Forum: Recognise parenting experience of stay-home mums in job applications

Being a stay-home mum is hard work. A survey involving 2,000 mothers in the United States found that these women spent an average of 98 hours a week on their household duties - equivalent to working 2 ½ full-time jobs. It also found that a mother has, on average, 26 tasks every day.

Yet, despite managing such demands at home, many stay-home mothers face difficulty re-entering the workforce. Another survey, conducted by Robert Walters in 2016, found that in Asia, less than 5 per cent of women returning to work were offered more senior, or similar, roles compared with the roles they previously held.

Two of the biggest challenges stay-home mothers find in job applications are justifying the gap in their work experience and asserting their commitment to performance.

While updating their resumes, some women may find themselves feeling embarrassed and ashamed of their years out of the workforce. Despite having dedicated their days admirably to nurturing their children and managing the household, some feel the need to cover up the gap years.

To make things worse, employers frequently question their priorities and motivation, specifically between work and family, during job interviews. I remember being asked by a potential employer whether I would hire a domestic helper if I were offered the job - such questions are irrelevant to the employer's decision on a candidate's suitability for a role.

This reflects the common misconception that mothers lack commitment at work because of their personal lives. Such gender stereotypes make it harder for stay-home mothers to prove that they have what it takes to rejoin the workforce.

Not many mothers realise it themselves, that being a stay-home mum requires skill sets that are transferable across different settings and professions. These mothers may not have undergone professional training or earned certificates of achievement, but they surely have accumulated enough on-the-job training hours in areas such as prioritisation, multitasking, health, finance and negotiation.

Perhaps in the future, we can explore offering stay-home mothers official remuneration and recognition for embarking on their job within the home and embracing a steep learning curve courageously.

In the meantime, the least we can do to honour these women is to recognise their valuable experience, and empower and enable them as they seek to achieve more in another phase of their lives - re-entering the workforce.

Kate Seet Zhu Ting