Imagine this scenario. It’s the end of a working day and you are packing up to leave. Just then, one of your team comes over and asks to have a word. You ask if it can wait until tomorrow, but it is clear that it can’t.
As a caring and conscientious manager, you put down your bag and head to a meeting room with the aforementioned team member. On the way you grab your phone and drop a message to your parent friends on WhatsApp, the content of which contains the following:
Explanation that you are stuck at work and will be delayed
Request for someone to collect your child from school
More profuse apologies
Promises of wine/presents/returned favours
Extreme thanks and yet more profuse apologies
We’ve all been there. It may not be the scenario above, but for some reason, and at short notice, you have been unable to leave work in time to make the school run. However, the guilt and stress generated by this situation is so overwhelming that, rather than 30 minutes of emergency childcare, you feel like you have asked for £10,000 in cash and tickets to Glastonbury.
For the benefit of those that have never been in that position, I can tell you that it’s a bit like getting a round of drinks on a night out. You can’t sit comfortably and enjoy your evening whilst you know you are in debt to the rest of the group. Those who have worked on the other side of the bar will testify that there is often a battle to thrust their card forward furthest, to ensure they get ahead of the game by buying the first round.
Now let’s take that analogy a bit further. Let’s pretend that you haven’t bought your round because you can’t afford it. In fact, you don’t know when you are going to be able to buy a round again; and now you are leaning on your friends, people who have their finances in order and have budgeted well, to come to your aid and bail you out. Such is the gut-wrenching guilt you feel as a working parent trying to do it all, and hoping to find a willing volunteer to collect your child.
But it’s not just about the debt. You hate the idea of putting your friends out; you feel sick at the thought of your child being the last one collected (do they think you’re not coming?); and you know that the teachers at school have got better things to do that wait around whilst you fail to make a pre-arranged pickup time.
So that is why your message sounds so desperate - you are desperate. At that moment, you are torn between your family, your job and your friends. One of them will be inconvenienced by this situation, and whilst it is easy to say that family comes first. The child that wants you at the school gate on time, also wants you to get a big bonus so that you can take them to Disneyland.
The only way around this is to keep a tally of who does what to ensure that everyone is getting a fair deal. That way, if your are stuck, you know that you have the metaphorical credit to cover the help you need at the time.
No-one likes being taken for granted, but ultimately, we are all in the same boat.