Making Career Decisions Around Life Seasons :: How to Reenter the Workforce
I am 39 years old and several years “behind” in my career. I say this because had I worked straight through, in the trajectory I was on, I imagine I would be a few levels higher than my current role. I chose a different path, and I’m just now realizing I’m okay with that.
Comparing Myself as a SAHM
When my oldest son was born, I had planned to go back to work. I went back for a few weeks when he was 12 weeks old and eventually quit to stay at home with him, and 15 months later, his brother. I mostly stayed home for the better part of 4 years. During this time, my peers were continuing to move up in their positions, elevating their career status. I was home washing cloth diapers and soothing breasts sore from nursing. My previous co-workers were developing presentations and creating budget strategies. I was teaching ABC’s and how to use kind words. The direct-reports I once had were moving into roles like mine and I was moving kids from a crib to a bed.
What Have You Been Doing for the Last 4 Years?
Fast-forward to when I attempted to go back to work. My oldest was entering PreK4 and my second badly needed a structured social environment. I was going through a divorce and staying at home was simply not an option anymore. When I tell you that finding a job after a four-year “sabbatical” or “vacation” (as I heard it called in many interviews) is tough, it would be the understatement of the century. I looked the part, my resume was impeccable, my experience divine. What had I been doing the last four years? It took me several months of practicing and failing before finding the perfect way to respond to this question:
“For the last four years, while caring for my young children, I immersed myself in personal and professional development. While working from home, I have learned to leverage the tools I have available. I have discovered my own resilience and ability to take on multiple tasks. I’ve mastered prioritization and the importance of human interaction. I’ve dialed in my ability to utilize clear, consistent communication to achieve results. I learned to create efficiencies and best practices through consistent interaction with peer groups. I am more prepared to meet the needs of your company now than I have ever been.”
Boom. I Landed the Job.
Was it my dream job? Nope. I felt like I took a huge step backward from where I was just 5 years before. Everything changed and I wasn’t prepared for any of it, really. Excel had changed. New software was available. The learning curve was great. Learning how to be a single mom of two, remembering how to do my job all over again (new and improved!), ensuring I was the person I sold to this company – it was all a struggle.
Fast-forward again to now seven years later. I have a job that I truly enjoy. I remarried and had two more children. I decided against staying home with the girls and am happy with how it’s all played out. I often work 9 hours a day or more, though I try to find some kind of peace with my time at work vs. home. My job is flexible and I can work from home when I need to. I’ve worked very hard to make my children a part of my work life, unapologetically. I still feel like I’m behind but I no longer compare myself. When I feel unsettled, I remember that this situation works for me, and balancing expectations is how I’m going to find peace in this existence.
Has your career detoured after children? I’d love to hear how in the comments!