#FeministMondays | Why Do Women Have To Start Over Their Careers From Scratch After A Maternity Break?

Credit | Working Woman Careers | Pandora Studio via Shutterstock


Have you ever wondered why women have to start over their careers from scratch after a maternity break?


The other day I chanced upon an article on Linkedin by a woman joining back the workforce after her child care break which led me back to the same question again.


The woman hadn’t anticipated that the path to rejoining the workforce would not be a straightforward one. Her qualification and experience which had given her that confidence somehow didn’t seem to matter anymore as much as those gap years. In every interview, she was asked to explain her break from work. She was asked to justify her maternity break. In every single one of them. The break became a liability in her resume. The years of experience she had wasn’t given as much importance as her ‘break from work’. Her experience became zero because of the break. She wasn’t even considered fit to be employed for a job suited for her years of experience.


Why do women need to explain themselves for taking a maternity break or a break to raise their children? I was thinking just that after reading the article when the biggest question of all behind all these other questions raised its sneaky head – why do only women have to take a break to raise the children? What about the fathers?


“For many men, the fundamental assumption is that they can have both a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life. But many women, the assumption is that trying to do both is difficult at best and impossible at worst.” – Lean In


Well, think about that for a moment while I go on.


A few months ago I asked why women don’t make the cut when projects are being downsized? It’s nerve wrecking really because I don’t understand why motherhood or even marriage mars the employability of women. But somehow it always comes to that pregnancy, motherhood or a childcare break. These factors are always used to hold women back or force them off their chosen path.


Both the husband and wife become parents but somehow it’s  the mother whose career is more often than not reset on childbirth. It’s the mother’s career which takes a hit, almost always. And the women who still fight the fight will tell you how hard it is to keep their heads above the water every single day.


Why is it so hard for a woman to get the opportunities she deserves when she decides to make a comeback?


As women, we play a very important role both at home and at work. Our decision to stay back at home to care for newborns or toddlers, or not work late helps men in our lives carry on with their careers unhindered. We help raise the next generation doing the dirty work, the heavy work and the exhausting work. But when it is time for us to be given a chance we are looked at like outcasts. Does our biology make us unemployable? Does our selfless commitment to the family make us worthless?


Both the husband and wife become parents but somehow it’s  the mother whose career is more often than not reset on childbirth.


Why can’t employers see that we are great at multitasking and when we take up a responsibility we give it our all? I am a working mother myself. Yes, I leave at 5 pm on the dot every day but my work is never affected. My day starts at 6 am to accommodate everything for the family to my work. In fact, I’m more committed now. I want to excel at both my office work and at home taking care of my daughter. Not only that I try to hold on to my other interests as well. I’m driven and as engaged as the man sitting next to me who carries a lunch box from home prepared by his wife or mother. I’m as committed and driven as a man who stays back late at work because he has the luxury to do so with his wife taking care of everything at home.


So, is it fair that I or anyone else like me has to start over or looked upon as someone who isn’t invested in her work?




Why can’t women’s careers start off from where they had left off if they can prove their calibre in interviews? Yes, I say grill us on our capabilities in interviews but don’t judge us because we are mothers or that we had taken a break from work. We are not saying that you count our gap years in our experience but at least give due consideration to the years we had worked for. I can’t fathom why our absence from the active workflow for a certain period becomes the cause or concern and not our education, expertise or knowledge.


Why can't women's careers start off from where they had left off if they can prove their calibre in interviews? #FeministMondays Click To Tweet


Women wanting to get back to work are not asking handouts. We want you to test us and only then employ us. But not reject us because we had taken a few years off to raise our children. That’s not fair or right.


Why do women all around the world face this kind of prejudice? If we get pregnant we are anxious that we’ll be overlooked for promotions or hike in the course of our pregnancy. In fact, we don’t even know if the job will be waiting for us when we are ready to go back. And god forbid, we take a year or two off work, getting a job becomes an existential crisis.


“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.” – Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In.


When will things change? Well, maybe not in my lifetime but I hope they do someday for the fight is on and shifts are happening even though not seismic.


So what happened to the woman who had written the Linkedin post? Well, someone listened, someone who knew to test her calibre rather than her break from work and now she is back to the workforce.


She fought, was dejected but was lucky to have been given the opportunity to prove herself. Many women don’t get that chance. And that’s my beef with the world. Women keep doing a thankless job of taking care of the children and the family, stepping up to sacrifice so much without being asked (yes, sacrifice) and still are sidelined or rejected.


If you are a man, are you doing anything to ensure your wife or your daughter doesn’t go through the same? And if you are a woman who hasn’t faced this, one of the lucky ones, what are you doing? You do know that saying you have never come face to face with something like this is not enough. The world is bigger than what you have not faced.





This post is part of the #FeministMondays series (previously called #IAmAFeminist series) on the blog. Inspired by a TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists, I intend to talk about the need for feminism through my posts, posts on my experience and observation as a female. I intend to talk about issues concerning women.

Join me and let’s work towards a world of gender parity. Remember, each voice counts. Tell me your story.





Linking to #mg hosted by Mackenzie Glanville


16 thoughts on “#FeministMondays | Why Do Women Have To Start Over Their Careers From Scratch After A Maternity Break?”

  1. It’s always tough for a woman. Despite all our efforts to the contrary, women do have to bear the weight of discrimination on this front. It’s not pretty, but it’s the reality. Perhaps if more men were to step forward and be proactive in asking for paternity leave, things would change? Or maybe if more companies doled out equal rights to men and women? I honestly don’t know. There’s a gap somewhere and it needs to be bridged. Unsure if that should come from the management side or the employee side.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Power of Silence: How it can empower your lifeMy Profile

  2. I have two of my colleagues facing this currently. Both went on a maternity leave (something the husband isnt required to) and now both of them wonder if the promotion they deserve because of their past work would be given to them or not. Its tough and its a sad sad state of affairs.

  3. I know that what you have written is true and sad too. Why does it happen? I guess because like you mentioned 99% of the time, it must be women taking the sabbatical or cutting back on their work after having a child and perhaps that is why employers just assume that a woman’s career will suffer once she is a mom. Of course, we can’t compete with bachelors or men who have wives take care of everything at home if it is the punch in and punch out time that an employer is looking at. Quality of work, yes, I am sure, a committed woman can be just as productive. it’s a very long way to go, Naba. And frankly, I don’t even know what the solution is. Perhaps, more men taking their roles as fathers more seriously. Paternity leave, societal acceptance — seems very far off though.
    Rachna recently posted…Conversations with Kids on Unsavoury TopicsMy Profile

  4. The corporate world is not known to be kind to women. Its not only with our country, but this strange phenomena as I would like to call it is across professions too. Our very own actresses are almost written off once they wed, and if they want to act, its like that have to make a comeback entry. Well, but their male counterparts, have no such time limit. The strangeness of this whole issue is there is apparently no solution, unless a whole social system undergoes a change and shift in thinking!

  5. I’m sure this might be very true in the corporate world. One place I worked had only (white) men in upper management and the few women were past child-bearing age. I also worked for the County in Human Services where almost all of the employees were female and 90% were below 40. They needed the employees to come back to their jobs. They couldn’t fill them too easily.
    Lori Shandle-Fox recently posted…Hurricane IVF- Just Another Storm to WeatherMy Profile

  6. The only way out of this as I see it is men taking on more responsibility of children and home, men asking for leave when they have a baby, more sharing. Unfortunately men are leaving more and more to the women to match up to competition and that is just making it worse.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…When learning is a new adventure everydayMy Profile

  7. I would have liked to work part time during these early years of child-rearing, just enough to keep up my work and make my life easier. But it’s impossible, even in the type of job I have that offers more flexibility. I would have lost retirement benefits and gotten behind, so we’re 2 full-time working parents. I’m too competitive to quit completely and then get frustrated trying to get back in later. Luckily, my husband is an equal partner for the most part although I carry most of the mental load and I’m working on shifting some of that stuff to him.

  8. Yes its a frustrating and humiliating (at times) to sit there and explain your break while the interviewer dismisses your previous work expereince and skill set with a casual wave of the hand! I have been at the receiving end of many and have chosen to walk away from such companies as I dont feel they would ever value me! It is indeed tough to find a job after a break but my best advice is to stick to your guns and take the HR recruiter in your confidence over something like this and ensure he is not sending you to a company where such attitude is prevalent! Worked for me 7/10 times.
    SHALINI BAISIWALA recently posted…Once upon a time in Jaipur [ #Guestpost ]My Profile

  9. A colleague, an excellent technical person was asked by her in-laws to quit her job and take care of her 4yo daughter at home. And them, of-course. Since her husband insisted on it too, the poor thing had to quit her job. She’s so afraid as to if she will be able to get back to work or not. I feel so sad for her.

    Giving birth to a baby doesn’t mean one forgets what they used to do. Or that there is less commitment. Companies need to understand this.
    Soumya recently posted…#FeministMondays | The Other SideMy Profile

  10. Good read. Somehow I feel it’s in the process of understanding oneself. When it comes to my marriage, my husband has been very supportive for me to get back to a job as soon as I wish. It is very clear that he loves working on automobiles and IT isn’t his love. However, truly he works for his commitments at the moment. I love working in the field and he knows it very well. However, when it comes to the elders in the family, they feel that my husband is too liberal with me and always listens to me! Some elders don’t understand and many women today worry more about the circumstances than their own lives.

  11. I have had that experience myself. Unfortunately, for some strange reason, the longer you are out of work, the less valuable you become to the work place. I have a degree in the social work field and it’s no different. And most of the employees are female in this field yet, it’s just as bad. Staying home to take care of your children or taking time off at all to care for sick a child hinders your ability to do the job according to the corporations. I worked for Old Navy for two years. I really wanted a promotion but I was never able to get one because I had missed the alloted six times a year you are allowed to call in sick. I took those days off because my kids were sick and I’m a single mom. That also happened to be a bad year of the kids constantly bringing home sickness after sickness from school. Even though their dad is in the picture, he had to work too. So I took the time off and got punished for it. There is no compassion or cooperation with parents in the work force. It really does need to change but how? That is the question. #mg
    Michelle Kellogg recently posted…Rockin’ Quote #34: Know When to Walk AwayMy Profile

  12. It’s true and it is hard. Mothers are considered primary care givers and that is why all the fight to get back to work. I think while questions are valid, women need to fight for what’s fair. When people don’t get it – let’s openly talk instead feeling bad. I say this because what we need now is action.
    Great post, Naba and a fair call there.
    Parul Thakur recently posted…She made me smileMy Profile

  13. It is tough isn’t it. I am separated from the father of my child which in many ways has made it easier to have the career that I want. Were we still together I would have been in a supporting role to his high flying career. Now that we are separated I only have to worry about my son, me and my career. Having said that I have still had to make compromises in my career because I am a mum. I have cut down my hours (which impacts financially) because I want to be with my son more and I have deliberately chosen roles that are more 9-5 where I know that I can go home at the end of the day and not be bothered with urgent business on the telephone. My career progression will have been impacted because of this.

    I don’t know what the answer is or indeed if there is one, I just know that if there is an answer I certainly haven’t found it.

    Pen x #mg
    Pen recently posted…A room of my ownMy Profile

  14. Felt as if its my own recount of history! Being a highly qualified IT professional with a high flying career and obviously with a fat pay cheque…leaving it all to look after my kids was a difficult decision. And once it was taken, I had labelled my self as non employable… As the kids grew, that sinking feeling hurt me the most. But somehow I kept on counselling myself with the joys of bringing up the kids. Then came a fine day when I discovered blogging! Its been a year now that I am engaging my energies into writing! And now I am not haunted with the thoughts of opportunities lost!
    – Anagha From Team MocktailMommies

  15. I have faced this too, I stayed home with my children and getting back into the workforce has not been easy, although now I have a fantastic employer who is a working mum and she totally gets it, we have a great team of us that cover each other and it works great. It really is a shame that this is how it is! Great read! #mg

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