Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Job for Life. Interested?

I've recently been involved in a few assessment centres - as an assessor I hasten to add. For the uninitiated, these are a series of tests that organisations put candidates through in order to assess their suitability for employment. More than just an interview, these tests assess a range on interpersonal and technical skills, such as ability to negotiate, to analyse data and how well one presents.
This got me thinking; I certainly wasn't interviewed or assessed before becoming a parent, and yet parenthood demands (in business-speak) "performance against a broad range of competencies", some of which I'm fairly sure I would have failed at if tested prior to birth. So. for fun, and reflection, here is a rundown on some of the top parenting requirements.

Ability to plan & prioritise.
This goes without saying, especially when multiple children (and a husband?) are involved. Leaving the house to go to the park, nursery, shops, in fact going anywhere is a planning feat compared only to going on holiday or a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award expedition prior to having children. Check kids are clean. Coats on. Shoes on. Keys? Damn it's raining. Pull out wellies & waterproofs. Check water for baby, emergency raisins & breadsticks. Where are the nappies? Grrr; no wet-wipes - find wet-wipes. Mobile phone. Handbag. Keys?  Triple check keys? Get into car. Bugger; I still have my slippers on.
I am not the most organised person, I admit. But I know far worse. It is a miracle we ever get anywhere at all, let alone turn up on time.
But let's consider the following as a serious prioritisation exercise. Take one child crying for food/TV/the iPad, the other needs the potty NOW or has done a mega nappy filler and the cat is miaowing to go outside. Then add a ringing phone, or someone at the door. Oh, and you desperately need the loo too. It makes a crammed inbox seem like a (pre-kids) walk in the park.

Innovation / Creative Thinking.
I'd always thought that I would be able to pull this one out of the bag. I enjoy creative pursuits, and envisaged rainy afternoons creating charming objets d'art from egg boxes and pipe cleaners. But it seems not. My kids are never impressed with my adaptations of boxes into police cars ("but the wheels don't go round" they lament) and my drawings are dismissed with "no, that's not the right one. I want it like that". 
But, creativity has many outlets. My fussy eating 3 year old won't touch cauliflower, but will happily eat "snowy trees", and getting into the bath is almost an endurance event, unless "mummy alligator" is on the loose, in which case they jump into the bath in a jiffy. Parents 1, kids nil *high five*.

Pre-kids, I took the view that I would NOT negotiate. It was the NATO stance on terrorism, and I looked down on those parents I heard pleading with their offspring to do x, y, or z.
Oh, the naievity. The number of stories at bedtime, number of stickers for good behaviour, even the how many shoes to wear when we leave the house(?). Everything, it seems is up for negotiation. I'd assumed that this would start at the age of about 15, with the expected "be back at 10" , "no, 11.00" "no, 10.15" and the eventual return at 10.55. I'm not even sure how to play this. I don't want to be a walkover for sure, but also want allow a certain spirit to develop. But maybe not that much ...

Quick to learn & adapt to new information.
I hadn't realised just how well I'd delivered against this one, until I had some (child-free) girlfriends visit. Big lad was desperate to play with them, and so we settled down to play a Thomas the Tank Engine version of Snakes & Ladders. (Rock and Roll eh?). The kids were amazed at the fact that here were some grown-ups who did not know who Percy, James and Edward were. My friends were amazed at the fact that I did. So we had a very confused 15 minutes of moving coloured trains around a board. And it's not just tank engines. I now appreciate that "diggers" is a generic term for large construction vehicles. There are excavators, bulldozers (with & without caterpillars), Bobcats ... and that is only digging at the surface.

Communication Skills.
"Plain" english? Presentation writing? Presenting skills? Email etiquette? How about teaching a language? Understanding toddler-ese? Clearly (and calmly) informing basic requirements in the face of heightened emotion (i.e. a tantrum)? Or getting someone to actually listen to what you are saying (I find the sporadic use of the word "cake" helps quite a lot).
I now consider myself something of a polyglot - and that's more than my rusty German, holiday Italian and very basic Latin. Work-speak, soothing/shouty/calm mummy-speak and everything in between. No wonder there are days when I completely forget the names of people I have known for years ...

But more than all of the above, and heaven knows I could have gone on with many many more examples - there are things that no employer ever seeks, but just happen.
Patience, selflessness and love. These just happen, and only in the most serious and unusual cases do they not.
This is what defines us as parents, what softens the hard edges and makes you a different person to the person you were pre-babies. So even if you can't leave the house on time, and remember to pack spare clothes & wetwipes or if you are incapable of creating a fort out of cereal boxes who cares? Your most important employer won't fire you - this is a job for life.

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