The True Cost Of Being A Stay At Home Mum

What Being A Stay At Home Mum Has Cost Me

When my son was born I felt my lost income pretty quickly. I’d worked in childcare up until three weeks before my due date. After squirreling money away in preparation for taking time off work with him it was pretty painful watching that bank account flip into reverse and slowly drain out.

When he was six months old I picked up a job working two mornings a week in a creche for a personal trainer who trained a groups of mothers. Over the following year I worked part time as a nanny for a couple of families on different days, and also another part time creche position. Yep. Some weeks I could work three different jobs over four days. 

But I was willing to do anything I could to keep working. I had my son with me at all times, and it proved impossible to find one job that could offer me all the hours that I needed, that would also allow me to take my son to work with me.

Although it was sometimes a bit of a shambles, I actually really enjoyed the variety.

Back To Regular Work

We then moved interstate and we enrolled our son – two years old by then – into childcare. I also started a regular part time job in a childcare center. I worked two to four days a week. And life was pretty normal for a while there. Until baby number two came along. So I left childcare to return to being a full time stay at home mum.

Which is where I’ve remained for most of the last six years.

It’s been a privilege and a joy to be able to be at home with my kids, and I’m grateful that our family has been able to afford to survive on one income. It’s not been without sacrifice, but this time has been well worth it.

However I didn’t realise just how much I’d given up until now.

The Real Cost

There is a nearly six year gaping hole in my resume. I’ve worked sporadically as an Ergobaby product demonstrator, but even that job has started to fade out into the distance. The last time I worked for them being over a year ago.

Otherwise, I’ve obviously been very active writing for the last five years, but I’m not sure if potential employers are really seeing that as something that “counts”. 

So, I’ve dusted off my resume, attached a cover letter explaining my absence from the working world, and have spent the last couple of months sending it off in all directions. 

And have heard very little in response. 

And the responses I have had want references. Current, contactable, relevant, references. And ideally more than one. Which I’m struggling to provide. For example I have a glowing written reference from an employer saying that I was not only great at my job, but my colleagues improved from working alongside me. How nice is that?! But it was written in 2010. Apparently that makes it a bit out of date.

I’m starting to realise that maybe it was arrogance on my behalf to think I could take half a decade out of work and then just saunter back in, just because I am now willing and able.

But then, I was able to get a job in the first place. I was employed before I had any experience at anything. Surely some experience, even if it was a while ago, is better than none at all?

What Next?!?

Honestly I don’t know. Keep applying, keep trying, keep brain storming ways to make this work. This morning I applied for a childcare position offering just two hours a week. I’m willing to be incredibly flexible if it gets my foot in the door. And we’re not in any kind of crisis here as a family. We’re comfortably treading water on a single income. Everything is fine. And I’m sure that I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself panicking that I’ll never find a job. My mind is always a bit of a contradiction of anxiety and optimism. On the one hand I see myself as an old woman having never worked another day in my life, and on the other hand I do feel like somehow this will all turn out okay.

Tell me, how did you re-enter the workforce after a break with children? Or are you in the same boat as I am? 

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Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

37 Comments

  1. I was made redundant whilst pregnant with my son – not discriminatory, the whole department was dissolved.

    I had a really good role, well paid, working from home, doing work I loved… but three years later, my skills are dated, and I would find it exceptionally hard to find a comparable role in the same industry.

    It’s so hard to get into contact with a boss from 3 years prior and expect him to deliver a glowing and relevant reference on work that he’s probably long forgotten.

    The workforce is keyed against women. We are the ones who most often become SAH parents. We are the ones who most often experience lengthy career interruptions, during which we lose the opportunity to increase wealth and position.

    And to add insult to injury, whilst we’re SAHMs our superannuation is not accruing and is actually going backwards due to fees.

    Is it any wonder middle aged women in Australia are becoming homeless and stricken by poverty???

    I am thinking of starting study in a different field.

    I am just not sure what one. And if I study but don’t use it immediately, how long until what I have studied becomes dated again?

  2. This is exactly me right now. I was off for 18 months with my first, then returned to a role in a completely different field to anything I’d ever done before for 10 months before my second was born. So now that he’s 21 months old and I’m financially needing to go back, I don’t even know where to start.
    Part of me really wants to work – for my own mental health, independence, renewed sense of purpose and all that, but the problem is, my entire working life was really just about making do until I could start my family. I certainly achieved a certain level of success in my work life, but I have no desire to return to the type of work I’d been doing for over 10 years when my first came along. I would happily return to the last job I did in between the kids, but the company went bust the day after I finished with them so that’s not an option either.
    I recently had my resume reviewed by a professional service and they basically said it was not going to get me in the door, so yeah, that’s also fun.

    I’d love to see a snippet of your cover letter where you said you explained your absence from the workforce if you felt like sharing.

  3. I was off for close to 3 years. I felt it too, massively. I had studied the entire time my I’d been at home too which I thought would work in my favour. But it didn’t. I felt discriminated against when I mentioned children and also fall outside of the government bonus age by a year which was frustrating. I ended up going off the parenting payment and starting newstart allowance where I had access to a job provider. They helped a lot as I was in the minority of people desperately wanting a job. However, I got my job on my own. There are employers out there willing to give you a go, they are just hard to find. Tailoring cover letters to each position is also something I did. But no, I will never leave the wirkforce for that long again!

  4. Yes, this is a massive issue. I created my own job after becoming a mother. It was clear I would not be able to ‘work’ due to issues in my personal life. It is a battle for many mothers trying to enter the workforce again. Most women I know have had to retrain, go into a different career or accept roles well below what they had before kids. That’s if they get a job at all.

  5. There’s no easy way around this for SAHMs who want to renter the workforce. It’s so important the work flexibility is offered so that we can stay employed through the early child-rearing years if we want to. There will be companies that recognise the value of employing you, so please don’t give up hope.

  6. Similar to another poster, I was made redundant while pregnant and my entire industry has basically disappeared since then (print media). I’ve juggled freelance and part time work during the early years but no idea what sort of full time career I will have in front of me now that a lot of my previous experience is essentially a museum artifact. LOL.

  7. Hopefully that perfect business for you will come along and see your potential. Parents returning to the workforce isn’t a new thing, so you’d think employers would get with the times!-

  8. I think it’s important to keep your skill set up when your home with the kids. Working on my own small business, I have learnt so much more than I would of in my old job and have a much wider skill set. It doesn’t take up huge amounts of my time and gives me sometjing to think about other than the kids and home. Highly recommend.

  9. Don’t feel like it’s all on you for being out of paid work for so long – my husband is currently sending out dozens of resumes with no replies and he’s been employed almost constantly for the last 12 years…

    1. It feels like employers know people are a bit desperate too. I’ve applied for some jobs that are casual, with minimal hours, but they expect basically 24/7 availability. How does that work for anyone.

    2. Parenting Central Yep.Virtually every job I see advertised “must be available to work across all retail hours, including nights and weekends”. As a single parent, that’s not gonna work. I haven’t really even been out of the workforce – just looking to relocate. So, even with a current job, it’s difficult.

  10. We decided that I wouldn’t return to the traditional 9-5 work force once I had my daughter. I’ve found different ways to earn an income online but at times it can be hard. It’s not something I really thought about when I was going to uni, but becoming a parent completely changes your outlook on work and potentially your opportunities.

  11. I have watched a family member who was a long time SAHM struggle for years to re-enter and succeed in the workforce. Even now, over a decade after she started, she is struggling. It would be great to see more support, and targeted positions for parents who return to the workforce.

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