Kids ... you gotta love 'em. Especially if they're yours. But that doesn't mean that things don't get a little tense around the home front when back-to-school season is looming. By August, children are often bored to death - and make that fact well-known about 2.5 times per day (yes, a recent study out of the U.K. felt your pain and backed it up). Now, all those kids are finally settling back into their school routines, but not all parents are reveling in the extra time, personal space and quiet around the house. That's because for many stay-at-home parents, back-to-school season signals the time to go back to work, often after a lengthy layoff. And for many parents, that's a very tough change to make. Here's how to ease the transition...
- Step 1: Kick the guilt
Whether you're heading back to work by choice or by necessity, for many moms, the move comes with its share of guilt. It's only natural, but know this: millions of women worldwide have children and jobs, and the latest studies on the subject find that those kids turn out just fine. In fact, a major study by Columbia University in 2010 found that children whose mothers went back to work — even within a year of giving birth — showed no ill effects in terms of their mental and social development. Plus, working mothers were found to have better mental health and better relationships with their families — on top of bringing home the bacon. Going back to work will be a major adjustment for both you and your kids, but your family will survive...promise!
- Step 2: Ease up on expectations
According to Salary.com, stay-at-home moms juggle more than 94 hours of work each week, acting as everything from household CEOs to drivers and kid psychologists. Going back to work can mean figuring out how to fit in all that work on top of your paid work. The only way to do it is to accept that you won't be able to do it all — or even come close some (make that most) days. Ask your children or partner for help and learn to say no to additional work or engagements when you can. If it's in your budget, you can also pay for a helping hand (for the housework, prepared meals, etc.).
- Step 3: Make contacts
When it comes to landing a job, competence is only half the equation. The other half is clout, otherwise known as "who you know." If you've been out of the working world for a while, you may not have maintained a lot of connections directly in your industry, but you likely have many friends, acquaintances and supporters who recognize your winning personality and smarts. Let them know you're looking for career opportunities! There are also great resources for connecting with people in just about any field. You could set up a LinkedIn profile and connect with former colleagues, join a local MeetUp group of professionals in your field, or take some career training to brush up on your skills and meet other people with similar aspirations. Heck, do all three! Whatever you do, start working to get back into the game. Not only will it help you find leads, it will also help you feel prepared to start working outside the home again.
- Step 4: Revamp your resume
Joking about all the job titles a stay-at-home mom should have doesn't diminish all the work you've done. Unfortunately, you can't list speed shopping and toddler negotiation on your resume. But figuring out exactly what to put on that resume — particularly for those who've been out of the workforce for several years — can be tough. If your skills are outdated, take some courses at your local college or online to brush up, and consider taking on some relevant volunteer work. These are all things that can help fill any holes in your resume, and show potential employers that you mean business.
You might also consider using a functional resume, which highlights relevant skills, rather than going with the more typical, chronological resume. Finally, be honest about why you were out of the workforce. Coming back from being a stay-at-home parent is not like being released from prison; as long as you're qualified for the position you're applying for, most companies won't see it as a black mark.
- Step 5: Be willing to start small
There are two things you need to keep in mind if you've been out of the workforce for a while: you can do this...but you'll probably feel a bit rusty at first. That's why starting with a part-time position can be a great option. Not only will it give you a chance to get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with the industry, get used to a new routine, and sort out appropriate childcare, but it'll also provide the slower pace you'll probably need to get your groove on again.
Remember when you got your first real job? Going back to the workforce is a lot like that. It's intimidating and it's tough, but it's also exhilarating. Good thing you're a whole lot wiser than you were way back then!
- Step 6: Consider staying at home
If you want to work but you're not sure you want to leave your position as 'domestic engineer', there's one other option: work for yourself. If that sounds tough, keep in mind that according to a report released by CIBC, entitled "Women Entrepreneurs Leading the Charge", the number of self-employed women in Canada increased by 50 percent between 1990 and 2005. And in 2012, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada called female entrepreneurs "the fastest-growing segment of the business sector in Canada." That isn't to say that starting and running a successful small business is easy, but if you pull it off, you may just be able to have your cake — and be at home to share it with your children.
You're well prepared!
Going back to work can be a tough transition for stay-at-home parents, but it's also an exciting one. Remember...the last time you stepped up to the plate for a new job, it involved shepherding a brand-new human being (with a mind all its own) all the way into adulthood. This job will be a whole lot easier. (Plus, you can quit whenever you want!)
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