5 things my kids taught me about work (and life)

Last year, the House of Commons released data indicating that pregnancy and maternity discrimination may be a significant problem in the UK. More disturbing was the realisation that the level of discrimination appears to have grown in the last 10 years, despite improvements to pregnancy and maternity rights over the same period.

It’s astounding that employers are still failing to recognise that being pregnant or having children doesn’t affect a woman’s skills or abilities, and that stereotypes of pregnant workers and working mothers appear to be alive and well.

In contrast having children can build on existing skills, and help to gain new ones.

Having your first born child thrust into your inexperienced care is a prime example of learning on the job. Furthermore, acquiring the ability to not only multi-task, but to do so whilst juggling priorities, with cheeky monkey children swinging from your apron strings means work can seem a doddle in comparison!

I have three young children (aged six, four and one). Aside from the times I’ve taken maternity leave, I’ve always worked in a management position. I’ve tried working full time, part time and job share. It’s always a difficult balance because I’m committed to both my children and my profession. However, having children has certainly made me a better, more well rounded person. Here I’ve outlined five skills which I believe are improved by motherhood. Skills that are easily transferable and useful in the workplace.

I used to be so impatient, about everything. Children soon made me realise that this is unnecessary, and often counter productive. Having patience doesn’t mean I’m no longer motivated. I’m just as motivated as I used to be. I just recognise that great results take time and effort, and impatience has little to add to the mix.

A doctor once told me that having three children was “all about organisation”. Though I didn’t feel like that at the time, he was of course right. It’s not that I wasn’t organised before, but there’s nothing like the military operation required to do anything when three young children are involved. It’s organisation at the next level, where you not only plan for what you know will be necessary but anticipate and ensure and arising demands are met satisfactorily.

Conflict Resolution
I’m not just talking about toddler tantrums, or sibling rivalry. Having children seems to create conflict with most people at some point (grandparents, partner, school etc) and as the mother you tend to be responsible for sorting this out. While the naughty step (unfortunately in some cases) can’t be used in the workplace, those honed negotiation skills certainly can.

Getting Along
Although children can be stubborn (just like adults), they have an uncanny ability to just get along. They tend to take people at face value, quickly picking up on strengths and weaknesses. As adults we can lose this ability as it becomes clouded with preconceptions. We can learn to appreciate people more and co-operate better if we go back to the basics of understanding.

Living for the Now
My children definitely taught me the joy and wonder of the simple things in life. Living in the moment is something children do naturally. For adults, it means we observe more and consequently make better decisions. Fair enough, it’s not really a skill per se – more of an attitude or world view, but it’s something everyone should learn how to do.

Yep, raising the next generation is probably the hardest job we’ll ever do. It is also extremely rewarding in itself, but it might be nice for us to get a bit of recognition!

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