This I Believe

Jamie - Oakland, California
Entered on November 19, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood

Parents are Leaders

I believe I am a leader, a mother-in-chief kind of leader. I love my work as a management consultant. I get to work with workplace leaders all day. But it’s at home, around the dinner table, or cuddling on the couch with my 8 and 12 year old daughters, that I am a leader.

I don’t always feel like a leader. More times than I’d like to admit, I’m cranky. I say, “Yes, it is bedtime!” or “No, not later, practice your violin now.” Other times, I’m lazy. I say, “Why don’t you watch TV?” But no matter if I’m cranky, tired, impatient, or at my mother-in-chief best, I am my daughters’ leader.

I do at home a lot of what executives do at work. I help rivals to get along, I praise, I listen, I delegate, I manage emotions—mine, my spouses, my kids’. I encourage my children to reach their full potential. That’s exactly what the best leaders at work do, at least the ones I most admire.

My mom raised me all by herself, on a school teacher’s salary. She complained bitterly—still does—about the lack of respect she got as a school teacher. But I give her more respect than Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela. She didn’t change the world but her integrity, compassion, and encouragement guides the choices I make everyday.

I remember my mom, normally on the over-protective side, put me on an airplane to visit a family friend in France when I was twelve. I begged her to let me go. At the time, I didn’t think about how worried she was watching through the airport window as my airplane took off. I returned home with a newfound self confidence. I can’t imagine putting my daughters on a plane half way across the world. But it’s one of those memories that remind me that leadership can mean stepping back to let my older daughter take the city bus and letting my younger daughter pick her own clothes even if it means leaving the house in plaid and polka dots.

Moms don’t get a lot of respect. No one thinks of parenting as real work, skilled work. Parenting magazines have articles like Temper Tantrums Solved Overnight that trivialize the job of a mother. But I can’t think of a more complicated job. Executives have to deal with angry shareholders and disgruntled employees. But they can fire people. If they get fired, get another chance at the next job.

My father, a month before he died, said that he failed as a parent. I believe you can fail at a job and recover in the next job. But failing as a parent is failing at life. I know my father felt that way.

I don’t think I’m a better parent than my friends who are parents. But when my daughters say each night, “You’re the best mom in the world,” I know I am a success. I am a most admired leader.