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Mind the Gap: Can SAHMs* re-enter the workforce?

By Lisa Smith Molinari

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*Stay-at-home Moms

All my regular tables in the loft of the Starbucks are taken, so I grab the only available seat downstairs – a barstool right beside the restrooms.

I have work to do, but before I start, I spend the requisite amount of time dawdling.

Staring out the window, cleaning crumpled gum wrappers out of my purse, checking email on my laptop, people-watching. Although I would normally procrastinate in this way for at least a half-hour, I decide that people-watching beside the toilets is decidedly less entertaining than it is from the upstairs loft, and therefore not worth the effort.

I open a blank document, and breathe a great big sigh. You’ve been a stay-at-home military spouse for a long time. The kids are old enough now. It’s time to find a paying job.

“RESUME [return]… Lisa Smith Molinari,” I key onto the top center of the page.

I pick up steam, quickly tapping out my address, phone number and email, adding aesthetically pleasing fonts, underlining and bold. After a few thumps on the return key, I type “EDUCATION” and enjoy a trip down memory lane to the ivy-tangled Georgian architecture of Miami of Ohio, and the endless racks of thick casebooks at Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan.

I add “law review” and “cum laude,” feeling a surge of confidence. Ah, that wasn’t so bad, I think to myself, on to the next section.

No sooner do I bold and underline the heading “WORK EXPERIENCE”, when my hands begin to tremble. It’s just the caffeine, I tell myself, and strain to recall the details of my last paying job.

Hmm…let’s see now, was it 1995? When I worked for that law firm in California while Francis was assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School? Seriously? I can’t put a job from almost two decades ago on my resume! I’ll be a laughing stock!

I realize that, since marrying my Navy husband in 1993, I have nothing to put in my resume for “work experience” except a few short-lived legal jobs between military moves. Recognizing that my Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte has nothing to do with my trembling hands, I press on, trying my best to make 20 years as a stay-at-home military mom read like a thriving professional career.

As I fill my work experience gap with various volunteer and freelance jobs I’ve had through the years, I “tsk” at how unfair the working world can be to military spouses. For most of us, managing our families through multiple moves, hardships, deployments and constant change is the most challenging “work experience” we’ve ever had. Despite the bonbons-and-soap-operas stereotype, any SAHM who has successfully managed a three-child-and-one-sloppy-labradoodle household – and all the deployments, broken hot water heaters, clogged gutters, orthodontist appointments and parent-teacher conferences that come with it – is most-definitely worthy of gainful employment.

I resist the urge to add the cutesy cliché “Domestic Engineer” in hopes that potential employers will respect me for putting my own career aside to help my husband serve his country. Instead, under the heading “REMARKS” I write, “Despite gaps in my job history, I have always exemplified hard work and dedication, whether as a lawyer, writer, volunteer, mother or military spouse,” pounding the period button with a self-righteous poke.

I’ve been working hard for 20 years at the uniquely challenging job of being a military spouse, and perhaps that’s the kind of experience that just can’t be described on paper. Finished with my resume and my latte, I close my laptop with a steady hand, and hope that there are employers out there who won’t mind the gap.

For more information about re-entering the workforce, follow this link to CNIC’s Family Employment Resources:

http://www.cnic.navy.mil/ffr/family_readiness/fleet_and_family_support_program/family_employment.html


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Consolidated by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, Naval History and Heritage Command