Parenting and business are not usually two things you put together. A trawl through social media and popular publications will result in endless articles about ‘how to find a work life balance’. Many parents struggle to respond to the needs of the two separate roles.
But what if they aren’t so separate after all? The skills you develop through business can be applied to your role as a parent. The journey through parenting can test your limits and push your boundaries, but ultimately help you to develop as an individual and these experiences are invaluable when applied to a work setting.
When you compartmentalise different aspects of your life, you immediately generate tension as you strive to fit into different roles. Noticing and appreciating the shared skills and values you implement across these roles can go some way to relieving that tension and help you integrate your experiences.
Here are just a few ways parenting and business can share skills and values.
In some jobs, such as psychology, mental health and counselling professional, you are taught from the start about the importance and value of self-reflection. We can’t help our clients if we don’t have our own thoughts and responses in check. Although it is not something that is always covered in training for other professions, self-reflection is a hugely important skill and practice for anyone in business. The more you reflect, the more you are aware of your goals and direction. This can only benefit your company and support your professional development.
Starting a family has a huge impact on your self-image and identity. Your new role as a parent forces you to re-evaluate your values, choices and often your career path. Some people decide to take a new direction in their current work or change their career entirely. Some take a break or wish to work more flexibly. Others return to work more focused and driven than ever because they are motivated by a need to support their family. Whatever your decisions, having a family can mean you can reflect on your business life and career goals. Also refocus on how to make your work, work for you.
We all know that time management is an essential skill to have in the workplace. Some of us are better at this than others. However in most jobs there are serious time constraints that we have to adhere to: start and finish times, deadlines, responding to emails and customer demands.
By the time we enter the workforce, we have become used to working within time boundaries through our experiences in education. Then children come along, and the clocks go out of the window. Your deadlines and emails are not on their radar. It always feels like the day before an early start or important meeting will be the night they get ill, go on sleep strike or spill water on your laptop. Day-care, school, activities and playdates all must fit in to your already busy schedule. At times it can seem like an impossible task trying to be in two places at once. But as parents, you do it and you make it work.
There’s an old saying that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. This often works out in your favour because the busier the person, the more task focused they need to be. They don’t have time to procrastinate and they usually have detailed schedules. They also have well-oiled routines that ensure your request doesn’t get lost or forgotten.
Parents in the workplace may seem like they have more on their plate but often they are well practiced at planning their time and knowing how long things take to accomplish. There may be the occasional forgotten school presentation, or the email that got lost in the ether and we all have days where we simply can’t make it out of the door in time. However the skills you are developing in time management as a parent, are essential and advantageous to the business world.
Vision and Flexibility
Parenting and business share one big similarity; you need vision. Vision to invest in the future, to see your hard work paid off. In business there is talk of ‘return of investment’. This can be a tricky one to get your head around. As you can feel like you are investing so much time and money, especially if it’s your own business, and the wait and gamble to see results can be frustrating and anxiety provoking.
Parenting also challenges our notions of vision. We can enjoy each stage of our children’s childhood and appreciate the different stage of development. But ultimately, we cannot know where our children will end up and what impact we will have on their lives. Parenting is a voyage into the unknown. We may start out with set ideas, but these notions are quickly challenged. We find ourselves changing our visions, plans and beliefs to suit the emerging needs of our families. Businesses are the same. They are set out into the world with a fixed aim and vision, but they are subject to current trends, changing demands and different cultural influences.
In the workplace, we need to embrace change, respond to feedback and be flexible enough to adapt our vision. The experience of parenting provides us with the resourcefulness and flexibility to embrace change and explore the unknown.
Whatever stage of parenting you are in, consider the rich advantages your experiences have had on your professional life. At times it may seem overwhelming to juggle so many tasks or be responsible for so many people, but through every experience you grow and develop as a person. Your roles may be varied and demanding, but your vision, values and ethics should be your constant and driving force through parenting and business.