Crisis. A time of intense difficulty or danger.
In work, we have something called ‘crisis mode’. So when stuff is kicking off, extra staff are pulled in to work on particular issues. Normal procedures don’t apply, people rush around being busy and important. Everyone does their best even if the information is not complete and the solution isn’t obvious. Occasionally things slip through the gaps, and sometimes mistakes are made. But it’s ok, because we are in crisis mode.
Without wishing to belittle the global challenges we are faced with today, I’m going to compare them to parenting. Because we’ve been in and out of crisis mode at home for six years. Our own little domestic ecosystem holds many of the same challenges as those you find in a conflict zone: opposing factions, messy violent battles, houses turned inside out, third party interference, intense negotiation, sanctions, and sometimes a ceasefire (until the next time). These crisis points have tended to erupt around the births, lasting for months, calming, then exploding again with little warning. In line with the dictionary definition, our crises have certainly been periods of intense difficulty or pressure and while the ‘danger’ is usually resolved with a 20 minute power nap, you can’t underestimate it.
The beauty about crisis mode at work, is that people make allowances for it. So everything still needs to get done, but if you say ‘I’ve been working on the crisis’ then you’re afforded a bit more leeway. It’s empowering and important. You’re in a special club.
So I’m trying to work ‘crisis mode’ into my personal life, in fact I have a whole raft of crisis indicators: boys with the wrong coloured school trousers, filthy car interior, sick stained tshirts. I once tried to get colleagues to identify our give-away codes that meant we weren’t coping so well with the week. For one it was swimming, if she hadn’t been in the morning before work, then it was a sign things were getting on top of her. For me it was more basic: drying my hair. You know it’s not going well if it’s slicked back into a bun. Day after day. These days, I don’t even know where my hair dryer is.
So we have our indicators, of which there are many, now we need the empowerment. I want to own these challenges. I’d like to stand on the bench in the school yard and scream: my kid might have grey trousers instead of black, but I am in crisis mode, so lets focus on the things I have achieved, like the fact that he is dressed. And clean. And fed. And alive. Now, obviously I would never do that because i) I don’t like to make a scene ii) I am actually mortified that they have the wrong trousers. And that’s why we need the crisis club. Because we need to be empowered. Call it self help, call it hippy crap, call it busy parents giving each other a hand (or a smile).
Why stop there at parenting? I met up last week with some pals from uni. Bright, brilliant friends, out there doing it, fighting their own fights. They make me feel excited about the good in the world. That so many of us spend so much of our time trying to make life better for someone else. The stories are moving and the challenges can feel overwhelming. That’s why everyone is welcome to join the crisis club. A little signal with your pals, a discrete sign that you’re in need of an extra bit of handholding, then hold their hand right back. Let them into the club and own those challenges together. It’s way easier when you’re allowed to drop the ball a few time.