A Career Comeback Mom shares her insights and experiences on managing the Back to Work transition for both self and family.
From being an award winning designer in my graduating class to an ambitious entrepreneur, I hesitatingly took on the life of a full time homemaker a few years ago. Staying at home was a collective family decision involving many permutations of factors – relocation, a traveling spouse, inadequate support system and a belief that irrespective of experience, I would still be the best caretaker for my baby.
Once I immersed myself into the job of a full time stay-at-home mom and its daily chaos, I gradually stopped dwelling on the long term impact on my career.
At home, I tried my hand at various part-time endeavors, but the desire to get back to full time work became especially strong when my youngest child started elementary school and I now had a good chunk of free time.
Flash forward a few years – I’m now at a confident place in my professional life, with a healthy list of achievements under my belt and the future, a pool of possibilities.But this journey has not been without its challenges and learning’s.
While I focused on networking, acquiring the right skills and pursuing recruiters for that new job, I did not give adequate thought to the emotional & personal infrastructure required to have a stable work life? In hindsight, the chaotic first year of my return to work, taught me some valuable lessons.
Read on for 5 ways to adequately prep yourself and your family for this transitional phase. These few tricks will ensure you re-enter the workforce with a backbone of support and confidence:
Understand the Adjustment Phase
While you deal with the demands of a new job and the juggle of balancing career and home, your family similarly has to deal with not having mom around 24X7.
A few weeks after I got back to work, my usually chirpy 9 year old suddenly went through a phase of dissolving into tears at the slightest provocation. One morning while rushing to get ready for work, there was a major teary incident because the milk was not warm enough. At my wits’ end, I called a dear friend and extremely competent psychotherapist, who calmly explained that it was just my independent child’s way of letting out her separation anxiety and if I could have a conversation, things might get better.
Prepare your kids by talking to them and making them understand your decision to go back to work. A simple act of explaining how regaining your career is important to you, can go a long way in soothing tensions as long as the message is clear that you will always be around when needed.
Build a Support Network
Remember What goes around, comes around. So while you are at home with your kids, invest in helping others. Today, it might mean taking on more than your fair share of play-date hosting or car pool pick-ups but these relationships that you build now, will be your pillar of backup resources when you need them.
Fortunately, our phones are a great tool to use the technology at hand (iMessage groups, WhatsApp groups, Messenger Groups etc) to create carpools and play date groups etc.
The World of Baby-Sitters
This is probably going to be one of your most important decisions, and it’s a good idea to start while you are still at home. A trusted sitter network can be built simply by hiring occasional sitters, while away on a date. This will also get your kids acquainted with being around another person in mom’s absence. Word of mouth, local care provider companies, Au-pairs or online networks like Care.com or Sittercity.com are good starting points.
The Merits of Planning
To best get a handle on a family’s varied schedule, without pulling all your hair out, it is important to find a plan that works for your brood. Shared smartphone calendars or apps like Cozi, do the trick but only if all members have access to a smart gadget.
Some families (like mine for example) would rather have visual schedules and directions. My kitchen has myriad boards:
- A Whiteboard for Menu of the Week where breakfast and dinner stay constant and only the lunch option varies. Not only does it solve the dilemma of what to cook everyday, it also helps in planning for grocery shopping. To streamline your weeknight dinner prep, you could also try the weeknight meal planner from RealSimple.
- A pre-printed monthly calendar with recurring activities already printed. Additional activities are penciled in by individual family members and are color coded. A magnetic whiteboard monthly calendar is another great option.
- A blackboard – for important messages, weekly trivia or fun event decorations.I use this to write fun notes/ trivia the kids get to see when they come back from school. Sometimes my kids surprise me with a message of their own.
- A pinboard for important school papers is a pretty handy way to keep track of the important stuff.
What works for you and your family will eventually evolve with some trial and error, so it’s best to start sooner rather than later.
Utilize the Extra hands
Start getting your kids and partner to chip in with the work at home.Even though kids as young as 2-3 years can be involved in housework, an ideal age is about 6 years. Not only can you assign weekly/ daily responsibilities, you can also write them down for absolute clarity on expectations. In my experience, kids mostly mean well, but honestly forget the tasks assigned, so I believe in writing them down for transparency on both expectations and consequences.
Just like moving to a new home takes time getting used to, similarly, there is no magic number for the time period of adjustment for your family. Remember, this is a change for everyone – through this tumultuous phase your attitude and understanding can go a long way. So ‘Keep Calm and Plan on’.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.
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