I Thought Becoming a Dad Would Harm My Career. How Wrong I Was
It made me so much better at my job.
Conventional wisdom (or what I heard from other parents before I had my first kid) told me that my career will take a back seat once kids are in the picture. While it’s true that, as a working parent, I’ve definitely needed to juggle my office responsibilities in new and interesting ways, I’ve also found adding “parent” to my resume has helped me be better at my job. Here are six ways that becoming a dad has helped me professionally.
1. I’ve learned to be flexible.
Before kids, I blocked out my day, and life was predictable. I had a team meeting at 9, a touch base with my boss at 3 and a conference call with a client at 4. I knew being a parent at times would make life unpredictable. But dealing with it was different. Yes, I was going to have that meeting at 9, but the baby woke up with a fever and I had to be at the pediatrician’s office instead. This “forced flexibility” helped me learn to prioritize and streamline my day to consider what’s truly important.
2. I’ve learned new ways to persuade.
I work in public relations and marketing, so at the most basic level, my job is to convince people to do something. Those skills of persuasion are put to the test every day with a four-year old. I get to practice several techniques, including: fear appeals — “Don’t do that or you’ll get hurt.” Influencer marketing — “Your friends are doing this, you should too.” Effective calls to action — “get dressed now or we won’t go to the pool.” Cause marketing — “you should do this because it’s the right thing to do.” Crisis management — “I know your favorite pajamas are in the wash, but it isn’t that big of a deal.”
3. I’m much better at managing crises.
Because I know what really counts as a crisis. A big part of my job is helping companies in the midst of public relations crises. A client facing negative headlines or an angry mob on social media is scary stuff, but from my perspective, it’s nothing compared to a three-year-old’s tantrum. Being a parent forces me to take a breath, assess the situation and act instead of re-act. That is directly applicable to when the phone rings and a panicked client is at the other end of the phone. My wife, who also works in PR, gets additional practice in preventing crisis. We know to have snacks at the ready if we’re waiting for a table at a restaurant, or have crayons for when we’re waiting for a car oil change. We stay prepared.
4. I have a better sense of perspective.
Being a parent has given me more empathy for my colleagues with kids. I no longer wonder: “Where the heck have they been?” when they roll in at 9:30, and embrace the sometimes blurred lines of life that come with juggling work time with home time. I also have better perspective when building marketing strategies geared toward parents — because I actually know what parents want.
5. I’m a better counselor.
As my sons get older, I find I need to counsel them and encourage them as they make decisions. Being a counselor has always been a big part of my job as a PR professional, and, I’ll admit it’s one that I didn’t always embrace. Being a parent helps me be a bit more empathetic and gives me more day-to-day practice in the role of counselor that makes me a better consultant and co-worker.
6. I’m much more present.
I’m a non-linear thinker, and modern technology doesn’t help my tendency to jump on whatever is in front of me and go down a rabbit hole of social media links, articles etc. Being a parent forces me to stay on the topic at hand, and make the most of my work time. There’s less wiggle room these days — daycare doesn’t care that you wasted time on YouTube instead of work and will charge you for a late pickup — so I need to maximize the time I spend in the office. All this means I can be more productive at work. I’m not alone in this — there’s academic research that shows working parents are more productive over their careers.
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