When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter in 2008, my husband and I decided that I would stay home with her for at least the first year. Even though I had never even met my little one, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stand being separated from her. Honestly, I never thought twice about this decision and how it might later affect my career.
It has been three and a half years since I have worked full-time. Unfortunately, now I am in a position where I need to get back into the workforce in order to financially support our family. It is proving incredibly difficult. As one lady told me: “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been staying home with your kids. With the high unemployment rate, companies are looking to hire those who were employed most recently.” I’m just another unemployed person.
Now, probably every reader is going to feel offended by something. To clear some things up: I think working mothers are incredible. I was very fortunate to be able to stay home and I know that a lot of families don’t have that option. Some women have the option and just don’t want to, which is absolutely fine. For me, I couldn’t picture any other way. I know for a fact that I would have been a complete mess. I wouldn’t have breastfed as long as I did if I had to feed every hour at night and then be at work the next morning. All of you working mothers are incredible!
Also: I am not trying to judge unemployed people. Unfortunately, situations like that happen in life and they can happen to anyone. I am the last person to say anything negative about people who are unable to find work.
All of that being said, I was a full time mother. I wasn’t unemployed- quite the contrary, I was employed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (and still am) To imply that my time has been spent in an idle way is such an insult to the extremely hard work I have done and that stay-at-home-parents everywhere do.
I went to an interview several weeks ago where I was asked a list of questions regarding my judgment in certain professional situations. I was asked to describe a situation in which I had been faced with many issues at the same time and how I handled it. The interviewer stressed that they wanted a recent example, within the past year. I answered honestly- I told him about the shopping trip that morning that required me to purchase every item on the list, while entertaining two children, meeting their constant needs, staying within the budget, etc. when it started raining and I had to come up with a plan that allowed the family as well as the groceries to make it into the car safely and as dryly as possible. I saw by the look on his face that he thought my answer was less than satisfactory.
The truth is, being a mother is the hardest job I have ever had. And I’ve had some pretty shitty jobs in my working life… Any other job ends- you have a break, you get to go to the bathroom. You can eat a meal. You can sit in the car or on the train and gather yourself. You get to clock out and do your own thing for a while. As a stay at home parent, you get nothing. You’re on your own, responsible for another life (or more than one) without any pointers and without any breaks. It’s rough. It has taken me to stress levels I never knew before; getting an airplane ready to take off at the given slot time so the company doesn’t lose any money while one passenger is missing is a joke compared to a rough day with kids.
I’m not mad that I’m having a hard time finding a job. I have lots of qualifications, lots of experience and I am confident something will come along. Also, I haven’t ‘just’ been a SAHM- I have had two contracting jobs and two volunteer positions during my time at home. What really upsets me is the way society sees mothers and fathers. What we do- all of us parents, whether working or not- is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT JOB in the world! We are making the next generation of people. We are making and shaping new human beings. And here, it counts for nothing. Just another unemployed person.
I guess I might not be as upset if I didn’t know the alternative. Unfortunately, I am well familiar with societies in which parents are protected and encouraged. I grew up in Germany where I (or my husband) would have been able to take a full year of paid maternity leave. In addition to that, I could have stayed home two more years (for a total of three) unpaid, with my job being preserved for me until my return.
I don’t regret the road I chose to take. I worked very hard in corporate jobs until I was 30 and felt as though my child needed me more. Had someone told me that it would negatively affect my career later on, I would have chosen the exact same path. However, I feel that society is doing mothers and fathers wrong- we don’t do nothing. We are not unemployed.