A few years ago, I was having lunch with a good friend (and one toddler, which isn’t bad considering that our combined children equal five), and we got to talking about the future — when our kids would be a little more self-sufficient, and we’d finally be able to leave the house more often.
“The thing is, I don’t even know what I can do,” my friend lamented. “What are my skills? I don’t have a college degree, and I’ll have nothing to show but who-knows-how-many years of being a homemaker. Who would want to hire me?”
Leaving aside the facts that (a) this friend is brilliant and sanguine and eminently hire-able, and (b) plenty of highly successful people never graduated college, here’s what I have to say about that:
Stay-at-Home Moms of the World, YOU’VE GOT THIS.
By the time Junior can wipe his own nose and fix his own lunch and dress himself completely unassisted, you’ll have so many MORE skills than you already did pre-motherhood that you could have employers fighting duels just for the privilege of hiring you. Don’t believe me? Well, if I prepared an exhaustive résumé, the options would completely overwhelm you, so I’ll just give you a brief sampling of the things you can do — and actually get paid for! — once you’ve raised children.
How many meals have you prepared over the past who-knows-how-many years? How many special orders? And in your sleep, no less! You not only have what it takes to cook like a pro; you also know how to work long hours and deal with difficult customers. Plus — bonus! — it’s your restaurant, so your menu can include stuff you gave up on making when your kids came along. Imagine the possibilities…
“Mom, I don’t know what to dooooo!”
Sound familiar? Even if you’ve done better than I have at teaching your kids to proactively occupy their free time, you’ve nonetheless spent years organizing schedules, planning activities, and figuring out what people will need at different times of the day…right down to the Goldfish crackers they will snack on and the books they can look at while driving anywhere farther away than an hour. You will rock this cruise-director thing…plus, I’m pretty sure you won’t have to cook.
Second shift? Been there, done that. Knowing the difference between Susie’s “ear infection” cry and her “I-don’t-want-to-go-to-school-and-oh-yeah-I-think-maybe-my-tummy-hurts-(or-maybe-my-throat)” cry? You’re an expert. With more than a decade of first-aid experience under your belt, you will ACE those nursing classes with your hands tied behind your back. Not to mention the wonderful bedside manner you probably have, and let’s face it, some nurses have it and some nurses…don’t.
People will pay big bucks to get some insight into how to manage their lives. Except, of course, for your offspring. From dealing with bullies to recovering from a breakup to choosing a career, you’ve provided sage advice — pro bono — far longer than any paid professional. So when your last fledgling leaves the nest, and you’ve reassured yourself that you didn’t totally ruin your little brood, just slide right in there with the pros and finally earn a salary for what you already do brilliantly.
Technically, you may need to learn a different language for this, but even if you failed high-school Spanish, you were probably a highly proficient translator by the time your first kid turned three. I mean, if Mom can’t figure out what the little peanut is trying to say, then I guarantee you nobody else does.
In addition to possessing these newly-developed foreign-language skills, you spend the bulk of each day reconciling hostile parties, at least if you have more than one kid. My exhaustive research on foreign diplomacy indicates that you are more than qualified to follow this exciting career path…and that you will actually be able to wear nice clothes and do professional-looking stuff with your hair, which sounds fabulous to me as I sit typing away with my hair in a ponytail and no makeup on.
For a trip to the in-laws’ a while ago, I borrowed a CD set of Dr. Seuss books read aloud by actors such as Billy Crystal, Kelsey Grammer, and John Lithgow. As we enjoyed it in the car, I thought to myself, “Man, these guys are fantastic…wait a second…hey, I could do this!” After all, I’ve developed quite a range of voices myself, from Aslan to Ramona to the Once-ler. My British and French accents (among others) aren’t too shabby either. If you love books and try to make them come alive when reading them aloud to your kids, you could easily have a future in audiobooks…and that could just lead to your first big break.
So next time you’re concerned about your future employability, homemakers, chin up! You rock. And if you need a reference, give me a call. I’ve totally got your back.