I just read an article that asked whether stay-at-home parents should be paid. Some said yes; some said no — but mostly, it brought to my attention our need to redefine work.

Moms take on myriad roles. Salary.com added them all together and estimates the annual value of their work at $160,000, offering a window into what lived experience is worth.

Lived experience is the knowledge you get from the unique encounters you go through in life. We can all benefit from having people with more lived experience in public office, corporate boardrooms and on speaking panels.

Work varies across cultures and societies. It’s not always in a skyscraper; it doesn’t always happen between 9-5; and it’s not always paid.

Deloitte says we should redefine work from something we can routinely accomplish to something we add value to — a leap I’ve already made. Here are some tactical ways I translated my lived experience into a paying job.

I listed volunteer work as relevant experience. Hiring managers love volunteer work because it shows you are well-rounded. But in the absence of paid work, volunteer work still counts as real experience, and you shouldn’t be afraid to list it as such.

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I highlighted my skills over my job titles. When I was staying at home with my son, I perfected my time management, financial planning, communication and organization skills.

I did the training I needed to do the job. Many schools offer massive open online courses (MOOCs), and you can also pursue industry certifications you need to do your paid job well.

I built my network. When you do find that job opportunity, you’ll want to go beyond your resume and deliver the context. You can do this when someone vouches for you.

Most of all, I nailed down my personal narrative.

What you do outside your paid job matters. I realized that to work in diversity and inclusion, I had to work at diversity and inclusion. I am on a board for a social justice organization, I am a commissioner for the city of Seattle, and I write this column. All of this is work.

So is building community, mentoring others and supporting children and elders, done by the sandwich generation. Often this work is heavy and invisible and could explain American stress levels. When this work isn’t recognized, we erase the value of a whole group of people.

My grandmother once told me, “I’m not a housewife; I’m a homemaker.” She was talking about all the behind-the-scenes work she took care of. And it was because of her that my family had a rich life.

When we talk about work, we need to be careful not to erase the different kinds of work a lot of us — especially women — do.

Diya Khanna, columnist for Seattle Times Explore
Diya Khanna, columnist for Seattle Times Explore