I will say this first: I don’t think everyone should have kids. I don’t think that having kids is necessary for a successful, happy, fulfilling life. I acknowledge that many people choose not to have kids and it’s awesome that we live in a time where it’s a viable choice. There are many awesome people who have chosen not to have kids, and they’re probably smarter than all of the rest of us.
Now that I’ve said that, I’m going to talk about the ways that being a parent has made me better at my job, better at being an employee, better at being a leader. I don’t know if I would have drawn these connections and had these “aha!” moments if I didn’t have a child, so maybe I’m one of those people who needed to have a kid in order to become the person I am today.
1. The best parenting book I’ve ever read: “How to talk so kids will listen, and how to listen so kids will talk.” This has translated directly into my work life in so many ways:
- It’s taught me about setting expectations up front – everyone is happier and MOST people will comply much more easily. Being vague and just hoping things will work out NEVER EVER NOT EVEN ONCE works out.
- It taught me to ask questions to get to the actual issue. Maybe my child is throwing a fit about something completely unrelated to what he’s actually upset about. This happens a lot at work as a web developer, too. “I don’t like it.” Finding out WHY and the real issue is a skillset that no one can teach you.
- Your child wants you to acknowledge how they are feeling because they are a person. So do your colleagues. “I hear that you are upset about XYZ; I wish I could do something about it but here’s what’s going on and why it can’t be that way right now. Can we agree to revisit this later?”
2. I’m raising my child to be the adult I want him to be later, not the child that is convenient for now. This applies to helping your users or whomever your audience is. Think about where you want them to end up, not where you can control them now. It’s kind of nerve-wracking because you’re letting go of a lot of supposed control, but the truth is, that’s not something you were ever going to be able to control anyway. The best you can do is provide guidance.
3. The degrees of saying “No.” I have a good give-and-take relationship with my son, which to most people (my ex-husband included) is absolutely mental. Not giving a child direct orders 24/7 and demanding immediate obedience?? What is wrong with you??
To this I say, save the hard no for the things that need it. You’re not King Henry the VIII, and demanding that sort of immediate obedience “because I said so” is only setting up your relationship with your child to be an utter failure, because you’re missing out on the essential aspect of a relationship. It’s a two-way street.
With my son, I save the “NO! Don’t do that!” for one specific instance: if his life will be in danger if he proceeds.
There will be times when you have to look your colleagues in the face and ask them to trust you, to trust that you see ten steps ahead and that you are the expert that was hired to do the job. If it is not one of those times, then they deserve the respect of a conversation that explains why the decision is what it is. I learned this by being a parent- we have more trust in each other because I take the time to explain my decision to him. And guess what? He’s allowed to be part of that decision. Your colleagues should be too. It deepens the trust because it shows that you are not full of your own ego so much that you think you have all the answers just on your own.
None of us have all the answers, just all on our own.