Moms solve quandaries of returning to the workforce
Employment gaps are often thought of as resume kryptonite, but when a mother has been home caring for kids for an extended amount of time, should she fill that gap with PTA meetings, volunteer hours spent at church and skills as homeroom mom?
The short answer: absolutely.
“Moms are not fiddling thumbs, they are managing households,” said Sarah Espinosa, director at large for membership for the Oklahoma City Human Resources Society. “The biggest feedback I give is to address those gaps on the resume.”
Mothers reentering the workforce should take a proactive approach by listing duties and involvement within the community. Espinosa adds any ability to stay involved in their industry or field while at home should be noted. Attending monthly association events, reading articles and keeping skill sets fresh are valid resume gap fillers.
“That definitely helps give leverage to individuals who stay involved,” said Espinosa, who works in staffing.
Edmond mom Kim Bilger was nervous about how future employers would view her year at home with her children, especially since she herself looked at resume gaps differently before becoming
“I remember thinking ‘Man, that is a big gap’ [on others’ resumes], but as a mom now, I have more empathy,” said Bilger, a mom of three.
After a year as a stay-at-home mom, Bilger has worked part time for the past seven years. The gap in work was not Bilger’s only worry when she decided to return to the workforce.
“I thought ‘Do, I still remember things? Is it still applicable to this job,’” questioned Bilger, a registered dietician who consults for a long-term care organization.
Normanite Jenni Shuman said tutoring on the side during her years staying home with her six kids helped her keep on top of her skills and prepare to get back in the classroom.
“That definitely helped me stay fresh and have an idea of what kids are doing in the classroom,” said Shuman, a math teacher.
Shuman was less concerned about her 13-year resume gap than balancing her new work schedule with home responsibilities.
“I’m a little nervous about dropping the ball,” said Shuman, who returned to work this fall.
Norman mom Jade Arellano, who recently returned to full-time work after staying home or working part time for the last 10 years, said in the past she worked in bits and pieces. She’s now trying to get used to having a set schedule.
“For me, it’s about time management, sitting down and prioritizing,” said Arellano, a business owner and certified nutrition specialist. “That’s a big change for me.”
Arellano remained involved in her field and continued to learn while she stayed home. The mother of two said when it comes to resume gaps, she advises moms to remember the value of the work they did while staying home with their children.
“Even though you see gaps, it’s very likely there are things you’ve done that are marketable,” Arellano said.
Securing childcare is another important factor families maneuver when moms go back to work. Shuman, who teaches high school math to homeschoolers, is grateful the church where she works offers a Mother’s Day Out program onsite for her youngest child. Childcare costs were among the many things she considered when deciding whether to return to work.
“Childcare costs can eat up an income,” Shuman said.
Bilger agreed juggling childcare can be the biggest struggle of going back to work. She has used three different Mother’s Day Out programs and seven babysitters over the years.
“It has worked out, but not without some crowdsourcing,” Bilger said.
Espinosa advocates discussing daycare benefits and vacation days with employers. Lyndi Zavy, a mother of two and a former human resources director, says women shouldn’t be afraid to negotiate both salary and non-salary benefits.
“A closed mouth never gets fed,” Zavy said. “The worst they can do is say ‘no.’”
When it comes to securing and preparing for interviews, potential employees whose thorough research of the company shows in well-written cover letters and specific interview questions needn’t be concerned about those work gaps.
“When you show you speak the language of the organization and you’ve done your research, that goes far,” said Zavy.
Jenna Worthen, who owns her own strategy company, adds requesting a robust job description and asking what success in a position looks like in six months to a year display a candidate’s earnestness. Above all, Worthen says mothers reentering the workforce should apply with confidence.
“Don’t let that gap be a hindrance and make you feel unqualified,” Worthen said. “Great employees are hard to find and a great employer is going to fight for you. Moms have value.”
Editor’s note: This article is the second of a two-part series examining career questions and challenges women often consider after becoming moms. ReRe Lunsford is a Norman mom of two boys and an adjunct journalism professor at The University of Oklahoma.