When Keisha Case decided it was time to go back to work and join the legion of working mothers, it wasn't whether or not to return that was the tough decision - it was what to do.
“My decision to get back in the workplace was mostly financial but when I look back I realize it had much to do with my education, too,” said Keisha, a working mother of one and former globe-trotting student and educator. “I wanted to be able to contribute to our family income but still stay at home during the day with my son. Some of my suggestions got shot down by family but other ideas got a better response.”
So Keisha began a job working from home managing a company called About Town Moms, a tight-knit organization that led moms and their wee ones on historical neighborhood walks, private museum tours and other cultural adventures. Then Keisha added another job to her already hectic day, delivering ads as a field representative for a company called News America; she landed the gig through Snagajob.
“The major challenge is time,” Keisha said of her new life. “I feel like I run around all day but by the end of the day I sleep really well knowing that I am helping my family financially, raising my son during the day and staying in the workforce. Many people call me a super mom but I have always been happiest when I feel like I'm helping others.”
Keisha's story is echoed around the country as moms look for jobs for reasons ranging from financial to self-improvement. And there's one common theme among all these different tales - motherhood is tough enough, and working while rearing the kiddies is an even more difficult balancing act.
But it can be done. Here are some tips:
Sell your mommy skills
Through all your motherly adventures, you may or may not have realized that you've acquired and grown a new set of skills. For example, what's another name for fixing breakfast, changing junior's diaper and paying some bills, all at the same time? That's multi-tasking. And what about bargaining with the little ladies over an agreed upon bedtime? That's you developing your patience and stellar negotiating skills. And finally, what separates you from the hotshot college graduate vying for the same job? Maturity.
If you still need convincing, then consider this: The job you're doing now is likely to be more taxing than the job you'll soon be doing. In fact, a recent study conducted by Salary.com determined that when the typical stay-at-home mother's duties are amassed - roles including cook, daycare center teacher and psychologist – she would be rewarded $140,000 a year for her 92-hour work weeks.
So don't sell yourself short on your revamped resume or during the interview; instead, leverage your motherly superpowers.
Getting over the guilt
It may not feel like it at the time, but you're not the first mother to jump back into the working world, and you're certainly not the first to have some reservations about making the jump. In fact, according to an ABC News “Good Morning America”/Good Housekeeping poll, 60 percent of moms with kids under 18 years of age are also out there collecting paychecks.
If you don't find comfort in numbers, then here are a few other tips to help the transition.
- Choose a reasonable amount of time for work. Take baby steps, pun intended. There's no reason to go from stay-at-home, unemployed mom to workaholic right away. Try an hourly and/or part-time job on for size and then decide if you want to super-size it to a career.
- Find qualified care. Whether you're searching for the local babysitters' club or visiting a never-ending slew of daycare providers, securing quality and affordable care for your children should be your first priority. Friends, relatives, schools, churches and family doctors are a great place to find reliable referrals for these services. If you're shopping for daycare, be sure to check in with the state and local agencies responsible for health and safety licensing. Also, if you're considering a home daycare situation, check for accreditation and other evaluation criteria through the National Association for Family Child Care.
A home away from home
If you choose to work from home, we know that part of that decision has to do with still being there to keep an eye on the kiddies. It makes sense; however, you still need to make sure you have your own designated space to do your work. If you don't have the luxury of having an entire room as your office, search for an appropriate nook - try transforming an alcove or positioning your desk so that it's facing a window and all your other concerns are a world away...three feet behind you. Also, most corporate environments have ergonomic experts to make sure your work tools are positioned in such a way that you won't get carpal tunnel syndrome the first week on the job. You won't have this luxury. So be sure to keep your eyes at least 20 inches from your computer screen, the monitor at eye level and your feet positioned firm on the ground. And don't slouch.
So grab batteries for the baby monitor and pick up a new pair of pumps. And return to the workplace - whether it's in your spare bedroom or down at the mall - isn't as scary as you think.