A Guide to A More Balanced Nanny Life by Dr. Linda Karges-Bone
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
― Leonard Cohen
The Back Story
One Sunday afternoon last Spring, I attended an event for ladies who like to drink tea and talk about meaningful things. It was a lovely afternoon, replete with scones and Early Gray and reams and reams of pearls of every color, shape, and size. You see, the theme of the afternoon fete’ was “Pearls of Perfection” and the attendees wore jeans and pearls to celebrate the idea of seeking after perfection.
As one might expect, the story of perfection was not straightforward. As the poet says above…”That’s how the light gets in”. So let me share this provocative anecdote. The keynote speaker at the event shared the story of a young teacher who had gone to serve in an orphanage in China. There she encountered a little girl whose heart defect kept her from being adopted. It seemed that nothing could be done to help the sick child. Then, one day as the young teacher walked in the market, she saw hundreds of jars of pearls, being sold for mere pennies. The young teacher was curious about these seemingly valueless pearls and was told that they were “imperfect” and were only fit to be ground up for cosmetics. She had an idea.
The creative young woman bought many jars of these pearls and sent them home to her own mother, who began a campaign to use the imperfect pearls to make jewelry and crafts that were sold to raise funds to bring the sick Chinese child to the US for surgery. The rest is history and the jars of imperfect pearls became the vehicle to save a life and bring a child home to a forever family.
The question for today’s busy and stressed Nanny is “Are you too quick to dismiss imperfection?” Instead, how can we reframe situations, relationships, challenges, and changes so that they do not defeat nor break us, but instead, become “light” to open our path toward creativity and resiliency.
We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
Individuals who are drawn to the Nanny World and other professions focused on helping families tend to set high standards for themselves and for others. We like things to run smoothly, to proceed without glitches, in short, to be “perfect”. Inevitably, we will be disappointed.
Systems are inconsistent. Human beings are fragile, including nannies. Things will happen. Every day. Even, it seems, every hour. Our immediate response is disappointment and even disenchantment. If things don’t go perfectly, we assess, then we have failed and the entire idea, event, training program, or relationship is not worth our time.
We like to move fast and check off ideas efficiently, neatly filing them into “Yes” or “NO” categories. In an imperfect world, I suspect, we need to think more about “Maybe”.
I would like to submit 10 strategies for your review and practice. These strategies are designed to help reconfigure your world view, so that one template labeled “perfect” can be expanded to include more creative, innovative, slightly imperfect lenses.
1. *Slow down. When we rush, we limit our ability to fully appreciate the subtext of situations.
2.*Turn on the light. Beauty can be hidden and must be illuminated in order to be appreciated.
3.*Ask quality questions. What might seem imperfect might just be incomplete.
4.*Ask for honest feedback. We are often too harsh and quick to judge.
5.*Consider multiple viewpoints. What seemed “off” to you might actually be delightful and meaningful to another person.
6. *Take a break and try it again. Timing is critical. It might be the perfect activity at the wrong time.
7.*Try it again, this time in smaller parts. Pacing is powerful. Perfection often comes in increments.
8.*Re-frame the scenario. Instead of asking “Why did something go wrong?” Ask instead: “How can I learn and grow from this?”
9.* Re-purpose the activity or event. Take it apart and put it together in a unique way. It may well be perfect in its new costume.
10.*Apply the 5 to 1 formula. For every one negative that you use to describe the activity, search out 5 positive attributes. This ratio is used in therapy to help balance negativity.
Perfection. When one searches the dictionary for a meaning, a few interesting phrases emerge: 1) Without flaw; 2) A state or condition that cannot be improved; or 3) Flawless. Wow. That is pretty intense, and if you stop and consider…perhaps a bit boring. Perhaps perfection is over-rated? In the Nanny World, there is probably little room or need for perfection. Instead, there is a great capacity for creativity, ingenuity, flexibility, novelty, and energy. Give yourselves and your families a break. Who needs perfection!
Dr. Linda Karges-Bone is the author of 34 books including “Rich Brain, Poor Brain: Bridging Social and Synaptic Gaps in Schools” and has given keynotes and training in 45 states. Her consulting firm “Education InSite” is a leader in educational training. www.educationinsite.com.