I was reflecting on my recent award win (and still feeling pretty chuffed if I’m honest). I can’t quite believe I’ve managed this, as a Mum of two, working from home, when some of the competition were big businesses with offices and teams and a ‘proper’ set-up. Then again, on further reflection, being a Mum does prepare you well for running a business…
Firstly, you probably manage everything anyway, perhaps without even realising it. In my case this means looking after the kids, keeping the house clean and tidy, running my business, doing the food shopping, laundry, cooking, packing bags, making packed lunches, admin, taking the bins out, making sure everyone has clothes that fit…the list goes on. I’m not saying I always do it all, but ultimately I have an overview of everything that needs to get done, so I also ‘delegate’ tasks (my husband might word that differently!) and remind everyone to do whatever it is they need to be doing. I actually saw a cartoon this week, which sums this up nicely.
The upshot of this is, the buck stops here. If something goes wrong (even if it’s something else out of your control), it becomes your problem and you’ll be the one worrying about it and looking for a solution or workaround. If you’re late somewhere, while it might be your kids that were playing up/wouldn’t put their shoes on/having a tantrum, ultimately it’s you that gets the flack, as you’re the one in charge.
This also means you’re great at decision making (whether you realise it or not). When you’re at home with the kids you need to decide everything – what you do, where you go, what they eat, etc. Of course, they can make some decisions too, but the harder stuff will always fall on you. If you’re there, you’re in charge, so if you’re wondering whether your toddler needs calpol, or how to punish a naughty four-year old, while you and your partner might have ‘rules/agreed ways of parenting’ if you’re the one actually present, then you’re the one that has to make the call – and deal with the consequences of your decision.
You might also find that everyone automatically defers to you. In my house, even if Daddy is around, my four year old will still ask me everything. Or, if he does ask Daddy, he’ll still check with me that it’s right, or complain to me if he’s unhappy with the answer he got! Sweet, but means I never get a break from the constant questioning!
You have a little team to manage. You need to make sure your kids do the stuff you need them to do, teach them to do things properly (i.e. wiping their bums!), do things on time (i.e. getting dressed and ready to leave). You need to be clear about what they’re expected to do and motivate them to do it.
In my previous life, I used to work for leaders, helping them to communicate effectively with their teams. Explaining the positives of a proposed restructure is nothing compared to talking a reluctant toddler into having a nappy change, or getting a four-year old to the dentist! You become the most creative storyteller, when you have to convince a child that something fairly dull, can become an adventure.
How many times have you had to find out the answer to a tricky question (usually something you know nothing about), and then explain it in simple terms that a pre-schooler can understand? Since being a parent I’ve learnt so many new things (about myself, as well as random information) and with school beginning in September, I’m sure we’re only just getting started.
You have to be prepared for anything and everything. We all have emergency snacks stashed away, first aid kits in the changing bag and spare outfits on hand. I even have a ‘travel sickness’ kit (wipes, kitchen towel and nappy bags, in case you’re wondering!) in the car at all times, as my toddler is prone to this. We’re all geniuses at thinking ahead and preparing for all kinds of situations.
And then, of course, there’s the troubleshooting. No matter how organised you are, how well you’ve motivated and developed your ‘team’, or how efficiently you do things, you’ll still have to deal with the inevitable curveballs, such as your three-year old (at the time) getting their head stuck in the bannisters (as you’re on your way out the door and running late, obviously). Crisis management? We’ve all totally got this!
Then, on top of this, you actually have to develop your children into good people. Teaching them manners, how to behave and how to treat others. Obviously some personality traits are inherent, but there’s a lot we can do to help them. And, of course, different things motivate (and annoy) different kids, so you need to figure out what works for yours. My toddler responds really well to praise (and even seeing someone else get praised for something will motivate her to copy that behaviour), where my four-year old responds best to rewards.
We are all fantastic multi-taskers and can do all of the above at once! How many times have you cooked dinner, with a baby in one arm, singing to them while helping your other child with a puzzle at the same time? Or fed your baby while playing reading to your child, or playing a board game? (It’s amazing the things you can do while feeding!)
And sometimes, we do all of this, on no or little sleep.
No wonder so many of us are tired! Just look at all the skills we have (that we may or may not have had before we were parents) that will benefit us far beyond parenthood. If you’re going for a job interview, or starting something up yourself, keep in mind how amazing you are and how much your children have prepared you for that.
P.S. This post is intended to be lighthearted and reflects my personal situation. Everyone’s will be different. Whether you’re a mum, a dad, whether you stay-at-home, work full-time, work part-time, are employed, are self employed, or anything else – we are all awesome.