The Parent Project: Month 1

As regular readers will know, I’m on maternity leave. And I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of the Otobos family: Jack.

A baby lying on a bed
Baby Jack, born 5 February 2013.

There was a bit of a discussion after my recent article about 6 things I didn’t know about being a project manager about how project management is like parenting, and it does have similarities. However, at the moment life here is mainly about sleeping and feeding, which has a certain repetitiveness that isn’t very project-y.

One thing so far has been particularly project-like: Jack was born on his due date, one of around 5% of babies each year who arrive exactly on time. Needless to say, my colleagues think it is hilarious that I managed to deliver this particular project bang on the final milestone.

Over the coming months I’ll be exploring how parenthood is like project management. What tips do you have?


  1. As a father and grandfather, I’d say that rearing children has more in common with line management. You’re developing your replacement, and that’s a responsibility that never ends. Projects can be cancelled, scaled back, transferred to another team or PM, or deferred to another fiscal year. But once you have a child, you’re a parent for the rest of your life, even long after he’s no longer a child.

    Best wishes to you and Jon and your new best friend, Jack!

    1. Thanks, Dave! It could be a while before we make it to Las Vegas again. I’m just hoping some of my transferable work skills rub off on parenting – so far it’s a bit hit and miss!

  2. Congratulations!

    Sons demonstrate authentic leadership in the first weeks of their life: they know how to enforce the rules (now it’s time for eating, now to sleep etc) and make functions (parents..) work expeditiously for them.
    They inspire people and obtain what they want without even asking for what they need.
    They are like glue for the family and contribute to build a trusting relationship, so they promote team building.
    There is a little exception though: they tend to scream, while a true leader never shouts 🙂

    Jokes aside, again congratulations and welcome Jack!


  3. Congratulations – what a beautiful baby! Fantastic to see that you delivered on time but I suspect the budget might get blown at some point 🙂
    Enjoy your maternity leave and the next big project will be an outing, as I hear this takes military precision for anything to be deemed as a success!

    1. Thanks, Nicola! I have a feeling that our budget was unrealistic from the beginning… It’s amazing what you know with hindsight! We’ll be trying some longer outings soon, and we have a book called Commando Dad, which does set out everything with military precision, written by an ex-military man who is now a full time parent.

  4. Congratulations. I too am a mother- my daughter will turn 4 in June and my son will turn 2 in June. I am a systems engineer and I would help my customers plan, execute, monitor, and then validate final project delivery their projects. After the birth of my first child, I reduced my work load to 20 hrs a week to spend time with my child. Three years later, I am known to my colleagues as the one who can “replace 3 project managers, and still get the work done in 20 hrs.” My work life changed because my priority changed. My new priority is to get my work done, get it done the first time, minimize mistakes and redo work by using templates, and documenting everything so I can jump right into working the next business morning.

    So, yes Parenting is like Project Management.

    1. The leader sets the mood of the team. If you are upset, the children pick that up and give it back with interest. Always try your best to be calm, patient, and happy.

    2. Observe and re-direct unwanted behavior using ingenious ways. In meetings and discussions, there is so much said in non verbal communications and actions. There are many times when that non-verbal communications or actions or going the wrong way. I always told myself that I didn’t want to be a mom that screams NO, NO, NO all the time at the top of her lungs when things are not going my way. One particular day I was in the library at the check out counter. I was holding my son in a sling with one arm and I was not successfully holding my daughter with the other. She just kept walking away from me and trying to take books off the shelf. I was almost going to scream, but I bit my tongue and stopped to observe the situation. I realized she was bored. So I called her over to help me take the books out of the bag to give to the librarian for checking out. She looked at me, smiled and said yes. She was so happy to give the books- one at a time. When there were no more books, it was time to put the books back in the bag. Then she happily held one side of the tote bag and walked with me calmly to the car.

    3. Use active and concise phrases- A team performs better when it is clear what is wanted and what is expected. Children are the same way. For example, replace the phrase “stop doing that” to “please sit down on the chair”.

    4, There is a balance between establishing unrealistic goals and not underestimating your child. Every child has their own learning pattern and they can really amaze you if you give them an open path vs pressuring them to achieve.

    1. Erica, those are good words of advice, and it is easier and easier for me to see how the lessons of good team work and project management tally up effectively with parenting. Thanks for highlighting these points.

  5. Elizabeth – congrats! When Jack is older you’ll likely draw these parallels between parenting and project management. ps – this is something I’ve thought a lot about and have incorporated in my training of other PMs!

    1. Play group dynamics are a lot like team dynamics – no one should be left out and we should respect the will of the group. This is very similar to helping our teams form, storm, norm and perform.
    2. To gain cooperation, timing is everything – never seek it on empty stomachs or after a long day. Understanding what motivates others is the key to maintaining collaboration. We are expert influencers as parents and PMs.
    3. Learning moments need to be seized and capitalized on. You’ll find its a magical thing when Jack “gets it” and same thing at work, a lesson learned that can be fixed in the next project or a mentoring moment that creates a spark is magic.
    4. How to combat peer pressure – being unique doesn’t mean you don’t fit in. Helping kids not succumb to peer pressure, helping individuals find their place in a team. Using peer pressure for positive reinforcement.
    5. Working through conflict means learning to work it out — bullying hurts everyone. There are bullies in schools and at work. Understanding what motivates them, understanding how to utilize and leverage your support system to combat them is key.
    6. Value everyone’s talents and approach– not everyone learns the same or thinks the same. Kids can dominate each other or make it hard to accept new friends into the click. Create an atmosphere of inclusion on the team.
    7. Be consistent when applying support, rewards, corrections and routines – it will reduce anxiety and set a pace. In this case I am saying that routine processes are part of project management. Just as Jack learns his sleep routine, folks should feel they can depend on a project manager to create a framework for consistent reporting, meetings, etc.

    1. Consistency and not being hungry are two really good points, thanks, Bonnie, for sharing these, and the other things you raise. There are so many transferable skills between managing teams and projects and ‘managing’ your family. I just hope I can remember all my work skills when faced with parenting problems! Luckily Jack is a bit small for tantrums and things yet, but we have all that to come.

  6. Congratulations! Another project delivered on time! Welcome to our world Jack – you have an awesome mother! (I do hope that you are managing to get some sleep too 🙂 Elizabeth!

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