I attended the “Go Red for Women Round Table Forum” last Friday at the Hilton in Rye Brook, New York and heard approximately 100 attendees share their experiences about being a mom! There were professional moms, moms of five kids, moms with three step kids, entrepreneurial moms, working late at night moms, young moms, pre-menopausal moms, cancer survivor moms, cardiovascular disease survivor moms, yoga moms, soccer moms, real moms, super moms etc. All of the moms discussed the things that keep them awake at night and what to do about them. The forum was full of great ideas and successful stress reducing techniques. For example, there was a mom cardiologist who brought awareness to the issue that moms have a lot of stress and need to take care of themselves. She talked about letting go, not feeling guilty, doing only what you can, and not sweating what you can’t get done. She went on to suggest getting the kids involved to make household chores easier, taking time for yourself, getting your nails done, not competing with other moms, and finally, being comfortable with yourself. All of the ideas shared were great ideas. Here are the 5 key nuggets from the forum for reducing stress:
- Make a list of what you want to do along with what you don’t want to do
- Use your emotional and intellectual strength to execute
- Find time to recharge yourself
- Let go of stuff that does not bring lasting value
- Delegate the tasks that you can do at work, at home, and everywhere else
At LifeWorx, we try to bring moms peace and rest by providing good help at their home. By having an implemented strategy of organization, process, and systems, we can gather a team of professionals to take charge and provide reliable, trustworthy and much needed help to busy moms. None of our experts will replace a mom; her work is precious, but one day when we have helped all moms, we will sleep well too.
Clients develop very personal relationships with their nannys and child care providers and view them as family members. Other clients view the relationship as more delineated and solely develop working relationships with their nannies. Each family is unique and each nanny or child care provider is special. When my wife was around many years ago, she treated household help as family. Any household help that came to our house in Chappaqua, NY received a glass of juice, food from our refrigerator and warm conversations with my Wife. Some of the nannys and child care providers talked about their family in great depth to her.
Nilsa, a 16 year old high school student from Ossining, New York, would frequently come over and tell her intimate stories regarding her family situation. My wife enjoyed guiding this girl and giving her sound advice. Today I am a single parent, and I have had the opportunity to see the working relationship with staff from all angles. When Darya, a nanny from Pleasantville, NY, wanted to talk with me and be social, I was too consumed with my son, and the general challenges of running a household and a career. It was much more difficult for me to find time to converse with my nanny at that time.
As the premier child care, elder care and nanny service provider in Westchester, NY and Fairfield CT for over 5 years, I now have more time and emotional strength to devote to my relationship with my nanny. Today, I make sure I spend time to sit and talk with Adalita, a LifeWorx housekeeper from New Rochelle, NY. Even though there is a language barrier between us, we still sit down and have a glass of wine and discuss what is going on in her life. Adalita is like family to me, and I have enjoyed getting to learn about her life experiences.
It is important to remember that we all choose the level of interaction we are comfortable with pertaining to our nannies and child care providers. My wife and I each chose different levels of interactions with our household help at different points in our lives. Your household help is always looking to the homeowner to provide a sense of belonging, and make them feel comfortable. After all, your nanny and child care providers spend all day in your home and get to know your family very well. Regardless of what you choose to be the most appropriate level of connection and communication with your child care provider and nanny, be sure to be consistent. Older child care helpers frequently like to give advice, and younger child care helpers like the nurturing you can provide to them about past life experiences as well as raising a family.
At LifeWorx, our child care and nannies undergo an extensive background check. We carefully evaluate potential child care experts to weed out candidates that are excessively chatty, or candidates that are extremely shy, as these types may not fit in well in a typical household that we service.
Here are 5 tips for more effective communication with your child care provider and nanny:
- Share how much you would like to interact with your nanny
- Share communication expectations with your nanny and set reasonable limits
- Agree on a level of social interaction that works best for you or agree on a level of non-work interaction that works for you
- Be prepared for a few rough days; just as you can have a tough day your child care provider may also be struggling and may vent to you
- Be consistent regardless of which communication technique you choose
Remember, not everyone always has a perfect week or month. Even if you have a clear cut communication plan set with your nanny or child care provider, they too can have occasional bad days. Sometimes your nanny may feel that you are the closest person to turn to as they spend so much time around your family. However, if it becomes a pattern that you become uncomfortable with, it may be important to address this with your nanny and re-structure your communication expectations.
Money is as much of a commodity as one can imagine. A dollar is dollar, whether it is in your wallet, in your purse, on your desk, lying on the sidewalk or in a vault. Money is the same whether it is made of pennies or made of quarters or a mud laden one dollar bill. Money is the only part of a service or product that is a pure quantifiable transaction. As a veteran of the corporate world for over 20 years, I have a lot of experience with issues that can arise with handling money. One time, I made the mistake of not giving one of my employees the exact raise that I orally agreed to give him. I was a bit casual about the agreement because to me, money means only a small part the overall process of working that I receive so much satisfaction from. Unfortunately, not everyone else looks at work and money this way, and I received a huge mouthful from my boss about this. It turns out that the employee complained to my boss that he had not been paid on time. I will never forget that moment! It was embarrassing, and made me realize how important it is to keep the exact commitment you agree upon regarding any money issues in the work place.
In the nanny world, paying your housekeeper on time is extremely important. The entire dynamic of your relationship with your housekeeper can be thrown off if you forget to pay your housekeeper, or if you do not keep your commitment to them. While this may seem trivial to some, paying funds on time is very important to most individuals, especially to nannies and housekeepers. This is one exchange with your housekeeper that actually needs the least amount of energy and effort. If you do it right, you will in turn bring consistency and reliability in your relationship with your housekeeper.
Here are 4 tips to increase an efficient money management relationship with your housekeeper
- Always pay your housekeeper on time
- Always pay your housekeeper the exact amount that you agreed upon
- Always pay your housekeeper with respect
- Pay your housekeeper without being asked to pay
In the Corporate world, we often take this for granted as many of Americans have opted for “direct deposit.” Imagine if every time you were due to be paid your employer “forgot” or said “I will pay you next week.” You would imagine that this would create a certain level of resentment, and your work would most likely be affected. In order to maintain a healthy level of respect with your housekeeper, keep these money management tips in mind. They will go a long way and create a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties involved.
For housekeepers who are on the receiving end, it is important to receive money with gratitude. Housekeepers should feel free to share any issue regarding the check amount if the amount does not seem correct, or if it differs from the amount agreed upon. Angela, a LifeWorx nanny from Stamford, CT, says that on Fridays her boss routinely forgets to go to the bank and promises to pay her on the following Monday. What a way to put a damper in the otherwise perfectly healthy working relationship with your housekeeper!
As the CEO of LifeWorx, I believe fair pay at a scheduled time is an essential part of the working agreement with your housekeeper. This will ensure that no one will steal your help. Remember to give your housekeeper respect, fair pay and a consistent workload. Also, be very careful about paying in advance, as this may create future problems with your housekeeper’s personal money management system. Set a standard and communicate with your housekeeper and nanny about benefits, pay, holidays, pay for extra work and tipping. All of these money management tips will help you create a healthy working relationship with your housekeeper, and free up your time to spend more time doing the things you love, rather then worry about pay issues during your spare time.
Our First Family …. The first family that LifeWorx worked with is composed of 3 brothers and sisters, and they are a group of one of the nicest people we have ever serviced. We provide an assortment of services for all of the family members, and they call us whenever they need anything from LifeWorx. The family has multiple residences in New York City, Lower Westchester and the Hamptons. Last week, their cousin called up requesting one of our personal chefs.
How did LifeWorx ever get this much trust and respect? I believe we have accumulated this trust and respect over time due to the quality, transparency and strength of the relationship. The first time we ever sent our price sheet to our clients, we worried about our competition. To combat this fear, six months ago, we put all of our pricing on the LifeWorx website so that every prospect knows that our prices are standard whether they have a two bedroom condominium or 20,000 sq feet luxury estate in Greenwich, CT. One of my utmost personal passions is transparency of information in the services we provide. When you go to a dry cleaner, a hairdresser, a bank or an accountant, all of these places would receive more trust from prospects if they displayed their prices openly and honestly, ultimately removing the guessing game and receiving a higher bill after the services were completed. There should no longer be a guessing game when it comes to compensation, which is why we have chosen to display all of our service prices very openly.
As for the first family we work with, I continue to get joy out of talking to any one of the family members, because they respect LifeWorx and truly appreciate what we do for them. When their housekeeper goes on vacation, we find them the best temporary fill-in, even if it is just for a week. No one has to worry about laundry, healthy meals and toddler care arrangements. LifeWorx is able to take care of them so that they can go away and come home to a stress free environment.
Anyone working in your home is counting on you to give feedback, a sense of belonging, and respect. As a former veteran of the corporate business world for 20 years, I have learned that working in Corporate America is very different than working with someone at home. Anyone I was working for or who worked for me had plenty of peers, colleagues, mentors and advisors. There were always group meetings, processes and systems to help us do our job well. All tools and techniques were available at our disposal to help us efficiently do what needed to be done. The entire organization effectively integrated our positions, and nurtured us as employees.
In the nanny world, everything operates very differently, and when someone works for you at your home it entirely revolves around you. Nannies, homemakers, child care professionals, chefs, and personal assistants look to you for support, feedback, advice and a sense of belonging. Even if they are fully experienced, professional and competent to do the job, these child care and elder care professionals need a personal or social connection to feel that they are doing a good job, and to personally feel good. This is an example of a basic human need which is often overlooked in the personal assistant world.
As a parent and homeowner, I have sat down and had a glass of wine with my housekeeper from New Rochelle, NY, and shared stories about her children, despite her having poor language skills. My housekeeper will jump through hoops for me, not because I pay her an outrageous compensation, but because of the respect and warmth I offer to her. All of the service providers that come to the LifeWorx office receive a warm welcome, a cup of coffee and a chance to sit down and chat. Every professional we hire is the best available in their selective field, and we want to make sure they know it and receive positive praise and attention from us. We want them to know it, feel it, and live it.
However, getting too involved with the help in your home may take you down a path that is beyond your comfort zone. Fifteen years ago, my amazing housekeeper had issues about her daughter, ex-husband, church life and career. She would share these stories with me; even after I came home from a long day of work and wanted to relax. I would listen and make a few comments, but I never once told her that I do not have time to hear her share her life experiences with me. Sometimes her daughter would even come along to my house and spend time with us in my house. All of this was a small yet essential part of a creating a good home environment for the housekeeper. As a result of listening to my housekeeper share what was going on in her life, she was ultimately a better and more productive worker. Because I was so receptive to her, she was more receptive to hearing about duties and pending projects in the house that needed to be completed. A little act of kindness goes a long way, especially when we remember to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Our country is back in the saving mode. Anytime we purchase something, a product or service, it makes a lot of sense to look at all the costs that are incurred and assess the value we receive. Last week, I was at a sidewalk sale in New Canaan, CT. There were silk shirts for 50% off, reduced from $80, to $40… A steal. I was not totally thrilled with the color, but it looked like a good bargain. I started to reflect on how often I will use it and would I be excited to wear it often. The shirt would need to be sent to dry cleaning at $8/dry cleaning; I will probably spend $120 for 15 dry cleanings. Hence, the total cost of buying and using the shirt would be $ 160; still $40 less than the original cost of $200. Not a huge bargain though. If the product or service does not bring the value it is worth, the initial bargain gets washed away. No pun intended. The same logic applies to household help; nanny, babysitter, elder care provider, Chef or a housekeeper. Most families will spend about $30,000 to $50,000 for a full time household employee. Over 5 years these costs add up to $150,000 – $250,000, a significant cost, but an essential need for busy professionals and moms. Each individual service provider is different, and families need to make sure that the person working for you in your home is the best you can find for the duties, skills, personality and character. It takes effort to find this right person and any effort that you put in upfront will bring you years of rewards in terms of quality of life for your child, family and peace at home. In light of the implications, one should plan to spend about 80 hours if you are going to advertise and recruit a person yourself; 40 hours, if you are going to use your network and 10 hours; if you are planning to use a reputable agency. There is a right combination of pocket cost and time commitment choice for each family.
One of the first major organizing projects we did was in Hartsdale, NY, at the home of an old, very active couple in their 90s. He had a twin brother and they recently celebrated their 100th birthday together, which brought all our memories back. The project started with their daughter, in her 50’s, calling us to help her parents. This is the home where she grew up and where the family also enjoyed raising their grand children. We asked her… as we always do, “Are your parents ready of this?” She said that she told her parents, “If you die with all this stuff in the house, I will just have to burn it!” Of course, everyone knows it was a joke, but the humor gave the project a great start. Our parents’ treasures can be our clutter. We put a team of an Organizer, a Cleaning crew and a Personal Assistant together, ordered a dumpster and took care of three generations of “stuff”. There were old fishing poles, skating shoes, a wooden sleigh and tools that could be sold as antiques. We de-cluttered the attic where boxes of books were kept (he was an attorney), cleaned out the basement and garage and filled a dumpster. The whole place was hosed down and scrubbed clean too. They were an amazing and warm family to work for with a baby (their great granddaughter) crawling around in the kitchen. How do people in their 90’s have the energy and passion to take on a project like this? Only when they can truly care for their children and grand children. Claudia, the daughter that made the first call and the leader of the project was the key to such grace and harmony, since she had an amazing bond with her parents. I hope all of us grow old this gracefully; with humor & health to share.
A client from Chappaqua, for whom we did weekly housekeeping, calls frantically on a Saturday morning at 8.15 AM to say that the new dress she had brought a day earlier is missing. She hung the dress behind the door, and now, the hanger is there but no dress. She turned the whole house upside down and couldn’t find it. She wondered and stressed about it. She looked in the laundry, closets and asked her husband. Hence, she came to the conclusion that the housekeeper had stolen it. I assured her that Nora, a LifeWorx housekeeper has never done anything like this; but that we would investigate. I was very stressed since our system is supposed to protect clients from such bad experiences. We promised the client that we would pay for the dress. Nora is a large woman and the client’s dress was size 4, petite. We reviewed Nora’s file in the office and her background check reports, but there was no smoking gun. We left a message with the housekeeper and wondered… How could this be? Our staff is trustworthy to be given house keys, car keys, kids, grandma and credit card and we assure that nothing will go wrong. Two hours later that morning, we get a call back from the client, with a sense of embarrassment and relief… that the dress was in her daughter’s room. Her teenage daughter had tried on mom’s new party dress and left it on the floor on the far side of her bed! How cute, but also how annoying! Our instincts often lead us to assume… a crime has been done, because that is what protects us from such things and makes us vigilant. How can we avoid playing the old videos of past poor (crime) experiences when the peace of mind and calm may be around us? All we can do is to find and share positive experiences to our clients and hope that, “drop by drop the ocean will get full.”