For many of us moms, though we have developed an incredible ability to multitask, going back to work seems like an entirely new experience after having a baby. Even if we’ve done it before, there’s always that feeling that you’re leaving a piece of your heart at the care and mercy of, sometimes, a total stranger, who may not care for our precious being with the same fervor and tenderness as we would.
As if that weren't enough, we also have to figure out intelligent ways to explain our gaps in employment. Unfortunately, many employers see them as reflecting unreliability because it could mean that our heart and mind aren’t work ready.
Unfortunately, this is the reality we face as moms. Sometimes having to choose between our career or staying home with our children.
I conducted a poll, composed of six moms from my church, my sister, and a previous coworker who recently became a first-time mom. I asked them several questions about returning to work or staying home, including questions related to who’d care for their child. There were many different answers. Some couldn’t wait to return to work, while others preferred staying home. Nevertheless, one answer was clear across the board. Each one said that returning to work was harder than they thought because of scheduling and childcare issues.
My previous coworker even said, "If they require me to go back to the office, I’m quitting. I refuse to leave my baby with anyone.” She is now considering an entirely new career because now that employers are returning to the office, she has to follow the same 9-to-5 schedule, in addition to taking on a long commute. For her, that would mean leaving her baby with someone else for a little over 10 hours a day.
Though a great number of these decisions are based on the fact that we don’t feel comfortable leaving a piece of us with someone else, as is the case with my previous coworker, the fact of the matter is, that if we can financially afford it, staying home with our kids becomes the easier choice. It's a choice that will provide some peace of mind in knowing that we won’t have to work as doubly hard to make up for our “lack of flexibility” with an employer, and an even greater peace of mind in knowing our children will be well taken care of. The down side of that is that it now adds extra pressure on our partners and many financial adjustments need to be made. Which is why most of us do chose to go back to work when our children become school-aged.
Returning isn’t as simple as it sounds though, it now requires a little extra research, and depending on the type of job you are returning to, requires some major life adjustments for both you and your children.
When I went back to work, after a two-and-a-half-year maternity leave, it was heartbreaking to have to leave my toddler for long hours at a daycare. My five and seven-year-old children had to stay in an after-school program, and for nearly a year, my five-year-old pleaded with me, daily, to pick him up early.
Making the decision to go back to work, for me, was much harder than I could bear. But I am now doing a job I absolutely love and one that brings good financial stability for my children.
How To Transition Back To Work
As mentioned before, going back to work after so long can often not be as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of planning, retraining, and getting up-to-date with current trends. If you’re one of those (like me) who decided to pivot into a new field, whether similar or not, it may require additional steps.
Sitting down with a career counselor could be one of the first and more important steps toward a successful return. A career counselor may offer some very important insights into how to restructure your resume and develop an interview strategy where you sound like you’ve never left the workforce in the first place. They could help to eloquently explain the employment gap, making it sound almost intentional, like you did it for self-training or development.
More than that, some basic research into the field and the company is also helpful. Someone had to do your part of the job while you were gone; therefore, if you are returning to the same employer, planning some conversations and maybe even a quick re-training with the person that took your place would be an excellent idea. If you’re starting at an entirely new place, LinkedIn is an excellent way to look at companies and the people who work there; make connections with those people and learn more about their day to day, so that you are prepared and well informed in order to make a good impression during an interview and learn the specifics of the position.
Once you’ve done all your research, you’ve learned and grown, and you know you are sure you want to return, it’s time for planning. Do you want to return full time? Have you found good and reliable after-school programs or daycare? Are you prepared to work doubly hard to prove that you can be an irreplaceable employee? Can you commit to a specific schedule? Etc. Once you’ve asked yourself these things and have developed a plan of action, executing your plan successfully will become much easier.
Pivoting To Something New
If you decided that you don’t want to go back to the same old job but rather want something new and exciting, maybe even finally go after your dream (as it was in my case), the most important place to start is research. Making a list of the things that you want to do and the type of work you are looking for are essential to pivoting. What field attracts you the most and you feel you can do well? What does that new field entail? What would you need to learn? Do you need to get a certificate or diploma? What resources are available for making a successful pivot? Etc. Those are all extremely important questions to ask yourself.
The best part about pivoting is that we now live in a highly technological world, where connecting with people and learning new things has become much easier. There are now copious resources available online and digital communities that help you achieve your goals and even introduce you to career opportunities.
Additionally, you can now take all of your classes from the comfort of your home, join study groups online, submit your work, attend conferences via Zoom or other digital meeting platforms, and even have your certificate emailed to your inbox or mailed to your home. Technology has certainly proven its advantages.
Fortunately, as briefly mentioned above, the changes and advances in technology, and even COVID, have made returning to work a little easier. There has been a big increase in the amount of remote jobs and resources available, which offer a lot more opportunity and flexibility for moms returning to work, especially when there are concerns of childcare and travel.
There are a number of resources online, designed specifically to help people build their resume, build skills, network, and find work. Even better, there’s a few resources available designed specifically for moms. One such resources is The Mom Project. The Mom Project offers resume reviews, career guidance, networking events, and the opportunity to become part of their large Talent Community, which gives moms the opportunity to receive support from other members and be noticeable by “family-friendly employers”.
Other great resources are social media platforms. More specifically LinkedIn. However, Twitter and Instagram have now become major networking platforms for job searching. In addition to these, there’s an article by Haley Lyles, titled “A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Returning to Work”, that gives a very comprehensive explanation of making a smooth transition back to the work force, as well as offer a variety of resources, including some of the ones I mentioned. This article was published on a website called Resume Now, which is another great resource for resume help.
I graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors in Writing, and a minor in Psychology. But somehow, I kept ending up working at a lot of dead-end jobs and had my share of bad and good employers and child care providers. There was always an issue with either needing time off, or the person caring for my kids. If work was great, the childcare was usually problematic, and vise versa. It was always a struggle. So when I had my last baby I decided to take some time off from work until he became school aged.
I’ve always loved writing and dreamt of becoming a writer, but my family always advised against it, saying it wasn’t realistic to pursue that because I had children and bills to worry about; that instead I should settle for something more attainable and secure, resulting in the many dead-end jobs I mentioned above.
However, the stubborn person that I am at times, I didn’t want to go into teaching or a medicine related career, which is what they all advised me to do. They had a point. It was more attainable and secure. I have four children and from the moment they were born I settled for the easier, more attainable jobs. I had given up all my dreams and aspirations to raise them and provide for them. But I was tired of the same thing and never getting anywhere. I didn’t want to continue to settle.
Since writing is what I’ve always loved and have a talent for, I looked into writing related careers, which lead me to a boot camp in Software Engineering, opening a plethora of resources and doors that eventually led me to my dream of becoming a writer by introducing me to Technical Writing; in addition to connecting me with Her Agenda as a Contributing Writer via the career counselor that was assigned to me at the bootcamp.
The path to get here was very difficult and long. I attended my bootcamp remotely, while three of my children were also remote, taking their classes right beside me, and my toddler often crying in the background. During bootcamp one of my kids decided he wanted to jump off the couch, causing us to end up in the emergency room where he got seven stitches on the inside of his lip and five on the outside. Sometime after that, we all had COVID, and the list goes on. Pivoting to tech and entering the workforce after being on maternity leave for over two years was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, yet the most rewarding. It turned into a huge confidence boost.
My family has always been there for me and supported me in everything, but this was one of the things they just couldn’t understand. Not that they didn’t support it, just didn’t understand it. They made the process doubly hard and thought I had wasted my time and money. I couldn’t even talk about my love of writing because right away it was like entering the door of doom, filled with negativity and criticism. Till one day I talked to my dad, and I honestly don’t remember the whole conversation, but I told him how technology was opening doors and this type of writing was different; that I had a real shot this time. He said “I see how your eyes light up when you talk about writing. I get it. Good luck”. Those words marked my heart and gave me a push I didn’t know I needed.
If I were to tell my whole story, I would need an entire article just for that, but I say these pieces of it so that you as a mom reading this can maybe find the push or encouragement you need. Knowing that while it’s very hard, it’s not impossible.
The Bottom Line
As moms we have superpowers. And I don’t mean that lightly. We have the innate ability to multitask, problem solve, mediate, organize, schedule, process information, and work at a fast pace; better than most people. Why? Because we are moms. Because there’s a supernatural force that drives us and makes us stronger than we ever thought possible. That force is the love for our children. We will do whatever it takes to make sure our children are well, protected, and have everything they need, in addition to setting the best example possible for them. That alone makes us great assets as employees. Because in order for our children to be well, we must perform well, and that means performing better than well at our jobs. So we must learn to cast aside all negativity and doubt bestowed upon us by bad employers and others around us.
That means that when we decide we are going to work hard and succeed so that our children can succeed, we will battle all kinds of things, move mountains, face storms, and triumph, because at the end of the day, we aren’t doing it for ourselves, but for our children.
That means that if you decide to go back to work, whether it be the same job you had before or you want to pivot to a better career opportunity; even if on some level (like me with writing) you want to do it because you love it and it’s your dream, there’s a greater purpose and force behind it; pushing you, giving you strength to accomplish that goal.
The bottom line is that us moms are a force to be reckoned with, and though many employers and certain situations make it that much harder to get back to work after a long break, it most certainly isn’t impossible. Returning to work after a long or very long maternity leave just requires some planning.
I won’t say it’s easy, not in the slightest, but I guarantee it’s not impossible. It becomes more challenging, sometimes requiring training or courses to either improve our current skills or obtain a whole set of new ones. It also requires more effort than we were previously used to, and retraining our brains to become comfortable doing things we might’ve not done before, such as mastering the art of networking. However, it is also that much more rewarding. During that process we grow as individuals, as moms, as employees. We discover things about ourselves that we didn’t know we were capable of doing, and that in itself is already a huge accomplishment.