Recently I was thinking about how to describe what it feels like to be living the stay-at-home mom life and trying to get back into the work force after five years of being deep, so deep, in the trenches of full-time mom status. Words that came to mind about this workforce re-entry process: “Scary,” “daunting,” “exciting” and “overwhelming.” I’d have to say it would be accurate to picture me caught up in a raging river, nearly drowning, but then people start throwing things at me; you know, like bricks, babies, heavy weights, whatever, and then I’m really trying to stay afloat.
Now, I am not one at all to delay or procrastinate, but with this giant task facing me, sometimes I have to go exercise or knock a few items off my to-do list or shake off the nerves by staying busy so I can ultimately relax and focus on what direction I want to take in this next stage of life and what career track sounds most enticing and rewarding. It’s like, oh my gosh, great googly moogly, where do I even start?!
Time to reflect
Before having my son, I taught high school English. Yet, being out of the schools for five years is a long time, even if that does not sound long! So much has changed. The education arena has changed. Licenses (as in mine) have expired, and by the way, does Indiana even require a teaching license anymore?! People have changed. Technology has changed (dramatically). Procedures and guidelines have changed. I have changed.
I have asked myself so many times, what do I want? What do I want to do? What is truly my passion now? Things change once you have kids, as you grow older and as your thoughts and dreams evolve. This career reflection process has proved terrifying at times and has involved a lot of mental pep talks to get my mind right. (You mean, my baby is starting kindergarten and I have to go back to work instead of spending each and every day with him, being there for him every moment as he grows up?!).
Yet, it is also very exciting. My curious, adventurous son is elated to be embarking on the next big milestone, whereas I am eager to rejoin the working world, have fun utilizing my talents and continue to be productive in different ways. Work life will give me a chance to put my skillsets to good use, to draw upon my past education and work experience, to be a part of adult interactions (where my first name can replace the endless “Mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM!” I hear incessantly; although I know one day I will miss that) and to witness work take center stage instead of worrying about the next pile of laundry or grocery shopping trip or toddler meltdown.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have loved, absolutely loved, being a stay-at-home mommy. From the day he was born, I have felt so lucky and blessed to have the privilege to be with my son day in and day out, even though it has not always been easy, or involved sunshine and roses and bacon-wrapped chicken thighs. I will never, ever regret my decision to stay at home with him. But, now it’s time to get excited about the next steps, the next milestone for me. Even though it has been ALL about my little boy these last five years, or six really, since he gave me evening sickness my entire first trimester, it is now my turn to pay a little more attention to myself. He will always take center stage, and being his mom is utterly amazing, but it does not solely define me; it is time to get back out there and get after it. I will still always be there for him, yet, now I can explore what opportunities are waiting for me as well.
In pursuit of the Holy Grail
So, back to the career exploration itself. Wow! It really is intimidating. It crosses my mind every day. What do I want to do? Is a flexible schedule more important now that I am a mom? Or does money seize the forefront? Do I want to rejoin the teaching world where I worked for years before having my son? Yet, I have an extreme passion for fitness and nutrition; so do I go that route? Or, with my journalism background, is there a writing job out there that would be a good fit? Oooohhh, but I love animals, so should I explore that avenue? Or, because I am a people person and very driven and organized, should I try to get a real estate license, because that field sounds interesting? Aaaaahhh, I just don’t know yet. Ultimately, we all want the Holy Grail, the job that makes us happy, doing something we love, making a positive difference in other people’s lives and, if possible, making good money while doing it. I often find myself picturing different options and paths; many sound wonderful, but getting there is what seems so daunting.
When I discussed my job pursuits with someone recently, bless his heart, he suggested I become a door greeter. Yes, he was serious. I had told him I was open to exploring a different direction for my career instead of teaching, and that was his suggestion. Um, I’m not yet retired and I have my Master’s Degree, so perhaps door greeting may not be my specialty at this stage of my life? Then again, I am a people person, and I would rock a neon vest and name tag, so, hmmm…decisions. But seriously, I know people mean well with their ideas, and I certainly do not mean to sound like a jerk. Thankfully, I am reminded with discussions like that how this huge decision is mine to make. It is up to me to make this transition back into the working world happen. And, most importantly, it is up to me to remind myself (and with this forum, other moms), that it IS possible to return to the working world. We just need some confidence, inspiration and a plan to make it happen.
Moms make ideal employees
I know I’m biased as I continue this career exploration, but I feel like stay-at-home-moms who are ready and willing to rejoin the workforce have SO much to offer! Seriously though, all you moms out there know we have what it takes to do the (fill in the blank) job right. Moms can effectively multi-task and do so many things at once, and we not only do them fast, but we do them well. We can work under pressure and amidst intense screams and gobs of messes with drool or snot and/or Cheetos stuck to our legs. We have carried 20 grocery bags into the house to avoid two trips; such tenacity and efficiency, right?! Tee hee. We can be empathetic, but firm (“Yes, it is time for bed!” “Yes, it is time for that bath!” “I understand you don’t want to clean up your toys, but you ARE going to do it!”) We can be creative, which is not limited to coloring Paw Patrol characters like a boss; creativity encompasses thinking fast and quickly coming up with solutions for problems. We can handle conflicts with ease and even drive around town running errands with little people crying and/or screaming in the back seat, as well as maintain our composure in public while carrying our little people everywhere even though we are sad, tired, stressed, hungry, thirsty (for water…or wine) or irritated. And individually, we can do the job of 10 people. We teach, counsel, comfort, clean, cook, bake, organize, schedule, donate, volunteer, put others first always…you name it, we do it, sometimes all in the same day (or sometimes within the same hour of a particular day).
Boom! Undoubtedly, moms are the total package; ideal job candidates, really. Because we have been doing ALL of this for free, perhaps the most underpaid and undervalued individuals around?! Imagine what we would do if you waved some bucks our way. Woo hoo! Personally, like most moms, I am definitely not afraid of hard work. And, I am certainly a big fan of money. I like it, a lot actually (This mama likes to shop!), and would like more of it. If I actually made a salary as a stay-at-home mom these past five years, I wonder what that would have looked like…
Changing the SAHM perception
Unfortunately, a certain perception exists about stay-at-home moms, like we don’t really do much, or we just watch TV, drink wine and eat Bon Bons (do they even still make those?). One night I missed a call from a friend because I was cleaning up vomit from my sick boy. He texted, “You are the busiest non-busy person I know.”
SAY WHAT?! Oh, so because I don’t answer your call, and because I don’t have an official 40-hour or more per week job, I am not busy? Why is it that some people maintain a negative perception about stay-at-home moms, or any mom for that matter? Believe me, we do a lot, and we should not have to justify that fact, ever. Mom life should be appreciated, not denigrated. And, with that being said, let’s truly consider how leaving the working world for a bit to raise kids is truly amazing. It is not for everyone, and it is not an option for everyone, and that is totally ok. Yet, stay-at-home moms need to know that because they chose to raise their kid(s) at home, that decision is not a career death sentence. We undertook a significant job; raising our children and trying to teach them to be kind, functional, responsible, contributing members of society. We should not ever have regrets; it was a decision we made that should be embraced. We didn’t waste our college degrees or previous work experiences; our children benefitted from our knowledge and life lessons. Undoubtedly, we can cherish that time we had, the ups as well as the downs, and know that we helped shape our children for their future. And that, my two friends reading this blog, is priceless.
Steps to rejoin the working world
Now, I am not an expert on this topic by any means, yet, I can share what I have brainstormed and learned from talking with others. Stories are always more relevant when somebody is living in the moment or has lived through the experience, right? So, at the very least, I think I am qualified to discuss the feelings, mainly, but also the next steps associated with this challenge for mamas! A million resources exist; this is just a Cliff’s Notes version yours truly created for spurring your process, because let’s face it, we all appreciate a little time-saving boost!
1) Make a list of strengths and weaknesses; perform a self-assessment
What do you want to do? Ask yourself why do you want to go back to work? What would you be good at and truly enjoy? Is it money that motivates you? Or do you want more meaning and substance in your career? Do you have a passion for a certain area? Yes, time has passed while we were at home with our kids, and we have changed, but that is ok. Your reasons for working before having kids may have changed; you may have different goals or a different mindset now. You can explore other options. Priorities can change. Flexibility in a schedule might be more important. This is a critically important step; take time to reflect. It’s ok to be scared; you will get through it, but you do need to take time to assess what you want.
2) Do research; explore your career options and interests
Now that you have reflected a lot, reflect some more! Then, get to it. Research online as well as in person (ask questions to friends, family members, anyone and everyone you encounter). Explore, and then explore some more. You are worth it. Also, remember, being a stay-at-home mom indeed makes you an asset. You have options, despite what some people might think. Put in the time to research and explore; truly find what sparks your interest and attention!
Contact former colleagues, pay attention to social media posts (people often post about job openings), talk to people in person (again, anyone and everyone; you never know what opportunity might exist) and certainly do not keep your job search a secret! Networking leads to so many opportunities nowadays!
4) Update your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile
Take time to update your skills and accomplishments not only before being a stay-at-home mom, but during that work gap. Often stay-at-home moms do various tasks and volunteer work; be sure to include those on your resume and in your interview. Do not shy away from giving a reason as well as an account of your work gap. Renew any expired licenses you may need for the job, or sign up to acquire new licenses. Bottom line: Don’t stop, get it get it!
5) Prepare for interviews
Be confident. Do your homework about the job/company you are interviewing for so you feel ready, sound ready and are ready. Please do not feel bad or embarrassed about your time at home; be open and honest about how you don’t regret choosing to use your talents to raise your children, who are tomorrow’s future leaders.
6) Expect rejection!
Aaahhh, rejection. Ok, so we have certainly dealt with it before (ex-boyfriends, jeans that don’t fit anymore, friends that let us down, kids that don’t listen to us, etc.). Rejection is not fun, but it is inevitable. Just like we do not always view certain people or places or careers a good fit, some people and places do not consider us a good fit (their loss, right?). Please do not get down, and absolutely never, ever give up; stay positive and remind yourself about your goals and your pursuit for a happy, well-rounded life. Never underestimate your value or your ability to contribute! Everything you did for your children stands for something and is certainly representative of your strong values, solid work ethic and beautiful soul.
Yes, you can
Mamas, you CAN do it. This is all just one more piece of the puzzle, one more part of our journey in life as moms. You are enough…more than enough.