By Cammie Jones
My girls are independent and “almost grown” at ages 10, 13 and 15. They are at school all day and most the time, the older two stay after for various activities or sports.
The first couple of years all three were in school a full day, the hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. were wide open. Don’t get me wrong—the day flew by much to my surprise as I filled these hours with “me time” (very important to a happy home) as well as volunteer commitments. This was enough for a few years, and then the itch to go back to work began to hit me.
Soon, these three little beings will be on their own and what will this empty nester do to fill her time? I didn’t want to miss an event or game that the girls may be part of so I decided to find something to do part time. It’s been four years now since I went back to work and I am so happy that I took that leap of faith.
It wasn’t easy at first—after almost 12 years as a stay-at-home mom. But, once I got into a rhythm, the benefits totally outweighed the costs.
If you are thinking about going back to work, there are many considerations to take into account, and I have included in this Smart Mom’s Guide those that were most helpful to me.
1. Do a Self-Assessment
Before you make the decision to go back to work, do a quick self-assessment. Ask yourself why you are going back to work? Do you need the money, adult time, self-fulfillment? Make sure you are honest with yourself and your reasons for going back into the rat race.
Also, think about what you have learned while not working. Believe it or not, heading up the PTA or the school fundraiser gives you many work skills that may be extremely beneficial to an employer. It can show self-motivation, organization, ability to work with different kinds of people, managing a budget, keeping up with the latest technology and more. Don’t dismiss this volunteer work as “nothing much.” It’s great experience, so be proud of it and use it to your advantage.
Another major consideration is how much you will be paid and the need to weigh that against your expenses. Your time is valuable and being compensated fairly for that is important to the bottom line and your confidence. Is it worth it to go back to work if you are not making enough money to pay for childcare? Also, think of taxes and what your true take-home pay will be at the end of the day. If it’s not much and you don’t have to go back to work because of financial reasons, don’t take it. In other words, find the right job for you, even if it means having to wait until the perfect one comes around.
When looking for a job, I did not want to miss any of my girls’ daytime activities. Since I went back to work, I have missed a field trip or two but for the most part I have not missed the important events. Flexibility with your employer is important if that is also important to you. At the first meeting or interview, make sure that this is on the table so there will be no surprises when you leave work to attend a parent-teacher conference or afternoon soccer game.
I asked Cindy Georghiou, a California-based owner of two businesses, beauty expert and mother of one, how she juggles it all. “Flexibility is key. For me, it outweighs money even,” she says. “Having my own business comes with its own stresses, but being able to leave for soccer games, doctor appointments, sick days for my son without really having to think about it is the biggest stress reliever of all.”
Also, with today’s technology it is easier than ever to work from anywhere—home, the soccer field, a hotel out of town. We are an extremely mobile society and the excuse that I wasn’t around my computer really isn’t true today.
4. Assess Your Interests
Is this job opportunity something you want to do everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or even part-time? Does the job interest you or will you be ready to hang it up after the first week of working? Make sure that the career is something you will be able to grow with and that will challenge you. If you are on your way to work and excited about getting the day started, then this may be the job for you. If you find that you think you may dread going to work in the morning, then you may want to think twice about taking it.
5. Is this Doable?
Barring no financial reason for going back to work, what I mean by doable is can you handle your day-to-day responsibilities as well as your work responsibilities. Who is going to pick your children up from school while you work? What are they going to do after school? How are you going to prepare meals on those long days? Who’s going to keep up with the laundry, grocery shop or clean the house?
Cindy says, “You have to search your own heart and head in my opinion. I have a nanny who works part time when I need to get my son to a practice, a golf lesson etc., during the day, but other than that he has always gone to after-school care, and honestly, he loves it.” You have to make a lot of arrangements to allow things to work smoothly and at the same time be able to handle it when plans go awry.
Can you make it work without too much disruption to your home life yet still be able to go get the job done at work? These are all questions that you need to look at and answer before making that final decision to go back to the working world.
6. Coping in the Beginning
The first few weeks and months are difficult when you go back to work. You are no longer the “mom at home” who the kids can call at any time to drop off the lunch they might have left at home that morning. Guilt may take over, but if you can just stick it out, it will get easier.
“It’s hard, and nothing is harder than the beginning. You just have to figure out your best way of staying organized and calm in the midst of sporadic chaos,” advises Cindy.
Cindy says what works for her is taking time for herself each day no matter what. It could be a 30-minute walk around the office building or doing something that you enjoy for a few minutes.
“Between managing the office, running to soccer practice and taking care of the house, it’s difficult to achieve a work-life balance,” says Cindy, “but with the right planning and persistence, it can be done.”
Cammie Jones is an Augusta freelance writer and mother of three.
This article appears in the October 2016 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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