Thursday, February 26, 2009

Laurie's story: Worthy of a paycheck

How do you explain the professional value of raising a family to employers - and perhaps, yourself - after years of working at home? It's a question more women are facing as the recession demands they re-enter the workforce.

Laurie Reid is 45 years old, a wife and mother of two. She's lived two decades in Charlotte - a comfortable, but not lavish, life. Now, with thoughtful candor, she faces the fear and challenges that come with her husband losing his job.

We'll be bringing you her story and others from around Charlotte. They are voices that speak to the different challenges that you'll find throughout our city. We want to hear your stories of struggles and successes, too.

Says Laurie:

Inquiring minds want to know if I work outside of the home. Or if I have any plans of looking for work now that my husband is unemployed. To some, I apparently cannot be taken seriously unless I, too, am looking for a job.

I want to put those inquiring minds at ease: the answer is no and yes, respectively.

When my oldest child was 18 months old, I traded in the title of salesperson and have spent the last 10 years managing domestic operations at the Reid residence. But the time has come to turn in my crown and rejoin the work force. The last time I worked outside of the home President Clinton was having an affair with Monica Lewinksy, Theodore Kaczynski was pleading guilty to being the Unabomber, and the iPod was just a figment of Apple’s imagination.

I haven’t updated my resume in ten years, but when I pulled it up on my computer a few months ago I vaguely remembered my life as a sales manager. Apparently I generated new business in the Carolinas while successfully managing projects to ensure that they were on schedule, within budget and met the highest quality standards. At least that’s what my resume claims. Clearly my resume is in dire need of a massive overhaul: it’s dated and irrelevant. But the biggest challenge will be filling in the gap from September of 1998 until the present.

That gaping hole gives my competition, all 11.6 million of them, a huge advantage over me. While the newly unemployed are busy highlighting their leadership skills and giving concrete examples to demonstrate their efficiency, I wrestle with how best to justify my ten-year absence from the workplace.

Raising children is the most difficult job I’ve ever had the privilege of performing. The challenges and rewards are simply mind boggling. It’s difficult to sum up my experience in a few lines and it seems like a cliché to list my responsibilities as handling all the scheduling, finances, and logistics for a family of four. Doing so trivializes the ten most rewarding years of my life. Just as I don’t want to justify my decade-old decision to leave the workforce, I don’t want to come up with a list of my volunteering duties and parenting accomplishments as a way of rejoining the workforce.

Of course the experience and skills that I acquired over the past ten years can be applied to a paying job, but it’s difficult to convince a potential employer of that fact. It’s always been hard for a stay-at-home mom to reenter the workforce. It’s now near impossible given the deplorable state of our economy.

My resume highlights my glory days in sales, marketing and finance, but I’m looking to reinvent myself and hope to avoid that outdated resume altogether. Writing has always been my passion and I am trying desperately to make a living at it. I’ve done my fair share of writing and editing for friends and family, but if I am going to try to make a living at this, I need to stop the pro bono work and start marketing myself and demanding legal tender.

Last year a frequent reader of my blog approached me to edit a book and I jumped at the chance. But putting a dollar value on my services proved to be more difficult than I imagined. It had been awhile since I earned a paycheck based on industry standards and pay scales. When it came time to discuss payment, I felt like the decision was not mine to make and that I should just be grateful for the opportunity. I suppose the mother and chronic volunteer in me felt that it was my duty, my job, to help out and not think about my time as money. Luckily the author not only believed in me, but believed in paying a fair wage.

If I am going to make a living as a writer, I need to believe in myself and my talents. I need to stop looking at that ten-year hole in my resume as a cavity and start looking it as a well of knowledge. It’s hard to think of myself as truly employable after spending ten years away from an office, but I need to get over it.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received several offers to do various types of writing and editing and I am happily weighing the pros and cons of each. Maybe people are feeling sorry for me because they know my husband is out of work and I could use an extra buck. There I go again, looking for yet another reason why I am not worthy of a paycheck.

I am worthy of a pay check. There, I said it. And I am ready to rejoin the workforce. I’m hanging out my shingle and I’m open for business. Since September of 1998 I have given a lot of myself and reaped enormous rewards, but not a paycheck. It's hard to make the switch, but from this point forward, if you want me, it’s going to cost you.


Anonymous said...

Girl, you are so singing my song! I recently updated my own resume with care, hoping the "gap" would not be so obvious, but knew full well the red flags would fly. I got a call back, and survived my first interview this week. I learned today that I was passed over for an internal transfer (a laid off employee), but the hiring manager was so kind as to say that I should not be at all concerned about my "gap," because my experience and maturity would shine. She even went so far as to compliment my "youthful" appearance, God Bless Her! So, I'm gonna take my awesome self and give it another go! Good luck, Laurie! Those ten years doing all those mom jobs are probably the best experience on the whole resume. Look out, Charlotte, here we come!

Anonymous said...

People can relate to this much better. Well written with nice insight to a housewife's life in unstable times. Hopefully she will be lucky enough to get paid for something she enjoys doing. Good luck to everyone in this same position.

Molly Bloom said...

Another one here. I traded deadlines for diapers in 1997, when my son was born. I've done some part-time and freelance work, but it's been sporadic. My husband's still employed, but I'd feel better if I put a few eggs in another basket, so to speak.

Best of luck to you!

Anonymous said...

Oh please. I am so tired of stay at home moms who believe they are maytrs for giving up their outside jobs to raise children. They are obviously lucky enough to have a working partner or other source of income that alows them to not collect a paycheck and simply engage in the activity of repopulating the earth. Its is these women who always say not only do they have the HARDEST job, but have the free time to spend countless hours deciding that they really should be compensated for 5-10 high-paying jobs in the real world. Some of the titles I've heard them give themselves is CEO (of the Smith home!), Child Psycholigist, Chauffer, Gormet Chef, Treasury Secretary, Money Manager, etc; All highly sought after jons that reqiured many years of schooling, degrees, and experience in the field. What an insult to people who have really paid their dues working years, putting in countless, thankless hours doing things they DON"T love, to finally acheive and succeed in these elite positions.
I have worked all my life and have single mom friends, who struggle to balance a 40-50 hrs work week, (because they have NO choice or support) and then go home and provide for thier children preform all the duties the stay at homes moms whine about not being paid for. They never complain nor maytr themselves, they simply do, and sturggle to maintain their home, family, work-life, etc.
-Childless by Choice in Charlotte

chupacabra said...

This is the unfortunate but sad truth of the actual cost of staying home with kids. I hear all time that someone stayed home because it made more economic sense than paying childcare. Inevitably years later that woman finds herself trying to find a job and discovering that the technological changes have been so dramatic that she’s competing for entry level jobs.

No one ever considers the long time when they make these decisions.

Anonymous said...

Childless by Choice...Your point of view is unfortunate.
Not once did I hear Laurie whine nor did I hear her claim to be a martyr. My guess is that you began reading this with some natural cynical point of view and failed to really realize what Laurie was saying. She is VERY proud of her time at home raising her children. It is clear she would never take it back. She also clearly understands the difficulty she faces when she is competing for employment with people like you and I. I am a working mom. My child is in daycare. But in no way, shape or form would I say I am any better than a stay at home mom. It is TOUGH to raise a child. I really could never imagine how tough it was until I had children. It is time consuming like I never imagined.
You choose not to have children and that is a fine choice for you. But in making that choice you absolutely MUST understand that you will never, ever really know what it takes to be a parent. At the very least you should have opened your mind and learned something from someone you normally could not relate to. That's what Laurie's column is about after all.

Good Luck Laurie.

Anonymous said...

I have very little sympathy for those losing their jobs today and complaining about not being able to keep their nice life. That's what SAVINGS are for and why you should save for the rainy days that always come.

Then when I talk to them, they are rarely open to moving to another city, state, or country to find a job. When times are tough and you have common skills met by many recently unemployed, you must consider moving. But, it doesn't even register until the unemployment 'benefits' run out and they are really hurting.

I recognized that BAC was positioning itself to layoff tech workers here in CLT, therefore I started looking. I am now moving to Podunk town that I really don't want to go to, but will provide for my family when this economy starts to recover in 5-10 years.

As to those who do not recognize the work a stay at home parent does, they need do it for one week and that tune will change.

Anonymous said...

This stay at home Mom applauds Laurie! I too agree that it is the hardest job, albeit, the most rewarding job I've ever had. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to trade in my banker's hours to stay home and have the priviledge of raising our children. The same children that we waited so desperately for. It was a decision that my husband and I both agreed on, after many discussions and yes, of thinking what it would be like in the future, with a large gap, in my resume, when I finally do re-enter the workforce. I assume that those of you who sound so bitter towards the stay-at-home moms, must not love or value your own children enough, to realize what a priviledge and touch job it is to raise our chilren ourselves. Granted, not everyone can be so lucky, but if you had the choice, wouldn't you like to too?

Anonymous said...

You're boring me...stop boring me!

Anonymous said...

If you are bored...go elsewhere...we don't want you.

Anonymous said...

regarding the comments at 3:24... multiple times, this article mentioned the rewarding side of being able to stay with her children. I think that most mothers who are able to do so are grateful to have the financial means to be home with their children, and are not depicting themselves as martyrs in any way, nor are they minimizing the struggles of those mothers who do not have that option- or who choose not to do so. This article certainly did not imply any of that, and I'm amazed at the flippant view you take of how these women fill their hours at home. Your working friends, with all due respect to how hard they work every day at their jobs and then at night in their homes, do NOT do all that the women who stay home do- they pay childcare workers or after school workers to assist them. I can't understand how someone who is "childless by choice" can judge either woman. And by the way, I am both a mother AND a member of the work force outside of the home. Both are jobs, and I'll let you guess which one I find to be the more challanging- and yes, to me, the most rewarding as well.

Anonymous said...

Childless By Choice....I agree with a previous poster that your views are unfortunate. It's too bad that you view child-rearing as "re-populating the earth" and stay-at-home moms as an insult to poor people like you who work SO HARD. Thank goodness you are not a mom! Please educate yourself on what it takes to be a good parent before you go needlessly & shamefully picking on those who make the decision to raise children. And consider the cost of childcare vs Mom working just to pay the childcare bills. Consider that many of these Moms went to college, worked for many years and have great accomplishments in the work force. Why would you want to take that away from them?

Anonymous said...

Childless By Choice... you come across as unhappy with your life and career path. Please don't take out your anger at women who made the difficult choice to leave the work force to raise their children. I applaud Laurie and wish her the best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Childless by choice...Since you are not a mother, you could in no way understand how hard it is to raise a child. I am a working single mom and my time at home with my child on the weekend is much more "work" than my job I do all week. I went to college and got an education to preform my daily tasks at work, but there is only on-th-job training for motherhood. I am sure your single mom friends do not complain to you because you obviously are not open to hearing their complaints. They probably feel uncomfortable talking to someone that seems a little narrowminded and seems very quick to critize.

Anonymous said...

"I assume that those of you who sound so bitter towards the stay-at-home moms, must not love or value your own children enough, to realize what a priviledge and touch job it is to raise our chilren ourselves. Granted, not everyone can be so lucky, but if you had the choice, wouldn't you like to too?"

No. I have a choice and I am a better mom to my family because I work. I am providing additional income. I am setting a positive example for my daughter.

There is no one right answer. I wish the mommy wars would end and we could start supporting each other instead of tearing each other down. You never see men argue like this. And then we wonder why there aren't more women in leadership positions.

Anonymous said...

I was waiting for the two camps to fight it out. The working moms versus the stay at home moms. I'm personally neither. My wife works and the kids are in school. We have a lot of at home mom friends and I'll say the VAST majority of both sides agree they the other side's job is no tougher than the's just a choice people make. But you always have the select few that think the stay at home mom just lay around the house and take it easy...and you have the at home mom's that think that because you still work you must not love your children as much. In a matter of 30 minutes you have already had both of those people show up. I say total rubbish to them both. But it is fun to watch them beat each other up.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Childless by Choice...aren't you a bitter SOB. Consider the sacrifice stay-at-home moms make that you didn't or won't: living a more modest life than they would if they worked instead. A good share of "working moms" could, in fact, stay home if they lowered their standards. You, too, could stay home with some degree of sacrifice, whether the purpose is to raise a family or to pursue a lifelong dream. Don't begrudge others because you are miserable with the choices YOU have made.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, It sounds like there is just some "Anonymous" jealousy out there because you had the opportunity to live the life you wanted. There is no job that you could have worked outside of the home that could have been as valuable and self sacrificing than raising your children. I grew up in a home with a stay at home Mother and I cherish the memories that I have of those years with her. And no we were not a wealthy family. Only now as a grown woman do I understand the sacrifices she made in order to be a Mother and Wife that took care of her family. Everyone makes their choices in life and it is very sad that minds are so closed that they can't see both sides. You are making a career change at this time because your family needs you.That is the true meaning of a professional, successful woman of today. So, Laurie, ignore the ignorant and make your choice again. God Bless You!

Anonymous said...

I agree, this is something that many of us can relate to- thanks for sharing. You're helping those who are in a similar position realize that they are truely valuable to the work force. What an amazing opportunity for our country, when these intelligent, hard-working women make themselves available for employment outside of the home. Best of luck to you!

Anonymous said...

All well and good... but it is "fair" wage and not "fare" wage. That kind of error would take you out of the running immediately for any kind of editing job, regardless of a gap.

I also find it questionable that staying at home is particularly beneficial anyway. For one, stay at home parents tend to be over-involved and hyper concerned about the smallest things, since they have the time to be. While I am a huge proponent of having lots of parental supervision, too much can have a negative effect and create a backlash, a phenomenon I have seen time and time again. Furthermore, as a female graduate student, I will no longer date guys who had mothers stay at home. They simply do not view women with the same respect, especially in terms of careers and intelligence. There is a marked difference in terms of expectations, even if they are not necessarily conscious of it.

Moreover, my parents both worked full-time as attorneys and I have a closer, more enduring and more respectful relationship than anyone I have met with stay-at-home parents.

Tigger said...

Childless by Choice, you said it perfectly. Don't be put off that you're getting flamed here. I've never seen so many bitter, frustrated mothers in one place.

If YOU consider it worth the many sacrifices it takes to stay home and raise kids, good for you. Hope you have fun. But parenthood is a very expensive hobby and one of the costs is your career growth.

And no, you're not fooling anyone with these little resume tricks. You may have been the President and CEO of your busy family, and that's nice. But that's home, and this is work.

I don't care where you went to school or what professional skills you have. You've CHOSEN to be out of the workforce for several years. Those of us who did not have continued to advance our careers. We are not going to stop and wait for you to catch up.

Again, if you're a happy SAH parent, I'm happy for you. But you ARE looked upon differently by your professional colleagues if you have taken years off. Admit it to yourselves and stop shooting the messenger.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand all the angst and hand-wringing over the "10-year gap." You were out of the fulltime workforce by choice, to raise your children. PERIOD. Stop trying to explain and justify. Just say that you made the decision to stay home with your children but times have changed. That's very understandable in this economic climate.
I think raising children is an important job, but I too hate the way tend to pit themselves against each other. Too many moms act like they've made the most noble sacrifice to be SAHM. It's great if you can or want to do it, but don't act like Joan of Arc.

Anonymous said...

I hold no animosity toward Laurie, but to all the posters here who say that being a stay at home mom is so stressful, I say go out in Charlotte at lunch one day at a fashionable restaurant and take a look around. How many countless women in their late-20s mid-30s (dressed in tennis, running, or golf clothing) do I see everyday in Myers Park, Dilworth, Eastover, Ballanytne (insert snooty area of Charlotte here)? Too many to count. Where are the kids? Home with the nanny, that's where. Just yesterday I listened to two women at a yoga class complain about finding domestic help/child care. Neither one of these women work "outside the home". Good thing they have yoga to ease their stress! Oh the horror of having to clean your own home!

By no means do I think women like these are the norm, but there are lots of them out there in this city. It's women like the ones at yoga (I think) who most of us find so offensive. And for the record, I'm not saying stay at home moms shouldn't have free time for lunch with friends or exercise/recreation. Just don't bitch about your choices when you have others who work outside their homes so that they can work INside yours.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that we are still living in a time that either a stay-at-home mom or a working mother has to justify herself in some way? Why does either still judge the other? The sad part is, I don't think it's men who are judging either one. It's women! The war has got to end, or none of us will have any self-esteem left. Women need to be aware of the demands of childrearing at a young age (say by high school or college graduation), and factor it into the equation of what THEY want. But society needs to stop telling us who we SHOULD be. Just let us choose in peace, and respect whatever we choose, at all phases of our lives. Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

I am not quite sure why "handling all the scheduling, finances, and logistics for a family of four" is even worth mentioning. Working moms manage to accomplish that, plus provide financial stability.
It is unfortunate to see women in sweatpants and sneakers trying to catch up for years of doing nothing but childcare...

Anonymous said...

Personally I have no idea why anyone would want to become a parent, save for passing on their genes. Since women make the choice to have sex (otherwise it's rape) which can result in a pregnancy, make sure you can afford it before you have heterosexual sex. And if you have a partner that generates enough income to support family members (stay-at-home spouse and children), then good for you - stay home to raise them, as opposed to day care or a sitter where anything can happen. I admit I don't agree with letting someone else raise your children for you.

But don't bash the childless by choice!