Punishing Families?

In today’s society we are so focused on money and reputation that some cannot fathom why anyone would give up a career to become a stay at home parent. Then when the time comes 5 to 10 years down the line where they feel that their family no longer needs them to be a stay at home parent, many companies and jobs turn them away because of “no recent work experience”. There are some companies out there that do realize that raising a family is more than just being home. So we end up punishing families for putting their families first.

Let’s talk about the why’s of being a stay at home parent. Why do we give up careers and jobs that we may love? We love our children and family more. There is something in our guts (and our hearts) that is telling us that we NEED to be home for our children and families. There is something we need to do that no one else can do for them. Most of us feel that at that point, we will do whatever it takes to protect and provide for these children so they can grow up and be productive members of society, even if it means going bankrupt.

Sometimes the reason includes an illness or situation in our family that we need to focus on. In our case it was Autism. In many families I know, it is Autism. Getting your children to and from therapies and appointments can often lead to reprimands from a job, even with FMLA covering these absences. You have coworkers who don’t understand and resent you and the guilt machine sets in anytime you are away from them and when you are with them, the guilt machine about working sets in. There is a no win situation for many of us.

When we find our line in the sand and place of no return we often make a sacrifice and decide to care for them unconditionally and give up our paths. Knowing that our jobs won’t often be there when we are ready to return. We sometimes find ourselves in a wonder moment of “what if” or “where would my career path have led me if” but quickly quiet that emotionally charged thought process in favor of our children’s laughter. Knowing in our hearts, we did what we had to do.

We go about listening to doctors, therapists, behaviorists, school and our family. We are the banker, chauffer, cook, nurse, and often the maid as well. We are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in a job where our pay is laughter, love and memories. Sometimes it’s tinged with jealousy from listening to our friends talk about the latest gadget or whatnot that we know just isn’t close to be in the budget, or a night out which is impossible because respite care is so hard to come by. Sometimes we miss adult interactions that don’t involve our significant other (if we get a moments peace to hold a conversation where one of us doesn’t fall asleep). We sometimes mourn our careers in a weak moment, but know that we did the right thing.

So when it comes time for us to go back to work. When we know our family needs us less, and we can go back to our career path, often we are scared and intimidated. We start looking with zeal and look in fields we KNOW we can do the work. Sometimes even right where we left off prior to becoming a stay at home parent. We polish up our resumes. Dust off our work clothes. See if they still fit. But we make a plan.

We start applying to openings and actively seek out a career path. We wait to hear from places we’ve applied, wanting that interview. And the rejection letters come, if we hear from them at all. Some are honest and cite the lack of recent experience in the field. Some interview us and then later turn it around as they find a canidate more qualified. So the depression sits in.

So we set our goals a little lower and start applying for jobs to get some work experience back under our belt. Yet keeping in mind what our families needs are. So we apply for jobs that work within our hours and comfort zone. And the rejection continues. Then we seek to look outsider our comfort zone and finally we find someone who understands our plight as a stay at home parent. We breathe a sigh of relief. Someone heard us. Someone saw our value. We are worth it to someone.

When that happens we look back and know it’s going to be alright. Yet you have to wonder… Why does our society look down upon someone who chooses to be a stay at home parent? Why is it always likened to the comments of “that MUST be nice” or “lucky you” colored with sarcasm. We sacrifice for our families. The why shouldn’t matter. The fact we saw a need in our family and made a choice, well, that IS what should matter.

So next time you see someone who has made that choice, give them some encouragement. Let them know you think what they are doing is amazing. They need to hear that sometimes.

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