Peter Principledom (Principledumb)


Scaling up. It sounds great, right? It’s what most entrepreneurs strive to do. Spend enough time with any group of driven people and you will notice that they are always on the cusp of the next great accomplishment. Planning, executing, failing, dusting knees off, trying again. And again. Their business plan is always at their fingertips, laminated, and rarely subject to change.

Motherhood has taken me on this ride a few times. This undying quest for greatness and a badge of honor. The desire to claim the best employee parking spot. There seems to exist this insane notion that we must do more STUFF with our kids to be a good mom or dad. More activities. More hobbies. More language acquisition for the future diplomat. More, more, more- until our calendar looks like a football coach’s scrimmage playbook over the past two years.

Forget quality and downtime to just be. To relax, talk, breathe, stare at a cicada’s very strange mating habits in the driveway. I wouldn’t say that my wipeouts from trying to keep up the cuckoo-mom pace have ended with just a smidge of grass stain either. No, more like the aftermath of a Tough Mudder competition or, in more realistic terms, like a pig who’s been steamrolled by another pig after the great spring deluge. Meltdown city. Ok, meltdown province.

It is exhausting to try and keep pace with some of these manic moms these days. I think that at one point, my efforts even gave me the shingles. Sorry, manic mom friends. I still love you but you are tirrrrring company sometimes. How is it that we got to the point of believing an hour (or day- gasp) of idleness will annihilate a kid’s quest for presidential candidacy down the road? Come on, even Clinton inhaled and exhaled.

At some point after you score the raise that comes with no longer having diapers on the grocery list, your child (YOU) may become obsessed with this new form of Keeping Up With The Smiths. Here (see below) is how this rat race often ends before the cycle (courtesy of selective memory) likely begins anew with hindsight blurred enough to block recall. Note: The roles below are most often switched- meaning the adult is the perpetrator.


You know this drill that I speak of. Is my kid going to test into the magnet school? Oh-my-god, I should’ve breastfed-now-her-IQ-is-screwed. Am I kiboshing any hope of his musical career by refusing to pay for piano lessons for a kid who would rather chew tin foil than sit still for 45 minutes? You mean you let your kid watch Spongebob indiscriminately? (Friend shakes head, as if to say your kid is destined to become the Steve-O replacement on the next Jackass installment). Your life, if you’re not vigilant, becomes a windshield pelleted by unsolicited parenting advice and pressures to scale up, do more, breathe less, sign up for that T-Ball class that teaches Buddism or Mandarin Chinese in the huddle.

And since some of us are in the business of raising kids, there is an analogy worth mentioning here. Business has its risks BUT the risks increase steeply when you get into something that you don’t know. So it goes in this parenting industry too.

I could end this blog here and the message would be fully in tact. I’ll elaborate though if you will stay with me.

Occasionally, after I have just finished some hedonistic fiction book for fun, I will try to read something slightly out of my reach like Malcolm Gladwell or those dudes that wrote Freakonomics to counterbalance the indulgence. Like my brain on a diet, I guess. What happens during these, let’s say, more complex books is that 95 % of the material ceases to ping my brain at all. However, some valuable miniscule lesson in fine print (sometimes in a caption or bar graph) seeps into my field of cognition like a sideways coffee filter.

Gladwell argues that the economic crises has been caused, in part, by something called The Peter Principle. It is the phenomena that has been blamed for taking down entire companies. Dummies end up in charge, to be precise.

In a hierarchy, every person tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence.

In other words, we get promoted (self-promoted counts too) until we land in a position that we just aren’t capable of handling. We sign up for responsibilities (because who doesn’t want a promotion?) that we simply cannot manage. Eventually, the new and improved gig will be one that exists outside of our skill/management set. We take on so much that we render ourselves flailing, ranting idiots while our talents wave from the rearview mirror – abandoned in the simpler world that we left behind.

Allow me to show you a few examples in which I have Peter Principled right out. Flat on my back. KO in the first round. Walking papers floating down from above before I’m even back on my feet.

  • When I listen to other people’s parenting advice instead of following my own hunches.
  • When I hang my hat on how many activities my child is signed up for and how many Girl Scout Cookies we have sold.
  • When I think that making sushi sounds like a better idea than going out for it because we want to be a multicultural home, ya know.
  • When I agree to travel with kids more than once per month.
  • When I agree to travel with other people’s kids more than once per season- depending on the kid(s), make that a full year.
  • When I agree to driving a carpool every day that ends in the letter y.

So the next time you feel like promoting yourself to Supermom status, instead of signing up for that office window (aka, carline spot wedged between the craziest gossipers ever) and a new title, perhaps you can just ask for a little raise instead of the CEO package? I don’t have to remind you that household CEOs do not get to have golfing meetings, expense accounts or turndown service with chocolate on the pillow. A pedicure works just fine, gals. Does it ever. Any day that ends in y.

* Cliff Notes: Quality. NOT Quantity.

Peace and happy bug watching, SB


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