Being a better person

What is it about Mondays? I don’t even dislike the work I’m paid for, and weekdays are less tiring than running around all weekend with the kids. And yet, it always follows the same pattern. Friday afternoons are awesome; there’s stuff I’ve not done, sure, but there’s always next week. I make myself another great list of how I’m going to smash it next week. There will have been all sorts of other highs and lows to the week. Last week’s low was definitely forgetting to take my youngest to his first Scouts (well, Beavers) meeting. He was beside himself, and I felt like the worst parent ever. The perfect guy I’m married to was probably secretly pleased it wasn’t him that screwed it up, because he was in the office whilst I was working from home. He did manage to forget to pack bike lock keys at the weekend though, so we spent an hour taking turns to stand next to the bikes while the kids ran around. I would say that makes us even, but it doesn’t really. Forgetting the most important thing in my son’s little life right now, in full view of the older child that appeared to be giving me pitying looks for my stupidity, is quite hard to recover from.

I reminded the nanny this morning about a violin lesson schedule change, and she said “yes, I’ve got a reminder for it”. I had a reminder for Scouts too, but for some reason the API to the scouts calendar on Google didn’t synch and I hadn’t made a manual reminder in my Outlook calendar (which is the only place I actually look anyway). When I told her about my massive parenting fail, she didn’t really have any sort of “Oh, I’ve totally been there” words of comfort, because she hasn’t.

One of the things I’ve gradually accepted about having three small children is that a low level of failure is our normal state of being. Most of the time, this is fine – we’re not forgetting things that are crucial to their school. It’s just incredibly annoying when people with one or two kids with a large age gap seem to think it’s hilariously remiss of me not to have checked all the shoe sizes weeks before school starts, merely because I checked with my child whether the fit of the shoes I only bought before the holidays was still ok. Why would I waste time checking something I was 90% sure was ok? Why does she assume that all of these things are my job anyway? I don’t really know how society will ever move towards gender equality if other women humiliate each other for “their” jobs. There are about ten separate things that need to get done each week for a primary school age child. I have three. So between the two of us, we have about 30 things we need to remember to do each week, and we mostly do. But I don’t see why I’m held to a much higher standard than my own parents, whose own attitude was that if I didn’t do it myself by the time I was about seven, then I wasn’t going to get whatever it was. I made my own school lunches. We went to the corner shop by ourselves. If I wanted to play with another child, I went round to their house, on my own two feet. By the time we were ten, we walked about a kilometre to and from school each day. It was quite normal, and it enabled our parents to have their own lives to an extent. They worked from home anyway, but they didn’t have to ferry us around all the time. As teenagers, we got bikes, and went to all our own activities. And I went to Oxford, so there, smug random school run mother.

I tend to fail in all sorts of predictable ways, mainly connected to not believing in myself, or that I am not the right person for the job. So I do a sort of “starter” job, waiting for the real, clever person to come along and fix it for me – when that has always been me. As a result, I’ve just gone through yet another circular loop of an issue at work. It was a technical problem to do with environment management for a specific testing workflow (yes, software development is totally fascinating), and two weeks ago, I said

“Why are we testing this now, when we don’t have any of the inputs we need, and it won’t prove anything without the data?”.

Lots of people decided that we should instead be putting together answers, standing up another environment, defining the data loads required to run the tests, despite having no idea what the objective of testing it at this point was, other than reassuring a stakeholder. So I said nothing, just watched, assuming that they must have far more information than me to have decided all this work was worthwhile. Today, I joined a call in which it became apparent that no one has seen any scenario that would require all that work to be done now. For once I actually contributed to the meeting, cut across them and said

“We are not going to assuage any stakeholder’s fears by detracting from other deliverables they have asked for right now, when we could just agree to do the test in February and it’d take five minutes”.

They all agreed, decided to reset the plan, and thanked me profusely for my very obvious contribution. I’ll still never have the courage of my convictions, despite ample evidence that they are correct, because I have never found a way to paper over the cracks in my self doubt. Running helps a bit, but for a long time running merely presented me with the physical realities of being a mother, which brings us back to failing the most important little people in my life.

Anyway, so in conclusion, I do sometimes feel like I should be a better person, in all sorts of ways, but I’m not really sure beating myself up about my many shortcomings has ever yielded results. I looked for a podcast on Spotify that might provide some sort of more positive way of “framing” (tedious word) the whole point, or pointlessness, of self-improvement, but I just found Here Comes the Sun – which is probably good enough.

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