Exploring the Workforce After Choosing to Stay-at-Home

In the summer months, many of us who are stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) or stay-at-home-dads (SAHD) welcome and very much enjoy the more relaxed days, the decreased activities and shuttling to one event or another. But soon enough, September rolls around and life kicks back into gear. That’s when many re-evaluate life and begin to wonder about making a change.

If you’ve been stay-at-home for awhile, you may be starting to crave a new opportunity for yourself. The idea of working with other adults in a professional setting and easing the financial stress of raising a family can be great prompts to action.

Preparing to enter the workforce can be daunting. It’s likely you’ll be competing with younger applicants with more recent education and fresh work experience (gulp). You might struggle with these questions:

  • How to convey that your (dated) experience is still relevant and valuable, and that your maturity is an asset?
  • Is a straight 40-hour a week with a commute and minimal vacation even a possibility for you and your family?
  • If not, is there a softer or more gradual way to enter the workforce?
  • Is it possible to maintain (the ever-elusive) work-life balance?

Despite these anxiety-inducing questions, there are answers and options: 

  • SAHMs and SAHDs with a corporate past may consider nonprofit or government positions that offer less pay, but more vacation and flexibility.
  • A part-time job may be more in-line with your goals.
  • Contract work is an option, depending on your experience and career.
  • Becoming an entrepreneur may be a more fitting choice. Many resources are available to individuals looking to explore a new path. The Small Business Administration has an army of retired executives who can help you explore and plan as part of their SCORE program. (In fact, I found a mentor right here in Newton.)

“For me, entrepreneurship gives me the flexibility I need to be a professional and a parent.”

- Former SAHM

Whenever you’re ready to return to work, you’ll need a current resume that portrays you realistically. As you can imagine, it’s of the utmost importance to give the best impression of your hiatus from the professional workplace. Unfortunately, there are still those in hiring positions who have unenlightened opinions / judgements of parents who choose to stay home. But we know better. You’ve been busy managing a household and all the “joys” that come with being a SAHM or SAHD.

You have multiple accomplishments to tout. Let’s check them off.

  • Quality childcare
  • Catering daily custom meal services (especially if you have picky eaters!)
  • Executive skills including: managing complex schedules, substantial budgets, and programming for multiple divisions.
  • Optional skills – perhaps you have the skills of a facility manager after acquiring, renovating and maintaining your home? There’s also a great likelihood that you’re an expert on conflict resolution. And you may not have an official degree or license, but you have (unwittingly) become a teacher, therapist, and driver.

As a SAHM or SAHD, it’s valuable – and good for both your sanity and professional future – to find places outside of your home to contribute. It does not need to be elaborate:  

  1. Become your child’s class parent.  
  2. Join your PTO. Trust me, they would welcome you with open arms!
  3. Scout local organizations that need volunteers or board members.

Those are just a few ideas. By being active in those arenas, you’ll be maintaining some of your professional skills while perhaps developing new ones. As a volunteer, you can make your own schedule and you’ll be accepted on your own terms.

One key piece of advice is, be sure to keep in touch with your former colleagues.  Make sure you’re on their radar. Meet them for lunch. Catch up with them via Facebook and LinkedIn. Send them your annual holiday card.  When you’re ready to return to work, they can advise you on the hottest trends, make introductions and possibly hire you. My best references are those former colleagues that became friends long after our shared office time ended.

Don’t forget to update your skills and stay aware of the evolutions in your field:

  • Technology is ever-changing. Check out available software courses.
  • Teaching methods evolve.
  • Best practices are updated.
  • Read journals and trade magazines.

As an at-home parent you’re constantly expanding your network. Striking small talk at the playground, at drop-off, and even at Starbucks can help you develop a more diverse social and professional network. Friends you see every day at drop-off and pick-up may have creative ideas for you and perhaps even share a connection with you. A few years ago, I picked up a part-time gig as a marketing manager for a small business just by chatting with my toddler’s music teacher. Many of my clients are individuals I’ve met while out and about in Newton.

As we age and grow as parents, priorities and interests may shift and change. Do you even want to go back to that same profession that you spent years preparing for? Have you heard the expression, “Man plans, G-d laughs?” You never know. Keeping your eyes and ears open can help you find a new passion, bring you down an unexpected path. Many mothers have pursued new professions based on their parenting experiences. My favorite example is Lisa Greenwald, who founded Chewbeads, jewelry for teething toddlers, after she noticed how much her own child was attracted to her jewelry. An invention like that could only have been created by an astute parent!


Entering the Workforce in 2017


Looking for a job in 2017 is very different than it was in the past:

1)  Your old resume may not work today; resumes can be as trendy as the latest Kate Spade handbag. It’s wise to do research and can be beneficial to hire a professional to write your resume to insure it’s up-to-date and relevant. As you’ll see below, there are many reasons to hire a professional.

2)  Don’t apologize for the time you spent as a SAHM / SAHD. Celebrate it.

3)  LinkedIn has become the professional equivalent to Facebook. Many employers will not even interview someone without a profile and it’s important to make the profile complete with your experiences and skills.

4)  Employers want to see the connection between you and the specific position to which you’re applying. Each application, resume and cover letter must be personalized. Looking for a job is a fulltime job.

5)  Many resumes are not even read by humans. They are scanned by Automatic Tracking Systems (ATS). Resumes must be ATS friendly and keywords must be included on your cover letters and resumes. To resume writers, this is an art form.

6)  When interviewing, you want to share about yourself. Be sure to keep your stated passions professional. Remember it’s illegal to ask a candidate personal questions such as “Do you have any children?” in interviews. If asked, answer in generalized terms. A perfect response would be “I have a family and a strong support system in place.”

Transitioning from being a SAHM to a working professional is a personal evolution and a process. Balancing life and work has never been so critical (and difficult). But it can be one of the most exciting times of your life.

Robynne Schwartz is a Newton-based ACRW Certified Resume Writer. She works with SAHMS creating resumes and planning their return to the workplace. She has two sons, 7 & 10, in the Newton Public schools and a husband with a busy and successful career.
ph (516) 662-7796

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