We’ve all heard of SAHMs (stay at home mums) and possibly also of WAHMs (work at home mums) but it’s time to get our heads around the rise and rise of the USAHM (unintentional stay at home mum), or, as I’ve also seen it referred to, the ASAHM (accidental stay at home mum).
I’m one of them. And the shocker is that I truly, honestly, never thought it would happen to me.
We’re the naive breed who wanted to take a decent period of time off with our little ones (I deluded myself saying that since I have twins, I was only doing it once so I could afford to take a full year off work guilt-free), or, perhaps, didn’t want to return to our old jobs for reasons unrelated to our little ones’ arrival) and assumed that when that time off came to an end after nine months, a year, eighteen months etc., we’d slip back into some type of work without too much hassle.
Don’t get me wrong, as a self-confessed USAHM, I’m not saying I believed it would be easy. I was well aware of the existence of and reasons for the gender pay gap (my partner has received a raise in the time I’ve been off work taking our gap from a few thousand pounds per year to several thousand) and never assume that finding meaningful work is easy for anyone (it’s not!). But as I was even willing to accept less pay and less responsibility on my initial return to work, I believed it would find something.
Leaving a job to go on maternity leave is obviously risky. However, there is no guarantee one will have one to return to even if they want to return. I’ve heard of women being made redundant just prior to or after mat leave and also of course, of job’s evolving so much (often when the company chooses to keep both one’s maternity cover colleague on whilst having them back) that they feel they don’t want to continue anyhow.
I knew finding a new job post maternity leave would be harder – after all, employers were bound to be suspicious about where my commitments lay. But I was confident that even if it took me longer than before to find work and led to something which was in some ways less satisfactory than before (probably less pay), that I’d nonetheless be doing something and, therefore, not totally falling off the career wagon. But as I languish in my flat applying for jobs and updating this blog, I realise that there were a few things I truly didn’t bet on, mostly, just how ill my children would get at nursery and how ill I would get from them in turn.
Sure, I’d heard from colleagues with kids how annoying it is to have to collect a child with a slightly raised temperature from nursery after getting the dreaded ‘call’ mid meeting at work, and I was prepared for the occasional early pick up. What I didn’t bet on was my children attending nursery for only 50% of the time due to illness one month, (and they only went two days per week)! Nor did I expect to catch every single thing they got and suffer from it five times worse than they did. I have never been as ill as I was in those first few months after my children started nursery, which delayed my job hunt by months, meaning that now I am officially a USAHM looking desperately to return to work… any work!
Having taken eighteen months off understandably could make me look bad to potential employers as they may fear I’ll be darting off every other day to collect ill children from nursery (even though my partner has assured me that he will do the early pick ups when required if I get a new job (after all, I’ll have to be on my best behaviour). But I’m still confident there are pathways back to work and I’ll be documenting my experience here. I’m currently considering retraining.
What unexpected bumps in the road have you experienced in your journey back to work? Have you found that employers treat you differently now?