Hardest job in the world
Mothers are incredible. Putting aside the huge volume of hours they work without pay, bonus or recognition, mothers are impressive because of their capacity to learn and hone a broad range of skills without training. We marvel at babies and youngsters for the way they learn and yet, beside them their mothers are adapting and growing quietly without fuss or applause from anyone.
As a coaching psychologist who’s spent ten years working with individuals and teams to increase performance and smooth career transitions, I’m constantly staggered by the transformative effects of motherhood and how under-valued it is as a CV talking point.
In this piece I’m flagging six qualities/skills of huge value in workplaces that I think are honed through motherhood.
Negotiation and diplomacy
Mothers are the ultimate example of what successful negotiation and diplomacy looks and sounds like. By the time her child turns two she’s encountered so many unreasonable demands and diffused so many potentially explosive situations it’s hard to overestimate what an asset any mother would be to a client management team. Think of an advertising agency with the creative team on one side and challenging clients on the other, it’s the account manager who brokers deal and keeps the relationship intact. A mother does this continuously as her children grow, not just once in a while for the odd tricky customer.
Time management and tenacity
Mothers have a tremendous laser-focus, recognising what really needs to be done and what can be delegated or ditched altogether. Since the beginning when baby’s sleep was unpredictable, mothers learn to get the most important tasks done first (have a nap themselves to recoup) and quickly press on without distraction. (This should be one of the most highly prized skills in UK workplaces as our productivity continues to lag behind countries such as France and Germany). Motherhood is full of trials that only increase her tenacity and perseverance to resolve the challenges she grapples with in the time she has available: reformulating the household budget; coping with a child who doesn’t want to go to school; difficult conversations with childcare providers, the list goes on…
Gone are the days of believing one can do it all oneself, instead mothers recognise the strengths they have and where others are best placed to get things done. A mother’s ‘hands off and let them learn’ approach is highly prized at work, especially amongst direct reports who are given space to think and act independently. Mothers simply don’t have time for micro-management at work or at home which can be liberating for all.
Day and night mothers are on call, ready to attend to the needs of their children akin to a hospital registrar, albeit without the days off. From the earliest days of feeding every few hours and the ensuing sleep deprivation to the later years which come with other trials, mothers keep going. It’s staggering how mothers graft and give endlessly in a way that would never be expected in any other role.
Flexibility and fluidity
Just as news readers adapt in the moment when a live-link goes down or breaking news pushes planned pieces to one side, mothers are constantly re-jigging tasks and activities according to what’s going on around them. A toddler’s grazed knee on the way out of the house means a quick calculation as to how (not if) she can still get the eldest to school on time and get to where she needs to be with the youngest. Mothers quickly become adept at this way of thinking and adjusting because they get so much practice from day one – remember how unexpected pooey nappies threw us off course in the beginning and how we got over it?
Just as a surgeon operates without haste and with great care, attention and lightness of touch, mothers quickly develop an extraordinary level of patience. We learn that it simply doesn’t pay to hurry children or flare up when they’re dilly-dallying around (although we all still lose our cool at times…) and instead smile, get alongside our children and encourage them in the best way we can in order to achieve the desired result. Taking a patient, calm approach hour after hour after hour can be exhausting; to stay at home and raise children really is one of the hardest roles a woman could opt for. For this reason, mothers I salute you.
Interflora is behind the clever advert to encourage offspring to put hands in pockets and send flowers this coming Mothers Day. I’m pleased to be associated with their campaign – find out more here.