I used to think going on maternity leave would be a complete waste of time (career-wise). Now? I call bull. Sure, the majority of my day may be spent on domestic chores and singing nursery rhymes to a child who demands I read Dear Zoo ($11) at least 10 times in a row, but that doesn’t mean it’s meaningless when it comes to my eventual return to the workforce.
Raising my son is making me a better leader. I know this because the parenting methods I’m following could have been lifted straight out of a book touting how to be an effective manager. (At this point I think it’s important to note that I am referencing the gentle parenting philosophy, which is not the same as authoritarian or permissive parenting. It’s what feels natural to me, whilst also making logical sense.) Take Dr. Laura Markham’s advice to coach rather than control, or the importance psychologist Sarah Ockwell-Smith places on cultivating a growth mindset in children.
When you frame either in terms of business, it’s easy to see how employees would be happier and perform better under managers who employ these “parenting” strategies.
A good manager will empower staff to be willing and able to thrive, without resorting to bullying or emotional manipulation for short-term gain. Again, this draws a distinct parallel with gentle parenting, where advocates believe that when you treat children with respect, set age-appropriate boundaries and ensure your expectations are in line with their biological capabilities, parenting is straightforward. That’s not to say it’s not frustrating or difficult, but working with human nature yields better results than working against it.
Much like effective leadership, parenting is a long game.
Clique Media Group CEO Katherine Power encourages, “only do what only you can do.” She said this in regards to business, but oh boy does delegation matter when you become a mum. It’s survival. There simply aren’t enough minutes in the day to get everything done, so you need to prioritise. Obviously there are many things that sit firmly on my shoulders, but the rest is either dropped or divided between my husband, my fortnightly cleaner and my dear friend, online delivery. Trusting others to take on responsibility and simplifying everything else means I can be as effective as possible.
I may not be a manager at work, but at home, I’m the boss. Every decision I make has a direct impact on my family, therefore I need to be on point. Reading, learning, refining. Balancing evidence-based research with instinct, trying to be conscious rather than reactive. Again, these are attributes I can apply in the workforce, regardless of the role I’m in. As a great boss once told me, you don’t have to be a manager to lead—leaders help shape the culture of a business from the ground up. So while my day-to-day may be dramatically different to that of my former working life, I think my career is going to be all the better for it.