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Coming Out at Work ... As a Mom

Katie Bugbee on January 07, 2015 05:48 PM

I’m at my third interview. I’m sitting across from the man who might be my next boss. But I have a secret.

Being over 30 with a wedding band on my left ring finger, one might assume what I’m hiding, but I haven’t said the “k” word yet. And I need to.

See, I have kids. Three of them. And while I also have a great nanny and childcare in place, I need a boss who can be flexible and understanding when a “kid-thing” comes up.

The question of if I reveal this in an interview is a debate at my house. My husband thinks it hurts my candidacy and warns me not to say anything. And while I agree, I feel I can’t work for anyone who doesn’t have a flexible and compassionate work environment. And this needs to be discussed before any papers get signed.

That’s why I drop the “k-word” during the final interview. It’s a test.

My friend Katrina Kibben at recently wrote about coming out as gay at work.  That when she first says the words “my wife” to a colleague, she knows exactly what she’s doing – she’s full of anticipation and is eagerly watching the reaction. When I commended her on this blog series, she said, “I bet it’s a little of the same for you – as a mom. Right?”

I would never have thought of it that way. While I’ve never faced outright discrimination the way the gay community has, I’d agree that letting a boss know I’m a mom is a calculated decision, filled with potential bias.

And when I tell you, I’m anxiously watching for your reaction.

So I do it. “My kids would love this office space!” I say nodding at the Foosball and ping pong tables.

Now this is where I’m interviewing him. If he’s silent, it’s a bad sign. I probably don’t want this job. But if he responds quickly, agreeing how great it is, and how employees’ kids come all the time, I’m thrilled.

Why out-myself?  I need you to know. I need you to understand that my kids come first in my life. If my oldest has a parent-teacher meeting, I’m there taking notes. If my daughter falls off the jungle gym, I’m holding her hand during an X-ray. And if my baby is too sick for daycare, I’ll be working from home. And so when I tell you that I’m a mom, I’m assuming you understand this. But this is why it’s really hard for “default parents” (the ones primarily responsible for the kid-stuff) to job search.

Find out Why New Moms are Still Quitting Their Jobs

We need to ask about our parent-needs without them being a discriminating factor. We need to learn if you offer a flexible work environment, and how you support working parents – at work. We need to know your retention rate of the other working moms, and if you offer any benefits for working parents.

How do we ask this without sounding like our kids will hurt our productivity? 

The thing is, I’m an excellent employee. But I know I have this “issue” that often makes me a less desirable candidate. And while I’ve been fortunate to choose where I want to work, many people are not. Consider the single parents and the families just scraping by. They have the same parent needs – if not more – that I have, but they probably fear “outing” themselves during an interview. They cannot afford to lose the job. They feel the need to keep their kids a secret.

Learn more about How HR Can Help Single Parent Employees

What do you think? When and how did you come “out” as a parent at your job – during the interview – or when you put the pictures on your new desk? And have you ever felt discriminated against for being an involved parent?




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