Men are made to be managed,
and women are born managers.
— George Meredith
It is easy to want everything in the world, simply offering blue sky dreams of the way things should be, imagining how wonderful and easy life would be if other people would just do what we want them to do.
It is also easy to get frustrated and angry when those dreams don’t come true, when the bill comes due, when you just get demands and stony faces. ‘
For mothers, though, real life demands become instantly clear the minute you look at your children. They need a home, need fed, need their nappies changed, need their shots, need to stop fighting with their siblings, need everything.
Any mother who doesn’t attend to the real life needs of her babies is a mother who is quickly going to be swamped, buried and lost. Learning to manage the family, starting with setting priorities is required in a way that someone who only has to care for themselves or is a follower never really has to understand.
That kind of management takes mental discipline, the power to understand the needs of a group of people and then to coordinate and motivate them to meet those needs. Mental discipline is hard won and costly to execute but there is no substitute in my experience. Sucks the batteries dry, but it is the only way to make what is needed to happen happen.
Someone has to be accountable for the family and to do that someone has to hold the family accountable for meeting their commitments and obligations. The only way the family — the team — can succeed and thrive is by each person doing their job with consideration and concern.
For those who have always been held accountable in a way that feels demanding and intrusive, those who never had to work to hold others accountable, helping managing a team or family to meet requirements, resisting seems to be the most appropriate and indulgent choice. Shouldn’t others have to adapt to us rather than we having to adapt to them?
The most important and most difficult thing to learn as a manager is how to pick your battles. You can have it all, just not all at once. How do you avoid wasting time with fussing and still get the most important bits, the priorities done? Once you can do that, how can you get the situation a little better every day so that the work becomes simpler and more effective so you can get even more priorities addressed?
The minute you collapse because the situation looks overwhelming and perfection appears impossible you give up any power to get the basics done and give up the power of slow, smart incremental change. Whinging and resistance do not move you forward towards a better managed life, a better managed family, a better managed community and a better managed world.
Most collapses will be the result of trying to micromanage, wanting to control others in a way they do only what you like, what you approve of, what you would do yourself. This attempt to micromanage frustrates both you and the people you are trying to control, crushing their creativity and their commitment to shared goals. If the only ideas that count are yours, they are erased, needing to stand up for themselves, often by acting out.
Paying attention, working as a team with shared goals and accountability, and keeping priorities straight by holding a context is the only way to manage outside of a hierarchical structure that uses force to keep people in line. Most of us will never have the cash or the threat to pull that off and even if we did, the limits would soon become clear to us. We would understand the value of esprit de corps, of unit cohesion, of shared consideration and accountability.
It’s easy to fantasize about how things should be in a perfect world, easy to spout off about other people causing all the problems that face us, about how they have to change to do what we want them to do.
Mothers, though, who have babies to feed and raise, know that while change is a good long term goal, someone has to be accountable for changing diapers today.
Moms know that they have to value humanity, caring and indulgence, not just for getting blotto but to empower us to wake up tomorrow and keep on working. They set a tone that balances beauty, safety, play and shared responsibility to make not only their human life but also the human lives they share responsibility for better.
Is there any wonder they have to learn to be managers, standing not just for growth and freedom, but also for accountability?