The Pink Elephant in the Room

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

The working world has drastically changed since the last time I was a member of the traditional 8 to 5 scene over ten years ago. I had no idea that when I quit to raise my kids that it would be the end of my career in human resources — permanently. What was supposed to only be a break from working full-time to raise my children for a few years, while my husband (now ex) worked to pay the bills, became a life long journey of self-discovery full of plot twists and crazy turns, including an unexpected divorce.

Let me give you a little bit of my backstory. . . I got married right out of high school to my high school sweetheart and we had our kids soon after that. My doctor told us that if we wanted kids then we needed to try as soon as possible. I had been suffering with a female medical condition known as endometriosis which not only causes pain but can also lead to infertility. It was the same medical condition my mom had which almost kept her from having me. So we threw caution to the wind, and we were happily blessed with healthy children.

When daycare expenses became a bit too much, I opted to quit my job that I loved as a Human Resources Assistant to raise our growing family. I was only slightly conflicted about quitting since I figured I could one day return to the career I loved. I rationalized that the job opportunities would always be there but my children would one day be grown and out of the house. So I took my leave from the working world without a worry about our future.

Shortly after I left, my previous boss was retiring and called to offer me first choice for her position as Human Resources Director. I would’ve made $50,000 year without a Bachelor’s degree which was unheard of at the time. It was double what I was making in my previous position as an assistant. So it was a rare opportunity.

But I turned it down. For my kids.

It was hard to let that opportunity go but I reasoned that one day I’d get my Bachelor’s degree and I’d find another job just as good if not better.

I was wrong.

I found out years later when I tried returning to work that it was not that simple. You can’t just take a break from your career, raise your kids, and then return to work. (Not to mention, re-building me and my children’s lives after my now ex-husband suddenly left us, both of my grandparents dying within months of each other, and helping my parents as their only child rearrange their lives which included moving to a different town, all within a period of six months. Whew! That was exhausting!)

The world just doesn’t work that way. Employers don’t care that you were just taking a break to raise your children and then your life completely exploded before your eyes with an array of hardships.

They. really. don’t. care. (Suck it up, buttercup.)

It was surprising — and quite frankly, depressing. It was as if employers viewed my lack of work experience in the past few years as if I’d been on a long vacation.

I wish.

It seems that employers don’t see stay-at-home mothers who wish to return to work as valuable, employable members of society. But rather, they see them (me, us) as expendable, unremarkable, and outdated fossils. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did return to college and graduate with my Bachelor’s degree with a double minor just shy of three years ago.)

Don’t believe me?

Try typing up a resume as a stay-at-home mom returning to work and see how many interviews you get.

Go ahead and check it out for yourself.

I am aware that the job market in general is tough for everyone these days. But women returning to work have an especially huge hurdle to overcome in addition to the already treacherous job hunt.

Not only do stay-at-home moms returning to work face discrimination for putting their family ahead of their career; they also face the fact that they’re now older and have less job longevity in the eyes of the employer.

Age discrimination in general is a very real thing, especially when it comes to finding a job or pursuing a career. Now, throw in being a mom who hasn’t worked outside the home for however long and compare that to the younger, recently experienced women (not to mention the men) and you can begin to see where I’m coming from.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can see things from the perspective of the employer but is it really right to deny women who have put their family first the opportunity to return to work? To their hard earned careers?

I don’t think so.

I honestly think more women would stay at home to raise their families if they didn’t have to face the very real possibility that they would “expire” and wouldn’t be able to return to their careers. How many women have gone to work wishing they were instead at home with their children?

And let’s face it, most men don’t have to choose between the two. If they do, most of them have a better chance of returning to work than their female counterparts. Not to mention, that many men rely on their wives to stay at home with their kids.

What message does this send to women? To families? To children?

So what message does this send to women? To families? To children? I think the biggest message this sends to everyone is that working is more important than family. That taking a break to raise your children is not a valuable contribution to society. Dare I say, that it sends the message to those of us who are in this group of women that we are viewed as lazy and unproductive members of society.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe that’s just how I feel. Or maybe I’m right.

Who knows.

All I know is this only serves to highlight the ever-looming problem that women have been facing for a very long time. . . choose your career or choose your family. Why can’t women have both?

Why can’t women have both?

Do our brains just turn off as soon as we decide to stay at home? Do the skills we’ve acquired shrivel up and disintegrate as soon as we walk out the door? No. Absolutely not. If anything, our skills become more honed. More practiced.

Have you ever had to run a company of small children?? It’s a challenge.

When I compare raising my children to building and running my own business — it’s very similar. But that’s another post. The choice to temporarily be a stay-at-home mom doesn’t delete all of the progress and time that she invested in her career beforehand.

It doesn’t erase her wisdom and knowledge — it’s simply put on hold.

Being a stay-at-home mom is a noble “profession” and is a necessary part of carrying forward the future of society. Women should not be valued based on whether or not they decide to stay at home and raise their family. Women should have the freedom to choose to stay at home or work without having to worry about being able to return to their careers in the future. We shouldn’t have to choose between our values and career aspirations.

We shouldn’t have to choose between our values and career aspirations.

By now, I’m sure you might think I regret my decision to be a stay-at-home mom. The short answer — I don’t.

Those are years of their lives (and my life) that I will never get back. I can be replaced at a job or surpassed in a career, but I cannot be replaced as their mom.

They were worth it. 100 %.

I just wish that I wasn’t being “punished” for my decision to put them first (as well as many other women).

But I do regret that even though we live in the 21st century in modern America, I still live in a society that continues to discriminate women and mothers who decide to stay-at-home and then want to return to work.

I can’t help but detect the huge amount of immaturity our society has regarding this subject. Women should not be seen as less valuable because they choose to be a full-time mom, but rather, they should be seen as remarkable women dedicated to being productive members of society in whatever capacity they feel called to do. Women shouldn’t be punished for choosing what is best for them and their families. We shouldn’t be docked points for choosing what we feel is best for us and those we love.

Women should be supported in whatever endeavor it is they feel called to do. Whether that’s working or raising children, or both.

And if that means taking a break to raise their children, then we as a society should support them and welcome them back into the working world with open arms and open minds.