If you are one of the many women in the U.S. thinking about returning to the workforce after taking time out to start a family, you might feel a bit lost.
Technology has changed, your field may have shifted, and your priorities may be different now that you have little ones at home. The corporate job that excited you before having kids, for example, might appear too demanding.
How do you sort it all out? Many women are working on it. It used to be once you were a stay-at-home-mom you would likely always be one. But more and more modern moms choose to return to work after taking time off to have children. The path from mommy hood back to work is different for every woman and can sometime be hard to navigate.
The good news is you don’t have to do it all at once. Returning to the workforce can be broken into small, manageable steps. Just because you’ve decided to go back to work doesn’t mean it needs to happen tomorrow. Break the process down and get started!
-- What type of work are you interested in? Do you want to go back to your old job? If so, are there any skills you need to brush up on before going back? If you want to do something drastically different, what is it? If you used to work for a bank, but now you want to start a dog daycare, for example, take a close look at how the work will affect your day-to-day life. Evaluate what kind of a lifestyle this new work would offer and how much you could expect to make.
Find a mentor
-- Nothing can help prepare you for returning to work like an enthusiastic mentor. They’ve already had success in the job you’re looking into and can warn you of the pitfalls as well as encourage you.
Test It Out
-- Consider taking the time to test-drive your dream job. Spending a few days with a mentor, observing their work, will teach you volumes about whether this is the right path for you. Listen to your gut. If actually doing the work makes you realize it wouldn’t be a practical job with young kids at home, better to know that now then after leaping into the career in real life. Ask yourself, what did I love about this job? What did I not like? What surprised me the most? Could I do this job day in, day out?
Create an action plan
-- Now that you know what you need to do, set out incremental steps you need to take. Should you go back to school or get certified in a field? If you are starting your own business, do you need to get a loan or find space to rent? Establish a network of supporters, including your mentor, and rely on them for encouragement.
Involve your family
-- Going back to work will be a big change for your spouse and your children. Be sure they feel included in this process and let them know their support is important to you. If your spouse or kids have reservations about you returning to work, talk through the fears and try to address them specifically. If your children are afraid they won’t have any quality time with you, for example, agree on a sacred time like bedtime or Saturday mornings that you’ll always be available to them.
Returning to work after spending years raising children holds many unknowns. Are you ready to return to work? What kind of work will be the right fit for raising kids? How will the family react? These questions and more can be answered with good research, the guidance of a good mentor and the real-life experience of test-driving your dream job.
© 2008 Brian Kurth
is the founder of VocationVacations and the author of Test-Drive Your Dream Job. Kurth is a sought-after expert on how to pursue and attain one’s dream job. He has shared his wit and wisdom in appearances on NBC’s TODAY Show, CNN, and FOX News, and has been featured in articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine. Many more regularly turn to Brian for his comments, advice and insights. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Kurth lives in Portland, Oregon.
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