I recently went on a lad’s weekend away. There was a large group of us, made up of a variety of different friendship groups, everyone knew someone but no one knew everyone. The group was split between people in their 30’s to 40’s, with the vast majority having young or teenage families.
Whilst it’s not necessarily surprising that everyone was perfectly friendly and a good time was had – after all, we were on a weekend skiing holiday – what was interesting, was the way the guys with families seemed to bond. I had a think about this, and it occurred to me that this group seemed to make an extra effort to avoid any sort of conflict. Everyone still had their own opinion, but we seemed to work that little bit harder to get on and ensure their views didn’t offend.
I got the feeling that having a youngish family has something to do with it.
My kids are mid-way through their childhoods. For the last seven years, I have been running Zander Search and juggling their schedules alongside. I would always put them first over my work, but as time goes on you realise that the heightened emotions of unnecessary conflict are not going to enable you to be successful in business one minute and successful at parenting the next. Emotions don’t have an on / off switch, so in order to be present for your kids, it is sometimes worth dialing down the emotions at work.
The professionally high-flying parents on this weekend simply chose not to instigate any arguments. You could say that being a parent had softened their behaviour – they were more emotionally tuned into the needs of the people around them.
Some people will argue that having kids shouldn’t change your professional behaviour, but I think that we can all agree that this is difficult to pull off. I do think, however, that there are countless lessons that we can learn about ourselves as parents, many of which can be transferred to the workplace to make our relationships more harmonious. The influencing skills that might work with a stroppy 13-year-old may well have a similar effect on a stubborn board member. The patience spent explaining maths homework will come in very handy when training a new starter. The selflessness that is required with your children comes in very handy when you do things for others in the workplace.
I don’t want to make this blog about why you should employ “mums” in particular, as “dads” do just as much parenting these days, but there are many arguments to say that mums returning to work have a particularly interesting additional skillset. This should not be underestimated.
Being a parent is one of the big challenges in life. It cannot help but make us into stronger people and also (in my opinion) stronger employees and colleagues.
Written by Alex Turner, Edited by Paul Drury