Most mothers and fathers would know that being a stay-at-home parent is absolutely a full-time job.
But for Alison Black, an eight-year “gap” between working and raising her three children has left her feeling a little unsettled.
In two years’ time, when her youngest goes to school, she’ll be looking to get out into the workforce again.
She says she’s already starting to think about how she should “justify” having taken the time off.
And she worries that any prospective employer’s attitude might be that she’s been sitting around “drinking lattes and having mum chitchat for 10 years”.
“Obviously there’s so much more to it,” she is quick to add.
So with the world’s largest professional networking site, LinkedIn, deciding to recognise this unpaid labour as part of a person’s profile history, mothers like Alison are fully on board.
Currently there’s no option on LinkedIn for parents and carers to explain those gaps in their work history.
LinkedIn says in response to feedback, particularly from women and mothers, it’s adding “stay-at-home mum”, “stay-at-home dad” and “stay-at-home parent” to its job options in the “coming weeks”.
“In the near future, we’ll also add a new field specifically for employment-gap types to the profile like ‘parental leave’, ‘family care’ or ‘sabbatical’ so that people can address any gaps in their career journey,” Bef Ayenew, LinkedIn’s director of engineering, said.
The idea is that by adding these titles, it’ll help to normalise full-time caring as equal to full-time work.
That, and to give people an opportunity to lay out all the other unique and valuable skills they may have gained while caring for their children.
Recognising parenting role ‘not gimmicky, it’s clever’
For Alison, budgeting, diplomacy, time management and administration are just a few of the skills she’s picked up (and plans on adding) to her LinkedIn profile as soon as the new feature goes live.
“For example, I haven’t just taken my kids to playgroup, I’ve run the playgroup. That’s a lot of administration, a lot of diplomatic emails … a lot of financials, signing leases for a hall, paying the rent.”
Marian Baird, professor of gender and employment relations at Sydney University, says most of the skills needed to be a stay-at-home parent (management, communication, patience) are also crucial business skills.
She also thinks that while yes, the move is symbolic, the fact that it’s LinkedIn doing it is important.
“It’s not gimmicky, it’s a clever move by LinkedIn,” she said.
“I think the fact that it gets codified in a way on such a global platform that LinkedIn is, it does start to make it be read and understood by people in a different way.
The professor says even though people might doubt the idea at first, if enough people get on board, it could lead to real change.
“I suspect it will begin to shift employer’s perceptions of what women have done at home,” she said.
Alison says it’s a tangible way for her to illustrate the skills she’s honed and picked up over the past decade.
“For me, the step LinkedIn is taking is fantastic. I think it will really do wonders for people who have taken the time off,” she said.
As for employers who may still look at the gaps in a parent’s resume with an eye of scepticism, Alison has a pretty clear message.
“Don’t be quick to judge. This person has chosen to do what’s best for their family and that doesn’t mean they have less to give in a job,” she said.
“I think they have distinct skills that shouldn’t be overlooked.”