Part eight in our summer series on the parenting skills that transfer to the workplace…
Your desk may look a mess; your room may look like a load of washing has been randomly sprinkled all over it, but chances are you know where everything is because your mental organisational skills have be honed to a fine point. They say you learn by doing, which makes you a world class organising expert because your days are packed full of organisational stuff, making decisions under duress and generally keeping things going.
This is something that you are likely to do on both a long term and short term basis at almost any time of the day or night. The general aim is to ensure that everyone is where they should be at more or less the right time or that someone else is getting them there or knows where they are more or less – and, in the case of smaller people, they are dressed in clothes that are not four years too small for them. This kind of logistics is the bread and butter of parenting. It should have become easier in the technological age, but technology often creates more organisational nightmares as teenagers, for example, put their phones on airplane mode in order to outwit their parents, meaning you need to have at least 10 of their friends’ numbers in your phone as a back-up. Scheduling for smaller children is an art all in itself because it involves factoring in extra time for last-minute nappy changes, toddlers taking off all their clothes the minute you have turned your back and, of course, toddlers just lying on the floor bawling their eyes out. Things get easier as children age until hormones kick in and no-one gets up before 11.30am at the weekend and, even when they do, you have to schedule in at least an hour and a half for getting them out the door.
Even before children are born, you need to start organising childcare, thinking through the options, visiting different settings, getting their name on lists, talking to grandparents, thinking what might be best for them and for you [and what you can afford] before you have even met them and have any clue what parenting is about. It would be a nice idea to think that you can sort childcare and then move on to organising other things. But life isn’t often like that. Childcare breaks down. What suited a first child doesn’t suit a second. Childminders move/change jobs/leave the country. Grandparents get sick/move/divorce. Children don’t like their nurseries/after school programmes/summer holiday schemes. There are some phases when organising childcare occupies more of your thoughts than your full-time job and yet you still get both done.
Not just holiday childcare or where to go on holiday if you can afford to go away, but what on earth to do over the holidays without going broke or hearing the words “I’m bored” 1,000 times in the space of a week. This calls for ingenuity and creativity, particularly if it happens to be an especially wet August.
As children go to school, there will be endless appeals for cash for no school uniform day, assorted outings, PTA appeals, teacher presents, friend presents, etc. If you aren’t organised, you could find yourself spending a lot of time running to the nearest cashpoint at circa 7.45am or rummaging around behind the sofa looking for a one pound coin so your child can wear their favourite football strip to school.
It is not enough just to do your own work. You have to be on top of theirs too, at least in the early years when you can understand it. That could mean explaining the concept of odds and evens or creating a deluxe castle or a costume for a Greek child out of a sheet and some string at 2am the night before Ancient Greek Day. The most organised will have planned ahead, of course, but that is if they have been told about Ancient Greek Day more than 24 hours before it occurs.
6. After school activities
Whether it’s swimming or football or ballet, each comes with it’s own organisational dilemmas. Factor in that you may have a rampant younger sibling in tow. Factor in that, for instance, if your child does drama, you may be banned from taking said younger sibling to the rehearsals/show and have to think of a creative way round being in two places at one time – a skill you will have many years to master.