I took 8 years out of my career.
It started as a one year career break, as I moved out of London to live with my boyfriend.
But then we got engaged.
And then married.
And then had a beautiful baby girl.
So my career break continued…
Until when she was about to go to school - and I knew I wanted to return to work.
But after all this time out of the workplace, hadn’t my employable skills withered and died…?
Not at all!
Parenting demands key skills that are immensely valued in the workplace - it’s just not always obvious that that’s the case.
So here are 7 Super Skills that you will have (maybe unwittingly) been honing all the time…
Children often need to get to a certain place at a certain time with certain stuff.
Whether that’s particular doctor’s appointments, the exact sports kit on a specific day, or even just school, every day, the requirements are detailed - and sometimes mandatory.
Achieving this so your child is not the one doing ballet in their school clothes is (for me at least) a daily challenge.
I was never that organised at work - I relied on my wonderful secretaries to keep me on track.
But at home, it’s pretty much down to me.
I have had to learn detailed organisation skills, including implementing a huge colour-coded family calendar.
Now running my own business alongside this has stretched my organisation skills - but the foundation created by needing to be organised for my child was already there.
I never considered myself a patient person, but having my daughter has revealed deep reserves of patience I never knew existed.
On the rare occasions when I’m woken at 3am because she’s had a nightmare, a small part of me wants to swear at her, and put the pillow over my head.
But she’s only little, she’s imaginative, and she’s scared.
So I get out of bed, take her back to her room, give her a kiss and a cuddle - and that’s all she needs.
I know I am more patient and understanding throughout my life because I am now more able to see things from others’ points of view - inspired by this deep well of understanding of my daughter.
Children are amazing negotiators.
“If I go to bed quickly please can I have ten more minutes of TV?”
You have to up your communication game if you want to get them to do stuff.
(I tend to steer clear of out-and-out bribery, eg sweet-based, but I’m not ruling it out…)
I find it works best if I explain WHY something needs to happen.
If she understands, she is more likely to do it.
And I also find offering choice really effective: do you want to brush your teeth before you put on pyjamas, or after?
I’m not suggesting work colleagues or clients are small children, but these principles do work whatever age you are communicating with.
And above all, it is necessary to fit your communication to your audience.
One of my greatest communication achievements is explaining Brexit to a 6 year old in a way she could grasp.
And this is a golden rule for all forms of communication: the meaning of any communication is what is UNDERSTOOD - not what you intend.
So fitting your communication to your audience is crucial - and is something you learn as a parent.
“Mummy, can you help me make a space ship out of tissue paper?”
“Mummy, argh, I’ve broken it!”
"Mummy, I need to look like a rainbow for school tomorrow, what can I wear?"
Parenting comes with all sorts of emergencies that you need to solve - because you’re the adult.
Sometimes money can solve the problem (like the time I couriered my daughter’s favourite bedtime toy from Suffolk to my parents’ house in London because she was going there for a few days and couldn’t sleep without it - £135 well spent).
But often you need to be creative to come up with a solution.
And kids LIKE creativity, and will often help contribute.
So you are not only practising problem-solving, you are often learning too.
I have never been more efficient than during my daughter’s 90 minute afternoon nap.
It is incredible what you can get done.
Similarly, that hour before school pick-up: the pressure of the deadline means you motor through tasks at a rate you wouldn’t believe.
Plus having very clear constraints on your time means you become excellent at prioritisation.
And that’s not just balancing tasks of the same type, eg work: my life needs to include doing the washing as well as sending out invoices for client work - both need to get done, and I only have so many hours in the day.
So working out what to do when, and what is most urgent/ important becomes crucial.
As is often-said, babies do not come with a manual.
And neither do children.
We do the best we can, and muddle through.
But we often have to project confidence to reassure them that it's all going to be OK.
And that’s also true of work.
Often, we aren’t quite sure exactly what to do - but action is better than inaction, so we do the best we can based on the information we have at the time.
But crucially, we do it with CONFIDENCE - and that means it is more likely to work out OK.
There is nothing like having a child to teach you self-reliance and self-confidence.
You are all they’ve got - it’s up to you to keep them safe, and make it all OK.
7. Coaching, mentoring, and role-modelling
My daughter sometimes says to me, “Mummy, I’m really lucky you’re a coach”.
I definitely bring my work skills home.
But the same is true the other way.
Good parenting is not about doing it for them, or even telling them how to do it.
It’s about helping them work it out for themselves.
Which is the essence of good coaching.
And being a parent means role-modelling the kind of behaviour you want from your child (eg don’t swear too often in front of them if you don’t want them doing it…).
It’s actually one reason I went back to work - I want my daughter to see me out in the world, making a contribution, and making my own money.
So through being a parent you are honing the skills that will not only make you good at your job - it will also help others get better at doing theirs.
So be proud of your Super Skills!
You can use them not just to help you survive as a parent - but to help you thrive in your career.
p.s. if you'd like support finding your way back into work after having time out to have children, or to understand how what you do at home benefits your boss, get in touch!