Having been a mother is not of value on that curriculum vitae that gets you your next job. So we’re told at least and so we’re told wrongly. The problem here is discrimination. Which, as we all know, comes in two forms – taste and rational. Taste discrimination is when we pick and choose among alternatives on the grounds of our own – irrational – prejudices. For example, we might refuse to hire mothers because our social views insist that they should be at home looking after the kids. German mothers of primary school age children find this deeply embedded within their society.
Equally, we might indulge in rational discrimination. The mother 5 days immediately post-parturition might not be a reasonable choice for that job of heavy physical labour. This is why every civilisation that doesn’t rely upon human grunt work out in the fields doesn’t use immediately post-parturition mothers to plant the rice seedlings.
Somewhere between the two is where the shouting happens. That job that requires unannounced but immediate late night working might not be suitable for the primary carer of young children – mother or whatever.
But this particular whinge is not correct:
By the time I gave birth to my second daughter, her older sister was just 19 months old. At the time, I did research for a small nonprofit and my income barely covered the childcare I’d need to keep doing it. So, like a lot of mothers, I left my job because it didn’t make financial sense to continue working.
I didn’t have a problem with the decision. Thanks to my background in public policy, I’m well aware of the economic value of parenting. By fostering a safe, nurturing, and stable environment for my children in their infancy, I am helping to mold the intelligent, creative, hard-working adults society needs. In economic terms, I’m helping to create human capital, which accounts for two-thirds of global wealth and is a key driver of growth in our increasingly high-tech, globalized economy.
Despite all this, when I return to the labor force, I’ll have nothing but a gap in my resume to show for it. It’s a problem many more women will grapple with, owing to coronavirus and the need to take time off and care for their kids. An employer may accept parenting as an understandable explanation of that gap, but few would accept it as evidence of my hireability.
That view of the economic value of parenting is an absurdity of course. The value of parenting is that the individual gets to propagate their own genes – the entire idea of this game called life. Everything else – including the economy itself – is subordinate to that. Which is why, of course, so much of an economy, and the more of it the richer we get, is about the having and raising of children.
Beyond that though having corralled squabbling snot factories into a semblance of order and civilisation is an excellent qualification for many a job. Running a bureaucracy, for example, shares the same basic job skills. Or to be more personal I have in fact hired someone specifically for exactly those sorts of skills. At one point I owned and ran a newspaper delivery business in Moscow. The prime requirement of which was that some 15 or so people turn upon on time each day, equipped with metro passes (bought by us), Daily Telegraph newspaper bag (ditto), stout shoes and coat (not ditto) appropriate to the month to do said deliveries. The skills required to ensure this were exactly the same as those developed while making sure that a brood of ankle biters make it to school each day with the correct gym kit, homework and, with a bit of effort, the correct school.
We deliberately and specifically hired a woman who had, demonstrably, those skills. We were lucky, given the social structure of the place, to get her in that narrow gap between having raised her own and starting to raise her grandchildren.
I’ve also a possible job upcoming which will depend upon exactly those same skills. And if the idea comes to fruition the search will be for exactly that – someone who has mothered a brood to fruition.
True, the skills of motherhood aren’t going to be relevant to every job. Detailed knowledge of the technicals of alternative sippy cup designs isn’t going to aid bond trading all that much. Having dealt with teenage tantrums will be of great benefit in running a
whorehouse political party. Thus it does matter which job is being applied for using those skills as evidence of suitability.
That is, you’re applying for the wrong jobs, Honey.