Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ten Workplace Skills I Learned Being a SAHM

Lately I've been thinking that I might need to get a job. Yes, I know what I'm doing now, raising kids, is a job. I'm talking about a job that pays in money instead of in grey hairs and happy memories and a job that requires you to leave the house without an entourage of small children. These thoughts began about the same time school ended two weeks ago; coincidentally, I'm sure. It was also around the time that we were all enjoying a summer evening, playing whiffle ball in the backyard. The Girl ran up to me, excitedly:

Girl: Mom, I can switch hit! Daddy says I'm a natural!
Me: That's great. I wish I could do that.
Girl: Why?
Me: I don't know. I think it sounds like a cool thing to be able to do.
Girl: Do you think it could help you with your sweeping?

It irks me that my kids don't think I am qualified to do anything but fetch snacks, wipe noses, go shopping, and clean. If you think I'm exaggerating, I have visual proof:

The kids in the Boy's pre-K class were asked what their mothers
liked to do. Obviously, I love to vacuum!
I have to admit that I do look happy in the picture. Of course, I'm also missing a nose, an arm, and feet, so accuracy isn't its strong point.

More recently, the Baby was asked all about me for Mother's Night at her school:

BTW, my eyes are actually blue. She might have noticed if I hadn't
spent so much time at the grocery store and Target. I also totally wish
that I could fly, especially in Atlanta traffic.
Clearly, this is not an ideal time to think about reentering the workforce. No one is hiring lawyers who have just graduated from law school and actually know law-type stuff, so what chance does this give someone like me who hasn't practiced law in eight years? I'm pretty sure my experience as a room mom and frivolity blogger isn't going to do much to boost my credentials. The irony is that if I went back to work, I would be a far better employee now than I was before I had children because having kids has taught me so many skills that would be useful at a job. I've made a list...
1. I am more adaptable - I like predictability, and being an associate at a law firm is predictable in its unpredictability. You never know when a partner is going to come into your office at 8 pm and tell you he needs a memo by 8 am the next morning. In my pre-child days, I reacted to these requests with hostility and attitude, but no more. I am so completely accustomed to having all my plans altered at the last minute because I have to take someone to urgent care for a strep test or because we have some sort of forgotten-about kid-centered activity ("But, it's math and taco night at the school, don't you remember?") that I do what is required of me and cancel plans without blinking.

2.  I am able to deal with unreasonable people - I worked for someone who would say things like, "please ask me questions, if you don't understand something." But, when I asked a question, she would scream at me for being too stupid to know the answer myself. In my youth, this irrational behavior upset me. After spending the last nine years with the most unreasonable people, i.e., children, I feel absolutely equipped to handle whatever arbitrary behavior comes my way. Angrily insist that you are eight when you are actually 3? No problem. Scream at me for getting you carrots instead of strawberries when you specifically requested carrots? Able to shrug it off. Want me to cut off the chicken-y parts of the chicken? Absolutely. Read aloud the nutritional information of the bag of Flavor-Blasted Goldfish? Would like nothing better.

3. I can speak authoritatively when I don't know the correct answer - On the rare occasions that I was asked to actually advise a client on a legal matter, I always felt very hesitant. I always second-guessed my opinions and was apprehensive about giving definitive answers. Now I give definitive answers without having any actual knowledge about the subject. Who would win in a fight between a lion and a bear? A lion, but bears are smarter. Why do tears taste salty? Enzymes. How do airplanes fly? Physics and magic. 

4. There is pretty much nothing that I am above doing - Once you've collected stool samples, administered suppositories, and nursed a baby while throwing up from a stomach bug, your vanity is pretty much shot. There's very little left that I consider to be beneath my abilities or my dignity. Sure, I went to school for 19 years, but if you need me to pick up your lunch, I am totally cool with that.

5. I eat all my meals in under five minute - I like to eat dinner early and the K rarely gets home before 8 pm, so I "eat" with the children. Typically, this means that I alternate shoveling bites of food in my mouth while getting drink refills, cleaning up spills, refereeing arguments, and giving authoritative sounding answers (see #3). I have no problem with eating at my desk, while working. Rather, that sounds like a peaceful alternative to my current situation.

6. Juggling schedules and multitasking are my specialties - Before I had children I thought I was so busy with my own activities. What a joke! Now I have to keep track of the schedules of five different people and I've only screwed up a few times. With my experience in carpools, I bet I could handle a logistics job with my eyes shut.

7. I have no interests of my own - Well, this is actually a little sad for me, but a plus for an employer who wants a worker who'll never use training for a marathon as an excuse to get out of a conference call. If I recall, before I had kids, I liked to read, travel, and go out with friends. Currently, the last book I read in its entirety was, Barbie: I Want to be a Baby Doctor, it's too expensive to travel much with a family of five (and they'd never let me go anywhere on my own), and all my friends got tired of my cancelled plans and excuses ("I have to take the Baby to urgent care because she bashed her face on the coffee table and gave herself a frenectomy.") You see, any future employer would have my undivided attention. 
8. I have leadership experience - When I was 25, the only group I'd led was my friends on a bar crawl. Now I've had years of practice leading cranky children on tours of strange cities, rallying the troops to go to swimming lessons, and diffusing volatile situations like backseat car fights by spontaneously singing, Pop Goes the Weasel in a silly voice. I feel certain that these same skills could be brought to bear in an office setting. For sure, the calming effect that my singing has on my children could unite parties in even the most contentious negotiation.

9. I deliver bad news well - When lawyers have a serious sit-down meeting with a client, they call it a "Come to Jesus" meeting, or a CTJ meeting, for short. I'm not sure how this plays with non-Christian clients, but that's what we called those bad-news meetings. I have CTJ conversations with my children every day and have mad skills at delivering bad news in a palatable way. Don't want to leave the swimming pool? What if we stop to pick up Chick fil-a for dinner? Friend isn't in your group at camp? That's okay, because you're with the really good tennis players. So, basically I lie and manipulate, which are terrifically useful skills in an office.

10. I am very efficient - At my last big law firm job, it took me forever to complete projects. In part, this was because I had no idea what I was doing, in part because I hated what I was doing, and in part because I had nothing better to do than sit at the office. Now I only have a few hours a day to get everything done and I have become an expert at time-management. I have all kinds of time saving tricks  (brushing my teeth in the shower, sleeping in my exercise clothes, setting the table for breakfast at night) and I'm sure I could come up with some time-saving techniques for work with no problem. In addition, I would try to get all my work done quickly so that I could come home and see my family.

They may drive me crazy sometimes, but I love them dearly, and they've taught me everything I know!


  1. I think you learned a few things at Rutgers that I hope the kids can't teach you! When you go back to work, you will have even better leadership and negotiation skills for sure!

    1. But I didn't! Honestly, the only academic thing I learned in four years at Rutgers was in Civil War and Reconstruction with Professor Gillette and it's to refer to President Franklin Pierce as, "Friendly Frank Pierce, alcoholic from New Hampshire." That's it!

  2. No one understands how many valuable talents mothers of three truly have... thank you for the reminders! And, I will say this- don't go back until you are ready, because then... you get to be a working mother of three :) BUT, if anyone can do it, it would most certainly be you- just save some time for the blog.

    1. That's such good advice! I've been home with all three kids for exactly one day and I'm ready to send out my resume, but that would be kind of rash, I suppose!

  3. This is so awesome!! You should publish this... I'm a lawyer with a young baby. I work full-time and have SERIOUS mommy guilt, so I arrive late at work, frantically try to get something accomplished, and then sneak out early. But having a child has taught me how to do all you've mentioned, sit through a meeting with the aroma of baby puke wafting from my shoulder without even flinching. Seriously, this is a great blog post!

    1. Aww, thank you! I haven't had much success with finding other websites to publish my writing, so I've gotten a bit lazy about sending things out. Maybe I'll give it another try with this one.

      I worked until my oldest daughter was two and my son was six months old and it is hard, hard, hard. The good news is that neither of them appear to be too scarred from the experience. I think we're always doing better than we think we are...I hope that's the case, anyway!