The childcare dilemma – What to do when you have older kids?

The childcare dilemma – What to do when you have older kids? By: Chris Pines

Many dual working families face the challenge of finding reliable care for their children. When the children are young, the solution is pretty simple: day care or a full-time nanny. Things get trickier when the children reach school age. They are in school for most of the day, but then there is a gap between 3 and 6 pm when the kids are out of school and the parents are still at work.

To find out how parents handle this dilemma, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Erin Krex. Erin is the owner of First Class Care ( and is also on the board of the INA (International Nanny Association). She has been working for years to help families resolve issues like these. When she saw a problem in Chicago, she founded First Class Care with her husband Steve. I was anxious to grill such an authority on child care.

What made you decide to start this business?
Erin: I have always been interested in both sides of the child-care and mother equation. I am aware of the challenges faced by both, and I want to help people find good solutions.

What are the options for working parents?
Erin: What we recommend is either a full time nanny manager or a housekeeper/nanny. This gives the parents the flexibility they need when the kids are sick or off of school for breaks and complete coverage for after school. They also get a huge bonus by having their house clean, groceries shopped for, dinner cooked and dry cleaning picked up. This allows the working parents to spend every minute with their kids instead of worrying about the little details around the house.

Why should someone hire a full-time employee if they only need a nanny for a few hours per day?
Erin: That is probably the biggest question every mother faces, and she often finds that she runs into inadequate solutions. Say you wanted to hire someone from the hours of 3-6 pm. It’s tough to find someone who is willing to only work for 3 hours per day. It is very difficult for that person to have another job and be at your home by 3pm. In order to support themselves, they would need a high hourly rate for those 3 hours. Some nannies do this, and some parents are willing to pay. However, for a little more per day, you could hire someone for the full day. This is a win-win. The parents get help for a much longer period of time, and the nanny gets full-time work.

So what would this nanny manager or housekeeper/nanny do during the hours when the child is in school?
Erin: There are all kinds of things you might have your employee do! Basically they can keep the household running efficiently. They can do all the cleaning, shopping, laundry, organizing and cooking. They can manage the yard crew, gardeners, maintenance men, or contractors who come to your home. You might even have them manage your household expenses. They can basically do anything that a mother might do throughout the day, but when your kids come home from school, they assume the role of a traditional nanny.

Don’t all those extra responsibilities detract from the care that they give to the child?
Erin: The kids are always the #1 priority, and we go to great lengths to make sure every employee knows that. All extra duties occur while the children are in school. When the parent comes home from work, they can focus fully on the children rather than worrying about shopping or laundry.

Ok, I think I understand. So why not just hire someone directly? Why should a parent go through your agency?
Erin: Well, that’s one of the challenges that I saw parents were having. If you try to hire someone directly, it’s very time consuming and tough to find the right fit. They must go through the process of checking each candidate’s references, experience, performing background checks, etc. It can become an arduous task to sort through all the applicants. By going through our service, a parent knows that each applicant has already been carefully screened, interviewed and reference-checked. We accept less than 3% of applicants to give you an idea of how much time it takes. We send only the best matches for their job and they will see at a glance which candidates we hand-selected for them. We schedule all interviews for the client making it easy for them to interview and then pick the best one for the family.

What happens if the employee doesn’t quite meet expectations?
Erin: It happens less often than you’d think, but we provide a free replacement for up to 6 months.

Thanks for your time. Any last words or tips for parents?
Erin: Sure, one last tip. If you plan on hiring a nanny manager or housekeeper/nanny, try to allow at least 2 weeks for the process. We have hundreds of great candidates available, but you need to have the time to interview, which for working parents is usually only in the evening or weekends. To prepare yourself for our first consultation it is best to have a list of duties that you want done throughout the week or day so we know what we are searching for. We can guide you on what to expect and lend advice after you hire how to keep the relationship strong.

If your children have recently reached school age, this may be an option to keep in mind. Hiring a qualified nanny for only a few hours per day often makes little economic sense. Instead, you might hire someone full-time to take care of your children, who at the same time can dramatically improve the productivity of your home. If you’re facing this challenge, then a combination nanny/manager or nanny/housekeeper may be the way to go.

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"Do I need to provide my nanny with a cell phone?"

Providing your employee with a cell phone is often a good idea, but you have to consider the need and establish some guidelines on its use. If your employee either needs to be reached or needs to make calls during work, a cell phone should be provided. That is particularly true for all nannies and house managers. For other staff members, a cell phone may be less important, it all depends on their duties and responsibilities.

One of the biggest advantages to providing a work cell phone is that you can have your employee turn off their personal cell phone. This cuts down on non-work related calls, texts and messages. If you have your employee using their own cell for work purposes it is hard for them to distinguish if it is a work related or personal call. When you provide them with a phone they should be required to keep it on at all times so they can be accessible to you when they are working. The basic guideline is that they have access to the cell phone to send and receive work related messages and not be distracted from their duties by personal use.

Providing a cell phone does not have to be expensive. These days there are tons of options to choose from.

Cricket has phones for as low as $39 and monthly plans for $25 with no contract required.

Tracfone has phones as low as $9.99 and then you can purchase minutes to add as needed. They have 60 minutes (must use in 90 days) for $19.99. No contracts or billing.

You can also check out Walmart for many more options.

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"What benefits must I provide to my part time employee?"

When hiring a part-time household employee, employers are only obligated to provide those benefits they agree by contract to provide OR those benefits the law obligates them to provide. In Illinois, most legal benefits involve unpaid time off for events such as voting, jury duty, Family and Medical Leave Act leave (if they have worked more than 1250 hours in the past 12 months) or other specified circumstances. And, of course, you are obligated to pay not less than the minimum wage (which, in Illinois, is presently $8.00) and to pay not less than 1 1/2 times their regular rate for any hours they work in excess of 40 hours in a week.

However, your goal is to provide a total package of paid and unpaid benefits that increases your ability to attract and keep the most qualified employee. And for a part-time employee, you may be competing with their other employer or against other job offers.

Based on our experience with part-time employees, here are some of the “basics” we suggest:

Holidays: For the major holidays (Labor Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day) we suggest the day off with pay IF the holiday falls on a day when they would otherwise have been scheduled to work. If they do work on the holiday, we suggest one days’ pay as holiday pay, in addition to pay for the hours they work. If they are required to work on a holiday, consider providing them an alternate day off.

Vacation: We suggest at least one week of paid time off per year (one week being the number of days they normally work during a week). Many families increase vacation to two weeks after the employee has been with you for three or four years. Paid time off can often be a very attractive benefit.

Pay for 52 Weeks: Whether full time or part-time, employees depend on a regular paycheck. If your family travels without the employee or doesn’t need the employee for a short period, most families continue to pay for the period of their absence. Otherwise, your absence can cause a financial hardship to the employee, whose bills do not “take a vacation.”

Of course, any other benefit you choose to provide can have significant value to the employee. One way to provide a benefit that has real value to the employee is to ask them what they would value most. Often, the overall cost of these benefits is minimal, but it is the things you are not required by law to do that will increase the chance of attracting and keeping a high quality employee.

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"BEHAVIOR 911 TO THE RESCUE" Interactive Workshop

WHEN: Friday, February 19th, 2010 from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: North Shore Pediatric Therapy Glenview Clinic – 1308 Waukegan Road, Suite 103 Glenview, IL 60025

WORKSHOP FEE: $50.00 per person

NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 20 (Hurry, spaces are limited!)

ABOUT THE WORKSHOP: Come meet the entire Behavior Analysis team at North Shore Pediatric Therapy and get some one on one attention. You will experience a brief overview of the foundation of applied behavior analysis, an assessment tool that can be applied to your family/students for years to come, and specific intervention techniques to help increase and decrease behaviors.

During the course of the workshop, you will break up into groups and receive targeted instruction by one of our highly qualified behavior analysts. You will leave the workshop with your child’s individualized assessment and plan to implement as soon as you get home!

This workshop is an outstanding opportunity to meet other parents and teachers that understand your needs! Be prepared to discuss your child’s behavioral concerns and help other families/teachers develop their individualized plans.


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Do You Reimburse your Employee for Gas?

IRS Decreases Business Mileage Rate to 50 Cents for 2010

The IRS has announced that the business standard mileage rate for transportation expenses paid or incurred beginning January 1, 2010, will be 50 cents per mile, down from the 55 cents per mile rate in effect during 2009 [Rev. Proc. 2009-54, released 12-3-09;].

The mileage rate may be used to compute the deductible cost of operating a passenger car (also vans, pickups, or panel trucks) for business purposes. It may also be used by employers that elect to use the “cents-per-mile” valuation method for purposes of determining the amount that needs to be imputed to an employee’s income for personal use of certain company-owned or leased nonluxury vehicles.

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"What do I give my Domestic Employee for the Holidays?"

The holidays are a perfect time to let your household employee know how much you appreciate them. Remember how hard they work for you all year and how greatly they contribute to the happiness of your family.
There is no “one size fits all” solution; there are many creative ways to compensate your employee for their hard work.

A cash bonus is by far the most popular solution. The average year end bonus is one – two weeks of pay. Long-term staff bonuses may be as high as one month’s pay. For newer employees, many families calculate one day’s pay for each month of employment, up to the maximum they would consider. All bonus payments are ALWAYS at the discretion of the employer, and the employee’s length of employment, overall performance, and the means of the employer are all factors in this decision.

Additional ideas for gifts of gratitude which can be done throughout the year are:

– A personal hand made gift from your children like a picture frame.

– Gift cards to popular restaurants or day spas

– Airfare for a trip home

– Full or partial payment for Health Insurance

– Membership to an Organization
International Nanny Association – $35 a year
Domestic Estate Managers Association – FREE (say First Class Care sent you)

Please remember it is always good to give a review of your employee at their year anniversary and a holiday bonus is not in lieu of a raise.


By: Erin Krex
Owner of First Class Care, Inc.
Working Mother

To submit your Domestic Employee questions email

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To "Friend" or Not to "Friend"

To “Friend” or Not to “Friend”
Networking With Your Nanny
By Erin Mantz
Like almost every day, an e-mail from Facebook popped in to my AOL inbox, announcing I had a “friend request.” Since joining Facebook last fall, I had grown used to connecting and reconnecting with people from the past and present. I almost always recognized the faces (if not the names) and reacted with some emotion (Excitement: My long-lost best friend from seventh grade! Dread: The coworker from my first job who followed me around every day for a year. Curiosity: My friend’s uncle in California. Rapid heartbeat: My high-school boyfriend.) But, this time, when I opened the e-mail, I was shocked. It was from my new, 20-year-old nanny!

Immediately, the shock turned to panic, confusion, fear–and even anger. I felt invaded. I was scared to let her into the personal life of my Facebook page and terrified I would find something questionable if I peeked into hers. The average Facebook user has 120 friends on her site. What if one of her friends looked like some shady character? Would I worry that he’ll pop by my house for a visit and steal my rings? What if I find pictures of her partying the night before or hear a song with lyrics unfit for my 4-year-old’s ears? Will I wonder if she’s playing that tune when my son’s in her car?

I accepted the invitation to connect but didn’t look at her Facebook page … until a few weeks later. I quickly popped onto her page, looking over my shoulder and feeling sneaky, and all I saw was her status update from earlier that morning: “Have to be up in six hours!” she’d posted. No wonder she looked so tired this morning! She was up at midnight the night before. Unsure whether she had been up studying for her college course or hitting the clubs with her friends, I couldn’t really be mad. I couldn’t really be mad, anyway, since how she spent her personal time outside of babysitting hours wasn’t really my business. Or was it?

As George Costanza on Seinfeld said, “My worlds are colliding.” Welcome to the world of Generation Y nannies and technology.

Blurring the Lines of Personal Boundaries
Navigating the perks and pitfalls of Generation Y babysitters/nannies and their technologies can be tough. Also known as the “Net Generation” and “First Digitals,” Generation Y (those born between 1979 and 1994) accounts for 70 million people in the United States–and one may likely be taking care of your child.

In so many ways, having young sitters and nannies armed with cell phones and lifestyles where texting is second nature does make parent/nanny logistics much easier. You can text her to stop and get milk while she’s leaving the carpool line or notify her your kid’s soccer practice is running late. She may use her cell phone camera to send you a snapshot of your son hitting a home run while you’re stuck at the office, offering you an unexpected smile. She’s always reachable. But she’s always connected, making it awfully easy for her to mix workday tasks with time for socializing. What if she’s using that cell phone to text her friends instead of playing with your kids? And how would you even know?

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, pose even deeper questions. Who is to say what’s too close for comfort or where the boundaries of privacy borders blur? Like many moms, I am feeling my way through and figuring it out as I go along. So are professionals like nanny agency owners, who find themselves rethinking their roles and responsibilities around educating nannies on tech etiquette and calming parents who call with concerns.

Nanny Agencies Address the Issue

Alexandra Afari is director of Five Star Nannies, an agency serving Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia. She prides herself on taking an educational approach to child care and recently recognized a need to at least address the technology issue. “We are cognizant and mindful of the convenience and distraction technology may pose. That’s why we take steps to ensure that our nannies refrain from the personal use of all electronic communication devices during working hours.” Afari communicates this expectation to her nannies and offers a level of reassurance to parents.

Jaclyn Gobuluk, owner of Metropolitan Nannies based in Herndon, understands the nannies of yesterday and today. She worked as a nanny for 15 years before opening her agency in 2002. Back then, Facebook wasn’t even a thought. But today, she does Facebook searches as part of her screening of nanny candidates. They will be role models for children, so she wants to learn more about their lifestyles. “Technology is tied to a nanny’s identity,” Gobuluk says. “People should have common sense about what they post. Anyone coming out of college should know not to use Facebook to let their crazy side out.”

Gobuluk embraces the good sides of technology and even launched an agency Facebook page. She thinks technology is mostly just an extra tool for parent/nanny communication, and it won’t totally replace in-person dialogue. “There will always be times when parents still want to sit down [with their nanny] face-to-face and know what’s going on with their kids,” she says.
Some parents do visit nanny candidates’ Facebook pages, but Gobuluk hasn’t heard of any crisis as a result. And as for technology taking time away from the kids, such as a child telling Mom that Nanny was texting for hours while he just watched TV, there have only been a few complaints in recent years.

Trusting Your Instincts in the Social Media World–Mother Knows Best
With moms’ use of social media up 462 percent over the past three years, according to BabyCenter’s June 2009 “21st Century Mom Report,” I wondered how some area moms felt about becoming friends with their nannies on Facebook. In an informal poll, none were friends, only one had gotten a request from a former nanny, and all of them said if their current nanny did send them a friend request, they would not accept it. “I think it’s best to keep some lines of separation to maintain privacy,” said one Potomac mom, whose policy is to friend only former nannies. As for visiting her current nanny’s Facebook page? “I would be a very curious fly on the wall and would be very interested to find out what someone so close to my family really thinks about us and what she shares publicly.”

Moms who feel worried or guilty about denying friend requests shouldn’t be so hard on themselves. It is human nature for a mom to not want to accept a friend request from her nanny, according to Jennifer Kogan, LICSW, who works with many moms at her parent counseling and support center in Northwest D.C. “A mom may feel she doesn’t want to share her life with her employee, and boundaries can be tough to uphold with a public setting like Facebook,” she says. She acknowledges it’s also natural for a mom to be very curious about her nanny’s Facebook page, since she could learn a lot about the type of person she has watching her child. Still, the moms I spoke with said they would never peek at their nanny’s Facebook page. “Too much information,” summed up one insightful mom.


Erin Mantz ( is a writer and communications professional based in Potomac, where she lives with her two sons, 4 and 8, and a Pug named Rizzo.

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Regular Reviews with Domestic Employees Puts Everyone At Ease

When hiring someone to work in your home, establish ground rules early to inform new hires that regular reviews will be done to assess how things are going. Whether you have a nanny, housekeeper, personal chef or other domestic employee, regular reviews help everyone understand what is expected and what should be changed.

Let new employees know there will be a three-month, six-month, nine-month, and twelve-month review and that raises can be discussed during those reviews. Having an understanding from the beginning lets new employees know that there will be opportunities to discuss their issues and concerns. Let them know you are open to hearing those concerns so they feel comfortable discussing them with you.

Before each review, have your employee complete a self-evaluation form to bring with them on the day of the review. This is a great way for employees to see how they can improve on their performance, allowing for a more open dialogue. As an employer, have your own evaluation report that you can compare with your employee’s. Point out the positive before discussing the negative so your employees do not feel they need to be on the defensive, but don’t “sugar coat” the negative comments or the areas needing improvement. Go over the original work agreement to ensure that all duties and expectations are being met.
(Get First Class Care Self Evaluation Form)
(Get First Class Care Family/Employee Evaluation Form)
Again, this is a good time for both parties to discuss any concerns and to discuss the possibility of a raise. If there are any changes on the horizon, let your employee know well in advance so they are not caught off guard. Discuss the day to day routines and whether you would like to see things done differently so they are aware of any shortcomings and have an opportunity to correct any problems. If appropriate, offer suggestions or specific things they can do to improve in the areas. Use the evaluation forms from the previous reviews and compare them to see what changes have been made.
Again using the evaluation process, the nine-month review offers an opportunity to encourage employees to take more initiative for improvements as sometimes they can become too comfortable in their routines and may not be performing up to your expectations. Remind them of their duties and what you would like to see improved over the coming months. Use the evaluation forms from all the previous reviews and compare them to see what changes have been made.
By now, you and your employee have a well-established working relationship. Both parties should discuss what is expected in the coming year. It’s also appropriate to discuss a raise and when it will go into effect, taking into account cost of living increases. Talk about changes you’d like to see and don’t forget to give praise where it’s due. If you’ve agreed to a one year contract, find out if your employee is happy and whether they intend to continue working for you.
By using your own evaluations and self-evaluations for employees during each review, both parties can talk about issues and improvements in a constructive and positive manner.
After the first year, annual reviews should be sufficient and will be a good platform for discussing raises. Keeping the lines of communication open at all times is key to a positive and lasting working relationship. By establishing trust and a pleasant working environment, your domestic employee can feel appreciated and comfortable. An unhappy worker is more likely to quit suddenly and without notice, leaving you scrambling for a help.
Once you’ve found the right domestic employee, be sure you are clear about what you expect from them. If everyone is on the same page and both parties feel comfortable enough talking with one another, it can result in a long and happy alliance to keep your family happy and your home running smoothly.
To view the entire October Newsletter Visit: First Class Care Archive

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First Class Care Celebrates National Nanny Recognition Week

National Nanny Recognition Week Northbrook, Illinois – In honor of National Nanny Recognition Week, First Class Care hosted an entertaining day-long event for Illinois nannies and their charges.

This year’s National Nanny Recognition Week (NNRW) event was held at Nibbles Play Café in Wheeling, IL. Nannies and their charges were invited to come out to this free event to enjoy some fun while meeting with other nannies. Festivities included great food, arts and crafts activities, balloon animals, live music and more. The event was met with great success, and 15 lucky nannies in attendance walked away with raffle prizes in the form of gift cards to Starbucks, iTunes, Lena’s Skin Care, Old Navy, Massage Envy and to name a few.

The Chicagoland based domestic placement agency is known in the area for not only providing quality nannies to the community but also housekeepers, house managers, babysitters, personal chefs, and elder care companions.

“Giving back to the community is something we strive to do on a daily basis, but we figured National Nanny Recognition Week would be the best time to throw this event for all our hard-working nannies,” said Erin Krex from First Class Care.

NNRW is a week during which families are encouraged to focus on the positive aspects of the care giving profession. First Class Care believes that while their nannies and caregivers are highly trained specialists, they also are very loving, and play a pivotal role in families by being able to positively influence children and parents.

Sponsors of the NNRW event included local business like Nibbles Play Café, Handpicked Pumpkin, Lena’s Skin Care, GTM, Massage Envy, Lindsey Markus, attorney with Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. and

National Nanny Recognition Week begins September 20th, and lasts till September 26th. NNRW is celebrated nationally by nannies, families, educators, and supporters of caregivers.

For more information on NNRW, please see the Association for Professional Nannies at

For more information on First Class Care, please visit


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2009 First Class Care Nanny of the Year Contest

First Class Care had its first annual Nanny of the Year contest to honor its hard working, exceptional nannies. Families were asked to submit a brief essay on why they love their First Class Care Nanny. We picked the top 4 to win an INA (International Nanny Association) Membership.

Meet the four 2009 First Class Care Nannies of the Year!


Her Family wrote:
Our nanny is Mariola and she has been a wonderful addition to our family for over a year now. My daughter Samie, who is 2 1/2, absolutely adores her and when Mariola arrives in the morning she jumps up and runs to give her a big hug and kiss. They attend My Gym together and art class and in addition Mariola takes her to the park, the water park in the summer, and for walks. They spend time outside when it is nice and go to the library when the weather is not as good. She reads and sings to her everyday and works with her on manners, numbers and colors. They have tea parties and play with play-doh or paint when at home. My daughter is the type that likes to stay busy and Mariola accommodates her incredibly well with her never-ending energy and patience. They are two peas in a pod and I appreciate more than anything the love, attention and care she has provided my daughter. She has encouraged her creativity and optimism and nurtured her naturally happy attitude. Mariola truly is a wonderful person, as well as nanny, and surely deserves nanny of the year!
Sincerely,Karen, JJ and Samie

Her family wrote:

I would love to nominate Sue as “Nanny of the Year”. She has carried our family through my pregnancy-induced bed rest; the arrival of my 3rd daughter-helping our whole family/toddlers adjust; and has managed to develop well-earned love by my not-easy-to-open-up daughters. Sue adds security, stability, love and comfort to our home life. Since she began, she has adjusted to our many needs by slowly adapting with ease. We hold Sue dear to our hearts; she has made a mark on our family and we know that she will always be a part of our lives. Sue is the most hard-working and best nanny there could be. Please consider her for this well-deserved recognition.
Thank you.
Most sincerely,

Her Family Wrote:

We love our first class care nanny Melissa. My 3 year old son lights up with joy when I tell him that it’s a Melissa day. Melissa comes prepared with an array of creative games and art projects for my kids. She creates fun adventures whether it’s an outing or at home. Most importantly she lovingly and warmly cares for them. I love watching her interact with them and I’ve learned many things about child care from her! She is a special gem and we consider ourselves so lucky to work with her.
Thank you, Debbie


Her Family Wrote:
Every time they hear the front door creaking open, our three boys start clapping and yelling, “EH-NA, EH-NA, EH-NA!” This word is our one–year-old twins’ name for our amazing nanny, Elena, who brings sunshine, laughter, and a restored calm every time she walks through the door. In the year that “EH-NA” has been our modern-day Mary Poppins, she has changed the lives of our entire family – right on down to our dog. Elena joined our household after several difficult years for our family, and she jumped right into the chaos with her quiet, flexible, and cheerful manner. My children know how much she genuinely cares for them, and she always treats them with love and kindness – even at times when others probably would lose patience! She completes well beyond the amount of work expected of most nannies, and she does it w/ jokes and laughter – even in the kind of challenging circumstances created by three little boys. Elena has done everything from wipe away tears and bandage skinned knees to change hundreds of dirty diapers, spend the night, fold endless piles of laundry, cook authentic Romanian meals, research child development, plan fun activities, give discipline advice, and even clean up dog throw-up.”She always helps me,” says our 4-year-old, Jack. “I love her because she’s so friendly and nice to me.”Our family knows we are privileged not only to know Elena as our nanny, but also just to have such a wonderful person in our lives.
-Darren and Kristy
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