20-Minute Fitness: How to Get a Family Workout on a Busy Schedule

In a busy household, it can seem like there’s never time to spare to run to the gym or even walk on the treadmill. Between caring for the needs of the children and maintaining your own commitments as a nanny or parent, finding 20 minutes a day to work on your fitness can be a challenge.

However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial to ensuring you have the energy to keep up with energetic toddlers and crawling infants. Instead of giving up on a fitness boost, consider involving the family in your daily workouts with a commitment of only 20 minutes a day.

Making Fitness a Priority, Convenient

Taking 20 minutes for busy moms, dads and nannies can seem impossible, but you must write it into your daily calendar as an appointment, says Dee Whittington, personal trainer and owner of Dee Train In-Home Personal Training. “Realizing the importance of doing it to have more sustained energy to make it through your crazy, rearing days helps,” she says. “Getting up 20 minutes earlier is an option, or opt for lunch time, during nap time, or after you put the children to bed if you’re not a morning person. You can find the time if you really want to.”

If you prefer to exercise with a group, recruit your family and children to be your fitness buddies. Incorporate exercise into your daily chores and routines by multitasking. “You can burn an average of 200 calories per hour while doing general household cleaning,” says Whittington. “To enhance and get more out of doing household chores, do light cardio and strength training in between chores.”

For instance, after folding the clothes, you and the kids can do 20 pushups and one minute of jumping jacks. Then, after vacuuming the living room, jog in place and do a minute of abdominal bicycles. “This will give you more bang for your buck as far as calorie burn,” says Whittington. “Your kids will probably also enjoy watching you and want to join in on the fun.”

Create your own personalized exercises while completing household duties, too. Vacuuming can be especially good for burning calories if you focus on performing a lunge while you engage your core and arm muscles on every motion and switch arms and use large sweeping actions, says Fitness Trainer Jeff Archibald with BoldFitness.com. “The same is true for dusting, laundry and cooking,” he says. “All can be performed in a static and/or dynamic squat, dead lift or lunge position.”

If the house has a stairwell, take the stairs two at a time while carrying laundry or groceries, recommends Archibald. “Every little bit helps,” he says.

Conditioning for the Entire Family

Completing a 20 minute workout is really all you need for general conditioning if you have an integrated approach and are doing it with enough intensity, says Whittington. “Interval or circuit training and doing full body exercises would work the best,” she says.

An easy example would be four exercises repeated four times, doing as many reps as you can do in 60 seconds and resting 15 to 20 seconds in between. “It is very important to do at least a three to five minute warm-up, like light jogging in place and arm circles,” says Whittington. “This will get the muscles warm and ready for activity.”

For the next 20 minutes, Whittington recommends any of the following workouts:

  • Forward lunge with bicep curls into shoulder presses: Alternate legs for lunges and use dumbbells appropriate for your strength level. If you don’t have any weights at home, use soup cans or water bottles. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Pushups with knees to elbows: Pushup and then when in high plank, pull your right knee in to touch your left elbow, then move to the other side. Pull your knees in to your elbows between each rep. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Around the world squats: Position your feet a little wider than hip width apart. Touch your finger tips to the floor while keeping your weight shifted into your heels so your knees do not extend over your toes, then as you come back to standing shift your weight to balls of your feet and hop with arms extended over head. First hop laterally to the right, repeat the squat and hop back, repeat the squat and hop left, then repeat the squat and hop forward to finish, so you’re essentially making a box or going “around the world.” In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.
  • Russian twist: In a seated position with shoulders back and chin up, make a ball with your hands and lean back as far as you feel like you can while still feeling stable. Touch your balled hands down by each hip, then cross over hips to tap the floor on the other side, alternating back and forth. You can hold a weight to add intensity or lift your heels off the floor. If lifting your heels bothers your lower back, keep them on the floor. In 60 seconds, complete as many reps as possible and record your number.

Any workout you choose for 20 minutes is better than leading a sedentary life. “Great 20 minute workouts are best when you essentially work the entire body and all muscle groups,” says Whittington.

Co-Ed Time: Gender-Neutral Activities for Kids

As a nanny, it is often difficult to find activities and games that will interest all of the children in your care. The boys may not want to play house and the girls are not always interested in rolling around monster trucks. However, there are many gender-neutral activities that will engage your children, regardless of gender, and teach them to work together and embrace the co-ed time.

Get Physical

Boys and girls may have different physical abilities, but any type of active game or sport can engage your co-ed group. Launch a game of kickball, soccer, baseball or football in the backyard or at a local park to help your little ones learn how to work together and get fit at the same time. According to research published by Athabasca University, sports with the highest participation across gender are typically the most neutral ones, such as swimming, biking, hiking, running and soccer.

According to Joyce Mikal-Flynn, associate nursing professor at Sacramento State University, physical activities are ideal for both boys and girls because they do not push children into a category that is pre-prescribed based on gender bias. “It is simply the opening up of activities and the variety from more sedate to physical activities while allowing children to participate naturally rather than being prescriptive,” she says. “In school or at a party, free play or free socialization is great on so many levels. It is a learning tool to develop social skills, problem solving, creativity and is awesome for brain development and health.”

Free Play

That being said, it can be exhausting to have an activity planned at all times. Although structure is beneficial for children, allowing them time to play freely as co-eds can help them develop their own gender-neutral activities as well. “Although you want to be as gender-neutral as possible, it may be virtually impossible to keep children from engaging in gender-specific play,” says Mikal-Flynn. “I think the biggest part is for a parent to guide and stay out of the way.”

Opening up the playroom for free play gives your children the chance to explore toys and games suitable for both genders. You provide the tools and the toys and let them have at it. For example, stock a room with blocks, puzzles, stuffed animals and matching games. There is no harm in adding gender-specific toys, such as dolls and trucks. You may be surprised that girls may gravitate toward “boy” toys and vice versa. The key is to let kids of both genders decide what they want to play with during free play.

A Splash of Color

For parties and even classroom activities, fun with colors will appeal to both boys and girls. The options to create artwork and mix and match colors are endless, according to Susie Monday, education consultant and author of The Missing Alphabet: The Parent’s Guide to Developing Creative Thinking in Kids.

Monday suggests the following “color” activities for gender-neutral play dates and get-togethers:

  • Throw a color-themed party where kids help decorate rooms with crepe paper and streamers
  • Create collage projects from magazines and newspapers, highlighting their favorite color
  • Add food coloring to shaving cream to make colorful paintings
  • Break out kaleidoscopes to look through, or create your own with colored cellophane wrapped around cardboard rolls
  • Launch a color treasure hunt throughout the neighborhood

Regardless of gender, it’s important to stimulate brain activity by exposing children to lines, shapes, colors, movement, sound, space, light, texture and rhythm, says Monday.

Imagination Station

Both little boys and girls have wild imaginations. Encourage their creative minds with gender-neutral imaginative role plays and performances. Ask each child to choose an animal and help them piece together dress up clothes or costumes made from cardboard to mimic their favorite reptile, mammal or canine. You could also launch a career day dress-up party by reflecting on their future goals. If Sally wants to be a doctor and Jake wants to be a cowboy, prepare them for the workforce by helping them dress the part. If you let them know that the sky is the limit, they may not feel tempted to retreat into gender-specific or stereotypical careers for the imaginative play time.

Spruce up the dress-up time by encouraging your children to act the part. Ask your cowboy to wrangle in his crew and your doctor to sing a silly song to cheer up her patients. Kids, regardless of gender, will enjoy imagining the future and hopefully will learn to work together during co-ed play.

Taking Turns: Tips for Teaching Toddlers How to Share

If your toddler is constantly spouting out “no” or “mine,” resist the urge to chalk it up to the terrible twos. Even though this is the age when a toddler begins to crave independence and freedom, it is also a crucial age to teach him how to share and cooperate with others.

With creative games and lessons on sharing, you can instill an important character trait in your little one and change the “mine” to “ours.”

Make Sharing Fun

Toddlers love to engage in games and floor-centered activities. Use these opportunities to teach sharing and instill the value of taking turns.

The classic game of memory is fun for all ages, but it can also teach your toddler the importance of waiting patiently while others take turns. As you play the game, verbally remind your toddler that “it’s my turn” and “now, it’s your turn.” When you make the actions second nature, your toddler won’t even realize that he is learning how to cooperate with others effectively.

Building blocks can also engage your toddler in learning how to share. Instead of allowing him or her to build her own creation, launch a game of stacking the blocks as high as possible, one at a time. Just as your toddler must wait for her turn during games such as Memory, she must also wait to add a block to the stack until after you or another child has taken a turn. When you observe your little one waiting patiently and working together with others, provide praise and specifically point out that you appreciate her patience while waiting for her turn.

According to Christina Steinorth-Powell, California-based psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Gentle Reminders for Better Relationships, games provide an interactive lesson for toddlers that will help them in the future. “In each of these games, you are role modeling turn taking behavior,” she says. “Stacking blocks teaches sharing and also introduces the concept that sometimes activities are more fun when we share them with others.”

Allow your child to practice these turn taking and sharing skills with others often – at preschool or on play dates – to expose him to the necessity of sharing in social settings. To test your child’s ability to put others first, contact neighborhood parents or fellow nannies and arrange for an afternoon of games that require sharing. “When you see your toddler responding appropriately, be sure to provide positive reinforcement – a smile or an applaud – to help reinforce his good behavior,” says Steinorth-Powell.

Teaching children to take turns introduces the concept of sharing and how to let others come first, says Steinorth-Powell. “It teaches children not to be selfish or greedy and understand that there’s enough for everyone and that everyone can enjoy things. They learn that sometimes an experience can even be more fun if we share it with another person.”

There are some steps you can take to avoid difficult moments when your child is resistant to sharing or throws a temper tantrum at the opportunity to share. Childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department recommend the following:

  • If another child is coming over to play, allow your toddler to put away several choice toys before the visit. Be sure to explain that these are toys that do not have to be shared with everyone and that other toys can be shared with friends instead.
  • If your child continues to refuse to share, avoid punishing him. Instead, tell him that you are sad and disappointed.
  • Give your toddler time to work things out with other kids. If your child doesn’t share, other kids will also express their disappointment and your toddler will eventually get the idea that it is not nice not to share.

Be a Sharing Partner

Toddlers learn by imitation, so if they see you sharing your belongings, taking turns and offering items to others, they will ultimately follow suit in time. Childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department suggest turning every day activities into opportunities to teach your child about sharing, such as:

  • Start by offering your toddler a bite of your food as an act of sharing. Say to your child, “I would like to share my banana with you.”
  • As you are sharing, use the word “share” to explain what you are doing.
  • When your toddler shares, praise him or her to offer positive reinforcement.
  • Reward your child when he shares. Give a hug or high five to express your satisfaction.

It’s important for nannies and parents to recognize that your toddler will not always follow suit right away, but if you show patience and reinforce the value of sharing through modeling, he will ultimately see the value. “If your toddler isn’t adjusting to the sharing principle, don’t be dismayed,” warn the childcare experts at the Utah County Health Department. “Your child will learn to share eventually – learning to share is all a part of normal childhood development and those kids who learn to share early may do better socially as they get older.”

Interview Tips for Nannies

Congrats! You’ve landed an interview with a family to begin or continue your career as a nanny. Interviews can be nerve wracking, though, especially when you combine general nervousness with apprehension about showing your confidence in your skills and abilities.

With some preparation and tips from the pros, land the job of your dreams by showing off your “wow” factor in the interview.

Do Your Research

Preparation is key when interviewing with a prospective family. Before you even show up on their doorstep, do your research to ensure you are asking the right questions. If you have been referred by an agency or a friend, find out as much as you can about the family and the children beforehand. Are they seeking a part-time nanny, live-in nanny or full-time nanny? How many children will be in your care? It’s important for you to evaluate whether or not the job is a good fit for you as well as the family, so the more research you do prior to the interview, the more confident you can be in selling your abilities.

While researching, prepare questions you can ask that will help both you and the prospective parents make an informed decision about whether or not the position is a good fit for everyone.

Sample questions may include information about:

  • Number of Children in Your Care
  • Specific Needs of the Children and Family
  • Hours/Days Off/Start Date
  • Responsibilities in Addition to Childcare, such as Cooking or Cleaning
  • Transportation Needs
  • Discipline Strategies and/or Childcare Expectations and Guidelines
  • Salary/Compensation Package

While preparing questions to ask, it is also helpful to prepare for questions you may be asked by the potential employers, such as:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Detail Your Qualifications
  • Why did you choose to become a nanny?
  • What were your likes/dislikes in previous positions?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses as a nanny?
  • Why do you think you are well-suited for our family?
  • What are your personal philosophies regarding childcare?
  • What are some challenges and rewards you have faced while working as a nanny?

While practicing your responses, keep in mind that it is important to refrain from divulging too much personal information about yourself that could be used for potential discrimination, such as age, marital status and ethnic background. Stay focused on your role as a nanny and give answers that pertain to your potential employment with the family.

As a rule of thumb, it’s crucial to show your enthusiasm for child rearing by providing examples of successful interactions you have had with children in your care. Detail activities you have enjoyed in previous positions and examples of how you formed a bond with children as a nanny. Be yourself and let your love for your career shine through.

Be Honest, Prompt and Professional

When preparing for an interview as a nanny, keep in mind that first impressions are crucial. Make transportation arrangements to ensure you are prompt or early to the interview and come prepared with your resume, letters of recommendation and a nanny binder that contains activities and educational documents you have prepared and used in the past. Be completely honest when preparing these materials so that there will not be any surprises in the case that parents check references and verify certifications and degrees.

According to the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies, a white lie here and there is often discovered and can prevent nannies from obtaining employment with families and representation by agencies. “Some resume claims fall into gray areas, but it’s easy to verify college degrees. We do it routinely when checking resumes,” claims APNA.

Honesty is also important when making a first impression. Show off your true colors, but do so in a modest way by dressing the part for the interview. When you are interviewing, prospective parents will be observing how you carry yourself, whether or not your mannerisms and polite manners match the role model they want for their children and your level of confidence. Make sure that your hair and dress are professional and well kept and avoid wearing bold and bright jewelry or accessories that can be distracting.

Evaluate Your Preferences

Even though you may be eager to find a nanny job, sometimes waiting for a good fit is a better option. It’s important to evaluate what you value in a family and ensure during the interview that the family meets your expectations as well.

Beyond location, salary, duties and hours, the International Nanny Association recommends considering the following before, during and after the interview to evaluate if the family is a good fit:

  • Allergies to pets
  • Personal, political or religious convictions
  • Lifestyle preferences
  • Parenting philosophies

When interviewing, it is necessary to sell your skills and talents, but it is also a good idea to make sure the family’s qualities, dynamic and philosophies match yours to avoid potential problems down the road.

How to Create a Nanny Household Book

Being organized makes a nanny’s life inherently easier. There are so many details she has to keep track of every day to keep her family’s life and household running smoothly. The most user friendly way to organize all these details is to use a nanny household book. But what exactly is a nanny household book? Simply put, it’s a notebook kept in a central location, usually the kitchen, which can be updated often and easily accessed by everyone in the home. So what should go into your nanny household book? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Your notebook should be customized to the needs of your family. However, there are standard sections that are helpful to everyone.

Nanny Contract: Your signed nanny contract should be in your nanny household book. You’d be surprised at how often throughout the year you’ll need to reference it as questions come up about what you and your family originally agreed to. Your employers will likely need to reference it also.

Nanny Time Sheets: Although you don’t punch a time clock, it’s still important for you to keep track of the number of hours you work during the week. There are a couple ways you can do this. You can track your hours the old fashioned way by simply writing down when you start and end work each day, or you can use one of the many online and smart phone applications that can track hours for you. If you use one of the applications, make sure you print out the weekly results and keep the report in your nanny household book. It’s always a smart idea to have a hard copy for reporting purposes.

Household Rules: If you have older kids, there are probably plenty of household rules in place. The parents may limit how much screen time they’re allowed, what chores must be completed before they can play, or what friends are allowed over. Creating a list of these rules and keeping it handy will deter a lot of the “but Mom said I could” arguments you have with older kids. It’s a lot easier to simply say “Go look at the house rules” than it is to try to win a debate over what is and isn’t allowed.

Emergency Contact Sheet: This is one sheet you hope you’ll never need to use, but if you do, you’re so happy that you have it. The Emergency Contact Sheet should include all the information you’d need to effectively handle a medical emergency with your charge. It should include information about the child’s medical history, any known allergies, all medications, doctor’s contact information and the parents’ hospital preferences.

Pet Information Sheet: This information sheet makes sure you have all the necessary information you need to get proper care for an ill or lost pet. It should include the pet’s medical history, allergies, vaccinations and veterinarian’s contact information. It should also include the pet’s license number and locator chip ID number. It’s a good idea to include a recent picture of the pet so you don’t have to search for one if the pet becomes lost.

Vendor Contact Sheet: If you’re the person who calls to get things fixed around the house, this list will save you time and frustration when you’re in need of a repairman. Before something breaks, find out from the parents who they use to repair or service their household appliances, like the refrigerator, dishwasher and hot water heater. Also include the companies that handle the utilities, including water, trash, gas, electricity and cable. Lastly, don’t forget general contractors, such as the plumber, electrician and handyman.

Child Contact Sheet: This is the place to collect all the names, phone numbers and email addresses of the people you need to stay in contact with around your charge. This includes teachers, tutors, coaches, team parents and activity leaders. It’s also a good idea to list your charge’s friends, their contact information and the names of the friend’s parents. Much of this information will be kept in your phone too, but it’s always a good idea to periodically print it out and keep a hard copy in case of an emergency. Also, if you keep the information in a central location, both you and the parents can have access to it.

Master Grocery List: If you do the family’s grocery shopping, having a master grocery list can be a real time saver. Most families buy the same foods week after week. Instead of creating a list from scratch each week, you can use the Master Grocery List to simply mark off what you need and then add any special purchases. Keeping it in the nanny household book makes it easy for the parents to let you know when they’ve used the last of a staple or when they have a special request.

Having a well thought out nanny household book can save you time and frustration as you move through your day. By getting the information you need organized and keeping it handy, you’ll be prepared for whatever may come up.

Uncovering the Root of the Problem: Why Siblings Fight

If your days are filled with settling disputes, tattling and mediating disagreements between your children, you are not alone. It is common for siblings to argue and disagree when living in such close proximity. However, you can minimize or put an end to sibling rivalry by uncovering the root of the problem, teaching your children to take responsibility for their actions and settling disagreements civilly.

Why Do Siblings Fight?

Despite what you may think, brotherly or sisterly love does exist, even if your children bicker with each other daily. It’s just sometimes difficult to see past the petty disagreements they have with each other.

According to Jamie Rishikof, Massachusetts-based psychologist, siblings fight because they are thrust into a situation that was not of their choosing. “They live together, face each other every day and have to share a multitude of things, from the most important to the mundane,” he says. “They have to share toys, TVs, the play room and later on the car and the house.”

More important than objects and material items, siblings have to share the love and attention of their parents. “Neither can feel like the sole center of their parents’ lives because they have to share that spot,” says Rishikof.

Siblings also fight because of personality differences. “Just because they came from the same genetics or environment does not in any way ensure they are compatible to cooperate or be friends,” says Rishikof. “Beyond that, even the best of relationships can be strained by living together and constantly negotiating conflicts.”

As your children develop emotionally and socially, they may also struggle with how to deal with conflict management, thus leading to sibling arguments and disagreements. “They are forced to live together from a young age, when it is likely one or both is not yet mature enough to resist impulsive reactions and step back and be more compromising,” says Rishikof. “So for any and all of these reasons, and the fact that there is usually not much opportunity to get a break from each other, sibling rivalry is pretty typical.”

Uncovering the Root of the Problem

As a parent or a nanny, you are often thrust in the middle of sibling rivalry when disagreements occur. In order to manage the conflict, it’s important to first uncover the root of the problem between the siblings.

Rishikof warns against pointing the blame finger right away when mediating arguments. “If a parent observes the whole interaction, he or she can usually be confident about who to blame, but if the parent is not in the room, it can be tempting to guess, but it is my opinion that is unwise,” he says. “Parents cannot be mind readers and they will get two pretty biased versions of the story.”

Instead of playing the blame game, Rishikof suggests parents or nannies take a “both or neither” mentality in these cases. “That way the siblings share responsibility for getting along or repairing when harm is done,” he says.

Parents and nannies should also accept that punishments and consequences can be tricky when biased versions of the story are presented. “Yes, in a single instance there is likely someone getting unjustly punished, but over time and multiple incidents, that is likely to even out,” says Rishikof. “And, it saves the parent the task of playing mind-reader and likely being manipulated by one of the kids.”

Beyond setting expectations for behavior and guidelines for consequences and punishments when your children fight, it may also help to open their eyes to the positive aspects of having a sibling around.

Phrases such as “you and your brother may argue, but if he was not around, who would you play with?” and “it is nice to have someone around when you are lonely, isn’t it?” may help your children see the value of a sibling’s presence.

Promote teamwork, cooperation and respect while encouraging responsibility in settling disagreements. Show your children that they must learn to settle conflicts among themselves by modeling the behavior that is expected in the family home. “The best parents can do is offer mutual rewards that are contingent on learning to settle conflicts among themselves,” says Rishikof. “This offers an incentive to appease the other sibling. The conflicts themselves are pretty unavoidable, but you can impact how they are handled.”

Setting Boundaries With Your Nanny Boss

Even though, as a nanny, it’s crucial for you to immerse yourself with your employing family, there are times when the boundaries can become blurred. If your nanny boss changes his or her mind about discipline or schedules at a moment’s notice, it can wreak havoc on the family environment, your job satisfaction and the level of care you can provide for the children.

To avoid conflicts, uncertainty or confusion, it’s best to set boundaries with your nanny boss right away. This will help keep the peace in the household and provide an optimal environment for the children.

The Challenges of Blurred Boundaries

It’s common for parents, even nanny bosses, to change their mind at times. However, if your nanny boss is lacking consistency and it undermines your efforts, it can lead to a breakdown in the family environment.

“The most common challenge is how boundaries can change depending on the mood of the parent or the situation, says Vicki Hoefle, professional parent educator and founder of Duct Tape Parenting, a proactive parenting strategy. “The parents may have set the boundaries but then they leave it up to the nanny to enforce them. It is not uncommon in these scenarios for parents to disregard the boundaries and spoil the child because the nanny has been doing a bang up job with enforcing the boundaries.”

When boundaries are too rigid or too loose, you may feel as if you are playing a guessing game to determine how rules should be applied.

Approaching the Topic

In order to avoid conflict with a nanny boss, Hoefle recommends nannies ask questions to clarify the use of boundaries. Set up a meeting time to review the expectations, rules and boundaries so that all parties can agree on a parenting method for the children. “This will help establish both clear boundaries and expectations and future conversations,” she says.

For example, nannies can ask their bosses the following to gain clarification:

  • What is the goal for setting this boundary?
  • What is it you want your child to learn by setting this boundary?
  • Is this a safety boundary?
  • How rigid do you want me to be in enforcing this boundary?
  • Are there ever any circumstances where you would want me to disregard this boundary?
  • How would you like me to deal with the child if he or she resists or fights against this boundary?

While asking questions, reassure your nanny boss that clarification is key to providing the best care for his or her children.

Determining the Boundaries

It’s important for nannies to create a list of specific boundaries needing to be addressed, such as:

  • Food and Feeding
  • Sleep and Bedtimes
  • Toilet Training
  • Hitting, Biting (basic discipline)
  • Clothing
  • Homework for Older Children
  • Playtime and Cleanup

Create a book of notes or a nanny binder to document all instructions so you have a reference point. If conflicts occur with your nanny boss, you can point back to the original instructions and ask for clarification for how the boundaries have changed or will change.

Find ways, too, to institute a consistent routine that will work for both the children and your nanny boss. Establishing a routine for the child can make it easier for the nanny to implement permanent boundaries, says Hoefle.

A sample routine may be similar to the following to meet the child’s basic needs:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up (allow child to decide how he or she will wake up)
  • 7:30 a.m.: Dressed before coming downstairs (allow the child to pick out outfit)
  • 7:45 a.m.: Eating at the table with two choices for breakfast (allow the child to help make breakfast and then clean up)
  • 8:15 a.m.: Brush Teeth and Make Bed

Children crave routines and will soon learn the boundaries set by the nanny and the parents. “One can see where the natural boundaries will be if there is an overall routine in place to support the healthy physical and emotional wellbeing of the child,” says Hoefle. And, with clarification from your nanny boss, the boundaries will no longer leave you guessing.

Stop the Stock Up: Risks of Buying in Bulk

When you’re caring for a large family or living on a budget, buying in bulk may seem like the perfect solution to save a few bucks. But, the reality is that many common household items and foods to feed your family are not always the best to buy in bulk.

In fact, the appeal of buying in bulk can leave you strapped for cash with overloading pantries and cupboards of unneeded items. Learn how to save on your most-used items and get the best bang for your buck when shopping at bulk stores. You may even find yourself resisting the urge to “go bulk.”

How to Conquer the Bulk Buy Temptations

Although a month’s supply of toilet paper, chips or fruit juices may seem like a bargain, the urge to buy more than what you need in bulk can put a serious dent in your pocketbook. The temptation to fill your cart with unnecessary items can take over if you’re not careful.

Instead of splurging on those flashy items on display, stick to a strict list, suggests Kevin Gallegos, consumer finance expert at Freedom Financial Network in San Mateo, Calif. “Stick with frequent-purchase items and stay away from items you use infrequently,” says Gallegos. Although you may find a great deal on carpet shampoo or freezer bags in bulk, you may be tying up money that could be better spent on items you use on a daily basis.

Keep cash on hand to resist the temptation to overspend when frequenting warehouse and bulk stores, says Gallegos. “To get the most from bulk buying and not overspend, learn to create and use a simple budget that includes categories for basic areas of spending,” he suggests. “Before you shop, determine what your monthly allocation is for these categories, make a list and then go to the store.”

Take the determined amount of cash with you so you avoid overspending by purchasing a cart full of items you may not use. “With bulk buying, realize that you might spend two months worth of budget for some items,” says Gallegos. “Just make sure to allocate appropriately in your budget so you don’t overspend next month.”

Even though it may appear that bigger is better when walking into a bulk store, narrow down your potential buys by choosing a smaller cart. There are often sneaky ways stores can tempt you to buy more. If you are toting a small basket or mini cart, you will not be able to overdo it at the warehouse club.

Look Beyond Bulk Options

Savings come in many forms, so it’s best to do your research before heading to any store. For example, if you want the best buy on fresh fruits and vegetables, scope out the local farms and farmers’ markets to get the most bang for your buck. “Farmers and ranchers often will be able to offer excellent prices and savings on large quantities,” says Gallegos. “If you don’t need perfect-looking fruit, maybe for baking, cooking, canning or just eating, ask about ‘B’ fruit or bruised boxes. ‘B’ doesn’t mean sub-par in taste or vitamins – these ‘B’ or bruised fruits can be up to half off and taste just as good.”

Grocery stores can also offer items in bulk if you need to stock up on large quantities for your family. “Often, retailers of any kind will be able to provide bulk pricing upon request for certain items,” says Gallegos.

In addition, many grocery stores offer double or triple coupon days so you can maximize your savings. Sign up for e-coupons online or register for manufacturer coupons on items you use frequently. Coupons are definitely worth cutting, says Teri Gault, CEO and founder of The Grocery Game, an online grocery savings website.

“It’s all about timing with coupons,” says Gault. “People get discouraged with coupons, mostly because they don’t know when to use them. A lot of people cut a few coupons and go to the store, only to find out that it is cheaper to buy a different item without the coupon.”

The key to using coupons successfully is to stack the deals. The sale plus a manufacturer coupon plus a store coupon plus register rewards equate to great savings, says Gault. “That’s called stacking the deals, and most stores allow some sort of stacking, especially with a sale,” says Gault.

Check your weekly circular for the best buys on meat, produce and household items, too.

7 Habits of Successful Nannies

It’s hard to define exactly what traits a nanny should have because different caregivers work best in different situations. A proactive, take charge nanny may be perfect for Family A, but come off as bossy to Family B. A nanny who has a gentle discipline approach may be a wonderful compliment to Family A’s parenting approach, but be in direct opposition to Family B’s parenting approach. However, even though there isn’t a set list of personality traits that every great nanny has, there are certain habits that successful nannies share.

  • They have a genuine love and enjoyment of kids. Every nanny job, regardless of the specific job description, focuses on the child. For a nanny to be truly successful in her position, she has to love the core component of her work. She must get real enjoyment from spending her days with her charge and be able to make a deep and lasting connection with him. That relationship is what matters the most, it’s what gets her through the hard times and motivates her to do her best each and every day.
  • They understand and accept the unique aspects of working as a nanny. Working in a private home is different than being in a family care center or working in a daycare. There are challenges that a nanny faces that no other type of childcare provider does. The successful nanny accepts this as part of the job. She doesn’t spend time railing against the things she’s missing out on, like a regular, kid-free lunch break or a co-worker to share responsibilities with. She feels the unique benefits of the job far out way the unique difficulties.
  • They approach challenges with a positive attitude. Seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty is a key trait of a successful nanny. She’s able to take challenges with both her charge and her employers in stride and work towards finding solutions that work for everyone involved. She doesn’t get bogged down in the things that have or could go wrong. Instead, she focuses on what has and could go right.
  • They respect the parents’ rights and preferences. Part of being a nanny is bringing your expertise to the job. A quality caregiver can offer spot on advice and resources for behavior issues and ages and stages transitions. However, a successful nanny recognizes that although she’s a childcare professional with a lot to offer, ultimately the parents have the right to parent how they want. She fully supports their choices and preferences, even when they differ from her own. She offers her expertise with the expectation that the parents will take what’s useful to them and leave the rest. And she’s fine with that.
  • They’re natural problem solvers. Being a successful nanny is all about being able to deal effectively with the ongoing flow of problems you face throughout the day. How should you deal with a two year old who’s throwing a temper tantrum? Should you wash Bunny before naptime and deal with the backlash or try and sneak her out once your charge is asleep? What are you going to make for lunch now that Rover has stolen the last of the turkey off the counter? Successful nannies don’t get bogged down by the issues that pop up throughout the day. They simply find a workable solution and get back to the work of having fun.
  • They don’t take things personally. The nanny/family relationship is a tough one. There are many things employers do and say that, if taken personally, can leave their nanny feeling angry, frustrated, unappreciated or taken advantage of. A successful nanny recognizes that her employers’ slights are usually about something that’s happening with the employer rather than with the nanny. If Mom forgets to say thank you for running a last minute errand, the successful nanny assumes it’s because Mom has a lot on her mind and not because she’s unappreciative of the extra effort. If Dad comes home 10 minutes late, the successful nanny assumes traffic was heavy or the train was late rather than thinking Dad doesn’t value her time.
  • They communicate effectively with their employers. Good communication is the foundation of the nanny/parent relationship. A successful nanny is able to bring issues to her employer, clearly articulate what the problem is and how she feels about it, and actively problem solve with her employer. She doesn’t let things pile up. Instead, she’s proactive about working through problems as they arise.

How to Successfully Set Up a Nanny Share

A Brooklyn couple moved into a new building while awaiting the birth of their first child, only to bump into another couple two floors down with a due date just weeks away from their own. As the couples chatted, they commiserated over the difficulty of finding great nanny care without wiping out their finances. As the babies’ arrivals grew closer, one family mentioned hearing about a nanny share concept, where two families could split the cost of a single nanny. This arrangement offered a significant savings, even after bumping up the childcare rate to compensate for a second child. Soon, a plan was born, along with two bouncing baby boys.

Even though the two families had tons in common – similar jobs with similar hours, similar backgrounds, similar ages and even apartments with the same layout – there were many considerations to make when ironing out the logistics of the arrangement.

Here are a few things to think about when setting up a successful nanny share:

Location, Location, Location

One of the first considerations needs to be which family will host the nanny share arrangement. With babies and small children, routine is key. It makes little sense to go back and forth between homes – even if those homes happen to be in the same building. The host family will have a slightly greater responsibility in providing the space and ensuring it is always prepared for the nanny and children, though the other family will sacrifice their child staying on home turf and may need to purchase additional baby gear for convenience. If one family has pets or has someone in the house who smokes, this could also be a deciding factor.

Sick Days

A traditional one family nanny may often care for a sick child, but if there are health risks such as fever or potential infections and viruses, it isn’t fair to expose the healthy child. Who will receive the care in such situations and what the threshold for cancellation is needs to be worked out in advance so that the parents know who is responsible for finding backup care. A backup plan should also include protocol for if the child receiving care that day is not the hosting family’s child.


There is a great deal of trust involved in choosing a nanny share option. Families need to be honest about their future plans and what their expectations are for how long the share should last. A nanny offering this type of arrangement might be doing so for the higher financial return, so if one family backs out the other might be left scrambling for a replacement or face losing the nanny (or paying the big bucks to keep her). Perhaps the plan is for the nanny to care for the infants until they reach preschool age. What happens if a new sibling enters the picture in one of the families? Upfront planning can ease the stress for everyone.

Money Matters

Nannies should be paid legally. It is the law, and both parties need to agree to this to avoid tax issues and liabilities in the event of injury on the job. Benefits and paid days off also need to be agreed to by all parties involved. Extraneous costs, such as petty cash for outings or unforeseen needs, should be worked out in advance so that one family doesn’t resent bearing all the responsibility. If a vehicle will be used, costs and insurances need to be discussed, as there may be tax breaks for the owner of the car. Families need to ensure no further licenses or oversight needs have to be addressed due to two unrelated children being cared for, since this might technically bump the home nanny into a group care category.


As with any nanny relationship, families need to discuss how certain things will be handled according to their own values. The nanny share involves two families’ potentially disparate way of doing things, so discuss in advance things like eating habits, food allergies or restrictions, media use and napping to present the nanny with a unified plan of how to proceed. Discipline and rewards need to be consistent for the arrangement to be successful, particularly when the two children enter toddlerhood and the preschool years.