Transitioning from stay-at-home-Mom and volunteer to “returning professional” cannot happen overnight. It’s a big change for you and your family and there are endless details to consider. Too often women start the process of searching for work before they’ve searched their souls.
That may sound a little dramatic—what does soul searching have to do with returning to work? Well, for women, the decision to take a job involves a lot more deep thought than whether the title, comp package and opportunities for advancement are spot on.
Few women–whether current or returning professionals—can make a career decision in a narrow “professional” box. So many family issues clamor for equal consideration. Most men pretty much decide that a job meets their professional criteria and hop on board.
Because there are so many personal and family factors for you to consider, don’t put blinders on and get swept away with enthusiasm. Women who are itching to get back to work tend to think of all the things that work will add to their lives without immediately facing the things that it could take away.
They think about more money for the household budget. More money that you can call your own. More intellectual stimulation. More ways to fulfill your professional potential. More satisfaction after hundreds of unpaid volunteer hours.
They wait until the 11th hour (when a job offer is on the table) to face the potential negatives. Too many times I’ve seen women do a startlingly quick about-face after being fully informed and seemingly on board with every aspect of a job. Suddenly, they can’t possibly commute into the city. They can’t possibly afford after school help. They can’t possibly work for that amount of money. They can’t possibly figure out how the children will be taken care of in the summer. They can’t possibly deal with the academic or behavioral issues of their children while working at the same time. I’ve seen and heard every possible last-minute reason there is not to take a job.
The fact is that every single one of these reasons is valid and important—but not insurmountable. If you absolutely had to put food on the table you could make any job work—and work well–for your family and your household. All the planning, thinking, organizing and negotiating just has to be done well before you perfect your resume.
One wise professional woman told me that she advises her friends to “live the life” of a working woman before actually setting out to return to work. It’s an interesting concept. You certainly know what it’s like to hold a job, but have you really internalized what it means to maintain a busy professional schedule at this very stage of your family’s life?
This woman suggests dedicating several days to a “dry run”. Hire a babysitter to get your kids to off to school and be there when they return. Leave the house at a commuting hour—whether or not it is a snow day or one of your children is sick. See how the morning goes leaving your kids before they get on the school bus. Commute several days to get a feel for the daily experience. Don’t allow yourself to make any household calls for repairs or doctor appointments unless it’s the lunch hour. Miss a soccer game or two and see how your kids react. Plan a full day out of the house that gets you home after your kids have had the healthy dinner you planned and the babysitter executed.
You get the idea. It could be an eye-opening experience. It shouldn’t put an instant kibosh on your work aspirations. It does have to rev your planning engine. Remember that with careful and realistic planning women all over the world make work work. —KAS
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