I recently returned to work, after an eight-year career break as a full-time mum. Let's start right there. I've never called it a career-break before. It was always that "I decided to stay at home to look after my three children". In reality, I returned to work after baby number one and baby number two, but when number three came along, it was impossible to return to work and truly, my heart was with my children.
In staying at home, I was able to provide my family with the security and nourishment it needed. My husband was able to focus on work, while I provided for the children. We called me CEO of the house and we meant it: without my eyes and ears fully on the home, we simply would not have functioned.
Despite that, the transition from full-time mum to working mum was harder than I had expected it to be, because the career-break I took was typically seen as a "gap" in my experience and not an enhancement of my capabilities. Thankfully, I found a company that valued a returner and because of them, my confidence (which was momentarily knocked in recruitment interviews that focused on a "lack of experience") has once again been bolstered.
Knowing how hard it is to "return", I thought it would be helpful to remind other returners that the skills they have developed while being at home can be reasons for re-employment, whatever they may be.
Here's my list of the skills that I honed while being a full-time mum, and the skills which now make me a good employee:
I had three children; three and under. There is nothing you can tell me about having get up and go, no matter how hard the circumstances. Apply that to an average business day: 300 emails, two meetings and a presentation to write. Sure. Will be done before lunchtime.
2. Creative Problem-solving.
I have three words: World Book Day. Google it, if you need to, but one year I had to create Dobby, from Harry Potter, a Paddington Bear and a Gollum. Ever been up till midnight preparing a pitch for clients when the brief changed direction at 6pm?
Three children: three different schools. Need I say more? The same applies to work. Five people need to be at the same international meeting, but are all travelling from different places. Hotels, taxis and flights. Booked, paid for and checked in. Safe travels.
4. Keeping your cool.
Being a full-time parent is constantly challenging - there is very little let-up so if you don't develop some good coping mechanisms, you won't maintain control. If you can keep your cool at work, you are trustworthy, respected and a safe pair of hands. Who doesn't want to employ someone that can be relied on to behave professionally at all times?
All families with one parent at home face financial challenges. Being able to work out the priorities is paramount to good business practice. Not just on what you are spending, but what you are making too.
6. Being authoritative.
If I had not been able to discipline, there would have been mutiny. Speaking with authority at work, means that people know you are knowledgeable and have something to offer.
7. People management.
Anyone that has had to cajole a screaming toddler in the supermarket, will know that their persuasion and negotiation techniques have been tried and tested. Apply that to a member of staff with a problem, or a client or a supplier that needs to see your point of view.
8. Can-do attitude.
"Of course I can make a birthday cake that looks like Thomas the Tank Engine...". "Yes, of course I can have that presentation ready in 2 hours".
9. Determination to succeed.
Three hours sleep, the school run and a party after school. Tick. Actually, having that presentation complete in 2 hours. No problem.
Having the responsibility for another person's life, especially your own child's, is the most terrifying thing you will ever do. I always doubted what I could achieve. But as it turns out... a lot.
I hope this list is encouraging for both the returner and the employer. For the returner, make your own list. You'll be surprised and reassured by what you can offer. And for the employee this should help you to see that good business skills are not only developed in the office.