Juggling work and parenthood is no easy feat. Looking for work while parenting is difficult, too. You don't want to hide the fact that you're a working parent in your interview, but you also don't want to face potential discrimination and be passed up for the job because you're a working parent.
While many understand that being a parent can actually make you a better worker (and science supports this!), some hiring managers may give you a tough time.
That's why we've reached out to working mothers to find out how they'd navigated the job hunt process while parenting. Here's what they had to say.
1. Work while the baby is sleeping.
"I was fortunate enough to stay home for the first seven months after my baby was born to settle into motherhood navigate the newborn days," says Danielle LaFee, leave and workers' compensation coordinator and owner of Piece of Cake Parenting. "As I began my job hunt, I picked up a few helpful tips that made a huge difference in finding the perfect position to take the next step in my career. Every day while my baby was nursing, I used my phone to search our local Department of Labor website, look for job advertisements in our local paper and search several career websites. This gave me time where I knew my baby would be quiet, content and focused so I could bookmark and screenshot any positions that seemed like a good fit for me. Once he went down for a nap and went to bed for the night, I worked on filling out applications and updating my resume for each position that I was applying for."
On the days when her baby didn't settle well in his crib, she would wrap him up in her favorite baby wrap and walk around the house for a few minutes. This helped him to settle to sleep with her, and then she could stand up at her computer to dive into her applications.
2. Look for opportunities that suit your new lifestyle.
"I never wasted time applying for jobs that I didn't think would work as a new mother — jobs with super long or odd hours, far commutes, etc.," says Mel, a mom of two boys. "I mostly stuck to applying for jobs that were remote and/or flexible because, for me, that's what would work out well. I didn't bother adding the stress of any other type of job application to my plate. For what? Use your time wisely!"
3. Recruit friends and family to help.
"Once I started landing interviews, I recruited family and friends to help out, which was absolutely vital for my success," LaFee goes on. "Even though several of my interviews were phone interviews, I didn't want to stress about hearing my baby cry in the background or risk a skipped nap during our scheduled interview time."
She recommends asking family or friends if they can drop by about 60 minutes before your interview time so you have plenty of time to prepare for your interview. If you don't have anyone nearby, call a local daycare provider to ask about drop-in times for a couple of hours. This is also a great way to test out new daycare options before you return to work full time, she adds.
4. Give yourself a break.
"It's easy to get caught up in the thick of it all; job hunting is stressful, especially when you're juggling parenting duties!" says Katy, a now self-employed interior designer and mother of three. "Some days, I just had to give myself a break. Cut myself some slack. I promised myself that on Saturdays, I wouldn't even touch job applications, let alone entertain the thought of my job search. I left it for the week so I could still enjoy my weekends with my family."
5. Focus on the positives.
"Honestly, with so much on my plate, I just didn't mind [the working parent discrimination] at all," Vuppuluri says. "I just do my thing. If some people don't like it, I do not mind because, after all, there are others who totally understand and wouldn't discriminate. Basically, focus on the positives rather than wasting time and energy on the negatives."
6. Entertain the children during calls.
"It can be difficult to find a job when you have to care for a young child," says Becky Beach, a design manager and blogger at MomBeach.com. "When I was searching for a job six months ago, I had my sister watch my 3-year-old son when I had an interview. Due to being out of work, I could not afford a daycare. When my child napped during the day, I would apply for jobs. Several jobs wanted remote interviews over Skype or Zoom, which was new for me. I had to make sure my son would not make any noise during the interview. I have a two-story house so had him watch his iPad while I was upstairs interviewing."
7. Prioritize job applications.
"When you have so much going on at home and in the job hunt, I've found it helpful to prioritize different job applications," says Miranda, a mother of two. "I would make a list of the job applications that needed more urgency — those that were expiring or that had been up for a while and probably already had a lot of candidates. I'd also put the ones that I really, really wanted at the top. Then day by day, I'd try to tackle two to three applications when my kids were asleep."
8. Get help from your partner, if you have one.
"As with interview schedules, I make sure my husband is around so he gets to take care of our baby," says Pratibha Vuppuluri, chief blogger at She Started It!
9. Be open in your interview.
"Be open in your interview," LaFee says. "Often moms feel like they need to hide certain details about their home life in order to land a job. They worry that if they talk about their children, they won't get an offer. But, I knew that my baby was my top priority, and I needed a job that would understand and support this. I didn't want to land the perfect job and then feel trapped if I could never leave to care for my sick baby or had to work super long hours. Be open and honest from the beginning so you can truly find the best fit for you and the phase of life you are in."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.