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It isn’t easy getting back into the workplace after being a stay-at-home mom, but the skills you learn can stand you in good stead to take on the toughest of tasks.
By Kim Norwood-Young*
Almost exactly 10 years ago, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, despite being offered my dream job. One decade and two children later, my circumstances have — perhaps predictably — changed.
The cost of living, along with my boredom level, has increased, while my expendable income and ability to joyfully read kids storybooks have markedly decreased. Which roughly translates to me having less money, more mouths to feed, and zero fracks left to give about Hairy Mclairy or Peppa Pig.
So like millions of other South Africans (9.3 million unemployed but wanting to work in Q1 of 2017, to be exact), I have spent the last several months looking for a job. And it has sucked. I’d go so far as to say that it has been the worst knock to my self-esteem, and most uncomfortable thing that I’ve done, in ages. This from someone whose clothes are soaked in toddler pee on a semi-regular basis.
Don’t be fooled, people. No matter what The Good Wife would have you believe, you do not just slip back into the workforce after a decade of staying home. You don’t even force your way back into the work force like Trump at a NATO meeting. More like trying to battle your way out of the professional naughty corner, where you are being punished for having made The Wrong Choice.
The worst part is that getting employers to believe that I’m up to the challenge is only half the battle. The hardest part has been convincing myself that I can do it. Because instead of spending the last 10 years climbing the corporate ladder, I’ve been dealing with pregnancy porridge brain, sleep deprivation, and the mental slow-down that accompanies spending the bulk of my time with under ten year olds. Thankfully, I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Whenever I speak to women who have been stay-at-home moms for a considerable time, there is the sense that going back to work requires bravery. Either in being able to pivot, and use the opportunity to explore the passions and hobbies that were pushed aside in favour of building a career, or by really taking the time to recognise and celebrate your skills.
And boy, has being a stay-at-home mum given me skills! It has honed my problem solving abilities, made me more organised and better at multitasking, turned me into a time management wizard, and left me more adept at dealing with unimaginable situations. Really, I am purpose built for the workplace of 2017.
So in the interests of educating employers about the value that moms can offer, I’ve made a list of all the skills I’ve developed or honed in my ten years as a stay-home mum.
- Negotiation skills: I’ve spent the last decade convincing deeply unreasonable people (who literally cannot use their words) that eating vegetables really is a better idea than pouring them over your head. Plus, I’m pretty sure that my firstborn is going to be a corporate lawyer one day, because everything is a negotiation with this kid. “You want me to eat my vegetables? Well, how about you offer me an extra scoop of ice-cream and add chocolate sprinkles, and I eat half this carrot?”
- Resourcefulness: Just ask my kids about the time I used nothing but half a packet of wet wipes and a sippy cup to handle an in-car ice-cream and bathroom related emergency, and still managed to make it to ballet class on time. Mic drop!
- Team player: If you’re looking for someone willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the team, you’ve come to the right girl. I’m not kidding – I took my entire family on honeymoon with me because they were visiting from New Zealand. And that was before I had kids. Plus, I don’t even remember the last time I went to the toilet alone. I’m not saying we have to take it that far, but you should know that I can go the distance when it comes to teamwork.
- Staying on budget: I’ve fed, transported and clothed a single income family of four through a global financial crisis and a recession. I think that speaks for itself.
- Sense of humour: Employers may not have this on the top of their list, but being able to maintain a dark and wicked sense of humour is what really gets teams through that last minute proposal for the client from hell. That, and wine. Both of which are special skills of mine.
- Shortly before Brightrock published this post on 7 September 2017, Kim Norwood-Young accepted a job offer signalling the end of her occupation as a stay-at-home mom. She therefore is soon to be a member of the formal workforce once again. She looks forward to time alone in the car (you say traffic jam, she says downtime), and the opportunity to pee without someone asking her how many lions there are in Africa (roughly 200,000, in case you were wondering).
- This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.