What Your Mother Really Wants For Mother's Day: A Job

Lee Rose Emery

In honour of Mother’s Day, once again, Salary.com, publishes the mum’s Salary Calculator, which estimates the number of hours a week an average Stay at Home mum works (for her family) and what she is “worth” were she to do all the “jobs” she does daily by just being mum.

This year’s earnings for a Stay at Home mum would be $113,000.

What is supposed to make Stay at Home mums feel validated for all their hard work in reality serves as a cruel reminder of how much mums are still not valued in the work force or at home. Regardless of a positive April jobs report, many of these Stay at Home mums, who left high paying jobs for a child rearing hiatus will never earn much again, when and if they are able to return to the workforce at all.  

Katrina, mother of two (preferred not to have her last name published) was a former hedge fund auditor. She left her career to be at home with her two children. When she wanted to go back to work, she had no idea how difficult it would be.

She had a three-year, “mummy Gap” in her resume. It took two years to find a job. She also found she was no longer a viable candidate for re-entry at her former job level. Even as she reached out to recruiters they told her the gap was a problem. “They told me no way was I going to make what I used to make.” Katrina recently found a bookkeeping job on Craigslist that she “had to take out of desperation. It’s way below what I wanted and used to make.”

She is making 60% less than she did before she left her career, but her new job offers some flexibility, which her former auditing job did not.

I asked her what she thought about all the buzz around Sandberg’s theory of “Leaning In” to our careers, Katrina told me she had “Leaned in.” She pushed and reached quite a high level before she opted out.

Kirstin Gaddis, MBA, and a senior marketing manager, took 10 years off to raise her kids. She recently accepted a full time junior position at Ebay, She took a significant pay cut compared to what she was making 10 years ago. Yet, as her kids are older, 8 and 10, she was eager to get back in. “I knew that if I waited to accept a job that I was qualified for, I would be waiting a very long time.” Instead, in her job search, she looked to good companies, where she would be able to do something interesting and eventually be able to rise up the ranks.

Paulette Light is also an MBA too, and a mother of four. Pre-kids she worked as a management consultant.Paulette wrote an eloquent response on Sandberg’s website about being part of the 43% statistic of high achieving women who leave the workforce and never come back. Her essay was re-published on The Atlantic.

She told me her former career didn’t translate to Motherhood. “My old company tried so hard to have me stay. It just wasn’t feasible for them to have me work 30 hours a week (when she wanted to cut back) and everyone else work 100.” She added, “It’s not that it is a conspiracy against mums. It’s harder to be competitive.” Paulette wound up founding her own social media business, which offers business referrals to friends, many of them mums.

Starting your own business is a great solution for mums that want to re-enter the workforce on their own terms and at a high level. But not every mum who wants to go back to work is an MBA with skills to start her own company. Is there no other way to work within the corporate structure?

Allison Kelly, founder of mum Corps had a background in the corporate world, too. She found it difficult to balance career and family. She also knew a great deal of “amazingly talented women that companies would love to have access to.” Thus, her business was born. 

mum Corps is an employment agency specializing in providing flexible employment for mums. What advice does she give mums who want to re-enter the workforce? She tells them “not to make excuses.” She recommends a positive attitude: “I was at home, I took time off, but now I am excited and ready to get back to work.” Yet, Allison did admit that the longer you are away from the workplace the harder it is to get back in. “Two to three years is easy to explain. If it is longer than that, women should make a good effort to take classes, do internships, volunteer.”

When I asked how companies respond to the idea of flexible work? “Smaller companies tend to be more open to it.  Larger companies seem to be moving in the direction of experimenting with flexible work options, the message being, “We are trying to get there.”

Michael Abelson, a partner at the Los Angeles law firm, Ableson/Herron LLP, was encouraging. He told me, “We love hiring mums.” When he and his partner opened their own firm they had came from a larger firm where they saw a significant pool of talent, specifically mums, be forced to “bow out of the big firm talent pool.” Women in his firm are “from the best law schools, are extremely talented, and all they ask is some modicum of flexibility.” He does not require his lawyers to be in the office on any given day. “They use their own judgment,” he said. “We hire these people for their judgment, so they do their work when they need to do it, and they are able to manage their responsibilities at home…These women are professionals who care about their jobs.” Ableson is surprised that more companies have not caught on. He went on to say, “To think that a company would waste such talent by not offering support or flexibility blows my mind.”

In honour of Mother’s Day this year, instead of flowers or chocolates or a chart highlighting her “fictitious” wages, how about giving a mum a job? A real one, that pays her well and gives her a true sense of what she’s actually worth.

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