Excerpt: 'White House Nannies'

May 10, 2005 — -- Fed up with her own failures to secure a proper nanny for her children, Barbara Kline set out to solve this problem for Washington's elite corps. Senators, governors, and chairmans alike seek out Kline's services on a regular basis to help them find the perfect nanny so they can return to their high profile careers with minimal sacrifice. Kline's matchmaking services often produce humorous scenarios, which form the basis of her book, "White House Nannies."

You can read an excerpt from the book below.

Chapter One: The Biggest Secret in Washington

No one moves to Washington to kick back. The most driven, educated workforce in the nation is here, for government or international trade or lobbying, for high-tech or telecom -- what's left of it. No one is here to do lunch or play golf. They're here to compete with the rest of their elite tribe, all those valedictorians, class presidents, and law review editors, voted just as likely to succeed as they were.

Whatever their game, many of these Extremely Important Players won't be here long. Sooner or later, the District's infamous revolving door will probably eject them back out there again, to the place they came from. Just so they remember that D.C. isn't the only center of the universe.

Most of my clients are in their potent prime, between twenty-eight and forty-four years old and on Marriage Number One. They work harder than anyone outside the Beltway -- or so they think. Scrambling to the top of whatever game they play means no downtime.

And then, in the middle of these lives already crammed with crucial obligations, they have babies. Extended families live far away, so these power-elite couples try to keep the government running without the luxury of any free backup at home.

The highest percentage of families with in-home childcare live right here (11 percent compared to a 5.3 percent national average). They log more air miles, meetings, and fifteen-hour workdays than most of us can imagine. Now these parents know what tired really is.

Husbands help, of course. But everyone knows where the parenting buck stops -- after the nanny goes off duty. Don't forget, we have hardly any doting grandparents, aunts, and uncles to share the joy and pitch in when there's an emergency.

This is where I come in -- to dispatch a miraculous savior to the suddenly chaotic, childcentric home of a congressperson, media mogul, or federal judge. One of my White House Nannies will calm the tantrum and handle the calamity they never in a million years expected -- especially not when all hell is breaking loose in the national, international, or interplanetary arena.

If you've already called me, the crisis a few miles away will be over before you're out of your West Wing meeting or back from Asia. No matter how many hours you spend away from your home and family, when you finally get back there, life will be harmonious -- because you have a White House Nanny.

And even if this isn't always the case, my batting average is still pretty good.

So I think of myself as the other chief of Homeland Security.

My hometown is really another kind of Hollywood -- just as overpopulated with high-profile celebrities who consider themselves the most entitled citizens in the universe. L.A. superstars may wear glitzy, shocking outfits while D.C. men and women only get as crazy as seersucker suits and maybe a designer shirt and tie. But you can follow the moves and moods of our stars too -- on C-SPAN, Leno, or Aljazeera.

We make the news, whether you see it on television or the web, in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, or the tabloids. HILL'S SEX DIARIST REVEALS ALL I read in this morning's paper about a young staffer, a "Washingtonienne," who wrote -- on a Senate office computer -- all about her lunch-hour trysts with politicos.

She lost her job, but she got a terrific book deal.

So nature and lust eventually blow our power couples way off course, into the all-consuming underground activity known as Having a Family. But you might never know that, because even the most visible Washingtonians keep their offspring behind closed doors. Hidden from the media.

This is the major difference between Bel Air and Bethesda: Hollywood parents consider even their unborn children public relations gold. (Remember naked, about-to-deliver Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair?) Entertainment celebrities appear in the limelight with their designer-dressed darlings whenever they get the chance. Just check out any issue of People magazine: Johnny Depp says he'd like a hundred children, Madonna may be with child again, and Gwyneth Paltrow's parading her baby daughter, Apple, everywhere.

But here in D.C., our stars protect their children from public scrutiny. A toddler tantrum can ruin a congressperson's image faster than a Gallup poll can plummet. Between terrorism and the federal budget, my clients have enough of the Unpredictable to deal with, and, big news: Children aren't controllable. They need to be contained and trained by the right nanny, preferably way offstage. In case they do something embarrassing.

Unless, of course, it's an election year, when politicians suddenly parade offspring everywhere, the stars of their campaigns. The only other time these political children are in the media is when they dress inappropriately for a state occasion. Or when they're thrown out of prep school for using drugs, or arrested for drunk driving.

It isn't true that politicians kiss everyone's babies but their own, although you might get that impression: The real goings-on with their children are their Deep Throat secrets.

But when my phone rings, these children are not the first thing I hear about.

"I'm so glad I found your agency. This is the Commissioner." The actual Commish? Or, "I'm the CEO of, the Chief Prosecutor of, the President of, the Chairman of, the Governor of, the Prosecutor of -- " ad infinitum. Next come the acronyms, so numerous they're humorous; even though they multiply daily like bacteria. Along with all the familiar ones such as the DOD, FTC, and USAID, I'm expected to know what dozens of others stand for, such as the CCPCJ (Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice) and the IBWM (International Bureau of Weights and Measures). And, of course, be duly impressed.

This is a titled town, and no one introduces him- or herself without their entire résumé to back them up. Over the years, I've talked to a governor of the Federal Reserve, a solicitor general, and a comptroller of the currency, so I'm used to it. I wait patiently, filing my nails and organizing my papers while they tell me where they work, how huge their responsibilities are, and how much they have to travel. Then I hear all about their even busier, more important husbands (or wives).

Finally my prospective clients mention their extracurricular activities: eight-year-old brilliant twins, a four-year-old gymnast, and a brand-new baby girl who can already sing on key.

"Jessica is two and needs companionship."

"Gregory adores baseball, and of course by the time we get home it's too dark to play."

"I love my children."

"I have to get back to my life."

Their careers are on track, but their home lives are derailing and I get to hear their not-so-silent screams for help.

"How do I make this work?"

Easy. You've already taken the right first step and called me.

Excerpted with permission from "White House Nannies," by Barbara Kline, Copyright © May 2005, by Barbara Kline.