Does parenthood boost workplace performance?

Recently, as the debate around women, work and life rages on, a parallel discussion involving men’s shifting values is emerging. Not surprisingly, as conventional gender roles are exploded, a growing number of men are shuffling priorities and placing parenthood ahead of their more traditional, transactional place as provider. This new set of values is affecting why, how and where a new breed of fathers choose to work.

Luckily today’s employers are learning happier employees — both men and women — are more productive employees. Smart organizations (though few and far between) are doing their best to create solutions to capitalize on this finding.

Recently I read an interesting bit that took this line of learning a step further. A study referenced in this insight-packed Globe & Mail article goes so far as to suggest that today’s multi-priority men tend to score higher in performance reviews than their peers:

When Prof. Reid presented her research about the pressures on male employees to the consulting firm, she recalls, “a senior partner looked at me, and said, ‘Well, maybe these aren’t the guys we want anyway.’ ”
But those were exactly “the guys” the company rated most highly in performance reviews — the men making behind-the-scenes adjustments to their schedules and projects for the sake of family.

While this appears to only be one small research sample, I’d be very curious to see this line of research pursued further.

Chillin’ with my girls.

As a (relatively) recent new father, intuitively I understand how parenthood could make for better performance. But I thought it might be fun to try to express my thinking through a little personal project I undertook a while back. Every day for the first year of my daughter Frankie’s life I captured one thought, idea or observation about being a new father. The New Dad Daily, as I eventually dubbed it, become a way for me to privately log the adventures of fatherhood and swap insights with a couple buddies also experiencing the ride for the first time. So what better place to look for overlapping skills and learning?

Simply put, I think fatherhood has made me better at what I do for a living. Here are 10 reasons how & why:

1. Experiencing a whole new level of empathy

Day 82/ These first few months are the most unequal thing we’ve had to do as a couple. Trying to support wherever I can without boobs. Understand the whole maternal bond thing more than ever.

Day 239/ Every day is vicarious adventure through her [daughter].

2. Embracing discomfort

Day 14/ Cleaning a tiny vagina is slowly becoming less weird.

Day 37/ Getting more comfy with stranger small talk. Babies make great conversation starters — whether I like it or not.

3. Ignoring what other people think

Day 10/ Everyone has advice to offer. Even among pro caregivers, so much contradiction. Learning to adopt whatever works for us.

Day 33 / Feeling less awkward rocking the diaper bag.

4. Recognizing the importance of delegation

Day 41 / No shame leaning on grandparents. Everybody wins.

5. Planning three steps ahead

Day 86/ Note to self, remember to pee before strapping her into the Baby Bjorn.

6. Finding learning in unlikely places

Day 60/ Calm assertive energy. The Dog Whisperer’s techniques apply surprisingly well to parenting.

7. Living life in beta

Day 68/ Having some success with a new 45 degree hold. For now.

Day 90/ Parenting is one big improvisational exercise.

8. Grinding it out

Day 127/ It’s not any one thing that’s terribly tough — it’s the aggregate. Mom and I need a Zack Morris timeout.

Day 320/ Parenting is the ultimate endurance game.

9. Learning to adopt new routines

Day 184/ Still hate getting up early. But kind of enjoy being up early.

10. Seeing the big picture

Day 365/ Wanting to find myself in a personal & professional place a few years from now that will make my kid proud.

‘Simply put, I think fatherhood has made me better at what I do’

Parents tend to get an unfair wrap in the work world for being less focused and less committed than child-free peers. But, as we continue to learn about the benefits of lateral thinking and thought diversity, perhaps there is also a good deal of value in parental perspective that does not get enough attention. Yes, we may sometimes be time-crunched and pre-occupied, but, from my experience, the role also has the potential to make us more motivated, efficient, empathic, creative and constructive.