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Employers – Opt For The Working Mum

By Gil Ventura, translated by Galia Barhava-Monteith

“But who’s going to take me on?”

The counselling session with Olga felt like it was going somewhere, but we were divided on the main point: we each had a very different concept of who Olga was.

Olga thought of herself as powerless, as shy and unassertive.  And as a mother, she believed she was a complete failure because her daughter suffered from severe developmental delays. Olga’s low self-esteem was constantly reinforced by the unrelenting criticism from those around her. I, on the other hand, thought she was a hero.

She was a young mother, and the only one in her extended family who actually coped with the pressures of dealing with and raising a child with special needs. Her husband buried himself in his business and Olga was the only one who was there for her little girl. While doing that she also mastered the strength and the willpower to attend university and gain a degree with excellent grades but it was only when we met for the second time that she confessed to me her true professional ambition, to return to her first true professional passion – computer programming.

But her self-esteem was at an all time low.  She believed that no employer would be interested in her or would give her the time of day. She simply couldn’t see how she could overcome this feeling in a job interview.

By contrast, I thought she’d be wonderful. If I could speak for her, I’d tell Olga’s potential employers, and every other potential employer out there, to grab working mothers with both hands, nurture them and never let them leave.

At first glance, my recommendation may seem stupid at best and irresponsible at worst.  Working mums?  Are you mad?  You want us to employ a parasite whose sole interest is not her job but her herd of nappy-wearing, snotty-nosed preschoolers?  We want young bachelorettes, hard working, committed to their career and full of energy.  Not some exhausted, absent-minded young mum who tends to regularly miss days at work because of the resident virus. And who may, unbelievably, be planning another baby while working for me!

So, let me suggest something for you to think about, dear employers.  Let me aggressively market to you the wonderful advantages that working mothers have to offer.

Motivation – Abundant!

When I interview potential employees, the most important question that comes to my mind is why? Why does this person want this job? What motivates them? Mums have the ultimate motivation, wanting to financially support their children. Therefore, dear employers, her children are etched in her mind as she’s sitting there, caught in traffic on the way to work. And whenever she’s in need of support, whatever the reason may be (un-realistic expectations, terrible boss), all she needs to do is pick up the phone and have a chat with her children to remind her of what’s important. There’s nothing quite like this little morale boost to keep her going for the rest of the day!

Multi-tasking, Improvising and Coping with Constant Change

From the moment you give birth to your gorgeous baby, you begin to think in relative terms. You lose ‘always’ and ‘for sure’, and replace them with their older, more mature, sisters, ‘sometimes’ and ‘maybe’. Every time you change a nappy you realise that every plan can change dramatically and at the last minute, regardless of how tired you are, how you feel and what you’ve planned. You become more flexible, more tolerant of change.

Use this learning to market yourself in your job interviews because it is an asset. Your employers expect you to cope with the unexpected which is part and parcel of modern working life. Mums have to learn to cope with the unexpected, and mums are the world champions at multi-tasking.

In a world exploding with information, where competing messages block our senses, mothers have a real edge. As part of their lives, they have to sooth the screaming baby as they make dinner, all the while using their calmest voice with the three-year-old who’s just decided to exhibit all the symptoms of classic sibling rivalry and may, if not stopped, cause some serious bodily harm to someone… Not to mention, preventing the cupboard door from opening and stopping the cat from eating the baby’s dinner! There you have it, a fully-fledged flight controller!

Seriously now, this ability to constantly live with ambiguity, become accustomed to it and to realise that plans are made to be broken, turns mothers into employees who are mature and are able to cope with just about anything. As one old and wise manager once told me,

“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

Work as a Source of Satisfaction

Mothers may be patient, determined and committed but they usually don’t have one important thing – and that is spare time. In a world that is so pre-occupied with self-actualisation and personal satisfaction, mothers more often than not use work to achieve it. It’s at work where they get to talk to other adults without constant interruptions. It’s at work that they get to be themselves by themselves.

I remember myself, an hysterical young father, grabbing my working colleagues, savouring and cherishing them. Most of our time as a couple was spent discussing my baby’s bowel motions, whether or not she was eating enough, sleeping enough, too cold, too hot. I could feel my IQ shrinking. Many professional working mothers, after their maternity leave, crave adult company, long for the ability to use their brains and are ecstatic at the concept of applying their hard won professional skills.  Employers, you’d be mad not to let them bring this passion to your company!

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