I had reason to dig up my resumé a few weeks back. After I brushed off the proverbial dust that had collected in the years since I last updated it, I got to work plugging in the highlights of this most recent era of my life. How strange, to summarize such large swaths of time in a few phrases. A resumé is reductive by nature and misleading in that it only tells but a tiny part of the whole story. It is a broad-scale tool, one that lacks flesh and color. The details are hidden in the blank spaces, and the blank spaces often get overlooked.
As I scanned my job history, I recognized a sequence of positions that were both familiar and alien at the same time. I had filled these roles before, but it seemed so long ago. And yet, I was proud to see I had truly carved out a career for myself. I had a substantial amount of experience. I had accomplished more than I often gave myself credit for. The exercise was, in part, validating.
And yet, staring at the page, filled with words and dates and memories, I noticed a gaping hole. I have spent the last nearly four years at home with my children. I have done some part-time work here and there, but I have devoted most of my time to raising my kids, running our household, managing our multiple, ever-changing, unrelenting schedules, and learning what it is to be a stay-at-home parent. I say “learning,” because the learning curve has been steep, and I have yet to master the skills involved. I have reached a level of competency, sure, but mastery, not a chance. Yet I have grown indescribably during my time at home—as a person, as a mother, and as a rabbi.
Still, none of that seemed to fit into my resumé. It seemed odd that there was no mention of the primary position that had encompassed the majority of my time and the bulk of my waking hours (and let’s be honest, sleeping hours as well)–the exhausting and exhaustive, utterly demanding and incomprehensibly gratifying, extraordinarily challenging and dizzyingly unpredictable job as a mother, domestic CEO, and chief nurturer in charge.
I wonder, then, why don’t we put “mom” on our resumés? Why don’t we list, proudly, our time allocated to staying at home, honing our skills in the domestic realm? Why do we feel compelled to leave this time off our CVs, as if these days, months and years spent parenting do not add to our viability as contributors, or increase our value as employees? It boggles the mind that we excise this time from our work histories, when this work, and it most certainly is work, is nothing if not rigorous, exacting, and complicated. Every success we experience as parents is hard-earned. Being a parent, therefore, should only add to our marketability as employees.
Parenting demands creativity and quick thinking; it mandates sound judgment and problem solving skills. Parenting requires perseverance, patience and cooperative learning skills. We are case managers and counselors, coaches and referees, teachers and students, all at the same time and all in one sitting. We are supervisors and HR directors, mediators and negotiators, diplomats and peacemakers—and that barely covers the jobs needed to get through a single day! As caregivers and household managers, parents have no choice but to cultivate a wide range of skills (think outside of the cooking, cleaning and driving carpool box here), just to move from week to week.
The truth is, many lessons we learn as parents are not particular to the enterprise of raising children. So why should the work of raising children be evaluated any differently than the work of running an office or managing a business?
The years devoted to raising a family and parenting children provide experience that can and should translate easily into the more traditional workplace. Taking time away from the professional world does not weaken the mind, lessen resolve, or eliminate ambition. Nor should that time away prevent a professional return. Far too often, it is assumed that parents have lost their edge or fallen behind the curve. And far too often, employers overlook the competencies gained during the career-parenting years.
In fact, businesses should actively seek out former stay-at-home parents to fill their posts! Former stay-at-home parents come with maturity, perspective, and a unique appreciation for work that other candidates may not immediately possess. Some of the most ingenious, unflappable, and irrepressibly energetic people I know are or were career parents. I’d argue that businesses need ex-career moms and dads on their rolls.
When I look at my resumé, I know that my work as a mother informs all I do and makes me a better, stronger candidate, even if my path forward has been meandering and full of detours. I do not want to explain my time devoted to motherhood away, as if it is something that has sapped me of my skills or my earning power. I do not want to bury this part of my life deep in the hollows. I am who I am today because I stepped away from a traditional career path, not in spite of it.
So I am putting “mom” on my resume and I encourage you to do the same.