Kitchen Table Tycoon

Something, I’m not sure what, made me think that borrowing this book from the library was a good idea. Anita Naik’s Kitchen Table Tycoon: How to Make It Work as a Mother and an Entrepreneur sounded to me, at the time, like a great idea. I’ve been struggling for a while to balance the need finally finish last year’s accounts (I know, I know…) with looking after Polly.

Of course, what I need here is simple:

1. A tidy work space, so when I have four spare minutes I can spend at least three of them working – rather than lifting debris out of the way and still not getting anywhere.

2. The ability to send Polly to my parents’ or my sister’s for half a day every now & again, and

3. The inclination to do so.

I know these things. So I’m not sure what help I thought the book might be. Still, as I took it to check out, carried it home, and sat in the window while Polly watched the birds in the garden, I remained hopeful.

The hope did not last long.

To get the superficial crap out of the way first, the cover is so drab. It is in shades of stone and mud, depicting a small girl dressed head to toe in stone (apart from her pink barrette, lest you mistake her for a boy child), clinging on and looking up at what you assume must be her mother. All you can see is bare legs in camel coloured sandals, with a knee length stone skirt. Oh, and a hand clutching a telephone. A cordless landline it looks like. I think she’s even wearing stone coloured nail varnish on her toenails. Being the pernickety sod I am, I read this as saying “You are wearing rainbow socks and a purple cardigan. Who the hell do you think you are, of course you’ll fail!” This should have been my first clue that I’m not really their target market.

The problem is, while the legs on the front appear to belong to a grown up, I struggle to see how the advice inside can be directed at one. The suggestions inside, and the ideas it desperately tries to get across, would be belittling even at GCSE Business Studies.

The first 50 pages seem to be devoted to deciding whether or not you would be remotely capable of running a business. It aims to achieve this by throwing those juvenile quizzes at you (Why do you want to do this? (a) You’re bored (0) (b) You see this as a viable way to make money (10) (c) You need a change (5)”) that I haven’t seen since I obsessively read Just Seventeen when I was, what, twelve? There are then 32 pages devoted to working out what you’re going to do. Are you going to use a skill you have? Perhaps you could find a niche market, or even turn a hobby into a business! Pap.

There is then a short chapter on “Work, guilt and bad mother syndrome”. I thought I’d be at least interested in this chapter. Sadly, not even does it not really bring anything to the table about what causes guilt about parenting and work, or what might make you feel like a bad (or good!) mother, but it also basically just advises “Stop feeling guilty.” Well. Okay then. It even advocates taking “Power visits” instead of power naps – short breaks from work to spend time with your kids. Of course the assumption here is that they are playing nicely elsewhere in the house with the nanny.

I have to say that there is one excellent piece of advice here – “Ignore the newspapers that claim [whatever], or read the full version of the report and see if that’s what they’re really saying (nine times out of ten the story will have been reported badly). Sadly some of the other advice intended to assuage the mummy guilt could be seen as a criticism on those mothers who choose not to do any paid work, whether for themselves or anyone else – for example referring to how their “sons benefited by learning to respect and admire women ‘who can hold their own’.” To me this is another way of saying that they taught their sons that women who chose to dedicate themselves full time to caring for their children and the home are not worthy of their respect.

There are then some half arsed pointers about what to do next – what to put in your business plan, conducting market research, and how to get investment. Again, this is all pitched below GCSE Business Studies level. The rest of the book is “case studies” – or other “mumpreneurs” (I hate that word) explaining what they do and how hard it was, yet how ultimately rewarding.

Maybe some people would find the book useful or helpful. Sadly, I’m not one of them.

What am I saying, let me try again.

Maybe some people would find the book useful or helpful. Thankfully, I’m not one of them.

What remains is – what would I have found useful? I think I was hoping for some magic solutions to my time, multitasking and attachment parenting problems, like “Give the baby a balloon and a piece of string, it will be entertained for hours while you concentrate on your tax calculations.” “Here is a phone service which will detect and mask the sounds of your child crying or demanding attention so your client won’t be any the wiser!” “This knockout drug is 100% safe and will ensure your child sleeps uninterrupted for two whole hours even if you do knock over a shelf full of books and shout at your debtors.”

Of course, these miracles don’t exist.

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