Friday, September 23, 2011

the employment gap of the sahm

*I've been tossing this idea around for a while and I wanted to share it here to encourage other parents to think about it for their own peace of mind and security*

I've been a "stay at home mom" since 1996 when my first baby was born.  Before that I'd done office assistant type of work, nothing much of a "career" to leave behind, but still, if I'd stayed in the workforce, my skills, abilities and experience would be much different and more valuable than what they are now, had I not been out of it for 15 years.  Being able to stay at home with your child is an amazing experience and one that benefits the entire family.  It's a tricky situation though because you're dealing with relationships.  Specifically a marriage.  And with half of marriages not making it, chances are you'll end up in a position of putting whatever education, experience and talent you have back to work at some point to help sustain yourself and your family.  Even if your marriage makes it, you'll probably venture back out to the workforce or build a business eventually.

I think this is a common issue with stay at home parents:  what to do in the child-rearing employment gap to keep up your skills, sharpen your saw, give yourself a greater feeling of success (let's face it, parenthood isn't the greatest "feel good" career out there), maintain your sanity, and make a difference in your family's well being.

Parents who stay at home know that they have some pretty amazing things going for them, as raising children is full of personal growth opportunities and experience to discover new talents and abilities, whether we like it or not.  How these opportunities, experiences and discoveries translate to your resume though?  Whether you are seeking employment now or not for many years down the road, do yourself a huge favor and begin to track, develop and expand on those resume rich experiences.

Here's some tips on how:

#1  Treat your job as a sahm as you would a professional career.

In your outside of the home career, you'd be having to master things like prioritizing goals, (ehhh...and making goals!), time management, organizing, synchronizing calendars and schedules with coworkers, making appointments, making sure your supplies are stocked, attending or facilitating meetings, managing employees, etc.  All of these things are also presented for mastering (or at least presented with the opportunities to master) in your sahm world. 

Here's a list of things that most parents juggle as they stay at home raising healthy happy kids.  (those of you who work outside the home while juggling kids do ALL of this at work AND at home.  Dude.  Major props!!)

Duties of a stay at home parent:

  • organizing
  • managing
  • budgeting
  • problem solving
  • conflict resolution
  • calendar syncing
  • time management
  • goal planning
  • establishing core values (creating mission statements for your family)
  • efficiency planning
  • creating a strategy for meeting goals, changing habits, etc.
  • meal planning
  • space planning
  • interior decorating
  • research and development 
  • educating (homeschooling, tutoring, supplementing)
  • meeting deadlines
  • family management 
  • event planning
  • schedule management
  • menu management
  • health advising
  • personal training
  • coaching
  • active listening
  • counseling
  • home maintenance
  • vehicle maintenance
  • personal shopping
  • housecleaning
  • small appliance repair
  • social media marketing
  • liaison (between kids/teacher/school/coaches/doctors, etc.)

I could keep going but I think you get the idea.  Think about this list and what you do at home...what could you add to the list?  Keep in mind that not all of these things you are going to have MASTERED.  Even if you picked two or three items on this list and decided to deepen your skill set in it, you'd be investing not only in the health of your family, but also in yourself and your future professional goals.  This list is just a reminder of the opportunities that you have available to you to enrich your feeling of accomplishment, you know, beyond getting a daily shower or just making it to the store for milk.  Sometimes it's all you can do!!  It's all about reframing!!

#2  Get Involved!
Community and group involvement isn't just for high school students looking to fill space on college applications.  Being involved in volunteer opportunities is a win/win for everyone.  You get to focus on something other than the all too often emotionally and physically exhausting job of being a sahm, and the organization gets much needed support!  The bonus is that you are showing to future employers or business partners that you have an interest in making your community a better place and you have a drive to follow your passions.  Nothing is more inspiring than following your dreams and passions!

  • pta
  • mothering type of clubs (MOMS Club, local mom Meetups, look in the newspaper or online for groups)
  • local hospital
  • humane society
  • library
  • ywca
  • homeless shelter
  • women's organization 
  • preschool coop
  • political affiliations and groups
  • church groups
#3  Get a hobby!
This is a hugely overlooked aspect of being a parent.  Sometimes we get so overwhelmed with everything demanded of us (see above list!) that we let our own personal interests and talents slip by, sometimes for years.  Investing energy into yourself and something that gives you joy is a super benefit to yourself, your family and your future professional career!  What you enjoy doing is what you should focus on in a career, because what we are passionate about is what wakes us up in the morning full of LIFE!  And you'll be good at it because you LOVE it!  Lots of careers are started as interesting hobbies, so think about how your current interests and hobbies could be translated into a career or business!  

#4  Continue your education
Don't immediately toss that occasional mailer from the local community college offering community and continuing education.  You don't have to "go back to school" and finish your BA or apply for your Masters.  Sign up for any ole class that sounds interesting or something that you want to investigate further.  Want to make yourself more marketable professionally?  Learn a foreign language!  Take a business management class!  Community colleges are wonderful resources for adults returning to college after being out of the workforce or school for a length of time, so check it out! 

#5  Work at home
Working at home is a great way to earn some additional income and maintain your professional skills.  Whether you're turning your hobby into a business or starting an in home daycare, working at home is an impressive feat and shines brightly on your resume!  Just be realistic in your endeavors.    The trick is to strive for a balance in home and career, and working at home can make that line fuzzy and boundaries unclear.  Set realistic expectations and clear boundaries to stay sane!

#6  Keep your resume updated every 6 months!  
Keep a hard copy file on hand so you always have it available to you no matter what.  File it with your birth certificates and other important papers.  Every year ask someone you trust to help you update it and keep it fresh with your latest endeavors, even if just to write down what new skills you are working on improving or hobbies you are investigating.

Keeping up with your professional skills and talents aren't just great for your immediate state of mind and having balance in your life, it also provides security so that if you do end up having to dive into the work pool again, you are prepared on a moment's notice.  Being a stay at home parent is a monumental challenge, and should be accepted as a valid career choice, so treat it like one yourself by taking it seriously!  Who knows, maybe someday we'll get paid for it. ;)

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