The Expats by Chris Pavone. Kate Moore happily sheds her old life to become a stay at home mom when her husband takes a job in Europe. As she attempts to reinvent herself, she ends up chasing her evasive husband's secrets. Join From Left to Write on January 22 (the paperback release date) as we discusss The Expats. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise
children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an
increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is
offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave
behind her double-life, to start anew.
When I read this lead into the description of the book, what struck me for the first time was the term "working mother." I've heard it many times before, but I never thought about the irony of it. When a mom works outside the home, she is called a working mother, but if a father does, there is no equivalent, he's just a father, right? It also denigrates what stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) do because it implies that moms who are raising their kids are not working. Any SAHM would tell you in a heartbeat that the job we have is definitely the hardest one in the world. You are all at once a psychologist, housekeeper, cook, day care teacher, van driver, janitor, laundry operator, facilities manager, computer operator, and CEO of your household. Salary.com calculated last year that an average SAHM should be paid $112,962 for her work. I think mine would be higher because of the many many times I have cleaned R's vomit off the floor due to his weak esophagus (sorry Costco shoppers). Unfortunately you can't list this on your resume.
So that was why when Kate Moore decides to quit her job as a CIA agent to become a SAHM in Europe, I mentally shouted at her, you idiot! Do you have any idea how hard it will be to ever work again, especially if the break in your resume is measured by years and not months? A lot of people say that nowadays it is understood that a woman can take a break in her career (although being a SAHM is no break but time spent doing hard labor!) and she will be able to return to work. But in actuality, this is still much harder to do than it appears. And I get it, all things being equal, would I want to hire someone who has not being working in her profession for a period of time if there is at least one other person that is equally qualified but that has been working the entire time? Of course, the less risky path would be to hire the person who is currently working in the same career.
I have been quite frustrated by the responses I get from employers during my job search. Because I clarify that I was not fired from my last job but that I resigned to stay at home with my kids, they think it is fair game to ask me how many kids I have, who will take care of them, and how I would feel about missing Christmas and Easter with them. And even though I tell them I will work as hard and as much as I am required, they don't seem to believe me. One employer provided the feedback that it seemed like I didn't want it that much. Really? I guess I took the California bar exam while pregnant and taking care of two kids for the pure fun of the mental exercise. I guess I hired babysitters to go for interviews all over the Bay Area and even to Washington, D.C. because I wanted to get out of the house more. I guess ensuring the survival of our species through propagation is actually an act of professional suicide. Let me point out--no one would ever question a man's ability to perform at the top of his game because he has three kids.
If you are an employer given the opportunity to hire a woman with kids who has taken a break from her career, you need to look beyond the fact that there is someone else you can hire who is currently working. You have no idea how dedicated this woman will be to making sure she outperforms everyone else because she has to prove that you don't need to cut her any slack because she is a mom. She will be better at multi-tasking and at learning new things than anyone else you have working for you (other than the other moms of course). If she can juggle the extra-curricular activities of three kids (currently swimming, math, chess, piano, science, and Awana for my kiddos), she will be able to manage the deadlines of cases and assignments in her sleep. And speaking of sleep, she will be used to not getting any, so you know she can pull all-nighters effectively. If you have a new client or topic that she needs to learn about quickly, you will not be disappointed, for a woman who can learn about the five different generations and 649 different species of Pokémon over two days can certainly get up to speed to write an in-depth relief letter to the CFTC on a new carbon trading investment vehicle.
(Spoiler alert) I was so happy and relieved at the end of the book when Kate is able to work again. At least there is a fictional woman of my recent acquaintance that I can vicariously live through. Thank you for your consideration.