Confessions of a Disorganized Mom

It is difficult to be a parent In this era of social media, where everybody is striving to broadcast the best version of themselves. I know that what I’m about to write will expose me to a lot of judging, but I am going to confess anyway. So, here it is:

I don’t put enough effort into teaching my kids how to be tidy, so they often spend time looking for a pencil and eraser to be able to do their homework. In general their room is a mess 80% of the time.

Eating spagetti with hands, messy child
My son eating spagetti with his hands

I sometimes forget when my kids have extra activities at school, such as swimming pool visit, or need to bring extra materials.

I don’t always remind my kids to brush their teeth.

Around 40% of the time I don’t check what clothes my son has put on for school.

My kids’ clothes are often stained, and I have long-lost the war against the dirt on the shoes.

Between the four of us we have exactly 6 pairs of matching socks (I don’t count the black socks that my husband uses, they all seem to match, because they’re all the same).

Around 40% of the time my kids eat bread and butter and milk when they want a snack.

Half of the time my daughter’s beautiful hair is unbrushed.

We don’t play board games much, because most of the sets have either cards or playing tokens missing. The average duration of a complete set is 10 days maximum.

The list goes on, and I must say that I already feel so bad that I can’t continue. It’s not that I don’t want to do all these things. Well, sometimes I don’t, but most of the time it just happens.

What I never fail to do is to try to listen to what my children want to tell me. To hear their fears, joys, desires and dreams. And that is one of the things that is visible on them.

During the New Year’s party my son decided to perform a few “magic tricks”. Everybody enjoyed his spontaneity and openness. He was confident and had a great time, even though most people were strangers to him. My daughter and her friend also had an impromptu performance of rhythmic skills with mugs. After they were finished my husband and I got the best compliment we’ve ever received as parents: that our kids were friendly, open and confident. Nobody noticed the unbrushed hair and not matching socks. We must be doing something right, after all.

The Underestimated Victory of “Easy”

macarons
French macarons

“Oh, they’re easy to make, actually”. That’s how fast I dismissed somebody’s praise yesterday. The compliment I received was about cookies I made for a friend’s baby shower. Admittedly, they are a bit fussy to make, but once you’ve practiced a bit they come out right every single time. Just like most other things in life do.

Alongside with my macarons, there was an amazingly well made cake. It looked as if it was purchased from a bakery, not home-made. Yet, one of my friends had made it, and when I, beyond impressed, praised her, she said almost the same thing as I did: “Oh, it’s no big deal, it’s actually easy”. Of course I was not convinced at all, because I could tell how much practice it took to reach that level of cake art, but on the other hand I understood where she was coming from.

Happy and high on sugar, I thought about it, on my way home. In the moment when the product of my work looked satisfactory and involved little effort, I dismissed it as “easy”. But, I seem to have forgotten how many frustrating unsuccessful attempts of making the famous French cookies I had before they even started to resemble the real thing. The only thing that kept me going is that I could not throw my towel for the cookie that actually had only 3 ingredients. So I kept trying.

After some practice, the macarons started getting better, and now I can make them without major flops. But it did take time to get to that. So, why do I tell everybody it’s easy? Why do we dismiss the things that we’ve mastered as easy, even though we remember well how much it took to get to the “easy”?

Maybe it is because the feeling of victory after achieving something is just momentary, and our triumph lasts not very long, and soon it just becomes a part of us. We get used to our achievements, and, forward-looking as we are, we rarely have the time to reminisce about them.

The idea that we like to brag crossed my mind, but I know it in my heart that when we say something is easy we are not bragging. We genuinely think so. Yes, we can be proud that something that others find difficult is easy for us, but I don’t believe that we dismiss things as “easy” if they truly aren’t that to us.

I don’t think we celebrate enough that underestimated victory. The levels of any skill go from “Easy” to “Medium” to “Expert”, but once you’ve reached the top-level, it all turns into a victory, it all becomes Easy.

As for French macaron cookies, instead of a recipe, I will share something I learned along the way while learning to cook them: find a friend who knows how to make them and have a “master class”. You will enjoy some time together and learn by doing. It is the fastest and most fun way. And you will get to take part in the victory of “Easy”

“The Customer is Always Right” – The Wrong Way to Provide Customer Service

We have heard it so many times, and we don’t question it. But I think we should.The phrase “The customer is always right”, coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, was meant to persuade customers that they will get good service at his Selfridge’s department stores. It was probably also a way to “train and mentilise” his employees to provide good customer service.

But both as customers and as service/product providers, all of us have experienced that this is not really working. The reason why is because there are so many things that are wrong with the customer relationship that this motto creates. Below are some of the issues with this deeply rooted motto:

Old telephone
Old fashioned methods are fun, but not necessarily the most efficient.
Photo source: http://www.gratisography.com/

-It assumes that the customer knows the product/service better than the employees/makers/creators of the product/service.

It assumes that every customer is competent in communicating their needs and desires clearly to the person who is attending them.

-It assumes that the company and its employees are wrong, and does not provide room for a dialogue with their end user.

-It gives advantage to customers with unrealistic expectations about the product/service and to those who do not understand the product/service.

-It doesn’t really enable employees to find solutions to problems – it drives them more to blindly agreeing with the customer’s viewpoint.

-It devalues the employees loyalty by valuing the loyalty of a customer that may not return, in situations where there is a conflict with a potentially unruly customer.

-And it dehumanizes the customer in my opinion: we all are wrong sometimes; that’s what makes us human.

As a customer, I do not need to be always right. What I would actually like to see, instead of this vague and unhelpful motto about the customers always being right,  is that the businesses:

-Make sure that their employees know their product/service well. When they do, they will be able to help me as a customer efficiently.

-Make sure that the employees like working for the business and are respected and valued. They cannot provide good service otherwise. How many times have you been attended by grumpy staff? Did it make you want to return, regardless of the actual quality of the final product/service?

-Respect all the customers equally, regardless of whether they are a returning customer or not. Incentives for faithful customers are great, but they should not make the experience worse for the rest of your buyers.

-Provide professional guidance about their product/service. Even when the customers are wrong. A little bit of guidance with a friendly attitude often goes a long way.

-And, if the customer is unreasonable, enable your employees to simply say no. You may lose a customer, but if you have treated them fairly, you have done your part of the job. You don’t have to reach every person on the planet with your product, and not every person on the planet needs to like it. The outrageous customer may not return tomorrow, but your employees will.

What is your experience with the “customer is always right”?