Momstamp supports women founders. In our ongoing series on parent-focused female led start-ups, we hear from OptIn founder, Kerry Dolan. Kerry writes candidly about the challenges she and other women face transitioning from the work of full time parenting to professional employment.
Her Company, OptIn, specializes in guiding women back into the workforce. Its programs include life and career coaching, resume assistance, social marketing skills, interview prep, and workshops.
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Of course we love being “Mom” because it’s essential and hard and rewarding and we wouldn’t trade that time with our kids for anything in the world. At the same time, we are so much more than just a “mom.” (Not that being a mom is “just” anything.) There’s a voice inside that calls out to be acknowledged, a voice that demands and remembers who we were before we became moms.
The Optin revolution is about recovering our self-worth and choosing to participate in society on our own terms. That’s what I have done or tried to do and what I am going to help other women do. We need to define the new “OptIn Woman” by how we are going to lead this social change in our homes and in the work place.
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My personal OptIn revolution started twelve years ago when I was pregnant with my twins and put on bed rest for the last half of my pregnancy. I was essentially forced to stop working for the health of my girls. Five years later, many things had changed. For those of you who have tried to opt-back into your field know what I am talking about. It can feel dismal and frustrating and very personal when you’re rejected, as if your choice to have a family and be a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) was a guilty luxury that you now have to be penalized for.
You get a sense of this and you start to ask yourself, how can I change the way I’m participating in my life? How do I position myself better for the life and future I’d want for my family? Five years ago I was the center of my kids’ lives, but now that they’ve got school and friends and teams and a whole life of their own, how do I reclaim mine and avoid the fate of having an empty nest and no satisfying work to do?
Stephanie, a friend of mine from college returned to work part time three years ago with the idea that by the time her third child started school, she’d be ready to pick up where she left off. Being an attorney, she found herself overqualified for entry-level positions yet undesirable as a senior associate because she didn’t have a large book of business. There wasn’t enough work in her area of expertise to warrant a firm supporting her position full time. So she finds herself stuck at an empty desk.
Another friend of mine, Julia, was turned down from job to job because she couldn’t effectively explain the five-year gap in her resume without talking about her kids. This seemed to turn off many prospective employers. She could see the wheels turning in their heads… “How much time will she need off for school conferences? How many days will she call in because the kids are sick? What happens when it snows and schools are closed or start late?”
These narratives are common to the women in our generation, women who have been educated and successful but made the choice at a critical time to be with their families. Now women like us have reached a critical mass. We’re at a tipping point and it goes further than suggesting individual solutions. We need to address a systemic problem in the American work culture.
The OptIn Revolution is two-fold: it’s about changing the way companies look at women who have a gap in their resume and how those women value and reclaim themselves.
There are so many mothers who have faced the issue of bridging the gap with great panic (as I have in the past) and the answer is we have to create more change in corporate culture that will advocate for more flexible work policies for woman. That is the change I want to see happen. Our vision for OptIn is to be a place where women who want to work and companies who want to evolve, can negotiate that change.