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I need them all. So they will have to live together. Otherwise my life will not be a happy one. How do I help them collaborate and co-operate with each other?
“Bye mom, see you back in a couple of hours”. “Bye my dears”…
Okay, I now have the house to myself – the two kids are off with their dad for some biking time.
Since I have the house to myself, I shall invite the four women for tea. They have such conflicts and fights when they are together; today let me try to sort them out. So I call them all, and they agree to join me in my drawing room.
I go inside the kitchen to fix some tea and biscuits, and when I am out, they are all there – seated around the tea table. They do not speak with each other; they only look at each other grudgingly – so much hatred and discomfort in that room. Wow, this is not going to be easy.
I try my best to stay positive – I serve everyone tea with a smile, and say – “Listen ladies, let’s face each other today. I can see that you all have concerns with each other. Communication is important – let’s speak out, and resolve our differences today. You find it hard to get along with each other, I know. But let’s talk about this openly and sort it out. You know it disturbs me and makes me unhappy, when there is conflict between any two of you. So it is in my interest to ensure you are all comfortable with each other”
My four guests – the mother, the wife, the home-maker and the corporate executive all agree that they have to sort out their differences and challenges.
The executive starts with her perspective – an assertive woman, strong personality and well-known for her strategic thinking and problem solving skills.
“My typical day is not an easy one – I have the responsibility of a whole business unit. I am responsible for a team of fifty five men and women across the continent. In the current economic context, my team and I face business growth challenges. You all have to understand, that unlike you, I am always on the run. I am a very busy woman, and don’t have time for anything but my work. I want to be successful! And as a woman executive, I face a number of challenges and hurdles on my way to success. My company, like many others, is male dominated; I have to put in a lot more effort than my male colleagues to ensure that I am heard, and that I am visible. Amidst these challenges and difficulties, when one of you suddenly pops up, I get absolutely disturbed.” She said looking at the other three.
“Especially you”, she said pointing to the mother. “Last week, I got a call from the school when I was in the middle of an important presentation with the senior leadership team that was visiting us from our HQ. Out of nowhere you popped up and answered the phone! My day was a mess after that – you simply took over and rushed home to pick up your sick kid. What an impression I made on the senior leaders! No wonder they selected my colleague – a man, to lead one of the most interesting and high-visibility initiatives for the company, although I was the one who had done all the hard work and research of setting things up. You messed it up for me!”
The mother – a loving, kind and friendly woman protests, “What an unfair statement to make – I messed it up? Really? What were you expecting me to do? Stay there, without answering the phone and leave my sick child to suffer? Excuse me for taking that call, but I do think it was more important than your presentation – you will have many opportunities in the future to make your mark at office, but I have just these two precious children – they mean the world to me. If anything were to happen to them, just because I did not answer that call – to protect your presentations and meetings, I would never forgive you for life.”
The executive tries to retaliate, but the mother continues “And you talk about me popping up and disturbing your busy day, but what good are you? Every evening when I pick up my children from school, you pop up and start checking emails on the phone. At the dinner table when my children try to speak with me, and tell me stories about their day, you pop up again with your phone – sometimes checking emails, and at other times speaking with your team about office-stuff. The post-office time is mine – I need that time with my children, and you disturb me, not once or twice, but every single day. I should be the one complaining about your ‘popping up’, and not you!”
“And you two” she says pointing at the wife and the home-maker “you are no good either. One pops up and starts doing the dishes, when my children are calling out as they want to spend time with me, and the other, pops up, trying hard to get the children to bed as early as possible, so that she can spend quality time with her husband!”
The tired and frustrated home-maker almost yells out “do you think I enjoy my day-to-day tasks? It’s all about cooking and cleaning and washing, so that you and your family have a happy, healthy life! If I do not pop-up, the house will be a mess! You Executive Lady – you will have no suits to wear to your fancy presentations. And you Mother – your children will have no lunchboxes if I don’t pop-up.”
The fun-loving wife has not said a word so far. She looks pretty upset with all that has been said “All of you simply eat away the day. I have been married for fifteen years. And over these years, my time has only diminished with you ladies taking over my day. You, executive lady – never have you left me alone with my husband during a vacation. When we are on a romantic date, you suddenly pop up out of nowhere and start answering “urgent” calls – all your calls are urgent. You followed me even to my honeymoon! And you mother – since you have made an entry into our life, you have pretty much taken over. When I try to strike a romantic conversation with my husband, there you come and start talking about your children’s school, and teachers and projects and friends. You simply cannot stay away from us even for a few minutes! And you home-maker – you are the worst of all! When my husband wants to hug me in the kitchen, instead of letting me enjoy the moment, you rush up and start with the “i-am-getting-late-let-me-finish-this” or the “this-is-too-hot-be-careful” stories, and the moment just dies off. So if there is anyone who should be complaining it should be me! You all have invaded my time!”
Yes, this is not going to be easy. How can I resolve this complicated relationship the four of them are in. I don’t want to eliminate any one of them from my life – I need them all. So they will have to live together. Otherwise my life will not be a happy one. How do I help them collaborate and co-operate with each other?
There is silence in the room now, with the four of them trying hard not to look at each other. I open my mouth –
“I think I can help resolve the conflict we have here. Have you played the game of hide and seek? Everyone, except one of you hides. The one that is not hidden stays active and the others stay hidden. When need arises the active one will seek the hidden one that has to take over, and will in turn go into hiding herself.
Why don’t you play hide-and-seek and try to ensure that only one of you is active at a given point in time? When the executive is active and working with her team, the three of you stay hidden. Do not show up, unless you are needed. If you have to show up during the executive’s busy day, be sure to apologize to her team, and promise the executive to return her time back to her in the evening, or over a weekend.
When the mother is active with her children at dinner, the executive does not pop up even if the phone rings. If she had to, then she excuses herself first, apologizes to the children for putting their mother in the hiding place and takes over only for a few minutes. The same would apply to the home-maker – do not take away time from the mother or the wife. Pop up when you are called.
Yes, there would probably be moments when more than one of you would popup together, but if you tried to minimize such moments by following your rules we will all achieve equilibrium. Why don’t we try this game of hide-and-seek and see where we get?”
They all agree; they are not necessarily friends yet, but agree to play the game together.
The tea is almost done and the doorbell rings – it is the children back from their biking. I smile at the four of them and they smile back. The executive, the wife and the home-maker slowly go into a hiding and only the mother remains. She opens the door for the kids and is ready to listen to the biking stories!
Image source: Unsplash
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Smruti Shanbhag was born and brought up in India. She is an engineer by education.
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