What was I thinking of again???

So, being the glutton for punishment that I am – I have decided to start a small scale, home baking business. Just 1 or 2 types of cake, taking orders from friends and relatives. What cakes? Moist and Rich Chocolate cake, and Layer Cake. These are the only 2 cakes that I have made to good reviews – so am going down that road. When will I find the time? Good question! So far, have been baking at night, on weekends. It’s worked well, with no infringement to time spent with family.

So this afternoon, we scouted out some bakery supply shops and, unfortunately, I got carried away with some stuff for bread baking. 9 grain mix? Health Flour mix? Urrr… not sure what to do with them! They just sounded good in theory. Was thinking that it would be nice to have a healthy, home-baked loaf with garlic butter to go with Spaghetti Bolognaise and Salad tomorrow. Perhaps I should have consulted my “Beard on Bread” recipe book before going nuts at the shop! AND… I hardly checked out the stuff I need for the cakes! Obviously, de brain to a vacation!

Sigh – anyone knows a good recipe for 9 grain, healthy bread? Guess, will be going through recipe pages online after this!

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Key Performance Indicators for a Mum and Wife?

Now, now… I have said this to my friends before, as a matter of thinking aloud and the kind of response that I got, man! One would think that I was NUTS to even be thinking about it. It’s just that, it is now that time of the year in the office, where we have our 1 to 1s with our bosses, go through our achievements for the year, and talk about how we are going to improve our performance in the office. Undoubtedly we get paid for the work that we do in the office, while housework is seen as a thankless job. But come on! I happen to think that running our household and being a wife to our husbands, and a mum to our kids are important enough tasks that it is worth looking at our objectives for each role, form a strategy to meet those objectives, and then have clear, measurable and agreed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each of those roles. To me, it is only logical!

We have all been through those 1 to 1s with our boss, right? How does it normally go? Mine usually constitutes 2 adults speaking honestly and frankly, constructively, in a neutral surrounding in an objective, non-emotional manner. We look at the objectives first, and then go through my list of  achievements, which support the meeting of those objectives. My boss will then either concur or give constructive comments to which, I will listen appreciatively or voice my own concern if there is any. Then, we proceed to the details of my KPIs and how I did against those. At the end of that, we look at how we can better perform for the next half of the year, thank each other for the work done and then voice our appreciation of the role that each of us play in the team, followed by coffee.

Funny how in matter of work, we get to be real adults, open and mature – but when it comes to relationships, feelings and emotions come into play. What usually starts with … “Maybe you could help a little more…” statement, turns into the accusatory “you are never around, and I have to raise the kids (or insert whatever is appropriate here) ALL BY MYSELF!” – the man either goes into defensive mode, or shuts down, and it all. gets. ugly.

Last year, (yes, while I was working in the financial institution that must never be named,) I took a whole 2 weeks off (core leave, mandatory, that’s why I got to take it in that 1 long stretch!) – became a stay-at-home mum. This was also during the time when we were maidless for 8 months. I realised that I needed to look at being a mum and wife in a different manner – professionalise it.  By putting in measures similar to how I grade myself at the job I do in the office! This was what I came up with. I divided my responsibilities into the 4 quadrants deemed to be the most significant aspects of my work as mum and wife and listed the KPIs.

1. Housework:

  • cleanliness of living room, kitchen, dining area (all public areas)
  • cleanliness of all bathrooms
  • cleanliness of each bedroom
  • state of laundry

2. Meal Preparation:

  • variety / nutritional value of meals prepared
  • compliments received from clients (son and husband)

3. Customer Service – Motherly duties:

  • level of quality / fun had with son (planned outings)
    • Fortnightly library visits
    • Fortnightly outing of son’s choice (park, zoo, skating rink, visit to grandma’s, etc)
    • 1 half/day or full/day family outing for the family (no shopping / shopping centre allowed)
  • level of quality time spent with son (at home) – schedules planned and met + fun time.
  • Son’s reading progress

4. Customer Service – Wifely Duties:

  • Quality time spent with hubby
  • The state of hubby’s clothes / general well-being
  • companionship (incl. time spent doing things that he likes doing which aren’t necessarily things that I like doing!)
  • His family

obviously for each item in each quadrant there were quantifiable activities to fulfill the requirement of the item (e.g. – for level of quality / fun had with son (planned outings) – the items have been outlined.) If you do all that is stated there, then you can give yourself a “3” for that month (meets expectations). If you do more than planned, and that month was a stupendous month for your family and you, then you can get a 2 (Exceeds Expectation). If you get a 2 for 3-6 months running in this area, – hey, your family may just give you a 1 (Consistently exceeds expectations!)Best thing would be to agree on the quadrants and KPIs with hubby and son and work on Service Level Agreements so that everyone will be on the same page (e.g. I will be able to provide this, this and that… if you do this, this and that… otherwise, we will experience some delay or quality of items delivered will not be of the standard expected / agreed upon.)Hey, if nothing else, you get to work on the same page as to the level of responsibilities that you have taken on, and you get to manage everyone’s expectations. Obviously my 4 quadrants will not be the same as anyone else’s – and how I quantify each of my KPI will not be the same as how you would do yours. But I would say, do sit down and think about it. Talk to the stakeholders of your life (hubby, kids are the key stakeholders…) and work on this system.Sigh! Hubby and I and son, we still have our moments, spats, periods of giving each other the “evil eye” – but there has been little of the… “I wish someone would do more…” statement in the house since the onset of the above!

Mrs Left … and Intro

It has taken me this long to get here. Figuring out which site to subscribe to, deciding on a blog name. 4.27 am, my clock says. In the background is the soothing sound of hubby’s snore. Wonder if being the twin of the constellation means he has to speak to himself in grunts and snorts in his sleep? Nevermind, after 15 years of marriage, it has become endearing. Without hubby’s snores, I have found it almost impossible to sleep at times.

In bed, in the other room, is the little one – we shall refer to him as “the cub”. He is 7 going on 35 on some days. He is in school all day, and some nights, he attends religious instruction classes. Tonight, he is just flat out. Poor cub! I came home late and missed our play session – sigh. I need to leave the office by 5 pm tomorrow and make it up to him.

The other member of our family is our live-in helper – the fawn. She came to live with us about 5 months ago and has now become another member of the family. She fits in well, and we like having her around. She helps me with housework and she does everything cheerfully! After 3 not-so-efficient helpers, the Fawn is the best housekeeper we have had after a long while.

In Malaysia, it is quite common to have live-in helpers. It is a necessity due to the lack of really good, strictly regulated, reliable child-care system here. I know of people who actually become weekend parents, leaving their child/children with parents or in-laws during the week, picking the kids up on weekends. This is not an option for us. I would miss my darling cub too much, it would be unbearable! Since I started working full time, when the cub turned 4, we have had live-in helpers. However, last year, we had so much problems with the last one that I decided to try working out a system so that we didn’t need to have one. It worked fine. Housework was manageable, I woke up at 5 am to do laundry, prepare breakfast and dinner, get cub’s lunch pack ready, etc. Then came the school holidays. The company that I was working for at the time did not have really good policies for working moms. It was hard for me to even ask for annual leave and as it was a financial services organisation with strict data protection policies, working from home was not an option. Without anyone at home to look after him, we had to send the cub to a day-care centre. We thought, it could not be THAT bad. Other parents send their kids to daycare, and their kids are fine. Unfortunately, we were wrong. Our cub was totally miserable and there were so many kids in the day care that most of the time they were not monitored. Nap time was not adhered to because there would always be kids loitering around disturbing napping kids. The caregivers were not qualified to handle so many little children. We had to pack for him a bottle of plain water because the kids were only given sweet black tea to drink. No plain water was provided. There were kids hitting other kids and all kinds of chaos. To his credit, the cub never complained. He put on a brave face each morning, but he would tell us to come and pick him up as soon as we could. It was heart-wrenching! I felt guilty for putting him in that situation that I swore, he would never go to a daycare centre ever again if I could help it!

It was during this time that I decided to leave the bank. I was lucky that at the same time I received a better offer at an organisation that fully recognised the rights of women with children. It practices great flexi-work policies, allowing home-working arrangements where necessary. The focus is more on deliverables and there is flexibility in terms of total hours put in the office. Being in this new organisation, I realise that working full time, with a young family should not be made harder by unreasonable demands from the office and there is a need to revise HR policies in some of the surprisingly major corporations in Malaysia. The best thing is, in this new company, with its flexibility – I have been more productive than I ever was in the old company. Ha!

Anyway, I digress. This was meant to be a short introductory entry – and it has gone longer than I planned. I will write more about what life is like for us working mothers, conditions in the workplace, as well as tips to help with planning household stuff in future. Maybe share a quick recipe or two when time permits. For now, Auf Wiedersehn.