Faking it – isn’t that what we are all doing if we’re honest with ourselves? The band of weary working parents out there should wise up to this one truth, you’re winging it but I don’t mean just about making it work on the logistical front but also mentally because most working parents aren’t completely focused on either their family or their job all the time. It’s a truth that was acknowledged last week by Ebru Pakan, Citi’s EMEA head of Treasury and Trade Solutions.
A frank interview with Pakan in The Evening Standard reveals that this highly successful career women who is responsible for Citi’s operations in more than 50 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and who manages about 1000 people admits that she has had to deal with waves of focus, ricocheting between her family and her full-time job throughout her career and at times hasn’t been entirely focused on either. “You need to be able to switch around and this is how I have been trying to balance my own life. The reality is these are tough jobs, so you just have to make sure there is sufficient time for your family. I think it’s unrealistic to think that there is some magic fix.”
So, is it ok to be in a board meeting and mentally making notes in your head for your daughter’s birthday party and what you are going to fill the party bags with? And on the other hand, is it ok to be at your daughter’s birthday party and be chewing over the deal you are doing at work? Is this multi-tasking or is a lack of living in the moment and an inability not to compartmentalise? I have no idea that this is what Pakan is pointing at, indeed I believe she was trying to say that when work takes over at times there is a lack of input into family and when family matters come to a head there is a lack of real focus at work but I actually think that the way our generation of working parents do it has become more muddled then that, I think we have a stream of conflicting consciousness’s occurring all the time and unless you have bought into, or devoted your waking hours to the essence of ‘mindfulness’ you may find it very hard to focus 100% on anything, even going to the toilet doesn’t seem to be a sanctuary for doing just that; that stream of thoughts is always nagging even when stripped of your undergarments.
The key therefore is being able to juggle all your thoughts and focus. Pakan uses the word ‘switch’ but I believe this suggests a change in focus that is occasional when in reality we are switching multiple, even thousands of times a day. If you are not good at remembering, organising or indeed ‘switching,’ then quite frankly you might as well put a sign up that you have put out to pasture because there is no good being 100% amazing at your job when you have forgotten to buy white underwear for your son’s school play because he is Zeus and is worried his red briefs will show through his white tunic or if you can’t organise a card for your mother’s birthday or your friend really needs to talk to you on the phone about their autistic child that is causing so much heartache or you can’t help your child learn their spellings because they are terrified of getting it wrong and similarly you can’t do all those things and forget that your colleague really wanted an urgent reply to that email about the board meeting next week or you have a performance development plan to complete.
So Pakan you were right you can’t be entirely focused on either work or family but you do need to make as good a job at possible at pretending that you are and you really, really need to be able to remember that whilst work and the decisions that you take there are really, really important on a number of levels for your children, in their little lives the fact that you forgot to buy them some new toothpaste when you promised to do so is about as crushing as Brexit is to the pro-Europe campaigners.