The pressure is mounting on mothers who are on maternity leave. The constant reminder that the longer they are out of the workforce, the more disadvantages they will face upon their return, is daunting. As a consequence, many new mothers spend their time on professional development during maternity leave, whether it’s an education of some kind, remote work, or freelancing, so they can show a potential employer that they have in fact kept their brain from slacking off. Instead of spending quality time with their baby.
I want to make the case that parental leave could be added to their resume, and argue that the vast set of skills women/men acquire simply by becoming parents is equivalent, if not greater, to another regular job.
Being able to multitask is considered necessary when applying for almost any job. It’s assumed that applicants have sufficient experience, mostly from schoolwork and previous work experience.
But multitasking gets to a whole other level with kids. The importance of prioritization in every single part of daily life is self-consuming. Constant evaluation which need is the most pressing at the moment gets your brain tired by 8 am. And even when the kids are not around, there is never enough time to do all of the accumulated chores, so multitasking continues out of force of habit.
I have worked jobs that were often time-sensitive and required excellent multitasking skills. However, comparing it with parenting would underestimate the daily challenges that parents face. Additionally, at work people can take a break. If they are completely and utterly burned out, a quick pause to catch their breath lets them recover a bit. But not with our kids.
Many employers value employees who are observant and appropriately adapt to changing environments, cultures, and situations without advance notice. Parents practice these skills every single day, and especially in the first few months after birth, before any kind of routine is established.
As a parent, you just NEVER know what the day will bring. It might be a super easy time spent in a great mood. Or the opposite. Therefore, you can never prepare for it in advance, and just improvise as conditions arise.
Parents are the best negotiators and problem-solvers of all people. There is a constant need for their guidance, advice, and ability to fix often unfixable things. All the while they deal with human beings, whose brains are not yet fully developed, and who don’t understand the concept of “impossible.”
However, I have realized that we adults jump to the conclusion of “impossible” too fast. My son has taught me that almost everything is possible with a great load of creativity. The need for my creativity, and the daily use of it, has never been more pressing than when dealing with a toddler who does not speak. Which brings us to the next point.
While spending time with children that don’t yet speak, parents train their non-verbal communication skills like never before. Constant guessing what the babies need and want, proceeding with what they think it is, only to find out they were wrong, and start again, gets the brain working at full capacity.
For children who do speak, parents master the art of finding a way of saying things, which is appropriate to children’s age and understanding, while being gentle about the tone, so they don’t make a wrong move, which could jeopardize the whole process of trying to get the kids do something.
Not only do parents train their mental skills, but their physical abilities are constantly tested in (at least) two ways.
Firstly, their body changes into an octopus-like creature. Being able to carry a baby and their toy in one hand, whilst pushing a stroller and holding a leash with a dog in the other hand is just one example of my daily walks. Or brushing teeth, whilst breastfeeding and playing fetch with a dog. It feels like the moment we open our eyes in the morning (if we are lucky to sleep so long), we grow extra limbs.
Secondly, I often think that the reactions and reflexes that develop so we can keep the baby safe around the house would make us champions in multiple sports. Walking one way, whilst catching something breakable falling down in the other direction, whilst not slipping on the thousand toys on the floor, and protecting the dog from a big toy tractor aimed at his head at the same time. And the lighting speed!
To me, these are all very new discoveries of my bodily capabilities.
Functioning under unimaginable exhaustion
Being able to do all of the above while constantly sleep deprived is also worth mentioning. There are no sick days, no holidays for recovery, no quick shut-eye at the desk or on the commute to work, and no guarantee of a good-night sleep.
And parents still do their best, under any conditions.
“There’s no tired like Mom-tired.” — Anonymous
On a final note
By writing this, I am in no way underestimating the challenges and hardships of other regular jobs. However, demands and successes from other jobs are rightly displayed on our resumes in hopes of climbing the career ladder, and (hopefully) reflected in our salaries. I am merely trying to bring attention to a time, when our careers are assumably put on hold, and to argue that skills acquired during this time should help, instead of hinder, our careers.
All these skills are transferable and should certainly be added to the resume where the gap of parental leave usually is. Because the parental leave (and dare I say parenthood in general) is not the absence of skill acquisition, nor a vacation full of sleep, walks in the park, and cuddles. It is an educational path, and parents should not be punished for taking on these new responsibilities and be disadvantaged in the labor market afterwards.
Sending power and strength to all the parents!
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