Recently I wrote about how mothers make great managers because of what they learn parenting their children. Now that my second daughter is here, I´ve been thinking about how mothers learn many of these skills when their children are newborns. Newborns require such a change in lifestyle, whether it is your first newborn or your third. We forget how much they depend upon us when they are so little. The skills we learn when we take care of a newborn carry over into our work life, whether we are working as managers or employees.
For instance, with newborns we learn to function on just a few hours of sleep spread out over a night. Two hours here, two and a half there, and then we get up and clean the house or make breakfast or take care of our toddlers. We learn that four and a half hours of scattered sleep actually is enough to make us functional-after all, we have to take care of a human being in the waking moments. In work, this carries over when we are stressed and working on little sleep. We must get used to making quick but sound decisions, and in functioning in stressful situations regardless of how rested we are. We must also learn to take rest when we can get it, since we get so little when we are working mothers. A five-minute catnap on the couch at night is enough to get us on our feet and folding laundry.
As cute as they are, newborns can be quite demanding little creatures. My daughter is nursing every one and a half to two hours during the day, and if I am not there ready to feed, she lets me know that she is ready by squawking (that´s the best word I can find to describe her cries!) She needs to be changed at each feeding, and held, and rocked, and swaddled. She needs a few changes of clothes a day. And, unfortunately, she is a bit colicky, as was my first daughter. If you have not experienced colic, you are a blessed mother. Though most days we can now use infant massage to save her belly, she still experiences some discomfort, which leads to bouts of screaming that we cannot ease. Watching her in pain and feeling helpless about helping is very difficult.
So patience is a must when you have a newborn. If you cannot be patient through your lack of sleep induced haze of waking times, you will not make it through the first month of your newborn´s life. And if you can´t be patient at work, whether you are a manager or an employee, you will likely not make it easily during your career. Patience is a necessity when dealing with other people. We must learn to listen, follow orders, give orders, and make sure that these orders are followed through even when the person does not want to cooperate. When working you are dealing with a multitude of personalities, and you must learn to accommodate all of those in your everyday life.
Finally, newborns teach us to appreciate and accept others. We can look at our new child and understand that the world is much bigger than we are; that most crises are not really crises but just waves that we need to swim over; and that there is beauty in everything. Keep this in mind when dealing with an employee that you find annoying. They have a life outside of work. They have families and people that they love and that love them. While it is sometimes difficult to remember this when we are faced with a challenging personality, it will help to keep your work life in perspective.
Happy New Year, Working Mommies!