When you become a mom, you are transformed. Your instincts are sharpened, your empathy magnified, your focus honed. Maybe these skills are the consolation prize for having a little piece of your heart ripped out, given arms and legs, and sent careening about the world. Or maybe, they’re the stripes you earn for the never-ending opportunities for growth that parenting presents.
No matter where they come from, the skills we gain from having children definitely make moms smarter and sharper businesspeople. There has never been a more fickle target audience than a teenage girl. My eight-year-old son is a cold, calculated negotiator, especially at bedtime. And anyone who’s ever tried to get their kid into a decent school knows the process is a fraught combination of cost-benefit analysis, hustle, and networking that can overwhelm you no matter how well you’ve mastered Excel.
When I became a mother, I quickly made the move from thinking of myself as a “freelancer” to becoming a business owner. Being a mom stoked my entrepreneurial engine like never before, thanks to these 5 key things I learned.
Being a mom humbles you.
Whether you spend hours pushing, have to recover from a C-section, or experience the emotional highs and lows of adoption — having a child forces you to let everything hang out in the open in some way, shape, or form. Your ego never recovers, and in business, that’s a great thing. You learn to see your smarter colleagues as assets, not threats. When you say it’s a team effort, you actually really mean it (and prefer it that way). And most importantly, fear won’t hold you back, because frankly, nothing is all that scary anymore once you’ve had a kid.
You are a master multi-tasker.
What starts as a parenting necessity becomes a business boon. I often start my day getting dressed, while quizzing my kids on their vocabulary, paying bills, checking homework folders, and signing permission slips—all at the same time! At the office, it’s more of the same. Some days, it’s the only way to get everything done. The key is being able to discern when multi-tasking doesn’t make sense – like when your kid wants to talk or a decision needs careful consideration. Having that wisdom at the right moment makes all the difference.
We get [stuff] done.
This is in some ways a corollary to #2, but as the adage says, when you have something to do, give it to the busiest person. That’s mom. What I’ve learned as a parent, and benefited from as a businessperson, is not to belabor decisions. Entrepreneurial success is all about action and drive. Your advantage depends on being able to out-execute the competition. And, basically, that’s the only way my household doesn’t fall apart.
You learn to keep your cool.
Whether you’re talking about failures or fantastic achievements, moms can’t be swayed, because there are always other people and tasks competing for your attention. The same is true for any executive. There’s just no time for self-satisfaction or self-flagellation. Of course, sometimes you have to allow yourself to enjoy the moment and celebrate with your team. And leadership also demands that you be able to assess what went wrong and identify strategies to avoid the same problem in the future. But you also learn how to avoid being stuck in cycles of indecision. One of the biggest advantages motherhood has given me as a businessperson is that not much fazes me anymore. And in today’s world, that’s kind of like a superpower.
Moms always have a Plan B (and C, D, E…).
Maybe one of the reasons moms are able to keep their cool in the craziest of situations is that, as a parent, you learn to always have another option. When I had my second child, I was telling a friend who had three older kids how my maternity leave was more hectic and stressful than I anticipated. As I shared how I’d had to change my plans so often to accommodate two kids’ schedules, she just smiled knowingly and said, “Being a parent, you get very used to the disappointment of change.” It was like she’d looked inside my soul. To maintain your sanity as a parent, you have to become incredibly flexible and open to the alternative path. The same is true in business.
I wonder if reading this people will think, “Gosh, she makes parenting sound kind of brutal.” It is. And it’s incredibly beautiful at the same time. I see new parallels between the challenges that confront me as a mom and the challenges that confront me as a co-founder every day. For me, both are the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, but they’re also undoubtedly the ones I’ve loved the most. Every day, both force me to grow in ways I never thought possible, make me laugh at myself and my own arrogance, but most importantly they fill me with great pride that I am shaping the people and the services that will make tomorrow better. That’s a pretty great reason to get up every morning.
This feature originally appeared in Entrepreneur.