It’s been nearly six years since I had my first baby. And while I admit I’ve forgotten about many of the things that occurred during those first sleep-deprived months, there’s one thing I remember like it was yesterday: My inner turmoil about whether to go back to my full-time job.
On the one hand, the anxiety about leaving my tiny little baby in someone else’s care seemed like too much to bear. What if they couldn’t get her down for a nap? What if she cried for hours and I wasn’t there to comfort her? The very thought of that ripped my heart into a thousand pieces.
On the other hand, my career was important to me. I had never really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and I feared that taking time off I’d lose important experience and knowledge.
Plus, there’s the whole gender wage gap thing. No matter where you stand on the subject politically, most people agree that one of the biggest contributing factors was that women were more likely to take time off from work to care for small children, sacrificing the opportunity for pay increases and valuable experience. All too often when women are ready to get back to the daily grind of a full-time job, they accept far smaller salaries than they deserve and start right back at the bottom of the ladder. Did I really want to be a statistic? I did not.
Luckily, I had enough freelance writing work to float us financially for a while. So I decided to follow my heart, take advantage of the fact that my husband’s job had good family benefits, and I wrote my resignation. I’d be a work-from-home mom for a while. I wouldn’t have a gap on my resume. I could have both the baby cuddles AND a successful career.
Fast forward to today, and I still work from home, only now I juggle the demands of two small children. It’s harder than I ever imagined it would be. But I can’t imagine it any other way.
When I look back on that debate I had nearly six years ago, I’m a little sad, though. Because here’s the thing: I have acquired SO MANY more skills and SO MUCH MORE valuable experience being at home with my kids than I ever would have by making sales calls in a cubicle for the last six years. And you know what? Those skills are going to make me infinitely more valuable to anybody I decide I want to work for full-time in the future.
Here are a few of the job skills I’ve learned from being at home with my kids:
People management skills. Before I had kids, I managed college interns at one of my jobs. I hired them, trained them, listened to their grievances, and helped them accomplish tasks as they learned about being a part of the workforce. Managing young adults is not easy. It is NOTHING compared to managing a three-year-old. I wish all managers in the workforce had to spend some time learning how to motivate, lead by example, and create a few sticker charts for toddlers. Seriously.
Plus, learning how to be self-aware and read other people’s emotions is key to working with people. As a parent, I understand that most meltdowns are very often a result of a need that hasn’t been met–hunger, sleepiness, more acknowledgement or attention. If only everyone who is a manager in the workforce understood just how much more productive their employees would be if they started doling out the appreciation (and the snacks), office life would be SO much better for everyone. I got a crash course in all of that the second I became a parent, and I’m confident that understanding will make me a much better manager one day.
Negotiating skills. “Pick up your toys. Eat your peas. Do you need to go potty? Let’s put on your shoes.” “NOOOOOO. I do it my SELF!” To be a master negotiator, you’ve got to understand what motivates the other person and come up with a compromise that makes everyone a little happier. No one understands this better than someone who spends all day, everyday, with a toddler. If a company were to make an effort to hire more working moms and dads, I guarantee they’d have a leg up on the competition.
Time management, prioritization, and efficiency. I read somewhere that the average person who works eight hours a day only does roughly 3 hours of work during that time. The rest of the time, they’re scrolling through their Facebook feed, or talking about their weekend at the water cooler. I’m not judging. I used to do those things, too. (Sorry!) Now that I’m a mom who tries to juggle both work and mom demands simultaneously, I know that if I only have twenty minutes to, say, write a blog post before my little one wakes up and demands her 8th snack of the day. I’ll get it done in twenty minutes. Moms who stay home or work from home get things done–and we get them done fast. We tackle the most important things first–deadlines and cuddling first, then showers and dishes if there’s time. There’s no other option. That realization that things can be done faster means that we’ll be way more productive than your average worker.
Extreme innovation. How on earth do you get it all done? People ask working moms this all the time. But those of us who stay home with their kids, well, I would argue that we have to be even more creative and innovative when it comes to getting our work done–whether it’s writing articles, building an essential oils selling team, or staying on top of the laundry and dishes. Don’t believe me. My one-year-old is at a stage where she’s into everything and has a total meltdown if I try to strap her into a seat. I’d NEVER get a shower if I didn’t figure out that she’ll splash around happily in the tub while I bathe myself. I’m positive that this type of innovative thinking would help workers find a way to stretch tight budgets, make human resources issues work, and increase revenue for businesses that recognize it as the incredibly valuable skill it is.
Extreme budgeting. As long as we’re on the subject of budgeting, let’s not forget that families who live on one income (or one and a half as is often the case) are pretty resourceful when it comes to making their dollars go further, too. They understand the little touches like fast, friendly customer service is so important as people decide to spend their money at one store or service over another. That understanding will make them better and more successful employees.
Of course, this isn’t to say that parents who work outside of the home don’t acquire these skills, too. I’m sure that they do.
All I’m saying here is that both choices are valid and can be a catalyst for incredible personal and professional growth. The idea that one is less valuable to employers than the other is ludicrous and something that I hope to see change within the course of my lifetime. I think that many things need to change in order to see that gender wage gap close, but I hope more moms will leverage the many skills they picked up in their role as mom-in-chief when they decide to jump back into the workforce–whenever that may be.