Like a growing number of millennial women, I had no initial desire or intention to start a family while pursuing my career. A simple look around and it was clear that the US, despite political leaders continuously pontificating on the importance of motherhood, did very little to support moms both in and outside of the workplace. So when I came across HeyMama’s Motherhood on the Resume campaign, powered by Lincoln, which urged moms to put “mother” on their resume, the thought was terrifying at best. Even after having two children with my partner of eight years and establishing myself in my respective field, I considered such a seemingly “radical” act to be an inevitable mark against me in the eyes of hiring managers and recruiters.
And I had countless harrowing experiences to prove it.
Like the time I was pregnant with twins. The pregnancy had been complicated from the moment it was confirmed — my morning sickness more of a relentless day-long plague; my fatigue overwhelming; my hormones on overdrive. I was coming into work later than usual, leaving earlier than normal, and asking to work from home so my “commute” from the couch to the toilet was as quick as possible. I needed better workplace accommodations and understanding from my then-employers — two fathers in their mid-40s — and, initially, they were more than happy to oblige.
Then I contracted a serious blood infection that put my life and the lives of the fetuses in danger. I was hospitalized for over a week, so my work computer was delivered to my hospital room and I worked while machines beeped and nurses monitored and the steady lull of daytime television played on in the background. It was a far from ideal situation, but deadlines were being met and emails were being answered so by the time I was discharged from the hospital and allowed to go back to work, I assumed I would resume my duties per usual.
I was wrong.
My first day back, my employer sat me down and told me that due to “my condition” I could no longer remain employed. They had no idea what was in store for the remainder of my pregnancy, and did not want to risk a situation in which they would have to provide additional accommodations. Scared and 15 weeks pregnant, I no longer had a job.
Then there was the time I was one year postpartum and battling severe depression and anxiety. After returning from maternity leave, I found it increasingly more difficult to be away from my newborn for an extended period of time — I was missing deadlines, losing focus, and becoming overwhelmed by the smallest of tasks. Having familiarized myself with the red flags and warning signs of perinatal mood disorders, I sought the help of a psychiatrist, obtained medication and scheduled routine counseling sessions, and procured documentation to provide to my employer, asking that they allow me to work from home two days a week for the foreseeable future — a way for me to mitigate my mental health issues while still coming into the office.
I was denied that accommodation. My employer told me that working from home two days a week for a nondescript amount of time would be detrimental to the office work environment. I had to find adequate child care and come in five days a week, or quit.
These are just a two, very singular and personal examples of the ongoing discrimination soon-to-be and working moms experience in the workplace. Sadly, there are countless more, inadequately represented by stunning statistics regarding employer and hiring manager’s perceptions of pregnant and working moms. A reported 40% of hiring managers won’t hire young women for fear they’ll become pregnant and require maternity leave. Half of working moms say their choice to become a parent made it harder for them to advance in their careers. A reported 33% of moms are passed up for promotions or important assignments because they have children. One 2007 study found that women who don’t have children are two times more likely to be called for an interview, as compared with similarly qualified mothers.
Meanwhile, employers rate fathers as the most desirable of employees. During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, men were three times more likely to receive a promotion while working from home, and even prior to the public health crisis fathers made 20% more than men without children, while women who become moms experienced a 30% decrease in pay.
Behind every stat is a story like mine — a qualified pregnant person denied an interview; a mother told she has to come back to the office lest she lose her job; a hiring manager considering a job gap to be a slight against an interviewee instead of a sign of a dedicated mom.
Which is why I ultimately decided that, despite my very valid fears, I had to put “mother” on my resume. All of us moms do. If we, as a society, are to change cultural and workplace perceptions of working moms, we have to embrace that aspect of our identities and flaunt it proudly. It’s not difficult to see that despite a lack of structural support, motherhood best equips us for a wide range of life experiences and environments — the workplace or business ownership included.
I have learned so much from my time as a mom, and those lessons are invaluable to hiring managers, employers, and fellow employees. By putting “mom” on my resume I opened the door for the possibility to discuss those lessons and valuable skill sets with someone who is willing to listen. And if someone isn’t, myself and moms like me have the chance to send a clear and concise message: if you assume moms cannot work for you, know that moms will choose not to work for you. We won’t go where we are tolerated but where we are celebrated, and you will miss out on an expansive, qualified workforce.
Yes, there are times when I consider the goal of changing how moms are perceived at work to be lofty at best. Truly, there are moments when it can feel impossible. But then I think back to the countless moments motherhood felt impossible, too: a twin pregnancy; late-night breastfeeding sessions; the horror that is potty training. I overcame those challenges despite my fear and uncertainty, gaining valuable knowledge and insight along the way.
If anything, motherhood has taught me that there’s nothing a determined mom cannot overcome, including the goal of changing how we are viewed when we set our sights on our career goals and enter the workplace as parents.