How do we overcome the hurdles to professional acceptance for parenting absence?

Ultimately, we need to frame our parenting experience within a context that makes sense to the professional world. Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where being a parent was valued beyond the social worth of the role? We are getting there, but we aren’t there yet and the fact remains that many employers still follow more traditional hiring practices.

Therefore, we need to be able to translate our value into business language so we can effectively market our unique selling points to prospective hirers. In doing this, we can mitigate against some of the perceived risks associated with hiring someone who has been out of the workforce to grow a human in our first contact with the employer.

Simply stating “2012 – 2016, Stay At Home Parent” doesn’t tell the hirer anything about you, your skills, your value or even provide a clue as to why they should hire you over someone with a similar background. Sure, it accounts for your time away from the workforce, but by listing your parenting experience in this way, you are missing an opportunity to sell your new skills that you have acquired now that you can survive on little to no sleep, bake a cake, soothe a baby and make paper mache all to a deadline, under the supervision of a tiny tyrant and all at the same time.

There are a few different options that you can consider in the development of your post-baby résumé, but you will need to make the decision about how to represent your time away from the paid workforce, yourself. Each industry, each company and each individual will have a different take on this scenario (no pressure!) so you are best to take a route that YOU are comfortable with yourself and YOU feel best suits YOUR circumstances. If you feel lost or unsure, I highly recommend talking to a professional about your situation.

Things to consider include:

1. Did you study during your employment absence?

If you did, you have the option to include the period of study as reason enough for your absence, particularly if you were studying at university level (where the full time courses are longer). Omitting your role in adding to the population is acceptable when it is not perceived as adding anything to your application. If you were also studying for this entire time, you are able to cite this as the cause for your absence. You can mention your recent foray into parenthood at interview if you choose, but again, disclosure of personal information such as your family structure is not necessary and a hirer cannot legally ask you about it.

If you choose to include your parenting role in the “Work History” on your résumé, still include your study period as this demonstrates your currency in relevant industry, market and technological developments.

2. Did you volunteer during your employment absence?

You do not need to disclose roles as paid or voluntary. You are well within your rights to list roles that you have undertaken such as “Tuck Shop Assistant” or “Uniform Stock Manager” under your “Work History” on your document and then list your outcomes, achievements and skills associated with each role regardless of the payment arrangement.

**Tip: If you have volunteered or worked part time at your child’s school, approach the school principal or P&C President and ask if they will be a referee for you.

3. Did you actually resign or are you still on maternity leave?

If you haven’t resigned from your job and you are therefore technically still employed (albeit on leave), then you have the choice to leave the date of your employment on your document as current. You don’t acknowledge periods of annual leave, long service leave or sick leave on your résumé, so there isn’t really a need to make special mention of parental leave either.

If that doesn’t sit well with you, you can include a brief statement about being on maternity leave under the entry for this role, or you can also add a separate entry to your document to detail your skills, experience and responsibilities as a parent. Remember that the job of the résumé is to get you to an interview. Having the discussion about being a parent (if you choose to have it) is often better left to this stage as you will have an opportunity to impress them regardless of any conscious or subconcious prejudice on their part or risk analysis that will follow the application process.

4. Consider the actual role of parenting within a professional context

This is a grey area within the career development field as some people are stuck in the traditional mindset of under-valuing the role of a stay at home parent. However, if you break down the role into its skills and responsibilities, it is diverse and high pressured and can easily be associated with in-demand professional skills that will translate well into the professional context such as:

  • Being able to work under pressure to meet deadlines
  • Scheduling events and timetabling conflicting commitments
  • Developing professional partnerships within local allied health networks (most relevant if your child has regular, specialist health needs)
  • Establishing rapport with people in leadership capacities to negotiate positive outcomes across learning, lifestyle and health issues
  • Managing accounts payable and stock inventory
  • Managing mail and insurances
  • … the list goes on.

If you start thinking about your own personal skills and achievements within the language expectations of a professional position, you will find yourself gaining a new perspective on your role as a parent and with a smidge of luck, so will the prospective employer.

Do you have any other tips to add to this list? Please SHARE in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • is it discrimination not to get hired based on the fact that you are a parent? the best qualified person for the job should get the job, that’s how i would employ people.


  • I gave up work when I had baby number 1. I was so pleased that i was able to be a stay at home mum. Three children later and I look back now and feel so sad that I didnt keep my hand in. the job I had has been replaced by technology and im now left with no skills and no one is really interested in employing me. Loads of applications and not even an interview. Ive really lost all my confidence in getting a job.
    I now feel its very important to at least work part time.

    • I felt the same but once I managed to get part time work I realised that I was perfectly capable, and as the articles notes, had developed a lot of new skills through parenting. Good luck!


  • Add to number 4 – taxi driver, chef, nurse, dispute solver / councillor/facilitator, negotiator, activities organiser……. the list is endless what mums do!


  • so glad I found these articles, as a mum who has been out of the work force for 9 years I am planning on getting back in somehow in the next few months now my girls are full time at school – These will be helpful tools and some much needed encouragement and support


  • Lke cs


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