Last week, while we were driving, Monchichi wanted to play with her friend Anna* and her mommy, Kay*. I said, “No, we can’t see them today, Kay is working.” Pause. She said “No, Kay’s not working. Daddies work.”
For a brief moment, I didn’t know what to say. I was caught off-guard. Did my 2.5 year old just say that? Well, in my head it was more like, “Oh no, you did not just say that!” Monchichi replying in my head: “That’s right, mommy! I said it!”
All I could really say was, “No, Kay is working honey.” Lame.
What I really wanted to do was to launch into a diatribe, that while daddies — such as your daddy — works, mommies work too. I’d start with all the various jobs I did before I was a mommy, pumping up all the cool, exciting parts of those jobs. I’d wrap it up with all the work we moms do on a daily basis, even though we don’t get paid. The more I thought about it, my brain twisted up into a tizzy, with my att-i-tude going, finger wagging, and then the argument in my head devolved to an immature, mental outburst “I work too! Just because I don’t drive into an “office” or get “paid,” this is hard work!” However, Monchichi is only 2.5 yrs old, so I was left with my lame response and would have to table my diatribe.
Of course this got me thinking. Clearly, I go to work everyday, putting in a good 14 hours from start to finish. I just happen to commute down a set of stairs and start the morning in my pajamas. Instead of counseling clients, I talk and play with a 2.5 year old which can be very tiring since the conversations are repetitive, topics are limited, and outbursts are frequent. Rather than read multiple contracts or legal texts, I read Fancy Nancy, Angelina Ballerina, Dr. Seuss, etc. over and over and over. Instead of arguing with opposing counsel about inappropriate tactics and baseless arguments, I negotiate, correct or administer discipline in some fashion about every 20 minutes (please take turns with the toy; you have to wear school clothes, not ballet clothes; say ‘thank you’ and ‘please;’ if you do that one more time, you’re getting a time-out; don’t pull on Finlay’s (our dog) tail; please stop whining; no, you can’t have ice cream for breakfast.). I don’t go to client dinners anymore; instead I prepare toddler-friendly meals, sometimes resorting to sneaking in nutritious ingredients. Cleaning up after a toddler is a lot like cleaning up a client’s mess — poop, and all.
For you corporate types who remain skeptical that being a mother simply isn’t a real job, and is just feminist mumbo jumbo, let me break it down for you in terms you can understand. Chief Operating Officer (COO). That’s what I am. As you can see from the following duties of a COO, it’s what I do:
- Marshals limited resources to the most productive uses with the aim of creating maximum value for the company (family).
- Responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company (family).
- Develops and cascades the company’s (family) mission to the staff (child) and implements appropriate rewards/recognition and coaching/corrective practices to align the staff (child) with the company (family) goals.
- Monitor staff (child) and drive performance measures for the operation of the company (family), including efficiency versus effectiveness.
There you have it. Mom = COO.
Now, you might naturally wonder if I’m the COO, is my husband the CEO? Hell no. While he’s certainly the CFO, we both agree that we are co-CEOs. That’s not to say we don’t have our moments of pulling rank. But what is most salient here, is what qualifies as a successful relationship between a COO and CEO is just as applicable between parents when running a household.
- The Co-CEO** has to be comfortable sharing information with the COO and regularly communicating the strategy and any changes to it. Similarly, the COO has to be comfortable regularly providing status updates to the CEO. When communication breaks down, mistrust and/or misunderstanding is likely to crop up.
- The COO role appears to work the best when the roles and responsibilities of the COO have been clearly delineated ahead of time and the COO is allowed to make the final decision within pre-agreed upon scope. (I would change this to say both the COO and CEO roles are well-defined.)
- The Co-CEO must not undermine the COO’s credibility by continually reversing decisions. When employees (children) learn that they can get a different answer by going directly to the Co-CEO as opposed to the COO, the COO role quickly becomes impotent. (Zing!)
- In effective CEO-COO relationships, both parties are comfortable with how much “credit” they receive for their work internally, externally.
- The two individuals must respect each other and effectively partner together. This is not a partnership that can be forced.
Brilliant, eh? Both sets of bullet points prove that a family is much like a company. In order for a family to function happily and successfully (in whatever way you define it), each of us must perform our responsibilities every day, to the best of our ability. Parents must communicate and work with one another to ensure a harmonious and happy family. Therefore, if the family is the company, I am the COO of this household.
This morning, Monchichi ran over, pointed at me and said, “you’re Superhero Mommy.” The last time I checked, that trumps COO and CEO. I’ll gladly take the promotion.
*Names have been changed.
**Changed it to ‘co-CEO’ to align it with my situation