Moms deserve résumé credit, too
MARSHFIELD, MASS. — It's the second item down, positioned between legislative aide and reporter. Set in bold print, like the other job titles I've been given over the years, it's followed by a brief description of my duties, boiled down to the bare essentials.
"Stay-at-Home Mother: Responsibilities include overseeing the care and well-being of three children ages, 9, 7, and 5, managing domestic accounts and administration of all other household projects."
It doesn't give a full explanation of the true nature of motherhood; that would be too lengthy and yet somehow incomplete. What it does do is give respect to a profession that deserves it, and is often ignored by employers and society at large. An oversight I was once guilty of myself.
Though I always wanted to be a mother, I never expected to stay home with my children. The feminist movement gave birth to my generation and it was our legacy to have it all: successful careers, supportive husbands, and children who would be cared for by quality providers. It was up to us to blaze a new trail, and I, along with my peers, scorned those women who traveled that same well-worn path back to the home.
But as so often happens, the ideals of a generation clashed with their reality. I had the successful career in a field I loved when I discovered I was pregnant. My husband and I soon found the ideal day-care arrangement and I returned to work after three months' maternity leave. The only problem was that my heart was at home. After a week at work, I arranged for a part-time schedule. After several more months, I left altogether.
Yet I was never completely comfortable as a stay-at-home mother. I was embarrassed when my husband's co-workers asked what I did, defensive when the town census listed me as a homemaker, afraid of the gaping hole in my résumé.
Though I loved my children beyond all else and never questioned that my being home was best for them, I wondered if it was failing me. It wasn't until my children were a bit older and I felt capable of working part-time from home that I realized what a valuable asset motherhood was to any career. So I listed it on my résumé.
When I applied to a prominent newspaper for a part-time reporting job, the editor interviewing me lingered over the item of "mother." She told me she had never seen it on anyone's résumé. She asked if I thought I could really do it, meet deadlines and care for three young children at the same time.
I remember laughing and then telling her my days as a mother were filled with deadlines that demanded to be met: meals, diaper changes, school buses, doctor's appointments, billing cycles, and - most important - bedtime. I explained that all of these responsibilities, and more, required me to be the consummate multitasker, diplomat, and manager. I couldn't afford to waste a moment in my regimented schedule. So, yes, I could understand the importance of the newspaper's deadlines. I got the job and a couple of years later that same editor left the job she loved for one she loved better, as stay-at-home mother to her son.
According to a US Census study released in June 2003, nearly 11 million mothers are home raising children. When these women reenter the paying workforce, I expect the trend will be for them to include motherhood as a résumé line.
Ann Crittenden agrees. In her 2001 book, "The Price of Motherhood," the former New York Times Pulitzer nominee and then stay-at-home mother wrote, "Raising children may be the most important job in the world, but you can't put it on a résumé."
But in just a few short years, Ms. Crittenden has sensed a transformation on that line of thinking among women who are resuming their professional careers.
Now, she said in an interview, she recommends women consider the state of the job market and whether the field to which they are applying is hard-line masculine or one that's more creative before discounting motherhood as a résumé line.
In her new book due out next fall, "If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything," Crittenden said she devotes an entire chapter to the idea of including the job title of Stay-at-Home Mother.
"My thinking is it's totally a credential," said Crittenden. "There are innumerable transferable skills. I sense it's not quite acceptable yet, but I also sense a change coming."
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright also agrees. In an interview in the March/April 2003 edition of Mothering Magazine, Secretary Albright, a former stay-at-home parent to three girls, suggested mothers include volunteer work on their résumés. "There ought to be some kind of a volunteer rating system so, for example, if you are a member of the school board, it is rated as a 3, and if you are chair of the school board it is a 10." In the interview, Secretary Albright went on to say she would list motherhood on her own résumé.
It's an amazing prospect to consider listing motherhood alongside such notable professions as ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of State.
But if one contemplates the rigors, the dimensions, the value of motherhood to our society as a whole, perhaps it isn't that remarkable after all.
• P. Amy MacKinnon, a former congressional aide, is working on her first book.