Going back to work after having children is hard. Whether it’s been six weeks, six months, six years or 20 years, the road ahead is bumpy. Here’s some advice for mothers and fathers in three different stages of life to help them rejoin the working class.
1. The New Mom
Families come in all shapes and sizes, and some families, can’t, or don’t want to, live on one income. This means that many new moms will be returning to work after their maternity leave has ended. While the amount of maternity leave a new mom has can vary from six weeks to three months to possibly a year, the anxiety about returning to work is often the same. Here are a few tips to help new moms get back to work.
Prepare for your return to work. That first day leaving your baby will be hard, but you can make the transition easier by planning ahead. Consider bringing your baby to the daycare (or whatever childcare you will be using) prior to your first day back in the office. Think of it as a trial run. Then, have lunch with a friend, a good cry or buy some new work clothes, because odds are you still aren’t comfortable in your pre-pregnancy wardrobe.
Ease back into to work. Talk with your employer about working half days your first week back or consider starting your first day in the middle of the week, so it’s a short week. You may also want to go through your emails beforehand to get your head back in the game.
Meet with your boss before you return. Schedule lunch or a meeting with your boss prior to your return. You can ask if anything significant has changed or what you should focus on your first few weeks back. This is also a great time to ask what accommodations you will have if you need to pump breast milk at work. You don’t want to find out at work that you only have a sheet to drape over your cubicle entrance or the office you can use has a glass door.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You will need time to adjust the first few weeks back. You may feel sleep deprived and foggy headed, so don’t expect to hit the ground running as if you never left. Allow yourself time to catch up and take a moment if you are missing your child. You don’t need to suddenly become super mom, either. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. You will adjust and it will be nice to have adult conversations again.
2. The Parent With School Age Children
It can be tricky returning to work after opting to be a stay-at-home parent for a few years. But it’s not uncommon for mothers or fathers to return to work after their children are in school. Parents should ask a couple of questions before sending out a résumé, such as: “why do I want to go back to work?” and “do I want to go back to the same job or career?” Once those questions are answered, these strategies can help make sure parents are ready to opt back in the work force.
Reset your expectations. You chose to quit working to focus on raising your family. As a result, you have to adjust your expectations. You may have to take a pay cut or a lateral move to get hired back into your chosen field. Then you will have to work your way back up the career ladder. Remember, your former colleagues were continuing to add to their skill sets while you were away. It will take some time to catch up. If you are starting a new career, you may have to take an entry-level position despite your former work experience. New beginnings can offer many opportunities so keep an open mind.
Update your skills. Regardless of your chosen profession, there will undoubtedly have been some changes while you were gone, such as medical advancements, new technology or new strategic challenges. Brush up on what has been happening in your industry. Read articles, follow industry news, talk to former colleagues and sign up for any additional training that you may need.
Research family friendly companies. You still have children at home, which means school plays, sick days and extracurricular activities. Some companies offer more family-oriented perks, such as flexible schedules. Do your homework and target those companies. Going back to work in an environment that has the same family values that you have will make the transition much smoother.
Plan for the unexpected. How will you handle an emergency at school or when your child is sick? It’s going to happen, so determine, in advance, how you will take care of those emergencies situations. Do you have family or friends nearby who can take care of your kids or will you be able to work from home?
3. The Empty-Nest Parent
The stay-at-home parent, who has been out of the work force for roughly twenty years, has quite a few hurdles to jump. It’s understandable that someone who has been out of work for more than a decade will be anxious—and maybe a little scared—about going back to work. Here are some tips to help empty nesters rejoin the ranks of the working class.
Perform an honest self-evaluation. You have been out of work for a long time. Ask yourself, what type of job you want and what skill sets you have. Be honest and look at your résumé from the perspective of an employer. You may need additional training—take some classes to improve your business skills and marketability.
Practice interviewing. You want to show the interviewer that you are qualified and the right person for the job. You also want to make sure that the job is the right fit for you. Research the company beforehand and prepare a list of questions about the position. Ask your family or friends to help you practice interviewing to ensure you feel confident explaining your long absence from the workforce and assuring the interviewer that you are ready to tackle this next chapter in your life.
Network, network, network. You know the old adage, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” This still applies today. Don’t hide from your family, friends, neighbors and former colleagues that you are looking for a job. You may find some unique opportunities that you had not considered. Be prepared to use all of the tools in your arsenal when searching for a job, including word-of-mouth references, social media and job search sites.
Don’t shy away from technology. The business world is full of technology, so it’s important that you embrace it. If you feel out of your element when it comes to computers, gadgets and social media, take some classes or ask your children or grandchildren to give you a crash course. Don’t forget that there is value in interpersonal skills, as well. That may be an advantage you have over other job candidates.
Rejoining the workforce after having children can be intimidating and emotional. You will feel guilty that you are not spending more time with your kids, sad that you are missing milestones in your children’s lives, excited to interact with adults, nervous about doing your job well and, quite possibly, wonder if you are making the right decision. These types of emotions should be expected. But it’s important you believe in and take care of yourself. After all, you are a parent and can handle whatever life throws at you—even if it’s messy.
www.forbes.com – Contributor