Job hunting as a single parent?

by singlemomseeking on April 13, 2009

When I look at my resume from five years ago, it’s a joke. Guess what I listed for the year 2000?

  • Gave Birth to My Daughter

“Learned to focus amidst constant distractions, deal with regular crises, juggle several issues at once, and hone my leadership skills”

How witty! Apparently not.

I thought that being honest about my motherhood status would be an asset. (And I didn’t even state the fact that I was a single mom!) Looking back, I don’t think that employers took me seriously. After deleting any references to parenting, companies mysteriously started to call me back.

Recently, a single mom in her late 20s wrote to me to ask about job-searching. She’s graduating with a journalism degree and wanted some strategies to hit the job market. She has a one-year-old at home, and she wondered: Should she be open about the fact that she’s a single mom?

This got me thinking: Do you disclose your “singlemommyhood” when job searching?

Of course, I turned to the Sanity Fairy™ for some thoughts on this one. You can read Dr. Leah’s feedback here.


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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

MindyMom April 13, 2009 at 6:26 am

Wow. I had never thought about this but I suppose for several reasons our single mom status would make us less desirable to employers. I’d probably try to not to disclose but that’s tough when you’ve been a SAHM for many years and then go back to work. You have to give a reason for no work history.

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Single Mom April 13, 2009 at 7:22 am

Gosh, I have been at the same job since my son was 2. I am not sure if I would disclose it, if I were to look for another job.

Do married people tell how many kids they have at home and whether or not they have help, while on an interview? Probably not.

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Mike April 13, 2009 at 7:45 am

LOL. Now that would be funny to see on a resume. When I use to interview people you find out what there family life is. Are they going to be leaving early or getting in late frequently due to family problems. I wouldn’t be forthcoming with it is my suggestion. It’s not a plus.

Mike´s last blog post…Phili Freedom

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T April 13, 2009 at 7:55 am

“gave birth”

Ha!

Interesting thought, Rachel. I am fortunate that in my current job, the man that hired me knows me and my situation personally. I’d never thought about whether or not to disclose about my personal life. Hmmm…

*off to read Dr. Leah’s advice*

T´s last blog post…I need a vacation (Help please)

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Allison April 13, 2009 at 8:05 am

I’m a single mom and I do think that I’ve become a much better, more productive, and more efficient worker since I had my son. However, I wouldn’t disclose my single parent status for two reasons: 1. legally, employers can’t ask about stuff like that; and 2. they could very well discriminate if she offered it up.

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singlemomseeking April 13, 2009 at 8:36 am

Great responses!

Maybe it’s because of the kind of work I’ve done in the past 8+ years (writing about parenting as well as editing many series of textbooks), but my parenting status seems rather obvious… even if no one talks about it.

I wonder if it’s a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy? Hmmm.

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gregpeckfan April 13, 2009 at 8:46 am

I’m an HR Manager, so this is what I do for a living. I have a few thoughts:

1. Do NOT disclose your status as a single mother, or a mother, or a single. This extends to all irrelevant personal information. Do not ever mention clubs, religious affiliations, etc. on your resume or an interview. Do not mention extracurricular activities, “Lutheran Church Fundraiser Organizer” OR “Board Secretary, United Atheist Literary Cooperative” it reveals special interests. These things add very little. I want to know what you did for WORK. And, in the wrong hands (and several pairs of ‘wrong hands’ handle your resume before the right hands get it) it simply increases your risk of getting ‘screened’ out.

2. Discrimination on the basis of family status is one of the largest, growing, area in employment law claims. The claims are growing because the discrimination is growing. You have a right not be discriminated against due to your status as a parent. This is irrelevant to marital status (another protection). Do NOT speak about your status as a parent, or a single / divorced / married person in an interview (see #1). EVER. This means not even casually, “I always drive by here when I pick my daughter up from school…” If recruiter tries to fish for this information, play dumb and turn it back onto work.

3. Rachel’s post above reminds me the time early in my career in HR, in my 20s when I received a resume that is burned in my mind’s eye. Under “Special Accomplishments” (brrrr to this section in general) it said: “Delivered two children naturally and vaginally, with no narcotic.” No matter what you did with this resume, your eyes riveted back to the V-word. This particular resume also had a large color photo of her in the corner – another BIG mistake.

4. Regarding the “what to put as SAHM time”?? I handled that by listing some small consulting projects I had through those years. If you have literally nothing, list the time as “At home with children” keep it as simple as possible but my opinion is to keep the SAHM out if possible. (Always, ALWAYS address the gaps in time).

I’m sad the world works this way, but frankly – - it does.

5. As a professional in HR, not only do I NEVER mention my status as a mom, or a single mom. I actually wore a wedding ring when I interviewed last.

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John F April 13, 2009 at 10:04 am

@gregpeckfan…some good advice. Did you do better with a wedding ring?

John F´s last blog post…Cabo Cruise July 11-16, 2009

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MC April 13, 2009 at 12:36 pm

OMG, no! Never, ever, hint that you have children/are single/or whatever on your resume or during a job interview!

And I agree with the person posting above, only put a brief mention about staying home with your kids on your resume if you had a noticeable gap in employment, otherwise leave it out.

It’s not fair, but that’s the way the world works, unfortunately.

I was hired into my current position almost 10 years ago, but during the interviews I didn’t have the option of not mentioning my kids….because I was hugely pregnant with twins at the time!

I was shocked to realize how much it affected people. I had thought that our society was beyond that by now, that concerns about working mothers were a non-issue these days, and I assumed that in my area (I’m a scientist), the only thing they cared about was merit. Uh, no.

3 places I interviewed suddenly started offering me alternative “mommy-track” type jobs when they saw me, instead of the job they had originally invited me to interview for! And one job in Manhattan told me that they “assumed” when they saw me that I wasn’t seriously considering the position because how could I live in the city with 2 children?!?

Once I realized what was happening, I got mad and countered with everything I had—I pulled out my “major professional” persona and hugely dial up my intensity, aggression, focus, and bragging (they call it “selling yourself”, but it’s basically bragging) in interviews. And I brought up and addressed straight out their concerns they might have about the seriousness of my career ambitions “despite” my having a family.

I guess it worked—all of the places that first offered me a “mommy-track” job (even the one in Manhattan!) ended up offering me instead the high level position I wanted. So I had my pick.

Despite the happy ending, I learned my lesson: people at work are not necessarily as educated, liberal, and prejudice-free as you might assume, and you can’t ignore that if you need to work for a living.

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Dr.Leah www.singlemommyhood.com April 13, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I appreciated all the advice that gregpeck fan generously offered.

I’d like to mention that this apparently necessary silence does extract an emotional price. We all spend a lot of time at work (Duh!) and it’s hard to keep that boundary, especially if you’re going through a rough patch at home.
I can easily empathize with the feelings of single parents who do want to “put it out there” right from the beginning.

Dr.Leah http://www.singlemommyhood.com´s last blog post…Do you disclose your “singlemommyhood” when networking?

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Lauren April 13, 2009 at 4:00 pm

I’m just starting the search for my first job after graduation (even though I don’t graduate until December), and I’m trying my best to avoid bringing in the fact that I’m a single mom. I’m actually a lot more focused on school now that I’m a mom (and I got my highest semester GPA ever during my first semester back after giving birth), and I WISH I could let potential employers know this even though I know I shouldn’t.

Lauren´s last blog post…I’m a mom again!

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gregpeckfan April 13, 2009 at 4:25 pm

@Dr. Leah – - I get what you are saying here:

“it’s hard to keep that boundary, especially if you’re going through a rough patch at home”

…but from an employers perspective this is a nightmare. The last thing an employer needs to even remotely suspect in an interview is problems at home. The goal here is getting a JOB – - what is going on at your home isn’t an employer’s problem.

I don’t mean to imply you should be completely silent about your lifestyle forever. This post was in the context of “getting the job”.

Once you’re on the job a different set of guidelines may apply.

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Hanie April 13, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Gregpeckfan, on this side of the pond (Malaysia) it is usual to disclose religion, race and even marital status as part of your resume and job search activities. I am an HR practitioner for the last 15 years and currently works with a Fortune 500 firm with main forte in talent and career management consulting. We also help retrenched candidates in outplacement activities in re writing resumes and coaching them for work interviews. Majority of my colleagues would agree that, in a local context, that it is alright to disclose marital status i.e. single mommy-hood as prospective employers would know that this person would work hard and more focus in her career. Afterall, she has a big responsibility now with a child. Although having said this, it come with a caveat too. You cant do this with “any” prospective employer vide abuse of information. We always ask our candidates to choose the future employers carefully – visit the cafeteria, talk to the staff, get a feel of the culture, see “hows things are done around here”, read about their CSR in newspaper etc.

I agree with your pointers that set the rules for your side of the world. The main thing is to get that job and nothing is more enticing for an employer to offer a position when the cv looks clean and good!

Focus on your past contributions, achievements (job related that is), awards, significant development. If you had lead a team in a project, list down what achievements you had with them. It could look like this – “we managed to track a 70% increase in customers using xyz product”- rather than -”we track a significant increase in customers using xyz product”. Something with stats and numbers are always good.

Hanie´s last blog post…College – Here She Comes!

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Angela April 13, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I had the exact opposit experience then most of you. I had no choice but to disclose my single parent status and the reason I had been out of the job force for 9 years. I was getting a job in child care where my kids would have to come with me if I was to accept the position, so I had to tell her my needs and a big part of that was them having room for my kids to go there with me. They did and it all worked out. There was no way to not tell them; and in the end it worked out really well. My kids go with me to work every day. Doesn’t get much better then that though it is a far second to staying home with them. I have a huge support system and their dad is involved but 99% of their daily care falls to me and I could not take this job without disclosing that. It ended up being an asset. She got an employee AND 3 more pupils. Win/win.

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Janet April 13, 2009 at 7:30 pm

I would NEVER mention being a single mom when applying for a job. Keep the interview focused on work. Employers have enough reasons to screen out a candidate…don’t hand them additional ammo!

Janet´s last blog post…Hop Hop Hop!–Easter Weekend Part 2

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Apples April 13, 2009 at 9:11 pm

I started to wonder if I should lie when they asked me why the employment gap if saying I was in Prison might be less of a turn off for employers then the truth being I was a Stay at Home Mom….

:P

BTW working (underemployed) and still looking….

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Apples April 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Please note my sarcasm in the above response.. I was joking…. Well at least I hope I was.. I hope MOM isn’t that bad of a thing and it is just because I am looking at the worst time possible that I have yet to find that job for me.

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Kat Wilder April 13, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Would a man say he was a single dad to get a job? Would it work against him? I think not.

It’s nobody’s business, really, and for a company to ask is potentially discriminatory. But employers make those sorts of judgments all the time — young married woman? Probably will be getting pregnant soon? Attractive, shapely blonde? Could cause problems for certain unhappily married men ..

If it makes sense to the job — editing parenting books or creating kid-friendly software, sure, tell them you’re a mom (single mom? Why?) Otherwise, no one should care.

Kat Wilder´s last blog post…There’s a reason why it’s called a crush

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avigail74 April 14, 2009 at 6:05 am

I wholeheartedly agree with Gregpeckfan…I do wish more people would remember to keep their home life separate from their work life…there’s still a lot of discrimination and false assumptions that occur during an interview…they want to know that you are the most qualified to do the job..i’ve never told interviewers that I was pregnant, now divorced or let alone a single parent but what I do do, is brag about all the things I’ve accomplished on the job and none of them have to do with me being a parent, let alone a single one. Remember, you’re selling yourself as the most trustworthy and competent worker out there!

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judy April 14, 2009 at 9:38 am

Although all the HR comments are spot on about not mentioning there have been times under the right circumstances that I have mentioned being a mom (not a single mom) and that my life now would allow me to be successfull because my kid is older and that 4 years ago even if I wanted this job I would not have applied because of little kid.

It show reflection and maturity. Of course I work in a kid world (education) so there is some difference there as well.

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Legal Editor Mom April 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm

I wanted to comment earlier today but for some reason couldn’t access this page. I’m so glad gregpeckfan offered her professional expertise, because when I read this post my first thought was that employers legally cannot ask certain personal questions such as marital status, whether the applicant is currently (or plans to become) pregnant, sexual preference, etc., and being a mom, single or not, falls within that category.

It ISN’T an employers business, and it IS your right not to disclose it, in order to not be discriminated against. Now once you’re hired, what you choose to disclose is another matter. But sadly, discrimination during the interview process often does occur.

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Melifera April 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I was laid off in September, and have since been looking for a new job. My most promising interview (I interviewed with seven people over a three hour period at the same firm, and felt I was a shoe-in for the position) ended up going miserably when the HR person asked me if I had responsibilities that would keep me from coming to work (I replied ‘no’), and then asked, point-blank, if I have kids (I said a simple ‘yes’, and that having a child does not interfere with my ability to be at work). My headhunter later called me to let me know that I was declined because I had been too forthright about my schedule. Huh? I didn’t say anything about my schedule. Nothing at all. She said that six out of the seven interviewers had loved me, but that the woman in HR had nipped things in the bud.

It’s unfortunate that we don’t live in a society where mothers are supported, and are instead looked over for jobs in which they would perform amazingly well.

Sigh.

Melifera´s last blog post…Need to get my taxes in, and other wretched stuff

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Melifera April 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Oh, I might add that I believe it is illegal for employers to ask whether or not a prospective employee is a parent, although I would need to double check on this…

Melifera´s last blog post…Need to get my taxes in, and other wretched stuff

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singlemomseeking April 15, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Yes, Melifera, I thought it was ILLEGALl for employers to ask whether or not a prospective employee is a parent… Anyone from HR care to comment on this one? Thanks!!

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Bee April 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I’ve been thinking about this alot lately, given the impending feeling that any second I will be laid off. (Thanks economy!) What can I put on my resume as accomplishments? Why haven’t I won accollades and large prizes of cash?? Because I’ve been raising my kid. Which requires a lot: management, leadership, diplomacy, delegating, etc. My kid’s in high school now, and I’m not going to brag, but the signs indicate I’m doing a decent job of this child-rearing thing.

I wish I could put all of this on a resume. It’s been the hardest yet most successful thing I’ve done so far. But of course I won’t. When I was interviewing years ago for my current job, I did not let on in any way about my child, or the fact that I was a single parent. The word mother did not come out of my mouth once. Because I didn’t want them “assuming” that I would be leaving early, calling in sick, putting the kid first. The irony is that many single parents (who have physical custody) don’t do these things because they don’t want to be perceived that way either.

But that’s how I am in general. I’m not really the kind that offers much personal information in a professional setting. If I become friends with someone I will, but usually I just keep work as work and home as home. Less overlap means less stress for me. But also, my kid is getting older, more independent and that makes it easier for me to be more independent too.

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singlemomseeking April 15, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Well said, Bee! Raising a kid — or more than one — truly does require “management, leadership, diplomacy, delegating, etc.”

Right on! And feel free to brag here.

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Single Mom In Debt April 15, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I do not believe I would let a potential employer know, just so that it not a factor in their opinion of me- I would not want them to think I would automatically miss work regularly.

Single Mom In Debt´s last blog post…Extra $1250 to pay towards debt !!!

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