A Guide to A More Balanced Nanny Life


“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 with scones, Early Gray tea, and lots of pearls in every color, shape, and size. The theme of the event was “Pearls of Perfection,” and the attendees wore jeans and pearls to celebrate the idea of seeking 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 story. The keynote speaker at the event told us about a young teacher who went to work in an orphanage in China. There, she met a little girl with a heart defect who couldn’t be adopted. It seemed nothing could be done to help her. Then, one day, the teacher saw jars of pearls being sold for mere pennies at a market. She was curious about these cheap pearls and learned they were “imperfect” and only fit to be ground up for cosmetics. She had an idea.

The young woman bought many jars of these pearls and sent them home to her mother. Her mother started a campaign to use the imperfect pearls to make jewelry and crafts. These items 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 way to save a life and bring a child home to a forever family.

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

People drawn to the Nanny World and other family-helping professions often set high standards for themselves and others. We like things to run smoothly, without glitches—in short, to be “perfect.” But we will inevitably be disappointed. Systems are inconsistent. Human beings are fragile. Things will happen every day, even every hour. Our immediate response is disappointment and disenchantment. If things don’t go perfectly, we think we have failed, and the whole idea, event, program, or relationship is not worth our time.

We like to move fast and check off tasks efficiently, neatly filing them into “Yes” or “No” categories. In an imperfect world, we might need to think more about “Maybe.”


Strategies for Nannies

Here are 10 strategies to help you reconfigure your worldview so that the idea of “perfect” can expand to include more creative, innovative, slightly imperfect perspectives.

1. Slow down. When we rush, we miss the deeper meaning of situations.
2. Turn on the light. Beauty can be hidden and needs light to be appreciated.
3. Ask quality questions. What seems imperfect might just be incomplete.
4. Ask for honest feedback. We are often too harsh and quick to judge.
5. Consider multiple viewpoints. What seems “off” to you might be delightful to someone else.
6. Take a break and try again. Timing is critical. It might be the perfect activity at the wrong time.
7. Try again 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 “How can I learn and grow from this?”
9. Re-purpose the activity or event. Take it apart and put it together in a new way. It may be perfect in its new form.
10. Apply the 5 to 1 formula. For every negative thought about the activity, find five positive attributes. This ratio helps balance negativity in therapy.

Perfection. When you look it up in the dictionary, you find definitions like: “without flaw,” “a state that cannot be improved,” or “flawless.” That is intense and, if you think about it, maybe a bit boring. Perhaps perfection is overrated? In the Nanny World, there’s probably little need for perfection. Instead, there is 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.* She has given keynotes and training in 45 states. Her consulting firm, Education InSite, is a leader in educational training.

The US Nanny Association thanks all the nannies, advocates and business leaders who provide practical tips and insight to elevate our industry. Thank you for sharing your expertise.