Evidence that I’m a good parent

Don’t let the evidence you’re a good parent, slip past unnoticed.

My children know that if I could go back I would not have chosen to be a parent. This is not the same thing as saying I don’t want them. They are (especially currently – keep reading) an absolute joy, and they’ve made me a good person. I would not give them back, NOW.

Instead, I tell them, it means that if I had ANY idea how painful and hard and soul-destroying I’d find parenting, I wouldn’t have done it.

What motherhood feels like everyday.  Blog post - Evidence that I'm a good parent. ~ Shelly Davies

It’s the pain that’s the worst part – their pain.

Empathy and parenting

Lil’ old empath me cannot handle their fucking pain. It’s too much.

I want them to be happy, but alas, it’s not a parent’s job to make their children happy. It’s our job to raise adults who can be functional and resourceful in the world – and by doing so, make their own happy.

And that kind of adult emerges from a child who’s had to tolerate enough times of being unhappy, because you say NO to them and have boundaries and shit like that. That’s the way it goes.

Quote - EMPATHY.  When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce.  You look for reasons it is not doing well.  It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.  You never blame the lettuce.  Yet, if we have problems with our friends and family, we blame the other person.  But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce.  Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument.  That is my experience.  No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding.  If you understand, and show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Anyway, I sat down late last year to list the evidence that I am, in spite of all the “evidence” to the contrary that I can find AT THE DROP OF A HAT, a freaking good mum. Not to sit down and write about how in my time machine, I’d be child-free (and a selfish bitch, for the record. But that’s another post).

The evidence

Because while the “evidence” that I suck as a parent – that I’m a failure in all the worst ways – has legs and wings and stands ten feet tall and bellows at 100 decibels, the evidence that I’ve done not a half-decent but an amazing job, can slip past unnoticed. And I’m completely over that bullshit. So I sat down one day and took stock.

Here’s what I came up with on that day:

  • I have a 22-year-old son who still calls me as one of his main emotional support people. And when I tell him I love him, he replies with, “Love you too, mate.” He addresses servers and shop assistants by their first name. He has a firm handshake and looks people in the eye. He’s set a career path for himself. He sings like an angel and plays multiple musical instruments. He’s faced his demons and he keeps getting up each day and trying to be a good human and a good dad. I couldn’t be more proud.
  • My 16-year-old daughter is milking full time. She gets herself up every day and leaves the house just after 4am to drive 40 minutes to the farm where she got herself a job, in a cowshed with mostly other women, milking 800 cows. She comes home, covered in cow shit, with sparkling eyes. She’s living her best life. She does dishes without being asked. She calls me when I’m travelling to liaise about meals and groceries for the household. She always notices when someone in her orbit is struggling. She reports to me every day on the “adulty” things she did, especially when it’s about her relationship. She is self-reflective and articulate. Holy fuck.
  • My 15-year-old is incredibly pissed that she’s not old enough to get her driver’s licence yet, because she thinks she’s every bit as capable as her sister, and she’s right. She got herself her first job completely on her own and didn’t even tell me when she had an interview. She saves money like her life depends on it. She plans. To go to art school in California. She doesn’t know yet how that’ll happen with the USD$150k/year price tag, but she’s set her mind to it. And I don’t doubt her ability to do that. This year, as an introvert who struggles to articulate her emotions out loud, she worked her way out of an abusive relationship like a BOSS, setting boundaries and then honouring them. Even more, a month or so later she got angry enough to punch the kid in the face. Yes – violence is wrong. And fuck, I was so proud of her.
  • My 23-year-old chose me. That is actually some of the evidence that I’m a good mum. Because she chose me, and she told me off for saying I’m a bad mum. In fact, she wrote me a list of why I needed to stop saying I’m a bad mum because that was offensive to her – see below. That list rocked my world. That and many years of therapy around parenting and my struggles and guilt and attitudes around it.

So I’ll share it with you.

This list is from the perspective of someone who doesn’t take the simplest things for granted. She gets up each day and keeps herself alive, and is GOOD and KIND and SMART and STRONG even when her life could easily have shaped her so differently.

That was huge for me. It forced me to acknowledge that I had done some things right.

You’re allowed to say it – PARENTING IS FUCKING HARD

And finally, a shout out to Emily Writes and friends, because I had also just finished reading Is it bedtime yet? and it was the most glorious, loving, real, raw, accepting and forgiving thing I’d read in a long, long time. If you’re about to have a baby or if you have babies or someone else in your world does, and they need to hear that PARENTING IS FUCKING HARD and that’s NORMAL, you need to buy them that book. And probably the next book too.

Here’s an idea for you:

What’s the area in your life that you are best at punishing yourself about? What’s that part of your life that you feel literally SURROUNDED with things to beat yourself over the head with, because there is SO MUCH EVIDENCE that you suck at it? That you’ve failed? What’s your shame?

Because how about this…. What if you write a list of every. Tiny. Piece. Of evidence. That you’re NOT failing at that thing?

Would you do that?

Would you write that list? For you?

Sending love,

Shel x

(Oh, and PS. If you can’t see the flipside and all you read here is a list of ego-boosting bullshit, call me and I’ll give you ALL the details about the child with addiction and the child who started having children at 17, and the child who I hit and who called the police and had me arrested and rightly so, and the children (yes – REN, not CHILD) who have had the Police intervene in their suicide attempts, and the child who felt betrayed because I raised her one way and then changed the entire direction of my life. Or the children who were abused or assaulted. Or the children who had sex too young. I’m not going to keep going here, because you haven’t got the time. But rest assured – this post of self-love has been HARD WON. Parenting is fucking hard. That is all.)

Writing for outcomes – part 2

Fit-for-purpose document structure achieves results

In my trainings, document structure is one of the most common things participants say they want help with.  Fit-for-purpose document structure achieves results!

They hope I’m going to give them a standard report structure.

*snort*

That’s like unicorn farts – would probably be lovely but there’s no such thing. 

Sorry bout it.

A quick re-cap

In part 1, I covered the upfront framing that:

  1. gives readers an incredibly satisfying experience, and
  2. engages the right audience

But I promised more.

So let’s move from reader behaviour to a reader-centric document structure.

Being readercentric (AKA empathy), outs us in the shoes of our READERS - Shelly Davies

How documents work

Let’s be very clear about how documents work.

  1. You’re writing a document because you need to achieve something. An outcome.
  2. To achieve YOUR outcome, the document has to work for THEM – the reader.
  3. The upfront framing either engages or loses your reader (we’ve already covered this).
  4. The structure of the rest of the document determines its success (ie: YOUR outcome).
  5. Shall I say it again? Write for THEM. Not for YOU. That’s the only way you’re going to ultimately get what you’re after.
A document is successful if it works for the reader - Shelly Davies

Purpose, purpose, bla, bla, bla

Any writing trainer worth their salt will tell you:

Identify the purpose of the document before you start writing

This is true. 

But, I find purpose – both the word and the concept, problematic.

Firstly, it’s overly and inappropriately used as a heading (how many documents have you read that have the heading purpose followed by a waffly, non-specific introduction??)

And second, when I ask people what the purpose of their document is, they give me answers like:

  • to inform…(for what purpose? We don’t tell people stuff for no reason!)
  • to analyse…(documents don’t analyse things. People do!)
  • to define…(see above!)
  • to describe…(see above above! For what purpose?)

None of which give a writer the drilled-down clarity we need to develop a fit-for-purpose structure.

Instead, I train people to ask 2 questions:

  1. What does this document need to ACHIEVE?
  2. If this document works, what will HAPPEN?

Both questions direct us to a tangible, observable action by our reader.

Know your audience, bla, bla, bla

Again, everyone tells us this.

And it’s also true.

"Buzzword jargon buzzword, hyperbole buzzword buzzword, trite rhyming platitude...Yep, looks good"

But what’s most common in business documents today is what we have multiple audiences, with differing needs.

So knowing that can make the writing process even more daunting and definitely not simple and clear.

How about trying this as an alternative?

List all the readers of your document, then consider?

  • Who will access it?
  • Who will use it?
  • Who will sign off on it?
  • Who might need to refer to it?

Now look back at the solid outcome you identified with questions 1 & 2 above.

And ask this 3rd question:

3. Who has the authority, ability, or position to make this document achieve its purpose?

Answer that and you’ve identified your primary readers. THEY matter most.

Write in a way that works for them, above anyone else.

(BTW – this also gives YOU the ability to push-back when an approver wants a document written a certain way, but you know that won’t work for the end-user.  Handy!)

Now build your document

Now you can create the headings, sections, and chunks of your document.

With clarity on outcome and influential readers, you can create a fit-for-purpose structure.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and tell you what that structure looks like.  But again, unicorn farts.

From where YOU sit, with YOUR reader knowledge, expert and insight, and with new clarity about purpose and readers, YOU have all the pieces to the puzzle.  You can now create a structure that will work best for you and your team.

Remember, ask yourself:

  • What does my PRIMARY READER need to know so I can get MY desired outcome?
  • Does my PRIMARY READER need to know X (ie, any chunk of information) for my doc to achieve its purpose?

It’s all connected.

With clarity on outcome and influential readers, you can create fit-for-purpose document structure - Shelly Davies

Want to know more?

Bring me in for a training, or book a zoom one!  I’ve got so much more!!!!

_________________________________________

If you’re working from home, you’re emailing.  And in this chaos, no-one has time for email ping-pong!

You can #writebetteremails with my ONLINE course.  Use my never-fail formula to build connections with empathy and authenticity.  You’ll quickly be writing professional, clear, concise, fit-for-purpose emails that will:

  1. save time and sanity
  2. deal with customer complaints quickly and with humanity
  3. retain clients and smash deadlines
  4. get better results and faster replies.  

Imagine-more YESes, less chasing-up.  Sing out for a rockin’ deal for your team or company!

Aaaaaand next!

“Must get caught up…must get caught up!”

I’ve just had 3 days of filming, and that’s something I’ve never experienced before. I adored it. It was intense. I feel shattered and exhilarated. And as the camera crew drove away, my brain said, Aaaaaand next!

It started cataloguing all the things that need to be done now that that’s over, and I’ve got time and headspace and it’s quiet. My brain thinks that means, Must get caught up.

Must:

  • Check emails
  • Get my head back into that client work
  • Tidy bedding
  • Do washing
  • Sweep the house
  • Make some phone calls
  • Do banking
  • PLAN WHAT’S NEXT, aaaaaaaaaand, GO!
Must get caught up! Some days I amaze myself.  Other days, I put the laundry in the oven.

Balancing truths

It is true that most of those things will need to get done at some stage.

What’s also true is that right now, after a really intense 3 days of being ON, taking some time to just breathe is not only completely appropriate but probably a whole lot healthier than just jumping straight into what’s next.

Aaaaaand next!  Your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts.

So I sit here, on the deck with my coffee, and just pause. Reflect. Let the intensity and high energy fade away. Feel it dissipating.

And breathe.

Pause or pressure

So I’m wondering if right now, as you read this, if you need to either take a few breaths right now, or if you need to look ahead in your day and decide at what moment you’d be able to do that. When will it be needed?

When can you consciously, purposefully, pause?

I think I’m mostly speaking to the mums – the ones who still think about self-care only occasionally and when the idea pops into their heads, and they go, Oh, that’s right, I should take some time for me.

Aaaaaand next!  I never thought I'd be the type of mother who had to leave a post-it note to remind herself to shower.  Yet, here we are.  - The 21st Century SAHM.

That’s one SHOULD I think is valid.

You should take care of yourself.

You should claim moments from time to time to breathe.

You should be kind to yourself and say, OK, that was a full-on day. It’s ok to leave those dishes and just put my feet up for the rest of the evening.

Aaaaaand next!  Breathe.  It's ok to press pause - Shelly Davies

A reminder to pause

Maybe I’m not only talking to the mums. Maybe dads can relate.

Maybe other people with busy lives and obligations and responsibilities other than kids (aka money-sucking vampires).

I’d love for you to reply and tell me how this reminder to pause (breathe, be kind, reflect) is relevant in your world. Especially the boys. Cos you guys are a bit alien to me.

Self-check

So, does that email really need to get written right now?

Does that next task really need your attention in this exact moment?

Are the pressures and urgency you’re feeling right now, reality? Or self-imposed?

As for me in this moment?

I’ve got some being to do.

Aaaaaad next!  What does being look like to you? - Shelly Davies

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Upcoming events and keynotes

October

November

November/December

I’m excited to be teaming up again with the amazing humans at the Dairy Women’s Network (thanks Fonterra!). We’re hitting the road nationwide for daytime writing workshops and keynote dinner events and I can’t wait to see you live and in person!

And just in case you’re looking for that keynote (not an average keynote. That keynote!)

The one they’ll remember for a lifetime? The one that invites authenticity, captures the heart, and encourages you to live a more joyful, badass life?  

Hit reply and let’s talk!

Writing for outcomes – part 1

Document structure and reader behaviour

What does understanding reader behaviour have to do with fit-for-purpose document structure? Let me explain.

Template torture

People are always asking me for templates.

Have you got a report template, Shelly? A business case template, Shelly? A template that will save all the woes of the world, Shelly?

I’ll spare you the clichés about the length of string and teaching men how to fish:

I DON’T DO TEMPLATES.

Templates are only good if they’re designed for a specific purpose. There is no such thing as ONE magical template for any kind of document.

Writing for outcomes - part 1. 
Document structure and reader behaviour.  Templates - there's no such thing as one magical template for any kind of document.  Templates are only good if they're designed for a specific purpose - Shelly Davies

But we do have some really clear insights into reader behaviour. And from that, we can build a strong, successful, fit-for-purpose document structure.

What readers want

As humans, when we interact with text, we’re subconsciously looking for 3 things.

  1. What’s this about?
  2. Is it relevant to me?
  3. What’s the bottom line? (and we want that up-front – ‘BLUF’)
Writing for outcomes - part 1. 
Document structure and reader behaviour.  BLUF - give your reader the bottom line up-front every time - Shelly Davies

The importance of the executive summary or up-front framing

If you can answer those 3 questions before you do anything else in a business document, you’ve got your reader in the palm of your hand.

They’re hooked. They’re engaged.

And they’ll keep reading (or at least scanning through).

It’s like mad-genius-evil-mastermind-writing-ninja material – so use your powers for good.

Writing for outcomes - part 1. 
Document structure and reader behaviour.

Answering those 3 questions is the basic formula for an executive summary.

Of course, you can add more – but those are the bare minimum.

If you don’t want to use an executive summary, make sure those 3 questions are answered in your introduction (or background, or scope, or whatever heading your douchebag template tells you is the starting point for saving the planet).

Let’s test this concept – what do you want as a reader?

Picture yourself going to your car and finding a piece of paper under the windscreen wiper. (Note: Your version may contain less profanity. Whatever floats your boat.)

  1. What the fuck is this? You wonder. (You pick it up and see a company logo – it’s a flyer, not a ticket, thank fuck)
  2. What are they selling? You wonder. (There are pictures of food. It’s a restaurant. You’ve been known to eat occasionally. There’s potential here.)
  3. So are the prices any good? You wonder.

(That’s the bottom line – now that I know what they have to offer and that I’m interested, this is the deciding factor. Let’s say they’re cheap AF and sound worth trying so we have a happy ending to our scenario. You’re welcome.)

Writing for outcomes - part 1. 
Document structure and reader behaviour.

Content and purpose

The rest of the document structure depends on content and purpose.

In a nutshell: the rest of your document needs to be structured in terms of what is most relevant to your reader, and then what they need to know so that you can achieve your purpose.

Note the difference here – it’s not about what you want them to know – it’s about what they need to know from where they sit. Those can be vastly different things.

In fact, that warrants more discussion.

Watch out for Part 2 and 3 of Writing For Outcomes!

__________________________________

If you’re working from home, you’re emailing.  And in this chaos, no-one has time for email ping-pong!

You can #writebetteremails with my ONLINE course. Use my never-fail formula to build connections with empathy and authenticity.  You’ll quickly be writing professional, clear, concise, fit-for-purpose emails that will:

  1. save time and sanity
  2. deal with customer complaints quickly and with humanity
  3. retain clients and smash deadlines
  4. get better results and faster replies.  

Imagine-more YESes, less chasing-up.

Sing out for a rockin’ deal for your team or company!