Does being a mum make you more qualified?
It seems as though every few months there is a new row erupting in the media about whether being a parent makes you more, or less, qualified to do your job.
Andrea Leadsom’s recent comments, implying that by being a mother meant she was perhaps more qualified to be prime minister than Theresa May, not only signalled the end of her race to Downing Street but also caused a global backlash against her.
According to a survey by Microsoft, 60% of the 500 employers who took part in their survey thought that women became better team players after becoming mothers, and over a third say their employees’ multitasking skills improved after they gave birth.
(This sounds all well and good, but note that we do not know the state of the employees’ team skills beforehand, nor their previous ability to multitask. Saying that someone who is suddenly able to talk whilst walking, when they couldn’t before, is not necessarily progress, after all. Especially if most other humans in the department could already do so.)
I am of the opinion that every experience of being a parent is as individual as each person is. I’d also argue that many of us increase our life skills as we become older too, so this phenomenon may perhaps be more related to the passing of time. Some people may well become ‘better’ employees after having children, but most of us will know some who became worse. Some employees without children may have been better or worse all along than the new parents, and perhaps simply by becoming a parent (or not being able to be a parent) has a profound effect on someone’s emotional state and thus their morale at work. We are all different, and that includes our ability to adapt to changes in life.
In my experience, becoming a parent did change some crucial things. It gave me a stronger stomach, and it made me more tired. It made me slightly more emotional temporarily, and I learned how to do new things such as change nappies and fix toy cars. None of these particular skills are very useful at work, I have to say (except maybe the strong stomach part – that comes in handy sometimes on a bad day in the canteen).
The long and the short of it is that every employee is different. It’s not being a parent in itself that makes you a better or worse employee, but your ability to do your job in spite of what’s going on in your personal life – whether that includes having children, owning a dog or learning new skills outside of work.
Andrea Leadsom’s comments were offensive to a lot of people, and rightly so. To sweep the ‘parents’ and the ‘no children’ populations into such assumptive groups was offensive to me in itself. Just because I am also a parent doesn’t mean I have anything in common with Andrea Leadsom, for example.
According to the mothers who took part in the Microsoft survey, almost two-thirds said they got better at multitasking after they had children, and nearly half said their time management skills improved. More than a quarter became more organized too, apparently. I can relate to some of this but I don’t think being a parent necessarily makes you better than others at these things. After all, we make our own choices in life but some scenarious occur out of our control. And I for one wouldn’t admit to my boss that I had become LESS organised after becoming a parent, as most employees in this climate (whether parents or not) don’t want to admit weakness in a time of economic uncertainty.
Perhaps it’s time we stop putting people into categories on account of their home lives. Perhaps some companies do see increased productivity when parents return to work, but so too do firms who play music in the office. Being a mum hasn’t made me better or worse at my job. I’m still the same person as I was before giving birth. It’s better to focus on the individual, rather than their private life, as I’m afraid that if you were rubbish at your job before then getting sprogged up probably isn’t going to change that.
What do you think? Do you think being a parent makes you better or worse at a job, or does it depend on the individual? Join the discussion on our Facebook page and let us know! Plus, don’t forget to have your say and earn money in your spare time in our latest paid surveys at Opinion Outpost UK.