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Going back to work after care-giving: How to make the jump

October 3, 2022 - 16 min read

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Returning to the workforce

Preparation is the key to success

What are some ways to address the “mommy gap” on your resume?

How to format your resume

Enjoy this new stage in your life

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of women in the workforce fell by 500,000 more than men. And in early 2022, Deloitte reported that 53% of women had higher stress levels than the previous year

Of these numbers, working moms are taking the brunt of the burden. Childcare is unaffordable or unavailable, and in a survey by McKinsey & Company, 34% of mothers cited childcare concerns as their reason for leaving work

But stay-at-home moms wanting to return to work might be worried about the “mommy gap” in their resumes. 

For starters, let's stop thinking of it as the mommy gap. The name is grating. It diminishes both the person's confidence and aptitude to bring value to a business or other organization. It is an employment gap. Women, and men, can find themselves by choice or necessity taking on full-time caregiver roles. That can result in being outside the workforce for a decade or more. 

After staying at home as a full-time caregiver, getting back to work can be challenging. Of course, the numbers show this is still a much bigger problem for mothers. But balancing motherhood with a career can be done — even if you’re a mom going back to work after ten years.

We’ve gathered some tips and strategies to help you with the transition back to the workforce and managing the balancing act.

 

Returning to the workforce

As a stay-at-home mom returning to the workforce after a long absence, the process can seem daunting. If you still have an intense caregiving role, it will be harder. Instead of just excelling at your new role, you may still feel the need to stay on top of everything else motherhood entails. Luckily, for many, parenting is less time-intensive, or at least easier to manage, over time.

For new mothers who put their professional careers on hold on maternity leave, it’s not as difficult to return to their careers. They might be out of the loop for a few months, but their biggest adjustment is figuring out how to manage the new tasks, time constraints, and challenges as working moms. In some cases, their partners may be able to take paternity leave and help ease their transition back to work.

But if you left your career to pursue motherhood full-time, you might feel inadequately prepared to step back into your previous role after years have gone by. Alongside concerns about time management and your well-being, you may have doubts about how your skills and experience will hold up after your employment gap. 

On the flip side, you might also feel guilt because work takes you away from your kids. Of course, all of this compounds the gnawing sensation that you can’t do it all.

Fortunately, you don't have to do it all, and you are capable of doing enough.  The road back to work isn’t always easy but you can pull off being a working mom. With intention and practice, you can find work-life balance, too.

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Preparation is the key to success

Before you dive back into the workforce or even start into finding work after being a stay-at-home parent, it helps to lay the groundwork. Here are some tips and considerations while transitioning from being a stay-at-home mom to a working mom.

1. Have a clear goal about why you’re returning to work

If you’re wondering what to do after being a stay-at-home mom, the first step is to have an honest conversation with yourself about why you’re returning to work. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I seeking in my work? Am I driven primarily by financial considerations or personal fulfillment? Or a mix of both? 
  • What matters most to me about the role or work that I do? Flexibility? Purpose? Recognition? Opportunity to build new skills? Health insurance or mental health benefits?
  • Am I looking for autonomy and an identity outside of the house / family?
  • What kind of role do I want? Do I want a freelance career or do I want to be part of an organization as a direct hire?
  • Where do I see myself in a few years’ time?
  • What types of skills do I have? What types of tasks and activities do I like to do? 

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  • What are my constraints or non-negotiables in terms of schedule and responsibilities
    • Will it be better to work from home or in person?
    • Do I need flexible hours? 
    • Do I want part-time or full-time work?
  • How do I balance my work-life schedule? What options are available in my community for daycare or other childcare?

List out your needs — the clearer you are about what you’re looking for and why, the easier it is to start your job hunt. 

Offices an hour away might not be an option if you need to be close to home. A rigid 9–5 schedule might limit your ability to pick your kids up from school or run vital errands. That doesn't mean you should automatically discount a job posting if it is otherwise very interesting to you.

You can learn a lot by applying for a role and speaking to the hiring manager about where there is flexibility. Perhaps you only have to go into the office twice a week or the role only requires specific hours for meetings in the morning. Skip job postings with requirements that don’t match at least half of your list. 

2. Update your professional social media profiles

Social media isn’t just for your personal life. Take a moment to give your online presence a facelift before starting your job search. Spruce up your professional social media. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, create one. This enables recruiters to start reaching out to you. If you work in a creative industry, update your portfolio to show off your skills. 

In addition, on LinkedIn or any other social platform, join a few groups related to your areas of professional interest. This will help you get up to speed on what people are talking about, the skills they value, the tools they're using, and what types of roles they and titles they have. Take a genuine interest in the conversations there and you may make a few good connections.

3. Refresh your skills

You’ve picked up a whole new skill set while being a mother and managing a household. Those transferable skills will be useful. But you likely also need to brush up on specific skills for the modern workplace and your new job or career. Depending on your industry, a lot has changed in 5–10 years. More than doing a quick refresher course, give yourself time to read relevant articles and look up any professional credentials or certificates that might be needed.

For instance, if you’re looking for work as a web designer, you might need to do some coursework or set aside several months to reskill and learn popular platforms.

4. Start networking

Lay the groundwork for your new job. Before exploring your job options, familiarize yourself with the industry and some key individuals. Help your potential employers put a face to your name.

Ask people in the field or companies that you're interested in for short informational interviews. Look to your alumni organization or your parent organizations for a start on people willing to talk to you and share their experiences. This way, when you’re ready to send out your resume, you’re not just a faceless list of qualifications. 

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What are some ways to address the “mommy gap” on your resume?

You left your career to pursue motherhood full-time. And while being a mom is a tough gig and a great explanation for why you took a few years off, this still leaves you with a “mommy gap” on your resume. 

Employers don’t always appreciate when employees have too many resume gaps. Sometimes, they’d rather hire someone who seems fresh and up-to-date than worry about why you took a career break.

But don’t worry: it’s all about how you put a spin on it. You were doing something worthwhile with your time off — you raised a whole new human being. In the process, you’ve probably grown a lot as an individual. You just need to sell that to your future employers.

Check out these ideas for addressing your parenting resume gap:

1. Be direct

Don’t sugarcoat it or try to hide it. You took some time away from the workforce to focus on being a mother. That’s a good thing.

In the work experience section of your resume, address your employment gap directly by listing the time you took to raise your children.

2, Highlight how you spent your free time

Did you have a side hustle while you were a full-time mom? Did you participate in volunteer work? In your work history, address all relevant activities. For instance, if you’re looking for a role as an SEO expert or social media manager, you might want to mention that you have a TikTok channel focusing on parenting. Show employers that you’re ready to dive back in.

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3. Focus on your experience and knowledge when you’re pitching your profile

If you’re returning to a previous professional career, hone in on your past experience. Even if the field changed from when you left it, the underlying principles are the same.

Let’s say you’re a web developer who used to work in PHP. You may not have created web apps using JavaScript during your previous professional career, but you’ve taken the time to skill up before returning to the workforce. Highlight this for your employers. The specifics may have changed, but your knowledge of the underlying framework is relevant and important.

4. Prepare for related interview questions

Make sure you’re ready to highlight your transferable skills and how parenting contributed to your career development in the job interview. If hiring managers ask about your career break, focus on how you developed skills resolving conflict between your children, organizing your family member’s schedules, or doing short-term projects.

Explain how your experience as a parent will support you as a working mom.

How to format your resume

Ready to brush off that resume? Let’s put some of our suggestions above into practice. Here are some things to include when you’re refreshing your resume:

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  • Contact information and professional social media. Show that you’re relevant by staying current in your professional online presence.
  • An honest profile description that focuses on your experience and knowledge. Include a short pitch at the top of your profile that helps your employers note your experience and knowledge despite the time you took off to be a mom.
  • Skills. Include a small section on relevant hard and soft skills, whether this is Python, SEO, social media management, writing, adaptability, or time management. Let’s face it: as a mom, you’re an expert at time management, multi-tasking, and keeping difficult customers (your children!) satisfied.
  • A detailed work history. Don’t beat around the bush: own that you took some time off to be a parent. But don’t forget to include how you’ve brushed up on your skill, upskilled, or stayed current.
  • Your certifications and education. These credentials lay the foundation of your professional career. Don’t forget to put these in. 

Enjoy this new stage in your life

Returning to the workforce after being a stay-at-home parent will be just as much of an adventure as putting your professional career on hold to pursue parenting.

There’ll be a transition period, and you’ll have to adjust both your work and home life. But ultimately, you may discover that returning to work complements your work as a mother.

And by balancing these two roles, you’ll set a great example for your children. Being a role model is tough, but if you’re a mom going back to work after 10 years, you’re already succeeding.

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Published October 3, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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