Work versus home: it's a conflict all parents deal with in one form or another. But what about the ways that parenting and work complement each other? What about all the skills you develop as a parent that help you out at work, and all the skills you learn at work that you can bring into parenting? There are more of these than you think, and I suggest you use them to your advantage as soon as possible.
1. Offer options that aren't really options
This is probably my favorite parenting trick of all time. “Manuel, do you want to put your socks on all by yourself, or do you want Mommy to help you?” It's genius, and it works just as well at work. “Sharon, would you like me to take my vacation next week, or during our busy season?” The non-option option is how you get to wear socks and go to Hawaii.
2. The sweeter you are, the scarier you are
Few things are scarier to a child than a parent who responds to a tantrum with a soft voice and a smile. And if your boss asks you to re-do your project for the fourth time using the same tone of voice she uses to ask the waiter if she can have her salad dressing on the side, then guess who's working late on Friday? You are.
3. Never let them see you surprised
To fool adults or children into thinking you're in control, you can't let them catch you off-guard. So when your child asks you if you can "drown a penis," or your employee asks if he can come in at 11 because he's “not a morning person,” you need to act like it's the third time you've answered that question in the past half-hour. You are a powerful robot — never forget that.
4. Low expectations lead to happiness
Parents don't go into a weekend with the kids saying things like, “This is going to be the best weekend ever. What could possibly go wrong?” That's the attitude of a parent who isn't actually a parent because they have never spent any time around children. No parent would ever be foolish enough to ask, “What could possibly go wrong,” because they know that the answer is, “All of it.” Instead, finish a weekend of disappointments and time-outs saying, “Huh. That wasn't so bad!” That's how parents stay happy. Employees stay happy by saying, “I got a few things done, and no one spat at me today. I deserve a margarita.” Always expect the worst so you can be pleasantly surprised by the pretty good.
5. Busywork is how you get things done
Sometimes, Momma needs to read the next chapter of her book or finish a project for work that is due in an hour. That's when you ask your children to sort the Legos by color, or your intern to make sure your already alphabetized files are still alphabetized.
6. Bonuses and bribery get stuff done
There are few things that can't be accomplished with the promise of ice cream or a Starbucks gift card.
7. Creativity is key
In parenting and at the office, sometimes you need to make something out of nothing. That's how kids build forts out of dusty cardboard boxes you found in the garage, and how new programs get designed with a week's notice and $20.
8. Goal-setting is pointless
At my former job, my supervisor would ask me to set goals for each year. I hated this because I could never come up with anything more specific than, “Continue to do a good job.” Over the next year, I would love it if my kids finally learned how to tie their own shoelaces, but like birthday wishes, dreams don't come true if you say them out loud.
9. Dress for the job you want
If you want to move up in the professional world, you're advised to dress the part. As a parent who wants to go back to sleep, I choose to wear pajamas. It's all about those silent signals you send out to the universe.
10. Waste time getting coffee
Summer is a great time to take your kids to the far-away Starbucks drive-through for no reason other than you have absolutely no clue what to do with them. Coffee breaks are also a great time-waster when you are out of ideas at work, plus they sound professional because people assume that you need the coffee so you can do more work. I also recommend walking slowly and then saying there was a huge line when you get back 30 minutes later.
11. Lie to everyone by talking up bad times
Tell your employees how much they are going to love this new time-keeping or billing system that you've put in. Tell them how much easier it will make their lives after they complete the 20 hours of training required to use it. This also works with kids for things like dental appointments.
12. Sometimes you just have to wrap it up and go home
It's important to know your limits. You can't overwork yourself or else you'll get burnt out, and then you'll be no good to anyone. Know when it's time to say, “I'm going to have to finish this tomorrow. I need to go home now,” or, “You can stay up as late as you want so long as you stay in your bedrooom, keep quiet, and don't bother me.” Take the breaks you need so you can avoid a public meltdown; it's better for all involved.