Are parents better (or worse) employees?

Back Row (left to right): Colleen Raccioppi, Liz Howell, Claudia Moreno, Jenna Spencer, Cynthia Lewis, Priscilla Bennett, Kathy Miranda. Front Row (right to left): Sheryl Connor, Mindy Underberger, Morgan Lee

By: Valerie Riley

Many would agree that Gainesville is attractive for working parents, with its short commute times, quality schools and low cost-of-living. As such, it’s easy to find professionals who lived out their young and crazy single years here before settling down with kids, making the transition to working parent in the process. Does this transition produce a positive outcome, or does parenthood take a toll on the working professional? Some local parents weigh in.

Adam and Morgan Lee are parents to two pre-school aged girls, Austin who is two and a half and Evan who just turned one. Morgan is a Marketing Communications Manager for Exactech, an orthopaedic implant device company, and Adam is an attorney for Arroya & Talbert, P.A.

Morgan has been with Exactech for eight years, so she had several years on the job before having children. She noticed that her organizational skills and productivity increased when she became a working parent.

“I am more focused now, because I have to be. When I go into work, I try to be as productive as possible, so that I can leave and be with my family when I need to.”

She also points to understanding co-workers. “There are so many other working mothers right there alongside me,” she says. “Everyone is very encouraging of each other. It’s like a built-in support group.”

Jenny Highlander, also a working mom, agrees. Jenny and her husband Josh are parents to two boys, Colton, age 3 and Teague, age 5. Jenny is Director of Corporate Communications for RTI Surgical, a global surgical implant company, and Josh is Director of Construction Services for CHW, an engineering firm. Jenny feels that she works more efficiently since becoming a parent.

“I don’t have time to waste sitting through long, drawn out meetings or spend time getting caught up in workplace drama,” she said. “I get in, get the job done as well or better than I used to, and I go home so I can focus on my family. I wouldn’t say parenthood necessarily changed how I approach my job. The responsibilities I have to the company are the same, I’ve just found new ways to get them done.”

Adam says that one benefit of parenthood is that it has made him more creative with his time.

“Our girls go to sleep early at night (7:00 p.m.), so I make it a priority to get out of the office at a reasonable time so that I can spend time with them before bed,” he says. “Oftentimes this means coming home and then going back to work, or working remotely in the evenings, and taking advantage of nap time on the weekends to ensure that everything gets done.”                                                                              

It might not be realistic to hope that parenthood will not impact your career in some way. Working parents can be their own worst enemy if they hold themselves up to the standard of their pre-child self with the desire to match up exactly.

“It is tough to be programmed with an inherent sense of responsibility to both career/employer and family and come to the realization that you may not be able to achieve your own standard for serving both,” says Josh. “After 5 years of trial and error I can honestly say I’ve matured enough to remember what is most important and let everything else fall in line behind them.”

All agree that the freedom for late nights and business travel are areas where non-parents have an advantage, but management could be one where parents come out ahead.

“I’m a much more empathetic manager now that I’m a parent and when I think back on the best managers I’ve had through the years, they’ve all been people who have had children,” Jenny says. “They seem to really grasp the idea that work-life balance is important.”

Both couples have advice for couples who may be new to working parenthood. Morgan advises working parents of young children to stick to a routine and be as consistent as possible.

“We’ve found that our children, and really the entire family, function better if we all know what is coming next.”

Jenny adds that new parents should focus on finding quality childcare to ensure both are 100% confident when they return to work, and should continue being as reliable and responsible on the job as they were pre-kid.

“Co-workers and bosses are surprisingly more understanding than you might think, especially if you continue to produce good work,” she says.

The Dads also weigh in on advice for new parents who work.

“We all have expectations, but with children, you will have no idea just how much your expectations for being a better daddy will increase the moment your eyes meet theirs for the first time,” Josh says.

Adam adds some additional, albeit more practical advice. “Sleep while you can!”

Valerie Riley is Senior Manager of Marketing Communications for Info Tech, Inc. She and her husband Brent are working parents to two school-age children.

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