By: Tezeta Roro
Something powerful happens when we start a family. We get the opportunity to examine the currency of time, the meaning of life, and this often leads to seriously thinking about our priorities and how we’d like to spend the rest of our lives. Below are some lessons I have learned that resulted from spending sometime reflecting on these issues.
The Brain’s Programming
As a parent, I became acutely aware of what I say, do and the type of environment I provide for my children. I understood that actions, behaviors and environment play significant roles in how children think, feel and act. This experience also provided the opportunity for me to consider how my upbringing played a role in how I function in the world, which of course leads back to my parents’ parenting style, the environment I was brought in etc. I then leveraged this perspective at the workplace to help me understand what makes my colleagues tick and to align with (or at the very least respect) their way of thinking in how they approach work. This paradigm shift has helped me see the folks I work with as a holistic person they are with their unique backgrounds and experiences which helps me connect with them at a better and deeper level.
You know what else? I was tickled by the thought that every high profile person we can think of — say a CEO, celebrity, the President, etc. — was once an infant and wore diapers. This ought to create a level playing field, at least mentally!
The Value of Time
I believe we work to live, and not live to work. If we happen to like the work we do, all the better! So, if most of us are working to provide for our family and live a decent comfortable life, how come we can’t make it home in time for dinner? Or make it to our kid’s event at school? A New York Times article authored by David Leonhardt articulates this phenomenon, beautifully distilling the issue to its core.
What can we do to own our time and spend time with our family? Well, for those who are employees, starting a business may be one option to consider. However, depending on the type of business, it may not provide the flexibility being sought after and it may need some series time dedication, at least in the beginning. So think about the business model — brick and mortar where you are expected to be there in person to serve your clients, or perhaps an online business? (Read Travis Chamber’s article for some inspiration on this topic).
For the rest of the population, there is good news. There are steps you can take to own more of your time even as an employee. First, follow and study the company or team you are interested in to get a grasp of their mission, alignment of values with (assuming you have done some soul searching to identify yours. Tony Robbins offers a free DISC assessment) and consider how it fits into your lifestyle. One of the post powerful tools you have is the informational interview. Before taking on a role, conduct an informational interview with the hiring manager, team members and if possible the person whose role you will be filling to get a feel for the team dynamics, culture and expectations. The beauty of informational interviews is that you are getting the scoop on the job and the team with no pressure, because you are asking all the questions as opposed being on the other side of the table when interviewing for a job. Then strategically position yourself for success by contributing to a company and team that supports your goals and honors your whole authentic self whereby harmony naturally exists.
As a parent, your professional brand will be challenged throughout your career. Therefore it is important to have strategies in place to manage it. This can come in the form of establishing a support system to help with the kids when you cannot be there, such as coordinating pick up and drop off with a spouse or partner if that is an option, asking other family members to step in when kids get sick or you can’t make it to school on time because of traffic. It means mobilizing a village to help you maintain a healthy work and life relationship.
Now, with that said, only you can be a parent to you kids. Therefore, it may also mean having a courageous conversation with your manager and team about how to make the most out of your talents and your workday, keeping in mind that you need to still be a parent. Make it a win-win situation. For example, make it clear that you are committed to work and will do everything in your power to do what is necessary at work, and in exchange ask that meetings be scheduled during normal business hours as a meeting too early in the day or too late will cause stress for the working parent.
I had to have courageous conversations of my own during my career where I was “coached” that sending this ‘I am a parent first’ message is creating a certain brand for myself among leaders, and that it could potentially hinder or slow my ability climb the corporate ladder. While I appreciated that perspective, because it is true, at the end of the day whether upon my choosing or not, someone else can always step in to do what needs to be done at work, but no one else can be a parent to my kids, so that is exactly the brand I want to create for myself — a working parent.
I trust that this article connects with someone, somewhere and creates a common threat among all working parents. Though these lessons have been itching to be shared with the world for quite some time, articles such as those linked above spurred the inspiration and courage to actually author it.
Tezeta Roro is a licensed real estate professional in the state of New Jersey. She is active in the nonprofit space where some of the projects she worked on include the rights of migrants in the Middle East and Hamlin Fistula.
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