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Part four of our summer series on parental skills that are transferable to the workplace…
A parent’s life is all about timing. Not only do they have to get themselves to places on time, but they are responsible for other people getting to places punctually, even if those other people come up with all sorts of strategies to thwart said plans. This is not just time management skills; this is extreme time management skills, time management against the odds. And it’s something parents practise and hone every single day.
It’s the school run. You have one school-aged child and one toddler. The toddler is running round and round while you are helping the school-aged child to get ready. Everything is going to schedule for the school run. As soon as you turn your back, the toddler has taken all their clothes off and basted themselves in Sudocream. You could sob, you could give up and go back to bed, but instead you reach for the wet wipes and get your child to school/yourself to work more or less on time, looking as if you have just rolled calmly out of bed and into work.
You haven’t slept all night because of a game of bed roulette and it’s only Tuesday. You finally fall asleep just half an hour before you are due to get up and wake with a start at 8.35am. Yet still you manage to get three kids ready and out the door in time for school, one dressed in a Roman centurion outfit, and to prepare some key points in your head for the annual strategy session as you do so. All the while you muse that there is something inherently wrong with the never being late awards at school since they reward the wrong people for the wrong things. Surely they should be judged on punctuality against the odds and be awarded to parents rather than children.
Getting a group of teenagers to anywhere on time is a feat of immense skill which calls on world class skills in patience, persuasion [bribery and threats] and negotiation. Appeals to speed up will only make them go slower and any comparisons with siblings are to be avoided at all costs or you could be waiting all day. It’s psychological warfare and only the strong survive.
Those skilled in the art of getting places on time with children will be accustomed to the need for a parental warning system. It starts with an amber warning of “We are going to be late.” This is repeated with rising levels of tension in the voice. Then it moves up to flashing red: “Two minutes to mum exploding like Vesuvius”. At this point someone small announces that they have lost a very crucial small marble or plastic thing and that they have absolutely no recollection of where they last saw it. Even so with just 30 seconds to spare, as like the actors in the best action thrillers, you find that plastic thing in the holes of their mattress and rescue the day, getting everyone to where they should be on time. Unfortunately, you do not become a Hollywood superstar and get to retire early on the back of the DVD sales.
Over time and through practice, you get used to the pressure of a life ruled by the clock, whether it is the fear of lateness for work, lateness for getting home and incurring a nursery fine or lateness for important meetings at school. As a parent, time becomes both your master and your servant. When you are up every day at 5am, having been woken five or six times in the night, and are constantly counting all attempts to get places by the second, conscious and subconscious reality merge and you become incredibly skilled in the dark arts of manipulating time and using it for your own ends. Where others think all time has run out, you know that if you squeeze time till the pips squeak you can get any number of things done in the 60 seconds before the apocalypse, from sketching out a survival plan for the human race to finding that really small and important piece of plastic your son lost down the back of the sofa three weeks ago.