When I was seven months pregnant with my first child (who’s now 13!!), I was working for a government department as a communication executive.
It was nothing riveting really. I wrote press releases about government-funded loos and oversaw annual report publishing, stuff like that.
Anyway, one day, they were interviewing people to fill one of the roles in our department, and when one of the interviewees left, my boss turned around and said: “Well, she’s qualified, but she’s been a stay-at-home mum for seven years and is just trying to get back into the workforce. I don’t think she’ll be suitable.”
I made a mental note that day, that women who took time out from work would be disadvantaged.
That particular woman was a former journalist. She was more than qualified to write press releases about toilet blocks, but because she left her job and raised her family, she was considered “not suitable.”
That left me feeling a bit scared about my future. Would I too be discriminated against for taking time out to raise my family?
So much has changed for women in the past few years. Back then I wondered if my years of study and my qualifications would go to waste, if I’d end up in a menial job I hated just to help pay the mortgage, because someone somewhere decided I wouldn’t be qualified to do anything but raise a family.
As it happened, though, I didn’t get to take too much time out at all. With my last baby, I was dragging him off to board meetings with me when he was six months old.
One day, I flew to Melbourne for a seminar and all eyebrows were raised as I sat there breastfeeding my 12 month old. Gasp! The guy with the seeing eye dog didn’t even turn a head.
I’ve been a work-at-home mum now for eight years, on and off, and I have been so grateful not to have to do the daily commute to the city, not to have to deal with people who think being a mother means your brain suddenly stops functioning, and not to have to worry about interviewing for jobs.
The thing is, though, that there are a lot of women out there who are struggling, who are being discriminated against and who are putting aside their dreams to pay for the mortgage – single mums in particular.
For those women who have gone out on a limb and started their own enterprises, it’s not necessarily been an easy ride either.
Statistically, women-owned businesses are less likely to attract funding, less likely to be scaled into larger businesses and less likely to survive beyond two years.
In saying that, though, women have never been more empowered to start-up their own businesses. The most recent studies show that micro businesses are starting up in greater numbers than ever before and programs that support women’s business development are getting terrific results. We just need more of them!
So, if you’re a work-at-home mum, today I take my hat off to you!
Celebrate your successes, big and small and enjoy International Women’s Day!