Does motherhood help you gain unique skills to leverage at the workplace? A few mothers share their career tips.
By Jaya Narayan
Mothers have no job description. The breadth, scope and expectations from this role are immense, challenging and constantly evolving. “Motherhood and career growth have gone hand in hand for me. I was promoted and given higher responsibilities during my journey of being a mother”, shares Aparna Desai* Technical publishing professional in an IT multinational company also a mother to a 7 and 4 year old.
Being a mother is an intense life changing experience. “Parenthood has changed me as a human being. As a mother, I have experienced expansiveness in myself. I think it would be impossible for this experience to be contained only at home”, says Shonalie Gupta Ray, Human Resources (HR) professional working as a retainer consultant.
4 Top Mommy Attributes That Can Fuel Your Career
People Skills: Can you think of a mother who does not demonstrate effective people-skills? Handling a screaming toddler, answering tough questions posed by a 5 year old or negotiating the demands of a teenager calls upon this expertise. Expressing feelings authentically is learnt watching kids being genuine in their communication. These real people skills, when consciously practiced at work helps build a positive team culture and achieve work objectives.
Kamini Ashok, Senior HR professional and mother of a 4 year old son working for an MNC, finds herself more patient and being a better listener. According to Kamini, “The ‘I’ factor is gone. I am much more sensitive and pay attention to the other’s perspectives in my conversations. I also see myself not making hasty decisions. All thanks to my experience of being a mother”.
People skills when consciously deployed can be a great asset for any working professional especially in management or leadership positions.
The ‘I’ factor is gone. I am much more sensitive and pay attention to the other’s perspectives in my conversations
Time Management: Time is a precious and limited resource for working mothers. Some of the time management tools effortlessly applied by many mothers are multi- tasking, delegation and detailed planning. Mothers have to be diligent planners. Working out the child’s schedule, detailing an upcoming birthday party or making sure the house is well stocked requires meticulous planning. Mothers quickly realize that micro management can take them nowhere. In modern families, everyone works together. This makes them more comfortable with delegation as a skill at the workplace. Cooking dinner while getting homework done or using the time waiting to pick up a child in attending to a tele-con hones multi-tasking and seamless context switching.
For Kamini at the beginning of her career, delegation was really tough; she sees a shift now. There is more conviction and faith in its potential to make her effective and deliver more from her role. As an outcome, Kamini is able to spend time with her subordinates, get individuals upto speed, and is more accepting of their work style and speed of execution.
Managing time effectively will facilitate in taking on additional tasks, invest more time with your team and find time to up-skill – all of this can help in scaling up for the next role.
Perseverance: Unconditional commitment in the face of adversity is an integral part of motherhood. “I notice that mothers at work seldom give up”, says Ramesh Shankar, Executive Vice President and Head of HR, South Asia cluster at Siemens. The ability to remain positive, turnaround tough situations and willingness to explore multiple options is an instinctive quality that is acquired by mothers. Ramesh draws a parallel by saying “Mothers are always trying to find a way around; they cannot afford to give up however testing the time is.”
Being perseverant is a quality that is valued at the workplace. With work becoming increasingly complex, this attribute is a huge differentiator to success.
Learning To Learn: Aparna shares, “As a new mother, I learnt so many things that I never knew before”. Feeding an infant, coaxing a 3 year old to eat or resolving fights between siblings require learning on the feet. Working mothers like Aparna and Shonalie have realized that to remain relevant professionally, learning constantly is an important ingredient. Taking this forward, Aparna finds it easy to deal with ambiguity, embrace new issues, handle complex problems and adapt to changing technologies with grace.
Demonstrating openness to learning is the most important quality employers look for. If you role model on this front, many new opportunities will come knocking.
Feeding an infant, coaxing a 3 year old to eat or resolving fights between siblings require learning on the feet.
Being a mother is definitely not a mandatory criterion for career advancement. Yet, contrary to the negative perceptions of mothers in some places, the learning potential and leverage of this experience is limitless. These skills when transferred to the work place can help build a positive work environment and give you a unique career advantage.
*Names changed on request.
Jaya Narayan is a alumnus of TISS, Mumbai and has over 15 years of experience
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