You have spent years planning, dreaming and working to reach your current career status when… along comes baby!
And baby is not a footnote on the resume. She is a living miracle devoted to capturing your time, attention, effort and love. When you find yourself surprisingly tempted to abandon the rat race and give into your new bundle of joy, know that you are not alone. Over 60% of professional women who leave work to raise children want to go back into the workforce someday, according to Monica Samuels, author of Comeback Moms. Also know that with careful planning and strategizing, your previous passion—your career—will still be waiting for you when you’re ready to return, two years or two decades down the road.
Samuels, an environmental and immigration attorney, stresses the importance of planning, both at home and in the office, before resigning cold turkey. Talk it out with your spouse before you decide to check out at work. According to Samuels, “Many men initially don’t want their wives to leave work. It puts extra financial pressure on them and they may feel resentment because they don’t have the same opportunity.” You both need to be comfortable with the financial reality of the change. Says Samuels, “If you think you want to take time off to be a stay-at-home mom, discuss your finances with your spouse. Experiment by living on one income for a while. Is it really doable?”
When you feel emotionally and financially prepared to leave the work force, lay the practical groundwork for leaving your job, but stay on good terms and plan for future opportunities. Now is the time to negotiate any freelance or consultative work you could perform from home while baby is napping. Let your employer know what your plans are, especially if you intend to return. But even if you don’t plan to go back to the same job, don’t burn bridges. You’ll value that positive reference when you start something new.
Stay in the game
“While you’re not working, stay up-to-date by e-mailing coworkers, scheduling lunches and expanding your network,” Samuels suggests. “It’s all about networking when you decide to return to work.” Many industries have professional organizations or online networks to help you stay in touch.
If you plan to return to full-time work in the future, be proactive in the here-and-now. Adopt an attitude of perpetual learning. Budget your time and keep a schedule (as much as your baby will allow). Take the same energy you put into your career and apply it to volunteer and social experiences along with your family life. Any public involvement will build your confidence and contribute to your experience level, especially if you can take a leadership role. Avoid a gaping five to ten-year hole in your resume, which will make it much more difficult to successfully reenter the workforce. Samuels insists, “It’s all about keeping yourself in front of people. Don’t shut down your professional side because you’re staying home.”
Make a comeback
Only you can decide when the time is right to return to work. Let your professional network know you’re interested in coming back. If you’re starting on a new path, get your personal, business and volunteer contacts involved in the search. You never know who will provide the key connection that lands you your next job. When you make that leap, weigh your options and be realistic in your expectations. Samuels advises, “Don’t be insulted by the idea of taking a lesser job when you go back. There is a trade-off when you take time off to be a mom, but it’s well worth it for what you gain by spending time with your family.”
Having the support of your family is priceless. By keeping lines of communication open, your hubby and kids will be more comfortable when you decide to head back to work.
Talk to your spouse about your career plans and timeline. According to Samuels, “Once men become accustomed to their wives being home, they can be resistant to them going back because responsibility for child care shifts back to them. Redistribute work the way it was before you left the work force. You definitely need the support of your spouse—in leaving the work force and in going back—to make the transition successful.
Your kids need to feel included but not responsible for your career direction. When you choose to reenter the work force, Samuels warns, “Do not make your children active participants in the decision-making aspect. That’s not fair to them. Sit down and explain your decision to them; work through any fears they have about the change. Let them know that you’ll always be there for them.”
This article is written by Ginny Butler for www.pnmag.com.
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