Stay-at-home mom: My struggle to re-enter the workforce

As Jennifer Pinarski searches for extra work to make ends meet, she’s run into a specific employment obstacle: education.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a sunny Thursday morning in Toronto. I’m kneeling on a meticulously maintained front lawn in front of an equally well-maintained suburban Tudor home, giving a fuzzy white baby lamb a bath with my friend Karen. People driving by slow down, smiling at the sight. It does look adorable.

But what people don’t see is that both Karen and I are trying to scrub the lamb’s diarrhea off its fleece, and we’re both covered with flecks of sheep poo from the lamb shaking herself dry. I’d already stuck my head in a large animal carrier to hand pick out pig poo. Luckily, I have a good sense of humour and a strong stomach, and will do anything to help out my friend while she’s taking her farm animals around Toronto to visit city daycares — it’s not just because she’s paying me to help her. However, I can’t help but think “it’s not supposed to be like this.”

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It’s what I like to call the conundrum of the stay-at-home mom: having been out of the workforce for several years to raise my kids, I lack the experience to apply for jobs that, had I leaned in, would easily get. However, having had a career for 15 years before leaning out, I’m now overqualified to work at any minimum wage or entry-level jobs. Even jobs that I know I can easily do, such as cleaning and cooking, I’ve applied for and never get. Not to mention I live in a town with one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada. The same goes for my husband, who is as just as frustrated about trying to find a new job. It’s certainly not that I think I’m above slinging fries or bagging groceries. But the reality is that trying to make ends meet in a depressed job market is hard when education and experience are on your resume but there’s a gap in your work history.

Read more: Do most moms prefer part-time work? >

For all the talk about how stay-at-home moms have the opportunity to do anything they want when they return to the labour force, it’s just not true. This isn’t to say that there aren’t success stories, but a quick look through the local classifieds for the number of SAHMs looking for any work far outnumbers the stories of SAHMs landing their full-time dream gig.

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An hour later, we’re on the rooftop playground of a downtown Toronto daycare. I still smell like sheep poo, I’m still stressed out about money, making a mental list of the bills that need to be paid with what I’m earning by helping out my farming friend.

A dozen toddlers and preschoolers are squealing with joy at the basket of baby chicks I’m showing them. Karen has the snowy white lamb, plus a few other small farm animals, in a small fenced in area next to me. Six preschoolers are singing “Old MacDonald” with her, trying to catch baby ducks at the same time. It really is a picture perfect scene.

It’s really not the life I’d pictured. But it’s really not all that bad either.

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