Photo: Christina Morillo (Pexels)
Here's a wild statistic: 65 per cent of mothers with children under the age of 18 are employed. This means that a staggering 35 per cent of mothers in Australia have not returned to the workforce after having a child.
For many in this camp, it's not because they have lost their drive, or they're incapable of juggling sippy cups and sales calls, or that they suddenly feel destined to spend every waking moment gazing at their babies like they're trapped in a Pampers ad. More often, it is because our traditional structures shut them out.
I keep reading about women who are catapulted back into 50-hour workweeks before they're physically or emotionally ready, and then once they're back, they encounter what Washington Post op-ed writer Amy Nelson calls the "maternal wall," a barrier built by discrimination against working mothers.
Ultimately, they feel the need to "opt out" - a description that's fundamentally flawed because where are the other options to stay in?
One company that's trying to redefine the standard career trajectory is The Mum Project. Described as an "Airbnb for talent," it's a career platform that connects mums (and yes, dads, too) with flexible work - freelance or contract projects, remote positions, reentry programs and "maternityships" (opportunities to fill gaps created by parental leaves of absence).
These aren't your stereotypical stay-at-home-mum jobs either - upon a quick scan, I spotted postings for a project-based project manager, a proofreader for an ad agency, and a remote C++ engineer. Parents just create a free profile and are matched with opportunities that meet their needs.
After having a baby, my career path was rocky, patchy and filled with feelings of inadequacy as it seemed like my peers were seamlessly doing it all. (They were not, and social media is a lie.) I couldn't work exactly as I had done so pre-baby, but I could work, and I could do good work. I eventually realised that by staying within the confines of the 8-to-5, butt-in-office-chair requirements, companies were missing out on what employees like me could bring them.
(Trust me - there is no one more ready to be intellectually challenged like a mum who has spent her days listening to "Five Little Ducks" on repeat.)
The purpose of The Mum Project and similar sites - Après, The Second Shift and Corps Team's Mum Corps - isn't simply to do mums a favour. Finding more flexibility in the workplace helps families and business succeed. Not all parents want to return to their careers after having kids, but of those who do, it's in everyone's best interest to figure out how to make it happen.