A Nod to the Working Mums of the World
You’ve been pulling 16 hour days, your client is increasingly demanding and you can’t sleep for the ticker-tape going round in your mind of ‘Unfinished Business’ and anxious thoughts about return on investment and risk management. Are you a ‘high flier’ in the City? No, you’re a Mother. (For the eagle eyed among you, yes this is indeed a nod to the amazing book by Ann-Marie Slaughter, a book every mother should read! )
Being a Mother, or a Guardian/Carer, is a job but should you, or would you, put it on your CV?
Watching MP Sarah Olney speak in The Commons recently about how persuading her son to brush his teeth had been harder than directly challenging the Prime Minister got me thinking.
There has been much made of how hard a job it is being a Mother (or Father, if you are the primary carer*) and raising kids, with wide acknowledgement of the skills and experience you rack up, but does anyone actually put this on their CV?
(*For argument’s sake I will continue to use the term Mother in this piece as this still represents the largest percentage of those who take care of young children at home.)
Would anyone have the lady-balls (thanks Caitlin Moran) to list this in their Employment History, rather than leaving that blank space of maternity leave for 1, 2, 5, 8 years?
Pre-motherhood, when I was a Director who regularly recruited for positions, I never once saw a ‘mum returner’ list Mother on her CV or even mention the experience gained during the time caring for her children. And yet younger applicants who had been travelling would readily list the experience they gained whilst travelling around Australia (omitting the bar hopping and general debauchery that we all know they really got up to) or what they gained from volunteer work.
Motherhood is a vocation, a joy, a part of life, but people are reluctant to call it work lest they be deemed ungrateful or deluded. Well, the definition of work is: activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result.
You’re not telling me that being a Mother isn’t work! So why not list it?
As a relatively new Mum, I can attest that this is the hardest job I have ever had.
Rewarding? Yes. Yearned for? Yes. A privilege? Yes.
Remunerated? Pah, course not, let’s not get too excited (that’s a whole other article).
Although I am Mum to just one ‘Miniature’, the skills and attributes I have already used and built up include:
- Event planning,
- Monitoring and evaluation,
- Crisis management,
- Change management,
- Diary management,
- Recruiting and liaising with service providers,
I could go on.
That is a fairly extensive list of seriously transferable skills for business and yet we are reluctant to incorporate this in to our CV.
Is it for fear of seeming ‘Mumsy’? Fear of not being taken seriously? If so, this leads me to think that people completely downplay what it is to be a Mother.
When I googled ‘listing Mother on your CV’ a Forbes article from 2013 came up, which I found heartening, until I read that it stated you should not list your experience raising your children as it would be ‘too cutesy’.
What is cutesy about making a judgement call on a high temperature at 3am in the morning?
Or simultaneously juggling the schedules of three children under six and a husband as he starts a new business (which you input in to), organising a school event for the PTA, and dealing with elderly ailing parents (all of which I can proudly say my sister did recently).
Parenting isn’t cutesy. It is tough and you have to be tough to cope and thrive.
People often comment on the unhealthy working hours and burn out in the UK, particularly in the City. Parenting is a 24 hour job, where new Mums often work 20 hour days for months, if not years, snatching (if we are lucky) Maggie Thatcher’s magic 4 hours of 40-winks.
Oh, but we can slack off during the day, with Cbeebies or Loose Women can’t we?
Yes, sometimes. But we may be breastfeeding at the same time and we have to have eyes in the back of our head to stop the Miniatures shoving bread in to the DVD player or climbing on to the coffee table to grab a pen lid to swallow.
And besides, office folk are guilty of whiling away minutes, sometimes hours, perusing ASOS, Facebook or the Daily Mail Sidebar of Shame.
We all have our vices. There is a lot to get through in the day to keep the house running and children nourished, safe, clean, stimulated, exercised and learning.
It’s constant multi-tasking, particularly if you also have a part-time job as I do. My productivity levels have shot through the roof since I’ve had a baby. What I can get done during morning nap time is nothing short of miraculous some days.
I digress. My point is, I work harder now than I ever have and I can continue to hone ‘soft skills’ throughout my time caring for my children. So, how would I feel about a CV landing on my desk now that stated;
Mother: Whilst on an extended maternity leave where I raised two children, I honed skills already gained in the workplace such as Leadership, Strategy, Negotiation, as well as developed new skills such as Mediation, Budgeting and Scheduling.
I am happy to go in to more detail about this in interview and explain how my experience to date would make me a good fit for your organisation.
Nowadays, I’d be impressed. But pre-motherhood I imagine I would have been slightly more skeptical.
Had she ‘lost her edge’, I’d wonder? At the risk of sounding wildly sexist I am pretty sure this approach would also not go down well with many male recruiters.
Again, I think this is because our culture currently undervalues and misunderstands motherhood. Cutesy magazines and blogs and hazy Instagram pictures of family beach picnics eclipse the true gritty reality of parenting.
The images we are fed pertain to an aspirational lifestyle and not the real blood, sweat and tears.
Real life parenting is relentless, physically and emotionally exhausting, with constant decision-making, sacrifice and bargaining. It’s work. It’s a job. The best job I’ve ever had.
I’ll be strongly considering listing it on my CV in the future.
(Note from The Editor: Many thanks to LC Nicholl for her article. An insightful look at Motherhood.)