Why Taking Extended Maternity Leave Makes Finding a New Job Easier
Once upon a time I was an intelligent and intelligible adult. I even used to have conversations with other intelligent adults about business, politics, and deep existential topics.
Analyze data? Run statistical models? Advise on acquisitions? Quantify market growth rates? Present advice to CEOs? Yep, yes, and yep.
Oh, I also forgot to add bullshit to the list.
Yes, I was an accomplished bull-shitter.
In interviews I said things like, “I want to join consulting because of the steep learning curve — you learn more in two years at (insert consulting firm name) than in 10 years at a regular corporation.”
How things have changed.
After two years on maternity leave, I now know what steep learning curve really means.
And in case you’re a man reading this, no, maternity leave is not a vacation like business school.
But like business (or law, or medical, or any graduate) school, two years of pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing can put a dent in your finances. Except no scholarships exist to cover your ass (or exorbitant tastes) anymore.
On the bright side, after an extended maternity leave, you are way (and I mean waaaaay) more employable.
Take me as an example. Not only have I acquired a larger number of transferable skills, I am also now highly employable in many more fields.
Just look at the evidence:
I would make an excellent terrorist negotiator. Yes, the gold standard is “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” But when you live with a 2-year-old one, you learn that you actually have some leeway as demonstrated by my ability to prevent my oldest daughter from killing her baby sister. Granted these skills mostly involve bribery (if you don’t sit on top of your baby sister I will give you a kinder surprise egg!) and threats (if you roll her off the bed you won’t see the iPad for a week) but hey, they work.
Also, as Chief Boo-Boo Curing Officer my medical expertise is now second to none. I am even recognized as the ‘go-to’ person for all (and I mean all) body-related queries. Constipation? Vomiting? Leaking urine? Boogers on fingers? I can deal with all kinds of shit all day long. As testament to my abilities, I’ve never been sued and my patients keep coming back (even when I’ve begged them to stop).
I’m now also a qualified psychiatrist who’s well versed in the complexities of jealousy, neediness, attachment, stubbornness, identity exertion, and banging-head-on-the-floor tantrums. My subjects are so impressed with my ability to decipher their unintelligible requests that they share with me all their emotions, trust, opinions, and even their food (who cares if it’s half a mushy banana or the leftovers of a cold boiled egg they didn’t feel like finishing).
If ever I find myself bankrupt, I can now also resort to my experience as an artistfor income. After all, who wouldn’t want to hang pictures of hands and stick figures in every shade of the rainbow on their walls? My most popular painting — as evidenced by high demand — is that of a horse (or maybe it’s a donkey or a cat or a duck, I’m not quite sure but my client says it’s a horse). You can’t argue with impressionism.
I can certainly apply to be a litigation lawyer as well since my arguing skills have been remarkably honed from repeated use (yes sweetheart the socket is round, and yes the pencil is round, but no we cannot stick it in there like we do with your shape sorting toy) AND (even though mummy loves to kiss your feet, you cannot put your feet on your nursery teacher’s face and demand she kiss them every time she changes you)
To add to all the professions I am now qualified for, I have also acquired a set of highly transferable skills that would make me a great asset to any employer.
As an expert multi-tasker I can cook, talk on the phone and prevent injuries arising from my daughter’s inability to judge the effects of placing several pounds of wooden blocks on her baby sister. I can also shower while delegating tasks to my husband (200ml formula in blue bottle) and carrying a conversation in Yiddish or Sanskrit with a toddler (antalon ink jama! TRANSLATION: She wants to wear her pink pajamas)
In addition, my work in a thriving fast paced environment has increased mytolerance level for all nighters (why sleep when you can be up making milk, feeding milk, changing diapers, and playing super hero who wards off bad guys from dreams?)
Particularly relevant to today’s environment, are the organizational skills I have mastered from doing things like ensuring that we never (I mean rarely) run out of diapers and wipes, and that my youngest makes it to her monthly weight checks 3 times a year, and that my eldest always goes to school with her bottle of milk (even if it’s just the bottle without the milk) and don’t give me that look, it’s only happened twice.
I am now also an expert at problem solving from the small scale (where are my yellow pants and no not this yellow one but the other one that looks exactly the same) to the more existential problems like convincing my toddler to eat something (anything actually) that isn’t pasta or chips.
But the most important skill of all gained from being on a long (ahem… indefinite) maternity leave is confidence (aka I don’t give a shit what people think anymore).
My baby sitter skipped town for a while so I recently had to take my 3-month-old to several professional meetings for a project I’m working on. Babies are apparently excellent conversation starters.
If you’re interested in discussing how your maternity leave has made you more employable, please feel free to contact me. If I don’t pick up it’s probably because my phone has gone for a swim in the toilet or is blasting Mother Goose Club nursery rhymes.