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!

February 27th, 2014

Advice for Parents Working From Home

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Telecommuting is a part of the work landscape and here to stay. (Unless you happen to work for Marissa Mayer)  The idea of this blog is not to extol the virtues of or point out the downside of this work arrangement, but to try and help the parents who employ nannies in their homes to adopt some best practices to insure  good working relationships.

When we interview nanny candidates in our office, one of the questions we always ask is: Are you comfortable working for a family where one (or both) of the parents work out of the home?  As expected, we get a variety of responses to this query. They range on a spectrum from “No problem” to “Maybe” to more often “Absolutely not”.  We talk to the candidates about their responses to understand the back stories.

New parents are often shocked that nannies don’t want to work with a parent at home. Suspicions arise. Why? What would the nanny do differently if the parent is not home? Some scenarios don’t even occur to new parents but can cause a lot of stress for the caregiver. How does the nanny keep a crying baby or a demanding toddler quiet while the parent is on an important call? How does she deal with separation anxiety?

In analyzing why nannies have had bad experiences with parents at home, the reasons for the failure of those arrangements almost always had to do with a lack of boundaries. Some of the boundary infractions are physical. A parent is constantly in the space where the nanny and child or children are. It is much harder to establish any kind of relationship and authority if the parent is always there. We realize it’s very hard for any parent to hear their child cry and not want to intervene. But it is important to allow the nanny to establish her routines and responses without constant input from the at home parent.

Nannies whose answers were middle of the road made it clear to us that it depended on the parent. They’ve had jobs where it worked and others where it didn’t.  The nannies who responded “no problem” often recount the wonderful relationships they developed with not only the children in their charge but also the parents. There are some nannies who actually love the idea that there is another adult in the house.

For both nannies and parents, one of the best ways to deal with parents working at home is to make plans for outings whenever possible. The children enjoy the adventures to the park or library and certainly the nannies do too. The out- of -the house time gives the working parent total quiet and time to focus on their tasks at hand  without any interruptions. Obviously, the polar vortex and other instances of bad weather may make getting out impossible.

Establishing routines and working as a team will yield the best results for the arrangement. If specific times are set up for work breaks and visits with the children or baby, the likelihood of success is much greater.  It is also best to have weekly meeting s to give input, discuss any problems, and come up with solutions.  Fewer surprises, more routine. Parents should discuss in advance how they want to deal with questions or interruptions from the nanny.  Some simple questions could wait till the end of the day. Make it clear because you are there does not mean you are necessarily available to talk at all times. Talking out possible scenarios and how they should be handled will help make this relationship a success.

January 20th, 2014

The Weather Outside is Frightful

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There was a bit of panic here in DC in early January. The kids had just gone back to school after the extended winter break and no sooner than life had started to get back to normal when we experienced the Polar Vortex. We’re not used to polar weather here, so what we were feeling and hearing was palpable anxiety.   Our local great radio station WTOP invited me to offer their listeners ideas live on-air for kid-friendly indoor activities that might help combat arctic front-induced boredom. We put our heads together and came up with some fun ideas of things to do when it’s really cold and playing outside may not be an option. Diverting the kids from wanting to watch TV, or playing video games, or being on iPads all day is the challenge. Not that those options have to be eliminated—just managed. It’s our collective experience that kids have more fun with interactive activities, and they tend to get less cranky.  I thought I’d share some of our suggestions for when you and your kids are stuck inside:


  • Junior Master Chef: Take culinary risks and be prepared to make clean up part of the game.
  • Baking: Who doesn’t like making cookies, brownies, etc.? Measuring can be a math lesson!
  • Creating a Family Menu: Look up recipes and make a grocery list. Kids invested in the planning process are also more likely to consume the results.
  • If crafts are popular in your home, go on to Pinterest. Endless options.
  • Try baby picture scrapbooking. Kids LOVE looking at themselves and your pictures will get organized.
  • We also think that some of the time honored, old fashioned ideas are some of the most fun:
    • Indoor forts and mazes—Hang up a blanket and gather all the pillows and couch cushions or set up a tent and let them have an indoor camping experience.
    • Dress up and role play games—Let them raid your closet!
    • Simon Says, Charades, Twister, hallway races, and puppet shows.
    • Have a little dance contest or play musical freeze tag.
    • Have fun with musical instruments. Create a band with real instruments in the house. If the kids are younger, make your own instruments with pots and pans and jars with beans.
    • Board games are fun for all ages, even older kids—Scrabble and Monopoly are engaging and take up time.
  • If you just need a break from the kids—and you aren’t the nanny—swap out a few hours with a neighbor with kids of her own.
  • Best idea, especially if you need to go to work, call WHN and let us send you one of our fabulous temp nannies to save the day!



November 26th, 2013

Giving Thanks

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Here’s what we at  White House Nannies are thankful for:

Barbara is thankful for:

  • Our children (who have jobs they like)
  • Celebrating the trifecta of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and 32 years of marriage all in one day
  • Great employees
  • Our new office space
  • Elastic waist bands
  • Dark chocolate

Zanny is thankful for:

  • Happiness and good health
  • Days when the Red Line is on time
  • Co-workers who bring in baked goods
  • Cactus Cantina

Hannah is thankful for:

  • The National Zoo’s Panda Cam
  • Ann Taylor Loft and its frequent sales
  • The Washington Nationals,
  • My goofy and tragically geriatric dog
  • My brilliant, but completely insane little sister
  • The generosity and love my parents offer me every day

Aerin is thankful for:

  • My awesome hubs who encourages me everyday to be the best person I can be.
  • My two pooches, one of which is reaching the golden age of 19 and the other is just beginning her 8th month of life. Both of which teach me more patience then I thought possible.
  • Living in a time that modern medicine is at a point where things are found before they become a big problem.
  • Getting to become an aunt twice in one year.

Richard is thankful for:

  • My health and that of my entire family
  • My wonderful wife and children
  • The continued good health of the dedicated and hard working staff @ WHN
  • The loyal and committed pool of caregivers who keep our temporary division running
  • Being settled into our new offices with most things functioning
  • My own office with 4 walls and a door that can be closed when I am talking too loudly (still working on my “inside voice”)

Michelle is thankful for:

  • My two precious… yet precocious little boys. All of the hugs, kisses, smiles, belly laughs and even the screaming, kicking, pounding-the-floor tantrums.
  • Every second that I get to be “mommy” to my sons and watch them grow…which is going by all too quickly.
  • My loving and supportive husband who is such an amazing father to our children and who can (every once in a while) take the kids so that I can have a mommy’s day out.

Denise is thankful for:

  • Amazing family and friends
  • Good health
  • Zanny and Hannah (my temp team)
  • Keurig Machine


October 29th, 2013

Flu Shots

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October means the arrival of fall filled with colorful leaves, carved pumpkins, and one of our favorite holidays: Halloween. On a less fun note, fall is also the season for the arrival of the flu. When we interview prospective nannies in person, we always ask if they have gotten their flu shots. If they haven’t had them, we then ask if they are willing to do so if a family requests or requires it. In our experience, more and more caregivers are willing to get flu shots and there is no shortage of places for them to go to be inoculated. There are, however, still cases of nannies who are nervous about getting any shot.  Either they have had bad reactions in the past or they are simply afraid of having a bad reaction.

Here’s what the Mayo Clinic had to say about who shouldn’t get flu shots:

  • You’re allergic to eggs. Some flu vaccines contain tiny amounts of egg proteins. If you have an egg allergy or sensitivity, you’ll likely be able to receive a flu vaccine — but you might need to take special precautions, such as waiting in the doctor’s office for at least 30 minutes after vaccination in case of a reaction. There’s also a flu vaccine that doesn’t contain egg proteins, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for use in people age 18 and older. Consult your doctor about your options.
  • You had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine. The flu vaccine isn’t recommended for anyone who had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine. Check with your doctor first, though. Some reactions might not be related to the vaccine.


They go on to explain why it is important to be vaccinated every year:

  • New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly adapting flu viruses. Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses.
  • After vaccination, your immune system produces antibodies that will protect you from the vaccine viruses. In general, though, antibody levels start to decline over time — another reason to get a flu shot every year.


This brings us to our next issue: Who should pay for the shot if the family requires it for the job? It has been our position that if the family requires the shot, then they should offer to pay for it.  If someone refuses to get the shot based on religious beliefs, they cannot be required to get the shot. This puts parents in a difficult position since religious beliefs are a protected category under state and federal law. The big take away here is that  the issue of flu shots needs to be discussed before a hire is completed, especially if a family is requiring the nanny to have one.

September 19th, 2013

“House Rules”

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Recently a new client asked us to help with a list of house rules. It started me thinking. On one hand, I really don’t like the heading “House Rules”—it does sound a bit like something a parent or dorm proctor concocts, maybe a little condescending. But it is important to discuss the do’s and dont’s of your household up front to avoid problems down the line. Once again, technology has opened up new areas for families and nannies to be clear about. I thought I’d focus on two areas: technology and safety ideas. While some items may seem obvious, you’d be surprised the trouble that has ensued because no one thought to address the behavior as a “don’t” up front.  Here are some relevant guidelines you may want to go over with any new employee.

The following guidelines relate to technology:

Please limit personal cell phone use and texting to baby nap time or when children are not in your care

Please-no matter what-no texting while driving

Please refrain from using the family computer or iPad/tablet unless authorized

Please do not order Netflix or Movies On Demand

Please discuss posting the children’s/baby’s pictures on Facebook

The following guidelines relate to safety:

Please do not open the door for any unauthorized people

Please do not answer the phone, or door, or leave the room while the child is in the bath tub

Please check the weather before going out with the baby (too hot, too cold)

Please clear all visitors with us

Please make sure you know where the spare key to house is located (outside)

Please let us know where you are going with the baby/children

This week with the shooting at the Navy Yard, our city was on high alert. At one point, it was unclear if there was a shooter at large. While the Navy Yard may have been far from your house, no one knew where the presumed second shooter was. This was a case where exercising caution and not going for a walk outside was prudent. Also, it would be advisable for your family to have an exit plan in case of a city wide emergency.

As I write these last sentences, I realize how dire all this sounds. Hopefully, none of these guidelines will ever be an issue. But if something does come up, as a parent, you will feel better knowing that you have already addressed these contingencies and made your thoughts and wishes known.



August 19th, 2013

Transition Time

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The end of summer is a time of transition for many families. Some young children are now going off to school for the first time. I know there will be many tearful moms not quite believing that their babies are old enough for full time school. We see another side of this transitional process in our office. We see nannies tearful that “their” babies are off to school—and now they may be looking for new jobs. While sad, it is heart warming to hear how deeply these caregivers feel about their charges. Many of them are truly despondent at the thought of not seeing “their” kids everyday. In the meantime, try and make this transition time positive.

Here are some back-to-school tips:

-Reset your clocks! While bedtime may be a moving target in the summer, now would be a good time to get on your school schedule. Get the kids used to earlier bedtimes and earlier wake up times before school starts.

-To avoid wasting time in the mornings, have your nanny sort through clothes in drawers and closets and  get rid of items that have been outgrown.

-Talk about how things are going to be when school starts. Kids like to know what to expect. It’s good to help them prepare for next steps.

-If your child is going to a new school, have your nanny do a dry run so she is secure with the directions. It’s not fun being late for the first day.

-If possible, set up play-dates with children who will be in the same grade.

-If your nanny is moving on when school starts, plan a going away party for her. Allow her to be part of helping launch your child to the next stage. Make sure your child knows that he/she will still be able to see the nanny again.

Take pictures! Prepare for you or your nanny to shed a few tears. Transitions can be hard for everyone.

July 1st, 2013

Where is My After-School Wife?

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Just when parents think that life will be easier  now that their childcare needs have lessened, they are faced with a new dilemma. We know all about this dilemma in our office. The children are in full-time school, so goodbye to beloved nanny of 5 years. The family only needs part-time help. At first, families think that this evolutionary change is a good thing. They will be able to cut down on the expense of having to employ a full-time nanny. They only need 4 maybe 5 hours a day of after school care. This all sounds really good until parents start looking for the illusive part-time caregiver who is interested in their part-time job.

There are lots of people looking to be nannies. Maybe 5% of those job seekers offer truly quality care. And those caregivers tend to be focused on the 0-5 age range and want to work 40-50 hours a week. But as children age, theirs and their family’s  needs change. The wonderful baby/toddler/preschool nanny may not be as well equipped to deal with older children. Or doesn’t want to be in a house where there are no children home until 3PM.  Parents may also want a different model nanny. One with a college degree to help with homework, a car suitable for driving kids to their after-school activities, culinary skills to help whip up dinner, and the wish list goes on.

Here is the problem. There is no work force or pipeline for these 4 to 5 hour jobs. Not enough hours; not enough money.  If the family is willing to change caregivers every 6 months or hire multiple caregivers to cover the week, then maybe. I don’t know too many families opting for the revolving door of nannies. It’s tough on the children and the parents. No sooner is one nanny broken in than she or he is gone.

College students are great until they aren’t. Until their major course requirements conflict with hours they are needed on the job. We know who’s going to come up with the short end the stick. Degree will always trump part-time job. Everyone needs an after-school wife!

What to do? Some parents pay very attractive hourly rates ($25 an hour and up). While that can be an enticement, it won’t necessarily keep someone in a part-time position for any length of time. Ideally, finding some who only needs or wants those 4 or 5 hours a day is best. When a family’s requirements dovetail with a caregiver’s needs, the result  is an ideal if rare situation. Unfortunately, even those great matches can be fluid. A full time offer of employment comes out of nowhere. The family is left. Another option is for families to morph the current nanny into a nanny manager (40 hours a week) in order to keep her on. Unfortunately not all nannies can or want to change their job descriptions.

I’m laying out the facts because as we look toward fall, we take on the stress of our client families. The calls have already started to pour in. We desperately want to help fill these positions. We are equally frustrated with the marketplace. And, this isn’t just a DC problem. It’s a national crisis which no one seems to be tackling.We’re working on ideas and would love to hear yours!




May 29th, 2013

Vacationing with your nanny? Facts you need to know.

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I just read Breedlove and Associates informative post on paying nannies who travel with families over vacation. Read below, and if you are an employer, you may be surprised.

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 traveling employee does not need to be compensated during her “free time,” which is defined as time when she is not responsible for her charges and she has complete freedom to go and do whatever she pleases.

I am guessing that most families are unaware of the legal compensation requirements because I didn’t know them either. We don’t write the law but feel that it is important to share this information. No one wants to be caught up in a legal/financial mess. I know many employers feel that travel with them is a big bonus for their nannies—and sometimes it truly is. They stay nice in places and the weather is usually good. But most of the time away, the nanny is on duty. It isn’t her vacation, and often she may end up working more hours than her normal work week. The conversation regarding hours and pay while on vacation should be discussed before your departure. This will help both you and your nanny have a great vacation.

April 25th, 2013

Check Her (or Him) Out!

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Any parent hiring a caregiver for their child– or elderly parent for that matter– needs to have the information I am sharing here. It is imperative to have a background check on anyone working in your home with your children—or parents.  Those cheapie checks ($9.95) you can get online are simply not good enough.  That adage that you get what you pay for applies here. There have been too many sad stories in the news about caregivers hired online who have criminal histories missed by inadequate background checks. There is no excuse for a lack of due diligence. Unfortunately, parents who thought they were doing just that have been duped.

Here are the facts: The National Criminal Check sounds impressive and comprehensive, but unfortunately it is neither. It is not a thorough check. It covers felonies but not most misdemeanors. And most convictions are for misdemeanor offenses. Its data base is often outdated and incomplete . This check is not to be confused with an FBI check.  Neither  you  nor  I have access to that.

The following are the checks you do want done:

Social security number verification. This check will provide address history and former names used. If a caregiver lived in another state or part of the country, you want to know there is no bad history there.

Felony and misdemeanor checks in all locations where the candidate has lived during the past 7 years. At White House Nannies, we check all three jurisdictions in our area, DC,  Maryland, and Virginia.

Driving record. If this person is going to be driving your children around, you need to know whether she’s had 4 speeding tickets, or is driving on a suspended license, or has no license.

National Sex Offender Registry. Clearly, anyone appearing on this list should be disqualified for working with any children.


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