Saturday, January 24, 2009

Making the Parent-Track the Fast Track

Hearing the news that Caroline Kennedy had withdrawn her name as a possible successor to Hilary Clinton in the Senate reminded me of an essay I read by the fantastic New York Times work/family life writer Lisa Belkin. Belkin argues that "experience" only counts on a resume if it's "work" experience. Work done outside of a job, say, serving on a board or volunteering at a child's school is valued less when interviewing for a paid job. Inherent in this assumption is that unpaid work experiences are less valuable than paid ones. Yet, the skills gained in these volunteer experienced could prove incredibly useful to employers. A parent who starts a club or program at a school knows something about doing research, working collaboratively with other stakeholders, and responding to feedback. In organizing a fundraiser, parents learn about marketing, soliciting community members, and event coordination. To my mind, these seem like directly applicable (paid) job skills.

When parents consult with me about leaving or re-joing the (paid) workforce, I hear a great deal of anxiety in these decisions. How will this time away from paid work be viewed? Will I be considered for jobs after an extended absence?

It seems to me that we as parents need to better articulate what we've gained from parenting and translate that experience into terms employers can understand. Our parenthood can make us more efficient at work (all the better to get home to our families sooner.) We are better at hearing out differences in opinion. We can adjust to change more easily.

There are a host of intangible benefits to parenting. And some of these intangibles can have real value in the marketplace of paid work. We as parents need to start talking as our "time off" with kids as "time on." As Belkin says, "But let’s stop with this talk of inexperience when we mean a range of experiences, many shaped by motherhood. The only way work will become more flexible for everyone, for all of us, is if the untraditional begins to count."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When to Turn to a Parent Coach (or other Parenting Consultant)

This article by Lora Shinn in the winter issue of Baby Map (in which I am interviewed) explains just what parent coaching is and how it may be helpful.