Do you break into an anxious sweat thinking about returning to work after being on maternity leave? Have you ever doubted your ability to do your job as well as you did before kids?
Well, who could blame you?! It can be bloody scary and you wouldn’t be alone in thinking it’s a battleground worth running from. But you shouldn’t turn and run. Instead, and when you are ready, you should valiantly charge right into the space you occupied before you ventured off into the wild lands of motherhood and know two important things will become quickly apparent to you when you get there:
1. Your gorgeous little bambino will be A-OK, even though you will miss each other desperately; and
2. You will most likely be better at your job now than you were before kids.
Since popping out your little bundle you have developed some pretty awesome new talents. In fact, the sole goal of my book, The Business School of Motherhood: How to Turn Your Parenting Skills into Career Capital, is to prove to you why becoming a parent doesn’t mean you are suddenly incapable of:
a) Being at home with your children and simultaneously building career capital by generating new skills in the process; and
b) Being a successful parent and a working professional at the same time.
So why do people, both men and women, still believe you can’t? A huge part of the problem is perception – both your own and of those in the professional environment. The tender and nurturing qualities thought to be necessary to succeed as a mother are theoretically in direct opposition to the hard-nosed and business-minded qualities thought to be needed in the workplace. Clearly, whoever came up with this model of success hasn’t witnessed the finesse in which a mother can close out a business deal late in the afternoon to ensure she gets the job done and still make it to the daycare centre in time to pick up the kids before being charged a late fee.
There is also a fundamental flaw in the belief that motherhood fails to possess both tenderness and tenacity. There are times when a purely gentle response is not necessarily the most appropriate, but rather a concrete will is required, one which fails to be out-negotiated by the ultimate negotiators on the planet – kids. Terrorists to inner calm, trying to take you down at your weakest moments. Amidst their kids’ tantrums, stubbornness and bad attitudes, parents are regularly required to assume the role of bad cop – like it or not!
Motherhood also teaches us that it is OK to seek advice and admit (regularly) that we don’t have all the answers. You may not be aware of it at the time, but reaching out not only helps you cope as a parent, it equips you with one of many skills that can easily be transferred from the home and applied in a professional working environment.
The more I thought about these types of scenarios, the more I realised that motherhood was a significant contributing factor to me being much better at my job after returning to work than I was before I had children. And the hundreds of mothers I spoke to while completing research for the book came to see it the same way – once they gave themselves a chance to do so.
At this stage you might be thinking, ‘Oh yeah, like what? What place do kid wrangling skills have in the corporate world?’ Well, here is merely a snapshot of the many significant new skills you will have developed that will help you succeed at work:
- Teaching – If you had little idea how to be a teacher before kids, you won’t be wondering now. Your little human sponge requires you to live in a 24/7 classroom where the question of the day is usually ‘Why?’.
- Accounting – If it wasn’t your thing before, there’s every chance some form of basic accounting will be now. Depending on how long you were/are on maternity leave can pull on the purse strings, and you often need to get creative.
- Project management – Your capacity to prioritise a list of needs and demands in an endlessly agile way explodes exponentially after becoming a parent. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t get anywhere. Ever!
- Negotiation – It started with just one more minute, then two more minutes. Now the negotiations are detailed, complex and threaten my sanity weekly. If we draw upon the strength and stamina used to out-negotiate our kids, workplace negotiations will be a cakewalk.
From the basic skill of learning to survive and function on no sleep, running an entire house of wild animals to schedule, empowerment through self-education to survive, and developing the coping mechanisms and skills to get through a conversation with another adult while one (or more) of your children is doing everything in his or her power to publicly out you as a raging lunatic – there is no doubt that parenthood teaches us new skills, some of which we didn’t know we were capable. In my book, I outline exactly how to make these newfound talents work for you.
Being a mother is hard. Being a working mother can be even harder, at times. But what’s not hard is to identify and make the best use of the skills you have learned and honed as a parent, so that you can return to the professional working environment with confidence.
Written by Leticia Cavallaro author of The Business School of Motherhood: How to Turn Your Parenting Skills into Career Capital, available globally on Amazon. Originally published at The Delivery Mag.