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Going Back to Work After Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

How to Get Your Career Mojo Back After Years of Stay-at-Home Mom-ing

About three years ago, I quit my job as an editor at POPSUGAR Moms to stay at home with my new son and 3-year-old daughter. "Huh?" you may be asking yourself, "am I not reading a story written by you for POPSUGAR Moms?" Well, yes, because just a few months after I officially resigned, my boss offered me the chance to come back as a freelance contributor, meaning I could write a little and be with my kids a lot more.

I jumped at the chance, knowing I have the great fortune of working for a company that supports women in every stage of their lives, respects their ability to determine what life-work balance is best for them, and offers non-traditional working situations. (The fact that I chose an inherently flexible career also didn't hurt). However, I also know I am one of the lucky few women to have this kind of effortlessly balanced work-mom life.

Over the last year I've witnessed many mom friends ship their youngest kid off to school only to realize that they had dozens of empty hours in their lives (part awesome, part weird, part boring). Suddenly, that old motivation to find a fulfilling, well-compensated job returned, but after years out of the workforce, they didn't know where to begin. Should they become Pilates instructors, open Etsy boutiques, or beg for the jobs they left over half a decade before?

If you're in a similar boat, here's how to start to get your career mojo back.

  1. Figure out why you want to go back. Think of it as setting your career intention. Are you motivated by money? Boredom? Or do you want to reenter a career that you love for personal satisfaction and development? Knowing the why behind your motivation to return to work will help you to determine what kind of job makes sense for you.
  2. Do you want to reenter the career you had before kids or are you looking to start a new one? Even as a long-time writer/editor/journalist who's always loved what I do, I've occasionally considered other jobs (yoga instructor, children's book author, and podcast host have all been on the list). Although it might be easiest to jump back into your prekids career, really think about whether it really makes sense for your current life — or if now's the time to follow another passion.
  3. Do you want to work full or part time? How important are flexible hours? For the next eight years, at least one of my kids will be home from school by 2:30 p.m., and because I want to be there when they get off the bus, a 9-5 job won't work for me. Evaluate your situation to see what kind of job makes sense (part time, work from home, etc.), and understand that you might have to do some negotiating to make a traditional work schedule fit into your life.
  4. Consider when to start looking for a job. Don't turn down the perfect gig no matter when it's offered . . . unless it comes with a start date a week before the beginning of your kids' Summer breaks. Kidding, kind of, but unless that job comes with a paycheck big enough for a full-time sitter, it might not make sense to start your search until your kids are back in school.
  5. Ask working moms in your circle for advice. Most moms are more than willing to share their experiences, good and bad, and are eager to help you learn from their mistakes. So reach out over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
  6. Reestablish contact with former employers and co-workers for advice. If you are interested in reentering the career you had before kids, now's the time to start sending emails to all the people you used to work with and to ask for job leads and general advice. If it's been a long time since you've worked, the industry might have changed, so these people can be invaluable resources.
  7. If you're entering a new field, understand that you might have to start from the bottom . . . again. Don't shortchange your skill set and talents, but try to take your ego out of it. Starting a whole new career requires a willingness to do some dirty work, but who's better than a mom at dirty work?!
  8. Rediscover your career confidence and don't discount your new skills. If you had kids before you had time to fully establish your career, it can be hard to feel confident about what you now bring to the table, but without a doubt, you bring a lot. Home CEO, lead parent, expert multitasker, conflict resolution specialist . . . you have gained experience as a stay-at-home mom that you should be proud of.
  9. Be patient, but persistent. Finding the perfect job is just as hard as finding the perfect mate, the perfect house, and the perfect postpregnancy bra. It takes time, patience, and persistence, but the work you put into it will eventually be rewarded.
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