I will never forget the anxiousness I felt as my maternity leave was coming to an end after my first child was born. Less anxious about going back to work, but more anxious about what our new routine was going to look like, how in the WORLD I would be able to get myself AND a child ready and out the door in the mornings, how tired I was going to be and lastly, if I was going to be a different employee.
While I knew I was still the same employee with the same skill set, after becoming a mom, I was a totally different person. I had different priorities outside of work, which meant sometimes my mind was all over the place. Was I going to still be a good contributor and leader in the workplace? At the time, I knew these fears were normal and luckily, my transition back was not horrible, but there are days now when I still wonder these things. Questioning if I can balance it all – be a great mom and a great employee. I mainly wonder this because there can be such a negative stigma about working parents and their ability to contribute fully at work and manage their life at home.
I have been back to work now after having my third baby for almost two months. The anxiety the third time around is still there, just a bit different. I knew what our routine was going to look like (just add one more stop!), I am well aware of the absolute chaos mornings are and try plan ahead, I am just perpetually tired with three kids aged four and under, and I AM a different employee. And I have changed with each kid and I believe, have truly become a better employee each time I’ve come back from maternity leave. Here are five reasons why I think being a parent CAN make you a better employee:
- Perspective. This is one thing that I think changes for most parents almost immediately after you have a baby. Your life went from only caring about yourself to now revolving completely on keeping another human alive. The worry and fears that parents have for their children is ongoing and only seems to get worse when you watch the news or hear a story about a sick child. So when something goes wrong at work or there is a stressful deadline or project, do I get stressed out? Absolutely. However, while my work and job is extremely important, my family and children are more important. When something goes wrong at work, all I have to do is go pick up my healthy, happy children and my world is a better place and my mind gets relief of stress. Baby snuggles help, too.
- Empathy. You’re late to work? I get it. I have three kids who lose their shoes and don’t want to put on clothes. You’re stuck in traffic? It’s fine – I’ve been there. You’re sick AGAIN? I know first-hand that kids are dirty little-germ filled creatures. Most employee related situations, I have also lived and can relate and likely have a story to tell you about the time that I did the same thing. Life happens and as a parent, I feel like I have a better appreciation for it all.
- Prioritization and efficiency (aka ninja). This is a quality I think happens for most working parents. You only have so many hours in a day to get everything done – you find creative ways to get it all done and not go crazy. For me, finding the balance means not taking my work home with me. While sometimes unavoidable, I have learned to be an efficient, multi-tasking, prioritizing ninja worker during the day to avoid opening up my computer at night. Overall, this makes me a more productive contributor during the day, even if that sometimes means giving up all the water cooler talk (boo). Now onto the more fun qualities…
- Problem solver extraordinaire. Having toddlers and somewhat inept preschoolers, they are constantly losing stuff. Or putting it somewhere that five seconds later they cannot remember. I’m great at finding it and negotiating with little people that are unreasonable most of the time. So add problem solver to my list of skill sets! When someone comes to me with an issue at work, I am much more prepared to listen carefully, show sincere concern and help to solve their problem – even if it is ridiculous.
- Sense of humor – always. Need a good laugh or want to hear a funny/ridiculous story? I’m your girl. Want to tell me a funny/ridiculous story? I’m your girl. I have a particular affinity to stories about ridiculous kids doing crazy things, but I also like dog stories, going out stories, boyfriend/girlfriend drama and especially, family drama. My kids constantly provide me with entertainment, and I feel like every workplace could use a laugh, right?
While everyone might not believe these things, check out this amazing video of a mom’s performance review right after she got back from maternity leave. I love watching this and her sincere surprise when she hears what positive things people have to say about her – we need to give ourselves as working moms (and dads!) more credit people.
Hold your heads high ladies and remember that while it sometimes may seem like these little (and big) kids suck everything out of us, you are bringing critical and necessary skills to your workplace! Focus on the positive and tangible things that having a kid (or two, or three) have taught you and how you are able to apply that to your work. While you are absolutely not the same employee before you had kids, I’m betting that you are even better.