A headhunter recently contacted me about a fantastic speech writing job. It was the sort of job I would have killed for when I finished graduate school in 2009 and was still charging my way up the communications career ladder. At that time, of course, no one in Boston was hiring writers.
Now my skills are seemingly back in demand, which is great news. However, I’m no longer available.
Before Lila arrived, I decided to slow down and freelance while being a Stay-at-Home-Mother (SAHM). So, I traded the career ladder for what my sister-in-law calls a “career lattice.” The lattice encapsulates the notion that for personal reasons, people willingly put high-octane careers on hold – stepping sideways, rather than up – for periods of time. So far, this has worked well for me. But how many people know about the lattice or support it?
I intend to rejoin the outside-my-home workforce in the future; I just don’t know precisely when. And I certainly don’t want potential employers to think I’ve lost my discipline or my ability to write on deadline. After all, that’s what made me valuable.
My pickle is a variation of one many mothers face, especially SAHMs. So, in honor of all those currently doing the world’s hardest job, I offer a list of reasons why mothers make the best hires:
1. Ford Tough Times Ten. I can now do everything I used to do – and more – only on less sleep and while holding a small Thanksgiving turkey (aka, my baby). That’s hard core.
2. Multitasking Queen. Forget Six Sigma. Ask a mother to oversee any project, and she’ll find a way to streamline, avoiding any unnecessary steps. I can now type, talk, and feed my baby simultaneously. Or, do laundry, put away groceries, and respond to email while holding her. Imagine how productive I’d be in a quiet office!
3. Innovator of the Year. There is no standard issue baby. To learn your baby’s quirks, you have to live them. And if you like sleep, you have a powerful incentive to pay attention and try things that might work. In our case, that has meant exposing our city girl to street noise at nap time (her preferred white noise) and ensuring she is always snuggled in her Woombie. The willingness to be creative and experiment until you get it right is the living definition of entrepreneurial spirit.
4. Body Language Expert. People communicate with their bodies and facial expressions, in addition to their words. There’s no better time to study those subtle cues than your baby’s infancy. Being pre-verbal, Lila can use only non-verbal signals and different cries to express pain, exhaustion, or wanting to be held. Increasingly, I read her better, meaning our days run more smoothly. Applying my technique in client meetings could mean more contented clients for a firm.
5. Adapter. A mother knows the only constant with her child is perpetual, often unanticipated change. No organization in corporate America changes as frequently or as radically as an infant. Lila has surprised me by suddenly showing off each new skill – rolling over, sitting up, and scooting across the floor. A woman able to roll with her baby’s developmental leaps can surely work well in any living, changing business organization.
6. Notably Patient. I used to say that seven years in the federal government beat patience into me. After all, bureaucratic process is typically where things go to die. Of course, that was before Lila arrived and required an hour to nurse and several daily naps, often requiring some gentle nudging over the sleep line. There is no being angry with a newborn. Being a new parent pushed me, enlarging my reservoir of patience. This is perfect preparation for a demanding boss with ever-shifting priorities.
7. Fearless. Mothers are brave, regularly running into the Line of Screamage. We know what it means to master the challenge of changing a diaper while our babies scream and squirm. Or, holding wailing Baby’s head firm, so the pediatrician can verify that Baby has an ear infection. There is no turning back; there is no giving up.
8. Scut Work(er) with a Smile. There’s a certain grossness threshold we all live with. Upon becoming a mother, that bar rises. For the first time in her life, a mother may use her fingers to pick Baby’s nose or clean Baby’s ears. Things that gross out others are simply a non-issue. If something needs to be done, it gets done.
9. Soother-in-Chief. Service organizations are geared toward keeping customers happy, and who hasn’t had a client with easily ruffled feathers? I now have a ton of soothing-tricks up my sleeve and wouldn’t think twice about calming others down, or needing to maintain calm in the face of a total uproar. Have you loudly sung “Oseh Shalom” to your screaming, teething infant? I have, and it worked like a charm.
10. Big Picture Thinker. In foreign policy circles, the Chinese are famous for their 100 year plans, which Americans never create because of our four-year presidential terms. Singles and parents have a similar planning gap. When a woman gives birth, she thinks about her child’s future – including college – and may even establish a 529 account. It is second nature for mothers to think about others and how their actions impact them, put others first, and consider long-term implications. Our babies alter our worldview forever, making it not just more giggle-filled, but wider and more nuanced as well.
Being a mother is like no other job in the world. We don’t list it on our resumes, but maybe we should. It’s an intense job, perfect for a lifelong-learner — just the sort of person a hiring manager wants to meet.