#5SmartReads - April 6, 2022
Jessica on leadership while parenting, raising kids similar to you, and how White men are the only people wanting to go back into the office
Jessica Wilen is a mom of two, an Assistant Professor at the Yale Child Study Center, an executive coach and organizational consultant. She's passionate about helping working parents maximize their effectiveness in both professional and personal settings and helping businesses better support their working parent employees. Read more about Jessica Wilen Coaching here.
Parenthood Is A Leadership Asset (A Cup of Ambition)
This is the closest I've come to a personal manifesto, and I will continue to shout it from the rooftops. Becoming a mom made me a better employee, and I think that should be celebrated, not hidden.
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"If organizations are serious about retaining working parents (and particularly working moms), they need to realize that, rather than being a distraction, parenthood is a business asset. Leadership is about influencing people towards a common goal, which means that working parents are constantly leading—whether they’re motivating their unit to meet sales goals, guiding a surgical team through a complex procedure, or inspiring their kids to pick up their shoes."
Stop Framing Wellness Programs Around Self-Care (Harvard Business Review)
If disconnection from others is a contributing factor to increased rates of anxiety and depression, then certainly interventions targeting the individual in isolation are bound to fail.
For a long time I've worried that "self-care" rhetoric puts the onus for well-being solely on the individual and lets government, businesses and communities off the hook.
"Human connections are especially critical for addressing the effects of stress, anxiety, burnout, and other forms of workplace distress. When organizations offer individual solutions, it can send the message that employees are on their own when it comes to their mental health. Worse yet, the resulting disconnection is self-reinforcing. As employees are left to manage their pain alone, they can become trapped in destructive cycles of anxiety and shame that make it harder to foster real connections. These patterns are often worsened in national and organizational cultures that revere self-sufficiency and independence."
The Challenge Of Raising A Kid Who’s Just Like You (New York Times)
This article resonated so strongly with me. I, too, have a highly perfectionistic and sensitive child who is a lot like me. When I see the struggles and disappointments he inevitably faces, I feel them even more deeply because they remind me of my own. Ultimately, this over-identification isn’t helpful (to either of us). Jessica Grose puts it perfectly:
“A theme that I frequently return to is the ultimate lack of control we have over our kids. We try to offer them a safe haven to return to, but they must experience most of life on their own. This is perhaps the key part of parenting as your children get older — letting them grow away from you, and accepting that their happiness is not completely within your command. I can try to give my daughter strategies for managing her anxieties and be there for her to talk to, but she has to go out there and learn to cope with what’s in her head.”
A powerful reminder for all of us.
Who is actually served by the traditional office place? I've seen this question asked several times since the start of the pandemic.
According to Reshma Saujani:
"The office—in the traditional, Mad Men sense–was designed to be the workplace of breadwinners: a place where men pulled in the money while their wives stayed home doing all the work to maintain their home and family (for free, obviously). It was the American postwar iteration of separate spheres ideology, the era’s way of giving men comfortable distance from their needy, messy, somehow-always-sticky kids. And like sweet potato puree on a working mom’s blazer, it’s stuck around."
For many working parents, women, and people of color, a remote--or at least hybrid--working arrangement is ideal. But still we see (primarily white male) leadership insist on workers returning to the physical office. What is this about? Justifying existing leases? Employee surveillance? It's worth asking these tough questions.
How Parents Can Help Kids Redefine What It Means To Be Smart (Washington Post)
The author, Ulcca Joshi Hansen, a former teacher and current education researcher shares:
“Like many parents, I struggle with a painful tension: I see the unique brilliance of my children, but I also know that brilliance can’t shine in an education system where ‘smart’ is measured in a very different way. Despite the fact that children learn in different ways, at different paces, we favor certain cognitive functions and place heavy emphasis on compliance, stillness and the ability to pay certain kinds of attention.”
So, what’s a parent to do? Hansen suggests first looking at HOW your kid is smart, not WHETHER your kid is smart. Then advocate for them based on their needs. Don’t forget that meaningful learning is more important than just checking the boxes.