The coronavirus pandemic has put parents through the wringer. Too many, we continue to hear, are leaving their jobs. Some had no choice in the matter. Yet, there’s a growing number of parents, mothers more likely than fathers, who are opting to press pause on their work life by taking an unpaid leave of absence, reducing their work hours or quitting altogether.
Their reasoning is summed up in a recent New York Times headline: In the Covid-19 economy, you can have a kid or a job. You can’t have both.
As mothers and other parents step back from their careers, many are wondering of the long-term impacts. Will the gap in their resume haunt them for years? Will they lose out the unique experience only a pandemic can offer? What will happen to their pay and will they be able to restart their careers at the same level.
These are valid considerations to contemplate. Yet, for these parents to agonize over what seems trivial when parenting in a pandemic, it shines an incredibly bright spotlight on a problem many of have known for some time. We devalue care. This is true in our workplaces, but it’s also true in our homes and in all other corners of our society.
To add insult to injury, we demerit the very skills needed to parent successfully. It’s led too many to think that the work we do as parents sits in opposition to the work we do in our jobs.
That may have been so at one time. But no longer.
Covid-19 will leave a lasting impression on the world of work. Companies will need leaders and employees with human-touch skills. The very ones that’ll enable them to collaborate effectively with diverse people in different ways, all the while being able to lead with empathy and compassion to connect deeply in a virtual world.
Here’s the good news: these are the very skills you’re building as a parent today during this pandemic.
You manage time like a pro
To keep pace, companies need employees who can get a lot done in a little bit of time. Something parents have gotten a lot of practice doing during this pandemic. A recent study found working moms are getting an average of 2.6 uninterrupted hours of work a day – half as much as dads. To simultaneously care for kids, while working demands you prioritize activities and find the most efficient way to complete tasks.
You can negotiate with powerful people
Even within companies, there are competing priorities that require two different parties to come to some sort of agreement. You know how to negotiate. Just think of the last time you very much wanted your kid to do something – perhaps eat the dinner you’ve made. I know your empty threat didn’t get them to eat, but perhaps you made a trade that if they ate everything up they could get a cup of ice cream (just me?).
Your influencing skills are bar none
As any parent knows, you can’t force a child to do anything they don’t want to do. So, when negotiating isn’t an option, you’ll have to depend on your natural talents of persuasion. No matter the scenario, you can creatively reframe it so it appeals to your child and changes their way of thinking. Those are just the skills you need to win a sale or convince a manager to try out your idea.
You can simply explain the most complex things
How do you explain a pandemic to a child? Or the importance of wearing a mask indoors? Or why they can’t sleepover at grandma’s house? Yet, unsurprisingly, you have been able to do so with clarity and compassion. Communicating clearly and simply is a necessity in today’s complex business world. And, you’ve been practicing. When speaking with children, we have to consider our audience. We choose words they understand and examples they can relate to. We also speak empathetically and take the time to patiently listen for any questions. The very same things when speaking with colleagues, managers and customers.
Yes, you’re a seasoned project manager
If you’ve had to plan to do anything with a child today – a walk to the park, a kitchen-table craft project or trying to have an uninterrupted Zoom call with your boss – it’s likely you’ve developed some sweet project management skills. Before you embark on any activity, you’re thinking through what you need, the steps to make it all come together as well as all the ways things can go right and wrong. Plus, you’ve got a few contingency plans up your sleeve.
You can deal with difficult people
We all have worked with difficult people. Yet, at least in my experience, none have been as difficult, uncompromising or frustrating than my own daughters during their toddler years. If you and your little one can come out of the terrible twos, the wicked threenager years or this pandemic relatively unscathed, you can make it work with even the toughest adults.
There’s no problem you can’t solve
Here’s a truth: when you’re dealing with babies, toddlers and kids of all ages during a pandemic or not, things don’t always go as smoothly as we hope. Accidents are frequent as are otherwise well-intentioned surprises and unfortunate mishaps. Your kiddo interrupts you during another business call, the backyard activity set you ordered gets stuck in transit and so much more. No matter what goes wrong, you quickly think up a way to fix the problem or de-escalate the situation.
You’re cool as a cucumber in times of crisis
There always seems to be a crisis at work – real or imagined – which is why companies are looking for people who are good under fire. That’s you. Sure, you can solve just about any problem, but you bring the perspective needed to keep things in check. Plus, with a clear head you can zero in on the very things that need to get done.
You’re innovative and creative
The “it” quality many employers are looking for today is your ability to think outside the box. Good thing because that’s exactly what you do as a parent. Your little people are constantly testing you with new problems and you have to respond with new solutions. Many times you have to come up with solutions to things that aren’t really problems at all they just appear to be to your kid. For all of it, you have to push your thinking beyond its usual limits and try new things.
You’ve got strong leadership and management skills
Parents are born leaders. We take charge and figure out what needs to be done. We roll up our sleeves and get it done or we recruit others to help out. And, like some of the best leaders, we mentor those under our charge when they’ve made a mistake, we guide them through to their next milestone, we cheer them when they’ve accomplished feats big and small, and we model qualities like honesty, integrity and loyalty. And, we do most things – even those we dislike – with a positive attitude.
Once you can identify these in your very own life, use them to pump up your LinkedIn profile or resume, or weave them into your conversations with your boss or at your next job interview.
Are there any other skills that can be added to this list? Share in the comments below.