The Terrifying Beauty of Parenthood
Supply chain management and parenting and heartbreak and metrics
This is a supply chain blog. That is to say that readers typically stumble here to pick up tidbits about the difference between safety stocks and reorder points, or to learn how to optimize their cycle count programs, or to find some edge in supplier relationship negotiations.
But every so often, the musings that leak from my imagination onto my keyboard stray from inventory control, customer fulfillment and logistics… into the only thing that occupies more of my time than optimizing supply chain - being a dad.
The similarities between supply chain and parenthood may not be obvious at first. But optimizing supply chain requires the focus, balance and single-mindedness of a mom, dad or a tightrope walker.
I've argued that supply chain managers make awesome parents (and no they don't!). I've managed to weave a tale of a local hike with my family into a sorta supply chain article. And I've worn my heartbreak on my sleeve when my daughter uttered "I don't get supply chain" at dinner one night.
My wife and I made horrible life-is-a-metaphor-for-supply-chain decisions by landing both our kids' birthdays within the last six weeks of the year. Any rookie production planner knows that you want to level load your demand to optimize your plant efficiency.
But what did we go and do? We dropped our son's birthday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then three years later, we created a sub-optimal planning environment by birthing our daughter in the third week of November.
Add to the mix that we also celebrate Hanukkah and we've got a crush of seasonality in our family supply chain activity.
Our kids basically go forty-six weeks with nothing to show for it but some construction paper hearts in February and fun-size Snickers at the end of October. And then, through our home, a whirlwind of demand blows that would make any planner's head spin.
My wife and I have managed to set up our family's year of planning based on a hockey stick curve and what good supply chain folks preach is that you should never set up any planning process based on a hockey stick curve.
We're now a dozen years into our poorly constructed family supply chain experiment. Every fall, like a retail distribution center, we brace ourselves for the crushing tsunami of demand. And every year we are reminded that transformation is the one things kids will do without you asking them to.
Yes, there are the constants. The blue and silver wrapping paper of Hanukkah, the Christmas tree with its sparkle and warmth and the echoes of "happy birthday to you…" hanging in the air for weeks. But the only real constant is change, isn't that right?
When I hold my son's hand now, I can feel the width of his knuckles and can tell that the soft boy's hand I once held is a thing of the past. A man is blossoming.
My daughter has mastered the eye roll of ennui - that mandatory preteen benchmark - when I bust out my tried and true knock-knock joke. (Knock, knock. Who's there? Control freak here's the part where you say control freak who.) A few nights ago, after I told her, "G'night.
I love you" - she responded with, "Uh, like, you're supposed to."
None of this is surprising. Raising a kid is like watching a flower grow on the edge of the apocalypse. A miracle unfolds even as certain doom reveals itself. As my boy transforms into his own man and my girl evolves into an independent woman, I marvel at these improved versions of me and realize that I’m grooming my replacements.
Not long ago, I was their Atlas. Today, I’m not even the coolest person they know. In a blink, they’ll be patting me on my gray, balding head asking me if my soup is warm enough. And so it goes.
This is a supply chain blog. And while life may be a metaphor for supply chain, supply chain is less cruel. A supply chain pro may well cross a tightrope and experience the thrill of on-time delivery and cost of goods reduction.
But the terrifyingly beautiful truth of the parenting tightrope is that the best you can hope for is to look back at your children crossing it – perhaps a little more sure-footed than you – just before your inevitable fall.