7 Mom Skills That Will Help In The Workplace

Mom skills, that moms develop or learn as part of their parenting a child, are an edge they can have at the workplace. Time we used them.

A 2018 study conducted by the Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership, a wing of Ashoka University, titled ‘Predicament of Returning Mothers’ was recently reported in The Quint. The study covered women working in the corporate, media, and development sectors, and It showed these findings.

  • 73% percent of Indian women leave their jobs on giving birth.
  • 50% percent women resign at 30 to take care of their children.
  • After becoming mothers, only 27% of women advance in their careers and continue to be part of the workforce.
  • Of the women who return to employment, a meagre 16% advance to hold senior leadership positions.

These statistics highlight the reality new mothers face on returning to work after a break. Women who have taken a longish break to fulfil child care responsibilities may be anxious, and lacking in confidence, and often apologetic, at job interviews for three major reasons. They believe that the gaps in their resumes do not look good. They feel they might have missed advances in technology and skill-building during their break. They wonder whether they will be able to juggle career and family responsibilities smoothly.

Here comes a twist in the tale.

A 2012 survey by US-based management consulting firm Korn Ferry had some interesting findings. According the survey, 95% of women believe that raising children provides them with skills that they can transfer to the workplace. “The findings show that parenthood offers a world of training in psychology, time management and diplomacy that can easily be applied to business,” according to Kathy Woods, who was a senior partner at Korn Ferry at the time of the survey.

Here are 7 soft skills, or ‘mom skills’, that moms acquire.  

Moms understand what is left unsaid

A mom is adept at picking up non-verbal clues. This is because young children are not able to articulate what they want or what they are feeling very well. Slumped shoulders, dejected expression, and no eye contact, are sufficient signals that the time is not right to talk about the exam your child just got back from.

Understanding non-verbal communication is a useful skill in the workplace. Dr Neharika Vohra, faculty member in the organizational behaviour area at IIM, Ahmedabad, says: “Mothers develop a heightened sensitivity to the feelings of others. There is more awareness of the other person and empathy. They seem to understand what others want without being told.”

For Dr Rachna Gangwar, an academic based in Ahmedabad, the communication skills she picked up while raising her two sons, helped her connect well with students. “Active listening is the key to develop trust. Also, clear, concise and assertive communication has helped me develop strong bonds with both my children and my students.”

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Moms learn how to prioritise

One of the things a mother is forced to do is ruthlessly prioritise.

  • What are the items on her ‘To-do’ list that she can’t avoid?
  • What can she push to a few days later?
  • What can she safely postpone indefinitely?

Knowing the difference between these three categories of tasks is very useful in a job too. Prioritising becomes all the more important as multitasking has been given the thumbs down by mental health professionals. They believe, that despite the hype that it increases productivity, it is not good for mental well-being.

Bengaluru-based architect Sharanya Iyer, who is mother to a 12-year-old son, says: “One of my biggest learnings as a mom has been balancing multiple roles and activities without getting anxious. This has helped me keep my cool in the workplace. Being a mother has also taught me that every moment is precious. So, I make the best use of my work time. However, I try to be completely present and involved in every activity, whether family related or professional, so I’m not scattered and give it my best.”

Moms learn the art of being patient

If it is not an innate quality in a mom; patience is one of parenting’s major lessons. When your preschooler takes her own time to tie a shoelace, it requires patience to watch.

British entrepreneur Nancy Cruickshank writes that patience is not a skill that comes naturally to her. “I have to work at it. And I had no better training for enhancing my patience than in parenting,” she says. Potty training, teaching your child to dress herself and negotiating with your teen – all these require a great deal of patience, she explains.

“And the same is true in business, especially when creating new products and services, or transforming organisations…My mum-skills are closely coupled to my life as an entrepreneur,” she says.

Kamal Gupta Roy, an electrical engineer and MBA based in Ahmedabad, works for Accenture. She also believes that raising her children has taught her patience. A mother of two, she says: “As a consequence of being a mom, I have become patient with subordinates and colleagues at work. I have become a much more empathetic and kinder person overall.”

Moms have the knack of motivating

The top ‘mom skill’ the respondents in the Korn Ferry survey above mentioned, that was transferrable to the workplace was ‘motivating and inspiring others’.

At work, this ability would make a woman an effective mentor. The ability to motivate your team is a key leadership skill. If a working mom is in a supervisory role, handling co-workers with sensitivity is not too different from nudging her pre-teen gently to wrap up his homework.

Dr Chitra Singla, faculty member at IIM, Ahmedabad says: “Children usually avoid studying subjects they find tough. My eight-year-old son found division in maths difficult. After 15 days of regular practice, he picked it up. Now, whenever he feels diffident about learning something, I remind him of how he learnt division with a little effort. It has become a memory that motivates him. I have used this experience with my child to motivate students and team members as well.”

Moms are adept at handling stress

Nothing prepares you for navigating a crisis like parenting does! When you have to rush to the doctor at 2 am because your three-year-old has a high fever, you learn to stay calm and respond quickly to the crisis situation. Uncertainty is almost a constant for mothers, and dealing with it is a critical skill not just in a job, but in other aspects of life as well.

While the crises you may face at work may be different, the pressures of deadlines and having to meet targets are stressful in themselves. At work, the ability to handle stress is key to both performance and mental well-being.

Moms master the art of distraction

There is a funny side to problem solving at times. Says children’s author Archana Mohan: “The biggest skill I have learnt as a mom and taken to the workplace is the art of distraction. When my children insist on going to the park at 11 pm at night, I use distraction to solve the problem. I pretend to pack their toys for the trip but on seeing their toys they soon get distracted and start playing at home. I use similar strategies while dealing with clients (with a laugh).”

Moms need to be reliable

This is more of a value than a skill. It becomes core to a mom’s being as she raises her children. Employers want to hire people who will ‘take ownership’ of their job and be dedicated. Who better than a mother understands the need to be reliable and accountable?

A recognition of these mom skills in workplaces

In the interests of gender diversity, some companies have taken steps to help women who want to return to the workforce. Mahindra Logistics launched ‘Udaan’ in 2018, a programme to hire women who have been on a career break. They believe it is a talent pool that is waiting to be tapped.

Godrej has been running a programme called ‘Careers 2.0’ since 2016 where mothers who are seeking jobs after a break are offered short-term projects, even on a part-time basis.

Biocon too has hired several women who have been on career breaks, according to reports. Airbus, Tata Group, Accenture, IBM and Amazon, are among the other companies to have taken measures to help bring women back to the workplace.

There needs to be a change in mindset for such programmes to succeed. “It is only recently that organizations have started talking about a second career for women who were on a break. But the focus is on offering them courses to update them on technology matters. Sufficient attention is not given to the soft skills they bring to the job,” Dr Neharika Vohra rues.

G Soundarya is an HR executive at Modefin, a company in Bengaluru. “In general, in the interests of gender diversity and inclusion, the rate of acceptance of resumes of women that show a break is higher these days. How an HR department perceives such women depends on the size of the company and its hiring strategy. Large companies like Accenture and Cognizant who do mass recruitment may be more open.”

Yes times are changing. Companies are trying to implement a DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) policy. It is for women to take advantage of these policies. In the words of US-based certified life and business coach, Stacy Boegem: “Don’t sell yourself short by devaluing your time out of the conventional workforce. The reason people say motherhood is the hardest job is because it’s true. Be proud of the meaningful time, energy, focus, and attention you put into that ‘job’ and be confident as you talk about it, whether in person or on paper.”

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About the Author

Aruna Raghuram

I am a freelance journalist and write on parenting, personalities, women’s issues, environment, and other social causes. read more...

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