Growing up in Germany, I knew I wanted to be a mom. I also planned to raise my future children bilingually so that they would not have to endure countless hours studying new vocabulary. I was hoping to travel the world, live in different countries outside of Germany and improve my English.
I liked the idea of becoming a librarian as I had always enjoyed reading and doing research. While I never actually became a librarian, I spent many years doing research first as a consultant and then later when working for corporate America. At that point I had been traveling and living in a couple of English-speaking countries.
Up until that point, things had gone mostly according to plan. Then, when I became pregnant everyone told me that my life would change forever.
I thought to myself: How hard can it possibly be? Changing a baby’s diaper and feeding it every few hours – how can that really change your world forever? I loved working.
And then it happened: getting overwhelmed with an overflowing diaper, phoning my husband for help when my baby was 5 weeks old, having to tell my dad I couldn’t talk because I needed to get 1.5 hours of sleep before the next feeding, feeling as if my world would fall apart when I had to leave my 3-month-old behind at a daycare. … it didn’t matter that I was previously perfectly fine mingling with CEOs, I was in over my head.
Getting laid off provided a temporary solution – or so I thought. I eventually had to admit to myself that I found it too emotionally overwhelming to have a full-time job and leave my baby in someone else’s care.
We then decided that it would be good to have a sibling for our child. At that point it had been a few years that I had been outside of paid work. I was enjoying the camaraderie of other moms, pouring my research skills into finding the latest healthy recipes, activities, classes and books.
I felt satisfied with my life, which was basically taking care of my kids 24/7 and homeschooling them for a few years. But 10 years later, all of a sudden my kids were tweens and teenagers. They had their own opinions, and mom was no longer needed all the time.
Suddenly I had to ask myself: Who are you now? An empty shell of your former professional self… is that it?
I believed I had another 40 years to live but didn’t know what I should do. Start all over? It seemed scary to think about myself after all these years serving the needs of other people. Having to explore what I truly wanted to do with my life was overwhelming.
I started listening to other moms and realized that I was not the only one:
“I was an engineer but I am thinking of doing some manual labor to just get back to work, make some money and feel useful.”
“Maybe I could start with a job — any job — no matter how overqualified I may be and work my way up.”
“It would be way too scary to look for jobs that require qualifications similar to mine or even need some additional training. It would feel too depressing to get rejected. Let’s start low.”
“I don’t know where to begin — I don’t even have an updated resume.”
In hearing these stories, I started thinking about all the untapped potential in stay-at-home moms.
What if our words and actions can change the world? What if, by not doing the work we are destined to do, we are doing ourselves and the world a disservice?
Do you know that first female Supreme Court judge Sandra Day O’Connor was a stay-at-home mom for 5 years? What if we believed in ourselves just a little bit and went for it? Think about what your friends tell you: you are great at ______. Maybe they are right.
I started doing some research into whether there was an organization out there, worldwide, helping mothers go back to work. I read the book If You Can Raise Kids, You Can Get a Good Job written by Katherine Wyse Goldman. I felt so appreciative reading all the moms’ stories – it sounded so familiar, even though it was written nearly a quarter of a century ago.
I did some more digging and discovered the “iRelaunch” movement in the USA that was created by Carol Fishman Cohen and her book Back On the Career Track, written in 2007. In the UK, Julianne Miles started the Women Returners’ professional network in 2012 with Elaine Russell, and recently expanded it to Ireland. In Germany there are 20+ organizations helping professionals return to paid work. In Toronto, Jennifer Garves has created “Tellent”.
I was inspired, and decided to establish Emily’s Path in Vancouver. My goal is to change societal behavior towards highly qualified professionals returning to the paid workforce.
In June 2019, Women Deliver 2019, the world’s largest conference on gender equality is coming to Vancouver with more than 7,000 attendees from 140+ countries. I am a mobilizer and a recipient of a partial bursary to attend the conference. Additionally, I will co-host a satellite event and speak at another event prior to the conference to raise awareness of gender equality, which is sustainable development goal #5 of the UN’s Agenda 2030. I feel positive that changes are coming worldwide and I am determined and excited to add my part to the change.
Karin Tischler, founder of Emily’s Path, is an advocate for highly qualified professionals trying to return to paid work after a long period of absence. A returner herself with a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Oxford and a professional research focus, Karin studied and interviewed best practice leaders across Europe and North America. Concluding that raising awareness is the first step to action, Karin has spread the word about this often invisible part of the workforce by being a guest on podcasts, talking to media, setting up events, communicating on social media and creating a support Facebook group.