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 battle ground that’s 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 when you get there:
- Your gorgeous little bambino will be A-OK (even though you will miss each other desperately);
- You will most likely be BETTER at your job now than you were before kids (no, that’s not a typo).
You’ve probably been too busy and tired to realise, but 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 show mothers 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 successful 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 makes it home in time to pick up the kids before the daycare centre charges a late fee
There is also a fundamental flaw in the belief that motherhood fails to possess both tenderness and tenacity. Let’s be honest, at times love is not appropriate while parenting. Instead, you need a concrete will that 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 tantrums, stubbornness and bad attitudes, we parents grow a thicker skin than a rhino as we are regularly required to turn into, and be fine with, being the hated one.
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 doing this 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 utilised 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 I returned from maternity leave than I was in life before 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 saying, “Oh yeah, like what?. Show me how cleaning vomit can be useful in the office?”. Well, here’s a just a small snapshot of the types of skills you’ve developed and can harness to help you dominate 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 that pulls on the purse strings and you often need to get creative.
Project Management: Your capacity to priortise 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 came two more minutes. Now the negotiations are detailed, complex and threaten my sanity weekly. If we can out-negotiate our highly emotional kids, then big business deals will be a breeze.
From the basic skill of learning to survive and function on no sleep, running an entire house of wild animals to schedule, and developing the coping mechanisms and skills to get through a conversation with another adult while one (or more) of your children are doing everything in their power to publicly out you as a raging lunatic, there is no doubt our children gift us a strength and endless skill set we didn’t know we had in us and in my book I outline exactly how to make them 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.
The Business School of Motherhood: How to Turn Your Parenting Skills into Career Capital, is available globally on Amazon.