Anyone who’s ever spent an extended amount of time caring for children knows that it is far from easy.
Stay-at home-parents juggle myriad roles: from kids’ entertainer, executive chef and household janitor, to head teacher, senior diplomat and financial manager, the skills involved in being a fulltime parent are both challenging and varied.
And yet the perception persists that maternity leave or taking time out to raise a family is somehow a ‘holiday’ – or at the very least dead time in terms of career progression.
Well not any more. At the end of March this year business networking website LinkedIn introduced the roles ‘Stay-at-home mum’, ‘Stay-at-home dad’ and ‘Stay-at-home parent’ as official job titles for candidates to use on their profiles.
“LinkedIn believes that by using the new Stay-at-Home Parent job title, candidates will be able to send the message to employers to destigmatise career gaps,” says Najat Abdalhadi, Head of Corporate Communications, LinkedIn MENA. “This becomes particularly relevant now given the devastating impact the pandemic has had on so many workers. LinkedIn hopes the new titles will bring in more awareness and empathy around career gaps.”
The impact of the pandemic
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has caused huge upheaval in the job market all round. But it’s women who have been hit hardest.
Women’s roles are more vulnerable and prone to economic shocks and business disruption than men’s, according to data from LinkedIn, and this labour market vulnerability has set back progress made toward gender equality in the workplace.
More than 2.5 million women left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, many voluntarily, due to a sudden lack of childcare or to manage virtual learning for their children
– Najat Abdalhadi, Head of Corporate Communications, LinkedIn MENA
The share of women being hired fell sharply in March and April 2020, before recovering to pre-pandemic levels, according to LinkedIn research. But while the hiring outlook for women is better now than in Spring 2020, analysis shows there is an urgent need to make up the lost ground caused by the pandemic.
“More than 2.5 million women left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, many voluntarily, due to a sudden lack of childcare or to manage virtual learning for their children,” says Abdalhadi.
The current improvement in the rate at which women are being hired doesn’t offset the number of women that have been disproportionately affected by job losses, with many leaving the labour market altogether. In addition to a sharp drop in women’s hiring during the initial COVID-19 wave, the pace of women’s hiring slowed slightly in subsequent COVID-19 waves. And in most markets around the world, women are still hired at a lower rate than men.
A silver lining
But there is one interesting way in which the consequences of the pandemic have been more positive, and that is in the perception of what it means to be a stay-at-home parent.
With everyone forced to stay at home for so long, those business professionals and hiring managers who might usually spend only limited time around their children suddenly saw the world of stay-at-home parenting in a whole new light. “Raising a family is no easy feat!” says Louise Karim, Managing Director of UAE-based recruitment website [email protected] (www.womenatwork.ae). “Being a stay-at-home parent takes many skills and is a very demanding role, yet it is often seen as not a ‘real job’ due to the lack of salary. Following the pandemic I think people became a lot more aware of how hard being a stay at home parent is. I hope it has made business leaders realise that being a stay-at-home parent doesn’t mean you are redundant from your previous career.”
Following the pandemic I think people became a lot more aware of how hard being a stay at home parent is
– Louise Karim, Managing Director of recruitment website [email protected]
“I definitely see a change in perspective,” agrees Dubai-based full-time mum Faiza Ali. “People now realize that being a SAHM doesn’t entail sitting on the couch watching TV.”
Being at home all day, every day, with limited adult interactions while being caught up in mundane households tasks can get to anyone, says Faiza. “We all saw that during lockdown, when folks who were not used to be constantly at home taking care of family and household tasks were having the hardest time. There were memes being shared all the time that would refer to never taking a SAHM for granted, and I’m happy to see we’re all more valued more today.”
Why it’s important to recognise Stay-at-home parents
For UAE-based Pakistani-American mum Faiza Ali, the introduction of ‘Stay-at-home Parent’ as an official job title is a relief and a welcome move. “I’m glad that change has come because it’s hard to explain a gaping hole in your career trajectory, otherwise,” she says.
Many career-focused women end up having kids closer together so they their ‘break’ from the corporate world isn’t too long, points out Faiza. “For a mum such as myself who decided to have kids with a wider age difference, the gap on my resume is now at 8 years long! It’s going to be hard to explain this when I’m ready to head back to the full-time work force, but the new LinkedIn update gives credibility to the years I’ve devoted to my current ‘job’.”
With a background in marketing and advertising, Faiza has taken to mum-blogging in her spare time, and now has a thriving Instagram account (@faizaali), where she often does collaborations with brands relevant to family life.
Just as a working mum doesn’t want to hear ‘but don’t your kids miss you?’, a SAHM doesn’t want to hear her mental and emotional capabilities being doubted because she chose to stay home
– Faiza Ali, full-time mum and mummy blogger
However, her decision to leave the corporate world for the domestic realm has been subject to criticism, even from those close to her: “I once had a friend, who was between jobs, say ‘I feel like my brain is turning to mush staying at home!’ I will always remember how I felt in that moment.
“Does the decision to be present at home with my children mean I don’t have the ‘brain power’ to function in a corporate environment? Of course not! Just the way a working mum doesn’t want to hear ‘but don’t your kids miss you?’, a SAHM doesn’t want to hear her mental and emotional capabilities being doubted because she chose to stay home.”
WHY WOMEN’S JOBS HAVE BEEN MOST AFFECTED BY THE PANDEMIC
• Women tend to take on a larger share of caregiving responsibilities in the home, which continues to be disrupted by school and other closures.
• Women were more adversely impacted by labour market disruptions to the retail, travel, and leisure industries which employ a relatively greater share of women.
• Women’s jobs tend to involve more in-person contact and are less likely to be remote-ready.
Step in the right direction
In June LinkedIn had 8.5K people globally listing the stay-at-home parent position, a number that is rising every day.
By choosing the title to explain a gap in a professional career trajectory, candidates should know that they are communicating to possible employers that they have a whole set of useful, transferable skills, says [email protected]’s Louise Karim. “Forward thinking employers will see a period of time being a stay-at-home parent as a positive element on a CV. Not only do you learn many skills being a parent, but companies need diversity and should hire from all different career backgrounds. Companies that embrace diversity and become inclusive are proven time and time again to be more innovative and successful.”
Mothers (and fathers) who shoulder a large proportion of the childcare responsibilities are often the most efficient employees in a company, says Karim. “There is a saying: ‘Ask a busy person to get something done and it gets done’. This is very true of parents, since they learn to multitask, prioritise and are generally very efficient!”
Taking a career break to raise a family should not result in your career being halted, says Karim: “I urge businesses to rethink hiring strategies to welcome back stay an home parents as there is so much talent being overlooked as people aren’t seeing past the CV gap. Also businesses should embrace more part-time and flexible working options as managing family life and career can be very tough, yet there is so much amazing talent simply going to waste as people are supporting parents in the workforce.”
It’s about time stay-at-home parents got the respect they deserve, agrees Faiza Ali. “When a parent decides to stay at home, they are well aware of the opportunities of earning and professional development they’re forgoing. We go ahead anyways because we feel like we are providing more value at home by raising our little children and also, supporting our spouse while they work to provide for all of us. It IS a full time job that has no sick days, no over time, and no defined hours of work. You’ve also got to put on various hats in a day; an educator, a care taker, a friend, a cook, a driver, someone who disciplines but also gives the best hugs and kisses. I know that I will bring a lot more to the table whenever I head back to the workforce.”
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