Writer Kate Fagan says finding work has been hard since having kids. Via news.com.au
I NEVER had a problem with professional achievement until I became a mother.
As a mother — and a job seeker — my waning confidence takes blow after blow as I line up against the other 768,600 job seekers in this country with barely even a “we’ll keep you on file” to spur me on.
It wasn’t always like that. For a time, I was somewhat employable. Successful, even.
Growing up, I was taught by my mother that I could do anything I wanted to do. I was living in a privileged time and I had choices. So I ran my finger down the list of possibilities, selected my preferred profession, and ambitiously announced at my Year 12 formal that I was going to “work in the office at the top of the building.” Quite the cocky young lass.
Off I went into the world, and for a time, I proved my Mum (and my speech) right.
That was when I was youngish, single and able to give my employer and my budding career all my time and attention. I worked around the clock while said career and I forged a mutually beneficial relationship. I worked my butt off, I got to have it all.
Before having two kids Kate Fagan was a successful television executive.
Things were looking good, but the odds were stacked against me because I was maternal at heart, and this instinct came to the surface in my mid-thirties to ruin my career. Of course, when it was my turn to start a family I was overjoyed and grateful to the point of tears. My world pivoted and my ambition faded.
In fact, as I cherished new life, I was secretly terrified of the day I would have to return to a job that had a 24/7 on-call requirement, stress served on a platter, long face to face hours, and a lengthy daily commute. So when I was offered a redundancy in the last few months of my maternity leave, I was relieved.
But then another conundrum; trying to sustain life and a lifestyle in Sydney, the fifth most expensive city in the world. This demanded a dual income so not working was not an option, but moving city was. We packed up and all at once we left our family support network, my professional circle and the employment hub of the entire country. It was the best and worst move our family could have made.
We were able to get the house we could have never afforded in Sydney. We had another baby. My husband turbo boosted his own career with study and some old fashioned hardworking smarts. But I was left trying to re-identify my professional self and assess my value to an employer as a Mum.
My status in the family shouldn’t factor in, we all know that. But it does. Mainly because the jobs I am applying for are jobs that match my family needs more than jobs that match my skill set. So employers scratch their head as to why a television executive is applying for a job in the library, and then they keep looking.
I do love books.
My skills should transfer easily enough, but trying to convince an employer to take that risk is, so far, hopeless. And to add nail to coffin, then they get to the small print where I add, oh by the way, I’m only available 16 hours a week because that’s all the day care I can get. And, actually, would it be okay if I left the office at a quarter to five? Oh and I can’t start this week because my little boy has spots on his face and I think they are contagious.
Let’s face it, even though there is a growing consensus that excellence can’t be judged by the number of hours spent at work, walking out the door at the same time someone is calling a meeting is professional suicide, no matter how refined your skills are.
And despite the best intentions of Fair Work and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and even that Family Friendly Company you’re applying to, the collective groan can be heard from cyberspace when Mum calls for her fifth work from home day that month.
I have been rejected from jobs for being over qualified, under qualified, unable to work full time or cover sick leave, and because the computer software I could use blindfolded three years ago is now unsupported. I have studied, I do volunteer work, I dabble in extra-curricular CV enhancing projects and I stick my nose in and call it networking whenever I can. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a spot for me anymore.
Trying to get a job, now that I’m a Mum, is the hardest job I have ever had.