“Great, that’s terrific.”
As my daughter threw herself onto the floor at the Barnes & Noble store, I didn’t even try to put on the calm mother façade. There was no hiding my annoyance and embarrassment.
I pealed her off the floor — which of course only made her scream louder — and wrestled her into the stroller while a seemingly horrified older woman looked on. Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was leave the store. My options for places to take my 20-month-old twins had started to dwindle, particularly on a day like last Friday, when the umpteenth blizzard of the season had forced the children’s museum to close, and my kitchen was being ripped apart (meaning I had to get the kids out of Dodge).
Of course, I understand that a full-fledged tantrum is an unpleasant thing to hear, but I figured the children’s section of a bookstore was a safe haven; a place where I could garner some sympathy from the other toddler parents. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way, because for every person who is kind enough to tune out Scarlett’s drama, or say something like “you should see what my kid just did,” there are several more who feel the need to glare at me, issue a little “tsk tsk,” or worse, make a doomsday remark along the lines of: “Get used to it. It only gets worse.”
It’s about the most detrimental thing someone can say, and yet, for reasons I can’t fathom, people love to tell me that my most challenging days are ahead. That their children had screaming tantrums all day, every day for a decade, and that I better brace myself. (Okay, I’m exaggerating — slightly.) And it boggles my mind. Why on earth would someone do that? How could that possibly help?
The answer? It doesn’t. Not at all. In fact, probably the worst thing you can do to someone who is battling a crisis is tell them there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. And yet, some choose to do this.
Fortunately, I’ve developed a network of go-to people who I know will offer support — not judgment — when I’m pulling my hair out, and share suggestions for how to manage public tantrums. For example, after one of my little girl’s meltdowns, I sent the following text to my sister, a mother of three (including a newborn):
“Terrible two’s can start before 2, right?”
Sensing my desperation, she quickly replied:
“Yes! In fact, both of mine were better by the time they turned two.”
Another fellow mom gave tips for how she deals with tantrums, and my older sister simply lent an ear while I vented.
That was what I needed. When you’re in the trenches, you don’t need the peanut gallery. You don’t need the negative nellies and Debbie downers. You need people who can relate and give practical, solid advice.
It reminded me of a conversation I had a few months ago with Jeff Brown, CIO at Lawrence General Hospital, who talked about the “phone-a-friend” CIOs he turns to when he needs advice or just wants to know what they’re up to. “Things move so fast and furious that if you don’t have a strong network — a think tank of other leaders throughout the industry — you can find yourself at a knowledge deficit,” he said.
Bill Rieger, CIO at Flagler Hospital, has created his own network by reaching out to fellow CIOs through LinkedIn and cultivating relationships, something that has been made easier by the collegial nature of the position. “They’ve all been very willing to share their experiences with me. ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been through that. This is what you can expect here. This is what you might want to do here.’ I’ve talked to them about how to engage and deal with physicians, and it’s been very, very helpful,” Rieger noted.
Others like Dana Moore of Centura Health and Stephen Clark of Albemarle Health have talked about being part of close-knit state CIO groups where leaders from competing organizations willingly share best practices. It’s not something you see in many other industries, but then again, healthcare CIOs are a unique breed. Even those who are battling for the same patients and physicians don’t hesitate to offer support for a colleague in need.
It’s a pretty cool concept, and one I’d like to see spread beyond the health IT world. Because to someone who is battling a crisis, a little support can go a long way.