Tell me anything and I will tell you how it is connected to self-knowledge and skills development. As a new parent I am speculating whether being a mom (especially a SAHM) is like a job or is it more like a long and deep individual soft skill training – if we look at it from a career perspective.
As a parent we are working in a constantly changing, fast-paced environment for a quite indefinite, very-very (very) long term goal. We always face new challenges so we have to learn and adapt every day, while (hopefully) we can cooperate with a incredibly talented and highly motivated team. So can parenthood be a startup? Okay, I put an end to this philosophical pondering to talk about what is most important: what does all this mean in practice! What problem solving and learning opportunities emerge if you take care of a baby all day, every day.
Limited resources are the best start to question putative constraints and innovation. A couple of years ago, dealing with the hardships brought by the financial crisis, we discovered that we don’t have to actually travel there, we can do it over Skype. We don’t have to print it, a PDF will do it. We can accomplish the same from half the money in half the time.
If you can use only six matches to make a triangle, you will definitely make it somehow. If you have only a single line to connect nine dots, you will definitely make it somehow.
As a parent not only our free time decreases significantly, but a bunch of other stuff fail to work the way they did before. And since we don’t have any other options, we definitely get everything done somehow – in a creative way. We discover we can do it with one hand. Yep, with the clumsier hand and even with feet as well. We can do it early in the morning or at night. During a walk, even if it’s raining. In ten minutes every day or in several tiny sessions. In a lying position. With a smartphone. In an audiobook!
If something really has to be done, in some way or another, we will make it.
Maximalism instead of perfectionism
How gracious debates did I witness over this pair of terms during company culture workshops in my previous life. The whole thing starts with proving that the two really have different meaning – and this is unclear to most people. Briefly: hard work is valued in a perfectionist culture, while maximalism focuses on the result. Something can be good enough even if we weren’t run off our feets to reach 120%.
Let’s admit: in a household with kids (or say in our house) the coexistence of a hot meal, a clean house, a balanced mama, a happy baby and a satisfied granny almost never happens. So if there is no such thing as ‘lean parenting’ yet, than I made it up just now! The foundation of this paradigm is to define what represents real client value (meaning good for the baby and for the family), and what is muda (decent, orderly or normal to do in a way, but doesn’t help the client). The second step is to leave everything that we would do to please others, but that does not make any good for us at the end of the day.
It’s always easier to dream, brainstorm and invent new things: some additional feature in our application. Mentoring junior colleagues in one or two hours a week. Teachers’ conflict management workshop after the eighth lesson. Nice, nice but who has the time and money for that? Prioritizing represent the ugly part of a planning process: it means deciding what is less important and so could be left out, stopped or let go to create resources for additional features.
Not that average is the new excellent for parents. Rather being a parent helps to focus on what is really important. It helps at least for me.
The end of procrastination – time management
Time management is a popular topic everyone knows from A to Z. We know that list should be written, pauses should be made, urgent should be prioritized over important, and so on and so on. I suppose you will live by these rules from now on, just before that you will check Facebook for a sec and read this and comment that and after a smoke break you will stop procrastinating, but…
As a parent you easily realise that if you do it like this, than you will use your (very little) entire free time for procrastinating. (Only this comment, ups, she is awake…) And you will face the consequences of missed task soon and directly – nothing is more motivational than this! If you don’t tidy up after the morning walk, getting ready for the afternoon trip will take twice the time – during which your client will voice her dissatisfaction loudly. It is useful to do it peacefully when you have the time, isn’t it?
Okay, I admit if I was the queen of JFDI, this post would have been ready a little bit earlier… But other parents might just made use of the new situation and improved a lot in this skill.
Everyone knows (better) how to raise a child, so new parents have plenty of opportunity to bring their assertive communication to perfection. We can choose between fainting on the bus or politely asking someone to lend us a seat. Between somehow suffering through unwanted visitors or kindly asking them to come later / leave earlier or just not to come. We can complain to our friends about the stupid advice we got from the mother-in-law (or mother, father, neighbour, random stranger) or we can try to tell the mother-in-law how she should(n’t) give advice from now on.
Seven months pregnant I spent hours and days to decide whether or not I should help to someone asked for it. I negotiated with myself: I should focus on myself now… But she asks for help so rarely… But I am so tired… And then at about eight months I was so tired I sometimes only said: “This must be very interesting, but I am not interested now.” Considering how insanely tacky it is to say something like this, the reactions were really-really kind, like: “Of course, this is totally understandable”. So I suppose I must have been highly assertive. Or.. maybe it has something to do with the big belly as well? I don’t know. I haven’t tried to say things like this since than… 😀
Stay at home parents are said to be fallen behind on professional knowledge and skills. What is more, back in the days as an HR professional I also got a motivational letter explicitly accepting the prejudice like: “a lot changed in the past two years, but I still know that…”
Those who ever crapped up a hiring process (like me) know that it is always better to hire someone clever and motivated with only limited experience than a guru who is in the dumps. Professional knowledge can be picked up (often fast), but enthusiasm and the constant desire to learn and improve… not that much. I don’t think we should be afraid to be left behind by the newest trends – at least at 95% of the professions.
What’s more, stay at home parents might just be the really hungry ones for some adult (meaning professional) content. You can say it’s a shame that back in the days I rarely was in the mood for professional learning beside my job(s), but… in the last nine months I listened more audio books and presentations, attended more meetups and webinars than ever before. If I pop in for some work nowadays, I have to restrain myself not to say ‘according to Peter Block’ all the time…
I could continue with other skills as well, but according to Avinash Kaushik, CoR (Conversation Rate) is a rather important social metric, so it’s your turn: what were your experiences on your soft skills as a parent? It is more exciting if you are a WAHP or WOHP – I am interested how the way you do work has changed. Do you apply your home learnings at your workplace as well?