While motherhood is one of the most rewarding and wonderful experiences a woman can have, raising a happy, healthy, and successful family is a formidable task. You should be encouraged by the fact that you are in very good company! More than 70% of moms with children under the age of 18 have joined the workforce. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics) Deciding to go back to work adds an entirely new level of complexity to your life and that of your family. Your life has undoubtedly changed in a profound way.
Given the new demands in your life, the plans you may have had in place may no longer seem ideal. Fortunately, it’s often said that with great change comes great opportunity. This is an ideal time for self-reflection and to evaluate how these new changes have impacted your needs. This is also an opportune time to consider new careers and investigate new possibilities. There are more options than ever to accommodate working mothers; these include flexible schedules, part-time opportunities, and work from home opportunities or starting your own business.
Before re-entering the work force, you should analyze your situation carefully. You must prioritize your needs, identify potential options, seek advice from experts and create both short-term and long-term plans to meet your goals. These key steps will ensure you make a choice that is conducive to both you and your family.
Begin with a thorough analysis of what your needs are, as well as the needs of your family. It is critical that you realize this is a two-step process. The number one mistake working moms make as they attempt to balance their family and their career is that they leave themselves out of the equation. It’s important to truly understand that a mom who feels unfulfilled is not her best self. In fact, it’s not uncommon for this self-sacrificing approach to jeopardize the very thing moms are trying to protect, their relationship with the spouse and children. When someone is unhappy in any given situation, it bleeds into every area of their lives. The working mom is not only no exception to this, they are in fact more vulnerable than most. Happy moms lead happy families.
Analyze Your Situation
As you analyze your particular situation, you should determine your flexibility in terms of income needs. It’s important to get very clear on both the minimum and the ideal income you will need to ensure the financial well-being of your family.
Consider the cost of daycare, commuting, clothing, lunches, and tax implications, as you assess the costs and benefits of working. Also consider the routine expenses you will now incur for each child such as added health insurance premiums, doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, dental bills, clothing, food, formula, diapers, and activities, etc.
While you are looking at your financial needs you should also be thinking about what your work/life balance needs are. Would it be worthwhile or even feasible to consider a reduction in pay in exchange for reduced hours or flexible scheduling? Work/life balance is critical. You can’t put a price on a stress-free environment for your family.
Some additional points to consider when analyzing your personal situation are your family’s needs, such as schedules, a spouse that travels, external support systems for emergencies, and childhood illnesses or aging parents. Essentially you are looking to outline the parameters that you have to work with as you evaluate your current or other potential careers.
Determine Your Values and Goals:
What are the most important things in your life? In addition to being a mother, what is it that makes you feel happy and fulfilled? It is ok for a mom to find fulfillment in activities outside the family. In fact, it’s important to engage in these types of activities. I suggest you start by doing a quick “free writing” exercise. Sit in a quiet space and just write for 5 -10 minutes about what is important to you. Write sentences, words, phrases, whatever comes to mind. As you review this list you will probably be able to group or combine some items into common themes. Finally, rank your priorities in order of importance. In addition to your baby’s well-being and your personal relationships, you will see a variety of things like creativity, personal fitness, financial fitness, spirituality, and faith. Whatever it is, it’s important to you. Therefore, it should be considered as you make life decisions.
Once you have clearly identified your income requirements and your priorities, you are well positioned to identify potential fits for you and your family.
Be certain to conduct research and seek the advice of both experienced working mothers and career counseling professionals.
You are fortunate that in the technological age in which we live, there are many resources available to you right at your fingertips. Begin with searches for the top careers for working moms, include the top companies as well. Do not limit your search to companies in your area. Many of today’s more progressive companies offer telecommuting or work from home positions. These positions range from customer service, sales, IT support, to consulting and freelance writing. You will find there are a surprising number of family friendly careers. Some may require additional training or education, while others do not.
Give some thought to your entrepreneurial side as well. What home-based businesses might suit your financial and personal needs? You can look for things like web design, social media management, or something more conventional such as interior design, in-home daycare, housekeeping, selling Mary Kay, personal shopping or even pet sitting. Think of the things you like to do. Starting a business doing something you are passionate about is a labor of love. And it has the added beauty of enabling you to work when it is most convenient for you.
As you begin to think about what is best for you and your family, I encourage you to think creatively and keep an open mind to the many possibilities available to you. These are also very personal choices. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek the advice of others. In fact, I highly recommend you do so. However, what works for one family or friend, may not work for you. And, don’t feel as though you need to keep up with the Jones’ or the super stay at home mom, or even the working mothers you know. Do what works for you.
Before you make a final decision, consult a professional – a life coach, a recruiter, or career counselor. It’s simply unwise to make a life changing decision such as this without the benefit and guidance of a professional.
Planning and Preparation
Regardless of whether you decide to look at alternative careers or return to your previous occupation, careful planning will facilitate your transition. Quality childcare is of course a high priority. There are a host of tips and strategies to apply here. Do your research and consult experienced working moms in your area. There are a number of options that you may find helpful. More and more companies offer on-site daycare. In some instances, privately managed daycares are conveniently located in office parks. You may find a home-based daycare located close to home, or you find an au-pair situation works best. Begin searching as early as possible. Good daycares generally have long waiting lists. Remember, fellow working moms will be one of your best resources.
It’s also wise to develop a “Plan B” for emergencies. Consider things such as childhood illnesses and unanticipated work travel. What support system do you have? What is the sick time policy is for the job you will be taking? If you do not have immediately family close by, mommy groups are a wonderful source of support and expertise.
If you will be breast feeding, you will need to find a private location on the job. It’s also critical to ensure you have an adequate supply stored up prior to your start date.
Finally, take a few practice “dry runs” prior to your first day. You don’t want to get off to a chaotic start on your first day. In preparation for this, I recommend you take steps to prepare for your child for the transition as well. These steps will differ depending on the age of the child. If you have a newborn, you may want to bring them to the daycare for a week or so for short periods of time. If you have an older child, you should do the same and explain what the new routine will be. In transitioning my daughter to this phase of our lives, I worked to make this exciting. I told her stories of how much fun she would have and socialized her to the group prior to the big first day. I also took her shopping for a stuffed animal to be her special friend at school. It’s so important to ensure your pre-work jitters are not passed along to your child. They are extremely sensitive to your moods and feelings.
While preparation will ease the transition for you and your family, it does not fully address the emotions you will experience as you enter this new phase of your life. New working moms commonly feel a sense of loss and even guilt at this time. It’s important to realize this is normal and over time should ease. Keep in mind that you are serving as a role model to your child and setting a good example for them. It’s also helpful to understand that any changes you make do not have to be permanent. If your income is a must, consider work from home opportunities, part-time activities, or start your own business. Be creative in your problem solving and you will find something that works.
Always remember that working mothers are strong, capable, talented women. They not only set a great example for our children; they significantly contribute to the workforce and economic growth.