Our Pent-Up Need (and Longing!) for Learning and Professional Development

learningWhen was the last time you embarked on a new learning or professional development (PD) project?   When was the last time you signed up for and took a class?  In the chaotic past two years of pandemic parenting, this topic hasn’t been at the top of most working parents’ priority lists.  Understandably, as we’ve been in survival mode for so long.

Educating ourselves on how to do 4th grade math so we can teach it to our kids?  Yep, been there, done that.  But learning just for ourselves?  Not so much.

Sure, we learned a ton about remote work over the past few years.  Our employers offered us webinars on the hybrid workplace and coping with burnout.  We became better acquainted with the need for boundaries.  And maybe we learned how to care for a Covid pet or assemble a pandemic trampoline.

But what about taking a class on something that really sparks our interest?  Or helps us grow our career?  Or teaches us a new leadership skill?  Those educational endeavors mostly got left in the dust, especially for us as time- and energy-strapped working parents.

The Pent-Up Demand for PD

I’ve been hearing a theme in my conversations with employers lately.  The theme is: we’ve been so caught up in pivoting from crisis to crisis and so isolated from working remotely, that we haven’t focused much on learning and growing our people.  As a result, it’s now time to have some team retreats.  To bring PD back to the top of our priority list.  Our employees need to learn some new skills, and we’re finally feeling like we can focus on offering this support.

In other words, it’s not just us as individuals who are feeling this lack of professional development.  Our employers are feeling it too.  Which leads me to this thought: if you’re in a position to request some PD, now is probably a good time to make an ask.  Employers don’t want to lose you.  And it’s valid to point out that this is one thing that has truly fallen by the wayside over the past two years.

But I Don’t Have Time (or Energy) for a Class!

Yes, I get it.  We’re all burned out, and we just need to get back to work already.  After all, with childcare closures, and getting sick, and Omicron, we haven’t been able to have reliable work schedules.  Now that we have a (little bit) more stability, shouldn’t we all just put our noses to the grindstone?

Actually, no.  I don’t think that’s the best approach.  I know it sounds counterintuitive, but my husband and I have both recently found that investing time and energy in taking a class has been extremely energizing for us.  Not depleting.  Yes, it takes time out of already-packed schedules.  But gosh has it felt good to use different parts of our brains and be a student again.

What have we been up to?  I’ve been taking a class that will allow me to become certified as a Fair Play Facilitator, so I can support parents in learning Eve Rodsky’s method for achieving more equity on the household labor front.  And after taking a course through Georgetown last year that put him through the process of writing his book, Relationships to Infinity: The Art and Science of Keeping in Touch, my husband is now taking a class to help him take his public speaking to the next level.

In an era when excitement about things has been rare, it’s been fun to inject new ideas into our conversations as a couple.  I’m sharing my learnings with him, and he’s sharing his with me.

If you are in a romantic relationship, what would it be like if you and your partner talked about what you’d each like to learn next?  Can you raise the topic and prioritize one class for each of you sometime over the coming year?  Or, could you take a course together?  My husband and I took a course together last year called The Art of Money (most of which we listened to in the car during our cross-country road trip!), and it was a game-changer for our relationship to household finances.


Next Steps

First, take stock of what you may be missing on the learning and professional development front.  What is something you’d like to learn how to do, for purely personal reasons?  What is an area where you’d like to grow, professionally?  Take 10 minutes to write down your ideas.  Then sit down with your partner to talk about prioritizing time and money for this pursuit.  Sit down with your manager and talk about how this learning opportunity will help you grow in your role at work.  Be willing to have iterative conversations about what might be possible.

Maybe your yearnings for learning are around art, meditation, or a foreign language.  Or around mediation skills, or a new technology app.  Perhaps you’d like to hone your working parent skills around self-care, time management, community-building, and career (in which case, join us for the next Mindful Return 201 course session that starts in May!).  Whatever the topic, taking one next baby step toward learning something new is an energizing way to step into this new season of the year and season of life.

In a pandemic world that’s been full of pivots, prioritizing professional development is a tool to help shift us into whatever may be coming next.


Back to Work After Baby

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

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