Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers reading this. My children aren’t with me today as they are grown and living in different cities than me. We had lovely calls today, and I got the beautiful flowers pictured here early last week at work. My daughter, my clone when it comes to planning, determined that I’d need them early due to my travel schedule this upcoming week. Her brother, exuberantly generous like his father, determined that they should supersize them. So yeah, they got some good stuff from us. But not nearly as much as we have gotten, and continue to get, back from them.
I hear young men and women talking about delaying parenthood until their careers are established. I didn’t have children until I was 31, due to not meeting the right partner until my late 20’s, not because I was being strategic. Having children has been the great unexpected adventure of my life.
Knowing what I know now about the impact of children on one’s life, I offer the following retrospective insights about how having children might actually be good for your career. Not everyone wants to be a parent, and I’m not suggesting that everyone should. But for those who are deliberating on this decision, I offer the following lessons I’ve learned from being a parent that have helped me be more effective at work:
- Young children live in the moment. They are fully present with whatever they’re doing. Slowing down on the multitasking and fully engaging with the task at hand makes adults calmer and more effective.
- Parenthood is a continuing series of ups and downs. You get some things right, and you blow it on others. In the end, your success is the accumulation of more good than bad calls, not perfect parenting. Likewise, most people’s careers rarely actually hang in the balance on based on a single project, program, or presentation. Rather, it’s the steady accumulation of more good outcomes than bad that allows you to build a successful work life.
- Successful parenting ultimately requires letting go – no matter how close you are to your children. Building a career often requires giving up beloved jobs and bosses in order to take the steps and chances required for growth.
Is it hard to balance work and children? Sure it is. And like most things that are hard to accomplish, the rewards are indescribable.2