Why Having Kids Is Good For Your Career
Jam kisses smudged on your silk shirt. Playdough lost in the tread of your work flats. It would be easy to convince yourself that work and kids don’t mix.
Many people think kids are the beginning of the end for women with careers – and how sad that is. We once interviewed a candidate who mentioned she was recently married. Before we could congratulate her she quickly told us “not to worry” because she didn’t plan on having kids any time soon. I was surprised and saddened that she felt the need to say that – we were basing our decision on her skills and experience, not on her family planning.
The reality is, the candidate didn’t come up with that possible bias all on her own – it exists. Women of childbearing age can be seen as a risky hire. Dad’s with young families can be looked down upon if they leave work on time every day to do the school run. If someone isn’t hired or is overlooked for a promotion because of this, it’s discrimination and it’s illegal.
The truth is kids aren’t bad for your career. At. All. Sure, they can make simple things like getting out of the house in the morning more challenging, but overall the benefits way outweigh the negatives. In fact, having kids brings skills and perspective in a way nothing else can.
If your employer doesn’t recognise how great parents can be as employees, it might be time to look for a new one – or at least help them see why they’re onto a good thing.
Here’re my top five reasons why kids are great for your career:
One thing I quickly noticed after entering motherhood was the power of the mummy network. Holy moly. Thanks to Facebook, I’m connected to literally thousands of women in my district and across the world who I could call on for advice, for support or a referral. I’m more connected to and in touch with people in my community than ever before.
Seeing how these groups operate from a PR perspective is so incredibly powerful. If a brand could replicate this kind of comradery and compassion it would win the internet.
Exposure to these new networks has helped me understand a greater variety of audiences, what drives them, and how they like to discover new information. In an industry where our role is to connect brands and audiences, this is a huge scoop.
Once you’ve come up against a toddler who is not quite ready to get off the swing or is determined to take off her own shirt even though she has arms like a T-Rex and isn’t capable of doing it, you will have developed expert-level negotiation skills. Suddenly everyone else seems rational and so easy to deal with – you’ll think that client who wants the same project for 5k less is a total teddy bear.
It also helps you recognise when to quit. There are just some things that are out of our control and at times you need to learn to go with the flow.
My munchkin Maddie visiting me at work
Have you ever noticed parents are generally the first ones to run out of the door at the end of the day? It’s not because becoming a mum or dad turns us into work dodgers, it’s because our to-do list extends way beyond emails and deadlines into daycare pick up, dinner on the table at 6:30pm, bath time, a load of washing, eight or 50 bedtime stories, several intense bedtime negotiations, songs and back tickles and hugs and a stack of deep breaths once lights are out and the house is quiet. Chances are, we then jump back on emails to check the world is still rotating.
In order to get out of work on time, parents have to plan their day with military precision. You’ll rarely see them dilly-dallying: they’ll get in, put their head down and work hard until it’s time to run out the door. In fact, this US study found mothers outperformed childless women in many areas, with mothers of two or more the most productive.
It’s simple, when there’s more to squeeze into your day, things need to happen faster.
Leaving your kid out the front of a closed daycare centre at 7pm isn’t ideal (or even an option), so parents are forced to leave work on time and focus on something, or someone, else. “Forced” sounds a bit harsh, but the reality is it can be hard to drag yourself away from the desk but once you do it’s refreshing to get your head out of spreadsheets and deadlines and into stories of daycare adventures and renditions of The Wheels on the Bus (with actions, of course).
Spending time with family and clearing your head of the work “noise” is refreshing and fulfilling. It leads to happier staff who are more likely to turn up to work the next day excited to put their work-hat back on and dive into it.
We live in a cynical world. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else’s motives and is difficult to please. How did we get here? When we look at kids we see their eyes wide open with wonder and amazement. They’re excited to learn new things and get joy from the simplest experiences.
Having kids reminds us that the world is an amazing place and it’s out there to be explored and enjoyed. By bringing this perspective to the office we can inject life and new ideas into the work we do.
Have you ever heard of creative techniques based on thinking with your kid brain? Removing barriers and the nay-saying from your thinking will open you up to ideas you previously couldn’t fathom.
Do you have more to add to this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please jot them down in the comments section below.