One fine Thursday, after spending the week shuttling 3 pre-teen kids to different schools, friends’ homes, soccer practices, and study groups, all while coordinating groceries, laundry, toilet repair, and volunteer activities, your husband might comment, “Wow, you went through a whole tank of gas in 4 days? That’s a lot for someone who doesn’t work.” Really? Coordinating all of those lives while keeping them fed, fresh, and focused isn’t work?
While most of us agree that being a full time mom with an active family certainly is work, the deeper question is: what’s next when those kids are off to high-school and college? How does a successful mom transition from home to the workplace when those hectic pre-teen days end? Here is some advice to help.
Successfully navigating volunteer boards and parent organizations are very real allegories to surfing a corporate environment. Late nights on science projects and spelling homework create fierce attention to detail and ability to focus in adverse conditions. These skills are valuable, and if a future employer does not appreciate that, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway.
Make sure that you are up to date on current office programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, and common email programs like Gmail. There are many free online tutorials that can serve as refreshers as necessary. Also, make sure that those PTO board and team mom activities are well documented. Don’t assume that all employers will discount volunteer positions, especially very responsible ones.
It worked for them, right? Work hard, get your rest, make friends, do your homework, practice hard when no one else can see, seek opportunities to stand out, and approach each day as a fresh challenge.
Do set the expectation early with your family and workplace of what constitutes a “leave work” emergency
The trick is to invest time in making the kids self-sufficient: create good snacking habits, carpools, laundry and cleaning schedules, easy dinner options and homework policies. Set limits on how many texts and phone calls are acceptable during work hours. Your kids will thank you when they get to college and already have the life-maintenance basics mastered.
Crazy though it sounds, cameras and individualized access codes have the benefit of helping you to manage your teens while you are at work, while preventing those daytime break-ins when previously you were at home. According to the FBI, 60% of reported home burglaries occur during the daytime when the homes are empty. It may be time to invest in a home security system.
The adage, “Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life,” is a clear instruction from those who have created careers from hobbies. Now you have life perspective that you may not have had before – put it to use! Allow what you have learned and loved during your Mom years to frame your job search in terms of your current passions and strengths. You don’t need to retrace all of the career choices you made straight out of college, and you can turn that resume “hole” you think is a liability into a strength.
Most moms today return to the workforce at some point, and keeping in touch with women whom you respected as parents will probably land you in good company as they return to the workforce. Also, the career people whom you may have assisted in volunteer positions are a fantastic resource, since they have a familiarity with your work. Ask if they can recommend or hire you. At the very least, maintain relationships, as you may need their reference one day.
While raising a family is primarily an other-focused occupation, successful careering requires some self-focus. Don’t feel pressured to make all of your career related decision choices about your family. Taking on a high profile project that may require a bit of night and weekend work may be exactly what you crave and your career needs. Carve out time each week for personal reflection on what you want and how to get there.
View your first position back into the workforce as transitional, and choose one that will help you refresh your skills as well as provide opportunity for promotion. Your first job back doesn’t have to be the end-all-be-all.
Since workplaces are becoming much more casual, traditional business pieces can be mixed with casual pieces for a modern workplace look: dark washed jeans with a button-down top and a long necklace, a pencil skirt, flats and t-shirt, a cotton skirt and business heels. Seek the advice of friends and family who are in similar industries and borrow-shop their closets before making any substantial purchases.
Give yourself credit for the successes that you had as a parent. Understand that there is benefit to be had from all of life’s experiences. The time you invested in raising your family will pay you back in spades both from having raised successful kids, and also from the new skills that it allowed you to explore for yourself.
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