Read our newest research on the R.O.I. of Caregiving! Download the report here.

We're here for you.

Sign up for our newsletter here.



How to Harness Your Parenting Skills in the Workplace

We’re here for you.

Share your email, and we’ll share our world.

In our personal lives, becoming a parent feels like an achievement unlocked. But at work, parenthood can feel like a burden. Being a parent in the workforce can feel like a setback, like you have something to prove – when in reality the work parents are doing at home is solidifying a set of skills that are extremely sought after in the workplace and make you an even more valuable asset. 

As parents, the onus often falls on us to change the narrative and mindset on what parenting means for our work life (just add that to the long list of things we’re already expected to do *eye roll emoji*).

“It goes without saying that the work of parents is unacknowledged, underacknowledged and falls disproportionately upon women,” psychiatrist Dr. Cristin Drake explained. “But another thing that is bewildering about working and parenting is that parents are told in the workplace, especially when they have young children, that they become worse and not better employees.”

Dr. Drake specializes in women’s health and parenting; the dichotomy between the employee-self and the parent-self is something she talks about with her clients on a regular basis. She’s also a mother, with a 10-year-old and 7-year-old. That is to say, she gets this on a personal level.

“In any other professional situation that I can think of, the workers who have the ability to manage the most high stakes, critical tasks are the most reliable and the most revered. But not when that work is parenting,” Dr. Cristin Drake said. “We’re told to keep our parenting lives out of the workplace, that there are really no positives or strengths here, only things to accommodate.”

The Parenting Brain

This idea in our culture that working parents are an “accommodation” often means parents don’t realize how many skills they’re mastering at home – or how to use those skills to claim their value at work. 

Scientific research on brain function, Dr. Drake said, shows that our parenting brains and our working brains are actually not at odds with one another. The pruning and specialization your brain is going through in your role as a parent gives way to very real, in-demand skills.

Parenting does change us at a fundamental level: an increase in motivation, executive function and sensory processing. Our social cognition, threat detection and emotional regulation all surge, as well. TL;DR: being a parent ups our multitasking skills, our conflict resolution skills, our ability to get stuff done.

“The trouble is, the ability to socialize our ideas and to promote ourselves outside of the immediate family does suffer a little bit in the postpartum brain,” Dr. Drake said, “So at the same time as we gain all of these skills and abilities, we become less good at selling ourselves.”

Parenting is Professional

The false narrative that there’s no way we can be a good parent and a good employee does carry a heavy weight – and it can feel even weightier knowing that it’s on you to change the way your office, or the world, thinks about working parents.

Part of doing that, Dr. Drake explains, is reframing your parenting work into a professional setting.

If you walk around carrying a bag of snacks everywhere you go, yes that may be a tell-tale sign of parenthood – but it’s also a clear indication that you know how to anticipate the needs of others. That’s social cognition in action. 

“What it really means, though, is that a bag full of crumbs or spilled drinks is the bag of a person who is practicing theory of mind,” Dr. Drake said. “That we as parents are understanding the mental states of others.”

Spending 10 minutes convincing your child to wear a pair of matching socks can feel like a waste of time now that your day has gotten off to a late start. Now reframe that in your mind. As a parent you’re tasked with weighing conflicting perspectives (you, who wants two white socks that match the whole outfit, and your child, who wants one Paw Patrol sock because of course she does.), determining what is critical and what is flexible and figuring out solutions that satisfy everyone. This is negotiation – and if you can negotiate a five-year-old out of a Paw Patrol sock, you have the ability to model and encourage compromise in order to keep things moving forward at your place of work, as well.

Now What?

  • Daily practice: acknowledge the value your parenting work.
    Just like with starting any new routine, whether it’s skincare or taking ownership of your valuable skills – you have to practice every day. Take time every day to think critically about your work as a parent. Remind yourself of the skills you used to accomplish your work today. You didn’t just schlep kids and turn a wheel at work, you used time management to get your child to dance class, you recognized a coworker’s struggle with a project and gave appropriate encouragement to get the job done, you made things happen in a seemingly seamless way. These things take skill and experience – both of which you have.
  • Raise your hand: stretch your thinking about required skills.
    When you see a job posting that has required skills, feel entitled to use your parenting skills as those qualifications. Skills like strategic thinking, like time management, or like being a motivating team leader. “You have these skills, and it doesn’t matter where you got them,” Dr. Drake says.
  • Advocate: own your value and your needs, reclaim the facts.
    Know that your skills as parents add to your value. You’ve earned and perfected the skills, now claim them. You’re in the position you’re in at the workplace now because you deserve to be. There was a job opening that you applied for and were better suited for than anyone else, that’s why you were hired. Instead of allowing cultural norms to convince you you’re not good enough anymore, reclaim the facts to prove that you’re even more qualified now than you were before.
  • Identify parent skills out loud: name how you got your skills for yourself and others.
    When your boss thanks you for getting that project launched on time, tell her how you managed it. Identify your skills out loud, and acknowledge where they came from. Maybe giving extra encouragement to your coworker is something you wouldn’t have thought about pre-parenthood, but now you see first hand every day how a little encouragement can go a long way in helping someone complete a task. While your two-year-old may need some clapping after all their toys are put away, your colleague may need to hear that they’re doing great and you value their input. You’ve catered your skills to accomplish a goal in both situations.

At Vivvi, we’re committed changing the workplace conversation about parenthood—and we’d love you to join our mission. Here’s our guide to help you change the narrative around working parenting.


Experience the Vivvi™ difference for yourself.

Meet us online for a safe, smile filled open house.