Why Parenthood Makes Us Better Workplace Leaders
Whatever we choose to turn our attention to tends to grow and flourish, which is why parenthood makes us better workplace leaders.
Whatever we choose to turn our attention to tends to grow and flourish, don’t you think? If I turn my attention to cuddling with and reading with my baby, his smiles get bigger, my own heart gets fuller, and our bond grows stronger. If I turn my attention to an important work project, it gets done on time and with skill. If I focus on all the things I can’t do in a day, my head goes to a dark place where I feel like I’m not doing enough. If I focus on all the things I am doing for my family and my career, I feel pretty darn good about the mother and employee I am.
No loss of focus
One of our pet peeves about the average workplace mindset is a perception that women somehow automatically “give up” focus, skills, dedication, and the ability to succeed, simply by having children. All the attention seems to be on what is lost instead of on what is gained by becoming a mother. We talk ourselves into thinking we’ve somehow become “less” of an employee because we took leave, took time out of our day to breastfeed or express milk, or have a hard stop at the end of each day to go pick up children.
Today we’d like to direct our focus to – and celebrate! – all the new and amazing muscles you are growing by becoming a mother. As neuroscientist Dr. Ruth Feldman has discovered, our brains are actually more plastic in the first year after our babies are born than at any other time in our adult lives.
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News skills from parenthood
If you’re new on this parenthood journey, some of these skills may reveal themselves to you over time. Here are a few we’ve seen mamas develop:
✅ Patience and adaptability. As a parent, it seems absolutely nothing happens according to plan. (Or it will for a while, and then abruptly, the plan changes.)
✅ Creative problem solving. Rarely does the same solution to a baby-related problem work two times in a row.
✅ Everything on your to-do list has to get done at some point, right? Nope. There are the must-dos, the nice-to-dos, and the time-wasters, and having kids helps you get straight really quickly which category each task falls into.
✅ Anticipating the needs of your stakeholders. Little babies certainly are demanding customers, aren’t they? And the better you’re able to predict in advance what they need, the smoother your day goes. The same is true for your boss’ and clients’ needs.
✅Organising and planning. As a working mum, you can’t get out the door in the morning (or get out and actually stay out), without a massive amount of advance planning. Organisation is a survival skill both at home and at work.
✅ Increasing delegation skills. Asking for help on the mama front is absolutely critical. And as you return to work, it becomes a work survival and success skill, too. So-called “disasters” at work just don’t seem as bad as they may have been in the past.
✅ People manager skills. As parents, we learn to be good listeners, to be empathetic, and to help our children’s personal growth. This skill set is invaluable to shift from being simply a manager to being a great people manager.
Our challenge to you is to tout your new skills, and to remind yourself of them regularly. By putting our focus on those areas where we have become amazing mama ninjas, maybe, just maybe, we can change the conversation about the value of being a working mama both in our own heads and in our workplaces.
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- Lori Mihalich-Levin, JD,founder and CEO of Mindful Return, author of Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave, and co-host of the Parents at Work Podcast.
- Anya Smirnova co-author and lead of the UK Chapter of Mindful Return, co-host of Lawyer Life Experiment Podcast