvement Overrated?

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I read it in the New York Times, so it has to be true. Right? The title of the article was “Parental Involvement is Overrated.”  Yikes. That headline is not going to sit well with a lot of parents.

In fact, most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework do not improve student achievement. In some cases, they actually hinder it.

Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris authors of “The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education”

Through the years, I’ve known lots of friends of our kids whose parents were overly involved in projects and papers. In addition, they spent a lot of time helping out at their kids’ schools. It made this working mom feel a bit guilty to be sure. But when I heard a friend say how hard seventh grade is “for us,” and “how much homework we have,” and that “we won the science fair contest”—it took everything I had in me not to cringe. She might want to read this Times article.

My parents never helped with homework even though they had both been to college. My husband and I followed suit. For me, any math assistance ended for real in 4th grade. It always annoyed me to death that schools assigned projects in lower schools that kids could only do with parental help. Who’s in third grade here?

A lot of the findings in the authors’ study are counter-intuitive. The 655 comments were as interesting to read as the article itself. But there were some takeaways from the research that resonated. The authors suggested that parents set the stage, talk about how important education is, and allow children space to figure it out on their own. I know there are so many exceptions where parental involvement is necessary, but in many cases it’s simply helicoptering. One teacher respondent felt that the most valuable kind of parental involvement was making sure that children have loving homes with well defined boundaries and limits. Not a bad idea.

March 24th, 2014


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Note to self: add section in nanny/family agreement about snow days!

Who knew we’d still be talking snow days at the end of March? With one more storm potentially on the way, I know this is a topic that needs some clarity. If not for this year, for next.  We’ve received quite 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. 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.

While there is an industry standard of five paid sick days, there is no standard number of snow days. 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. And then pray we don’t have to refer to this blog next year!