Despite the insinuation so far, my story isn’t scandalous. Far from it. It isn't even unusual.
I just happen to be both a parent and a business owner.
I don’t talk much about my personal life and responsibilities on LinkedIn as a rule because, you know… Facebook. But my two worlds frequently collide and morph into what is better described as a fabulous and frightening fusion than a work/life balance.
At least, that's how I feel most days.
Before 9am every day, I feel as though I've already done at least half a day's work. As well as getting two little people to school on time, well fed, with clean faces and teeth, in washed and pressed uniforms, with homework and reading records completed, I've often also made the beds, loaded the dishwasher, managed a shower myself and replied to a few work emails.
I show up to business meetings feeling paranoid that there’s a child sized sticky paw print on the back of my dress that everybody’s too polite to point out.
Sometimes I’ll pick up and reply to emails or do some research for client projects while cuddling one of my children because they’re sick.
Other times I’ll switch on my voicemail and leave the office in the middle of the day to go to an Easter Bonnet Parade.
Sometimes, I’ll see school’s number come up on my phone just as I’m about to set off for a meeting and I’ll go through a rapid sequence of emotion.
If you’re a parent or carer, you’ll be familiar with this sequence.
It begins with worry, followed by frustration at the inconvenience it's probably about to cause, almost instantly pursued by guilt because you had the audacity to consider your children's welfare as a hassle for the tiniest fraction of a second. How very dare you!
But this isn't just another article extolling the virtues of parenting skills that are transferable to the workplace; there are plenty of those about already.
This is the opposite.
Because, thanks to a couple of personal anecdotes, I’ve realised recently that not only could my parenthood acquired peace making and negotiation skills potentially be put to great diplomatic effect at the UN, there are also some techniques I can take from my almost 20-year career in copywriting to improve my parenting skills.
A few years ago, when my eldest son was about three or four, I jumped up from my seat and limped around the floor for a few minutes until the pain in my foot had passed. Obviously curious as to what had prompted such bizarre behaviour in his mummy, I simply told him that I had cramp and provided no further explanation.
I thought nothing more of it until a few hours later when, in a crowded soft play café, he yelled out to me from the top of a play frame, ‘Mummy? Have your crabs gone now?’.
Please take a second to pity me for that agonising slow-motion like moment when at least 50 other supervising parents and child-carers simultaneously turned their heads in my direction while pretending not to choke on their lattes. We didn’t go back for some time after that.
The second story is from just a few weeks ago.
We recently introduced our sons to the Charlie Brown and Snoopy film and they loved it. So, when a friend came over one weekend, the favourite film of the moment was offered and the friend said, ‘Oh, yes please! I love the Peanuts Movie.’
My youngest son looked up at me and asked, ‘What’s the penis movie?’. I tried not to make a big deal of it and simply said, ‘We call it Snoopy!’ and hastily changed the subject.
But he wasn’t done. He bounded into the pre-school playground the following Monday morning, ran straight up to another child’s father and proudly announced (loudly enough for all staff and parents within a 27-mile radius to hear), ‘My mummy let us watch the penis movie again at the weekend!’
It was like the crabs incident all over again. Only without the lattes. Or the ability to avoid the scene for a few years.
What I’ve learned from these two experiences (and a few others) is that copywriting is strikingly similar to the art of communicating effectively with children aged three.
Because, just like writing to target audiences, three-year olds need to be communicated with in a very specific way if you want them to hear you clearly in a world full of noise and distractions, understand what you’re saying and then feel compelled to do what you want them to.
You must be able to view the world through their eyes and predict how the message might be processed. You need to address them in words they understand and believe. You must explain the reasoning behind anything you ask them to do so that they feel comfortable and confident in making the decisions you want them to.
I’ve spent the best part of 20 years thinking like this in my professional capacity, but have only just realised it can help me be a better mum too. Fingers crossed it helps to cut down on the number of times I wish the ground would open and swallow me whole.