Whether you are thinking about leaving your career for stay-at-home motherhood or you are currently a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) who plans to reenter the workforce in the future, it is important to deliberately plan for career reentry ahead of time. You cannot completely predict when you might need to return to work for financial reasons or when you might develop the desire to go back to work. Just like a SAHM who is a trained nurse should take continuing education courses to keep her nursing license valid, all SAHM's should approach planning for future career reentry in the same way -- deliberately and continuously. This is not just exclusive to professional planning, but deliberate and continuous management of relationship dynamics with your partner will set the stage for a smoother career reentry.
1) Plan Roles and Manage Relationship Dynamics with Your Partner. Many couples never discuss how household and childcare duties will be managed once the mother becomes a SAHM. So, it often implicitly assumed that the SAHM will handle everything from cooking and cleaning to carpool and childcare. With this might also come the implicit assumption that the husband will be the main financial decision maker since he is technically the "breadwinner." If you do not explicitly discuss these arrangements, resentment can fester along with uneven power dynamics, which can all lead to marital conflicts.
•Discuss a rough plan for how you will manage the household together. When your husband is logistically able to, can he pick up the kids at school, cook, or put the kids to bed?
•Talk about how you will make financial decisions. Make this an open and ongoing discussion that can be re-visited from time-to-time.
So, why is this important for future career reentry? Research indicates that when a husband and wife do not have egalitarian strategies for child-rearing and breadwinning, they have a more difficult time maintaining an economically and emotionally stable home. If a marriage becomes so unstable that it ends in divorce, then the mother often has to return to work quickly and hastily out of financial necessity. Furthermore, when women feel dis-empowered in their role and work as a SAHM, self-confidence can suffer, which makes gathering the courage to go back to work even harder to muster.
2) Decide What Skills You Will Refine and Continuously Build Them. First answer this question: If you returned to work, would you reenter the same career or a different one? If the same career, then keep any necessary licenses and certifications up-to-date. Keep connected with your colleagues and attend any conferences that you can. If you want to reenter the workforce in a different capacity, then what do you need to learn, know, and have experiences with in order to reenter into a new profession? Either way, continuously set and re-set goals. Note the skill-sets you are building and honing. When it's time to interview, you will not only be acutely aware of what skills you have built during your time as a SAHM, but you will also be able to successfully convey and provide clear examples of these to the interviewer.
3) Do Not Completely Give-Up Your Professional Identity. Many women feel a sense of identity loss when they leave their careers. Nowadays, this is especially true because many women focus on their careers first and have children later in life. This means many women have had careers for at least 10 years before leaving for stay-at-home motherhood. For a woman, it can feel like a loss of self when she leaves her career and is suddenly tasked with building an identity as a SAHM.
• Choose volunteer opportunities carefully. If you decide to engage in volunteering, choose volunteer opportunities that are relevant to your already established skill-set or skills that you have decided you want to build during your tenure as a SAHM. Take-on leadership roles carefully and deliberately too. Assume leadership roles that coincide with your professional identity or interests that will allow you to continue to develop yourself as the type of leader and professional you aspire to be.
4) Deliberately Plan for Adult Interaction. In my research, the most commonly cited area that SAHMs said they missed about their careers was adult interaction. Make sure you surround yourself with other adults that stimulate you. It can feel isolating as a new SAHM. Just because your child plays with another SAHM's child, does not mean that mom has to be your best friend. Just like work colleagues, you will meet other women you don't identify with and who will not be part of your tribe. Don't make efforts to befriend another mom just because you think you should. Instead connect with other women that you identify with and to whom you feel drawn. Find outlets to nurture the need to interact with adults, such as women's groups, professional associations, volunteering opportunities, or through part-time work.
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