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Tips for Stay-at-Home Moms Transitioning Back to Work After the Kids are in School

by Leslie Godwin, MFCC

Are you contemplating going back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for a while?  Many women I work with are worried about what their future employer will think about their absence from the work force while they were "just being a mom." 

But for many, the hardest part of the transition is leaving some of their family duties behind.  They’re used to your kids' schedule dictating their day, and accommodating their various crises, moods, and social calendars.  After years of chasing kids around, it can feel like an imposition to have to show up somewhere on time, maybe even have to wear pantyhose on a regular basis, and cater to deadlines that have nothing to do with their family's needs and desires.

On the other hand, some women find that change of pace refreshing.  You may or may not enjoy returning to that kind of routine.  Whichever side you're on, it can be intimidating to dust off your resume, squeeze into a suit, and hit the interview circuit again, so I came up with some tips to help make the transition a little bit more organized.

1. The first thing to do is to be very clear about why you are going to work, what you need to earn, and what schedule will work for you.  Where can you be flexible?  What can't be compromised?  It's a lot easier to think about the big things ahead of time than to squeeze them in later.  You may find out that you won't earn enough to make it worth your while.  Or you may realize that the job you prefer pays enough to take it instead of one with a higher salary and less attractive working conditions.

2. Don't feel that the company who offers you a position is doing you a favor just because you have been out of the workforce a while.  Think about what skills you bring to the position.  And while it's true that moms do need employers to be flexible in case of illness, school events, and other important family concerns, working moms with flexible and supportive employers are incredibly loyal, which is a big plus for the company.

3. Most moms returning to the work force worry about the gap in their resume.  But you don't have to organize your resume by date, which emphasizes gaps.  You can organize your resume by types of positions, for example.  Don't lie, but don't get defensive about the time you've spent raising your children.  And include what you've been doing while you've been a Stay-at-Home Mom.  Did you organize events for your MOMS club?  Plan a fundraising dinner for your friend's charity?  Draft a letter for your homeowners' association?

4. Talk to your spouse and find out what his concerns are.  Is he pushing you to take a job that will pay more but be less flexible?  Be specific about how this will affect him.  He may have to leave his job early to pick up the kids, or stay home at times when they are sick.  Or is he reluctant for you to return to work?  Can he add some overtime at his job so you can stay home?  Whatever his concerns, it's better to get them out in the open now than after you've committed to a position.  Get on the same page so you are working toward the same goal.

5. Talk to your kids.  But only tell them what they need to know, which is how it will affect them.  "Two days a week, other moms are going to drive carpool.  I'll pick you up from their house an hour after you get there, so if you do your homework, you can play when you get home."  The best bet is to be home when your kids are home.  They won’t care what you’re doing while they’re at school as long as you’re there for them.

6. Help is available.  Alums can often get help from their alma mater's career center for free.  I can't overemphasize networking to let those you know, and who know how terrific you are, help you find a great job at the right company.  Professional organizations in your field are great places to network and often have job listings or leads.  And have a plan based on what you can control.  For example, set goals for the number of calls or networking meetings you make, as opposed to setting goals based on results.

7. Practice interviewing with a friend.  Tell her the questions you’re worried about and prepare some answers.  Then, practice saying them in a conversational, non-defensive, tone.

8. If working outside the home doesn't work, be willing to change jobs, look for work you can do at home, or return to being a homemaker full time.

Good luck!  Remember, you're not unemployed now.  You've got an incredibly important and challenging job already.  The goal is not just to find any job that will take you, but to find a situation where you are appreciated and can do your best work and still have enough energy left at the end of the day for your family.  And maybe one where you don't have to wear pantyhose every day.

Leslie Godwin, MFCC, is a Career & Life-Transition Coach specializing in helping people put their families, values, and principles first when making career and life choices.  Leslie is the author of, "From Burned Out to Fired Up: A Woman's Guide to Rekindling the Passion and Meaning in Work and Life" published by Health Communications.  For more information, go to

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