Like most of the people I talk to in the e-business world, I am convinced that I am on the brink of being showered with venture capital millions. I have a friend who is a successful and well known business consultant. Maybe he too thinks that lazy, smelly people like me with no business acumen may soon be dripping with gold.
I am in fact an “embryonic e-millionaire”. Once my venture capital is safely in the bank, I can let my various minions carry out the day to day activities of running my business empire, whilst I concentrate on the big picture, and, of course, keep a watchful and paternalistic eye on my keen employees, incentivised by the promise of stock options to come.
In the meantime I live in a suburban semi, with a partner and two ungrateful cats. In preparation for the day when I will have to manage thousands of employees I spend time thinking about how I shall organise all of these busy, motivated people.
This brings me to management science, and the subject of horizontal work groups, food and gender roles. But to be honest, as we are currently a bit short on staff, I’m not sure I will cover all or indeed any of these things.
Luckily, my partner, being a tad younger and more energetic than me, appears to enjoy the exercise that is part and parcel of running a large home/office. But as CEO of a burgeoning dot-com it is important that I have time to contemplate the big picture. So in your mind’s eye don’t be taken in by the superficial contrast between her activity and my supine position. Whilst I might appear relaxed, the reality is that I am like a tiger ready to pounce. You will often find me lost in business strategy whilst she can be seen rushing here and there with ladders and paintbrushes. It sometimes seems as if she is in two places at the same time.
The division of labour in our household is based on horizontal work groups. The two of us constitute the group. I stay horizontal (this is my best thinking position); she works. Which is not to say that I am uninvolved, more that my responsibilities are in the field of management consultancy. But the division of domestic labour does extend to me being cook, and to reward my sweaty young partner I’ll often serve her a special little morsel or two.
Once we decided to hook up, grim reality forced me into the position of learning to cook or learning to starve. Partner is a new woman, and it was made very clear that if I persisted in expecting her to cook, I would either have to eat badly cooked and treasured parts of my own anatomy (this is premised on some wonderful new thinking about male-female inequalities) or risk food poisoning (my partner is not one of life’s chefs). This in contrast to my mortified mother who regards me in the same way that a French goose farmer regards an underfed pâté de foie gras to be. However, for all of its mutual minor irritations, sharing a home with partner works out pretty well; and, never to be left out, she has taken to the world of power tools with gusto, and I let her get on with it.
What I am getting at is gender and generational differences. Let’s take for example what food represents.
My parents, whose formative experiences were based around poverty and rationing, perceive thinness as being a sign of ill health. Parents perceive meat as a tasty and affordable luxury, the fatter the better. Partner perceives thinness as being a desirable quality, a sign of good health. Partner perceives meat as murder. Me? Well I am on a low fat diet (doctor’s orders), and I am a pseudo-vegetarian, but at some level I have obviously lost the plot about food and have a series of bizarre rituals around eating. I’ll not go into these here (most people find them disgusting) and they are nothing to be proud of.
Parents perceive woman as homemaker, man as money earner. Partner has some very interesting notions on man as money earner, and woman as able to define her role in any way she wants at any time she wants. Me? Well I’m just out for a drink. Because to be quite honest, potential millionaires hire others to think of these kinds of things for them.
Much has been written and said about the changing pattern of family life, and my karma is that pending my millionaire status I have to diplomatically negotiate the way between two family traditions. Neither in my opinion is more or less valuable than the other, both being understandable only in terms of the context and the times in which these traditions evolved. Ever in hope, I expect that like the founders of boo.com in their heyday, my biggest problem will soon be getting organic fruit jetted in from New York on Concorde, or choosing front office material for that suite in Manhattan.
How is your household run? Are the trousers marked “His” or “Hers”? Why not comment and tell us?