May 27th, 2015

Welcome Back!

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back to work pic

(Photo Courtesy of CNN Money.com)

Half of our office is comprised of moms who have young children and newborns. They are just like many of our clients—trying to get their childcare arrangements in order and getting back to work. I’m learning what I can do at White House Nannies to help our new moms transition back to the office.

Here are a few tips we’ve put together :

1. Make sure to inquire that childcare arrangements are in order and working out. Because If they aren’t working, nothing else will be.

2. Pace the work load for  at least the first week. Try not to do a data dump.

3. Allow the new mom to go home early for the first few days. Sleep deprivation comes with new motherhood.

4. Make provisions for a space to pump. Many new moms need to know that it’s permissible and that there is a private place to go.

5. Understand that the new mom needs to eat lunch even if she didn’t before giving birth.

6. Allow for emotions to be in a bit of an upheaval. Hormones haven’t settled down yet.

7. Be prepared that there are more doctor appointments in the first few months of a baby’s life.

8. Ask to see pictures of the baby.

9. Understand that balancing work and family is a huge juggle.

April 28th, 2015

Freedom to Parent

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brother-sister-walking

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Meitiv family in Silver Spring who were reported to Child Protective Services for allowing their two children, 10 and 6, to walk unsupervised to a park one mile from their home. We all have our opinions about these parents. Some of us are saying to ourselves: What were they thinking? How irresponsible! Others are thinking: I was allowed to do the same thing as a kid with my siblings. Our parents weren’t questioned about their parenting decisions or worried about strangers abducting us. T hey certainly weren’t being interrogated by Child Protective Services for their parenting styles, good or bad.

The fear, however, that lurks in many parents’ hearts comes from real life horror stories starting in the 70s with Etan Patz. Closer to home, the Lyon sisters were abducted in the 80s. Now both stories are back in the news. Bad things do happen. How much do we allow that fact to color the freedom we give our kids? My husband’s upbringing in DC was very different from the way we chose to raise our children. There was more nanny and parental supervision in the 80s and 90s, more structured activities and less of the parenting mentality “Go out and play and be back for dinner.” Helicopter parenting is the prevailing wisdom of our time. These Silver Spring parents who chose another path have paid a price. Free range parenting has collided with helicopter parenting.

Social services departments are so inundated with serious cases of abuse and neglect that this intervention seems intrusive and overreaching, not to mention a waste of limited resources. There are far too many cases of children living in abusive homes where outside intervention is essential and in some cases, a matter of life or death. I’m not sure that this family is one of those cases. Most young parents I know in the DC area don’t let their children out of their sight—and make sure their nannies display the same vigilance. That even extends to their backyards.

So, how much freedom is too much? At what age should kids be able to walk what distance without supervision? Should a 10 year old be responsible for the care of a 6 year old? There is no book on any of this. Common sense and good judgment need to prevail.

March 31st, 2015

#WomenWow

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working-mom

 

March is Women’s History Month. Lots of #womenwow trending. I can certainly attest to how wowed I am by the women in my office! This blog is an ode to women who are moms (and those who aren’t) who make it work at work. I see it everyday at White House Nannies. How many times have I heard form our clients, I don’t want to hire anyone with her own children to take care of my kids. Along with that prevailing “wisdom” is the caveat of not hiring anyone planning a wedding or anyone pregnant. I’ve managed to hire successfully in all categories.
At White House Nannies, I am filled with tremendous admiration for how our very talented staff has managed to navigate some of life’s very big challenges with great aplomb.
I have always thought of myself as keenly observant. In my office, however, I managed to miss the morning sickness of two of my employees despite the fact that they both had violent cases that sometime s lasted all day. They were total troopers. They never missed work and they never complained. No excuses. They are professionals.
When clients tell me that they don’t want to hire nannies with young children because they won’t be reliable, I always feel the need to point out that they wouldn’t want their bosses with that attitude. If a caregiver has backup and a history of reliability, I don’t feel they should be excluded from the pool of viable candidates any more than my female clients should be denied work because they are mothers.

One recent Wednesday (my day out of the office) , several of the women in the office dealt with some traumatic news. My pregnant employee had life and death issues with her unborn baby. Good news: the baby was born healthy at 38 weeks! The other mom got a scary report back form her daughter’s pediatrician. The 3rd mom has had her plate filled juggling two young children and an impending move. Yet everyone did her job while supporting each other through their respective crises. They are the same empathetic people on the other end of the wire when frantic parents call this office in need of help. They get it. Hats off to working moms and other hard working women who make a difference.

February 3rd, 2015

Do You Read Me?

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I was once certified to teach although this is a bit of ancient history. I share this only to lend credence to my opinion on an issue in education today. Truthfully, I remember very little about my education courses except Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development or as I always refer to it Piaget’s Theory of Readiness. For some reason, that concept really struck a chord with me and I have referred to it often during the years since college graduation. This theory describes the incremental, developmental learning of babies and children. Recently, The Washington Post had an article written by a distressed Virginia pre-school teacher entitled: “I pushed my pre-K students toward reading. And I feel guilty about it.”

read-booksI hear you, sister. My kids did not read particularly early. Based on what I know, they were normal –read: average. Normal is apparently no longer good enough. I know there are children who start reading when they are 3 and 4. That information is enough to make any secure parent insecure. I just want to reiterate that there is no evidence that hurrying kids to read really helps them. They get it when they are ready. Ergo, my love of Piaget. Parents, please read this next sentence from the article: “No research documents long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten.”

The article also points out that the more time teachers devote to preparing pre-Kers to read, the less time there is for the kids to play. Play is what is truly important at pre-school age, but it seems to be so undervalued and out of vogue these days. Parents, take heart. Your kids are going to read someday—whether that day comes in pre-K or K or first grade doesn’t matter. Surround them with books, read to them, and let them experience your love of reading. Your child will read when he or she is developmentally ready. In the meantime, take the pressure off you and your kids. Let them play!

January 22nd, 2015

Politics Aside

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State

 

Putting politics aside, there were two messages in particular that struck close to home for me in Tuesday’s State of the Union. I especially liked the following:

“It’s time we stopped treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

White House Nannies can help only a limited number of families find childcare, but I have always been conscious of the greater need for better access to affordable and quality childcare for all families, no matter whether they are inside or outside our service sphere. Here’s what a dream come true would look like: In addition to the increased tax relief for families with children that the President mentioned in the speech, I love the idea of making community college free so that, among other things, those people interested in making childcare a career could get trained and earn an Associate’s degree in child development. And I’m not just talking about recent high school grads taking advantage of this opportunity.

There is a whole pool of people who work in the childcare field who can’t afford to go to college and who would benefit from a free two-year degree certifying their expertise and experience. The benefit is two-fold. More people might enter the field if given the opportunity to earn credentials and parents hiring these childcare providers would be assured that the people taking care of their children have professional training. As it stands, there is no uniform set of standards to help parents figure out what their caregivers know or don’t know. This free community college proposal reminds me of the old NNEB (National Nursery Education Board) certification in England—a free two-year certification. Every time we met a nanny with that credential we knew we had found someone with meaningful, practical training. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have the equivalent here?

January 14th, 2015

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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food for thought

It’s January, so it’s the time of year when every weight loss program in existence is counting on the fact that you have over-indulged during the holidays and are feeling the bloat of those extra pounds you’ve packed on. Many of us are focused on food. Not only in January, but every month of the year. During every nanny interview at WHN, we discuss the importance of nutrition and cooking fresh food for children. Nutrition is an especially important part of the job since the nanny is often responsible for preparing two to three meals each day for the children in her charge.

The Washington Post recently published a pertinent article: “Nine do’s and a don’t” (January 1, 2015) about kids and nutrition. If you are making New Year’s resolutions for yourself about eating less and more healthy, I would love to share some of my favorite tips from the article and from my own experience that could also be resolutions (and new habits) for your children and your family:

1. Feed babies whole foods from the moment they start solids. For those of us parents who introduced a variety of real foods from the beginning and ended up with great and adventurous eaters, we know this is good advice.

2.Explain nutrition to kids at an age-appropriate level. Help your children learn why they need protein and a variety of vegetable and fruits and help them to understand why certain foods with a lot of sugar are not a good choice.

3. Teach your kids how to cook and allow them to be a part of the process even though it gets messy. They’ll be more invested in eating what they had a part in preparing. They will also be learning an incredibly useful life skill.

4. Include protein in every meal and snack.

5. Make family dinners a priority even if you can’t do it every night.  Science has proven that there are many benefits of eating together as a family, including higher SAT scores.

Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy 2015!

December 15th, 2014

‘Tis the Season

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Wondering what to give your nanny? Every year we get calls for help from our client families who are trying to figure out just the right gift for their nannies. Once again, we went directly to our nannies and asked them to tell us what they really wanted. We hope the following suggestions can help you when making your shopping list.

This year there was almost unanimous response to our query. Everyone wanted either a bonus or a raise or something related to money. When we asked last year, nannies said they would like something they wouldn’t give themselves: Spa treatments, gift cards for favorite stores and restaurants, tickets to shows, concerts and the theater were requested by many. Others brought up the gift of gifts – an iPad or a more reasonable alternative, a Kindle. In 2014, no one mentioned technology.

I have always contended that cold hard cash is the most desired and most needed gift. Nannies tend to live pay check to pay check. Often they are the head of their households, sole supporters of their children. As for how much–that’s up to you. The dollar amount tends to relate to length of service and sometimes just how much you like your nanny. Some people do give a week’s salary for every year worked. (I realize that if your nanny has been with you for many years, this equation may not be feasible.) Some combine money with a gift and/or gifts from the children. While hand-made gifts from our children are lovely gestures, some amount of cash is definitely the preferred gift. This extra cash allows your nanny to buy for her family. Give what you can. I know it will be appreciated.

There is no better time to reward the person taking care of your children than now. I know how much your gifts are appreciated.

October 28th, 2014

BOO!

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Ghost

 

Halloween. The name and date are the same. There are still pumpkins, costumes and candy. But the times, they have changed.  I just read a blog in the Huffington Post comparing Halloween of the 70’s with the current incarnation. I am still laughing. For me, I love the family traditions that create lasting memories.

I tried polling some of my friends (old) about their Halloween habits and memories. The results indicate that most of us made our costumes when we were old enough. There weren’t a lot of options for purchasing ready-made costumes, especially in small towns. Our big concern was whether we had to wear our jackets OVER our costumes. November in the northeast was cold. The coat over the costume mandate was always a downer. Here’s the other old-fashioned requirement. If you wanted to score any loot in my hometown: You had to recite a poem. I’m not kidding. We all wrote poems. Never did we get away with just saying “trick or treat” and digging our hands into a basket filled with treats. We had to earn our take.  Not sure where that tradition came from, but I clearly understand why it didn’t catch on –or last.

With most parents working now, few have the hours to devote to a time-consuming costume making project. And, there are now so many stores where you can drop so much $$$$. But this is also an opportunity for our great nannies to step up to the challenge. Some nannies are really creative and crafty. Over the years we’ve seen they’ve shared with us some terrific examples of handmade costumes for their charges.

While Halloween was always a fun-filled, if spooky, occasion, it started to get really scary when crazy people began putting razor blades in candy, among other dastardly deeds. Then parents had to be really vigilant and outlaw all the non-wrapped goodies. Those homemade popcorn balls were not going to be eaten no matter how good they looked or might taste

That brings me to the latest Halloween twist: teal pumpkins. Here’s the story:

The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages people to place a teal-painted pumpkin outside their door if they’re offering non-edible treats such as small toys, stickers and crayons.

Food allergies can be life-threatening, and they affect 1 in 13 children in the United States. We are thrilled to see so many people embracing the Teal Pumpkin Project as a way to ensure kids with food allergies can enjoy a safe, fun Halloween experience just like their friends, says Veronica LaFemina, spokeswoman for Food Allergy Research & Education.

Hope your children have a great Halloween and that the weather is nice enough for the jackets to be kept at home!

 

 

Ghost graphic provided by:http://i365art.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/oct-14.jpg

September 30th, 2014

Professional Success

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photo 2

How does anyone manage to keep a job they love for more than a decade? This weekend in Orlando I had the privilege of seeing Kellie Geres, a White House Nanny, receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Domestic Estate Managers Association (DEMA). When I placed Kellie  in her current position 11 years ago, she had already been named Nanny of the Year by the International Nanny Association (INA). Kellie started her childcare career right out of high school. She also started volunteering early in life. She continued to join organizations that helped her grow professionally. I first met Kellie when we both served on the Board of the INA. When she moved to the DC area for her job, she joined a local nanny support group called ADCAN (Association of DC Area Nannies). And then—no surprise - she became its president. More recently, she was asked to head up the local DC chapter of DEMA. I know, lots of acronyms and also lots of time devoted to nonprofit organizations that count on people with her organizational skills to survive.
The point is that most nannies age out of their jobs. No, let me restate that. Most children age out of their nannies. Many childcare providers are great from ages 0-3 or until 5. Then the kids are off to school. It’s hard for nannies to have their work day shrink to 4 hours a day from the 10 that supported them. They love those kids, but they see the limitations of their usefulness. They think they need to move on to the next family with young children.

There is, however, another path for those nannies who see themselves as service professionals and want to stay with their employer families. They go from nanny to nanny manager to household manager. A nanny manager tends to work in households where the children are school age but still in need of supervision when they are home. During school hours, the nanny manager assists with all manner of errands including grocery shopping, dry cleaner runs, and birthday party gifts to name a few. They help keep the house stocked with supplies. They may also oversee workers in the home or simply be on site for deliveries. They are, of course, still in charge of anything to do with the children: laundry, cooking, cleaning children’s rooms, etc. When the children are at home, the focus of the job shifts to them. Carpooling to activities and overseeing homework become their primary functions.

A household manager oversees the general operation of the home. Household managers generally have the responsibilities of planning, organizing and coordinating events, managing household calendars and schedules, arranging appointments, scheduling and supervising home maintenance projects, paying household bills and completing any other requested administrative tasks. On average nanny managers and household managers work between 40 – 55 hours per week and may either live-in or live-out of the residence. Their combined duties and years of experience also translate into higher salaries.

Kellie figured out how to make herself indispensable to her current employers by improving her knowledge of the many things she could do for them to make their domestic lives run more smoothly. She now manages their household because the kids pretty much manage themselves. One went off to college and the other is in high school. So Kellie went from nanny to nanny manager and is now household manager.

It was great  to be able to be part of Kellie’s celebration and to raise a glass in toast to someone who has achieved both personal and professional success.

August 15th, 2014

“Toogood” to be True

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“Manassas principal resigns, loses teaching license after allegedly faking résumé”
That’s Wednesday’s headline in the Metro section of the Washington Post about former local elementary school Principal Robin Toogood, II, who was found to have falsified all of his education credentials. Here’s the sad truth: People do lie about their credentials. These fabrications are found at every level from undergrads to PHDs and CEOs. Padding resumes is unfortunately part of our culture.

It happens in the nanny world, too. I personally learned a big lesson in my early years at White House Nannies. It was embarrassing and also instructive. A young college woman said she had graduated from George Washington University. We called all her references but didn’t check with the university to verify her degree. As luck and pure happenstance would have it, the client I passed her information onto was on the board of trustees of that university. She checked and found out that our candidate had been a student there but had never graduated. While the degree was not a pre-requisite for the nanny position, honesty and trustworthiness certainly were. That lie left her dead in the water despite the fact that she was great with kids.

Every parent wants to know that the people hired to take care of their children, whether in a school system or in their homes, are who they say they are and that their resumes and applications are true reflections of their experience. For those doing the hiring, it’s all about due diligence. We expect our schools to be doing a better job of screening their employees. In this case, Mr. Toogood had a long list of admirers. He was good at his job. But he lied. Repeatedly. Somebody should have caught his embellishments along the way.

Recently, there has been a rash of bad caregivers hired from online sites who purportedly have clean background checks. Unfortunately for the public at large, the world of background checks is murky. Even for those of us in the field, understanding what constitutes a thorough check is not always easily grasped. For example, a check of the National Criminal File sounds impressive — but it is not and should never be relied on its own. Most people have no idea. Parents deserve peace of mind when it comes to the care and education of their children . The Association of Professional Nanny Agencies is working on an educational tool for parents right now, so stay tuned!

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