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Parents are used to adapting to constantly changing circumstances. That makes them able to deal with today’s workplace.
I’ve been reading a lot of late about the skills we might need for the future. Creativity looms large as does communication and all the human stuff that robots supposedly can’t do. One thing is certain.
Adaptability to change is going to be vital as is the ability to learn new stuff fast. Kids do it all the time. It’s as easy as breathing to them. For older types who have adapted to technology rather than growing up with it, it takes more of a conscious focus.
In parenting, you learn by doing. It has always struck me that it was assumed that I would know what to do in a crisis with a baby because I was female and so had supposedly been born with baby care knowledge.
It is true that I looked after some of my siblings when we went to stay with them in a way that my brother didn’t, in part because he was younger, in part because, of course, he was a boy, so I did have some knowledge of nappies and all and I must also have absorbed other women doing baby stuff. But I was just as in the dark when it came to dealing with spikes in temperature as my partner at first. But then I was mainly in charge for several months – on maternity leave – so I learned what to do.
In a similar way you learn adaptability to change by facing it, often weekly, if not daily. If you are in charge of home logistics, you learn to turn on a dime, as they say. It’s a skill which is often underestimated and one which doesn’t always feel like a skill when you are just exhausted by the sheer never-endingness of doing it.
I have been struck by a number of women who have said to me that their [male] partner really found retirement difficult. It’s not surprising if you have been doing a job for xx years and if your sense of status comes from that job. It’s something that can have benefits and drawbacks.
Take that away and who are you? What you do has a deep impact on who you are. It’s certainly a factor in the issues many women have when it comes to taking time out on maternity leave.
But women often have a more winding career path than men and tend to have less status to boot. Not just in terms of seniority, but in terms of the value we place on what they do. Hence all the recent equal pay claims and the focus on the pension pay gap, among all the other pay gaps.
Women have often been forced to find creative solutions to the whole work life thing in ways that, traditionally, men haven’t, although more and more people generally, particularly parents, are looking at ways out of the 9 to 5 [which very rarely begins at 9 or ends at 5].
This week we launched Workingdads.co.uk in recognition of the challenges faced by dads to find flexible working and to take more parental leave and of the links between women’s equality at work and men’s equality at home. One of the things about equality is that if there are more of us facing similar things, working in similar ways and adapting to constant change, more of us will be trying to find something that makes everything work better.