Having Children Pushed Me Away From My Career, I Depend on My Spouse

  • It’s been over three years since I’ve had a full-time job. 
  • Being a stay-at-home parent was never my plan, and it’s the equivalent of having two and a half jobs. 
  • I’ve been trying to get a job, but the constant rejection is getting to me. 

“What do you like about yourself?”A simple question that I just couldn’t answer.

I was on my second round of interviews for what seemed like the perfect job after my almost four-year hiatus from the workforce largely brought on by motherhood. I found myself stammering and spouting filler words, unable to muster anything from my prepared talking points. Though I made it to the final round of interviews, I wasn’t hired. 

Raising two little boys during a pandemic, an interstate move, and an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis for my oldest, hasn’t afforded me much time for self-reflection. I’ve been turned down plenty of times since starting my job search, but getting rejected after making it so far for this seemingly ideal role was a crushing blow given all the setbacks I’ve already faced in my career. 

I didn’t plan to be a stay at home parent

I became a stay-at-home mom by accident in the fall of 2018. I was a web producer for a true crime series that was canceled shortly before the birth of my son, so there was no job to return to after maternity leave.

Before working in TV, I had a fulfilling career in online news writing. Some people called my job loss a “blessing in disguise,” but the isolation, repetitive days, and lack of intellectual stimulation made me feel like all the work I’d done prior to starting a family had been for nothing, and that my professional identity would never recover. 

I eventually hired a babysitter and started picking up freelance gigs. Just as I was cultivating a new body of work and feeling like I’d stabilized my career, the pandemic hit and I was pregnant with my second son. I put writing on hold to ride out the first year of the pandemic and then to plan our move from California to Oregon. 

Meanwhile, my resume went stale and even those willing to take a chance on me might not be willing to pay what I made four years ago, when I’d been a working professional for the better part of a decade.

Being a full-time parent is work

Just because I don’t receive a salary doesn’t mean I’m not working, though. Stay-at-home moms shoulder a tremendous workload, juggling the equivalent of two and a half full-time jobs, according to a study from 2018.

The unpaid labor — cleaning, meal planning, managing appointments, laundry — is often undervalued by outsiders, further eroding my confidence while drowning in to-do list items. 

Erin Hatton, an associate professor at the University of Buffalo’s Department of Sociology who researches various labor inequalities, wrote in an email to Insider that because society devalues these sort of household contributions, full-time parents may feel “frustrated and even stigmatized, since they’re seen as not really working in a culture that prioritizes work.”

One reason not to ask a stay-at-home parent what they do all day.

With sky-high childcare costs, partially driven by the years-long shortage, sending children to daycare before securing a job isn’t an option for most moms in the same situation as me. Not all jobs pay enough to justify childcare, either. 

“For so many women, the costs of childcare exceed or barely equal their wages, so they decide to exit the labor force,” Hatton said. “Maybe they try to make money on the side somehow as they work full time in the home, leaving them overburdened and underemployed.” 

When asked what I liked about myself in my failed job interview, there was a single nugget of coherence in my bumbling answer: “Moms are marathoners, dads are sprinters. I’m a marathoner, and I believe slow and steady wins the race.”

I must have known in my heart that I wouldn’t be getting the job, but I’ll rehabilitate my work life again. I just need a little more time.