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Survival Tips for Moms Returning to Work

Survival Tips for Moms Returning to WorkStay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) and work-at-home-moms (WAHMs) have a lot of obstacles to overcome when they want to – or have to – transition back into the workplace.

As a former WAHM for 10 years, I've lived with those powerful fears that seem insurmountable and keep us from going back to the office, hospital, school, factory, restaurant, or shipping dock. No matter how much you want or need to make the transition, it requires a major cognitive switcheroo… and that's never easy.

After X number of years convincing yourself that being home is the best choice for you and your family, you have to start reversing the rationalization process, persuading yourself that being away from the kids and the pets and the house all day will be just fine. And rest assured, it will be fine. There are many, many "right" ways to be a good parent, and what's right at one stage may be wrong at another – and vice versa.

So let's address some of the common concerns that are probably floating around in your head:

Who will take care of the kids before and after school? And OMG, summer?! What happens when they’re sick? What about dental appointments, snow days, teacher conferences, holidays, or when the Maytag repairman is due between noon and 4:00? How can I be in two places at once?

Every family finds its own combination of babysitters, family members, nannies, flexible work schedules, professional daycare, summer camp, and so on. And most of today's employers are flexible when you need time off (if they're not, don't take a job with them). Somehow, it usually works.

And occasionally, it doesn't.

I guarantee there will be days when the wheels fall off the cart. That's when you call in crazed (not sick), and you stay home and cry it out. Or, you show up at work with a kid in tow and two different shoes on your feet.

When will there be time to do the grocery shopping, laundry, house cleaning, cooking?

Things may not be pretty at first. Assigning chores to your kids is an awesome idea! They won't do them, but it's still an awesome idea.

You'll quickly learn to run errands on your way to or from work or at lunchtime, and use evenings and weekends to get caught up. Crockpot meals, cooking in bulk, having scrambled eggs for dinner, and other creative ideas can get you through the annoying fact that your family members still expect food every damn day!
 
And when things get completely out of control – which they will – you'll be glad to know there are angels out there who (for a worth-every-penny fee) will wash, dry, and fold your mountainous backlog of dirty laundry; deliver your online grocery order; or (wonder of wonders) clean your house. Bless their hearts. And rest assured: Although you might feel like a failure if dinner comes from a drive-through window, the kids will love you for it.

Will I have to start back at square one in my career? Do I even know how to do my job anymore? 

It's unlikely you'll have to go back to entry-level if you were well-established in your profession. But frankly, many of us find it easier to aim a rung or two lower on the ladder, until our skills and confidence get back up to speed. A temp or transitional job can also be a great way to cross that bridge. And yes, silly, you still know how to do your job. As a matter of fact, you still know how to learn, too. I promise! It all comes back very quickly.
 
The web can offer you lots more help surviving the transition, including organizations dedicated to helping women get back on the career track. Women for Hire and Back to Business are two excellent places to start.

Use all the tools and resources you can find to push yourself through the quicksand of fear. The commuting world, with it's adult conversations and regular paychecks, awaits your arrival!

Anyone have other survival tips for navigating the at-home to at-work transition? Please share your experiences (good or bad) below.

RELATED LINKS
The One Thing You Need to Re-Enter the Workforce
Writing a Resume When You Haven't Worked for Years
Has Caring for a Loved One Left a Gap in Your Resume?

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