As an employer or recruiter, there are certain things you look for in a candidate. As part of #BigIdeas2015, you, the employer, need a good way to weed through the candidates to find the best employees. Employers are seeking ways to find people who can wear a lot of hats. On Forbes.com, I saw an infographic (created by officevibe) regarding the 10 most admirable attributes of a great employee. Those attributes are:
Wouldn’t you agree those are some great attributes? Considering the title of this article, you probably know where I’m going with this, but stick with me because this may be a different perspective for you.
I’m a woman who believes I can do whatever I put my mind to, but do you know what is even more impressive? I can also be a Mom. Dads are also very important, so I’m not trying to undermine their purpose, but this article is about Moms. Specifically, this article is about stay-at-home Moms. Why? When women have a career, then have a baby, they feel an internal struggle that men typically don’t feel. They struggle with continuing in their career or putting their career on pause to dedicate their time and energy to their new baby and soon-to-be toddler. Women believe if they continue in their careers they won’t “lose ground” in the workforce, but if they choose to stay home with their children it will be very hard for them to go back to work. It’s hard to go back to work because when an employer sees that break in work history for “just being a mommy” there is a stigma that they have little to offer because somehow their skills were lost or not used during that time at home. It’s believed by many employers that there was nothing done by a stay-at-home Mom to reinforce workforce knowledge and skills. Many women believe this too. Not because it’s true, but because they have been told this for too long. This “loss of skills” is not a myth perpetuated by a group of chauvinists. This is a misunderstanding by both genders that have never done the job of stay-at-home parents themselves. Many years ago, I worked in a large human resources department, which was a part of an employment system responsible for employing the majority of a large town. I was young, without children, and long from wanting my own at that time. This is when I first witnessed how strong this stigma towards former stay-at-home Moms was.
Let’s use my situation as an example. Before having my two beautiful children (a two-year-old boy and a seven-month-old girl), I worked in fields that were primarily dominated by men. I was a Paramedic, and I was in the Air Force Reserves for 10 years. Yes, this “Mamma wore combat boots,” and EMS boots. Sometimes I even wore both in the same day. It was tough work, dirty work, and most of the time it was stressful work! I was even an entrepreneur for a while. I have hung upside down from a 5 story building by a rope, at night, in the rain. I have organized the tragic scene of a multiple-victim shooting, and I have managed the chaos of traumatic, and sometimes fatal car wrecks on busy highways. I have even been through the Air Force’s Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) School, which is one of the most physically demanding, mentally exhausting training schools the military has to offer. This is some of the training that Navy Seals, Marine Force Recon, and Army Rangers go through, and I went through it for my flight medical training with the military. I handled all of these things with confidence and control, so you can imagine my surprise when I felt no control and little confidence while first learning how to be a stay-at-home Mom. I especially felt unequipped to manage my blue-eyed, blond-haired, high-energy, and strong-willed two-year-old little boy. Out of all the amazing, stressful, and physically demanding things I had done in my life, this was kicking my butt the most. It could bring me to my knees, and sometimes to tears.
I had been like so many other women. I loved to be in the workplace, so when I found out I was pregnant with my first child I immediately began thinking about the big picture and what I needed to do for the future of this child. I literally cried when I decided to try staying at home and not working outside of the home for a while. I was grateful for the opportunity to nurture and teach my child full time but I felt I was dooming any progress in my career. Naturally, I could always work “somewhere,” but would I ever be able to pick up where I left off? Would I be doing something less than I was doing before I stayed home to raise my kids? Choosing to be a stay-at-home Mom has been the one thing that has taught me the most in life. You hear this all the time, but what does this mean to an employer or a recruiter, especially if you are a man and have not experienced it for yourself or a woman without children, or one who has never stayed at home full-time with your children?
Remember the 10 attributes I mentioned earlier? Stay-at-home Moms have a unique opportunity to advance in a lot of areas. Here are just a few examples of how those 10 attributes are needed as a stay-at-home Mom. I’ll then tell you why it’s important for you to know this about them when you see it on a resume.
It takes a lot of ambition to train a toddler to pee in a potty chair. After a few years of dirty diapers, you have the motivation to make something happen. Handling a diaper “blow-out” that took place in a car seat as you were on your way to a scheduled appointment is a huge task too. Murphy’s law makes sure you will have to find a way to handle the clean-up along with a clothing and diaper change, in a parking lot, by yourself, on a cold, windy winter morning, and still manage to make it to your appointment on time without anyone knowing what you just dealt with! Oh, yes. Stay-at-home Moms know what ambition is!
You may be home alone with a toddler who wants to communicate but can’t use their words so they scream all day in frustration. While this alone is severely taxing, you still have so many other duties and no one tells you when to do them. You just get it done. Knowing what your job requires, you perform multiple daily household chores and manage to feed people at the same time, while keeping a keen eye out for everyone’s safety at all times. You do this because you know how to be autonomous.
Being a caring mother in any aspect is an act of humility. When staying home with children full-time you tend to forgo that relaxing, daily morning shower. You put off freshly applied make-up and nice clothing and, instead, are adorned with frequent spit-up on your clothes, which might be the same clothes you wore yesterday. You live with hair that hasn’t been washed (or sometimes even brushed) in two days. It’s so humbling when you have judged other women for doing this and now find yourself living this way, for months at a time. You finally really learn not to judge others so harshly. Humility is such an admirable quality and it can take you far in life.
I know as a Mother who chose to nurse, I was very passionate about sticking with it. I thought nursing would be so easy since it’s a “natural” thing to do, but what I didn’t know until I gave birth is that it is so very difficult for a myriad of reasons. Without going into medical detail, you have to be very passionate to overcome these difficulties if you want to see it through and nurse for any length of time. Not to mention, nursing babies feed far more frequently. This automatically means a breastfed baby gets even less sleep than a formula-fed baby, which means Mommy gets less sleep, too. Why would we, as already sleep-deprived mothers, put ourselves in a position to go without even more sleep? Mothers who breastfeed do so because they believe it is so much healthier for the baby than formula. Because of this knowledge we are passionate about giving our babies the best nutrition we can give them.
When you successfully go out in public with a toddler and a baby by yourself, you are very confident (and maybe a little crazy)! You do have to build up to it sometimes and even give yourself pep talks, and sometimes it’s the hardest thing you will do all day. You know the saying “fake it ‘till you make it”? There are times when you have to exude confidence, even when you feel like crawling under something and hiding. Imagine yourself walking through a store while dragging a child that looks as if they are convulsing due to their well-timed fit and simultaneously managing a crying infant in a ridiculously heavy car seat. Now, at the same time, you know you’re being judged by child-less people, just as you used to do before you had kids (so you know what they are thinking), but you keep walking anyway, and you do it with a smile on, and chin up.
If you care enough to spend time on countless, repetitive life lessons to teach a little one about manners and how to treat others, you are probably pretty honest yourself. In addition, I had to learn to be more honest with myself as well. There are times when it’s okay to ask for help but someone like me has a hard time doing that. None of my family lives near me so I didn’t have the luxury of having a built-in security net to help me with around-the-clock feedings and extra hands to keep up with the housework. Of course, my husband is happy to help, but he could not be at home all day with me. It was the simple task of learning to be honest with a friend and tell them that things are hard and I just need some encouragement or help. That was a pivotal moment for me. It made me realize I could be more open to others than I had been and not be afraid of being honest.
When at home with little ones, you become very creative. Imagine getting your pet cat to do what you need on command. Yes, it’s that difficult when you are doing it daily for hours on end. It’s usually mothers who know just which activity it will take to create a more compliant child in different settings. Have you seen Pinterest? Half of the things created on there are from the minds of stay-at-home moms! Of course, I don’t know the actual statistics on that, but if you have seen the things some women have thought of, you know they had to be stay-at-home-Moms who got creative with a current product or some left-over fabric from a onesie.
And Reliability – ha! Do I have to dive deep into this one? Stay-at-home moms are typically relied upon for EVERYTHING from keeping the house clean and clothes clean to inventory (household supplies) always being stocked, to doctors appointments scheduled for multiple members of the house, and a lot of times the family financials. I know in my family, I’m the one who can tell you where the children’s birth certificates are and when they last had the sheets changed on their beds. It’s overwhelming to list everything. I can’t think of any other job that would require such a wide range of things to be responsible for.
Stay-at-home Moms are definitely eager. You are eager for the next level and constantly learning about the upcoming developmental changes happening with your child. This creates a never-ending learning environment for you as well. This includes learning when they will first go to the dentist and educating yourself enough to know if you need to have your child tested for any learning disabilities due to recognizable developmental delays. Sometimes you are eager to get the day started just because you know that the sooner it begins, the sooner it will end and you can get back to sleep.
If you aren’t optimistic at first, you will learn to be optimistic quickly. Times are typically tough because this is the hardest job you have ever done, and there is no use staying sad, or feeling like it’s not worth it. You know it’s worth it, and you keep going no matter what. You know there are always things to be grateful for. This is the hardest job and the most rewarding job. You have to think positively to get through those really tough days when you feel like you’re the only one going through the things you’re experiencing.
This is my new situation. I recently started clean R cans, so I am an entrepreneur once again, and that means I’ll be looking for candidates that have all 10 of these attributes. Men can have these qualities, but given that I have experienced being a stay-at-home Mom, and knowing I did not lose my “workplace skills”, but rather I have been given an opportunity to improve and sharpen those skills, I want to urge you to look at these women just as I do. This is good for you, the potential employer. Instead of being leery of what they may have to offer, I hope you can now see stay-at-home Moms potentially have everything you need (and even more). They have the skills necessary to be trusted to run your company in your absence or manage all aspects of it with full confidence (knowing they have done things much harder than that). It’s important to have the right people for your business. Finding people you can trust is challenging. I wish you luck in your search for good employees, and I hope you have the fortune of interviewing some former stay-at-home Moms. Don’t discredit what they can offer you and your business. Skills can be taught, if necessary, but the right character is invaluable. If you hire one of them, use these attributes she has to your full advantage. Foster her skills and use her knowledge to help you create a great workplace environment. You won’t regret it!