Our focus on the challenges for working parents can mean we forget the upsides, says Alice Olins


Alice Olins on all the positives

I was thinking, the other day, while changing the baby’s nappy, trying to help my older daughter subtract her fractions, keeping the middle one from stealing more chocolate biscuits and watching my inbox implode, that being a working parent is a total gift.

I didn’t say that it was easy, or pretend that I have it all together (it isn’t and I don’t), but it did dawn on me that having these three kids in tow has changed my approach to work for the better.

Yes, it is a constant fight juggling working and parenting, especially in these Covid times, but as well as being honest about the challenges, I think we need to share what we learn from being parents, too. Because the truth is, the grit and doggedness that I’ve picked up along the way has made me a better coach and entreprene­ur.

I suppose the most fundamenta­l change has been my outlook. Amid the unrelentin­g hours of work and home life, my children have taught me to flip the coin; like them,

I’m now better at experienci­ng life and work through the prism of a positive lens.

I’ve become more empathetic. And this empathy has helped me connect with my clients and grow my membership club, because it is the ultimate conduit of personal connection.

I’m a more skilled multitaske­r, too. I’ve learned the power of setting and sticking to boundaries and have become efficient beyond my wildest dreams (honestly, I used to take a whole day to do what I can now bash out in a two-hour slot while the baby sleeps). Most importantl­y, though, my children have helped me to own my story. My entry into motherhood was a tragic one; I lost my first son at birth, and this life-shattering bereavemen­t forced me to confront myself in a way I’d never needed to before. I wrote a lot about his death in the press, and so everyone else knew about it, too. The upshot: I could no longer hide my story, and as hard as it was, and still continues to be at times, I truly believe my openness, subsequent growth in my confidence and my resolute commitment to a type of authentici­ty that helps women feel understood, allows me to stand out from my peers.

I also know women who have grown all of the above skills through infertilit­y, illness or redundancy, to name but a few. Often it’s the biggest challenges, I have learned, that bring opportunit­ies for growth that we never saw coming.

For me, becoming a parent has shaped how I work. A decade ago, success meant my name in a byline, the number of features I churned out in a week. Now it’s happiness, being kind, committing to personal growth and finding purpose and meaning in my life. Thank you Bear, Pearl, Tallulah and Monty for opening up my mind in new ways. I love you all.

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