I have a friend from college, Elliot, who is such a star working dad. He’s a legal expert and political consultant, and regularly juggles several part-time gigs that would add up to, like, 1.5 full-time jobs. Elliot is also a very proud Halloween costume-maker and birthday cake-baker and holiday card-writer for his family.

Right now, Elliot is on deadline writing a book. Recently, he posted a picture on LinkedIn of himself sitting in his parked car at his son’s sports practice, with a laptop and a portable monitor, tethering Wi-Fi from his iPhone, so he could get some writing done in those precious 120 minutes. Reader, I loved it.

One commenter on the post, however, did not, and chastised Elliot: “You should watch the practice and, of course, the games. Huge mistake. Watching your kids play is a joy that vanishes in a heartbeat. [The book] can wait.”

I know, I know, do not engage with the commenters. Reader, I engaged.

Here’s why.

For years, as a researcher and consultant on workplace gender equality, I have implored moms and dads to bring their parenthood to work – at least those who have the privilege to do so. By making their caregiving needs visible in their day jobs, they’re helping us all be more inclusive.

Then the pandemic helped me level up and add a part two to that advice: Bring your work self home, too. Meaning, don’t be afraid to let some work creep into your home life. It’s okay for kids to see what we do, why we do it, how sometimes it’s hard (and we do it anyway). And how sometimes, if we are lucky, it’s so interesting and important that it’s the thing we are going to prioritize right now. All of that is just modeling for them the life that you probably want for them one day, doing work that matters.

That’s exactly what I saw Elliot doing. As I told his troll: He could have hired a babysitter to take his kid to the practice and avoided the conflict all together, alone with his two monitors and his book deadline out of view. Instead, he chose the harder thing: Visible compromises. He stole some nice mid-day car-ride time with his son before and after practice, and then had the opportunity to explain to him why he was sitting in his car during practice, tethering and typing away. And – here’s where things get a little meta, stick with me – I’m also going to posit that having that chat motivated him to do even better work. More efficient work. More innovative work. More meaningful work. Better work. (No pressure, Elliot.)

Several years ago, right after I turned in the manuscript for my own book, The Fifth Trimester, I kept seeing headlines in the financial news touting a “breakthrough” moment for women’s progress. They all pointed toward a study of Millennial women that supposedly proved that when they left their jobs it was only “rarely” because they needed better work/life balance for their families. Having just interviewed about 700 of these women for my book, I was skeptical. So, I decided to look more closely at the wording of the survey in the study. Sure enough, “I’d like to spend more time with my family” was ranked lowest, number five on a list of five reasons people had quit. But, but, but, check out reasons 1, 2, 3, and 4:

  1. I found a job that pays more.
  2. There aren’t enough opportunities for learning and development here.
  3. The work here isn’t as interesting and meaningful as I would like.
  4. There is not a fair balance between how hard I work and the compensation I receive.

Do you ever do that game in Chinese restaurants where you add “in bed” to the end of the fortune cookie fortune? “Experience is the best teacher…in bed.” “You will be hungry again in one hour…in bed.” I decided to try the same thing but adding “because I’m a mother” to those reasons in the survey.

I found a job that pays more – because I’m a mother and kids are expensive. Well, duh.

There aren’t enough opportunities for learning and development here – because I’m a mother and need to know that I can keep growing my career for a stable future for my child.

The work here isn’t as interesting and meaningful as I would like – because I’m a mother and if I’m spending time away from my kid, it needs to feel worth it.

There is not a fair balance between how hard I work and the compensation I receive – because I’m a mother, and if I’m doing unpaid labor, it had better be for my kid, not capitalism.

No matter what kind of work you do, once you are a parent there is no decision you make that isn’t “about your family.” Our children are our driving force. They motivate everything we seek – from the fruit we pick out to put in the grocery basket, to the raises and meaningful work we crave so that we can show our kids what it looks like when a person knows her value in the world…so they will, too, one day.

Contrary to all of the meme-ification of working parenthood and troll-like comments I have seen over and over again, work does not keep you from being a good parent. And parenting does not keep you from being a good employee.

So, over this past year, I decided to prove it. In partnership with the awesome child care and early learning company Vivvi, I researched and wrote a white paper of my own, measuring the actual business output of moms and dads when they had support for their caregiving identity via benefits, policies, and culture at work. We surveyed hundreds of parents, and did deep case studies with 10 across a diversity of family structures, industries, and pay levels. We flipped the script, proving with actual numbers and dollars that parenthood is not a detractor at work, but a motivator. Every $1 invested by companies in caregiving support yielded $18.93 in output. That’s an 18x R.O.I. Parents told us that, totally contrary to the “quiet quitting” trope, when they had any combination of support like back-up child care, flexible schedules, ramp-up programs, and parental leave, they were more likely to work harder than required, strive to move up and make more money, and stay at their employer years longer. All of that proved conclusively: Support for parents’ identities at work is not just a nice thing to do…it’s an economic imperative. Our report, I’m pleased to say, made a whole bunch of news headlines. Forbes. Bloomberg. TheSkimm. Fast Company. Parents and more. I hope these headlines tell a much less troll-like truth: The R.O.I. of you is huge. For your kids and your paid job.

I know that, like Elliot, you probably have to spend too much time, still, defending your choices. People have wrongly assumed that your kids are an obstacle – that they get in the way of your career goals, or that work keeps you from being the “best” kind of parent. I know that that is just not true. Parenthood is not an obstacle. It is a motivator. You’re proving it every day.

Lauren Smith Brody is the CEO of The Fifth Trimester, a workplace gender equality consultancy, and a co-founder of the Chamber of Mothers, a public policy nonprofit