The kids will be fine: moms returning to work

mm Bill Pace

“The share of mothers who do not work outside the home rose to 29% in 2012, up from a modern-era low of 23% in 1999, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. This rise over the past dozen years represents the reversal of a long-term decline in ‘stay-at-home’ mothers that had persisted for the last three decades of the 20th century.”

After Decades of Decline, A Rise in Stay at Home MothersPew Research Center, April 8, 2014

For the benefit of your children (and perhaps your own sanity), you decided to take a break from whatever work you were doing to become a “stay-at-home” mom. This has definitely been the trend over the past few years. There’s no question that parenting is a  demanding and legitimate form of work. Dads do it too, but typically it’s moms who bear most of the burden.

So you’ve done your parenting job for a while (there’s no prescribed period of time) and now you’re ready to go back to work outside the home. Maybe you want to go back to whatever you were doing before, but if you’re like most, you’ll want to explore and pursue other options.

But how? First, there’s no single right answer. You need to figure out what type of approach will work best for you. Second, there’s no pill you can swallow that will provide instant answers. You gotta work it.

Here are some suggestions for getting back in the game:

  1. Take time to reflect on your priorities for your next career. What is it you really want to achieve?
  2. Rank your criteria for assessing what to do next. How will you decide which path is best for you?
  3. Take a fresh look at your interests and skills. Don’t get mentally stuck with what you used to do. How can the totality of you make a positive impact at work?
  4. Think broad, not narrow, and big, not small. Maybe one of your hobbies can lead to a new career. Who knows?
  5. Talk, talk, talk to as many people as you can to identify possible work areas that might be right for you. Once you’ve identified possible areas of interest, find people who can help you understand what that type of work is really like.
  6. Network, network, network. Use this whole process to expand your personal and professional networks.

A particularly challenging part of figuring out what’s right for you is balancing your continuing role as a parent with the demands of whatever work you do next. It’s not an easy balance, but it can be done. Parents magazine and other online resources and printed publications can provide help. Also, every community has online and offline groups of Moms who have gone through or are in the middle of the process of returning to work. Having this type of support group can be invaluable as you navigate to your next destination. You can search “Working Mom’s Support Groups” or similar to find one that’s right for you. An example is the Working Moms group on

Bon voyage!

Bill Pace is Managing Director of ClearlyNext, a guided online career program that helps people of all backgrounds and incomes figure out what to do next. Read more >