Housekeeper Seminar: Candidates Becoming Experts in Time Management

On Saturday, June 3rd, Town + Country hosted Housekeepers from all over the Bay Area, including the City, Peninsula and Marin, for our Seminar focusing on Time Management. It was a great event with a great deal of personal attention for each Candidate. Candidates were given a sample cleaning schedule for daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal tasks.

Ada Barnes, who was the class instructor, gave examples on how she effectively manages her time while working. Here are a couple examples we thought were especially helpful.

One example Ada gave from her own work experience was how to keep up with laundry. Ada said that laundry takes up a great deal of her time on a job, so right when she walks in the door she collects laundry and gets a load started. Then Ada sorts the remaining laundry so she can keep loads in rotation during her shift. We thought this was a great tip because washing laundry has a fairly long lag time, she is able to complete tasks while she waits to change over the laundry.

Another tactic Ada shared was to run errands for her employer either at the beginning or end of the day. Ada said that, with permission and approval, she runs the family’s errands either on her way into or home from work. Bay Area traffic can be time-consuming, so eliminating time on the road during the scheduled shift is an easy way to be more efficient. Like most things, this should be discussed with your employer first.

This was a great event and gave our Candidate the opportunity to learn some new strategies to be more efficient in their job. While every Housekeeper has their own method and routine while cleaning, it can be beneficial to hear what other professionals are doing. It was also great for the T+C staff to touch base with our amazing Candidates and learn how we can best help them in their job searches and also in their professional development after they have been placed.

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Meet Christine, one of T+C’s Temporary Nannies!

Town + Country has booked Christine in close to 90 temporary assignments. She gets great feedback from families, she is easy to work with, she’s punctual and reliable and kids love her! Basically, Christine is the ideal temporary Candidate. Christine recently accepted a permanent position, but we are continuing to place her in temporary assignments as Christine’s schedule allows.

Before Christine was a Nanny through T+C, she worked professionally as a Journalist. She had some On-call Nanny experience but she was not a career Nanny. Christine decided to pursue a position as a Nanny because she was ready for grandchildren, and her daughters, one of whom is a San Francisco resident, were not ready to have children.

We asked Christine a few questions about her experience with Town + Country:

What makes T+C different than other agencies?
A lot. I worked for another agency and never felt any real loyalty from them. The fact that T+C asks Nannies how they are doing makes T+C different. I feel comfortable picking up the phone and reaching out to the staff if there is a question or a problem and I know they will be responsive and caring.

I also like the meetings. Even though I only attended one event it made me feel part of something, not just a 4×6 index card in a file. I feel like that the agency is representing and taking care of me, not just their clients. That is a good feeling!

What makes working temporary assignments special?
It’s the best. Recently I accepted a permanent position, which I am very excited about because I love the family, but the year I spent picking up temporary work was something I will never forget. The Bay Area attracts people from so many different countries. Working in different homes was like taking a world tour every day. I worked with families who were from China, Korea, India, San Salvador, Iran, New York, Texas, Australia, Ireland, England, France, Germany and the Philippines. I am sure there were more that I am forgetting.

I spent an extended amount of time with a Chinese family who taught me how to prepare a delicious Chinese meal. That was a special treat! I worked with several families from India. One family taught me to make much better chai tea than Starbucks.

I had deep conversations about parenting, gender differences and politics with families I worked with. I felt valued by the parents and often the family was as interested in my culture and experiences as I was theirs.

I honed my skills as a professional Nanny while temping. Last year I worked for 40 families, mostly with babies and toddlers. Caring for culturally diverse children of the same age group helped me see child developmental stages in a new way. Most children develop in a similar way; babies have similar babbles and most children enjoy the same kinds of songs and games. It became profoundly clear to me that there are more similarities among us than differences between us.

During my time picking up temporary work, I became increasingly more comfortable meeting new people on a daily basis. I developed the ability to come in, sit down and play right away, which made parents and children feel far more comfortable. No day ever felt like the first day of a new job. It felt like the same job, just with different people. Because of this experience, I have changed the way I interact with people in all situations.

Another thing to note about my work with Town + Country is that I was not always with a new family. I developed personal relationships with families and children. More than half of my assignments were with families who requested me back. I looked forward to seeing these families on a fairly regular basis. These familiar relationships were a blessing for both the family, who often did not have family close by, and me. It was a joy to see familiar faces.

As a mother, I really struggled with the empty nest syndrome, being with children all the time brings me so much joy. I feel like I am a grandmother to children all over South Bay. Some families have stayed in touch with me, which is amazing. I never expected to develop so many relationships with so many people.

What fears did you have when you first started accepting temporary placements?
Initially, I was nervous to walk into the homes of strangers, but that was never a problem. Everyone was always very nice to me and their children were always fun. I worried I might run into situations with difficult children, but Town + Country is a full disclosure agency, so if the family provided information beforehand, T+C always let me know. Because it was a temporary position, it was never a long-term problem.

Would you encourage your friends to register?
If I had friends who were especially good with kids, absolutely! As a job and profession, it can’t be beat, if you love being with children all day. My temporary positions pay better than my job as a journalist did!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I was a professional photographer for many years and photography is still a great passion of mine. I love taking photos because we live in such a beautiful area in California. Currently, I am writing a book and I love to garden. Many of the children in my neighborhood garden with me.

Do you feel supported by our team here at T+C?
Yes, very much so!

It’s a Candidate’s Market!

According to the EDD, the unemployment rate in California has dropped to 5.1%, and has dropped even lower to 2.9% here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Finding the right Nanny, Housekeeper, Estate Manager or Personal Assistant for your household can be a challenging task under the best of circumstances, but when the unemployment rate gets that low, it will be especially challenging!

At Town + Country, we are dedicated to helping you find and secure “The One” as quickly as possible. Here is our advice to help you secure the right person for your job:

When you interview a candidate you “click” with and are considering hiring, we recommend moving forward with them quickly and efficiently. There are more families searching for help than there are qualified, experienced, committed candidates searching for new positions, so you can assume any good candidate you meet has several opportunities and may get an offer at any time. You do not want to lose out on someone great! If you like a candidate, we suggest you schedule one or two full trial days as quickly as possible after your interview; this shows the candidate that you are serious about them.

Many of our clients will interview multiple candidates for their position and find it challenging to figure out who to move forward with. If you are interested in two candidates, you should go ahead and do one or two full trial days with each candidate within a short period (ideally within a week or so). That way you keep both candidates engaged and interested in your position.

And when you find a candidate you “click” with and who can do the job, don’t hesitate to make the offer! With the labor markets so tight here in the San Francisco Bay Area, waiting to make a decision means that you are likely to miss out on a great candidate – when you find a good one, hold on tight!

Meet Christina!

Christina has worked as a Housekeeper since 2008. She has been placed by Town + Country twice and is currently working part-time with one T+C client. Christina is bubbly, warm, sweet, smart and professional. One of her references said,

“Christina has a high energy level and she always seems happy and peaceful while she works.”

We could not be more excited to help Christina find her next long-term, part-time placement!

Get to know Christina:

What is your favorite thing about your career?My favorite thing about my career is the relationships I have forged over the years. I have met amazing people, who I have grown to care about very much. I cherish my relationships with my clients.

What is your favorite book to read?
Right now, I am not reading too many books, but I do love to listen to Audiobooks on my commute to and from work. I am currently listening to “The Accidental Alchemist.” It is a fantasy novel and I really enjoy it!

What makes you laugh?
My children are the biggest source of laughter in my life! They are so adorable and seeing their personalities evolve always puts a smile on my face.

What’s your favorite family or friend tradition?
My favorite tradition with my family is celebrating my children’s birthdays. It is important to me to give each of my children an experience they can carry throughout their life. In pursuit of making their birthdays memorable and special, we go on trips and adventures as a family. I love to strengthen our bond as a family and enrich their experiences.

We are so excited to have Christina as our Housekeeper Candidate of the Month!


Mother’s Day

Breakfast in Bed: Here are a few recipe ideas from Williams and Sonoma and Epicurious. Extra points if you remind 

everyone that Moms should not do dishes after breakfast in bed. It is a rule.

We love this blog from Food Network It is a good reminder of what is safe for children to help with in the kitchen.

Some menu items are best made on the day of or the night before, so if your last day of work for the week is on Friday, you might just want to make sure the ingredients are stocked and ready to go.

Mother’s Day Brunch for friends and family: Ask the host how you can help them get ready for their brunch. Maybe it is stocking the refrigerator, ordering pastries from their favorite bakery or getting the kids out of the house so they can organize and prep for their brunch without little ones at their feet.

If your employer is hosting a Mother’s Day brunch for her mother, mother-in-law, friends or other family members, it is easy for her day to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure you encourage your charges to make cards or do something special just for mom. It is her day too!

Dinner out on the town: For some moms, there is almost nothing more stressful than a dinner in a nice restaurant with multiple children. If your family is planning a nice dinner out as a family, you could make and pack some activity bags for your charges. Make an activity bag with books, a small toy or two and snacks. The only thing worse than a bored child at a restaurant is a hungry child at a restaurant. We really like this idea from The Busy Toddler blog. Remember to avoid items that can create too much noise or mess.

Obviously, no Mother’s Day is complete without crafts. As unique as the final product might be, it is generally the handmade items that mean the most to Mom down the road. Here are a few ideas from Country Living that we love, but the sky is the limit in terms of creativity. You could write a story with your charge about how Mom is an undercover Super Hero because she likely is!

Mother’s Day is a great time to remind your employer how much you enjoy working alongside her. If you have time, make her a card or tell her how much her relationship means to you. If you have had a challenging relationship with your employer, you can remain positive by reminding her how much your relationship with her children means to you.

Additionally,  we know many of the Nannies out there are Moms themselves. We want to thank you, thank you for being amazing women and caregivers to the children who depend on your love and care.

Here is to all the Moms!

Our National Nanny Training Day 2017 was a sold-out!

On Saturday, April 28th close to 70 Bay Area professional Nannies joined Town + Country for our annual National Nanny Training Day event!

This was our biggest event yet! Our T+C event was part of National Nanny Training Day and held during the nationally celebrated “Week of the Young Child.” Many other organizations also participated in this year’s National Nanny Training, and worldwide, the event included an estimated 2,000 Nannies gathered at 40 events in 36 cities across five countries. Nannies gathered across the world to continue their professional development and learn new ways to make a difference in children’s lives.

At our Town + Country event, Tonya Sakowicz reminded us that “It’s Not All About the Baby: Supporting New Parents.” She presented great ways for Nannies and Newborn Care Specialists to help their employers in their transition into parenthood.

We also had a craft session where Town + Country Placement Counselor MaryPat Power demonstrated a few crafts and suggested ways to incorporate crafts and art into lessons and story time.

After lunch, Town + Country Placement Counselor Melissa Seevers made a presentation on Back-up Care and the employment opportunities that Town + Country’s Temporary Team has to offer. She encouraged Nannies who are looking for permanent positions to take advantage of doing temporary work while they look for the right long-term fit. This opportunity to earn great wages while looking for a perm position is a benefit that few other agencies can offer!

Tonya also presented again on the “ABC’s of Baby Care.” In her second presentation, Tonya demonstrated how to properly secure a baby in a car seat and also showed an improved way to swaddle a baby. What a pair of important lessons in safety!

We also had a raffle and prizes included gift cards, a yearlong membership to INA and t-shirts, and later wrapped up the event with a Q&A hosted by Town + Country’s Placement Counselors.

It was a great day filled with fun, laughter, information, networking and learning! We are so grateful to the many Nannies who spent National Nanny Training Day with us! We hope to be a continued resource for all Nanniesand we cannot wait for National Nanny Training Day in 2018!

Petty cash allowance

As a Nanny, we know that outings and activities come up throughout the week that may not be on the original calendar for the week. Having petty cash available can be beneficial to you, your charges and your employer.

We advise having a conversation with your employer about having petty cash available so you are able to indulge their children with proper play dates and fun outings. You should agree on a place in the home where the extra cash will be kept and how you will keep record of the money spent. Keep all receipts and make sure to put them in the same area as the cash so your employer is aware where the money has been spent. Be sure to have on-going conversations with the family about how much money you spend throughout the week and if you feel it necessary to adjust the amount that is set aside. With proper funds for expected outings you have the ability to focus on activities with your charges and not worry if you have the extra cash in your wallet.

Is it okay to accept a drink from my boss?

The relationship between a Nanny and their employer is an important one. It’s a relationship where you share very personal moments about the raising, development and milestones of a young child. It’s a relationship where lives can become very intertwined and you share both positive and not-so-positive situations.

Employers may also come home at the end of the day and want to unwind or be out celebrating a personal achievement and ask their Nanny to join them in a celebratory drink. However, the Nanny may find this situation uncomfortable and not know how to respond. Our recommendation is that the Nanny avoid partaking in any alcoholic drinks with the employer.

If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself, is your job worth the momentary indulgence while on the job? Don’t run the risk of altering your relationship with your employer by accepting their invitation. It’s never wise to put yourself in a situation where you may find yourself in a less-than-ideal state of mind. You might end up saying something you normally wouldn’t, offering unsolicited advice or even risking not being stable on your feet, resulting in an embarrassing fall.

The situations described above are most likely to come at the end of a shift, it’s also important to keep in mind that you’re likely to have to drive home from work, and having a drink right before leaving isn’t likely a wise choice. Politely declining such in invitation may feel awkward, but getting home safely is in both your and your employer’s best interest. One suggestion is to politely say, “Oh, thank you so much! That sounds wonderful, but I really shouldn’t. I need to drive home in just a bit and I really shouldn’t.”

Professionalism in any industry is paramount and in the Nanny industry it’s no different. You are a representation of not just yourself, but also the family you work for. While a single drink with your employer may not seem like a big deal, a small gamble such as this may risk the stability of your job. It’s best to politely decline.

Ask Us! Helping my Charges be Grateful

We don’t  fly around with a magic umbrella or claim to have the skills of Mary Poppins, but our Nanny Team Counselors do have over 100 years of combined experience placing great Nanny candidates in childcare jobs all over the Bay Area. When it comes to navigating the world of professional in-home childcare, we’ve just about seen it all. So go ahead, Ask Us!

Do you have any suggestions for me to share with my charges as we go into this hurried season of gifts galore? 

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays upon us, it is easy to forget the most important gift we can give children: the gift of gratitude. Here are a few practical ways to teach an attitude of gratitude daily.

  1. Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Whether it is looking at the beautiful colors in the leaves of a tree or being thankful for the yummy dessert served at lunch, gratitude can often be found in the every day moments, even in the little things we often take for granted. A good exercise to encourage children to be grateful can be to name at least one thing they are thankful for each day.
  2. Set a good example by saying “thank you” sincerely and often. A small “thank you” can go a long way! There are countless opportunities each day to show appreciation to others with a simple “thank you.” You can even go the extra mile and encourage children to write a thank you note to someone who has done something special for them. As an added bonus, it will make the recipient’s day!
  3. Encourage generosity. By encouraging children to identify different ways they can help friends, neighbors and others, they can experience firsthand the wonderful feeling that accompanies the act of giving. When they give their time and energy to assisting others, they will gain an added appreciation for the things in their own life.
  4. Find the silver lining. When kids complain or gripe, try pointing out the positives by focusing on the bright side of the situation. Learning to look for the good in people and situations can help foster an attitude of gratitude for years to come.
  5. Be patient. Learning to be grateful is not something that develops overnight. It is a process that requires practice and reinforcement. The good news is that it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. There is no such thing as being too grateful, so spread the gift of gratitude not only during the holiday season but every day!


Bonuses & Gifts for your Household Employee at the Holidays

CBP1054818Are you making your list and checking it twice? ‘Tis the season to have those around you feel special. Whether you’re thanking your Nanny for the presence they have in your children’s lives or your Executive Assistant for keeping your business running smoothly, continual small gestures or a larger annual one will make your employee feel good this holiday season!

If you’re happy with the work your household employee has done for you and your family this year, why not show them how you feel? The holiday season is here and this is a perfect opportunity to show them just how grateful you are. 

When it comes to holiday tipping, there are no hard and fast rules. How much you give largely depends on what you feel you can afford and the quality of service you receive. That said, there are certain gifts our Candidates tell us are particularly coveted. Here’s our updated annual top ten list:

  1. Money Talks. The time-tested cash bonus is always appreciated and is the gift of choice for about half of the families we work with. How much to give? A good rule of thumb is one to three week’s salary depending on the number of years of service.
  2. Pick Up The Tab. Give them a night out on the town with a gift certificate to a special restaurant or movie passes.
  3. Deck Their Halls. Send a little holiday cheer their way with a wreath, floral arrangement or potted plant.
  4. Put It In Writing. Take time out to compose a handwritten note expressing how much your employee means to you, your family and your children.
  5. Share Their Passion. Let them know you’re interested in the life they lead outside your home with a gift that feeds their passion, such as a wine tasting class, a subscription to a gardening magazine or theater or event tickets.
  6. Let Them Play Hooky. Who wouldn’t love an unexpected day off? Paid, of course.
  7. Get Personal. Traditional picture frames, key rings and bracelets become much more special when personalized with their monogram.
  8. A Moment’s Peace. Ahh, the gift of relaxation. Send them to the spa with a gift certificate for a facial, manicure, pedicure or massage.
  9. Send Them Packing. Help them turn their dream vacation into a reality with the gift of your frequent flyer miles.
  10. Child’s Play. Collaborate with your child to produce a homemade gift from the heart, such as a basket of cookies or a framed piece of art.

As you consider what to give this season, keep in mind that the most important message you can send is heartfelt appreciation for all that they do for you, your household and your family. After all, it is true what they say: It’s the thought that counts.

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