Some people think putting your kid on Facebook might be bad for your job prospects

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This is my kid… all over my Facebook page.

When I started reading this piece about why you shouldn’t put photos of yourself with your kid all over your Facebook profile I was surprised. Basically it comes down to this: “Future employer X calls colleague Y to ask about me; colleague Y checks Facebook to get the latest….and instead of a link to a story I’m proud of, or even a video I find funny, he finds a photo of me and my baby boy making snuggly faces.”


Within hours after the birth of my son, I posted a photo of his smushy newborn face on Facebook.

And then I started to worry that I had made a mistake.

Not about the baby – he’s awesome. Not even about my baby’s potentially compromised privacy, or the possible ruination of his future digital identity. Instead, I worried that, by publicly donning my mom-hat, I might be hurting myself.

Studies upon studies show that women with children fare worse, professionally and financially, than women without. Moms face more difficulty getting hired and earn less than their childless peers. It’s worse for new, breastfeeding moms, who are judged to be less competent and less likely to be hired than bottle-feeding moms and who suffer more severe and prolonged earnings loss. Even controlling for all the extenuating circumstances that make salary comparisons really hard, the evidence seems pretty conclusive: Moms earn less, and have less success, than women without children.

Of course, my reaction after reading the above was “Well, my page is private… so I’m fine.” But then I read these two lines:

“And while my Facebook page is private, my friends do include plenty of people I’ve worked with or for, or might hope to work with or for in the future. I also take it as given that any potential future employer or reference would use all the available tools to check me out – including finding out who we know in common via social networks.”

I realized they TOTALLY apply to me. Right now both my jobs are awesome, and neither Ariel nor my photography clients care that my kid is on my page (that I know of). But what if in the future I’m interested in doing something else and this works against me?

What do you guys think?

Updated to clarify: The topic of this article is totally NOT one that I support, but I do feel like the possibility of being discriminated against for sharing your kid’s lives on social networking websites is worth discussing. You can’t change a practice like this if you don’t know about it! — Stephanie

Comments on Some people think putting your kid on Facebook might be bad for your job prospects

  1. I have thought the same thing. At first I felt almost ashamed to think this, but then I realized it’s the sad truth. I am currently looking for work, and now I make sure I dont even have the carseat in my car when I go for an interview!

  2. When searching for a job recently in the field of molecular biology, I was very up front about my faith and my plans to add on to my family within the next year. I don’t want to work for someone that would not be OK with these things. Although I probably got really lucky that I found a job quickly that met my needs, I’m glad I don’t have to pretend to be something that I’m not.

    • From one academic to another, congrats! But you are very lucky… I’ve heard lots of horror stories in my field (philosophy) about women with kids or who were planning to have kids having trouble on the market because of that.

  3. I think you are right, and it makes me sad. The thing is, it works differently for men. A man who posts a photo of himself doing an activity with a child gains a boost. Men with children gain professionally because they are seen as more responsible and stable due to their presumed breadwinner financial/job needs. Women with children are often viewed as a big liability. It’s really sad. I do, however, think there is truth to it.

    My ultimate hope is that better work-life balance policies in the workplace will change some of this culture.

      • Statistically, men are more likely to be the primary income earner and women are more likely to be the primary caregiver. While this is a slowly shifting paradigm, at the moment it is still largely true. The result is that a female employee is more likely to ask to leave early to pick her kids up from school or to take a day off to stay home with a sick child. A male employee will be more paranoid about losing his job and not being able to support his family. The result is that the male with children is usually the more reliable employee (in a world where we define reliable as “willing to work long hours and take on extra work”).

        Now, this obviously isn’t true for every family, but it is still true often enough to influence hiring practices and pay scales.

      • The truth I see is that children are perceived as a liability for women and an advantage for men in many work environments. I don’t think this IS true, but I think it is the perception. So that’s the “truth” I mean, the perception, not the reality.

    • I feel the same way as you. I’m a sahm by choice but if I was wanting a job I would never want to work somewhere that viewed my motherhood as something awful. I understand that some can’t be this picky but in the end it’s just lying. If your a mom, your a mom. Hiding your photos isn’t going to change that. If they didn’t want to hire you because of the liability they won’t be afraid to fire you either when they find out you are.

  4. I think that the article makes some good points about how this could affect mothers, but I also think that trying to hide the “mommy-hat” part of our identities only works to further perpetuate the workplace inequalities for moms in the first place. If we try to dissect our private lives out for the sake of our professional ones, we’re essentially telling them that they’re right to assume that women cannot be good mothers AND good employees.

    But if we refuse to do that, if we continue to demonstrate that we are capable on both fronts (and that means not trying to hide the work we do at home from our employers and not trying to hide the work we do out of the home from our personal sphere) we can begin to break down these beliefs.

    That may sound foolishly optimistic, and I don’t think it will always be easy, but I do think it’s necessary.

  5. Honestly, if it’s a choice between not sharing my life and my child’s goings on with family and friends (all of whom are across the country from us) and not getting a possible job from an unfair employer – I feel pretty good about not taking that job. Who wants to be employed by someone that ignorant anyway? I’d rather have a job where people understand I’m a mother as well as a person who enjoys her career. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  6. Siiiiigh. Right now, I am just so saddened and angry and the blatant discrimination women with children face in the work place. I am sure I will have some more productive feelings/thoughts on the topic later…

  7. Totally agree with Becca. If a potential employer can’t deal with the fact that Facebook is about our private lives rather than our professional lives, and they get put off by us having pictures of ourselves with our kids, then who would want to work for them anyway?!

  8. It makes me sad; I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and student for the past 6-7 years, and now transitioning back to work. There is a barrage of information about how I should downplay my mom-ness in order to upsell my professionalism, and I feel like that invalidates the work and love I’ve put in over these years. I can be professional and snuggle my kids all within the same day. I don’t bring a pacifier to interviews and I don’t post naked baby photos on LinkedIn; do I really need to screen the corner of the web that is actually about my complete life, not just my professional life?

    The idea that images and posts about my life as a mother on Facebook are reviewed in the same way as those of a potential employee boozing until the morning hours is disconcerting and degrading.

    And I feel the push to ponder: If a man had pictures of playing football and going fishing with his kids on Facebook, is he scrutinized the same way?

    • As addressed further up the comment chain, it’s the opposite for men. Men with out children can be discriminated against. Men with children are seen as needing stability and a predictable income.

  9. My facebook page is as private as it can be so I’d be really miffed if a potential employer/client tried to see it. If you (generic you) want to look me up professionally that’s fine but do it through linkedin which is specifically there for that, facebook is for me and my family/friends.

      • yes! this! i don’t friend work people. my personal life is none of their business. for me, facebook is for my real friends and family. my profile is as locked down as it can be with their ever-changing privacy settings.

        • For me, fb is personal only – I don’t friend anyone that has anything to do with work. But when you google my name you can find my fb profile pic, which is me and my son playing around with the webcam.

          But do you think people actually see that you have children and think ‘no I won’t hire her?’ Really? Or do they think ‘she already has kids so I will hire her because she won’t go off on maternity leave on me’?

    • I think this should definitely be the normal thing.

      I have a professional webpage (on, I have a public twitter feed that I use for professional stuff. I have articles published online under my real name and affiliation.

      I turn up the privacy on Facebook and other blogs etc up to max. I’m hoping that employers will see and appreciate that I keep my personal/professional internet stuff pretty separate.

  10. I think so many people put their kids on Facebook these days, including women with high-paying jobs. I started working full-time after I became a single mother. I didn’t feel that people didn’t want to hire me because I was a single mom, but I do feel the full-time schedule is not at all mom-friendly. I’m lucky that my boss was also a single mom and she lets me sneak off for kid-related issues.

    • This. I’m a single mom, I was lucky(?) enough to have a full year to spend with my sone but then I had to get back into the workforce. I didn’t hide my mom-ness in the least, its who I am and I wouldn’t ever want to work for a company that I feel I can’t be myself at. But unfortunately the full-time work schedule is not single-parent friendly AT ALL. I had to ask my mom or boyfriend to pick my son up from daycare every day and watch ghim until I get off the train. I feel horrible, my son isn’t their responsibility, no matter how much they love him and want to help. And if the little guy is sick I have to take my very few vacation or personal days to stay home and take care of him, which leaves no time to take a real vacation with him and go somewhere fun =(

  11. *cue rant*

    First thought? Ignore it. It’s yet another thing that women in the workplace are supposedly doing wrong.

    We’re flirting too much. We’re not nice enough. We interrupt. We’re not assertive enough. We dress in revealing clothes. We don’t dress feminine enough. We ask for time off. We work too hard.

    If we just stopped wearing too much make-up, or attended those workplace golf journaments, or didn’t insist on breastfeeding at work, or took off our wedding rings for interviews, or lost weight, then we’d all be on our way to CEO, I’m sure.

    The problem isn’t what women do or don’t do in a workplace. The problem is systematic discrimination against women.

    *rant over*

  12. I have been a stay at home mom by choice for 5 years now and will continue to be (now that I have another young one)until something comes along that can incorporate (or at the very least accept and work with) my mom-ness. I can’t hide that part of me, it’s huge, it’s more me than I ever was without them. I feel saddened by this.

  13. I don’t really agree, or more so I think it probably depends on your profession. I also think there is a balance.

    In most careers, or just on peoples personal Facebook pages in general, I would actually be wary if I knew someone was a parent and didn’t have any photos of their kids or of them with their kids. However, the parents that only post photos of their kids, then that also doesn’t show much about their interests outside of the family and from a professional standpoint, I would want to see a mix of personal and family posts along with professional topic posts.

    I think the more important factor would be to be careful of what you say on a site like Facebook as opposed to the family photos you may post… complaining about work or even the kids for the that matter I think would look a lot worse to a potential employer than a photo of good times with your little ones.

  14. Yeah, I don’t want to work somewhere where my status as a parent is viewed negatively. I’m in a place of privilege to be able to decide that, for sure. And that means that I may never make over a certain amount of money, or obtain some level of success that others may. And I’m fine with that, actually. I want to love (or at least like or mostly enjoy) what I do for a living, but I don’t live to work.

  15. Navigating the availability of new technology is a challenge and what is considered the “norm” for this is changing very rapidly. Some places are adding laws that make it illegal for potential employers to request access to facebook pages and many companies are realizing its a bigger liability for them than an advantage. If they deliberately find out things about you on facebook and then don’t offer you the job its possibly grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.

  16. Too bad, my kids are my job and my sole purpose for having Facebook is to show off my family and share pictures of my kiddos with relatives and friends. I’ve never really wanted to be a “career woman,” and since having my kids I’ve been decidedly more picky about how I spend my time away from them. If and when I do decide to work outside the home, it’ll be a kid-friendly job for sure. My kids aren’t going anywhere so if a job looks down on me for having them, it’s obviously not a job that’s going to be compatible with my lifestyle!

  17. Facebook is your private space for staying connected with your very close friends and family. Don’t friend your boss on facebook. If you need to network and have those connections on facebook, create another account or page for that. Just have one single photo of yourself and update on all your professional successes. Or use LinkedIn or something.

    Why would a colleague spy on you on your fb and report it to a potential employer? You might not want to use people like that as references in the first place, let alone be friends with them. And they might not think very highly of you if they need to lurk your fb for info. If I was called for a character reference, I would answer the person on the spot and I would speak to the person’s professional skills, qualities, ethics, etc. Not things about their personal lives. Everyone knows that employers are not supposed to ask those questions in an interview. It’s illegal. Why would a colleague find it appropriate to do so?

    Facebook is meant for sharing with your friends and family. It’s kind of hard to not post pics of your newborn. Especially if your family is not around to see them.

    Life is too short to try to hide your life and who you are. You don’t want to work for someone who is going to discriminate you based on whether or not you have children. If you hid the fact that you had children well enough to get hired, you’re eventually going to be mistreated if your boss is the discriminating type and finds out.

    The topic you should be discussing is staying on top of your privacy settings! And the fact that people (Pedos!) can track where you live from photos you upload from your phone if you don’t have that specific setting turned off in your phone.

  18. So far all of the comments have been about how people aren’t willing to work for employers who don’t like them having kids. That’s wonderful, but I just don’t feel I have that luxury. We’re a two-mom family, and I’m the breadwinniner. I need a job. Further, it’s important to me to be in the new small city near my extended family. I’m a newbie-about-to-be lawyer and while I have a fellowship for the next two years, I’ll be applying for as many jobs as I can after that to try and stay in new small city. I think would rather de-kid my facebook page, as sad as that is for me and all of the people from my old law school town with whom I would like to keep in touch, than risk not getting a job in new small city from some conservative judge or attorney.

    • What about scrubbing your page of all references to your wife? Despite what happened yesterday, much of America is pretty homophobic. When I interviewed for residency positions I put my membership in the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association right in there with the American Society of Anesthesiologists because I didn’t want to move to a place where I wouldn’t be welcomed. Now that I’m looking for a job I stopped to consider what I put on my resume. But still I’m putting it on because I’m hoping to go home to my liberal city where it really doesn’t matter. At least that’s what I’m hoping for because there’s only one anesthesia group in town and if they choose not to like me because I’m gay, or because I’m a mother, I’m kinda screwed.

      • I could be wrong on this, being biased by currently living in a state in which my marriage is recognized (though new small city is in a state in which my marriage will not be recognized), but right now I feel as if I am more likely to be discriminated against for being an active parent than for being queer. If anything, being queer sort of makes up for the female part, because there is now “another wife” who can take on some of the nurturing responsibilities and I can be the reliable worker bee.

      • I thought about this yesterday when I changed my cover photo on FB to one of me and my fiancee (it was the right size/layout, and we are taking engagement photos today). Previously, I’d kept my cover photo and my profile photo(s) more professional, because I was job-hunting and in grad school meeting new folks to network with. Didn’t add them to FB, but those areas are public.

        Anyway, the photo is G or PG, and I’m not in the closet or ashamed of my relationship. If a potential employer would take offense — to the point of not considering me for a job — I wouldn’t be comfortable working there.

    • Exactly. It can be a lot harder to pass up jobs when you’re dealing with a conservative industry and are not thin, straight, and/or white. At least I can control my facebook page.

    • A friend of mine has two facebook pages. One with the name on his resume which is squeaky clean with only potential references as friends, and one that’s under a pseudonym that has all his actual Facebook stuff on it and all his friends. Maybe this could work for you?

    • So glad you posted this comment. As I was catching up on comments, I found myself thinking that it’s all good and well to say one would never take a job that saw one’s children as a problem, but sometimes one just NEEDS A JOB. It’s not always so black and white. So, thank you for posting this, and good luck to you.

  19. I think that it’s unrealistic for an employer to expect certain things- like for their potential employees to not have lives.
    I think that they will find out I have kids in some other way- like me talking about them at some point or having pictures at my desk.
    That aside, I couldn’t work for someone who didn’t like my personality- and with my personality goes my tattoos, and my family.

  20. I’ve been reading a couple of books about navigating the professional academic world as a woman with young children. One is called Professor Mommy, and it’s wonderful, straighforward advice. One key point the authors make is that the time to fight sexism and mommyism isn’t when trying to get a job, its after you’ve gotten the job and are in a position where you can insist on the rights we’re all entitled to- FMLA leave, equal treatment, and equal pay. Changing the system from within is a lot more effective than refusing to play because the system is unfair. It’s unfortunate, but it is also true that outing yourself as a mommy influences how likely you are to get a most jobs, and also has a big influence on long term pay. Hiding mommy-hood during the hiring process may not be fair, or fun, but it is an effective way to maximize your chances of getting hired and increasing your pay once you do get hired. In most cases, we’re beyond the point in the feminism fight were sexism and mommyism are overt. Nobody on a hiring committee would acutally say- “she’s a breastfeeding mommy, so she must be less dedicated to her career than that guy we saw yesterday who used the story of teaching his son to fish as an example of… We can probably get away with paying her 2/3ds of what we’d have to pay him.” The sub-concious assessment of mommies as less competent still holds, and has an influence on hiring and payment decisions.

    Obviously, I’m NOT saying everyone must scrub all traces of their children from their entire internet life. Job application strategies are a completely personal choice, and the influence of parenthood on hiring decisions varies a lot. In academia, hiding parenthood is a strategy that is successful at helping women who are early in thier career women have enough options to be able to choose how to balance work and family instead of being forced to take the only job they’re offered.

    • As a soon to be mom in the academic world I agree with you, fight from within the system. I tell my students that every semester! You may not end up with a “fair deal”, but you can certainly end up with “better than I thought”.

    • I totally agree, Christa. One can fight for a lot of change from within the system, but sometimes it is easier to get into the system first before beginning the fight. I’ve taken a lot of steps to improve the culture and benefits for parents where I work, but I was only in a position to do this because I was in the system already.

      In academia, I have found that even marital status can be dicey to have known in a job interview, even if heterosexual. Even the most enlightened of departments will worry that a woman will have a harder time relocating to the site of the job, and be less likely to stay, if there is a male partner involved who likely has his own career, than a man married to a woman who presumably, even if she has a career, will put his first. (I disagree with all of this, but I think the assumptions are there.) I know many many women who debate whether or not to wear wedding bands to job interviews, and I have only known one man have the same worry. I did wear my wedding band, and I was actually asked by a senior administrator at a job interview, “So, I see you are wearing a wedding band, so I assume it is OK for me to ask, will your husband let (yes let!) you move to XXX?” This violated so many laws and professional code of ethics! And I just do not believe I would have been asked that had I been male.

      Now, I am on the other side of the table in hiring, and I am really adamant that we just cannot take personal relationship statuses, or parenthood, into consideration when hiring even if we do find out. We just cannot let this stuff matter, or we will bypass so much talent.

      But again, this is something I can do because I am already within the system.

      • Well, thanks for all you’ve done! I’ll be on the market in a year or two and my advisors have said to hide any trace of marriage and kids at least until I’ve passed the first round of interviews. There isn’t any reason not to have the best possible chance of getting a tenure track job, and the studies on motherhood and hiring in academia are pretty clear. Hopefully I run into people like you, but I’m not going to bet my career on it!

        • Christa, Good luck to you! I think there are individuals and departments out there where these things are not issues for women, but one never knows ahead of time, so it can be better to “be safe than sorry.” In my case, my marital status came out at 2 of my 3 on campus interviews — the egregious case I noted above, and in a more innocent way at my current job (but it still freaked me out as I am married to another academic, the nightmare scenario, right?). The upside in the latter situation was that once the “secret” was out, I actually relaxed a good bit and was able to be a more well-rounded person during the rest of the interview. I should add that I did not have a child at the time.

          But it is very infuriating that we even need to have these worries, and it is also a clear double standard as men do not face the same pressures.

          I think sometimes it isn’t anything as callous as “we don’t think this person will be committed to the job because of her family” but rather often practical issues such as “will this person come here and stay?” But, I think in either scenario, it just should not matter to whom one is married or partnered or how many children she might have. We have to look at the merits of the candidate.

          In any case, good luck to you!!

  21. Don’t you think eventually they are going to find out you are a mom? Its kind of hard to keep that a secret when your kid gets very sick and you need to stay home. Or people at work ask you about your family. And why friend a colleague that you think may turn around and rat you out to the boss with a pic of you cuddling?!

    I like the suggestion to keep two separate fb accounts if you are that concerned but don’t see the point (and I work in a non-mom friendly field). But again, if they so dislike you being a parent that you are afraid they wont hire you, then you’ll just have to worry about being fired your entire career. Lets face it, the majority of people become parents. And I am pretty sure most employers are aware of this. Until women stop hiding the fact that they are maternal this type of thing will continue.

    I’m surprised by this article on offbeat mama. I didn’t find it helpful, informative or inspiring.

    • It’s not necessarily supposed to be any of those things — I thought it was worth discussing on the site. However, I have been LOVING the responses, and find most of them inspiring and uplifting. You guys are on fire today!

  22. How is this different from having personal pictures – including ones of *gasp!* your kids – on your desk at work? Am I missing something?

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