Mum skills | 11 things you face as a mother that can help transform your career
Ideally, it would be acceptable for anyone to make a conscious and positive choice to opt for family life versus returning to work.
But so many gender issues in the workplace are bound up with women having children and choosing not to go back to their jobs. This is a complex issue, especially when we consider the reasons this choice is made primarily by women: high childcare costs; a lack of flexible jobs to fit with family life; the gender pay gap and critically, a lack of confidence in returning work post taking time out to have a family.
This confidence issue is significant, as it's something that we can control and change with the correct mindset. So often, the skills and lessons we learn as parents are undervalued by our employers and ourselves.
But 'mum-skills' as I like to call them, are some of the most valuable and influential on the planet. So, here are my top 11 that can positively change the game - and your career.
1. Confidence in bundles
Did your small bundle of joy come with an instruction manual? Mine neither. I have two daughters, about to turn 13 and 14. I vividly recall the day that I brought my eldest child home from the hospital - as my husband closed our front door, I sat on our sofa and burst into tears. I was totally in love with our new baby, but fear of the unknown had taken hold. As a serial entrepreneur, I had definitely experienced my share of new challenges over the years. But this seemed immense and totally outside of my comfort zone.
My husband looked equally terrified, although I think that was more closely coupled to my reaction than our beautiful newborn. My point is that we don't implicitly know how to raise children, we have no experience of it until we have one. And yet, the majority of us throw ourselves in at the deep end and make a pretty good fist of it.
We discover simple tactics to cope and thrive, and that builds our confidence every day. There's no instruction manual for getting back to work, but when you think of the miracle that you just made happen at home, you deserve to feel great about diving back into your role with confidence.
2. Deep reserves of patience
I have to confess that I am addicted to those Facebook personality tests that reveal your top traits. Sadly, patience is not one of mine. Or at least, it's not a skill that comes naturally. I have to work at it. And I had no better training for enhancing my patience than in parenting.
Potty training, teaching your child to dress herself (surely it's easier to ask an octopus to pop itself in and out of a string bag?), negotiating with your teen - all of these things require patience in abundance. And the same is true in business, especially when creating new products and services, or transforming organisations. Of course, businesses need to deliver operational efficiencies and manage the bottom line. But top-line growth is much harder to deliver - and requires parental reserves of patience.
3. Deadline delight
When my children were small, I must confess to being a little obsessed with bedtime. It wasn't something I wanted to miss. Not only the delights of quality wind-down time and stories with my girls at the end of a busy day, but also the surefire knowledge that once they were safely in bed and asleep, I would gain some vital alone-time to get stuff done or sleep. Mums are really good at deadlines. We'll do almost anything to make sure that we don't miss them.
I have always been a working mum. I went back to work 12 weeks after my eldest was born and 4 weeks after my youngest on a part-time basis. Each time, I felt pretty daunted by the challenges ahead. But what I learned is this: working mums are really good at prioritising effectively. We figure out how to get stuff done, and we spend less time on the water cooler chat as we know we're running a tight schedule at both ends of our day.
This is one of my most prized mum-skills - the ability to ruthlessly prioritise on the fly and to accomplish the tasks that need to be achieved to deliver the greatest impact - every day.
5. Negotiation tactics
And resilience. I have two teenage daughters.
Some of today's best business leaders are ambassadors of clarity. A classic mum skill that we ignore at our peril.
7. Influencing the crowd
Teens can be a pretty tough crowd to persuade. Once your kids are old enough to rationally debate and discuss life, the universe and everything, your job as a parent are no longer to tell them what to do, cajole them with Haribos or 5 more minutes of screen time, but to positively influence their life choices.
Exerting influence teams in the workplace is not so different from your most powerful and positive interactions in family life.
8. Love and praise
Mothers truly understand the power of positive praise and encouragement versus criticism or silence. We are inspirational team players and leaders before most other things.
9. School gate skills
Whether it's our relationship with our children's teachers, helping our kids with a school project, being the class rep or teaching them to bake, mums are really good collaborators - almost without realising it.
Our ability to work with others is key, as the workplace requires effective collaboration, without ego. Just like the school gates, really.
10. Fun and laughter
Parenting is hard work but it's also a lot of fun. Mums are supremely aware that humour makes parenting so much easier. I'm not suggesting that you wear a clown suit to work - unless you work in a circus - but it's an important skill to make the workplace a vibrant and fun place somewhere attractive to employees and colleagues and where they feel encouraged to deliver their best.
11. Role modelling
As a Mum, why do I work? For myself, for money, but also because I care passionately about being a positive role model for my children. I want them to see first-hand that they can aspire to be anything that they are willing to graft hard for. Not everything in life works out. Many businesses fail. A willingness to take risks is vital in life and work. My mum-skills are closely coupled with my life as an entrepreneur.