Making a Difference on Earth Day

EarthDayWe all know about Earth Day. We love it, it feels good to participate and it’s a great opportunity to talk with kids & charges about recycling, littering, planting trees and energy conservation.

Did you know that Earth Day was the first modern environmental movement for the U.S.? Think about all of the positive impacts Earth Day has initiated, in just over 40 years! The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson after witnessing the consequences of the massive 1969 oil spill of the coast of Santa Barbara, California. This event caused a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, business owners and laborers. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day went global, with 200 million people participating in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Today, Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, and a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

Every little bit of positive change helps. Let’s teach the children in our lives to consciously & deliberately make decisions that benefit the environment every day. The suggestions below are some simple ways that you can minimizing climate change pollution for your household while also saving money on your utility bill. After all, cutting electricity waste means we don’t need to rely on as may fossil fuel-burning power plants, which are America’s largest source of climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions.

  1. Buy LED light bulbs. Why use 60 watts for the everyday light bulb with when an LED light fixture uses 10 watts to produce the same amount of light? And LED lights last many times longer, reducing the need to replace blown incandescents.
  2. Adjust your TV’s settings by turning the Auto Brightness Control on, and Quick Start off. If you have a few extra seconds to wait while your TV turns on, you’ll only use 0.3 watts instead of 20 watts with quick start.
  3. Wash clothes in cold water and use the fastest spin speed available. Now you’ll avoid having to heat the 15 plus gallons of water use per load, and spinning the clothes longer & faster means that they’ll require a lot less time (and energy) in your dryer.

BayAreaEarthDay.org  has an extensive list of Bay Area activities and events on their website.  Check them out!Just type in “Earth Day” and you’ll find enough opportunities to fill your entire day!

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Is it Time for a Raise?

blogWe frequently get questions about raises from our Nannies and Clients.

  • “When should I ask for a raise?”
  • “When should we give a raise?”
  • “My family is expecting a new baby next month, what is the rate increase for another baby?”
  • “It’s my Nanny’s work anniversary, what is the standard salary increase?”
  • “I now do full housekeeping for my employers, should I get a raise?”

We always recommend sitting down and talking to one-to-one when a job change has been made. Here’s an industry standard overview of some common situations when it is appropriate to ask for or give a raise.

New baby: The standard salary increase for a new baby is $1.00 per hour. You should offer your Nanny the increase even if it is within your first year of working with one another. Any time a new baby is introduced, a Nanny’s responsibilities will change and increase and additional compensation is warranted.

Anniversary: A Nanny should get an increase in their hourly wage to cover cost of living increases as well as to acknowledge their increased level of experience. A typical raise is $1.00 per hour each year. Similarly, as a Nanny, if your employers have not given you a raise each year you have worked for them, it is totally acceptable that you schedule a time to meet with them and ask for an appropriate salary increase.

When the job responsibilities increase: If your Nanny is doing more for you than was originally decided upon, for example doing full housekeeping or cooking family meals, a standard salary increase is 3% to 5% percent of the Nannie’s annual income. For the most part, Nannies are open to doing more for their employers, though it is important that your Nanny knows her extra work is appreciated.

Bonuses: Bonuses should never be expected. A majority of families will offer a bonus at the end of the year near the holiday season, but they are merit based. They can range from one week’s to one month’s salary. Sometimes the bonus is just a small gift. Bonuses are influenced by how well the Nanny is doing in her job. Families should not feel obligated to offer bonuses, but if you love your Nanny, it is a great way to show her! For Nannies, remember that a bonus is a plus, and one should never be disappointed by the amount received.

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What’s Appropriate for the Internet?

3057284Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat … we’re online all the time. Although social media can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, your work life should be kept off the internet. When you work inside a family’s home, the list of things you should never put online grows.

Pictures of your charges. While Mom and Dad are away it’s your job to keep their child safe. Posting pictures of your adorable charge for others to “ooh” and “ahh” over might not be okay with them. Background details in photos and give clues as to the kids’ location, items in the family’s home and other personal information that they may not want shared. If the parents have asked you to keep them updated throughout the day with pictures of their cutie, send the photos directly to them, but keep the pictures, stories and kids off of social media.

Big milestone. There’s nothing worse than a parent learning about a big milestone through reading it online in a public or semi-public forum. Let the parents experience the first steps, first words or first solo bike rides before anyone else.

Never post how frustrated you are with your employer or their children. There are few things that can put you among the ranks of the unemployed faster than going online to complain about your job or your employer. Your current employers – as well as potential future employers – will take your comments to heart and may be seen as ungrateful or disloyal.

Curse words or crude memes. You’ve worked hard to build trust and a good working relationship with you employer. One offensive slip and your reputation can be ruined. What may have seemed like a funny post when you were out with friends may look awkward and offensive in the light of day.

Remember, if you wouldn’t want it published on the front page of the New York Times, it’s probably best not to post it online or on your social media.

Traveling with Your Employer

3697316Spring and summer breaks are quickly approaching and this means a lot of families are planning vacations near and far. If your employer has asked you to travel with their family we encourage you to do so. Traveling with your employer can allow you to grow closer with your charges and also give you the opportunity to travel to areas you’ve never been. But before you agree to go, here are a few things to consider:

Talk about the schedule ahead of time. Unless noted otherwise, assume that you are working during the flight or car ride. This is not a time to put on your headphones, catch up on a movie or take a nap. Don’t expect to work your typical schedule when you’re traveling with your employer. If you work a 40 hour week, you may still be working 40 hours, just with a shift in the timing, or you may be asked to work longer hours. Maybe you’ll be working a split-shift and you can explore during the day or maybe one day your employer wants to go out in the evening and you work an earlier shift. Whatever the shift, try to be as accommodating as possible. Your flexibility will go a long way!

Know your accommodations. Will you be sleeping in the same room as the children? Will you have your own room? Let your preferences be known to your employer. If you are sharing space with your employers be mindful of your belongs and keep your area tidy.

Bring your own money. You can expect that your basic needs such as flight, housing and meals will be met by your employer. Any additional snacks and souvenirs will be your responsibility.

Understand your pay. You should be paid for your travel days, in addition to the hours you will be working while away. At a minimum you should expect to be paid your standard hourly, daily or weekly rate. However, some families provide additional compensation, such as an additional flat rate per day.

Know the Dress Code. Although you are likely to have a lot of fun on a trip, you are traveling as an extension of your employer. Make sure that you are a good representation of their family. It should go without saying, but it’s always better to dress conservatively rather than too guess if something is appropriate.

Meet Kristie, this month’s Candidate of the Month

Kristie1(1)Kristie is an upbeat and outgoing Household Manager & Personal Assistant who lives in Los Angeles. She is currently looking for a new household position that will challenge her, allow her to use her multi-tasking ability and work within a team of dedicated household staff. Kristie loves to cook, excels at household projects and is very creative.

One of Kristie’s references said, “I feel really confident about Kristie’s judgment. When she does things, everything always comes out right. With [our] remodel, she gave me a lot of good input. She has a good design sense, and it was nice for me to have her help with those decisions. She is very punctual and reliable, and if she is supposed to be somewhere at a certain time, she definitely will be. Another thing about her is that she is very trustworthy and discreet.” Another reference said, “Kristie’s communication skills were excellent and I miss her dearly. She was such a strong team player and it has been hard to find someone to replace her. She was well spoken and wise and really one of a kind. Kristie did not need to be told what to do and she was a quick learner.”

Get to know Kristie:

What is your favorite thing about your career?
I love the spontaneity of day to day events in this industry. Each work day varies and brings new challenges that keep household management very exciting! The rewards are unlike those of any other field, as domestic positions are truly about human connections, trust and integrity.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Anywhere that I have my husband and rescue pup by my side is a place to call home. Though, tucked into a cliff side villa on the Italian coastline with them would also be ideal!

What are your hobbies?
I am physically active from the moment I wake up each day. I take long walks with my dog and switch up my exercise routines between cardio at the gym, spinning, yoga and running steep sets of stairs. My heart belongs in the kitchen. I absolutely love to cook and get lost in the fun of making food for others everyday if time permits.

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would you do?
I would invite all of my close friends and family to come together for an intimate day of fun and food! We would laugh, talk, eat and savor the quality time that quickly flies by in this busy world we all live in.

Car Seat Safety

carseatHaving your child driven by someone else is one of the most frightening scenarios for any parent. As a Nanny, it may help the parents you work for to know that you have a clean driving record, a safe vehicle and the complete knowledge of car-seat safety and law.

Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself and your passengers in a crash. It is extremely important to make sure all children riding in your car are properly secured before every trip. Most collisions occur within a mile of the home – so buckle your child in a safety seat for every trip, no matter how short.

If you’re not confident in how to properly secure your child in a safety seat, ask your employer to provide a demonstration for you. You can also contact your local CHP Area Office, and ask to speak with a child passenger safety technician. Click on this link to locate a local area office anywhere in California.

  • Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.
  • Children who are either (i) 8 years of age or (ii) have reached 4 feet, 9 inches in height may be secured by a safety belt in the back seat.
  • Passengers who are 16 years of age and over are subject to California’s mandatory seat belt law.

A new law to be aware of is that effective January 1, 2017, children under 2 years of age must ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child (i) weighs 40 pounds or more or (ii) is 40 or more inches tall. The child must be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat.

How to make a good impression on a Skype interview

Skype Blog

Skype interviews combine the best of both worlds – if you don’t live locally, you get to meet a prospective employer virtually while saving time and money on travel. However, it can be difficult to express your interest in the position and connect with the employer if you’re not careful. Here are a few things to keep in mind so you can rock your online interview.

  1. Dress appropriately. Just because the interview isn’t in-person doesn’t mean you should be more casual with your approach. We would suggest dressing a step up from how you would for an in-home interview. You won’t be getting down on the ground and playing with children in this interview, so save your more casual wear for the trial.
  2. Look at the camera, not the screen. It’s tempting to watch yourself or your interviewer during a Skype session, but looking directly at the video camera is the only way to maintain direct eye contact with your interviewer.
  3. Watch your body language. Have good posture and try to relax. Not all body language cues are translated over the computer, so that make the ones that do even more important.
  4. Have your resume in front of you. You want to be prepared with your dates of employment, ages of children and responsibilities so you can focus on the employer and easily relay your background and experience.
  5. Close other programs on your computer. You want to be present, focused and making a good first impression. If reminders or text messages pop up you may get distracted. Simplify your screen so you can keep full attention on the interviewer.

Good luck!

Ask MaryPat: How to Find Creative Activities for Toddlers

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MaryPat doesn’t fly around with a black umbrella, but she does have over 20 years of experience as a Child Development Expert and over 10 years experience as a Placement Counselor in our Palo Alto office. She’s has a wealth of knowledge and we’re confident you will find her advice spot-on!

Dear MaryPat,
The children I care for love doing arts and crafts projects and really look to me to find activities for them to do. I seem to be running out of good ideas! Help! -Katie

Dear Katie,

Children all have different interests and favorite games. Many nannies find that doing a craft based around a holiday can be fun and interesting. Other ideas could be going for a nature walk and then decorating a frame with the treasures they have found. Pinterest, KiwiCrate, Michaels and PBS.org are all websites where you can find timely and unique art projects, as well as indoor and outdoor game ideas.

Some of the children I know love making a fort in the living room and getting to have lunch (with permission) there for the day. Baking cookies is another fun activity and it can also be a great math lesson with the measuring.

Don’t forget to check out your local library. They often have holiday and seasonal books that can make reading time more interesting to a child. You don’t need to try to be Martha Stewart with your crafts – just have fun with your charges and don’t be afraid to get messy!

Baking Holiday Treats with the Kids!

Holiday-BakingThere is so much excitement in the air during this time of year. Viewing holiday lights, going to holiday parties, completing holiday shopping and doing lots of holiday baking are on everyone’s schedule. It’s no doubt that kids enjoy baking and this is certainly an area of  holiday activity where you can use an extra set of hands. Check out the links below and spend some time in the kitchen with your favorite little ones while making memories and marking an item off your holiday list!

BuzzFeed always has great ideas and they don’t disappoint us on holiday treats either. The site has a lot of fun options that allow kids to get their hands in the mix and put their own creative touch on the treats.

Another good option is Martha Stewart. She’s always good for anything homemade. This link provides easy holiday treats for kids to make from her.

Whatever you end up making with your mini-chef, be sure to take a break, go outside and get some fresh air. You might want to have a few energy draining games in mind for after all the sugar intake!

Holiday Gifting for your Household Employee

Tipping BlogThanksgiving is behind us, holiday music is filling the air of every store you enter and cooler temperatures have moved in – it’s really starting to feel like the holidays. We receive a lot of calls during this time of the year from families asking what year-end bonuses are appropriate for their household employees. 

When in doubt, cash bonuses tend to be preferred. Not only are they the easiest gift to give, they are also the most appreciated. In our experience, the equivalent of one to three weeks salary is about right, depending on the number of years of service. In addition to money, we have compiled a list of gifts that we’ve been told are appreciated in our Top Ten Employee Gifts List.

Your household employees are an integral part of keeping your household running smoothly. Show them that you appreciate them in a manner that is special to you!

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