Declaration of Value
A Business Perspective on Full-Time Parents
I was frustrated. No, I was furious.
I had been a stay at home mom for 10 years. My youngest was going to Kindergarten and the time had finally come where I was ready to return to work. (Actually, I couldn’t wait.) I dusted off my resume and began to work my network. This is what I heard:
- “You will be lucky to earn half of what you earned in the job you worked 10 years ago.” – Advice from a widely known career coach in Seattle.
- “You will have to start over. You will be competing for jobs with new college grads.” – Advice from a long-time friend and mom who had remained in the workforce while having kids.
- “ You won’t be able to get a job doing the same kind of work you did before. You will have to start at the bottom and work your way up again.” – Advice from a male friend who had only known me as a stay at home mom.
And finally, after a phone interview for an Instructional Design position, which was several steps below my Director of Training title I had left 10 years prior, I received the following feedback:
“We think you would be a great fit for the company, but given your time off, we think you would be better suited as a training coordinator.”
After kindly telling the interviewer that I wasn’t interested in that position and wishing them all the best in their search, I hung up the phone gently, and then slammed the table and swore loudly.
Yes, I had been out of the workforce for 10 years, but I hadn’t lost my ability to think during that time. I hadn’t lost my 15 years of work experience. I hadn’t lost my engineering degree nor my graduate degree in education. I hadn’t been sitting at home “eating bon-bons” wasting my talent either.
Why was the phrase “stay at home parent” synonymous with “minimal value,” “newbie,” “out of touch,” and “lacking relevant experience” when it came to the professional world?
How could there be such a disconnect, such a lack of understanding about what stay at home parents do?
OK, yes, there are a lot of repetitive, monotonous tasks that caretakers need to perform. And, yes, the typical stay at home parent is not in touch with the latest web conferencing technology or last week’s merger acquisition or current trends in performance management philosophy. However, we are the very same critical thinking professionals that we were when we left the workforce. You can take us out of our profession, but, for most, you can’t take the profession out of us. Once we figure out the parenting skillset, we either quickly return to the paid workforce or we find other places to use our talents and experience while raising our children.
With this in mind, let me shed some light on what I feel is a grossly misunderstood population and an incredible untapped human capital resource.
Stay at Home Parent Declaration
You think you know who we are. But if you haven’t been one of us, I don’t believe you do. If you look closer, you may be surprised.
Who are stay at home parents?
We are event organizers, people managers, project managers, fund-raisers, interviewers, presidents, vice presidents, speakers, researchers, networkers, business developers, facilitators, guides, CFOs, teachers, artists, general contractors, accountants, schedulers, delivery agents, advisors, coaches, designers, leaders and small business entrepreneurs. These are just a few of the roles we play while staying at home.
We support our communities, our teachers and our kids. We are a critical reason the public school system works. We raise millions of dollars every year. We create partnerships with organizations, file non-profit taxes, manage budgets, conduct needs analysis, create surveys, organize activities, negotiate contracts, produce marketing collateral, conduct studies, run advertising campaigns, supervise large groups, apply for grants, track legal documentation, raise money, manage events, evaluate performance and recruit, hire and fire employees. We are tireless advocates for our schools, our kids and our communities. We lobby for legislation, fighting for what is right for a community and a city, not just for our individual families.
We do not get paid. The people we organize, recruit and manage do not get paid either. Does that mean that we are not working? Does that mean that we are not applying our skills, talent and knowledge? Does that mean that we are not gaining incredible experience that is applicable in almost any business?
No. It means that that we make a whole lot happen without the power and influence of money.
It means we volunteer. It means the people we manage volunteer. It means that no one is motivated to do their work just so they can be paid. It means that there is no threat of losing a bonus if a job isn’t completed. It means there are no performance reviews. It means there are no President’s Club trips to Hawaii and there are no suite tickets to an NFL game.
We do the work because we are intrinsically motivated to make a difference.
- We collaborate.
- We persevere and fight against the odds.
- We work endless hours.
- We aren’t afraid to pull up our sleeves and get dirty.
- We can handle ambiguity.
- We are curious and research what we don’t know.
- We dive in and learn.
- We tackle projects we have never done before.
- We are selfless.
- We are efficient.
- We multi-task and manage many entities going in different directions.
- We are driven and focused.
- We work daily to manage intense emotions – ours and those around us.
- We are creative and inventive.
- We are self-directed and actively seek opportunities to help.
- We are dedicated to a cause bigger than ourselves.
- We are a wealth of experience and talent.
- We are a great untapped human capital resource.
We are stay at home parents. Please don’t underestimate our value.
To those of you who get paid for your work: Do these sound like the traits you would like to see in your employees or in your teammates?
When stay at home parents are ready to come back to the paid workforce and come knocking on your door, you might want to open it and see who is really there rather than who you think is there.