If Being A Mom Makes Amy Coney Barrett So Qualified, Can I Put Motherhood On My Resumé Too?
If only hiring managers loved working mothers the way Senate Republicans love Judge Barrett and her kids
For two weeks now, I have heard Republicans talk about motherhood. Not motherhood in general. The very specific motherhood of Amy Coney Barrett. Her confirmation hearings were a pep rally for parenthood. She took center stage in the theatre of the culture wars to talks about her kid as the GOP fawned over her abilities as a mother.
Because whoa Nelly! Is she ever a mother! She has seven kids! She gave birth to some of them! She adopted others! From another country! And they’re a different race than she is! One of her kids has special needs! All while she is also the spiritual child of Phyllis Schlafly and Antonin Scalia!
These aren’t trophy kids being raised by some paid assistant, either. Judge Barrett is a hands-on mom who drives carpool and goes to school performances, and is on the PTA. She knows offhand how much one of her kids can deadlift. Senator Sasse confirmed that she does laundry.
SHE IS MOTHER, HEAR HER ROAR!
I’m pretty stoked about this sudden emphasis on motherhood as a professional qualification because I, too, am a mother. I would love to be able to add some mom-skills to my LinkedIn page. I want my parenthood to qualify me for the top jobs in the land.
Instead, I’m a woman with a lot of academic and professional qualifications but few career prospects because I took a professional off-ramp when my kids were little. I know I would face incredible obstacles if I tried to return to the white-collar world I left. I have a giant employment gap and employers aren’t keen to on-board stay at home moms.
But if I could tout all the Amy Coney Barrett-like parenting I’ve been doing as continuity of professional skills? Hot damn, would I be a desirable candidate. I could talk about what my kids want to do when they grow up and knock the socks off an interviewer just like Barrett did with Republican Senators.
That’s not the case in the real world, though. In the American workforce, work and family life are antagonistic systems. Look at the disparity between work hours and school hours, for example: kids are in school 30 hours per week for about 36 weeks per year. Adults are expected to work 40 or more hours per week, 50 weeks per year. The shortfall in childcare is the sole responsibility of the family. Most workplaces don’t make concessions to accommodate school schedules, even though some 20 million working adults have children under the age of 18. School schedules and gaps in childcare are known problems, but employers aren’t making themselves part of the solution.
Even for families that can thread the needle of childcare coverage, there are no laws mandating paid leave to care for families in a medical emergency. Legally prescribed paid parental leave for a birth or adoption is still a dream. And just try telling your boss that you need to take the afternoon off to watch a school play.
Well, unless you’re Amy Coney Barrett, apparently. She gets to have it all in a way most other parents don’t.
The inflexibility of American workplaces was always punitive to parents and the coronavirus crisis has only emphasized the problem. Schools have gone to hybrid or all-virtual models, which removed no-cost childcare vital to many families. Some workplaces made allowances for adults to adjust schedules for the sake of kids, but others did not. Florida State University famously sent out a memo to faculty chiding them to find childcare because official policy banned working from home while also watching children. Never mind that the University had been letting parents do exactly that; the administration preferred to revert to the old ways rather than adapting to the new normal. Children are not welcome at work. Period.
On the flip side, an attorney I know went to her boss for assistance when her son’s middle school announced a fully-remote school year. Her boss worked with her to set a flexible schedule that allowed some work from home days. For the days she needed to be in the office, he offered an empty workspace for her son to use. The change cost the law firm nothing, but the benefit to my friend and her family is immeasurable. It’s also illustrative of how easy it could be for workplaces to make life easier for parents. Small changes that have big results.
It’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will make significant changes to its operations to accommodate Judge Barrett’s children’s needs, but they also won’t have to. She’ll be calling the shots on her schedule for days that she won’t be hearing cases. She will have long weeks of recess, where she has no official duties. The weeks of recess coincide with summer break, so she won’t have to worry unduly about childcare when the kids are out of school. She will pull down a salary that isn’t dependent on hours worked and she’ll be entitled to comprehensive benefits. It’s almost a dream job for a working parent.
Too bad there are only eight other jobs like it in the country. The rest of us have to do the best we can with the system as it is.
We are overdue for reckoning about family life and work life. Maybe Judge Barrett is the standard-bearer we need for parenthood as a positive professional attribute. It’s conservatives who objected to women in the workplace for so long, saying women should be home with kids. Now, we have a conservative woman with kids in one of the highest workplaces in the land, placed there by conservatives. If conservatives are ready to let Judge Barrett have it all, maybe they’re ready to let all parents have it all.