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Staying Home

Back to Work

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 4, July-August 2007, pp. 176-179

"Staying Home" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

I've been home with my children for the past 10 years. My youngest is approaching school age, and I'm thinking about what I might do for employment next year. But I have no idea what I want to do. I'm no longer interested in the work I did before having children; mothering has been my favorite job by far! It's been a long time since I've written a resume or had a job interview. How have other stay-at-home moms approached returning to work after years out of the workforce?

Mother's Response

Getting back into the workforce may seem like a daunting challenge, but it also presents you with a wonderful opportunity to explore new career paths and create a work life that will fit the needs of your family. And all the better if you have some time to do some research and ease back into it without being immediately pressed for money!

It is important to sit down and spend some time thinking about what jobs you might like to have before rushing out and accepting the first one you can get. There are some great books out there to help you take inventory of your skills and identify your passions, as well as suggesting some possible careers that you would not otherwise think of. Consider taking a career search seminar offered in your community. Before making a major career change years ago, I took some vocational testing through my local university and found it extremely useful. There may also be seminars on writing a great resume that emphasizes your skills rather than your recent "paid" work experience.

Once you have identified some industries that you might be interested in, use your mothering and other personal connections to set up some informational interviews. These will give you additional leads to aid in your job search, and you may find out about unadvertised job opportunities.

I can't emphasize enough that you should do your best to follow your passions. If you are passionate about particular aspects of mothering, you may be able to capitalize on those. For example, if you are passionate about cloth diapers, you could work in a store that sells them. If you are passionate about learning, you could work in a library or preschool. You want to find a job that energizes you and fills you up, not one that drags you down and drains your precious energy. Life is too short to spend time working at a job you don't like!

Based on my experience in the workforce, there are definitely industries and companies that are more family-friendly than others. The happiest working mothers I know are those who are able to work part-time, so keep this in mind when you evaluate potential jobs. And many mothers are now finding that the perfect job is the one they create for themselves. Becoming a "mompreneur" who runs her own business from home, where she can juggle the day-to-day demands of work and family, might be an option for you to consider.

Darcie Light
Richmond BC Canada

Mother's Response

You are dealing with a real dilemma, one I wonder how I'll deal with myself. I also am not interested in the work I used to do and wonder what I'll go back to when my youngest is in grade one. Why you are going back to work? Is it for money, intellectual challenge, or companionship? Of course, it's usually a combination, but if money isn't too tight, you could try volunteering.

My mother volunteered for various causes from the time I was in junior kindergarten until I started eighth grade. She finally went back to full-time work, to a job she was offered because of the skills and connections she had made in her volunteer work. This way she knew more about herself and what would make her happy than if she had gone straight from full-time motherhood to full-time paid employment.

I doubt I can stay out of the workforce that long myself, and think perhaps I will try a couple of evening courses once my youngest starts kindergarten, just to see what I like and to get used to the public world again. Otherwise, my only suggestion is to have a couple of friends read over your resume, and apply to some jobs and see what happens. Good luck!

Catherine Szabo
Toronto ON Canada

Mother's Response

I am a new mother and I'm not in your position at this point in time, but the fact that you mentioned that "mothering" has been your favorite job really struck me. I have had a difficult postpartum year, and for women like myself, with no immediate family around, there is a deep need for help that only an experienced mother (especially one who has breastfeeding experience) can provide.

I have been blessed to find a wonderful woman who comes in weekly to help me catch up. Whether she wears my daughter in a sling while I take a nap or run an errand, prepares a meal for us while I'm nursing, helps straighten up a cluttered drawer, folds my laundry, or answers a question about parenting, each seemingly small task goes such a long way. I would hire her every day if she were available! This type of work falls most closely under that of a postpartum doula, and it is through the postpartum doula community in my city that I found my "mother's angel."

Have you considered training to be a postpartum doula? Even without formal training, you probably already have the skills that would make you a valuable asset to new families. You probably know some families with young children for whom you could volunteer in order to build references. It has been my experience that postpartum doulas do well finding families by word of mouth. Soon, you could begin charging a fair hourly rate. In Chicago, Illinois, USA, the going rate is between $15 and $25 an hour. I hope this inspires you or someone else who may be reading!

Teresa Reilly
Chicago IL USA

Mother's Response

It's really daunting thinking about going back to work after 10 years of the greatest unpaid job on earth. I'm in the same boat as you. My youngest started kindergarten this year, and I gave myself the year to figure out "what I want to be when I grow up." I haven't made a final decision yet, but these are the things I am thinking about to help me make that decision.

1. Would you rather work at home or be in another setting? Being home is easy because there is no commute and you can be there to see your children off to school and get them home; but home can be lonely and isolating, and with so many other things to do, it can be hard to concentrate on work instead of laundry, food shopping, or PTA events.

2. Did you love what you did before you had kids? Are you still interested in that line of work, or is this the perfect time to make a change? It is better to do work that you love and find fulfilling, as you found out during those 10 great years.

3. Do you have the resources to go back to school for a year or two to earn a new degree or brush up on your skills? Going back to school eases you back into the world of work, and gives you a lot of flexibility as to when to work on your assignments.

4. Have you ever thought of opening your own business? Is there something you are really good at that you think is needed out there -- organizing, making something special, teaching a specific skill? You can work for yourself and set your own hours.

5. Do you want to work part-time or full-time? Your options may be more limited for part time work, but it may be easier for the first year or two to ease in part-time and still have a little time for yourself or for errands while the kids are in school.

6. Consider hiring someone who specializes in career choice. You fill out an extensive questionnaire about your skills and interests, and they help you figure out what you might enjoy doing. There may be lines of work you never even thought about that would be great for you.

7. Finally, read Sequencing by Arlene Rossen Cardoza. Even though it was published a while back, she offers some great advice for women going back to work after being full-time mothers.

Kari Kohl
White Plains NY USA

Mother's Response

My youngest child is the only one still at home after many busy years of homeschooling all five, and I also have loved this job of mothering! My daily schedule has changed in recent years from chronically hectic to peaceful and a bit boring. These days I am often asked, "What will you do now?" implying that it's time to get a job. I see this as a mainstream social standard that feels like the one I was held to when asked the question, "Is he sleeping through the night?"

When my children were small, finances were tight while my husband started a new business, but we managed. Now we are comfortable and secure, and any job I could get would not affect our lifestyle, which we are perfectly happy with anyway. If the situation were to change, I'd immediately find a paying job. I do feel the need to be active and productive, of course, so I've gradually increased my volunteer activities. Now I give two days each month to organizations that help the elderly, and can see increasing these hours as my youngest child's need for me and my care decrease, while also looking for other opportunities I care about. I realized that I could give more time to La Leche League, and increased my commitment at both the local and Area levels. LLL is still the cause for which I am most passionate.

So when asked, "What will you do now?" after experimentation I've learned to answer, "I'm increasing my volunteer activities." This often isn't the answer expected and does not meet the mainstream social standard of earning an income with one's time, but then I never gave the expected answer to, "Is he sleeping through the night?" either! At times, through the years I have felt the discomfort of making choices that do not fit in, but they continue to work for my family.

Carol Delaney
South Windsor CT USA

Mother's Response

As a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, my youngest was heading off to school, too. I loved staying home with my three children, but with them at school I was ready for something more. My husband said he could not stay at home with sick children or carpool. He also traveled every week. I was a parent-helper at my children's preschool for six years and asked if they needed any help.

For the past 18 years I have taught three, four, and five year olds. Having a business degree I have taken many early childhood courses but my experience as a mom was my foundation for my success with young children. I am proud to tell you I have an 11-month-old granddaughter, Abigail, who is following in her mommy's footsteps as a beautiful nursing baby. I am not sure I would have been as good of a teacher had it not been for the experience of my own three children (all breastfed, the last one for a long time!).

With all the research on the importance of the first five years of life, I feel like I am making a difference with these young children as well as educating young parents. I really thought four children was a perfect number, but instead I ended up with a class of 16.

I will always remember my years with La Leche League as one of the high points of my life.

Joyce Clyne
St. Louis MO USA

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