For Stay At Home Moms, Re-entering Workforce Isn't Easy

by NanciArvizu

Being a stay at home mom is a tough job. It's not just one job, but many, and the experience isn't considered "real" in the corporate world.

Running a house hold, caring for children, providing personal services to busy professionals; these are real jobs that people hire other people to do. The people who do these jobs earn enough to live on, some doing better than others, but there are a lot of factors at work: Demographics, geographics and marital status.

The job description for any of these positions can be long and open ended. Things happen that need to be taken care of immediately. The necessary skills required for jobs like this are varied, and being able to do one, doesn't automatically mean ability to handle another. In the working world that is. In the world of a stay at home mom, it's all a part of the job.

The Decision to Stay Home

At first it seems like the right thing to do: You're having a baby. You should be home to raise the baby. 

If your finances allow for it, staying home with your child is considered to be the best situation for both child and parent (there are dads who stay home too!), in most cases. It really comes down to the decision and needs of the couple and expanding family. Life always has a way of changing, so what works right now might not work a year or two later.

But no matter how long a mom decides to stay home with her family, when she's ready to return to the workforce, she is penalized for it. The "gap" in her employment history is considered questionable: She chose motherhood over career once, she could jump ship again.

Women leave their full time mothering position for many different reasons. Financial issues could arise, life changes like divorce or death of a spouse, or an empty nest is too quiet and an outlet is needed. 

Discrediting their experience and writing off their need for a job as frivolous - she hasn't needed a job in 20 years, surely she doesn't really need one now - is a social injustice and a slap in the face of mothers everywhere. 

Don't slap your mother!


When Free Isn't So Great

Flexibility is a must. Problem solving is a daily task. Organized multi-taskers handling what ever comes their way making intelligent decisions and getting the job done.

We've all seen the lists of jobs (and their pay) the average stay at home mom takes on day in and day out. But for some reason, while other people are able to use these skills on a resume, when the same skill sets are proceeded by "Stay at Home Mom" they are suddenly void. Not applicable. Not considered "real" experience.

When marriage or a relationship (and a birth) creates the position, receiving money in exchange for services is a trade that doesn't happen. When someone doesn't pay for a service they receive on a regular basis, they believe it to be without value.

Without value is different from free. Free means there is something someone wants and they receive it without having to give something in return, like money. Without value means worthless and useless. Not exactly the words you'd use to describe your mom I hope.

Mom Upside Down

Mom upside down is WOW. And once you understand, once you have walked in the shoes of a stay at home mom, you'll see why you need to show a little more respect for the WOW she creates in the lives she cares for.

This is just a partial list. But consider the salaries people earn for doing these jobs and you may start thinking about sending a check to your mother. You should at least pick up the phone and call her.

I say Private and Personal in the list below because when services like these are provided on a private or personal level, they cost more. A mom is a mom to one family, so these services are provided on a personal level in a private manner.

Private Child Care, 24/7 with no time off unless someone else is hired to do it. Going to a job and leaving your child with someone else does not necessarily make life easier. It might if you have live-in care. I would hope having live-in care would make life easier, but I think Maria Shriver would have a few things to say about that.

Private Chef, available at a moments notice to whip up waffles for one or chicken enchiladas for ten.
Personal Shopper and Errand Runner
Personal Maid, keeps everything picked up and organized.
Private House Cleaner, scrubbing floors, toilets and windows.
Personal Financial Manager and Correspondence Expert - calling on bills, taking creditor calls when things are bad, dealing with medical bills. 
Personal Home Service Coordinator - scheduling of services, meeting service personnel for appointments.
Private Taxi, at the drop of a hat whisks the little ones off to where ever.
Private Tutor, for more that just math and social studies.
Personal Travel Agent and Entertainment Coordinator, planning everything from trips to the zoo to classroom field trips and family reunions.  

Do I dare talk about SEX??? I don't know if I've seen that on the "what it costs" list... Okay, not something you want to think about when you're thinking about Mom. 


Staying Home With Children is Work

The best benefit of being a stay at home mom, is being a stay at home mom. Being able to be with your children day in and day out, every minute of every day until they enter school. Day after day of staring at a newborn. Seeing every smile, every first moment, noting every detail so when asked later by a spouse, friend or family member you can recite the story verbatim because they're the first human to speak to you in English.

A stay at home mom gets to spend time as a classroom parent. Picks them up after school and attends every recital, graduation and sporting event. Mom also volunteers for PTO, PTA, fundraisers, field trips and hosting sleep overs.

Just reading the above paragraph could cause a reasonable person to think: Oh Heck NO. Hauling your kids and a friend or two around to school, to piano lessons and baseball practice in between meals, homework and house cleaning can become, well, not quite the blissful reality of a romantically envisioned life. 

Yes, it is life. And life is day after day of working; a job, a project with a goal. The job of being a stay at home mom is raising kids. The goal is raising them to be responsible productive adults.

Add Life Coach to the job experience list!


Why Isn't Full Time Parenting Considered Real Experience?

With all of the hats a stay at home mom wears, it doesn't make sense that the experiences are not considered viable, transferable job skills. Especially when you consider that a stay at home mom has probably been doing these same tasks for years. Isn't that what employers want - stability?

And here's an interesting tid bit: Many Human Resource Managers, the ones doing the front line resume reading, interviewing and hiring, are women. And yet, they tend to hire anyone but the woman who is attempting to re-enter the workforce after time spent at home with children. The "mom" resume is usually the first one tossed aside.

There are the regular, and unfortunately petty reasons women turn on women, the first being jealously. The professional on one side of the interview table could have her own agenda or emotional issues that pit her against the woman she's interviewing. Perhaps her own life did not included the opportunity to stay at home with her children, or maybe she doesn't have children for a variety of reasons. The mom-wanting-a-job is treated differently than the younger or childless women or men who interview for the same job. 

And yet, if individual skills and abilities were compared line by line, the skills and experience of the stay at home mom could not only equal the other candidates, it could surpass it.

Maybe the problem lies in the inability to check references? Asking a husband for a professional reference for his wife could awkward.

Moms Are Getting It Together

Many moms use their stay at home time to pursue passions that become businesses. They stay involved in the business world on their terms, on their schedule. They create something out of nothing and they pour their hearts and souls into it. Some find great success on this path. I hope these successful women remember where they come from when hiring employees, and they hire a mom.

Others find the stability of a 9-5 day job to be their path to happiness. They're not out to change the world; they just want a normal job with a normal paycheck, something they used to get, back before deciding to become the ultimate volunteer.

Putting a resume together is the first and usually the most intimidating task. How to explain the dreaded gap or parental time? The months or years or decades spent out of the corporate world, how do you paint a professional picture when you've been drawing with crayons? Hiring a professional is the way to go. (And don't worry, there's probably a mom-prenuer out there who can help you.)

I haven't found one yet, but I'd be surprised if one didn't already exists: A Temp service that helps moms ease back into a job. Offer testing and training and put them to work like Temp agencies do, placing them in a job until a good fit is found. 

The potential of this experienced yet under valued group of people who are available for work is limitless. In the end, it's the employer who misses out on hiring a potentially awesome employee when they pass on hiring a stay at home mom who is wanting to work.


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Updated: 07/28/2015, NanciArvizu
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frankbeswick on 10/01/2015

I think, as a male, that prejudice against stay at home mothers is the problem. But the prejudiced ones have to appreciate that stay-at-home mothers have exercised skills. Take an example: when I was eight I fell dangerously ill and was off school for several months. During that time my mother nursed me,with only my father to support her financially, and in North West England he had not the opportunity to get a decent job,so we were poor. My mother budgeted,nursed, cooked and looked after other children at the same time, a multi-skilled role done with little money, while she herself was ill with a chronic condition. And some people think that being a stay at home mother is not evidence of competence. It is proof of survival skills and an indomitable will to survive. Who is more competent than a stay-at home-mother in such circumstances. I must also celebrate my father, whose quiet heroism backed up my mother's devotion and provided the economic basis for its success.

JeriSchott on 10/01/2015

I haven't seen a better presentation of this point of view!! It's not angry or bitter but very objective and true in my mind. I've actually been ashamed in interviews when I admit to being home with the kids for the past 14 years. !!! Ridiculous. But the value of the job is the time spent with the kids if that's your thing and no amount of money can make me regret the supposed lost professional experience. Moms who decide work should not be judged or penalized either.

frankbeswick on 07/29/2015

Self employment has its difficulties, I know, I am self-employed. But it has advantages as well. My mother supplemented our income for a time by baking cakes, though in the end she went into employment, but that was when we were older.

NanciArvizu on 07/28/2015

It's an incredibly messed up perception that leads women down a path to ... where? No pay, means no savings, no retirement. How many times has a first wife, who has stayed home with kids for 10 years or so, been replaced by wife #2 - and forced back to work? Or a woman who is widowed with kids still to raise - or not? What about the stay at home all her life wife, who's husband dies in retirement - and his benefits are now gone too? This races women to poverty who have in fact worked their entire lives.

Self- employment... considering the numbers of businesses that are started each year and fail - it's certainly an "easier said than done" kind of thing. Yes, many women "work from home" and bring in some money which benefits the family - doing it part time while raising their families! This type of work is not going to pay the bills, especially if it suddenly becomes the only income.

frankbeswick on 07/28/2015

You are right to say that staying at home with children is work. The problem is that economists in the nineteenth century defined work as being what is done in return for cash, and so many women who looked after children were defined out of the system and were said to not be working. This gave rise to the silly view that work is a male thing. Idiotic!

In Britain some women have been discovering the value of self-employment, as this gives them the control that they need to manage their complex lifestyles. These self-employed women are to be considered as business women and should not be considered second best to career women. After all, a self-employed woman [or man] is the chief executive of their own life.

WriterArtist on 07/28/2015

Women do multi tasks all their life and it is not easy. Moms who want to consider reentering their careers should be given opportunities to work. I hope part time jobs and work from home should become possible in future for mothers who have to look after the family.

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