What we hoped would be a sprint has become a marathon, and for many working parents it feels like the 2020-21 school year started at mile 15. While you’re in survival mode, you may not realize the professional muscles that you're building by making this work.
Give yourself a lot of credit. You’re doing more than making ends meet; every day, you’re showing up hard on two different fronts. This year, school is especially complex for parents, no matter how your kids are participating. If they’re going into the classroom, you are managing complex logistics, and even the slightest cough or throat tickle means that your day (or week) has to be reconfigured on the fly. If your kids are working remotely, you’re overseeing their daily routine.
Either way, making this work takes guts, dedication, focus, and heart. You may feel like you don’t have much to show for the mountainous energy you’re shelling out on the bad days. But know this: you may not be able to see the results of your efforts just yet, but COVID-age parenting is building rock-star professional skills.
You’re a lean, mean productivity machine.
Remember those pre-COVID days when you got to enjoy a well-deserved Friday lunch with your colleagues? Remember stopping for a latte just because it was a rainy Monday morning? Remember those blissful days when you could sometimes be the center of your own attention?
Time, motivation, and productivity exist differently now. You’re powering through your work so that you can be there to help your kids submit their deliverables. You are the backbone of a highly complex operation. A lot is riding on your ability to keep the environment organized, keep the troops motivated and handle the never-ending task that is procurement so that everyone has what they need to stay on mission.
There’s not a lot of cushions when it comes to your work-life balance these days. The stakes can feel exhaustively high. But it can do wonders for focus and productivity. The pandemic has certainly forced working for parents’ hands when it comes to streaming operations. You’re here. You’re doing this. You rock!
Your communication skills are fat-free and action-oriented
Parenting in COVID takes communication to a whole new level because now, it’s a survival skill. Every day, you’re blasting out various nuanced messages directed at kids, teachers, administrators, doctors, coaches, managers, and co-workers—a wealth of preparation, diplomacy, and detail shapes each initiative.
While you’re doing this work, you’re also showing your kids how it’s done. You’re demonstrating how to shape meaningful questions and direct those at the appropriate person. You’re showing your kids how to troubleshoot and how to make things work in a pinch while being polite, respectful, and professional.
Whether you’re working remotely or heading to the office each day, you’re exhibiting being a savvy communicator and problem-solver. You have no time or patience for fluff or excess. Your communications are lean and action-oriented. But you’re also dealing with kids and teachers who, like you, are managing an unusual situation, so you’re operating with patience and empathy. That’s a lot to manage, finesse and streamline. It cultivates abilities far better than rock star skills-those are leadership skills.
You’re refining your behavioral skills.
Back in November 2019, before COVID was on anybody’s radar screen, Dan Schawbel, author and Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, penned his annual Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2020. He emphasized an upcoming change in the skillset that employers will seek as automation alters the job market. Schawbel writes: "AI will automate technical skills and drive the demand for soft skills like creativity, communication, and empathy.”
An IBM survey of 5,670 global executives from nearly 50 countries found that technical abilities like basic computer and software/application skills were vital for employees in 2016. Two years later, though, the top skills that employers targeted were behavioral skills, including agility, adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to prioritize and strategically manage time.
Um, those sound pretty much like the skills you count on to make it through the day. Sure, some moments are challenging as you toggle back and forth, trying to submit your own work while also aiming to calm a stressed-out middle schooler or refocus a bored second grader. But your reality right now is a super soft skills crash course, which stands to serve you well in the future.
This is how leaders build their savvy and resilience-they propel their teams through the hard times. Even when they want to cave in on themselves, they get re-energized by looking at the big picture and recognizing that they lead a vital effort.
You are leading a vital effort. Some days feel a mess. We all have those. But giving it your sincere and best effort is noble work. It’s important, but often thankless work. Leadership work is like that. Don’t give up-you’re crushing this!