When I was pregnant, a friend who didn’t have kids yet dropped of a stack of novels, “I thought you might like to read these once the baby comes and you stop going to work.” Made sense to me in the moment; I would have tons of time on my hands right? Ha! The stack say on our table for months after our daughter arrived and a year later I managed to find the time to return them to my friend, unopened and unread. Where did all that time go I thought I would have?
That time was spent working. I don’t mean employment. I mean the very real work of caring for family that is so often invisible yet takes time, energy and skill of the mothers and fathers who do it every day. I noticed more and more that there seemed to be an hidden, subconscious assumption that “Caring for family isn’t really work, it’s just what mothers do.” One woman went to a workplace meeting a few weeks before her maternity leave ended and a male colleague asked, “So when are you coming back from your baby vacation.”
And then the kicker, a mother shared that she attended a career seminar and asked the group how to explain in an interview the fact that for three years she had been caring for family and not employed. A colleague told her, “Tell them you’ve been in a coma. That way, you’ll have better luck explaining why you haven’t been doing anything for the past three years.”
Haven’t. Been. Doing. Anything?
I wanted to put that guy in a coma for her. Or have him spend a couple of months on his own taking care of two toddlers.
It’s high time we make the invisible visible. What if we all believed that Caring for others is a vital human and economic activity and a public service?
What if we believed caring for others isn’t something JUST mothers do, but that it is important work that mothers, fathers and others do all the time?
Perhaps in that world, Coma Patient wouldn’t be a better resume title than Family Care Provider.