Working parents make great role models

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Leaders have a responsibility to be role models to those around them. Here, Jacqueline Shakespeare reflects on how being a working parent has enabled her to achieve that.

I love being a parent but I also love my job. I don’t want to feel like I have to make a decision to choose one ‘role’ over the other, because they both enable me to be my best self. 

Additionally, I know that being a working parent is good for my children. Research from Harvard University shows daughters of working mothers enjoy better careers, higher pay and more equal relationships, while sons of working mothers spend more time contributing to household chores and caring for family members.

But that doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty.

Guilt is a hallmark of modern parenting. From the worry of too much screen time to not having the mental capacity to cook meals from scratch, guilt impairs our judgement and prevents us from being the person we want to be.

Leaders are prone to these same feelings of guilt. From the constant ‘work about work’, to working IN the business rather than ON the business, and feeling like there’s never enough time. Guilt undermines your self-confidence and jeopardises healthy relationships with your team.

We look to role models for guidance

Working parents help their families economically, but their work also helps them mature professionally and emotionally (if they love their jobs), which in turn, helps their children to grow.

As leaders, we have similar responsibilities: to help our business to scale, to help our people to develop and to create an environment where people can be at their best every day – regardless of whether they’re an employee, colleague, partner or customer.

As individuals, we will always have responsibilities that pull us in different directions, but you can’t be driven by guilt. Instead, focus on how to achieve the best possible outcome in that moment.

Switch to focus on outcomes

I make a conscious effort to separate my role of parent and Consulting Partner. Once I’ve finished work for the day, I stop checking work emails, taking calls or thinking about the big presentation later in the week; my family has my undivided attention. In turn, when I am working, I immerse myself in my client’s work and focus only on their needs. I can be the partner my client wants to help achieve the outcome they need.

I find this helps me to bring the best version of myself to every situation, without compromise, because it minimises the distraction caused by guilt. 

Take small but positive first steps

Be kind to yourself. It’s really easy to focus on what you feel you’re doing wrong. It’s so common, it even has a name: ‘The Zeigarnik Effect’, where we have a psychological tendency to remember an uncompleted task rather than a completed one. I guarantee there are a hundred times more things you’re getting right so be sure tochannel negative thoughts into positive ones.

And then let your values shine through. Our values guide us and influence our actions and behaviour every day. Whatever your personal values, maybe you recognise honesty, loyalty, vulnerability, reliability… they all help shape the role model we can be. Leverage them, and focus on what really matters to be the best version of yourself in every moment. Then you’re in the best place possible, whether at home or at work, to be a great role model.

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Jacqueline Shakespeare
Written by Jacqueline Shakespeare
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