(Note: To catch you up if you didn’t know, I am a nanny to two amazing young men who were newborns when I first began caring for them and now are 11- and 9-years-old. Their equally amazing parents and I work together as a team, sharing this incredible journey together.)
There is one question I am asked repeatedly that really irritates me because the root of the question is the asker’s judgment, which the asker is not even aware of. Let it be understood before we explore any further that we ALL are guilty of this behavior because we all face situations that make us uncomfortable as they seem out-of-alignment with what we know to be true. Most of us are evolved enough to realize stating the judgment is not helpful, but that same most of us have yet to realize a judgment hidden within a question can be just as damaging. Having admitted that, let’s all explore this with wondering minds with the lens of curiosity turned back on ourselves.
This is the question I get asked in some form almost weekly: How long are you going to keep working as a nanny?
Excuse my transparency, but this question in any form pisses me off and here’s why. I didn’t plan on this job. I graduated with my masters degree knowing deep inside that one, I was not going to follow the career path I had planned on that led me to graduate school in the first place, at least not right then. And, two, the option of a starter job at a very low wage was highly unappealing. What I did know is I needed a strong, steady income doing something I enjoyed while I figured out my next step. Nannying made perfect sense as I had cared for children in various capacities since I was 12-years-old. I met the current family I work for and left the interview thinking, “God, if this isn’t the family I am supposed to be with, then I don’t know what I am going to do because I can’t imagine working with anyone else.” Long story short, they had the same feeling and less than 2 weeks later, I was caring for their newborn who is now 11-years-old and is presently torturing his 9-year-old brother through stick hockey while I write this. These two boys have become mine and this family has become my family. So, I ask you, do you plan to leave your family any time soon?
That isn’t the only issue I have with the question. And, here is where the greater principle comes into play. There is an unstated judgment within the question that somehow I am doing “less than” with my life or somehow these boys and their parents are disposable or that we are making a bad choice for the boys. I have learned to let people have their judgments, however, when those judgments creep into conversations where the boys can overhear, or are even directly involved, that is when the damage goes deep.
No child should ever be made to question their family system simply because another person is uncomfortable with it. Let’s face it, we all have craziness in the way our family systems function. However, if love and connection is at the core, what does it matter how it comes about? If a child knows they are loved and they are safe when they are with their family, does it really matter whom his/her supporting adults are?
I get it. We all have opinions about how kids should be raised and life should be lived and careers should be played out and life journeys should flow. The problem is we turn our opinions into absolute truth and use them to measure the lives and accomplishments and choices of others. We do this from a good place. We really believe our way is the best way because it works well for us. That leaves out one hugely important factor which is every one of us is unique, which means each of us lives our lives just a little bit differently from the next person. We may have the same values and we may live out those values differently.
The next time you feel that question rising out of your own discomfort, ask yourself what this might be about. Are your values being bumped? Have you turned an opinion into an absolute truth? What is making you uncomfortable? Once you identify the source of the discomfort, you are freed up from judgment to find ways you do connect with the other person. Some of the best responses I have received about our unique way of being a family probably rose after a judgment was realized. I cherish those responses because I know that person took the time to acknowledge our way of doing and being as valid and that affirms our boys’ need for love and safety. My favorite response to date went something like this, “What an amazing gift you all are to each other!” Thank you, Dear One, for your celebration of us!