Daughter one is doing her last school exams at the moment and has been quite tense. She feels under intense pressure to do well. If she doesn’t she fears she will fall into an abyss of failure. I’m not sure if I have been at all helpful. Talking about other members of the family’s road to where they are now seems to be a bit beside the point since they are now officially really old and “that was all a very long time ago, mum”.
My other tactic is to talk about the age of disruption and how the future is unknown territory. We don’t know the jobs of the future or even how education will be organised. If you take philosophy – daughter one’s choice – will that equip you any less well for the world of tomorrow than any other humanities subject? What skills will people need?
In my view, one of the main ones will be adaptability to change. Everything is changing constantly these days and it’s exhausting trying to keep up. Perhaps the younger generation will be better at it because they have never known things moving at a slower pace or maybe they are just less tired generally. They have yet to dive head first into the email/messaging swamp [or have children…], though they are great at the kind of technological stuff I’d like to think my generation have problems with [rather than it just being my inadequacy].
I found myself the other day heaving a banner, an audio machine and a tripod to a meeting to do some videos. Pretty straightforward, you would think. But video director is not one of the jobs I signed up for. I like words. Nice texty text words. Not images, moving or otherwise. Just written down stuff that you read and think about. This is not to say that I haven’t moved with the times. I’ve done a lot of online stuff involving images and video/audio and I get that some people absorb stuff better visually and that Instagram is the norm. It’s just not my thing. I rarely take photos of my own kids and when I do I’ve usually cut their head or arms off or failed to back them up so when my phone suddenly runs out of memory I have to delete them all.
So when I texted the family whatsapp group that I was having trouble putting up the banner and getting the whole thing framed well, I could sense the mirth with which this was received. My brother in Argentina is on the group and often comments about the pick-up problems we are having [most of the group is taken up with “Mum, I’m in X. Where are you?” type exchanges]. He has just impressively built his own wattle and daub house from mud and straw, adapting to the times by going back several centuries. “I could picture the scene so well,” my partner remarked later. But I did it and I know it will be easier next time because now all life is about learning stuff all the time. On the up side, research seems to suggest, unless I have misread it in my haste, that keeping on learning stuff is good for mental agility in old age and wards off dementia.
When I think about it I’m not sure my problem is adapting to technological change so much as having no time whatsoever to do so or to consolidate any learning. This is because every part of my life is moving fast and changing constantly.
Adapting to change must be number one in the parent skills handbook. As soon as you think you know something, everything changes. Where once you struggled to get out the door with nappies and pushchairs, 12 or so years later you spend a lot of time cajoling prostrate people to get themselves together within a one-hour timeframe. Where once it was all about practical skills – juggling different bags and accoutrements – now it is about top-level psychological tactics. This involves knowing each individual’s particular psychological weak points. These are skills that I am mastering quite well, I feel. My brother once called me “the master of manipulation” [long story] and this has come in handy with three teenagers and a feisty seven year old who seems overly aware of his rights. Will the robots be able to understand individual human motivation and how it can change on a whim? The ultimate challenge will be if they can get three teenagers out the door in less than an hour while ensuring that all three remain on speaking terms with you and each other in the process.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.