It isn’t only women who are challenged by re-entry into the workforce after years of raising children. Stay-At-Home-Dads looking for new jobs face struggles they may not have anticipated.
While we may take on the task of crafting a creative letter as a means of working through ambivalence and frustration — and do so with great style, as did Brian Sorrell when he wrote Cover Letter From a Stay-At-Home-Dad, the reality of returning to a former career can be at least as sticky for the guys as it is for the women.
This isn’t a topic I have considered previously, in part because there are still relatively few SAHDs as compared to SAHMs (the Stay-At-Home-Mom crowd).
And, as a formerly full-time corporate marketer (while married), then a single mother who has juggled various reinventions over the years, now a full-time independent/consultant, I am — naturally — more familiar with the plight of mothers trying to keep a foothold in the workforce, or to find it once again after years have passed.
But if we, the women, want more involvement from the fathers of our children, including the possibility that they will be primary caregiver for a number of years, we must be attuned to the real obstacles they face.
I found this column quite interesting, on one stay-at-home dad’s challenges to finding work as the parenting gig was transitioning to allow more time for career.
One Dad’s Experience
It’s a 2013 Huff Post piece focusing on a man named Michael Zorek. Mr. Zorek had spent 11 years as a SAHD at that point, and struggled to get back in the game. Yet as the article explains his motivation for taking on the parenting job:
… studies have found that men, like women, choose to stay home for three primary reasons: They have a strong belief that a child is best off cared for by a parent rather than a hired caregiver; their personality is better suited to being at home than their spouse; and it makes most sense financially.
In the case of Mr. Zorek, he performs all the duties that SAHMs always have, as we might expect. And the decision regarding who would stay home was a matter of financial cost-benefit as well, as for many couples it makes sense for the lesser earning parent to be the one to take on domestic tasks.
Referring to his wife:
[She] worked from early morning to late at night while her husband took the kids to activities and auditions, then had them bathed, and dinner ready, by the time she came home…
All good, right?
If a parent can stay home and do the job — and it certainly is a job — why not?
The Risks of Being a Stay-At-Home-Parent
Of course, the “why not” is this, and regardless of gender:
- What happens after?
- If you’re no longer current in your skill set, can you ever recoup?
- What if you divorce and you need work after being non-employed for years?
- What if your spouse is laid off or ill, and you’ve been out of the workforce for a significant time?
- Is the stigma of the SAHD trying to return to the workforce greater than that of the SAHM? How to combat that bias?
- Where are the role models – for individuals and organizations?
In my own experience, for man or woman, I would recommend that whatever gigs, part-time jobs, or additional credentials / education a stay-at-home-parent can manage, the better. And no one says it’s easy! But it is certainly easier with only one child; it is certainly easier if children are healthy; it is certainly easier with support systems (friends / family / community); it is certainly easier when you yourself are not yet at midlife; it is easier with understanding and appreciation from the non-stay-at-home spouse.
Here is another article of interest to the job searching parent. On the subject of finding a job after being a SAHD, it recommends using your connections, a functional (rather than chronological) resume, and of course, don’t forget the handling of the cover letter in which the following serves as an example:
Being a stay-at-home dad has helped me understand the importance of support roles in any operation. I will bring this knowledge back to the workforce to perform as a top manager.
Sounds to me like Brian connected the dots in similar fashion, don’t you think?
As for networking, that’s more problematic, especially if you’ve been as immersed in childrearing as most of us are when that’s what we’re doing full-time. It is worth pointing out, however, that networking is mentioned as a more effective way to find a job than simply applying to ads / postings.
Personally, I’m delighted to hear about and read about Stay-At-Home-Dads. Yet Time.com goes so far as to caution women: “Don’t Let Your Husband Be a Stay-At-Home-Dad” as they point out precisely the same “equal opportunity risks” as I did above.
… Just as one might hesitate to advocate for women to leave the workforce to become a stay-at-home mom, a similar case can go for men. What happens if dad wants back into the workforce later on? What happens if mom loses her job, faces a salary cut or is unable to work for a period of time due to an injury or other unexpected circumstance?
Cultural Values: Parenting Matters
In the Huff Post article, Mr. Zorek remarks:
“Why is the parenting-compatible job so elusive? There are thousands of mothers and thousands of fathers who want to be proud, useful people, and you can do both. I honestly believe I can do both.”
I couldn’t agree more.
This isn’t a gender issue; it is an issue of parents making choices that others should not judge, and in some cases, having too few options from which to choose. This is an issue of cultural values — no doubt undergoing a slow transition — and the ways in which they are supported (or undermined) by political, social and economic systems through the absence of quality, affordable programs to support families.
It is also a lack of creativity on the part of traditional employers when it comes to utilizing highly skilled men and women in a part-time and possibly telecommuting capacity. Perhaps this managerial challenge requires the continuing spotlight.
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