Ten Terrifying Things About Going Back to Work and Why You Should Not Be Scared

Lisa writes: For some time now I have been obsessing about going back to work. I have ruminated on my misgivings about being a stay-at-home mom to anyone who will listen and then spilled my guts on national television. While I have been spouting off, a number of my friends have been listening, sending out resumes and have actually returned to the working world. All were excited, none were without trepidations. They were good enough to share their thoughts with me because they are very kind people, have all been thrilled with the transition back to the workplace and they hope to kick me into action.

Grant Central Station, New York City

1. Time

While the demands of a SAHM are many and, at times, overwhelming, there is the opportunity to set some of one’s own priorities and schedule. Back to work and someone else is the boss, your time is in their hands and your schedule is not longer your own. The trade-off between time and money is rarely perfect in our lives and at no time is that clearer than when returning to work. But here is the cold hard truth, nobody juggles better than a mom, so while it may be daunting at first to cede your calendar to your new boss, moms have got the skills to make it work.

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Six Ways a Stay-at-Home Mom Can Remain Connected to the Job Market

Lisa writes: There are many things I could have foreseen about my life, but what I never could have imagined was that I would be one of the one in three moms  who opts out of the workforce after their children are born. I am a cliché, the stay-at-home mom who moved to the suburbs and, facing a second or third child, becomes overwhelmed and chooses to stay home. According to research, I was a classic opt-out, a woman who had never before imagined herself outside the workforce but found that the long hours and inflexible schedule left her feeling overworked, overwhelmed and devoid of options.

I became a stay-at-home mom with itchy feet, happy to be with my adorable sons, but highly cognizant that there was someplace else I wanted to be. I drive 22,000 miles a year without leaving my home turf in Westchester County, New York and, before long, I felt like I was not going anywhere literally or metaphorically.

Stay at home mom can keep a pilot light under her career

When Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie asked me what I should have done differently my answer was simple. I should have left a pilot light on under my professional life. As a stay-at-home mom, I should have nurtured a flame, no matter how small, that could later be fueled into a fire. I should have realized that my profession could not be my children’s lives.

It sounded good, I thought, but what does it really mean. Leaving the workplace for some period of time was not my mistake and, as I tried to point out, I have never met a parent of either gender who regrets time spent with their children. My mistake was not failing to stay in the job market, but rather failing to stay in touch with the job market. Walking away entirely, that I regret.

Life affords few do overs, but were I to be granted one, here is how I would have nurtured my dormant career. Here is what any parent who wants/needs to stay home with their kids can do to keep a toe in the water, without drowning.

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Stay-at-Home Mom With Rebuttals and Regrets

Lisa writes: After pondering for 17 years my decision to be a stay-at-home mom, I put my thoughts on paper.  At no point did it occur to me that I would not work outside our home or that one decade or even nearly two would pass before I returned to the workplace.  But days turned into months, months into years and suddenly nursery school applications became college applications and I would be hard pressed to say where the time went.

I was asked if this post was hard to write.  It was hard to face, but easy to write.

HuffPost Parents put up “I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom” and the Today show and Fox and Friends asked me to come speak about it.  The thrilling part was the hundreds, now thousands, of comments that have been generated by readers reflecting on their own experiences.

Today SHow, Stay-at-Home Mom, Regrets staying at home

Since posting my confession, women, and a few men, have told us how much it has meant to them to hear these thoughts laid out publicly. Then, and this has to be the very best part of the internet, they have shared their stories and their lives with us.

We have heard from women on maternity leave and women nearing retirement. Some have been mothers reflecting, as I have done, but many have been young moms with infants and toddlers who have the question of returning to work still swirling in their minds. Below we share their voices.

Readers wrote articulate, thoughtful rebuttal posts, and we have gathered them here or they can be found above under the tab “Discussion: Stay-at-Home Mom.

Lest this look like a love fest, a few comments were venomous, as readers suggested I should not have had kids.  A few were a bit touchy, suggesting I just needed to grow up.  And many vehemently disagreed with me, with one particularly astute writer (mom of five, physician, and thought leader) offering up what she felt were more important family issues that should focused upon.  I have tried to reflect their voices as well.

Rather than describing what some incredibly articulate women have said, I offer up their heartfelt insights…

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Nine Reasons I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom

 

Lisa writes: The most expensive decision of my life I made alone.  There was no realtor, no car dealer and no travel agent when I chose to leave the paid workforce and become a stay at home mom.  There was just me looking at my husband, my children (those inside and outside the womb) and the chaos that was our lives. At no point did I calculate the lifetime impact of diminished earnings and prospects.  I looked at the year we were in and the following year, and I bolted.  No part of my brain sat itself down and thought, what is the price both in both this year’s dollars and my lifetime earnings, to leaving the workforce and is it a decision that a decade or two from now I might regret?  At no point did I examine the non-monetary cost which would loom just as large. At the time it seemed forgone, two demanding careers, two small children and another on the way, two adult lives hopelessly out of control.

One day I was working on the massive trading floor of a London bank, the next I was on the floor of my children’s playroom.  And while it meant I would forgo a paycheck, not once did I think, at age 33, of what the job market would look like for me in years hence and therein lies my most expensive mistake.

youngest-child-1024x683

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The Mommy War Within

Lisa writes: Many young women are engaged in something characterized by the media as the mommy wars.  In this “war,” women who have continued to work full-time while having children look down at their stay-at-home counterparts for backing away from the workforce. In return, those women who are caring for their children full-time, denigrate the parenting of women who have combined work outside the home with motherhood.

I don’t believe that women are at war with each other, but rather that any hint of a clash sells copy.  If there is a conflict, it is inside each of us, not between us.  The only mommy war I waged was with myself.

mommy wars, sahm, working mom

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Staying Young: It’s About Questions, Not Answers

Lisa writes: Recently a friend told me of a thrilling career opportunity that he had been offered and accepted. He and his wife are in their late 50s and the opportunity involved relocating to Asia. Excitement was written all over his face as he said to me, “It is so much easier to do this now with the kids gone, and us staying young. Or at least believing that we are still young.”

To me those words said everything. He looked, and I am going to guess felt, younger than I have seen him in years as he told me of the job he had never expected to be offered, in an industry from which he had retired a decade earlier. When I watched him I felt a little like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. I wanted what he was having.

On a parallel track I am watching my nearly grown sons go out into the world for the first time. They are experiencing life in the big city, minus mom and dad. When I cut through the thick layer of jealousy that comes from wanting to be my children, I realize that both my sons and my friend are at a moment in life where so many things are unknown and so much feels possible. The reason my friend is staying young is that at this moment, his life is much like my children’s, filled with more questions than answers.
Dock, looking out from the dock, rustic dock
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10 Expert Tips on Going Back to Work

Restart career, encore career, second act, job candidates

Lisa writes: You used to be so confident, successful in your career, juggling life responsibilities and bringing home a paycheck.  But then came a career break, an extended period of time where, for family or other reasons, you left the full-time workforce. Now there is a gap in your resume and a sense of professional unease has crept into that opening but you want to go back to work.

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Former CEO of Product RED on Getting Off and On the Career Track

Susan Smith Ellis, former CEO of Product RED, writes for Grown and Flown readers about the challenges of going back to work after stepping off the career track to be at home with her children.

Susan Smith Ellis, Product RED

Eighteen years ago, after a successful career in advertising, I decided not to go back to work when I found out I was pregnant with our second child. It seemed to me that being home with our daughter and son, born sixteen months apart, would be my new job. I had lived and worked all over the world and while I thrived on that, I was ready to embrace full time motherhood. When the children started school I became restless and found that it was hard to fill my days in a rewarding way. I started to look into picking up where I left off. It was really discouraging! Over and over again I was told that my six-plus year hiatus had rendered me unemployable at anything resembling the level of seniority and compensation I had worked so hard to achieve. It was suggested that I find work at a non-profit. Perhaps I might volunteer.

I could forget resuming my career. I was, as they say, “toast.” [Read more...]



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Caring for Women’s Rights She Thought, Those Could be My Children

There are certain things that you’re just passionate about and it could be anything.  Mine has always been women’s rights, and particularly women’s economic empowerment.  That has been my personal soapbox, I think since I was in high school.   –Connie Duckworth, founder and CEO, Arzu Studio Hope

Arzu studio hope, connie duckworth, rug weaving, Afghanistan, arzu

Credit: Arzu Studio Hope

In 2003, Connie was a retired partner of Goldman Sachs.  She had four school age children and a calendar full of board and speaking responsibilities.  She wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but she was looking.  This interview is the story of her journey from Wall Street partner to social entrepreneur, from working in a world of privilege to one in which the need is overwhelming.  Arzu Studio Hope commissions women in Afghanistan to weave top quality rugs for sale in the United States and Europe.  ARZU addresses three interdependent needs: consistent and improved employment, access to education, and access to basic healthcare, with a particular focus on maternal and infant care.

You really don’t have an international affairs background? [Read more...]



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