Mother’s Day is a celebration of all the cherished forms of motherhood. This one is for the strong mothers, the nurturing ones, for the mothers who have lost children, for the children who have lost mothers, for those who are aching to be mothers, for those who choose not to be mothers. Read more here.
Nine months may sound like a lot, but really, it’s quite short a time for life to enter this world and a career to end. For me, I went from planning my travel schedule to scheduling prenatal visits. One minute, I was on a plane to Cairo, prepping for a week-long shoot and lots of R&R. The next, I was puking in the bathroom of my 40th-floor advertising agency.
I knew things had to change; I just didn’t know how fast time would move. My belly was growing and, soon enough, I was taking a sabbatical from work, shifting from working nonstop for 13 years to take care of my daughter. And just like that, in a blink, three years passed. I continued freelance writing, but I didn’t know how it would be once I was back to work.
The opportunity to get back onto the working scene finally presented itself and I remember feeling like I would pass out from the stress of walking into an office again. I felt like I didn’t know how to talk. I kept checking to see if there was any dribble of milk on my clothes and making sure I didn’t babytalk to my boss. However, as the days went by, I realized there were skills I had learned as a mother that would be integral to work success.
Here are some skills that helped me transition from home to the office:
There are very few things or people in life that test you as much as your kids. Whether it’s spending half your day waiting for them to put on their shoes or spending a good part of the evening trying to make them finish their meal, kids have a way of trying you. And boy, do mine try me!
But, actually, this helped me become a stronger career woman. I used to be an impatient soul, always rushing because I didn’t want to waste time. Now, I’m open to long debates and questions in the workplace because I get a lot of them at home. This helps with team management and deadlines because you know how to manage tough situations and moody colleagues.
2. Time management
Remember the days when it was all about you? When you languidly made it through the day, doing as you pleased? Those days are long gone. Say hello to a strict schedule and routine. Because without those necessities, kids are just a hot mess. I spent so much time putting my kids on a schedule that my own free spirit somehow caught on as well.
Now, I’m a master of time management. I can have her to ballet, him for tennis, both dressed for a party and in bed, without blinking an eye and losing any time. So imagine the importance of multitasking at work? I can craft an idea, write it, delegate, and move to the next within a day. You’re suddenly not drowning in deadlines and not having panic attacks when someone requests a 3000-word document by end of the day. You’ve got this.
I was always good at this. But now, I can order groceries, change a diaper, put baby-shark on the TV, and velcro my other kid’s shoes at the same time. When I returned to the office, I found that I could use this to better manage my work as well. In my pre-kids life, I would focus days on coming up with a creative concept and refuse to take on any other task. But now, I know that I can do all that while preparing a presentation and reading the news.
I’ve always been a list-maker, but when a lot is on the line, it helps me immensely to plan my week on a Saturday. I plan right down to what they will be eating, who they’ll have a playdate with, my work deliverables, my gym routine, date night with my husband, even a walk to clear my head. It helps me to feel like I have control of the situation and lets me focus solely on the task at hand, instead of panicking about everything at once.
When a kid gets sick, even with the minor flu, a lot of stuff falls into perspective. All the stuff you’re worrying about seems less daunting. You stress less about the house being too messy, not fitting into your old clothes, and not reading enough. You focus on the big stuff. And it carries forward into work also.
You pick and choose your battles at work. You realize if you fail, it isn’t the end of the world – you will do better the next time. If you’ve got too much work, you take a breath and plow through because at least the important stuff is in place. It’s all about perspective and realizing what really matters. It’s the same in the office, right? My day used to be ruined when my boss yelled at me, or I messed up on a big pitch. Now I realize that pretty much nothing is the end of the world. You plow through and do better.
You know what they say. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Time away from work leads to a greater appreciation of it. You realize how privileged you are to be able to work towards something you love. I used to whine about my late working hours incessantly. Then when I became a mum I cribbed about the sleepless nights. But now that I have to juggle both, I realize how fortunate I am to have an opportunity to do both. This means when I’m at work, I can put my heart into creating amazing campaigns, working on strategies, and tossing ideas around with my peers. But at home, I can then focus on the stories of how my son made a new best friend, and my daughter finally perfectly sketched out a unicorn.
So at home, I am able to feel like I am leading by example. My kids see that doing what you love is the best gift you can receive, and that hard work pays off. And at work, I am mindful of how my kids are the reason I can really put myself out there, and how my career helps me feel better about myself and in turn, be a better parent.
6. Conflict management
You can imagine the chaos that commences every morning at 5:30 am with two kids, barely two years apart. However, both are exceptionally important personnel so I cannot offend anyone. This means if he’s snatching her doll, I need to explain to her that he’s hurting her feelings as well as his future chances of playing with her. And if she’s grumpy about the extra hugs he got, then I need to explain that his predicament (a nightmare) warrants this response, but she’s equally important to me. Isn’t this the same attitude we need to excel in the workplace?
I deal with stressors every day at work, but it helps to realize that sometimes my peers just need a bit of venting, someone to hear them out, and then we can return to work. I use this same logic with managing my own stress. To understand that every day, I will be faced with a new challenge, but with some positive self-talk, I can take it on, just like my kids do.
Your mission to become better has become not just a personal need but one that will be viewed by two little humans as well. Life changes when you’ve suddenly got to uphold the title of ‘role model.’ I now put the same heart and soul into my work that I do at home. Because for me, both define an exceptionally important part of who I am, and I must succeed.
These are just some of the ways that being a mother has helped me be a better career woman. So when I see in the media that mothers are sometimes sidelined as being ineffective members of the workforce, I cringe. Employers need to realize that life lessons are harder to come by and mothers are masters at making it all work. Because after all, what other choice do we have?
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