The Mother's Resume

The Mother's Resume - Striking the Balance in your come-back CV

There is many conflicting opinions about how to include or avoid information around “gaps” in your employment history. HR is cut-throat and it seems that many recruiters seem to lack the creativity and sense of humour to be able to look outside the box and see what someone who has been at home with children for a few years is able to bring to the workforce.

Most recruiters who have attempted to write on the subject or reply in the comments sections, put forward an argument that they don’t want a skills based only resume (One that summarises all your experience and qualifications rather than a traditional chronological style resume) because they think you are trying to “hide” your gaps. But then they argue that listing your role as a Stay-at-home-mother (SAHM) is petty and un-professional. These arguments alone have me not just wanting to go against the grain but to stand up and start a campaign against HR bias for parents!

In their defence, they have offered some alternatives… so until we see more open minded recruiters in the workforce who are willing to accept that Stay-at-home parents bring new skills, abilities (and super powers!) to the workforce, here are their recommendations for filling the supposed “gap” that you may have in your employment history.
  1. Be upfront – If you have a work history before you had children, be honest about where you have been “all this time”. You have been doing something amazing. You have been creating and molding the human beings of the future! This takes leadership, strength, time management, working under pressure and a total gamut of other skills. But recruiters want to see something along the lines of "For six years I was engaged full-time with parenting my children, but now that they are in school full-time I am eager to return to my career” within your professional summary to account for this time. This is also the place to summarise the skills you have gained from your parenting and your past experience.
  2. Leverage Experience from other areas – Most parents get engaged in some sort of work for their kids and household while they are staying at home with them. Think back and you will quickly be able to create a long list of everything that you have had to hold up at once. Have you helped run a playgroup, even if you were just on the roster? Have you created marketing material to advertise for community events? Have you advocated for a child’s health or special needs? Have you liaised with government departments to ensure access to needs or rights for you or your kids? These are all things that require skills that are attractive to the workforce. When you are creating a career summary you should really focus you attention on the skills that you used in these moments. Use the language of recruiters as they and their software will be looking for keywords and catchphrases.
  3. Create a Volunteer work section – Volunteers make up a huge sector of the workforce and are the reason many community groups, sports groups and support organisations exist. Most of them train their volunteers and provide them with high level skills that future employers look for and value, as it means they won’t have to put that time and money into you! Playgroup, sports teams, P&C and school canteen all provide opportunities for parents to grow their skills, based in a time-sensitive atmosphere that respects school hours and family needs. When you list them, describe the organisations aims and your roles and responsibilities within it. If you treated your role as a job then get the respect you deserve for it by describing it as such.
  4. Don’t cover your self-image in false humility - It can be easy to “humbly” try and wedge yourself back into the workforce. You might actually be struggling with asking yourself if you can make a dint and pull your weight. That can lead you to be willing to compromise on your goals just to get a foot in the door. But it doesn’t have to be like that in every case. You not only have the multi-tasking balancing-act down to a fine art, you’ve got a new driving force in addition to your own career goals. You have a family behind you. And that is nothing to play down or shy away from.

    If you are feeling that a recruiter or organisation can’t handle the heat of that, you don’t want them in your kitchen! Most employers aren’t going to change the way they do things to accommodate you. So you want to work somewhere where they are already have a culture that welcomes you where you are at. That means accepting the whole package that you bring. Those amazing tactical and planning skills didn’t just pop out of nowhere! They were finely honed through years of slogging through the trenches of motherhood. If an employer starts asking questions in a way that makes you feel like you aren’t going to make the cut because of divided loyalties, and you can’t make them aware that it is those 2 sets of loyalties that keep you on the front foot in both places, they probably won’t ever understand. But there will be other employers who do! So be YOU. That increases the chance that you will get the job that fits.

Before you apply for any job, have it set in your mind how you are meeting the challenge of returning to the workforce. It is most likely that there will still be an adjustment and teething period, as with anything! This process is NOT so that you have something to fire back at those tricky questions with - this is for you. It is actually illegal for recruiters or potential employers to ask you a question that may form the basis for using discrimination to exclude you from being hired. This includes anything related to pregnancy/future pregnancies, marital/relationship status, family responsibilities or breastfeeding status. The reason why I suggest you know how you are going to rise to the challenge is so that you can narrow down and apply for the positions that will best suit you and your family’s needs. 

One final bombshell – The best job for you and your family might not be one you apply for but one you create yourself. This is one suggestion I can personally attest to suiting my family best. The option of self-employment or starting your own company. I know that this is opening a can of worms and it is topic that deserves it’s own blog post (And it will get one!) but it is a real option if you have a skill or passion that you can monetise and that will result in a better work-life balance for you family.

This article just suggests some ways you can present yourself, but this is the area that I specialise helping candidates in. I literally LOVE helping people find their way to their dream job. So if you are in this season of life and are considering either applying for work or starting your own business, please contact me. You can make a booking for any of my document services in my store HERE.


Image used under license from Freestock.com