Mum’s the word: three transferable skills from being a parent
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Mum’s the word: three transferable skills from being a parent

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emPOWERED Ambassador Katia González, head of fraud prevention operations and services at BICS on transferable skills gleaned from parenting

Life is full of lessons. Whether it’s professionally or personally, the challenges and experiences you have often develop you for the better.

As much as we try to separate these two worlds in the name of work-life balance, you are still you in both environments. There are so many opportunities to take lessons from one and apply them to the other.

For me, nowhere has this been more true than my journey as a parent. The learning path you go on is a long one (I'm still on it, 17years in) but it's taught me almost as many lessons as my 20-year long career in the telco industry.

Be patient

We’re taught that patience is a virtue from a young age. Even so, it was never one of my stronger characteristics. At times, being impatient can be a good thing - it can help you drive and push to make things happen. Sometimes though it is a necessity, and motherhood teaches you this. It’s not just about patience with others (though this is important); it’s also about patience with yourself. You’re not going to get everything right. You’re not always going to know what to do – and that’s ok.

It’s also about having patience with your situation. You need to learn to let go of things and accept that you can’t control everything. In my professional life I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but raising two boys (with completely different personalities) forces you to adjust. As does coming from a technical, data-driven working world. Parenting isn’t a quantitative science, and what might have worked once doesn’t work every time—or with different children. It forces you to investigate a bit more, use empathy, trust your gut, and be patient with yourself (and others) when you don’t get things right.

Be a more measured communicator

Being more patient also makes you a better communicator, at home and work. Obviously, communicating with children and communicating with experienced professionals are different things, but learning to do the former teaches you to adjust your style and find what works for different people.

Bringing more patience to your communication style can also make you a better mentor at work. Being concise and clear is one thing, but your kids often need to be taught, rather than told. Children are often curious, they need the why and they learn better if you give them the tools to figure out things on their own, even if you know the right answer. Again, I’m not suggesting you treat your co-workers like children, but there are lessons to be learned and skills you can take into your professional life.

Learn balance and focus

Juggling a family and a career teaches you to find balance. It's about making the most of your time in both your personal and professional life. Especially when your children are small, being a parent forces you to maximise your time at work and get better at moving from one thing to another. When trying to balance family and work, focusing fully on one is crucial to making the most of the small windows of time you might have. I learned this works both ways though. When you’re at work you are focused and trying to do the best you can; when you’re spending quality time with your family, you owe it to yourself to do the same and enjoy it without distractions.

This lesson might be the hardest to learn, and for me came with a fair amount of guilt at first. It’s easy to feel bad about rescheduling meetings so you can work flexibly or feel guilty about being one of the last parents to pick your kids up from school or clubs. My advice would be to go easy on yourself. Part of being a good parent (and leader at work) is about setting a good example. Kids learn more from what they see, so if you’re working hard and making the most of the time you have with them - you’re doing a much better job than you’re giving yourself credit for.

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