Yum Yum Moments

Delicious cakes in Marks and Spencer

Delicious cakes in Marks and Spencer (Photo credit: Gran Canaria Go)

My middle child and I had a row about “Yum Yums” yesterday.  “Yum Yums” for the unitiated are sugar-covered doughnut-type cakes to die-for from Marks & Spencer. I bought Yum Yums as a snack (before you shout, yes, I am aware of the endless lecturing in the media at the moment about sugar being more dangerous than alcohol, drugs, smoking, skydiving, solo circumnavigating the globe etc) thinking that my son would be pleased. I bought them with him in mind, a sort of bribery to get him to his tennis lesson after school.  His response: “I hate Yum Yums, yuk, disgusting”.

So what you may ask?  In itself, nothing new, same old “never getting it right” I suppose.  Predictably, our interaction degenerated from therein to what can only be described as a right royal dressing-down by child of mother. I could rattle on about lack of respect, a need for firmer boundaries, a lecture on courtesy etc but actually although all of the above is valid what I actually started to think about what something quite different: success and how you measure it.

What has my child’s abject horror at the sight of a harmless Yum Yum got to do with that?  Being a parent, particularly a stay-at-home parent, is a job like all other jobs in some ways but a job unlike any other in many ways. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of parenting is the lack of any sort of reassurance that you are doing well, any external acknowledgement of success.  In fact, many people regard staying at home with your children as the soft option.

Many days with children can feel like an endless critique, an interminable ‘Yum Yum moment’. Conversations with children can become negotiations of the greatest sensitivity, requiring the skills of the United Nations.  However when resolution is reached, there is no-one there to say “hey, you did a good job there” or to high-five you. There is no-one to marvel at your patience and ingenuity.  There are no resolution skills courses, no time management courses, no presentation courses to go on in order to further your professionalism.  All this and you are dealing, on a minute by minute basis, with little people who often defy all logic and all reason whilst throwing in the odd tantrum or left field comment such as “I want to be in another family not ours” (my daughter’s most recent refrain) to sorely test your people management skills.

It is not surprising then that we often question our parenting skills, wonder whether we are failing.  We have no annual appraisal, no slap on the back, certainly no bonus or salary increase.  So how do we measure our success?  Success lies in all those moments which make the ‘Yum Yum moment’ worthwhile – when your child is happy, laughing, doing well at school and when they tell you that they love you.  Those moments far outweigh the ‘Yum Yum moments’, they are precious and to be cherished.

There will not be much external approbation and you will have to put up with the glazed-over look at dinner parties when you say you are a stay-at-home mother.  Your successes will not be shouted from the rooftops (although reassuringly your failings will remain largely unnoticed too!) but you will know when you’ve done well and the highs are incomparable with the highs from the average job. It’s worth remembering that actually you are doing the most difficult, most relentless, job of all even if you sometimes doubt your ability to succeed and your hard work goes largely unrecognised.  It is OK to punch the air sometimes and go “yeah” – anyway, probably no-one will notice and if they do, so what?

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Just a small token of our appreciation

English: Mother's Day card

English: Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had my annual job appraisal yesterday. Mother’s Day.

I have to admit to being a little nervous as my three bosses can be quite tough on me sometimes. However, I think I’ve had a pretty good year – I’ve shown dedication, commitment, flexibility and a willingness to work long hours in some quite trying circumstances.  My strengths: reliable, get the job done, multi-tasker, no job too menial (this morning’s task was picking up 143 Honey Cheerios from the kitchen floor), able to withstand “constructive” criticism (of which there is plenty), helpful with homework (except when it is begun at 6pm on Sunday evening), GSOH. My weaknesses: punctuality (I was 3 minutes late on the school run last week which resulted in a well-deserved berating), sometimes turn up for work less than smartly-presented (tracksuit bottoms are apparently not considered appropriate for the work place),  can be a bit “shouty” (my bosses’ description), useless at art/creative school projects (but have mastered the use of “Amazon” for buying in whatever service is required), reluctant ironer (make that non-ironer).

I wasn’t sure what time my appraisal would be yesterday, so when it became evident it was not going to be first thing, I got up and made my own cup of tea and got my own breakfast…It soon became clear that my bosses were very busy yesterday and so my appraisal got pushed back until early evening.

Finally the moment of truth came and I was asked to sit on the sofa and each of my bosses offered their opinion on my work. One of my bosses gave me a written report: “To Mummy, I think you are special because…I like you and you do the washing up”. Nothing if not honest. You can’t ask for more than that – to be liked and to have mastered that life skill of washing up. Very fair, I thought.  It might have been nice if she had also commented on the million and one other things I do for her but I guess I must make it all so seamless, she is not even aware of the extent of the services I provide.

Another of my bosses gave me a token of his appreciation for all I contribute to the “Firm” – a mug with the word “chauffeur” on it.  How clever of him to have recognised one of my key skills – taxi driving – and to have rewarded me with an official title.  My own sort of business card, I suppose.  I am very grateful.  I sort of like the irony of it being a mug too – who is the “mug”? I suspect that my colleague (husband) just couldn’t resist the little joke when he suggested to my little boss that this would make a very suitable token of his appreciation and was a fair reflection of my loyal service to the “Firm”.

Just at the point when I was feeling overwhelmed by their appreciation, they did genuinely shower me with lovely cards, a candle and flowers. It was worth the anxious wait all day.  It would appear my bosses are happy and wish to retain my services for another year.  I decided this was not the time to bring up the thorny subjects of remuneration (still waiting for some), days off (looking increasingly unlikely) and my benefits package (if there was one).

However, I am very grateful that they have seen fit to promote me to “chauffeur” from “taxi driver” – or at least I think that is a promotion.  Of course I can always exercise my share options too…my option to stop all screen-based activities, my option to enforce the doing of homework more than ten minutes before it is due in and most importantly my option to insist that I am addressed only as “mummy” not “mate” or when things are really bad, “idiot”.

All in all, I work for a great company. I have no real complaints.  I wouldn’t work for any other company and I can see no reason why my loyal service of 9 years won’t stretch out to loyal service for the next 20 years (assuming of course that I am fit for work).  I am one lucky lady, I have three of the best bosses in the business and I wouldn’t change them for the world.