Seems harsh, but I admit that I have felt that way. Here is the scene: It’s 7 p.m. and I’m dragging home from an exhausting day at the office and looking forward to sharing a meal with my family. I had prepared the meatloaf at 11 p.m. the night before and left it in the fridge along with a salad and fruit. I walked in and my husband was watching the game, the kids are on their own screens and the meatloaf never made it into the oven, much less onto the table.
The first words I heard in chorus were; “Hey, Mom we are hungry, where’s dinner?” The second were; “Mom, by the way, I am having the lacrosse team over for dinner tomorrow night, I forgot to tell you.” My daughter then chimed in to announce that the cat caught and killed a squirrel that is lying on the rug (about 2 feet from my husband) and she doesn’t want to touch it because it is ‘gross’; Mom, can’t you?”
Before my head blew off, the first response I could muster was, “Really?” (I have to admit, that the next thought was, “Am I allowed to fire my family?”) Let’s start at the beginning: The lack of understanding that a meatloaf has to be cooked and served is baffling enough, but an additional surprise that 20 kids will be coming over for dinner when I had an important board meeting the next morning that I had to prepare for, was all too much for me. (Don’t get me started on the dead squirrel that looked an awful like my prone-husband who was wearing his furry slippers.)
My face got red, and I had a flashback to work and thought about one of my staff possibly ever saying, “We didn’t do anything today because we weren’t sure what you wanted, so we just waited for you to tell us. And oh, the boss stopped by last week to tell us that we needed the presentation for the VC meeting tomorrow, but I guess we forgot to tell you.” Words like; “You’re fired!”, popped to mind.
Why Does Work Work, But Home Doesn’t?
Do feel like you are locked in a rut a home; an endless process? It shouldn’t. At home, you handle more personnel changes than the Talent Director of a Fortune 500 company. Last year, your employee pool included a stubborn two-year-old; this year, they have been replaced by an energetic and inquiring three-year-old. That sulky sixteen-year-old you were close to locking out of the house seems to have grown up of their own accord; suddenly, your team has been augmented by an intelligent and responsible seventeen-year-old, and you realize it’ll break your heart when they leave the firm next year to head off to college.
We hear a lot about all the different hats women wear, all the different job descriptions we have at home: accountant, buildings and grounds chief, chauffer, cleaning person, comptroller, IT specialist, daycare worker, fashion consultant, guidance counselor, judge, veterinarian, health care provider; I can go on. But it’s all a little condescending, isn’t it? We don’t need to invent all those different made-up titles to make us understand that being a mom is a varied and challenging job.
The main reason work seems easier is that at work, we clearly articulate our: mission, goals, strategy, tactics for execution, timeframes and deadlines…shall I go on? Your staff would never leave a meeting without a clear sense of their roles and responsibilities.
At home, we operate on the understanding that, “We all love each other and are sensitive to each others needs and ‘obviously’ things will just happen out of love and mutual respect.” In this scenario above, I just assumed that since I had made the dinner and left it in the fridge, and that I was coming home late, that obviously my husband and kids would know how to put the meatloaf in the oven…and obviously, a surprise that 20 kids will be coming over for dinner the next night was a bad thing to forget to tell me, and OBVIOUSLY, if your father is lying right there, he can get rid of the dead squirrel…you did not have to wait for Mom!”
The “obviously’s” are the exact point. Things like that are never taken for granted in the workplace, the way they are at home.
We would like to think that the big news in the workplace over the past couple of decades has been the emergence of women as a significant force. And many of these women are moms. As women, we have had the opportunity to show what we can do, and we’ve done it. We’ve made the workplace a different place, a better place. We are educated, motivated, and street-smart. Women are taking the world by storm. Seventy-one percent of women with kids work outside of the home. We have been incredibly successful at work; however, we have not necessarily translated that success to managing our households. But you can do it.
Process vs. Project
Here’s another significant change that has occurred in the workplace over the past couple of decades: modern management strategy has moved from a process-oriented workplace to a project-oriented workplace.
Work used to be built around a process. Big manufacturing companies make the same thing — cars, steel girders, stuffed panda bears — and people, in one way or another, were plugged into that process. They did the same job day after day. At home, the “process” meant you lived in the same house, in the same neighborhood, and with the same neighbors. It meant you didn’t get divorced. Well, those days are gone forever.
Too Many Hats For Mom
For all of our skill and ambition and qualities, it still seems that many Millennial women find themselves mired in the same routine that their mothers and grandmothers established. Too many of them have not changed the way they manage their households, and too many of them will continue to see an increasing divergence between their sense of accomplishment in the workplace and the same sense at home.
It doesn’t have to happen. A generation of women has conquered the world of business in spite of having a small number of role models. We did it with courage and perseverance, and we have become the mentors and role models for the younger women who have followed us. But who are Millennials to look to for our role models at home?
They don’t have to look any farther than themselves in their business lives.
Today, business strategy centers on goals rather than routines. Here is how it works. Once you’ve identified a goal, you create a project to meet that goal. Achieving a goal means figuring out a strategy. You might need some experts for the team that aren’t from your company, so you go out and bring them in for this project – you outsource.
Now, outsource at home, too. Really decide, “What Matters Profoundly.” If making that meatloaf at 11 p.m. doesn’t fall into that category, find one of the many food delivery services that will make it easy for you. Do the same with any of the menial tasks that are taking you away from the quality time with your family.
The next step is to set up the “To Do” list of responsibilities for your family. The list does not just specify “Who Does What Job”, but it outlines specific instructions of when and how each task will be done. (The same way you would create the “Follow up” from a business meeting. For example, “Todd will put the delivered meatloaf in a pan in the oven at 6:30 p.m. at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and put the salad and fruit on the table.” Rotate the chores so that everyone learns the various life skills necessary to run a household. Then, just like at work, when the project is finished, you critique it, you hone the rough edges, and you go on to something new—new projects, new teams, new strategies, all connected to an overall master plan for the organization, but each one with its challenges and rewards. The reward is not monetary at home, the reward is one of having your home run more joyfully with less stress!
Naturally, as CEO of the household, it’s our responsibility to make sure everything gets done, either by delegating or by doing it ourselves. It’s not making up a bunch of fake job descriptions that will make the difference in building our self-esteem, in giving us a sense of purpose, it is about creating a work environment at home that will just as fulfilling as our work environment at work. It’s understanding the nature of work and the nature of management, and learning how to identify, plan, prioritize, and manage projects.
So, after all is said and done and planned and executed, on this Mother’s Day, just remember the sage words of Mildred Vermont, the American businesswoman, “Being a mother is one of the highest salaried jobs…since the payment is pure love.”