A Stay-At-Home Failure

When our son was born four years ago, my husband and I decided that I would become a stay-at-home-mother. His wage was more than enough for us to live on comfortably, and the money we lost from my pathetic wage was “saved” by not having to pay for child care. I was in no hurry to return to work; in fact I felt incredibly lucky to be able to make the that kind of choice when so many other families cannot. It was a win/win situation for us.

I started to get the itch to return back to the work force right around the time that we were transferred to Alice Springs. Gone was the 9-5 Monday to Friday roster; my husband started working a brutal shift schedule of two 12 hour days, followed by two 12 hour nights with a four day break in between. The amazing support network of family and friends were some 3,000km west of us, and to really top it all off,  we learned that most child care centres in town either had a waiting list almost two years long, or were completely turning away new enquiries altogether. Any chance I had of returning to work was shattered the second we boarded that plane. Like it or not, I was going to be a stay-at-home-mum for the long haul.

I have made no secret of how miserable I was for the first few years here in Alice Springs. I threw myself in to World of Warcraft because I got the social interaction I was craving. I worked my arse off to build a guild I could be proud of because it satisfied that part of me that wanted to be doing something productive. Being in charge of Concur made me feel important in the same way that I had felt important when I used to be in charge of planning advertising layouts back at the newspaper. I eventually snapped out of it and started focusing more on my writing, but it was too little, too late.

Looking back, I see now just how badly I wasted the opportunities that this situation presented to me. I was so consumed by how I was ‘so lonely’ and how I just want to go home that I didn’t once think about what exactly I would do once I made it back. Putting together my resume a few weeks ago was one of the most depressing and humiliating things I have ever done. I have a four year gap that cannot be filled with “run a guild” or “write about World of Warcraft“. Instead it has “full time mother” and it would seem employers in my home town are not impressed with what I have to offer.

A smart person would have studied something –anything — in their spare time so that their CV would not look like they were just bumming around for four years. A more proactive person would have done volunteer work in order to gain recent references and some good karma to boot. Many business savvy mothers run their own start ups from home. I have an estore that has only ever made one sale. Those women are most likely the ones beating me out for jobs that I should be getting because I have the experience. It’s a harsh lesson to learn, especially now that I am in a position where I could return the favour and let my husband stay at home while I bring home the bacon. I want to so badly provide him with the same opportunity that he gave me, but I can’t because I didn’t have the ambition or forethought to keep my resume looking healthy.

Hindsight is 20/20.

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  • Alise Headlam

    …. well this was a depressing read.
    You could have least ended it with a video of a youtube cat.

    Lots of people are in a similar situation, trying to fight their way back into the workforce after time away. Being a stay-at-home Mum is no small task. Keep applying, the right company will see your resume and hire you for what you are.
    An awesome, intelligent, multitasking employee.

    Use me as a reference any time.

    • It wasn’t meant to be quite so depressing! More of a cautionary tale so others don’t shoot themselves in the foot like I have.

      Let me make it up to you with this. It’s not cats, but I think it’s relevant to your interests 😉


  • Hey Mum, don’t beat yourself up too much. My own life has been a lot of wandering in the desert punctuated by occasional moments of integration where all that wandering suddenly seems like a meaningful part of a larger whole. And then I usually find myself wandering some more.

    You know sharks can’t breathe if they don’t move. To live they have to be in motion 24/7. Of course sharks probably don’t count “7” days to a week. Still, why is a shark swimming in the ocean “good” and a person wandering in the desert “bad”?

    Regardless of job market frustrations, serious WoW play, and writing, are not a waste of time. I’m sure you know about all the management theory embracing WoW and Gamification these days. Have you read “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal? It’s an amazing book. I think you learned more than you realize and will find ways to use it over time.

    As for your cautionary tale – point taken! We’d all benefit from keeping our Portfolio / Resume / Search Results / Recommendation Letters in mind. Hmm… think I’ll go tidy up my LinkedIn page! 😀

    • I haven’t read that book, but I will definitely keep an eye out for it! It’s one of those frustrating things that I know that I have learned much in my time as a WoW player, and more specifically, as a GM, but it’s still so taboo to put that kind of stuff onto your CV! Ah well, I know now what I need to do should I ever randomly have another kid one day.

  • Have you considered starting a handmade business? You already have your tiny little bow shop – have you not considered expanding? From my experience, Storenvy does NOT sell well. Etsy has always been a huge money maker for me – it’s where I get almost all of my income. I can stay at home and look after my mum while keeping myself busy and making some money. No, it’s not much money, and it’s not reliable, but it’s something.
    People complain about Etsy because it’s so full of sellers, but the thing is, it’s also so full of buyers. It’s the biggest handmade market there is. The fees are the lowest of anywhere else, though Storenvy is free, of course, but I believe it’s worth it.
    If you’re in need of money, then no, it may not work, but if you just want something to keep you busy then there’s no reason not to try. Bows like yours do well on Etsy, to be honest, but there’s always room for you to expand – hair clips, headbands, embellishments for babies and so on.

    But whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over it. I’ll also tell you that, even if your business is small, having experience running a small business will look amazing on your resume – you and you alone will have handled finances, bills, shipping, customer service, product packaging, SEO, the products -themselves- and so on. Even if you don’t make that much, they don’t have to know that. The experience will really count for something.

    This is just my 2 cents. Whatever the hell a cent is. Pennies are the way to go!

    • I put a lot of thought into storenvy versus etsy and I went with storenvy because I had the idea that I would be generating most of the traffic myself from this website. Plus with the way I have it set up currently, the listing prices for etsy would be eating into my already pathetic profits! I suppose it couldn’t hurt to put my really good stuff on etsy and get a few sales that way.

      Now that I’m settled into our new house and our things have arrived, I’m definitely going to try and get more proactive with the craft side of things. There are even weekly local markets that I could look at doing as well.

      It never dawned on me that running a small business could be good for the ol’ resume. It makes me all that much more determined to make all my little plans work.

      Thanks for sharing your pennies with me 😉

      • Etsy’s fees aren’t that bad, BUT when you’re used to not paying any fees at all, I can see how it can be an unpleasant idea. Etsy generates a lot of traffic itself, and I have stores on both Etsy and Storenvy for quite some time. I’ve made 146 sales on Etsy and only 3 on Storenvy, partly because of this (though also in small part because I mostly promote my Etsy rather than Storenvy because it costs me money).
        It will take some time for a small business to properly take off, but it’s always a nice hobby to have. Perhaps you could try making other things – I’m about to start posting about a challenge I set myself that could be a fun way of trying different crafting mediums.

        I’m glad you’re settled in. Sudden upheavals can’t be fun, but as long as you have something to keep you busy it’s easier to adjust to life changes.

  • Guest

    Dear Mama, I stumbled onto your post as I was looking for some information about why there is such a long waiting list for OT and Speech services in Alice Springs. You are being awfully hard on yourself, but understand your reflection back onto those years. We all do things that perhaps we would have done differently, but now you know and sounds like you have learned form this experience. I live in Alice Springs and during the time that my children were little I ran my own business. I got training on line and then clients paid me to work with their children. My best advice for stay at home Mums is doing something you love. Since this town is full of kids, why not start a toddler dance class, art class, home day care, music and movement, make dinner for other mums and get paid doing it. I know I would have paid someone to make meals for me if that service would have been available. Heck, I can’t find a house keeper and I desperately need one. Doesn’t have to be perfect, but I would love to come home at least one time per week and the dishes would be done. Actually, you have a gift of writing. Ever think of doing editing work from home for publishers or for photo sharing companies that are looking for people to do online editing? All the best to you.

    • Good on you for taking the initiative to make a start for yourself! You bring up so many great ideas that I wish I had have thought of when I was there; the dinner idea is especially good and way more my style! I’ve since landed a super casual data entry job and am working with friends on a Web Design start up. Not amazing money by any means but it does let me work from home.

      PS. I was told when my son went on the waiting list that there is only the one specialist in town and no private option to take some of the burden off the community health centre. My son was on the waiting list for eight months before even getting an assessment. I strongly believe that Alice Springs needs a private option, especially considering the amount of money around there!

      Thanks for your kind words 🙂