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Does Motherhood Belong on Your Resume?

By helaineo |

Does motherhood belong on your resume?

This question came up once again this week at The Wall Street Journal’s Juggle blog, where the topic of the day was what parts of our personal life should we include on our curriculum vitae. The Juggle recommended listing those interests that you are truly passionate about that an an employer would also see as “a good fit.” So skateboarding is a yes if the company you are applying to is “young and hip”  (like, say, Google) but a no if you are sending a resume to a bank. As for that hobby otherwise known as parenthood, The Juggle suggested going light on the nurturing unless you are applying for a job as a nurse, but to include any volunteer activities that highlight “successes that would transfer to the workplace, such as fundraising or organizational skills.”

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t equate motherhood with a cool hobby like Bikram yoga or skateboarding. But never mind me. More important, employers don’t equate the two either. Frankly, The Wall Street Journal should know better. 

Several years ago, The American Journal of Sociology published a provocative study called Getting a Job: is There a Motherhood Penalty?. The survey’s authors sent out  identical resumes to employers — identical, that is, but for one crucial difference. One version of the resume contained the position “Parent-Teacher Association coordinator,” under a section devoted to outside interests. The other did not reference anything to do with children at all. The results? The women thought to be mothers were less likely to be offered a job and, if they did get the nod, were offered significantly less annual salary than their supposedly childless counterparts.

Mothers are often viewed as more devoted to their children than the workplace, and are treated accordingly by employers. One can, after all, choose to skip an afternoon of surfing in favor of cleaning the desk, but it is much harder to abandon a sick child. Few employers seem to care that motherhood teaches valuable lessons in everything from time management to keeping one’s cool in situations of extreme stress. Instead, employers are simply looking for someone they believe will be devoted to their job first and foremost and, in an economy where there are between five and six job applicants for each open position, they can likely find that person. After all, rates of everything from flextime to telecommuting have plunged in the past few years, as companies have found they don’t need to meet the needs of their employees as much as in the past.

So what do you think? Would you list anything parenthood related on a resume? If yes, what parts? If no, why not?

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About helaineo



Helaine Olen's writing has been published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal,, and, where she is an associate editor. Her first book, Office Mate: The Guide to Finding True Love on the Job will be published this fall. She lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

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18 thoughts on “Does Motherhood Belong on Your Resume?

  1. Sarah says:

    people put outside interests on their resumes? I would have to see the other outside interests that it was compared against on the other resume to draw any type of conclusion.

  2. Gretchen Powers says:

    I personally think putting outside interests is kind of stupid in general unless the place asks for them…I would NOT put anything about parenting. I don’t put down that I’m a good cook, or good at managing my family finances or good at giving hand jobs. Parenting is personal, just like those things.

  3. Manjari says:

    I wouldn’t mention it on a resume, but I would in a detailed cover letter or in an interview. I would just mention that I left work to raise a family for a few years, or else it might seem odd that my last job was years ago.

  4. Rosana says:

    LOL, Gretchen. I laughed a little too loud in the office.

  5. Rosana says:

    Motherhood could help when thinking about the skills you want to list on your resume (problem solver, budgeting, etc.)

  6. JZ says:

    I wonder the same thing. I wouldnt want a possible employer thinking I’ve just been hanging out or in jail the last 10 years.
    Adding it in a cover letter is a good idea.

  7. Radical Dad says:

    Why is it not true of dads? Why don’t we think that dads’ careers are going to be secondary to their children? Shouldn’t they be? Until we show men the value of being a parent, and the skill involved, we will never be able to talk about the incredibly valuable skills that women have to bring to the workplace because of (not in spite of) their parenting.

  8. Radical Dad says:

    Also, Gretchen, why is parenting personal and workplace skills something for the resume? Could it possibly be because parenting is traditionally considered women’s work, while the workplace is men’s work? Be proud of your parenting prowess. It’s just as valuable to the workplace as an undergraduate degree in English.

  9. Gretchen Powers says:

    Cover letter is the appropriate place for this. Parenting is personal. I would think it would be silly for my husband to put on his resume that he is “good at telling stories” or “kissing boo boos”. What people do in their HOMES is personal. “Managing” children (for example) is not like managing a staff. Or being able to “multitask” (something that many parents probably think they can do well). Multitasking in an office or job environment is different from home. That’s not to say people shouldn’t be “proud” or happy with their “skills”, however, unless they really don’t have other experiences to draw on for their resume, they should probably leave that stuff off. There may be some overlap of skills, but I think a person would be making a mistake to try to paint this picture of a resume.

  10. Gretchen Powers says:

    I would add that I think one’s parental role is a factor that must be managed in conversations with prospective employers (not saying this is good or bad, just how it is). It is something that, once you talk to someone in the organization and get a read on the company culture, the hiring person’s perspective, etc. then you can express or withold, as you judge appropriate. But, I would not put it out there on a resume without the opportunity to color and shape it, in a real conversation, with the person doing the decisionmaking.

  11. Laura says:

    I am a nurse and I would never put “nurturing skills” on my resume. LAME. I put things like education, certifications, and qualifications. It is sexist how nurses are seen as caring little airheads. We are smart, well educated professionals that may some day save your life – and not by being all touchy-feely.

  12. pixielation says:

    I think motherhood doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have particular skills that you have garnered from the experience. Simply having children doesn’t make you a skilled conflict manager or a time management expert. Some people learn an incredible amount from parenting, and others bring their already prolific skills into play as part of their parenting.

    Having children does change your outlook on many things, but it doesn’t define you in a manner that would be worthy of a resume for most jobs.

  13. Becca says:

    Since when I go back to work I will have to explain an 8 year resume gap I would either have to put it in a cover letter or include my volunteer work as Membership VP for Moms Club and Hospitality leader for Mops. I would think that volunteer work would help them not have any assumptions of tv and bon bons.

  14. brex says:

    I hate to say it, but I found that once I removed the phrase “coming off of maternity leave”, I finally got an interview (and subsequently a new job). And this is in a country where we get paid to take a year off. Granted, I was only out for a year and not 5 so it was a bit easier to gloss over by claiming that I had been freelancing during that time. Still, I didn’t mention having a baby until they asked in the interview what had happened in May 2009. I personally don’t think you should bring it up unless they do.

  15. michelle says:

    OF COURSE professionals put certain carefully selected personal interests/activities on their resumes (usually at the end). They pick things that say something about them that employers tend to like — such as “competed in marathons” or “did volunteer fundraising,” etc. Nobody puts on a resume something generic that just says they are a parent, like “I have nurturing skills” or “I was a stay at home mother.” To be clear, that is NOT what the article is talking about anyway. Note that the fake resume they sent out had “PTA Coordinator.” This is solid volunteer experience that speaks to a person’s management skills, and that IS something you often see on a resume, again because it’s a type of management experience. What this article is saying is that if you put on your resume, for example, that you coordinated a food drive or volunteered at a homeless shelter, which are both pretty comparable to managing the PTA, these are fine because they don’t indicate whether you are a parent. On the other hand, managing the PTA, while certainly comparable management experience, also is a clue that you are a parent, so the potential employer jumps to the conclusion that you will need time off or too much flexibility or otherwise be a bad hire. But it is NOT because there’s anything intrinsically different (from a skills standpoint) about volunteering at the PTA versus the Humane Society. It’s sad that we have to leave all parenting-related things off our resumes and just wait till the interview stage. I do this myself — if you read my resume there is no clue I’m a parent. I hit them with that information during the interview. By then it matters less anyway.

  16. Bonnie says:

    Again, not to be a bubble-buster, but this is the real world. In this world, if you put anything mommy-related in your resume, it is like saying “I have nothing else to add to my resume and can’t think of any good way to lie.” If a volunteer position happens to relate to parenting, great, that’s good to add. Volunteer activities of any kind may add points to the resume. However, unless it’s used to explain reasons for unemployment for more than several months, there is a lot of evidence that suggests one should leave the personal life out of the professional one. As someone else mentioned, that’s for the conversation with the boss at the company picnic when he or she has had too many drinks and can’t remember what you said anyway.

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