I lost my job on my childcare leave. Don’t break out the pitchforks and torches just yet – I took off for two and a half years. I’m an educator in New York, and these kinds of leaves aren’t as uncommon as they would be in other fields or places. But somewhere between the births of my daughters, my replacement accrued more seniority than me. She was in; I was out.
I interviewed in quite a few different schools. The reactions to the gap on my resume varied from vaguely irritated to patronizing.
“And what did you do with all your time off?” one interviewer asked, her tone insinuating I was on a tropical vacation. I tried not to see the eye rolls and the smirks of the committee. I tried, again and again, to get them to take me seriously.
They should have. Parenthood made those buzzwords on my resume suddenly, magically, true…
1. Excellent Time Management Skills. Most people think they know how to multitask…and then, they have children. Nothing about my pre-baby juggling act quite compares to present day. There was the memorable evening I spent pumping, prepping family lunches, and mentally composing a letter of recommendation simultaneously. Juggling several office responsibilities seem like child’s play in comparison.
2. Team Player. After pumping, answering email, facilitating a college visit, mediating a crisis, and using the remaining .37 seconds of my lunch break to actually eat lunch, there is no time to participate in office gossip mill. I don’t care that Bob gave Barbara a hickey the size of an airplane at the Winter Holiday party. It won’t affect my ability to work with them – unless they’re doing the horizontal mambo in the pumping room and my boobs are leaking. Then, it’s on.
3. Life-long Learner. Those cliques from high school didn’t disappear. They grew up, had babies, and have reappeared on the neighborhood playground. Our kids don’t know any of our politics – they just spotted a comparably-sized person on the slide and decided they were friends. The Mommies needed to play nicely, too. I discovered that we have more in common than we might be willing to admit…especially that pesky, “desperately trying to be the best for my child” thing. It’s amazing what a 3 year-old can teach us.
4. Accountable. Working moms won’t call in with a hangover or because Macy’s is having a one-day sale. Ain’t nobody got time for that. And we don’t need the sick time for ourselves. My children have brought home everything from viral conjunctivitis (aka: The Eye Snot Illness) to Hand-Foot-Mouth disease. After constant attacks, Mommy immune systems are lean, mean, fighting machines. Moms will not frivolously squander vacation or sick time, and when we do take it, it’s used to care for other people.
5. Fast Learner. New parents have to learn as we go. We differentiate between a hungry cry, a tired cry, and an I-don’t-freaking-know-what’s-wrong-so-just-hold-me-for-hours cry. We need to attend to the constant needs of a small, entirely helpless, non-verbal human all without instructions. After that experience, moms can take on anything an employer throws at us. Figure out a new computer program? No problem. Computers come with manuals.
6. Demonstrated Record of Success. Convincing my four year-old that she should try a piece of chicken / not wipe her boogers on the couch / that it really is bedtime now should be considered an Olympic sport. Anyone that’s parented this brand of child has developed the negotiation skills of someone working in the Anti-Terror division of the CIA. Moms can smooth over any kind of workplace hiccup – and we keep a supply of Goldfish cracker bribes in our desks. Just in case.
My story did end happily. I was hired at a wonderful school by a principal, who, incidentally, was also the father of four. He said he was impressed with my accomplishments, then looked at me and grinned. He said he knew I was up for the challenge. I interpret that compliment as simply, “You’re a mom – you can handle this.”
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