What I learned when searching a job as a mom

If you have followed my instagram a little bit in the past, you have noticed that I was searching for a job. I am very happy to say, that I have found a real good fit and I am very excited for this new chapter to start next month! For all the mothers out there who are still searching and applying for jobs, I wanted to share my experiences and insights from the past months.

Before we start with what I’ve learned, I want to share with you a little bit of my background:

Working in Europe is very different from working in Asia. I have had the privilege to experience both places in a professional setting. One main difference I found, was a gender equality.

While in Germany I learned very early in my career, that men won’t have a problem with fatherhood and work, I found majority of women who worked, were childless. In China I saw many women as my colleagues and many of them were mothers too. Of course, this has many reasons, such as maternity leave in China is three to nine times lower than in Germany. However, I draw the conclusion that it’s still not by choice of the woman whether she comes back to her work or not.

Since October last year I’ve been actively applying for mainly full-time jobs and some part-time jobs (if I could find any). I have sent out 20 applications from which I had three job interviews and one phone interview. In three out of four interviews I’ve been asked the following questions:

“You know that this is a full-time job you applied to, right?”

“Can you really imagine to work a full-time job as a mother?”

“Will you – as a mother- be able to handle the work and the stress related to it?”

“How will you be able to handle your job and family?”

“What if your kid gets sick, won’t you have many missing days?”

Also, I received the following statements in interviews:

“A child needs their mother.”

“Your background is too international.”

“It is assumed that mothers want to work only part-time.”

All of the above questions have one main thing in common: a fathers wouldn’t have gotten these questions at all.

After all these negative experiences, I came into my last interview and was extremely nervous. I tried to prepare myself for the questions that would hit me, anxiously thinking about how they could phrase them this time. I tried to prepare myself with good answers and tried to think about what I’ll do if the questions again only resolve about me being a mother.

They didn’t ask one single question about motherhood. All they were interested in, was my qualifications and personality and whether I would fit the job. I couldn’t believe it. This made me happy and hopeful.

After this experience all the bad feelings of the past interviews have vanished. What I experience is nothing unique, many women out there are feeling the same way, which is why I want to share everything I heard, learned or read during the time I was applying. Basically it can be summarised into the following three insights:

Inform about your child care situation

When I first started writing my CV and cover letters, I really wanted to stay professional and did not mention much about my private situation. I assumed that this is my part to take care off and this is none of anybody’s concern but mine. A future employer wouldn’t care less about how my child care situation could be.

I was so wrong on that one! I learned a bit later from friends and online articles, that there’s two ways:

  1. Leave the kid completely out of your application.
  2. Include your family status and daycare situation.

The only option for me was no. 2. And this is because:

a) I couldn’t explain my two-year work break without mentioning a kid.

b) Any HR person could count 1 and 1 together. A woman, recently married, two years break from work. All together really much sounds like a mother.

c) I didn’t want to waste my time with companies that might have a problem with me being a mother.

d) I couldn’t imagine how I could have bring that up in an interview or even later at the job without feeling weird for keeping it kind of a secret.

Additionally, it’s a plus if you’re not a single-mother. As hard as this sounds, what I want to say is that you can include this information in an interview.

E.g.: “How will you be able to handle job and family?”

Answer:”My partner and I are equal partners and raise our child together, which means that I have a great support team at home. If I need to work, my partner will be there to take care of our child. “

Let me tell you one thing though: men don’t have to go through this checklist above at all.

Mothers want to work part-time

This might have been the most surprising fact to learn for me. The very first mom-question I got: “You are aware that this position is for a full-time employment, right?” And I knew in my guts that this was about motherhood. Later I learned from an HR-specialist that it is assumed mothers would only want to work in part-time jobs. It is kind of obligatory to ask the candidate if she’s a mother, whether she really wants to work a full-time job.

In my perfect answer, I’d say that I’m not illiterate since I’m a mother but how to deliver this message without attitude?

The reason why, is probably that mothers are still perceived in german society as the first and sometimes only care-giver.

Your answers matter

The first time I got mom-questions I wasn’t prepared for them but I did, what I usually do in interviews: Answer politely. Afterwards I felt like I should have said something, I should have stood up for myself. Stand up for all women everywhere and fight these questions. Interview by interview.

So I started pre-phrasing great responses to bad questions. Sometimes I even had different versions, to increase drama when needed. When in the situation I still couldn’t do it.

I realised that it always felt like something is on the line and I didn’t want to screw up my chances. What if by the end of the interview, they say it was just a test? What if they would have told me after my answer that they think it is great and they want to support that?

So in the end, I learned that it is great to research a little bit about what the right answer for those mom-questions could be. I believe to make them hear what they want to hear -even if it’s not your truth- is the best way to cope with these questions for now.

If you are in the position where you sit in an interview and the woman is being asked these mom-questions, that is your time to stand up against it.

In all of my interviews – in which I’ve been given the mom-q’s- there was always a woman present, either looking away or even being the one who’s asking.

My tip for you in general is to not talk or answer too long on these mom-q’s. Reveal sufficient information and even if there’s first an awkward silence you feel like you want to fill, resist and stay quiet.

If you have any more tips or want to share your personal experiences, please comment below. I’d love to hear your stories.


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