When the toaster gives you the soundtrack to your day.

Before Covid-19, family-work balance was already a hot topic. The confinement came with its lot of challenges and opportunities. Teaching to my kids every morning for the past 5 weeks has brought me a lot of joy. Moving the beginning of my day with my colleagues and clients to 10am gives me a couple hours to teach in the morning. When I think about it, I’m learning just as much as them.

I take it back : learning with the kids until 10 am makes me feel good. 

Modifying my schedule has been a relief in the sense that prior to doing so, I felt stuck between my mission as a father and my mission as an entrepreneur. It was like both of them were contradicting each other because they were not well coordinated. Because both missions were taking place in the same space, it was essential that they do not happen at the same time… Routines are actually important. It can be freeing. It can give you means. 

My son , 6, and my daughter, 8, bickered  the other morning right before our class. It was time for the second waffle… they each had already eaten one. We had two homemade waffles, but one of them was missing a square… Tension was ramping up… Both wanting the FULL waffle. A broken waffle was NOT satisfying for either of them. At this point, I was searching for a way to handle this soon-to-be conflict in an equitable manner. And then… I stopped myself right before going for the mathematical solution in the name of justice. 

I offered the kids to look at it from another perspective by asking the following question : Does my happiness reside in a corner of a waffle? Or, do I give the power to a waffle hole to make me angry? Both my kids looked at me : WHAT? C’MON. At this point, they were both intrigued. I switched to a partnership mode with them : You know that my usual way of dealing with this in order to “fairly” divide the waffles does not actually give you the necessary tools to cultivate your happiness for the rest of your life. This approach implies that comparing ourselves to others is the right thing to do. It makes you believe that you have to go in mediation to find a sense of peace. Furthermore, it contributes to seeing yourself in competition with the other or as their victim. The opportunity here lays in understanding the story that is playing in our head when anger is rising and exploring whether this story helps us cultivate our well-being or if it generates suffering and self-victimisation. I was pretty proud of myself. The table was set for us to learn together. 

A few days later, I was chatting with a CHRO friend from a big organization about the future of talent management and employee experience in light of the current pandemic. We were coming to the conclusion that organizations and more precisely their managers’ were faced with the necessity of trusting their employees. Not all managers are ready to trust their employees and not all employees are ready to see themselves as autonomous members of the organization. This leader was quite surprised that someone told her : Alright with the trust, but what are our organizational policies? Isn’t it weird that we feel the need to frame trust with a policy? 

But because that is part of their job, as HR leaders, to structure the workplace with policies, our conversation continued : Are the policies in place to give means to our employees to be independent or to protect the organization from its employees? Margaret Wheatly has been studying the question for quite some time now. At this point in the conversation, I start telling my friend the waffle story. We laughed a lot. I used the waffle incident to picture how my equitable division of the waffle squares was not adjusted with my mission as a father : to raise strong independent human beings capable of cultivating their own happiness. 

Back to the waffles. At night, after brushing his teeth, my son told his sister : It’s a good thing when we bicker in the morning because it gives a soundtrack to our day! She answered : I know! Who would have thought it would have come out of the toaster!?