Parents

How stay-at-home moms can return to work

Are you a stay-at-home mom looking to return to the office? Or are you considering taking time off to help raise your little ones? Before you leave the cubicle, plan ahead! Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of the best-selling book "Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families," combined her research with input from headhunters and human resource managers to develop smart tips on how stay-at-home moms can get back on the career track — without getting discouraged:

Step one: Be determined
The hardest and most time-consuming: Get determined to go back. SAHMS often feel conflicted about returning to work. Women often leave work for good reasons — to be with children, frustrated by a less-than-family-friendly work schedule, to support their husband’s demanding career. Can they juggle work and motherhood? Will their kids suffer? Will their husband or partner be supportive? Are they still valued by the workplace? You cannot project ambivalence to potential employers or waste valuable interview time justifying your choices. 

Step two: Ask for help
Get a buddy or paid coach or take a class to help you develop a compelling resume and job interview skills. Writing a resume based on skills — not chronological promotions and achievements — can be hard. Projecting confidence in an interview is also a big challenge to someone who has been home for years. But as in any job interview, confidence is key.

Step three: Be publicBe open and very public about your decision to go back to work. Enlist help and advice from friends, family, former colleagues, parents at your children’s schools. Tell everyone these top three messages:

1. You want to go back2. What kind of job you are looking for3. What your skills are 

Be decisive and confident. Moms report this kind of informal networking leads to most promising opportunities.

Step four: Develop a thick skin
Be determined and realistic and your own most-enthusiastic cheerleader. Don’t take rejection personally — and don’t let it invalidate your time at home with your family. Develop a thick skin: We live in a capitalist country that naturally values hard work without time out, so there will be questions about why you left and why you want to return, but this is not a rejection of your or your decisions. Ignore myths and negative messages that women who’ve taken work breaks to care for kids cannot go back — millions of women do every year.

Remember — you have a lot to give, and with determination and help you can find the job that’s right for you and your family.

Dos and don’ts for stay-at-home moms who want to return to work

Do decide to be realistic and determinedDon't expect the job market to respect, validate or reward your decision to stay home with children. 

Do stay in the same cityReturning to work is simpler if you remain in the same geographic area or in the same field and can leverage your prior contacts and professional reputation.

Do show you’re decisive about returning to workNo one wants to hire someone who projects ambivalence.

Do go back full timePart-time and flex-time jobs unfortunately remain elusive for anyone at any stage in their careers.

Do keep up your networkThis jaded advice holds true — but it doesn’t mean an awkward call to your old HR manager every January. Keep up with your friends from work and your industry. Maintain professional connections in ways that feel comfortable to you.

Do stay (somewhat) currentBe sure to stay current on major new technology trends in your field. Lawyers need to read up on Sarbanes-Oxley. Marketers need to keep tabs on Internet marketing. Certified professionals, keep your accreditations current.

Do go back within 10 yearsHeadhunters and human resource managers say a three- to five-year absence is now relatively easy to explain. Ten-plus years is a lot harder. Also, age-related bias (hardly on our radars in our 30s or 40s) becomes real for men and women as we move into our 50s and beyond.

Leslie Morgan Steiner is the best-selling editor of "Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families." For more great tips and information, visit

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