What Being A Parent Can Teach Us About Work
Scott Behson author of The Working Dad’s Survival Guide: How to Succeed at Work and at Home says actively involved fathers can become, “more organized, efficient, empathetic, and better able to differentiate what is/is not truly important. These skills apply to all aspects of life, including at work.”
“A few years ago, I was in a big, fat stinking hurry …
Nick was just old enough to get his coat, hat, gloves and shoes on by himself, and I needed him to do so quickly or else we’d be late for the thing that was soooo super-important that now I can’t even remember what it was. So, of course I see Nick presumably fooling around and taking his sweet time getting his jacket on. We’re running late. This thing is very important. We need to get going. So, I snap at him about his jacket.
He’s a great kid and I hardly ever raise my voice to him, so he is struck by my tone, and he sheepishly says that he can’t get his sleeve on. “Of course you can,” I bark at him as I start to shove his sleeve onto his arm. But his arm won’t go through – something was blocking the sleeve. That’s when I realized I had put his hat and gloves in his sleeve earlier that day. Nick was trying to do the right thing, but couldn’t get past an obstacle.
I apologized, tried to make him feel better, and slowed down to his speed. Somehow it turned out perfectly ok that we were ten minutes late for that super-important thing.
My mistake was a powerful lesson that taught me to be a better dad. I was injecting unnecessary stress into my time with Nick. I wasn’t being present with him. Instead, I was so focused on my schedule and on a fleeting, unimportant thing that seemed so pressing at the time. My time with Nick shouldn’t have been contaminated. While I’m not always successful, I’m getting better about being in the moment..
This lesson on fatherhood also helped me in other facets of my life.
Ever since becoming a father, I’ve learned to be more patient, more tolerant, and less of a “type-A” person. I’m far happier, more relaxed, and have learned to better separate what’s worth worrying about and what isn’t. I’ve also learned to listen better, to empathize more, and to see things from other’s perspectives. I have a better understanding that what comes easily to me does not always come easily to others. I’ve learned how to be more precise when communicating and giving instructions, and, perhaps most importantly, learned how to help people handle change and other stressful situations. (Thank you, Nick, for making me a better, happier person!)
All of these fatherhood-acquired skills and perspectives also serve me well at work. My college students usually try to do the right thing, but get stuck by real and self-imposed obstacles. They are just being introduced to information and perspectives that I’ve been focusing on for almost two decades. They have different learning styles, and come to my classroom from all over the world with different experiences and perspectives. I now better understand my students, and have gotten better at reaching them. Thanks to being a father, I am a far more effective college professor.
At work, I have also had opportunities to supervise other professors as department chair, run committees, and be an informal leader on team project work. As a tenured professor, I have also been called on to mentor new faculty.
My work colleagues also usually try to do the right thing, but get stuck by real or self-imposed obstacles. They have different specializations, personalities and communication styles. Some of my colleagues have a difficult time trying new things or working in new ways. I now better understand my colleagues, and have gotten better working with them. Thanks to being a father, I am more effective as an informal leader at work…”