Can workplace skills help parents?

Can the skills you learn at work help you at home? See more parenting pictures.

For years, professional moms turned empty nesters have found themselves entering or re-entering the paid workforce. When preparing their resumes, they must take time to relate how their skills as parents can translate successfully to a particular labor market. And today, in an age of "economommies" -- stay-at-home moms returning to the paid workforce due to financial necessity -- the trend continues. As the gainful employment of these women attests, moms (and dads) can bring many home-honed skills to the labor force table. But, is the reverse true?

In the past few decades, the average age of women giving birth has gone up, and the number of women who had their first child after age 35 increased eight-fold between 1970 and 2006 [source: Matthews & Hamilton].


Meanwhile, the number of women in the workforce, which has been growing steadily for the better part of a century, last year was on the cusp of overtaking the number of men in the workforce [source: Cauchon].

Whether it's due to modern medicine pushing back the biological clock, or an emphasis on career success, couples who choose to begin their families later in life do so with a little extra help -- the lessons learned from all those years of working.

If you're wondering how 15 years of being a graphic designer, film librarian, landscape contractor or magazine editor could affect your parenting skills, read on to discover what you've learned in the workplace and how it might translate to another work environment -- your home.

Skills Developed in the Workplace

Sure, there are skills unique to every job -- a carpenter, for instance, brings different abilities to the jobsite than a librarian. But there are some things that apply to everyone, however you bring home the bacon.

The Canadian government has developed a pretty good list of essential skills for working, some practical, some more ephemeral, but all geared toward what you need to know to do a good job in any profession:


  • Reading text
  • Document use
  • Numeracy
  • Writing
  • Oral communication
  • Working with others
  • Continuous learning
  • Thinking skills
  • Computer use

[source: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada]

Some of those are obvious -- reading, writing and math all play a part in daily life. Whether you're building a stone walkway, managing a budget or planning the renovation of an open-office workspace for a staff of 23, those math classes you sat through in school will come back to haunt (and help) you somehow. And let's face it-- from e-mail to databases to AutoCAD, there aren't many professions these days that don't involve computers.

Other skills are more subtle, but no less important.

Working with others, whether the others are clients, co-workers, or bosses, is something that you'll have to get used to, and the same goes for oral communication. The two skills on the list that are hardest to measure are also, in some ways, the most important. Thinking skills, the ability to think on your feet, will come into play whether you're facing a four-alarm fire or a malfunctioning e-mail server. And continuous learning could not only help you advance up the corporate ladder, but it will assist you in getting better at all the other skills.

No matter what your job is, you're using some combination of these skills. The challenge, then, is to apply them to a new job -- parenting. Luckily, they all still apply.

Using Workplace Skills in Parenting

So regardless of whether you're a camera operator, cargo agent, carpenter, cartographer, chemical engineer, chiropractor, construction worker, copy editor or a college professor, you're using some combination of the skills we discussed on the previous page. As a parent, you can bring the same skills into play.

The practical skills -- reading, writing, math -- even computer proficiency, are things you can pass along to your child. They're as simple as reading a bedtime story and practicing the alphabet or arithmetic.


Working with others, whether you want to or not, is a familiar lesson to anyone who's been through grade school. Sharing the paints with the kid who eats paste isn't all that different from working on a project over lunch with your co-worker who chews with his mouth open. You just have to get through it.

Parenthood sometimes seems like a never-ending series of emergencies -- from chipped teeth to skinned knees. Keeping a cool head is where the thinking skills will come into play. Whether convincing your child to stop kicking the airplane seat in front of him, or explaining to the doctor how your daughter managed to lodge that marble in her nose, it's the same oral communication skills you honed while going over construction site issues with the architect and builder or giving boardroom presentations in front of the CEO.

For a parent, continuous learning is the still the most important skill, as you hone the essential skills and start to pick up new ones. That curiosity will keep you open to new experiences, and for your child, everything is a new experience. Best wishes in your new career.

For more information on parent-relevant topics, visit the links on the following page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Cauchon, Dennis. "Women Gain As Men Lose Jobs." USA Today, 9/3/2009. (accessed 1/26/2010)
  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. " Understanding Essential Skills." (accessed 1/26/2010)
  • Martin, Michelle. "Stay-at-home Moms Forced to Re-enter Workforce." National Public Radio, (accessed 2/1/2010)
  • Matthews, T.J., Hamilton, Brady E. "Delayed Childbearing: More Women Are Having Their First Child Later in Life." NCHS Data Brief, Number 21, August 2009. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (accessed 1/26/2010)
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "Adventures In Parenting." Oct. 2001
  • National Marriage Project. "Delayed Childbearing: More Women Are Having Their
  • First Child Later in Life." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NCHS Data Brief No. 21 August 2009
  • The National Marriage Project. "Life Without Children." Rutgers University, 2008. (accessed1/25/2010)