I was recently filling out the departmental scholarship application for my upcoming college year when I was asked to respond to this prompt:
“Describe examples of your leadership experience in which you have significantly influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.”
I tried to think of something in the past year that would make an impression. Something that would show that I had what it took to succeed. In all honesty, this past year has been a juggling act of college courses, trying to succeed to some degree at the stay-at-home mom position and managing our busy schedules. I was pregnant and in college chasing two toddlers around. Then pregnant and chasing two toddlers as my husband worked 70 hours a week on the night shift. Then I delivered our baby girl and for the past 3 1/2 months have been getting accustomed to having 3 kids under 4 years while starting up college full-time once again. Quite frankly the only extracurricular activity I’m interested in is a sleep marathon.
At first I was depressed at this realization that I had done nothing that would be considered noteworthy to most scholarship officials. I took to Facebook to humorously vent about my memberships in the Mombie and MATM (Mothers Against Toddlers Misbehaving) clubs. Then I realized something; I have gained leadership experience comparable to anyone else in the workforce or volunteering. My duty as a mother constantly challenges my abilities to lead, work in a group and resolve disputes. So the following essay was born to relate how mothers are valuable leaders as well.
A Mother’s Leadership
I assist the Senior Manager (fondly called “Daddy” by our trainees) on a daily basis with the financial, technical, and organizational operations in the household. In addition to this I am directly involved in a co-mentorship of the trainees. Our trainees range in experience levels at 3.5 years (William), 2 years (Ignatius) and 3 months (Arabella). Conflicts arise on a daily basis, especially between the two senior trainees whose close proximity in experience can create tension in the household. Conflict resolution includes establishing boundaries, taking time-outs to think about the situation, and discussing the situation with the Senior Manager or myself when appropriate. Setting a good example of acceptable behavior is an important leadership tactic in our household.
Leadership requires the ability to listen to others and offer constructive feedback if necessary. Our oldest trainee is currently working on his abilities to express his emotions in a healthy manner. At times I will help him verbalize his emotions by asking him specifically what he is feeling. Acknowledging other’s feelings lets them know that they have been heard and that I value their contributions to the group effort. However, sometimes a good leader must make decisions that will benefit the group, but is against the popular opinion of the group. This is most evident when the trainees are insisting in participating in behaviors that will jeopardize the group effort. Having dessert for dinner or not wearing shoes outside seem to be two popular objectives our senior trainees work towards. These objectives can at times conflict with the group objectives. As a group leader, I must maintain their focus on the objectives while also allowing for appropriate compromise within the group based on individual needs.
Commitment is another important trait in leaders. The Senior Manager and I have established our commitment to each other, as well as the group by entering into a legally binding marital contract. My commitment to each trainee has been established through an initial 9 month term of close one-on-one mentorship, which was a valuable period of growth and personal development for each trainee. The end of this close personal mentorship was painful, but exhilarating. Continued commitment is shown through my dedication to the daily care and the overall health of the trainees. This can include providing late night meals, healing of boo-boos, cleaning up bodily fluids and, maintaining a clean environment and wardrobe for each trainee.
Along with my primary duties, I am responsible for arranging appointments and events with the counsel of the Senior Manager. I also arrange supervision of the trainees if circumstances do not allow them to be present at appointments. Appropriate timing of these appointments is necessary for the team to be able to attend and complete objectives. Acknowledgement of each trainee’s strengths and contributions to the group is important when delegating tasks to group members and for maintaining morale. It is also essential to identify weaknesses and encourage improvement in these areas. This process allows for the best delegation of group tasks and individual growth.
While our group is limited in professional experience, no work or school experience has offered me such a varied leadership experience. Maintaining a happy, healthy and productive household is a daily challenge of my leadership and teamwork skills. I look forward to the continued lessons and development of my personal skills and the application of these skills to my professional life.