Take Me As I Am: Do you write ‘mother’ on your CV?

Tightrope Walker

More lady tightrope walkers required

You know that horrible twist of self-loathing you feel when you’re doing something you don’t really believe in? That sickening sense of the brick in the belly, the invisible snake that tightens around your throat and stops you from swallowing? Well I had it yesterday. Why?

Because I was writing my CV. My curriculum vitae should be my ticket to paid employment, my calling card. This mysterious document is meant to be a summary of my ‘relevant’ experience and skills; a list of the things that make me employable. Forty-four years whittled down to two sides of A4. And I’m livid.

Curriculum vitae is a Latin phrase which roughly translates as ‘the course of [my] life’ but what I just wrote on that ridiculous document is a load of piddling pish. It has nothing to do with who I really am or indeed, the course of my life. My CV does not mention the thing that really moulded me, the thing that gave me inner steel, forced me to perform immeasurable feats on little-to-no sleep, to be impulsively creative, a multi-limbed juggler of good and bad like Kali. I cannot say on my CV, ‘I am as real and persistent as a wasp in your pants’, but I am. It doesn’t say that I am a mother.

The thing that set the throat snake unravelling this morning was the moment I found myself trying to justify long periods of ‘absence’ in my working life. Gaps that mess up the linear trajectory of work experience that the majority of employers expect. I found myself writing apologetically that I had taken ‘career breaks’ around the births of my two daughters. I did not write in big, bold letters ‘Mother’ the same way I wrote ‘PR Manager’ or ‘Copywriter’. And the more I didn’t write ‘Mother’ in big, bold letters to explain the years 1996-1998 and 2005-2009, the more furious I felt.

There are no gaps in the ‘course of my life’, but there have been long periods of time when I have chosen something else over economic independence, my children.  Oh, how naive I have been to think this is allowed! Those gaps on my CV loom like huge, gaping mouths; monstrous voids where it is assumed I was brain-dead and milk-sodden, capable of nothing but talking goo goo la la and doing laundry. Women who have had children know that motherhood IS work. Motherhood is difficult work, it is valuable work. Some of us are shit at it, and if we could, we’d fire ourselves. When I’m working I feel like I’m letting my children down, and when I’m not ’employed’, I hear Emily Davison whispering in my ear about horses. Why does it feel like motherhood is a dirty secret we have to hide when we need to rejoin the sodding linear, patriarchal world of paid employment?

During those ‘gap’ years, those ‘lost’ years, those ‘breaks’, mothers learn a fuck of a lot of perfectly valid skills. We learn the depths and the limits of what it is to be human, resilience, sacrifice, persistence and grace in the face of many small defeats against nits and greens. The physical pain of labour is an agony that catapults you out of your body and your old life into an unknown place you both fear and desire. Mothers know how it feels to face their own mortality and have someone wholly dependent on their every breath. We tightrope walk between the old and the new, shapeshifting, crawling between all the roles we must play.  We can make 50p packets of pasta interesting, magically turn leaves and sticks into games that last for hours and placate, console, smile, enthuse, teach, nurture and heal even when we feel like we’re dying inside.

I  have worked, yes WORKED damned hard every day of those ‘gaps’ at bringing two daughters into the world who will hopefully contribute to this planet, not just take from it when they become women. I learned to love, to love, to love beyond measure and then love some more even on those tough days when I couldn’t feel my own heart. And I did all this for absolutely no renumeration. Imagine what I’d do if you paid me! I say the world needs more jugglers, tightrope walkers and magicians; the last time I looked, the old model of a single-track career path of ever-increasing pay and hierarchy until retirement ain’t working out for too many of us.

How about this dear reader of my CV: How about you don’t ask me where I have been all this time and I won’t ask you why so little has really changed after all these years? How about you take me as I am, caesarean scars and all.

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19 thoughts on “Take Me As I Am: Do you write ‘mother’ on your CV?

  1. I agree with pretty much every single word of this post – I wonder if we could all start including working as mothers in a separate part of our CVs? After all we can include our hobbies on a CV as these are supposed to show how ‘well-rounded’ we are and therefore fit for the job? Interestingly, if you had been paid to care for others’ children you could put it on your CV – it would be considered worthy of notice. Money is clearly the thing we value most even if we don’t realise it. Well done in describing this phenomenon so clearly.

  2. Put your caps lock on and add mother to those gaps – they’re not career breaks, they’re valuable, life-changing, human-race moulding years that we should all be proud of devoting our own time to instead of farming out our children to secondary carers. My cv is not in circulation at present due to me still being wholly responsible for 2 entire other lives (hard work, yes!) But when its updated for the mass interviewing, judgemental, too-smug-for-its-own-good world of work it will include my continuing time as ‘mother’ for which I am eternally proud to have survived! Besides, any employer that doesn’t see its merit will never show any understanding for phonecalls from school, no-notice early finishes to make gold-dust nhs dental appointments and always wanting large blocks of paid leave as soon as the summer holidays start so poo to them and I will wait for the employer who understands a job is just a job and you can be efficient and capable all at the same time as having a life outside of someone elses dream!

  3. This post really resonated with me. And I really agree with the above comment, you should put ‘mother’ on your CV – its a vocation and career – One of the, no, no THE most important role in life. I feel so angry the way that being a mother has been relegated to such a menial role – the ancients venerated mothers – the goddess. It’s a sorry state of affairs if we feel we can’t write mother on our CV’s – I really felt your words!

  4. I too am in the process of updating my CV and am also angry about having to explain the “gaps”. I have brought up two children, one graduated with a distinction last year from Oxford Brookes. I am Guardian of my grand-daughters aged 11 & 5. Their mother (my daughter) is a drug addict & that is the reason they are in my full-time care. I am 50 yrs old, I haven’t been sat in a cupboard in the interim years of working full-time. And don’t get me started on application forms that want to know which primary school I attended. Great post xxx

  5. Thank you all for your lovely comments… I can feel a revolution brewing starting with putting Mother in big capitals on our Resumes…

  6. What a brilliant post. I am just at the point of thinking about returning to work after first baby so this is me exactly! Feeling realky unerved about the whole thing TBH… Love your writing style too 🙂 x

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! I’ve always been able to tell those at work who have had kids and those who haven’t. The ones who have are versatile and hard-working and yet unfazed and laid-back. Of course, this isn’t exclusively the case, but there is a definite trend. It proves that having a child is character-building at its (most intense) finest.

  8. Sara, you are an incredibly talented writer! I absolutely loved this piece and it’s ringing true at this very moment for me as I’m on leave from work with baby #2. I worried about gaps in my own CV but now I might just insert your article under the heading MOTHER!! 😉 Thanks so much for this. xx

  9. This is eternally topical and relevant and so so true. Excellent post, so passionately written. Found you on Blow your own Blog Horn, and having just read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece I’ve been brewing and stewing over this once again, especially as I have just updated my CV myself. Being a mother means early starts, complete commitment, determination, innovative thinking and so many other skills that should absolutely be recognised. I agree with “the movement” – put Mother on your CV!

  10. What a fantastic post. You are completely right, being a mother teaches you skills that no other job in the world can! Updating my CV has long been on my ‘to do’ list and when I eventually get around to it, adding Mother onto it will be too! 🙂

  11. I can’t see why you don’t put ‘mother’ on your CV. It’ll be blatantly obvious anyway so why not embrace it and include it?

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  13. So wonderfully said! For years I’ve struggled with not ‘working’ because I kept putting my children first. This modern society seems to move further and further away from what it means to be human and to follow our basic instincs as mothers.

  14. well said! I agree that mothers need to SHOUT more about the skills they have acquired through motherhood. So valid in the workplace! *runs off to locate lost lego knight*

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  16. Brilliant. This should be circulated to every employer! Trouble with adding ‘mother’ to your employment history is that listing all the skills and responsibilities would take up too much room. Your CV wouldn’t be passed over for the ‘career gap’ but because you couldn’t keep it to 2 pages!

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