Why do we underestimate the skills built as a parent?

LUCKY ONE: My mother is a fixer of broken hearts, an unwaveringly fair arbitrator and an advocate for those in need.
LUCKY ONE: My mother is a fixer of broken hearts, an unwaveringly fair arbitrator and an advocate for those in need.

I am one of the lucky ones: I won the lottery with my parents. For as long as I can remember, my mother has been one of my best friends. And yet she always managed to retain parental authority despite the closeness of our relationship.

She has always been there for me, whether it was in full protective mumma bear mode when I was in school and dealing with bullies, organising extra piano lessons because I was freaking out over my piano exams, rescuing me two days before my HSC English exam when she realised a timetabling clash had meant I missed all the language appreciation classes, or listening to every single word I ever wrote at university.

Since I've become a mother myself, I have had the glorious pleasure of witnessing her in full flight defensive mode for her grandson through a disastrous initial introduction to school, and then seeing her rescue him through literacy coaching every week (having an English teacher for a mom has more than HSC perks!).

My mother is a fixer of broken hearts, an unwaveringly fair arbitrator and an advocate for those in need. My Dad is no less.

Taking stock of these gifts, especially over the weekend as we celebrated Mother's Day together, has really brought home for me just how much of ourselves we pour into parenting and how many skills we develop over the course of these incredibly eclectic chapters in our lives.

As parents, we become master schedulers, negotiators, conflict mediators, financial managers, administrators, liaisons, advocates, representatives, enforcers, chefs, taxi drivers, supervisors, team players, sports enthusiasts, coaches, counsellors, protectors, educators, guides, and many, many other "specialists."

This experience is such an enormous learning curve.

And we become adept in so many skills that we don't even think about.

And yet, do you know what the most common thing I hear is, when a parent comes to see me, wanting to return to the workforce? "I've just been a stay at home parent. How do I apply for a job now?"

They want to know how they can look for a job or even market themselves when they "haven't done anything" for the last five years. Haven't. Done. Anything.

At what point did the most important job - shaping the next generation of our species - become the least valued role in our community?

Why do we, as both parents and employers, fail to value the skills and experience that we accrue during this period of our lives?

Research points us to the fact that these skills have been developed during "unpaid" work as to the reason why they are so often overlooked, suggesting that in order for a skill to be worth something, someone else needs to have recognised that it is worth something and attributed a dollar value to it.

Parenthood might not be a job, but it certainly is a very important role with responsibility and accountability. I honestly think that we underestimate the skills that are involved in meeting these needs.

Many of us don't think about the conscious skills that we build during these years of our lives because for many, they become automated. They don't even think about them as skills.

In fact, they don't think about parenthood as a job - it is a part of life, as natural as the breathing of air.

Perhaps the lack of value to the role of parenthood is attributed to the way that we feel about it ourselves: because stay at home parents aren't "going to work" they are perceived as being on perpetual holiday.

However, the reality of this is so very different. There are no sick days, no weekends, no lunch breaks; frankly, it's exhausting (but worth it).

Parenthood might not be a job, but it certainly is a very important role with responsibility and accountability.

I honestly think that we underestimate the skills that are involved in meeting these needs. We need to take stock and remember that we are shaping the next generation.

And while you might not need a degree in parenting to get the job, we all build skills we didn't know we were capable of as we grow into the role.

We just need to market ourselves a little better so that the world can see our capabilities more clearly.

I know I wouldn't be who I am without my parents - how can we undervalue that?

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer and coach at impressability.com.au