I have been a stay-at-home Dad for just over five months now which is a relatively short period when compared to my 21 years in financial services. So how do my skills as a corporate banker, particularly one who was involved in debt restructurings, translate when it comes to looking after four kids under the age of ten? Well you might think there is not much crossover between the two but actually there is quite a bit that I have been able to draw on.
God how I hated acronyms when I worked in the bank. It seemed that every day brought some new found way for people to try to show you they knew more than you did. Oh you don’t know what IGMMKTY stands for, well it stands for I’ve Got Marginally More Knowledge Than You and I’m going to let you know all about it! Having said that one acronym does stand above the rest particularly when dealing with the behaviour (or lack thereof) of young boys. So I am still SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) when setting goals for my kids. Every morning we go through the ritual of assessing each of my sons’ “performance” during the previous day under the categories of (i) morning, (ii) food, (iii) bedtime and (iv) overall behaviour. Each category has the potential to receive one miniature pom-pom (my own patented arrangement) which makes four in a day and twenty-eight in a week (yet to be achieved by anybody). I also retain the ability to remove pom-poms for especially bad behaviour. I’m not sure if this is SMART but it does give me extra power!! Pom-poms are exchanged for hard cash (I was a banker after all) at the end of the week.
Another lesson I learnt from dealing with groups of men in dark suits (and it was predominantly men) was to try to keep trouble-makers away from each other. In every banking syndicate there are the naturally constructive members and on the other hand those who just like to cause trouble. In the slightly amended words of Batman’s wise butler Alfred “Some men (or seven year old boys) just want to watch the world burn”. Now it is possible to largely neutralise these malcontents by isolating them from the rest of the group, this is particularly important if there is another potential trouble-maker within the syndicate. I have used this technique multiple times when I see temperatures beginning to rise and sense the potential for conflict between my three boys. One of them will get a tap on the shoulder and be told that now is a good time for spending some alone time in their room. Despite the initial and normally quite exaggerated protests this normally does the trick. Although I really don’t see what the big issue with spending time alone in your room is, you would have thought it was solitary confinement in Alcatraz the way they react sometimes! Many a happy hour of my childhood was spent on my own, in my room devising adventures for my gang of star wars figures / matchbox cars / marbles / etc. I even once remember devising a football tournament for my chess set (a fit body enables a fit mind).
Probably the most important nugget of wisdom I have brought with me is that fatigue and hunger are your two worst enemies. Debt restructurings, particularly in the corporate sphere, can be pretty stressful without having to deal with external factors. I remember in one particularly urgent case being effectively locked in a Parisian meeting room with a bunch of other corporate bankers with no food or water while on the opposite side of the table our adversaries happily munched on croissants, pain au chocolats and croque monsieurs washed down with orangina, evian and I think I saw somebody with a bottle of Chateau Lynch-Bages, but I could have just been hallucinating by that point. Needless to say that when we emerged into the Parisian dawn it was not the most favourable deal. Controlling hunger and fatigue is even more important when dealing with young children. You can never have too many rice cakes, and I always need to assess how Ella’s naps will be affected by any given activity. Sure going for an Arnott’s shopping trip at 11am may seems like a good idea (minimal crowds) but get a cranky two year old on your case and the lack of queues at the Nespresso counter seem much less important!
So the transition has been by no means seamless but not as big a change of scenery as you might imagine. There are actually quite a few similarities although I do get more hugs and kisses from my kids, well except maybe in French restructurings where the kissing pre and post meeting can be exhausting!