I’d like to say I entered into my first pregnancy in a state of calm confidence and utter contentment. But that wasn’t true. While my decision to have children was very deliberate, I had an inner conflict stirring beneath the surface of my plastered announcement-photo smile. I’d wanted to have children while I was young but I also felt like I wasn’t quite ready. There were a number of items I wanted to check off my life list before having a baby. For example, be married, own a home, and take an international trip. And while I had checked off most of my priority items, there was still one item I hadn’t yet completed before getting pregnant. I had not yet reached a management level in my career. And that bothered me.
At the time, my ideal life plan was to be in a more elevated, comfortable position in my career before having children. I had been a high-performing contributor for several years and felt agitated that I had not yet been promoted to a leadership role. Remote work was not yet the accessible or realistic option that it is today. Living in a smaller city, my job opportunities were limited. So, long story short: I went into my first maternity leave as a contributor, not a manager. In fact, it wasn’t until after the birth of my second child that I found myself in a formal leadership position at work. I actually came back from maternity leave to a promotion.
And while that was a whirlwind experience in and of itself, it left me realizing how glad I was that I had entered into motherhood prior to management. Because nothing could have prepared me for a leadership position better than parenthood. Here are a few ways being a mom has made me better prepared to be a leader at work.
Leadership Skills I Learned From Being a Mom
Motherhood Taught Me the True Meaning of Time Management
No one knows how to manage time like a mom. And anyone who has been in a leadership position at work knows that time management is a critical skill for both surviving the day-to-day as well as achieving long-term success. Whether you’re managing people or projects, chances are, your time is precious. You’ve likely been delegated more than your fair share of tasks. And your calendar is booking up faster than the Eras tour (OK, maybe that’s hyperbole, but you get the picture).
Reflecting on my latest position at work, I think I would have once found myself drowning in the workload (even considering I’d been a high-performing contributor for years). But now, the workload doesn’t scare me one bit. Because no workload will ever compare to that which parenthood has put on my plate. As my fellow moms can attest, no one will teach you how to hack your own schedule and be organized to a T better than your children.
Parenthood Gave Me a New Level of Maturity
I’m one of those people who has always been described as an “old soul.” I went through life believing I was relatively mature for my age. And while I still believe that to be true, I think most moms will know where I’m coming from when I say motherhood really fast-tracked my maturity level. Since becoming a mom, I see the world in a whole new light. I’m able to be more level-headed, seek out and appreciate different perspectives. And am more selfless as a default.
These skills are necessary when you’re caring for a tiny person. But, I’ve come to realize, also come in handy in the workplace when others are coming to you for guidance. Sometimes I find myself saying tacky things like, “Change is an opportunity to try new things and develop different skills,” and I actually mean them.
My Responsibilities As a Parent Help Me Leave Work at The Door
I thought motherhood would make work-life balance more difficult. But it actually made it easier. I’m fortunate that my employer encourages a very flexible work schedule. And that I’m able to work from home 100 percent of the time. That being said, I always log off from work at the same time every day. Why? Because I have to pick my kids up from daycare. It’s a non-negotiable. And while I will occasionally log on to my laptop during the evening hours, I am strictly offline from 4 to 8 p.m. Those are my parenting hours—and nothing comes before that. I am also very adamant about reducing my screen time as much as possible while my children are around and watching. I’m not sure I would have been so resolute in upholding my boundaries prior to having children.
I’ve Learned To Accept There Are Good Days and Bad Days
Prior to becoming a parent, I was definitely one who enjoyed having a sense of control over my own life (I didn’t even realize how much until after my first child was born). Of course, enjoying this sense of control also made me a tad inflexible (again, I had no idea just how much). The smallest inconveniences used to leave me irritated, frustrated, and frantic. Now? Well, now I deal with diaper blowouts. Now I deal with unexpected stomach bugs and positive COVID tests. Now my stress levels are fairly immune to the unexpected.
Motherhood has taught me that it doesn’t matter how well you plan or how well-thought-out a concept may be—the only thing you can truly expect is the unexpected. I’m still new in my role as a manager. But I like to think I’m a pretty even-keeled personality that my colleagues can rely on as a presence that brings stability and thoughtfulness. My current job is actually rooted in reputation and crisis management. And while I took crisis communications courses in grad school, they don’t hold a candle to the crisis management training my kids unknowingly put me through on an almost daily basis (Hell hath no fury like a toddler meltdown).
Being a Mom Has Made Me More Self-Assured
I say this all the time, but motherhood has granted me a sense of confidence that no other role, experience, or event ever could. Parenthood really forces you to step into your own authority—and if keeping another human being alive and thriving doesn’t leave you feeling like your most confident self, I’m not sure what else will. Having this self-assuredness has served me well in the workplace, especially as someone who is new to formal leadership.
Parenthood really forces you to step into your own authority.
Stepping into a management position can be really intimidating. You’re adjusting to a new role, while also supporting others who are coming to you for guidance. I find myself constantly leaning into the confidence that motherhood has afforded me. I manage my household and the children in it day in and day out. Certainly, I can step up and manage some items in the workplace.
Parenting Has Helped Me Practice Accountability
When you’re a parent, you are accountable 100 percent of the time. You are accountable for making sure your children have food to eat, clothes to wear, a safe and enriching environment, and so much more. You’re also accountable for owning up when you make a mistake (“You’re right. I said we could have chicken nuggets for dinner. But I forgot to buy them. I am sorry. How about we have them tomorrow?”)
Constantly practicing accountability at home with your children can make it a lot easier to practice in the workplace. When I was new in my career I was scared to admit to my mistakes or follow through on tasks I wasn’t totally confident in implementing. Now—using the maturity and confidence mentioned above—I lean into it, knowing that accountability is a non-negotiable for earning your colleagues’ trust.
Motherhood Made Me More Empathetic
Growing up, I was always the empath in the house. But I still had a long way to go before being considered a truly empathetic person. I’ll admit I’m sometimes embarrassed thinking about how cold-heartedly competitive I used to be as a young professional. Now, I very truly put other people first. I seek to understand. I am able to empathize. And I have my children to thank for all of these attributes.
Is balancing work and parenthood difficult? Yes. But I think there is a lot of power that lies in channeling our role as “mom” and applying it to pursuits outside of child-rearing.
I think back to how disappointed I was in myself for not obtaining a management position prior to my first maternity leave. But experience and maturity have a way of helping us reflect honestly and see past situations in a different light. I’m now glad that life events played out the way they did. Motherhood helped me tap into my fullest potential as a person and as a professional. And prepared me for leadership in ways I wouldn’t have fathomed possible.
So, if you too are a mom who’s feeling stunted in her career, take heart in knowing that your career opportunities are not limited by your role as a parent. On the contrary, motherhood can be your greatest training opportunity and educator. It can be the catalyst that propels your professional skills, opening more doors. It can be your greatest source of power.