Taking some time off from your career to raise your family can be extremely rewarding. Many stay-at-home moms and dads say they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Still, coming back to your career after several years away — maybe as your child goes off to school — can be challenging if you’re unprepared. Wherever you are in the parenting journey, it is important to think about how you can make your eventual transition to working parent as painless as possible.
Here are some of the challenges you might experience, along with some tips for overcoming them:
1. You May Feel Disconnected
While you’re home, stay in touch with your business network so you can keep abreast of how your industry is evolving. Do some research on workforce trends. Have candid conversations with other working moms to see how they’ve succeeded in reentering the workforce. Staying informed and connected will boost your confidence and ensure you’re ready to jump back in when the time is right.
2. You Might Have Second Thoughts About Your Career
How happy were you doing the type of work you were doing before you took your extended leave? Do you want to go back to the same career, or are you seeking something different?
Don’t feel as though you need to go back to the same old grind if the grass is looking greener in a different field. The time you spend at home with your family is actually a good time for self-reflection. Want to change things up in your career? Think about your strengths, passions, and past jobs you really enjoyed. If you’re going to be interviewing for a new position, it should be one you’re excited about!
3. Work/Life Balance Might Seem Impossible
Parents who return to work after focusing for so long on their children often struggle with the reality that they might not be able to attend every school function anymore, or that dinners might be late, or that they simply won’t have as much family time as before. Don’t worry: You can take steps to mitigate these challenges.
First, look for a job that offers flexibility — a job where you have the opportunity to thrive professionally while also being able to work around important events with your children. Is you schedule flexible? Is there the potential to work from home a day or two every week? Are there other working parents on staff who have set management’s expectations that staying home with a sick child is occasionally necessary? A job that requires overtime or excessive travel is probably not your best choice at this time.
Frank conversations with your potential employer and other members of the team may ease your mind. There are plenty of parent-friendly companies out there that understand happy parents are often among the most productive and valuable employees. Most importantly, remember that’s it’s the quality of the time you spend with your family — not the quantity — that matters most. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss out on something now and then. Harboring unwarranted anxiety and guilt doesn’t help you at work or at home.
4. Underestimating Your Capabilities Can Cost You Your Ideal Position
Before you go out looking for a job, take stock of your knowledge, expertise, and skill set so that you can present yourself accurately to hiring managers. Dust off and update your resume, as much to remind yourself of all that you can do as to inform potential employers of what you can contribute to their companies. Remember that you still have all of the capabilities you had before — plus new skills acquired in your parenting experiences.
“Mommy skills” are highly transferable to the workplace. For example, you are now more of a multitasker than ever before, and you can negotiate like nobody’s business. If you’ve done volunteer work (which I highly recommend to fill your resume gap) or some side work during your stay at home, be sure to tout the skills you used to complete those projects.
Remember: Confidence is a huge component in a successful return to your career after an extended leave. Strive to stay current, consider all your career options, resolve to find a parent-friendly employer, and never underestimate your skills. You can be a wonderful asset to the right company and make this working-parent thing really work!
Ariel Schur, LCSW, is CEO and founder of ABS Staffing Solutions.