Becoming a parent equips you with a huge range of transferable skills for the modern workplace, including networking, communication and time management.
A new dad goes for an interview at a consultancy firm and hears: “There are two types of people, those who want to be home for bedtime, and those who don’t, and this job isn’t for the former.”
Maybe the interviewer was being honest about the workplace culture to attract the right candidate. If so, it worked. My friend turned the job down. He wants to be the first thing his son sees in the morning and the last thing he sees at night.
Being a parent is the best off-the-job learning you can get
Whether you are balancing work and parenting or taking time out of the workplace, you are using your networking, communication and time management skills to build a better future.
Leadership and responsibility
The realisation that you’re no longer the most important person in your world is hard to accept, until you realise that you are the most important person in your child’s world.
Yes, you may have to share this honour with a partner, but this pride in your personal project gives you the strength to follow the steep learning curve and never give up.
You want to be a success at work to make your children proud of you, as well as pay for their toys, clothes, education and holidays.
Behind every doting grandparent is a frustrated child or in-law who doesn’t want to be told how to do their job.
Not only are you managing the expectations of your own parents, you have to set boundaries for your partner's parents, while understanding where you sit on the family tree.
It’s not easy, but once the power battles subside you emerge a stronger person in the knowledge you all want to look after the family heirs. Such experience will prove useful when having to prove to senior colleagues that you are ready to challenge the status quo.
Inspire don’t control
Don’t try to relive your life through your children, or your career through your team members.
They need your support and leadership to find their own way of making you sleep at night. So don’t stand over them when they are on their path of self-discovery.
They are learning how to interact with different characters to complete their own stories.
While shared interests can form connections, egos can easily break them.
Once you become a parent it’s tempting to share your wisdom and expertise with your peers. But the more you interact with other parents, the more you think your parenting style is best.
Unless lives are at stake, keep your opinions to yourself as gossipers are soon identified and ostracised by the networks that matter. Organisations need team players who can harmonise relations to create a melting pot of personalities to help the business grow.
You develop greater respect for equality and diversity at work and in life, understanding the shared challenges that two dads, two mums, single parents and blended families face as they try to balance work and personal responsibilities.
Resisting peer pressure
To make the transition from adult to parent you have to battle through the denial cycle to accept your independence is over and you can no longer go on wild weekends.
You have a duty of care to your family. Embracing this new role will give you the experience and determination to create a family friendly culture at work, challenge resistance to your decisions and help people accept organisational change.
We all want the halcyon days of our magical childhood for our children, but don’t be deceived by the power of nostalgia.
It is an illusion, creating unrealistic expectations for future success. Past glories, dominant personalities and legacies hinder succession planning, business innovation and employee engagement.
You have to make a stand and find out what the business needs to evolve, which means leaders have to lead and everyone has to play their part in hitting objectives.
Photographs, speeches, awards and social media chatter may create the illusion of progress, but they quickly fade from memory. People feel engaged and committed to their work when they are treated with respect and gain the skills and experience to progress in their careers.
Perform & don’t show off
You often feel the need to display your parenting skills in public places:
- Disciplining your children in the playground
- Making sure everyone on the train knows you are the fun mum or dad every child wishes for
- Wanting everyone in the swimming pool to believe you are the best swimming teacher the world has ever seen
While passion is important, especially in the workplace, showing off does not make you a good performer.
With internet technology you can communicate with people from all over the world while never leaving your seat.
But don’t forget the people sitting next to you as companies cannot lose the human element of employee engagement.
Technology should complement people skills so everyone feels they are working together, even if they are miles apart, be it physically or metaphorically.
If your company’s internal communication channels can be as popular as Mumsnet, you are on to a winner.
Sleep deprived parents struggling to resist typing the acronym ‘ODFOD’ when dealing with difficult colleagues, should count to ten and remember how they speak to their children when they are being naughty.
Or maybe just step away from the keyboard and make a cup of coffee…just make sure you enjoy being a parent.
It’s a wonderful time
About Paul Carter
Paul Carter is an independent HR blogger and Senior HR Consultant who has worked in HR for six years after spending 10 years in communications and committee management. He is CIPD qualified and writes HR blogs to encourage debate on how to make the world of work a better place. He has studied journalism and screenwriting and is always interested in meeting new people and exploring new opportunities.