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7 Tips for Keeping Your Career on Track During a Maternity Leave


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I came across a Wall Street Journal article yesterday called “More New Mothers Are Staying Home Even When It Causes Financial Pain”. It reminded me of the fact that I have neglected writing about this issue on my blog - my bad! Author Sue Shellenbarger wrote a fantastic piece on how moms are choosing to stay at home - at great financial costs to families - in order to stay with their young babies during the first few years of their lives. Lots o’ great Dads are doing it too!

I have been at home for the first few years of all of my childrens’ lives, and successfully either re-entered the workforce or brought in a decent income via my own businesses fairly consistently throughout the last 12 years.

I tried putting my little babies in day care - I just couldn’t take it. I don’t think it is a wrong decision for anyone - it was just the wrong decision for me.

What worked for me? I think it’s the fact that I get bored too darn easily. I would be bored silly if I lived the life of a stay at home mom. Again, please don’t take that statement the wrong way - it’s only boring for me - if it is not boring for you, I totally honor you for that! (And I think my life would have been a lot easier if I shared those feelings on being a full time parent!!)
But really, folks, here are my tips for keeping a career on track while simultaneously raising babies:

  1. Consider starting a work at home businessBecome a work at home parent!
    No big surprises I am suggesting this one. In fact, thanks to running my freelance graphic design business from 2000-2004, I was able to go back out and get a job as a marketing recruiter fairly easily when I wanted to get a job outside of the home. In fact, I was able to negotiate a higher salary than I was making in my last full time gig (AND more than I was making as a designer, too!!).The reason this is so important is because I maintained my business skills, added new skills to my resume, and stayed on top of trends in the industry the entire time I was at home. I made myself more marketable as an employee along the way.
  2. Stay in touch while you are home
    Go to occasional networking meetings, maintain your business contacts, and keep your name in the minds of the people you do business with. It’s hard enough to reenter the workforce after an extended maternity leave - maintaining your network of professional contacts will more than likely be the key to finding a job again in the outside world.

  3. Stay social with other stay at home parents
    Even if you resist my first two suggestions, you have no excuse for resisting this one ;) . Networking is networking. Other stay at home moms have friends and relatives in the working world. When the time comes to get back into the working game when your kids are older, you will need resources to reach out to - actively build and maintain these relationships for yourself as well as for your kids.
  4. Become an active volunteer
    If you can fill the holes in your resume with volunteer work, it’s one more tool in your arsenal to get where you want to go. Active volunteer work will also make you a more marketable employee, giving you skills you may not have gotten in your earlier career, such as sales, telemarketing, recruiting, project management and team management.
  5. Stay on top of trends in your industry
    Graphic Design changed SO drastically between 2000 and 2004. New technologies eliminated jobs and positions in companies around the world - and created new ones. By staying on top of what’s new, you will know how your future career may change now - rather than 5 years from now when it may feel like it’s too late.

  6. Actively maintain your self-esteem
    One of the things that is most common with stay at home moms who want to return to the working world is their lack of confidence. They don’t feel like their skills are marketable anymore, and they don’t feel like they have much to offer a company.Don’t let that little negative voice fool you. You DO have a lot to offer, you may just need some reminding. Work with a trusted friend (especially if you know someone in HR), a highly expereinced resume writer, or a coach (had to include the plug!!). Leaving full time parenthood is a huge transition, one that closes a precious chapter in your life and opens new and exciting doors. It’s an opportunity to explore and develop parts of yourself that have been on the back burner for a few years. Embrace the challenge!
  7. Chuck the Career Forever and Turn to the Dark Side ;)
    Become an Entrepreneur. You’ll be forever in control of your own destiny. See #1!
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    On November 30th, 2006 at 8:26 pm, Tony D. Clark said:

    I bet you can guess which one(s) I’d recommend :)

    I’ve worked with a lot of Moms who were ABSOLUTELY going back to work after maternity leave (my wife being one of them, with our first). It’s funny how such a little person can be so darn persuasive.

    Everyone has to do what works best for their family - the key is to broaden your idea of “work.” I wrote a post earlier this week on how much kids gain by observing their parents following their dream. Aside from the obvious benefit of being there for your kids, you’re also teaching them how to do meaningful work – and find success on your own terms.

    But as you already know, Wendy – I’m a little biased ;)

    On December 1st, 2006 at 6:38 am, Kate said:

    This is a great post - thanks. I appreciate this sort of thing so much more than the posts about blog tag etc.

    On December 1st, 2006 at 11:43 am, cjcm said:

    Wendy, I will pass this one up..TQ

    Because, my wife is a fulltime housewife and I dont get maternity leave either… LOL

    On December 2nd, 2006 at 7:19 pm, Syed said:

    Some good tips here. I think I may be moving out of blogs and going into something bigger which was my earlier vision.

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