My life, as I have known it, ended on April 16, 2009. The very next day, I became a mother.
Life change is nothing extraordinary – most people become a parent at some stage in their life. Yet from a personal perspective, it is a huge change! Having been with CCL in our Brussels office for over three years, I got very familiar with Marian Ruderman’s work on the mutual enhancement between workplace learning and learning outside of work. Over the past decade, Marian’s research (with Patty Ohlott and others) showed how mothers and fathers who are committed to their parental roles are actually better managers – and happier people.
So what have I learned from my role as a mum?
1. The wisdom of nursery rhymes.
My daughter Katie was born when the economic crisis had just hit Europe hard. Many of my friends suffered redundancies; many others were terrified and fearful. A vicious cycle of fear, frustration, anger and unproductivity developed. I was glad to have a break for a few months and could go to my daughter’s room and read to her. When I opened her book of nursery rhymes, Incy Wincy Spider jumped out and told me everything about coping with adversity:
Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the spout
Down came the rain and washed her out.
Out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain,
Incy Wincy Spider climbed the spout again.
I never thought I was a worrying type of person. I am rather optimistic in general, a believer in the power of optimism. Yet, when her pediatrician – who knows my daughter from her first minute – told me that she has a weight problem, I started worrying and stopped sleeping. Nightmares of a starving child kept me awake. Every spit-up was the start of a minor crisis. Projectile vomiting drove me to the edge of my senses. I didn’t know what to do – all things recommended by the doctor, experienced mothers and well-intentioned friends failed. I just couldn’t identify what was wrong with her. And, most importantly, I couldn’t see any failure to thrive in her. She was smiling, laughing, sleeping just as if she had read a book on “how-to-be-a-good-baby”. We invested a ridiculous sum of money in different brands of formula milk and bottles, to no avail – Katie remained stubborn. Finally, after another exhausting weekend, I decided to change pediatricians. And, low and behold, the new pediatrician told me that my daughter was perfectly fine – healthy, happy and active, and that her ability to sleep through the night would naturally slow her weight gain. She congratulated me for having such an easy baby and l left, much relieved.
What did I learn from all this?
First, never lose my optimism again. Worrying is completely counterproductive and stressful, not just for me, but also for others around me. This holds true at work and at home.
Second, trust your own instincts. If they run against expert advice from others – assess both sides and then decide whether to follow your gut. Instincts are genetically determined, developed over thousands of years – and genetic error is far less likely than expert error.
Third, one day of stout-hearted action is better than a hundred nights of worrying. Whenever I am dissatisfied with a situation, I channel my energies into changing it rather than complaining about it.
Parenting does teach lessons and skills that are applicable at work, as I can attest. What valuable lessons have you learned at home that have aided in your job?