The motherhood gap is hurting women who want to work

Mary Carey
Mary Carey

We get together, and we always have the same talk. Do we give in and apply at the mall for a job, or do we keep trying to establish ourselves in a career?

This is our dilemma.

We are the now empty-nester moms who came of age after the Women’s Movement, when women were told we could be anything and major in anything. We were no longer relegated to the roles of secretary, nurse, social worker or teacher. We got MBAs and law degrees and had jobs formerly reserved for men.

We were granted access into offices and careers that were beyond the imagination of most of the women who preceded us. What the workplace didn’t adapt for, didn’t acknowledge or chose to ignore, was the fact that women continued to remain the only portals by which little human beings entered the earth. Once we became mothers, there was no offer to go part-time, job share or have a flexible schedule.

While we were told we could be anything, we were forced to choose, motherhood or career. There was no opportunity for both.

When our husbands were offered promotions that required a move, we went with them. We gave up our careers and stayed home with the children, allowing our spouses the freedom to travel for work, while we maintained the carpools, doctor appointments and daily calendar of children’s activities.

So, now retired of our roles as full-time mothers, we are rendered useless to the world. What we find most remarkable, is that staying home with our children has stripped us of our degrees. When we offered a chance to interview, it is for a job a recent college graduate wouldn’t entertain. We can be receptionists, store clerks or baristas.

Who knew that as we were working to increase our children’s value in the world by driving them to tutors and sports, teaching them manners and helping them study for tests, we were at the same time, decreasing our own value in the marketplace?

We have all heard about the concept of returnships, a term trademarked by Goldman Sachs, where they offer former homemakers a chance to learn skills in their offices, but they offer no jobs. Alas, in this hub of innovation and technology in which we live, no such opportunities exist.

Had we stayed in the towns and cities where we worked, we could call upon our old network, those who could vouch for our work ethic, our talents and abilities, but we have moved. To anyone here, we are the PTA moms, the room mothers and the ladies who ran the book fair.

Our husbands insist that if we got before someone who could recognize talent, we would easily get jobs. The problem is, a resume has to beat an algorithm to get an interview. A 10, 15 or even 20-year gap in employment will never get past those pesky algorithms. It is hard to not feel we are being punished for our choice to stay at home with our children.

It is shocking that given all the talk about the rising cost of healthcare, some smart company hasn’t tapped into this tremendous talent of stay-at-home moms who would appreciate the opportunity to work part-time and forgo having benefits.

There is a vast pool of talent, anxious to use their minds, work toward goals and spend the day with adults. They would probably be the happiest employees in any office. You’ll never know them though, because they chose the most important job in the world, or at least that is what they are told every second Sunday in May. They didn’t know that in taking it, this most important job would leave them unemployable.

Mary H. Carey lives in Raleigh. You can see more of her writing at