As the youngest of eight children, I was in the fortunate role of watching my mother manage the very full household. My father was in his twenty-third year of the Air Force so my mother had managed to create a set of processes and methods of organization to move the growing family on average every year and nine months.
I was involved in only four moves and barely remember any of them except the trip from New England to Ohio, wanting to call everything ‘New’ as we left New Hampshire and drove through New York to get to ‘New Ohio’. In the following years Mom used all her organizational skills as we settled down in suburbia and Dad took a job at a college. Her mastery of the family operation can be applied to both personal and professionals responsibilities.
Setting High Expectations: By the time I came around — sixteen years after my oldest sister — the expectation that we would be on the Honor Roll, even if not with straight A’s, was a given. My older siblings had borne the brunt of dealing with parents who had those high expectations. While there was no competitiveness, I didn’t want to feel like I was letting my parents and siblings down if I didn’t achieve great grades.
Super-Organized: Having moved so many times and into houses that had three or four bedrooms for such a large family, my mother had to make sure that we were organized. Everything had a place and it was obvious if it wasn’t. Maybe it was her German heritage as well, but she was fastidious in labeling boxes and organizing things so that the most used items were at the front. She was one of the original coupon clippers who alphabetized her coupons in a shoebox. While she didn’t sit down and design her organization, her years of experience and intelligence helped us move quickly and efficiently.
Delegation: As I grew up I remember people being in awe of our family size and my parent’s ability to manage. I was eager to explain how my mother designated our daily cleaning duties after every meal and posted a weekly assignment chart on the inside of our food pantry. (I always tried to trade duties with someone else, because my vacuuming skills seemed to take less time than the other chores.)
Give Independence: As the youngest of eight, I had the benefit of my mother’s tried-and-tested parenting skills. With that came a level of trust bestowed on us younger children. Certainly, we weren’t allowed to get our driver’s license until we were eighteen, but we could go about our day on our own — running around the neighborhood or bicycling across the town. We had to tell our mother where we going and who were with, and she expected that we wouldn’t get hurt, get in trouble, or be late for dinner. Today, that might almost sound crazy by some parenting standards, but it allowed me and my siblings to explore our little corner of the world, whether it was skipping rocks at the stream with friends or reading in the library all afternoon.
Provide Forgiveness: I was certainly no angel and on occasion did abuse that trust and independence. As the youngest I watched and learned from my siblings how to get around, but also how to deal with my parents. My mother was forthright and direct when we stepped out of line, but she didn’t show anger or hold onto the episode. It helped me understand that I was wrong, and once again, felt that I disappointed her and my father with my behavior. Taking the high road in dealing with poor performance and focusing on the issue and not the person could not have been a clearer learning point.
I have said that if my mother had been born two or three decades later, she would have been running a company. She was intelligent and a quiet leader and one heck of an effective manager. I learned a lot by listening and watching her manage the family and can see how her principles apply to any part of life.
John Soppe is Founder & CEO of Areté Media, creator of MustSee travel guide sharing platform with authentic insights by local experts in a hands-free touring experience. You can follow MustSee on Twitter and Facebook.