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After Kids: Returning to Work

The tough decision deciding to stay-at-home is a dilemma  most of us face.  And those that chose to do so are oftentimes very happy with their decision.  But what about when it comes time to return to the workplace?  What's a mama's who's taken an extended leave of absence to do?  Monica asks:

The question I'd like to put out to the uM community is this...  After having had a 10 year career in apparel merchandising and production, we decided upon my becoming pregnant that this uMama would stay at home with our kids for the first several years.  I thought I'd go back to work when I was ready, no biggie.  While I liked my line of worked, I can't say I loved it.  I was and am open to doing something entirely different.  I have two degrees, in Marketing and one in Journalism.  I want to go back in the next year or so.  I want to enjoy, to have passion for my work, life's too short.  We have relocated from Portland to CA and aren't located near any apparel companies.  My options are pretty wide open which is great, but also daunting.

How have you found that career (at 38 years old in my case...) that you love and fits the needs of a young family?

Is there a great book to read on this?  Is there a strategy/methodology to organize and plan this?   Career counselor?  Life counselor (not sure what/who that is)?    Any websites that support Mom's re-entering the work place? 

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It's nice that you have some time to put thought into this as it sounds like your timeline to go back is a little down the road. You ought to be able to put together something really workable given you're not in a "must go to work now" mode. I don't have much to offer in terms of website, book, etc. What I can say is that, for me, after my little ones were born my approach to my job has been very different than pre-kids. I work very little at this point, on a fill-in basis at a previous job. I love my work. I love the opportunity to do something different on work days and to get a change of pace that isn't an extra demand. It does happen to be at a previous job, so it's still in my "career track." But my committment to it isn't there. My first priority is still my family and I wouldn't be able to hold a job that didn't allow me to function this way, both emotionally and practically. I don't bring work home anymore and I don't take on extra projects. I work my shift and I'm done. (I'm in the medical field so this is very easy for me). At first, this was really hard to do because it just didn't fit my personality, but now I'm so relieved that this is possible.

I guess what I'm saying is to consider finding a job that might just provide you with some enjoyment, that fulfillment you're looking for, a little money, etc that may not be a huge committment type job. It might be a nice first step back into the workforce and will allow you to try working-with-family on for size. I imagine as my little ones get older there will be a day I return to the workforce full-on, but I have to admit I'm putting it off as long as possible.

This post is very timely for our family. I am also interested in seeing if anyone can recommend a career counselor or related type of agency that helps people in the Portland area who are trying to shift careers. My husband has worked in the tech field for 8 years and is really wanting to do something else (possibly law). We are relatively new to Portland and both work from home with our jobs located out of state, so we are not as familiar with the Portland job market and any career counseling resources that may help us.

Monica! You asked the question I've been wondering myself. I loved my former profession (archaeology) and would love to return, but I'm assuming it would not work out post-kids, espcially with my husband's unpredictable schedule. It would always be me taking the sick kids or sacrificing my work for an emergency or whatever, and the opportunity for me to travel with the job would be very limited. Any archaeologists out there looking to hire a mom re-entering the work force part-time?

Often I play around with the idea of doing a normal, 9-5, office job with benefits. I also play around with the idea of getting a hobby job, something that's interesting but not stressful, but I know that in the long run that that will only prolong getting somewhere that I want to be, and it wouldn't take long for me to feel like the hourly peon I felt like in high school jobs.

I would love to meet with some moms who have found a new profession after taking years off to stay home. Maybe we could put together a panel of a few moms and career counselors and have a night where we all get together to begin the process?

I'll be following this thread closely - the strain of working 5 (FIVE!) full days per week and leaving my daughter in nanny care is really getting to me ... my husband suggested that we sell our house so that I can be home with her ... BUT, my job has phenomenal benefits, from good pay to retirement funds to college tuition for the kids, it's work that I enjoy, it's close to my neighborhood ... and after watching my own mother stay at home and then do "hobby jobs" only to be left with no resources of her own after a family tragedy ... at age 54 ... well. It is a major struggle for me to decide what to do. I am terrified of giving up what I have now, but so incredibly torn and feeling out of balance, leaving my child (not to mention household business) every day. Good topic!

Wow, I could have written this post myself. I struggle with this very question daily, it seems!! I don't have any answers for you, but would love to get involved with other mothers going through the same things.

I too wasn't in love with my high tech consulting career pre-baby, and thought that staying home with kids would be enough for me (it isn't). But I too worry about the long-run, and needing to take care of myself by keeping my skills up. I would like to eventually have a career that is more meaningful as my priorities have changed since having my two kids.

For now, I try really hard to relax and take a deep breath whenever I hear of mom friends with that fabulous career, or having some wonderful mom job P/T, etc. I find that although I'm not normally a jealous person, I get green with envy when moms I know tell me of their great work-from-home, fullfilling, flexible mom job and those are the days when I'm usually covered in spit-up, still in my pajamas at noon, sitting in my messy house while it rains outside and I wonder if I haven't made the wrong decision. I KNOW I want to be home with the kids, but when I made that decision I guess I didn't realize exactly what it meant or how I would FEEL about not having a career. I mostly worry about falling behind and being unhirable in 5 years and having to work at minimum wage when I do want to return.

Compounding the work or not-work debate is women who weren't in love with their careers before kids. That just complicates it because you have to start over which generally doens't allow much flexibility from the 9-5 job. What kind of resume do I put together, what do I want to do, and what are my skills that are transferrable after 5 years out of the workforce, anyway?

These are things I struggle with all the time. I'd LOVE to hear a story of a mom who stayed home and then went back to a NEW career after the babes were in school. That is the dream that I cling to!

Can the women of Urban Mamas read my mind? In finding myself in a similar situation to Monica's, these are a couple of resources I have just identified but not explored thoroughly.

One is a career counselor here in SE Portland named Vicki Lind who a friend (mom with a similar dilemma)used and found to be extremely helpful especially as she was going back to work and making a career change. Vicki's website looked very appealing (www.vlind.com).

The other is a book called Back on the Career Track which I just put on hold at the library and looks like it might have some helpful insight.

Book description:
Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-At-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, a book offering strategy and advice to women resuming careers after extended time at home with children. Both graduates of Harvard Business School, Carol and Vivian have experienced personally the process of building a career, taking a career break to be home with children, and getting “back on the career track”.

Lastly, I noticed a website called Matchpoint (www.matchpointcorp.com) with the following description.

"Matchpoint is focused on the needs of professional parents. With operations located in NY, Portland, LA, Atlanta and Seattle our mission is to help professionals identify and explore professional opportunities, share information on domestic services, and help create and sustain family friendly work environments. We are committed to improving the way corporations engage and leverage the skills of talented professionals looking to find a balance between family and work."

I too will be following this thread closely.

You have read my mind as well! I am not planning to get back into the work force until about a year as well. But, all of the things you mamas have been expressing have been the exact things on my mind when considering my options.

I too will be following this thread!!

I am with you!
Last year, I worked full time as a single mother with a baby and found the emotional/ physical struggle ridiculous. It was a very difficult decison to quit but I simply had to. I decided to see a life coach to help me with the transition.

For me, my first step (after quitting) has been building a strong foundation of health and self-care which is an issue that I'm sure most of you can relate to. I figure that in order for me to build something, I must have a strong foundation. She has been so compassionate and intelligent in helping me navigate building my dreams.

I absolutlely adore my life coach, she is like a fairy godmother who is equal parts practical and intuitive. I would love to recommend her as she has really helped me listen to my own inner guidance while also help me realize all of the things I'd like to accomplish. She has incredible tools to help you tap into your own deepest desires and needs, both immediate and long term. Her name is Diane Dreizen and her website is http://www.fulfillingcareer.com/.

ALSO- I have just recently started a women's circle of women in the exact same place of wondering/dreaming about their next career move. It's mostly mama's and artists. It's a great resource, touchstone to collaborate, share, and brainstorm. you could join our circle or start your own!

I love Claire's quote about her life coach... “I absolutely adore my life coach, she is like a fairy godmother who is equal parts practical and intuitive.” I emailed our fairygod mother through her site, but the email bounced back?? I am going to call. I will follow up here with what I find out.

I also ordered the "The Pathfinder" from Amazon. It's got 94 reviews, 64 of which are 5 star, another 10 being 4 star. With that said, I think sara's recommendation sounds like a fit for our situation. I will post any "aha's."

I feel positive about finding something. It's just going to take some investigation. I have struggled with this for a while now. I wouldn't change our decision to have me stay home, but I have missed working and totally look forward to having a more balanced existence. I have decided to give up the guilt over wanting to work.
More to come. Let's keep the ideas flowing.

When I left my full-time job a few weeks after having my son, I was sure that I would return to work within a year doing ANYTHING other than what I had been doing (advertising/PR). Three years later I was still at home. There were many good things - free time to do fun activities, time to help out in preschool, sleeping in, pajama days, etc. And many not-so-good things: a loss of self, inability to walk away when I was overwhelmed, loneliness, boredom, etc. I have always adored the library and wondered how I would like working there. My son and I spent many hours there that only made me more curious. So, I was ready when they posted a PT position in the children's department for one afternoon/evening a week and each Saturday. I LOVE it there!! There are trade-offs - every Saturday taken up, the struggle to find childcare each Tuesday - but it's all worth it for me. We each have to decide for ourselves what we are willing to give up in order to achieve a separate goal (and when). We can have it all, just not all at once, right? I'll be following this thread as well for book recommendations.

wow. it seems that i have been struggling with this for a long time and am so glad to see this conversation happening. i vacillate between wanting to teach again, pushing to develop a business and wanting to find a hobby job. the problem is that when i've tried for a hobby job i never get very far because of my degrees. i would be very interested in joining your group claire. please email me at meliadonovan@gmail.com.


Claire, I would love to join your circle too, just to connect with other women dealing with the same struggles. Please email me at lsgw at comcast dot net.

In echoing others, this is so timely! I'd be interested in starting a circle and/or joining Claire's. Claire, I don't want you to feel swamped or overwhelmed - I'm not sure how many women are in your group, and how many you think it can grow to. I'm located in inner SE Portland, and am willing to meet others anywhere relatively close in (East or West). I have twins, and the twins club recently had an event (which I was unable to attend) which had speakers who were moms that started their own business. If I start another group, having occasional speakers would be of interest to me, as well as simply networking, bouncing ideas off each other, and being there to support each other. Claire, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on your circle. I'd also be interested in hearing from anyone else who might want to start a new circle. I can be reached through salexuel at mac dot com

Something else to consider is a volunteer gig, assuming your primary motivator isn't the financial aspect of employment. This can provide you with the intellectual stimulation you're looking for and allow you to do it more on your own terms. I'm just getting into the preschool world, and we're part of a co-op. I'm amazed at the skills involved in the moms who really keep that place running. It's a job in itself, and makes me think about the PTA moms that are sometimes the brunt of bad jokes, but really have far more skills of project management, public relations, etc. than I'll ever have. Certainly volunteering roles outside of the lives of children exist as well, this just happens to be the one I'm seeing the most right now. Anyway, just another alternative. Sometimes I think the argument turns into stay-home versus paid employment, when what alot of us might be looking for involves elements of both.

I have a child in kindergarten and a two year old. I have managed to keep my foot in the door professionally by working very part time. I have done it in part because like others, I watched my mom not work outside of the home and then struggle with what to do when she needed to earn money. I have stayed part time because when we do the numbers me working more and paying for childcare would cost us money not make us more.

The work situation has been good and bad - good is keeping active and connected plus the money is nice. The bad is the extra stress of juggling the schedule when I am working. Today I will most likely turn down a job I really want to take because it won't fit into our schedule. The other downside is working from home when the kids napping also means working alone - with none of the adult contact that comes from an office. When I read Laura's comments I understood what she was saying and people probably look at me the same way - she makes a decent amount, works around the kids' schedule, etc. What is easy forget (and I don't always state - who wants to complain all the time?) is that there is a downside.

I am also the PTA mom that others have posted about. I am able to use a lot of my skills and keep active. The meetings and whatnot are family friendly so my little one just tags along. I have also made a lot of friends at my child's school while doing good work for a good cause. When talking to someone about a paying job recently, one of the things that impressed the interviewer was my involvement in my child's school. So, if you don't need to work for pay it can be a good way to get out and use skills that you might be able to use in a job hunt later. For me it helps to balance my paid work (which can be lonely) with activities that provide more interaction.

I haven't had time to process how I feel about this, but wanted to add a link here ... a reserach study that shows that working women are less healthy, and so are their spouses. ?!?!

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~kirson/papers/kirson_111207.pdf

are we the same person? this is a great post! i'm almost 37 and i was in the same position over a year ago having quit my job in chicago after 10 years(concert industry promotions/marketing) to have my child. i moved to bend when i was 36 weeks pregnant. after about a year, money was too tight and i was dying for some professional interaction so i started driving over to portland occasionally to do some freelance sponsorship work for a concert promoter and music venue here. i worked during my son's naps and worked on straight commission. it was an excellent way to get my foot in the door in portland. it wasn't a lot of money ($12,000 per year?) but it also wasn't a lot of work - only two hours per day and i was still a sahm. of course, we ended up moving to portland. after we moved here, i ran across a posting on craigslist while i was looking for brands to sponsor my clients. the brand had a contract position available...WORKING OUT OF MY HOME! the money was good enough that i was able to do it by hiring a part time nanny (not nearly as expensive as you'd think). even better? they just made the position permanent so now i still work out of my house, have a nanny...it's not ideal but i can pop out and check in with my son whenever i want. he can still sleep in until 7am, we make and eat our breakfasts together with my husband, we play for an hour before we get dressed and my nanny shows up at 9am. i get to pop in for a few minutes whenever i want, he'll come into my office to see "mommy working", i eat lunch with him and put him down for his nap myself...i often get up and work for an hour or two before he wakes up too. for a working mom it is ideal. i pinch myself every day and can't believe this evolved into something that supports my family financially, has an amazing benefits package, doesn't require me to leave the house unless i have a meeting and, most importantly, i get to interact with my son during the day!!! like you, i also have a journalism degree and have worked in marketing my entire life but i've never worked for a brand until now. my suggestions would be to try doing some freelance work if you can since you're in a new market. it's a great relationship builder when you don't know anyone. it can really open up a lot of doors on your own terms. look for contract work. it's low pressure and there's more room to negotiate your terms. lastly, work out of your home. it's fabulous and it worked wonders helping me transition into a working mother. i never had to walk out the door and close it behind me. also, i was in a meeting at one of portland's radio stations a couple of days ago to meet my new account reps. yes, that's plural. it's two women who will be job sharing my account. they are both working mothers and one of them works mon/tues, the other works wed/thurs/fri. how progressive is that? it's one of the biggest radio station conglomerates out there. i think you have a lot of opportunity particularly with a marketing/merchandising background. also, if anyone starts a group/circle i'd love to be a part of it. employers are changing and coming around to the fact that many women our age who have helped build their companies want to come back into the work force on their own terms. keep in mind that even if you're interviewing with some guy that you think couldn't understand your situation...there's a really good chance that he also has a family and may relate to your situation more than you think. this isn't a women's issue, it's a family issue and i'm excited to see that a lot of employers really are changing their tune.

So, Virginia, we may be kindred spirits! My Mom's name is Virginia, she goes by Ginger.
Here's a lame-a&%ed question.. so, in a new town.. how do you go about doing freelance or contract work. Who do you call, who do you go network with? When you looked at Craigslist where you looking in part-time? Your situation sounds GREATTT!! Good for you. I do believe that employers are coming around. It just makes sense, there's a whole pool of skilled women who are thinking the same things that I and all the women above have. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for sharing.
Monica

I think it's true that employers are coming around to the idea of getting creative when hiring/retaining working parents. In the last 10-15 years, it has become "popular" again for women to stay home with their babies, which has obviously taken away from the candidate pool for many companies. Alongside that issue, is the fact that a lot of babyboomers are starting to retire and leave the workforce which again, has an impact on the candidate pool and the needs of many companies for qualified employees. Moms are looking for ways to find balance in their lives as mothers and professionals, and if they cant find what they want, many of them are also going out and starting it up themselves. All of these factores combined, I think we're in a good position to see progressive options as we venture back out into the working world.

I've been lucky enough to connect with a local company through a friend of a friend, where I was able to work as part time as I wanted, get paid enough to pay for my childcare and have a little extra leftover, and work in an environment where I really felt part of a team putting together some hefty deals. I'm on maternity leave now, and I'm just hoping the economy doesnt tank in the next 6-12 months. If it does, I fear a lot of these types of jobs will go away.

Follow your dreams! Anything can happen! I created something from nothing and now am working way more than I set out to but it is fun and I feel like I am making a difference to other moms in the PDX area.

At first all I wanted was to be a mom. I bugged my husband until he relented! I had done freelance graphic design work for years before getting pregnant and I worked up until 2 weeks before the due date, announcing I would try to start doing some work part time in a couple of months. Yeah right! It was too hard to work when I had a tiny baby completely dependent on me and I just didn't want to! I tried to work but my heart wasn't in it. I loved being a mommy. I eventually quit my networking group that supplied me with all of my referrals.

I thought I would be completely satisfied being a SAHM, but something was missing. People change. Becoming a mother changes you. When my son was 10 mos old I got a bee in my bonnet that I could create a large scale sale in Portland like others going on around the country. And I did it! I still can't believe how big it has become in under 2 years, and now it is way more work than I had initially planned, but I love it and it is fulfilling! I really feel like this is a calling and I know I am helping local moms and kids.

My sale happens twice a year and is called Pass It On in case anyone knows of it. It started as a simple idea to help other moms get rid of their clutter and make a little money for my family but snowballed quickly into a for real business! Now I'm finding myself getting serious about my budget and training my Team Leaders. Sometimes I need to put my son in day care or bargain time with friends to make this work, but it's worth it for what it brings to our family. And I am a happier person with a purpose. I highly recommend finding a purpose!

I too would like to join a group of other mamas who are looking for fulfillment and support! Will someone post a link to the online group or a meeting time?!

hi, monica! sorry it's taken me a couple of days to respond. anyway, i really networked through my old chicago contacts. if i worked with a marketing manager for a brand there, i called that person and asked if they had a portland counterpart and went from there. it was a lot of cold calling but i always, always got a call back. you may be surprised at the positive response you get. i couldn't believe it when i got my first commission check after returning home from the park with my son. it's funny how we can get stuck in the rut of thinking we need a boss and a "real" office to make money. that concept is completely ridiculous. also, be true to the mother that you are. when i interviewed for the contract job i was very up front. i basically said "i love this brand, i'd love to work with you. i have a child - can we work together to create a work environment that serves all of our needs? i can't and won't pretend that i don't have a child that i love more than anything. but, i truly believe that you will see more and more women like me reentering the work force and i won't in the minority in a couple of years." i felt very strongly about NOT downplaying my role as a mother. if i had, i would have been promoting the stereotype that working mother's need to pretend that they don't have children when they're at work. we have to change that way of thinking - one working mother at a time.

There is an interesting article on top jobs for parents reentering the workplace here: http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/moneymag/0703/gallery.bestjobs_parents.moneymag/index.html

Also, I sat next to a Portland woman at a conference a couple months ago who started a company that works specifically on placing working parents. Check out her company at: http://www.matchpointcorp.com/

I also just came across some recent media on moms re-entering the workplace, which is an interview with the CEO of Working Mother Magazine on CBS's The Early Show: http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=3665934n

There were a few helpful tips, and I think they have all been mentioned here -- volunteer, think local, and sharpen your specialized skills. Most of what she said was affirming and refocusing for those mamas planning for going back to work.

I know I'm late and the thread has lost it's momentum but I'M THERE. Two kids and five years later. I've kept in great contact with my previous employer and fellow coworkers but I'm a military wife so this is also 4 moves later in a completely different location. My biggest concern is MY RESUME. Does anyone have a suggestion for or example of a resume cover letter explaning the time in our chosen unpaid profession?!?

I disagree with everyone - I have been at home for five years, with awesome sitters to help, and finally have my boys settled in great schools, have said adios to my east coast mommy friends who lunch every day, and am ready for a fulltime career. Granted, I was recently divorced, so may have had more psyching up for this - but I am financially stable. However having just noticed that only 2 out of the top 50 CEOs in the area I live in are women, hello out there. How are younger women supposed to bargain for better benefits when it comes to childcare options if all the moms going back to work are looking for something only half-way? Whatever happened to the 70s? You might think differently if, at 40-something, your H dumps you for something 20-something, and there you are, with little to no sense of meaning. Was everyone here educated to be a homemaker or to make it harder for the rest of us? I think not. I think the truth is, many of us were not altogether with our careers when we got hitched and prego, and that's why we left. Girls 50+% of your marriages will end, yes you could be one of them, and slippery slope foot in the part time career volunteering at the local library is going to feel like a kick in your ass when your kids are really at school, or in college, and you're stuck with betty lou next door complaining about the price of sugar for her cupcakes. Further, if you have daughters, what do you want for them? BC you will be the biggest influence in their life. You are what most of them will become. Have you heard the term SET UP? Try reading the mommy myth, and start thinking about putting some umph into your careers. Further, your kids will have their own lives, and they too will benefit if you have yours. They will learn to be independent, to think for themselves, and not to rely on helicopter parenting. My mom worked full-time, a single mom, and granted she was not at some events, that was because she was piecing her life together and striving toooooo hard, not because of her work. It is hard to disentangle yourselves from the little mom groups that become so very central when you are at home, I know, I had to do that myself, but damn it is worth it. Did you know that in this country, unlike western europe, where women and men get a year of paid and insured paternity/maternity leave, and have access to amazing childcare, that only 10% of women are out of careers, where here it is more like 50%???? If this is the case, then why did you take that spot in college? To be a collateral breadwinner? Just in case the marriage doesn't work? Really, put some thought into more than immediate comfort, because a 50 year old with a cracked up resume has a much tougher time in the world than a 25 year old with one. Just saying.... the more women don't really work, the more pressure on the rest of us to not really work. Because the less able we are to find decent resources for our kids when SAHMs are so willing to 'work' for free. Women are not team players, not really, not about the real stuff. Don't you want some power?

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