I'm not working right now. Well, I am, but I'm not in formal, paid employment. I'm a stay at home parent. I get paid in tantrums, bodily fluids smeared on my legs, and lovingly prepared dinners being tossed on the floor. It's a dubious honour this parenting lark, more so when - like so many other parents - it is not financially viable for my husband and I to both work, and to then pay out for childcare. Not for the moment anyway, and that is the reality for so many other pro-creators. We just can't have it all. So, I get to stay at home raising the cubs, and pondering how to justify this career break on my CV ready for when I do inevitably go back into the workforce.
But just how do parents explain a short spell of baby-making and toddler-rearing without potential future employers simply writing us off as either out of the game, or that we'll just be incredibly needy employee's demanding the working world revolve around our sproglets? All in all...are we more hassle than we're worth? In a word, no. Anna Whitehouse of Mother Pukka is doing GREAT things leading on a change in approaches to flexible working in the UK (for everyone, not just parents), but what about getting a job in the first place? Does having a kid or two make us instantly less skilled and employable? Again, no! You see, for the many professional skills that parenting doesn't require, there are just as many that it does - sort of - I don't suppose I'll actually add any of them to my CV or LinkedIn, but if I did...
1. My time management skills are off the scale. You would be amazed what this ninja parent can get done during the three year old's power nap. I'm talking practical duties (cleaning, tidying, loads of washing, spot of ironing, online supermarket shop etc) as well as the less practical (skimming an inbox full of emails and responding to anything urgent, flicking through a magazine, necking a tepid cuppa from earlier in the day etc). All of the above can be ticked off the to-do list in less than an hour, so eight hours to cram work in should be fairly productive.
2. I can pee in super quick time and in front of an audience. Whilst this is unlikely to become a turning point in my career, one hopes anyway, future employers can rest easy knowing that I won't be found loitering around in the toilets wasting time over idle gossip. I'm in and out within moments. If that's not a reason to employ me, I don't know what is. (Having said that, the thought of peeing in peace is quite a novelty, so maybe allow me one luxury loo break every once in a while).
3. No matter the disaster, I can avert it with diplomacy skills to rival the best of the UN peacemakers. Is calming two irate children part of the interview process to join any sort of customer facing job? It should be. I'm chief of peace talks, negotiator to the most tense tiny-human situations, and top pinky promise maker. I'm an unflappable force with a new found ability to empathise with even the most ridiculous of demands.
4. Keeping children alive requires another level of patience. It kind of links in with the negotiator skill, but basically I will let the less-informed half of the conversation make their point in the most illogical, irrational way, and then I will smile, take a deep breath, and move on. De rigeur for any office environment.
5. When you can make a little boy think that eating all the yucky green stinky pea's on his plate in the quickest time possible makes him a winner, you have acquired powers of manipulation known only to parents. Whilst this particular skill can be dangerous if not used correctly, when used in a responsible manner it hands you all the power. I'm not suggesting I'm a superhero (beyond the eyes of my five year old anyway), but I am saying those with the acquired skills can be helpfully persuasive in any situation not just pea related one's.
6. I'm not fussy. I won't be that awkward person in the office who only drinks tea that has been harvested by pixies in the light of a full moon on the second Tuesday of every fourth month, and can only possibly drink it out of my special mug when it's at the perfect (yet vague) temperature. If someone makes me a drink I thank them several times, thank all the gods for their very existence, and drink every drop. With gusto. If office tea etiquette is a measure of how easy someone is to work with, I would be so damn popular. Weirdly though, no one ever checks how easy going you are via a hot beverage. When you think about it, this would be quite a good personality evaluation (and much cheaper than those questionnaires).
7. I can make good any spill/stain/mark in minimal time with minimal tools available. In fact, I only really require a pack of baby wipes. I can give an entire apartment a once over with a handful of baby wipes, and freshen dry clean only suits and silk ties with my parenting secret weapon. Yes, you guessed it, baby wipes again. So whilst this isn't a skill required for most office based jobs (apart from the cleaner, obviously), it would make me a handy person to have around when that junk food lunch took a diversion en route and is now unceremoniously splattered down your front.
8. I am the queen of creativity. Two young kids, one small space, several days of rain, no escape. I can build cushion forts that could feature on Grand Designs, I can create rockets from toilet rolls that are so complex in design NASA really needs to give me a call on how to bring their costs down, I am an unstoppable force for finding something from nothing. As that well known wise man, one LL Cool J, once said "When adversity strikes, that's when you have to be the most calm. Take a step back, stay strong, stay grounded and press on." Preach it Cool J, I'm listening.
9. Having survived the early years of parenthood, I've inadvertently welcomed almost every virus and bacterium into my home via my snot-filled, germ-infested pre-schoolers. There is barely a single snivel that I have not acquired immunity to over the last five years. That seasonal cold that's doing the rounds at work and causing mild hysteria about the aircon being the cause? I won't get it, or at least if I do start to show signs I'll fill myself up with Calpol (the full sugar stuff, of course) and get on with it. Because that's what parents have to do.
10. I'm a known quantity. As soon as January 1st comes around and the new years worth of holiday allowance is released, you can bet I'm submitting my preferred dates that tie in - unsurprisingly - with school holidays. I've already negotiated with Tina from Marketing, and Andy from Accounts, or whoever else, which half terms we're each getting this year. I won't be working myself into the ground all year to get to December and spring it on you that I've taken no annual leave yet so I'm having the rest of the year off. I'm predictable and reliable. I have mouths to feed and small people to clothe. When it all goes pear shaped at work, I'll stick with it. And I'll still be incredibly thankful that I have a job, the financial security that comes with it, and hot drinks on demand.