Many people who know me in the current incarnation of my life as a stay-at-home-mom don’t know it, but I have an MBA. From a very good business school. That I paid for myself. And I even had a pretty good job before I left the work force to stay at home with my kids.
Sometimes I look back on my former life and wonder what would have happened if I never left the workforce. I would have probably had a pretty senior level position at this point, given the trajectory of my career. But, I don’t. Now, I’m primarily known as “Luke and Mark’s mom.” And I wonder why I paid so much for a degree that I’m not even putting to use.
But then, the MBA in me stops and says, “This thinking is not productive. Let’s go over to the whiteboard and do a little brainstorming about exactly how your MBA has come in handy. Let’s make it a lunch meeting. We’ll order in. Get the good cookies.” And I realize, this job is EXACTLY what my MBA trained me for. In fact, MBA shouldn’t stand for Masters of Business Administration, it should stand for Motherhood Business Applications.
Right now, parenthood is the only job where no training is required and it’s kind of ridiculous, especially given the fact that the job, in a nutshell, is to raise a generation of human beings who will take over the planet. Based on the state of the world today, perhaps an advanced degree or some kind of certificate program should be required before anyone becomes a parent going forward. (I’m sure the low compensation structure associated with parenting has something to do with the lack of qualified applicants. Add that to the list of things to discuss on this week’s status call.)
So, here is exactly how my MBA has prepared me for being a parent.
I am what every MBA strives to be. I’m a CEO. Granted, I’m not the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation. Instead, I’m CEO of my household. Still, it’s a pretty stressful job. The whole thing started out as a joint venture between my husband and me (“Let’s get married!”). Eventually we wanted to expand (“Let’s have a baby!”). Given my ambition and my strengths, I rose to the level of CEO. That’s not to say my husband doesn’t have a role in the company. He does, but he’s more like one of the valued founders who stayed on to consult and ensure the vision of the company stays on track. He has a certain skill set that’s very valuable: math, sports, music, and foreign language. And I bring him in to consult on all of these areas. However, like any consultant, sometimes his other ventures (i.e. his paid job) get in the way of the projects I have lined up for him, and then I have to find other staff to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, unlike a traditional corporation, I don’t have the budget for a full (or really ANY) staff, so I end up assuming the vast majority of responsibility for all the departments. For example:
Do you want to pay for camp, vacation or new windows? The Director of Finance needs to make the tough decisions. The Director of Finance evaluates the going rate for a lost tooth (market value is $5), the value of a birthday gift (varies depending on the relationship of the children), and is in charge of compensation negotiation.
Luke: Can I go out for lunch with my friends this week?
Me: No. You just went out last week.
Luke: What? Come on! Please. EVERYONE IS GOING.
Me: Sorry, but we had to cut the lunch budget. You can only go out once a month. Everyone in the department is taking a hit. We need to take those funds and reinvest them in the dinner department.
I once created a chore/behavior chart whereby my children earned money for each chore they did, but then they had to pay money for each time they misbehaved. They owe me a combined total of $126,713.25 to date.
Training has the most turnover of any department in the house because it’s so demanding. Luckily, every time I quit, I reapply and rehire myself. It started out bad – potty training, getting kids to sleep in their own bed through the night, teaching them how to feed themselves. But it’s only gotten worse. How many times do you have to tell a child to pick up clothes off the floor and put them in either a drawer or a hamper before they learn it? I have no idea because I still have to tell my eldest child to do this every day.
Personal hygiene is another big area of training, especially as your child reaches adolescence.
My husband: Did the boys wash their feet well in the shower?
Me: I don’t know. I’m assuming so.
My husband: I don’t think so. They were in and out to fast. I think you should go smell their feet to be sure.
Me: Sorry, that’s not in my contract.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to vet these applicants before they were hired, and there was a clause in the contract stating that I had to keep them on regardless of their abilities.
This is one of the main aspects of my job. And not the fun stuff like reviewing resumes or interviewing applicants. No, I have to deal with some of the more difficult aspects of HR: harassment, inappropriate workplace conduct, anger management issues, and the like.
Me: Mark, we need to talk about why you hit your older brother.
Mark: Because I hate him and I wish he were dead.
Me: Well, I understand you’re angry, but you can’t punch him. It’s against company policy.
Mark: Can I break his stuff?
Mark: Why not?
Me: Because, it’s not really his. It’s owned by the company. You’ll get docked in consumer electronics time if you damage company property. You know I’m going to have to put a report in your file. Again.
Mark: Go ahead. I’m in the union. You can’t touch me.
Given that this was my area of concentration when obtaining my degree, it truly is a strength. And it’s a good thing, because selling your children on things they don’t want to do is one of the primary functions of a parent. Like an actual company, occasionally my advertising campaign walks the edge of truth.
Me: Go to sleep.
My Kids: But we’re not tired.
Me: Listen. You grow when you sleep. This is why you’re both so short. Because you don’t get enough sleep.
My kids: I thought it was because you and dad are short.
Me: No. We’re only short because WE didn’t get enough sleep when we were young. And we didn’t eat our broccoli. And we talked back to our parents. And I have scoliosis, so cut me a break. I’d have at least another inch if I had a straight spine. Now, get the hell to sleep.
Operations and Logistics:
If you are a parent, you know, THIS is your job. Getting your kid to and from everyplace he has to go. I have two children, which increases the difficulty of my deliverables. On top of that, my children have decided that they want to do every activity with which they come into contact. So, between the two children, I must manage a fairly comprehensive combination of activities every week, including but not limited to: three different baseball schedules (one child is in two different leagues), piano lessons (both), drum lessons, voice lessons, rock band practice, flag football (both), karate (both), and Sunday School (both). Most of these things have various practices associated with them. On top of this there is my own insane schedule, not to mention trying to fit in homework, dinner and other miscellaneous activities that come up. This is one of those areas where I usually need to call in the consultant (my husband), or contract out for other freelance help (pizza delivery). On the weekly status call I have with myself, I review the list of activities on my kitchen white board to ensure that I understand the scope of the weekly project list. And then I cry. But then I pick myself back up and give myself a pep talk. “Hey. You can DO this! And at least you don’t have to deal with the crap that goes on in Training or HR. Now THOSE departments suck. Consider yourself lucky.”
Ensuring the Vision of the Company:
Yes, all the other roles and responsibilities of my job as CEO are important, but this part is the most important. It’s my job to flesh out the vision for the company, to set the strategy, and then to make sure we have the resources in place to implement it. Like every CEO knows, the company vision has to be dynamic. It has to evolve over time to take into account the changing marketplace. In the early days, the vision was something like this:
Keep the children alive.
Anyone with small children knows that’s not always easy, given the fact that infants and toddlers don’t do anything you say, like, don’t put small toys in your mouth, or don’t wander into traffic, or don’t stick your fingers in an outlet.
However, as the children have grown, so has the vision of the company. Now, the vision is:
Don’t raise assh@!#s.
This is my primary goal at this point in time. My sons know they are supposed to be nice people, but not doormats. I’m trying to teach them not to fear other peoples’ differences, but to embrace them. I want them to be confident enough in their own strengths and abilities that they have no need to flaunt them to others. And, of course, I’m teaching them that when they finally grow into accomplished adults, I will invoke my golden parachute clause which calls for them to put me up in a well appointed Manhattan apartment. And they have to visit me and their father occasionally so we can watch and laugh at how hard they have it when they’re raising their own children.
My quarterly report will go out to shareholders soon. I’m happy to report that we’re currently on track to meet our goals.