Once in a while I scroll through LinkedIn – and I say once in a while because that space scares me a little. Coming from my background, I typically see “ex-<big company>, ex-<unicorn>” listed beneath the names of people I know.
Oh, how we’ve let the title of our jobs define who we are. I was and am tempted to put on mine – “ex-SAHM” (Stay-At-Home-Mom), just for good measure.
Ex-SAHM, because hopefully, it serves as a reminder (to me, at least) that life (or a career) isn’t always up, up, up.
Ex-SAHM, because hopefully, it resonates with other mums who have decided to take the daily-diaper-changing route and is now taking a deep breath before plunging back into the workforce.
There are so many lessons I’ve learned whilst being a SAHM coming back into the workforce – things that whilst hard, are so, so valuable to me now.
1. There will be discriminations, but there’s nothing shameful about being a SAHM
One nerve-wrecking thing about attending interviews whilst being a SAHM is answering your interviewers when they say – “I see a break in your CV – what were/ are you doing in that period?”, or “Do you think you will be able to cope with the pace of our company, given you’re on a break to take care of your kids?”.
I tried hiding my SAHM status as best I can to avoid questions like these, but given the amount of time away I took, the gaping hole became less and less hide-able.
So, when I initially always sheepishly mentioned my SAHM status, I asked myself why. And it’s because I subconsciously felt like being a SAHM is lesser than people holding complex corporate careers.
But I’ve since learned to be bold about my status as a SAHM because there is nothing to be ashamed about – and it is in no way, lesser than any other jobs out there, which brings me to…
2. You take away priceless lessons in managing people, through managing your kids
The jobs we do can be more or less quite straightforward, once you get the hang of doing it. What’s usually the toughest part of any job is managing people and politics – especially when people don’t necessarily align with you, or politics is strong.
When it comes to managing people – I’ve learned so much from trying to convince my 3-year-old daily to do things that are not only good for him, but necessary for his survival – like washing his bum after a poo, or drinking water so he doesn’t dehydrate, or not licking dropped ice-cream off the floor, just because. And you’ll never see another employee protest as strong as when your 3-year-old teammate decides that your plans are absolute rubbish, and he has a better way of doing things.
Oh, to be calm in those moments, to be creative in how you convince one to do what you want, and to hopefully maintain some self-dignity by the end of the encounter by not melting down into a tantrum yourself! I’ve learned to recognize what it is my child is feeling at that point of instruction, have the humility to acknowledge how he’s feeling (above my own feelings/ wants), and to be quick in reorganizing my plans to fit his abilities/ how he would prefer to carry out the task at hand (bathtub instead of shower? Sure. Pink cup, not purple? Ok. Daddy instead of mummy? Fine!).
That skill, brought back into the workforce – can be life-changing. What would it be like if we had bosses who recognized our abilities and how we felt, acknowledged it, and then move on together with us? Would the workplace be a much more conducive environment? I believe so!
Did I achieve Mensa level IQs by reading Peter and Jane to my kids daily? No. Did I grow leaps and bounds in my EQ by having to manage 2 little kids at home? Absolutely.
3. You’re not the only one deciding “best-fit”
Whilst the companies I interviewed with were looking to see if I would best fit their open roles, they were not the only ones making the fit-decision. Throughout my time interviewing, I had a company who said that I did not deserve the salary I asked for because I was on a career break.
I was also fortunate enough to have interacted with companies who asked me what they can do to help make the transition back into the workforce better.
The feeling of desperation increases with time, and there has been many times I had wanted to sell myself short and take whatever is on the table, even if it wasn’t a fit to me. I am thankful (and very blessed) that I have a husband who constantly reminds me of my worth, and constantly reassures me that he’ll support me for as long as it takes to find the best-fit. I have been truly fortunate in this instance, but I also know and believe that more and more employers will become a “best-fit” environment as we talk about the role of women and parents in the workforce more and more openly.
Was being a SAHM worth it? Yes, absolutely (and I say this with much cognizance that it is indeed a luxury to even be able to afford the consideration of this option).
Was being a SAHM hard? Yes, absolutely.
Was looking for a job to get back into hard? Yes, it was at times confidence-shreddingly and heart-wrenchingly hard.
But whether we eventually find a “best-fit” career to get back into, we should remember that we are more than our careers. We are raising little human beings, and that time invested into them will never be wasted.
Esther is an ex-SAHM to two little ones and is now managing the operations of a professional services firm. She has no hobbies because, who has time for hobbies when you have children? She enjoys motherhood regardless of the lack of hobbies and is very loved by an incredible husband.