There's a new family at our school. They're Australian and they have 5 children. When I told my husband about them, he feigned devastation. "You know what that means. We're no longer the Australians with the 4 kids, we've just become the Australians with the 4 kids who didn't try hard enough".
I have often joked that 4 children in 6 years was an exercise in extreme parenting. It was also an exercise I wore with an indulgent and oversized badge of honor. If there were awards for getting knocked up, I was lining up in the front row for mine.
Perhaps it was the reaction of those around us. Their excitement and even their horror seemed to spur me on. I once walked through an airport in Melbourne with a baby strapped to my front and another in a carrier on my back. Adding to the degree of difficulty, for a score of 9.9, I was also pushing a child in a stroller with one hand and dragging a suitcase with another. I had something else, a slightly freaked out yet smug look on my face. "Look at moi, Look at moi" my euphoric face said, I can do anything, I've just flown with 3 kids under 4 - on my own!
I know I'm not the only one. I've heard others giving themselves a pat on the back, casually sneaking the odd detail in when they think they've got it right. Maybe, it's their child's organic vegetable intake or the fact that they've managed to make the tennis schedule fit in with the soccer training and ballet class. Perhaps someone's child is finally dressing themselves. Someone started a business from home while breastfeeding twins, someone else gained a degree while weaning a baby and caring for a toddler. We're not waiting for the validation - we've already self validated. Your welcome.
Why? I'm guessing it's because we've learnt that no one else is going to do it. Sure, your partner might tell you you're doing a great job and maybe even your family. But is it as rewarding as unbiased feedback?
When my youngest child was 5 months old, I returned to the corporate world and two shocking, yet amazing things happened:
Number 1 - we were allowed to leave the office and get a coffee, all by ourselves! No one sat on my lap and not one of my colleagues pulled apart a blueberry muffin and squished it in to my pants.
Number 2 - I had fixed targets, set goals and people told me when I was doing a good job. I had performance reviews where we discussed me, me and me and the self development of me and how I felt about me and the role I was in.
There were no blurred lines. The goals were on paper, expectations were explained, performance management plans were put in place.
It was the complete opposite of parenting.
There is no CEO of parenting. No one to report to. Sure, there's plenty of books, thousands of "experts" and opinions - but no opportunity for a "parent of the month" award. Wouldn't it be nice to get a round of applause from an independent resource? An award, perhaps for the way you handled the dispute over whose turn it was on the computer while wrangling the 5 year old out of the bath and practicing for the French conversation test tomorrow.
I'm still waiting for my key performance indicators, parent strategy map and end of year bonus. But, in the meantime I'll just continue on with my regular today-I-have-no-idea-tomorrow-I-might-rock-at-this roller coaster ride that is parenting. And if you're doing well today, if you've had a win, give yourself a pat on the back.
Any ideas on what some of the key performance indicators for parenting should be? How about:
Did everyone under the age of 12 leave the house with clean underwear this morning?
Was everyone under the age of 12 wearing underwear this morning?
Did you manage to get out of the house this morning without shouting "I'm going to count to 3"
Feel free to add some of your own..