The recent media attention given to the Paycheck Fairness Act brought to light some important measures of how time spent raising children is valued by our society at large. No matter what you feel about the actual bill (it did not pass), one thing is certain. Women earn less than men for equal work, about 77 cents for each dollar earned in 2008.
Women earn about the same as men through their early 20s and then that percentage of pay drops until it levels out at around 65% from age 35 to retirement. These drops in wages happen in the prime child-rearing years.
Think about what employers don’t see when they look at a gap in a resume. Everyone who has stayed home with a child for any period of time, rather than having the requisite hole in their resume, should list Super Human as a job title for those years with the following managerial skills underneath:
- Ability to Multitask. Parents are always doing more than one thing at a time. Doing laundry, assisting with homework, dinner preparation, baking cupcakes for a school party, calling to arrange weekend play dates . . . the list is infinite. How many things can you do at once and do well? Probably a lot.
- Time Management. If there is more than one child in the family, this is a key skill. Activities in different locations often happen at the same time. Managing a family schedule, including that of the adults, is not easy.
- Crisis Management. When a child falls and is bleeding 5 minutes before the sitter comes or when you’re on your way to a soccer game, dance recital, music class, play date, interview, important meeting, or, yikes, all of the above, you can soothe a crying child and still arrive with grace.
- Communication Skills. Only you know that “peem” is ice cream and it didn’t take an expensive consultant to figure that out.
- Negotiation. Ever tried to talk a 2-year old into taking a bath when she’s screaming for “other kind of milk!!!” (translation—chocolate milk)? Careful negotiating is the way we get most things done around here. The boardroom hasn’t seen anything like the tricks you pick up each day.
- Meeting Deadlines. You can run every errand and make it to your playgroup all before naptime because missing that 1:00 lights out will ruin the evening for everyone.
- Successful Mediation. When one child wants something (usually adamantly) and the other wants it too (even more so), you regularly facilitate a mutually pleasing trade or negotiate some agreement to share it and everyone wins.
The list could go on and on. We shouldn’t sell ourselves short by thinking we’ve lost anything staying out of the professional work force for any amount of time. While women’s pay may not catch up anytime soon, be comfortable boasting about what you are can do, even if those skills were practiced on really short people. Your interviewer probably won’t throw oatmeal at you, kick your shins, or flail on the floor screaming. But, in that unlikely event, you’d have it covered.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (June 2010). Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009. http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpswom2009.pdf
United States Census Bureau. (2010) Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 2009. http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p60-238.pdf