Guest blogger Solange Lopes of TheCorporateSister.com shares insight on lessons from parenting that can be used in your professional life.
Parenting will change your life, that’s a fact. The reality is, for many professionals out there, it’ll also drastically change your career. The good news, however, is that through those late-night feedings, homework review sessions and PTA meetings, the tough lessons we learn from being a parent also turn out to be the ones that propel our careers forward.
As a mom of two little angels myself, I’ve had to learn the hard way! From being a single professional in the city to returning to work after baby#1 and then baby#2, like so many of us, I’ve had to bootstrap my way through being a “working parent”. And of course, my career was never the same after!
It was actually better…
Here are some of the toughest yet most powerful lessons from being a mama, that I learned and still take with me to work day in and day out:
Realize Your Why
There’s something about having kids that just adds perspective to life (in addition to an unbelievable amount of laundry). Being responsible for raising another human being forces you to grow up, at times faster than you’re prepared to. It wasn’t until after I had kids that I fully realized and started actively working towards building my own business.
Most importantly, it pushes you to realize your ‘why’, or that purpose to strive towards at work and in life. While it can be a painful process of introspection, it can also give you the motivation and drive to trail your own path.
You don’t know the value of sleep until you’ve been up all night with a crying baby or sick toddler. Or until you’d even be willing to let go of your entire shoe collection for five more minutes of rest. I remember being so tired I would set my timer for ten minutes in the parking lot at work just to close my eyes and doze off for a few.
After this, going through five exhausting meetings and preparing three lengthy memos—piece of cake!
Now this one’s still tough for me. Everything about being a parent requires patience, from being in labor 18 hours to going through five loads of laundry a week.
Yet, it’s the same patience that helps us weather the flat, or even worse, the tough moments in our careers. The same patience that makes us go back to work after a disastrous review, or continue to build a business after all seems lost.
A few hours after my son was born, he was diagnosed with a rare skin disease with possible congenital consequences. We couldn’t give up, and for an entire year after, went to see every doctor we could. Over a year later, his diagnosis was reversed. Yet the most important lesson it taught me is never to quit.
Sometimes, it’s less about how good you are than how long you stay in the race. It’s the determination not to quit that separates the best from the average. You can’t exactly quit being a parent. Not when your kid misbehaves, not when the doctor’s diagnosis is heartbreaking, and definitely not when you run out of strength.
That same endurance will make you stick it out when the going gets tough, after the job loss, missed promotion, or when it’s time to start over with that business again.
The mind of a parent is filled with “should’s”, those mini-failures we tend to beat ourselves up for constantly. Like that time I should have disciplined Junior (but instead bribed him with candy so I could lay down for a minute longer), or when I didn’t make baby girl’s 20th piano recital.
All these teach us to forgive ourselves, and use the lesson to do better the next time around, whether it’s to speak up at the meeting, ask for that raise or start that new entrepreneurial venture…
Give More Than You Receive
Giving tirelessly to your kids teaches you to also give more than you receive in other areas of your life and career. Before having kids, honestly, I would’ve barely considered making time to volunteer at church or at work. There’s something about parenting that helps you expand your time and energy on ways you wouldn’t have thought possible before.
It helps you understand the value of service in a direct and special way, so you can go back to work and volunteer for special projects. Or offer to mentor that new employee.
Lead with Heart
After having kids, I thought the emotional connectivity I was now experiencing would hamper my career (read: make me wimpy and too soft). Yet, it’s more and more apparent that the best leaders are also those who can connect more deeply. While all this emotional connection can make you feel more vulnerable, it can also push your career to the next level.
What are the toughest yet most powerful parenting lessons you’ve applied to your career?
Bio: Solange Lopes is an author, blogger and CPA. She writes about career and lifestyle topics for women at work in her blog The Corporate Sister (www.thecorporatesister.com). She’s the author of The Corporate Sister’s Guide to Taking Back Control of Your Career: 7 Steps to Reclaiming Your Work.