Caring For Our Caretakers Benefits Everyone
Learn. Support. Do. These are our core values. And as the director of Employee and Client Experience, I’m always thinking about ways we can support our employees and encourage them to take good care of themselves.
As part of our July and August employee programming, we decided to focus on ourselves. Our Walker Sands Summer of Self Care programming included a panel discussion to share our collective experiences and gain more perspective on how we can best support each other in the workplace — especially focusing on the caretakers among us. Key takeaway of our conversation? Embracing each employees’ needs in order to create a more productive and enjoyable work environment is what the second word in our core values really means.
From a personal perspective, throughout the roundtable discussion planning process I kept thinking about an experience I had a long time ago. Until now I’ve hidden from it and shared it with very few people.
When my twin daughters were in middle school, my life changed quickly and I immediately needed to step out of my full-time stay-at-home mom role and into a dual role of full-time employee and full-time single mom. I found myself digging deep into my networking pockets and pursuing any lead that might help me secure a position. I needed flexibility to take care of my daughters as their singular caregiver, while also charting a career path. It was a daunting task.
Explaining away an “employment gap” to a recruiter often led to a dead end and put me in a no-call-back zone. As a result, I started to share less and less about my perceived gap or my personal life. I removed any distinguishing markers of single momhood on my person and my resume, and embarked on a journey to hide in plain sight. I needed to make a living and secure healthcare coverage for myself and my daughters, and I needed someone to understand how valuable I would be to any organization. I needed a job.
I was elated when I finally landed an interview with a Boston-based startup specializing in developing dress clothing out of athletic gear fabrics. The first two telephone interviews went very well, really without a hitch. I was then asked to come into their office and meet with the hiring manager in-person. This interview couldn’t have gone better, except at the very end where I was abruptly asked if I was married and had children. I was completely taken aback! I stuttered and stammered my way through a personal explanation and mentioned I had twin daughters. Their response was akin to a slap in the face: “I see. Hmm … well, we expect people to work long hours here and parents — especially single parents — probably won’t be able to keep up.” I’m fairly sure I nodded and shook hands, but I truly don’t remember. I was in shock.
I made it about a half a block away before I started to cry. Angry tears of frustration streaming down my face because that person had absolutely NO idea. Had they ever consoled a screaming child, cut crusts off of a PB&J, discussed a household electrical issue with the electrician and taken a complicated client call all at the same time? I had. Many times. Surely my stay-at-home multitasking experience alone would be beneficial to any employer, right? On top of that, I am educated and bring real work experience and honed skill sets with me. But instead, I was reduced to what they thought they knew about me versus what I knew I was: capable of everything the job entailed and so much more. As a caregiver I had little choice but to move forward and keep trying, for me and my daughters.
This happened quite a few years ago, and I’ve long since found my professional footing. But I am acutely aware that in some professions and organizations, these kinds of experiences still happen today. Candidates who are also caregivers (of all sorts) are unfortunately overlooked as viable and valuable employees. It’s unfortunate that employment gaps aren’t respected as choices made for a variety of personal reasons, and that caregivers are often thought of as less-capable employees due to their personal obligations. We need to keep doing better.
Today, as an employee at Walker Sands, I know I am valued and supported in every way: from the flexible work environment to the unlimited paid time off benefit to the many employee resource groups (including a Working Parents group) we have for additional support to the acceptance that family is first. Full stop. Walker Sands knows who I am — the mom-first caregiver, the dedicated professional. When you’re in the right place, there’s no longer any reason to hide.
If you’re interested in joining Walker Sands’ flexible, people-first environment, head over to our Careers page to view our open positions.