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Going Back to Work after Time Off with Kids

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Working & Careers > Going Back to Work after Time Off with Kids


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Where to begin - SAHM back to work ASAP

Jan 2010

I'm sure many of you have been here, but I need to start looking for family-friendly, part-time work. We thought it would be when our second got a little older, but husband's work, economy is putting this front and center. Also, reading Getting To 50/50. Anyway, I feel immobilized - I don't know where to start. I don't want the 60 hour weeks I had pre-kids and I'm nervous about childcare. (I know, I know - my issue.) We have a 6 mos old and 3 year old. Would love advice, recommendations - and even literature/studies on benefits of having Mom work. I know it's My Issue, but I'm gettin gmet with ''do you want a nanny to raise your kids?''. Not trying to start Mommy Wars here, just need some counsel and a bit of a kick in the tail end to get me started. Also, have to justify the cost of childcare, etc., so my salary has to be ''enough''. Thanks immobilized and nervous


Hm, it's sort of unclear what you are asking, but basically, I work even though I have kids because I'd be bored (and really really tired) if I didn't, and because I like having different compartments to my life, using different parts of my brain, etc.

Good childcare is wonderful and critical. Don't think of it as a nanny raising your kid - it's more that your kid is getting and sharing love with another person. Love is not subtractable (did you love your first less when you had your second? answer-- i hope--: no) - it multiplies. seeing the love between my child and her nanny has been really rewwarding. does it mean i'm not occasionally jealous that i'm poring over a document while the nanny is at the park on a sunny day with my kid? no. but it does mean that i know my kid is not being short-changed in the love department. good luck


Repeat after me: It is okay to work! I say this as someone who had to work to keep food on the table - literally - and felt VERY guilty about it. Then one day I realized I was doing the best thing for my family. Would I have loved to stay home? Of course! But it was impossible. I put the energy I previously spent feeling guilty into becoming a better, more connected parent. We have a routine for my non- working hours that maximizes my time with my child - chores are done together, he comes with me when I run errands and we get a treat, we have pizza and movie nights every Friday, etc. A lot of people will say anyone can cut back and stay at home, but this is not always true. If you need to work, so be it. You can be a good worker and a good mom if you are focused in whatever role you are in at any given time. No more guilt!
Hi there! I used to be a full-time SAHM and now I am sort of a SAHM. There is no reason to feel guilty about needing or wanting to go back to work. When my kids were little, I went nuts. Playgroups & Mommy & Me classes are tedious at best for me. Thankfully, I found a lot of smart wonderful women to surround myself with...But, I also had a husband with a very difficult schedule. I wanted to be home (and we could afford it, thankfully) to offset the irregularity of his schedule.

Just some thoughts - don't stress about Mommy wars. Anyone getting involved in that battle is just feeling guilty about their decision. Smart, beautiful, caring women stay home with their children for years and years and smart, beautiful, caring women go back to work as soon as they have children. You need SAHM and Work-away-from-home moms to make the world go round. I think of myself as a SAHM. But, I work 30 hours per week (20 from home - and usually after the kids go to bed). I am that Mom who picks up the kids of my working friends from the bus stop and shuttles them (along with my own kids, or I fit them into my route if their activities differ) to horseback riding or skating practice or just to my own house so they don't have to do every day in school aftercare. They worship the ground I walk on for making their lives easier and I worship them for inviting me to the odd movie premier or tossing pro sporting events tickets my way that they get through work.

About finding work...I am sort of useless on that front. What I did in my own job searches was I looked for things that would have great benefits -- I work two days a week as a waitress at a top-ranked ski resort...I make $25 to $60/hour and have no stress at the end of my day AND get free ski benefits for the family valued at $5,000, get discounts on summer camp, daycare & ski programs...also, I work on-call at a daycare and get a free family gym membership/daycare and can bring my kids to work with me for free....and, finally I work for a university where my hours are almost entirely from home at my leisure.

Good luck in your search! And remember...you work so tha tyou can live...not live to work... -a mom


It would be really helpful for giving advice, I think, if you mentioned what your line of work was before, what you are looking for now, if it's not the same, as well as what kind of income and time commitment you are ideally hoping for.

I am also a SAHM and I totally feel your angst around leaving your babies with a care provider all day. My son is now 10 months and I've been working since he was about a month old. Luckily, I work from home and have a husband with a varied enough schedule that we are able to schedule most of my work at times when he can be with our son. I do bodywork and teach classes on bodywork. I personally found it very stressful to pump and be away from my son to work when he was 6 months and under and still do. But I do love that he is usually with his pappa rather than a hired caregiver when I am working.

Since I don't know your situation, I'm not sure if this will be helpful, but viable suggestions for flexible and well paid work are: personal assistant to one or more entreprenuers, professional organizing, consulting on a topic you are skilled at. All of the above, as I am suggesting them, would require a concerted effort on your part to market yourself to people in need of your services. I spent many years doing personal assistant work and professional organizing for artists, small business owners, and sometimes larger companies before transitioning to bodywork. It doesn't have the stability of an employee position, but it has the benefits of flexibility and the potential for great pay. If you only have to work part time and can overlap your schedule with your husbands so that he can watch your children in the evenings or on a weekend day while you work and then you are free some of the time he is at work, it can also cut back on your childcare expenses in the same way my situation does. wendy


I once felt a lot of guilt over being a working mom, but what finally got me over it was my daughter saying to me that she thinks I'm a terrific role model! Also, my nanny was a much better parent of a baby than I was -- more patience -- I got too bored playing baby games. I also think the most important time to be there for your kids is as they get older and start asking questions about values. And I think modeling being financially independent is so important for children, especially girls.

Finally, I find that although I miss my children when I have to leave them, if we have to spend 24/7 together, we start getting on each others' nerves. It's more realistic to have a break. My daughter is proud of me.


Feeling guilty about returning to FT work after 4 years off

May 2005

Hello,

I'm considering going back to work f/t after staying at home with my child for 4 years. I realize that many of you haven't had the option to stay at home as long as I have, and I don't mean to sound as if I'm complaining. In fact, I'd really like advice from those of you who have experience transitioning back to work and dealing with the complicated and confusing feelings about doing it; as well as practical advice about creating a work schedule that feels like a good fit.

Pretty much from the time my child was born, I knew that I would be happiest if I could go back to work, at least part time. But, my husband and I both felt that it was best for our child if I stayed home with him as long as possible. That was nearly 4 years ago.

While I feel that our son has benefitted from my being with him all the time (except one day of child care a week), I have been depressed, stressed about money, and generally unhappy in our current situation.

Furthermore, various family members are giving me guilt trips about what a ''terrible'' thing I'm doing to my child. ''You need to consider his feelings...'' (I think they're crazy but it still gets to me.)

I have been looking forward to the fall when he will go to preschool part-time. Then, out of the blue, a great job popped up and it's f/t. Ironically, I'm feeling very guilty about not being with my child f/t. I also feel very sad about missing so much of his day-to-day, should I return to work. I'm also really uncertain about how I will handle the logistics. Yet, when I think about turning down this job -- if it's offered to me -- I cringe. I think that in the longer term, me, my husband and child will be much happier (for many reasons) if I do it.

But, I just don't know how to handle the grief, the guilt, the sadness and the logistics, which are bogging me down when I would normally be feeling very excited (if I didn't have a child, I would accept this job w/out hesitation). And I feel ridiculous about all this since I've been fortunate enough to stay at home this long.

Any and all advice (not criticism) is most welcome. It would be helpful to know of people who've faced similar situations that worked out well. Thank you. want to work


Just want to offer you a message of encouragement. My son just turned 4, and I work full time, because I love my job. I've worked at least part time since he was about 3 months old. I've had the extreme good fortune to be able to tailor my schedule to fit my needs, both financial and, frankly, personal. I just wanted you to know that my son is thriving; he and I are thoroughly attached, and he's a very charming, secure, empathetic little boy. He has lots of friends, his language skills are great, his social skills are right on target. I don't think he could be doing better if I had stayed home. Yes, I've missed some things, but I communicate with his teachers, and get other, very useful, perspectives from them.

The way I see it, there are two things that keep me from feeling guilty about this.
1) My son is much happier with a happy mom than he would be with one feeling bored and restless. Going to work produces a happy mom, and I can come home and focus my entire attention on him, because I have the satisfaction I need.
2) My childcare providers, all of whom I've selected very carefully, are part of that ''village'' that raises my child. He has loved them very much, and they've given him things that maybe even I could not have.

Yes, the logistics can be annoying at times, but I've worked it out with my employers and my husband such that I can manage to do all that I need to. If your employers are going to be very inflexible about hours, vacation/sick leave, and such, that would be my only real concern. Karen


If you can find a good daycare/child care provider, your son will be fine. Since it sounded like you had something set up for the fall, you probably want to look at programs that have summer openings, or a student(go with an older one if you need reliability). I was able to enroll my child in The Model School (which has a very able director)one summer when she was between programs. Check at BANANAS for what's available.

The transition back to working full time isn't easy, your son will probably have some angry feelings, though if he's happy in his childcare setting it'll be better. On the other hand, happy mom, happy child. In the long run, your son will do better if you have work you care about, and enough money so you don't feel worried. The other thing is, good jobs are hard to find -- if you wait until the perfect moment for the transition, it may be hard to find what you want.

In an ideal world, there'd be lots of well-paid, interesting 20-hour a week jobs, but I haven't had much luck finding one. anon


Dear Full-Time: I know you are torn and stressed. I went back part-time until my daughter told me she was ready at age 4 and one-half years. *I* was not ready. I loved being with her and taking her to her classes and doing family things. But, I found that as long as you are at a child-centered care place and are ATTENTIVE to her needs, then she is NOT short-changed. She is now eleven and thriving. She and I have a typical mother-daughter pre-teen relationship but she still tells me things. She confides in me. And we still talk. I am focused on her needs and she knows it. I am working 80 percent. Soon-to-be full time. And I still wrestle with the guilt. But, a part of me is fulfilled and not bored. I am not depressed about my career. I am stimulated and I am helping people, a career I wanted. I know very intelligent stay-at-home moms who fill the hours. They had active careers and find time now to fixate on the small stuff. I find it unreal. Yet, I know the guilt keeps them where they are as well as what they think is right. Do what is right for yourself. It was really hard and I crossed my fingers. Please let go of the guilt and go for it. Anonymous
First of all I commend you for staying home for as long as you did. If I could have stayed home that long, I probably would have too. I just came back to work after being off for 11 months with my newborn & toddler. I stayed home with my toddler, when she was born, for 7 months. I enjoyed every minute being home with them & I'm glad that I did it. Now that I'm back at work, I enjoy the break. Being home all the time also gave my husband reasons to count on me for everything! So it was like having 3 kids instead of 2. That was really wearing me down. I also needed to be with other adults. Being back in the work environment, I now have adult conversations throughtout the day & I have time to think about things & let my mind relax. At home I was always moving & so tired all of the time because it was hard to nap. My 2 kids took naps at different times so I could never get any sleep. I'm still tired being at work, but at least I get some down time. I'm in a cubicle so I can just sit & relax, put my head down on my breaks, have a nice a decent lunch (either with co-workers or by myself) & even take naps on my lunch hour. Also, I wouldn't feel guilty if I were you because you did what most women can't do. And think of it this way. He's now 4 & he is on his way into the real world (going to school). He also needs to be with children his age now for longer periods of time. It's time for him to get ready for kindergarten & I don't think he would adapt as well if at 4 he's only going to pre- school part time.

One last note from me that I thought was important to return back to work, was to get my independence back. Bringing in my own money again feels great. I'm sure your husband doesn't mind with helping out with money issues, but it just feels great to know that you have YOUR own money. Yes I'm sure what's his is yours & visa versa, but there's nothing like making your own money(you know what I mean?) Oh yeah, I'm sorry for rambling on, but I forgot one last thing. When I get off of work & pick up my kids, I just light up. They scream (a good scream) for missing me throughout the day. I miss them too & that just makes my day & lets me know that they are okay! Good Luck with whatever you decide to do, just remember, your son will not hate you for returning to work. Get up & get out, maybe even get some new work clothes & WORK IT GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shelly


I have gone back to work after two years at home with my son...and I love it. Yes, it has increased the logistics problems almost beyond my ability to cope (laundry, clothes, lunches, diners, returning calls, getting out the door in the morning, etc.) but I think it can be done IF I get organized on the weekends. I also needed more than I was getting from staying at home with a child, and work really satisfies that. It's a pleasure to be able to think one's own adult thoughts and return to feeling capable in the work world. My time with my son is more precious and I'm able to give him better attention because that part of my life is more enriched. A good day care situation, even if you have to patch something together till fall, will make it all possible. I can't speak to your guilt since I don't feel that. I know my son is ready for more stimulation and socialization too... Just plan and prepare as well as you can.

when Mama's happy, everyone is happy


Take the job!!! It is easy to lose perspective when at home full time with a child. Working full time is a difficult juggle, and you will probably miss your son, but you won't have time to see the people., like SAHMs, that could make you feel guilty. Make sure that you feel good about your son's care and that you've arranged to share with your partner all of the errands/chores/organizing that you do now. I was very crabby and ambivelent before I returned to work and then I loved it: all that time to interact with adults, use my brain and really focus my intellect!

happy to be a working mama


It's part of the deal, to feel guilty. You've thought about it, and this is what you want to do, and I'm here to tell you that your child will be totally fine. I've done it both ways - back to work with baby #1, stay at home with baby #2, and work full-time with baby #3. They are big kids now and you would not be able to pick out which one had mom full-time and which one didn't. As other working moms will tell you, it all works out fine if you're happy with your job and happy with your daycare situation. There is always guilt, I think, when you're a mom and you decide to do something YOU want to do. Especially in our community where there can be a lot of subtle pressure to stay at home. Be strong! You can do it! You've got lots of company out here!

Happy working mom


Don't feel bad about going back to work. If you are not happy with your current situation then go ahead and do what you need to do to make yourself happy. A happy mom is a better mom.

I know the transition can be difficult. For my self I decided that I could work but only if I had the perfect nanny so that my kids could stay at home. When my oldest was ready for preschool we couldn't swing the preschool plus the nanny so one had to give. I ended up putting both of my kids at Chatham and have been very happy there. To be honest with you the transitions were much more difficult on me from a mental and emotional standpoint than they were on the kids.

I find different types of pleasure in my work that I don't get from staying home with my kids. I get praised for my creativity and efforts to make my clients happy. I have intellectual conversations on a regular basis and it makes me into a better spouse and mother. The time that I do spend with my kids 4:30/5:00 to bed time every day is special to me. I feel like I can focus on activities and engage with them. When I do spend full days with them- they are often pulled along with me as I run errands or play together while I clean the house or other.

Hopefully when you go back to work you can get a housekeeper. I have a good one to refer if you are interested. But that was the one thing that was very stressful for me. Wanting to have the perfect house as a full time working mother- that is hard to pull off. So don't spend your time scrubbing the bathroom. Enjoy your child. Enjoy your life.

You should also consider yourself lucky that you have a career that will allow for four years off and then you can jump back in. Several moms I know wish to get back in but don't have that window of opportunity so JUMP ON IT!!! beth


I am sure you will get a lot of posts on this. I'll keep this short - what makes Mom happy makes everyone happy. Don't listen to what other people think about how much time you should or should not spend with your child. Is the child happy and secure? That is the goal - not spending x number of hours with the child. My story - I took 1 year off of work and went back to work for 2 years in a job with international travel. This is what I thought I wanted at the time, but in reality I was incredibly stressed out. The day I was laid off was a great relief. Even though I am not working full time now, my son, now 5 goes to preschool full time. When he comes home, I really am ready to play with him and spend time with him. We are very close and he is happy, healthy little guy that we are blessed to have. My moral - if you think you want to go back to work, do it. But if it turns out once you do go back that it's not right - don't feel bad about changing your mind. mwg
I have been working full time since my daughter was 6 months old; she is now 5. I have no guilt; it would have been financially impossible for me to stay home. The first couple of weeks were hard emotionally and logistically but things worked out OK. I make evenings and weekends real quality time. This morning, out of the blue, my daughter asked me ''when are you going to quit your job?'' (Her dad and I both really like our jobs and have never mentioned quitting.) I replied, ''do you want me to quit my job?'' She said ''no, I like your job.'' --working mom
One thing that I did not hear folks mention: if you don't HAVE to go back to work, you may want to try negotiating with any potential employers to create an arrangement that is perfect for you. You will be suprised at the deals that some employers will cut if they want to hire you. So you might say, ''I really want to take the job but I need to work Fridays at home.'' Or a 6 hour work day (may have to take less pay for this one.) I work for a workaholic lobbying firm but when I started I told them I needed Fridays off to be with my ailing father--and they did it! I see new hires with our firm cut lots of interesting time arrangement deals. You have to, of course, be prepared to walk away if they don't take your offer. And my two cents on going back to work: it seems that being a full-time working mom and a SAHM each have their pros and cons. You're not going to find nirvhana either way but if this is what you want, do it. Working at least slightly less than a full-work week does seem to make life easier, however. If you can swing it! Good luck. Elizabeth

Going back to work FT after second child

Nov 2004

Does anyone have any advice about going back to work full time after their second child was born? What were some key elements in making it easier? What type of childcare worked for you? I have a preschooler and a 1 year old. Did you get a nanny at home who helped with housework? Is it easier to have one in preschool and one in a home day care? I'm thinking that one will be in preschool and the other will be home with a nanny and then the nanny can pick the preschooler up early a few days a week? Finally, am I crazy to want to go back full time? Financially we could really use the money, but we won't die without it. I've been doing the part time thing and I find it is so crazy because its like I am a %110 homemaker with a part time job on top of that. quitting work completely is not an option. I was hoping that full time in a job that I love will be somehow more sane than the full time mom, part time worker thing. Am I crazy? looking for a balance that doesn't exist?


I worked part time and full time with my first child (2 years old), and only recently have started working full time after the birth of my second child (8 months). I must confess it is a great challenge for me. For some reason I was expecting that sharing the workload out of the home will translate into sharing the workload at home... but it has not been so. We have had to make several changes: get help to clean the house, increase the hours of child-care, and change our household practices: buy more products and go less often to the market, cook big batches and freeze, take turns watching the kids while at home so the other can get some household chore done, and so on.

I don't have the answer, but it seems that full time worker does not get rid of the full time mom!! Anon.


I was working full time when I had my first child. I left the workforce when he was 11 months old and recently went back to work full time. My son was 4, and his sister was 15 months old. I've always used daycare, but I'm lucky: The center is right across the street. As people said in earlier posts comparing nannies and daycare, it's really up to you. But daycare is constant (it doesn't call in sick), and we have a very good program. Plus, I work from home, and I'm not sure it would work very well if my kids were here, too.

As far as the pull of the two worlds you're talking about, I'm not really sure that working full time is a panacea, compared to working part-time. I know that I'm continually frazzled. I have to stop work on the dot, or I won't get dinner done or the kids picked up on time. I have to get the kids out the door by a certain time in the morning or I won't start work on time. And time for exercise is nonexistent.

Personally, I feel as though I don't do either one well. I do like having an identity that is separate from just being a Mommy. And I definitely like having money, again. To go to the store and be able to buy my kids books or videos feels like a treat, compared to when I was based at home.

I have tried to carve out some Mommy areas: I volunteered to be a chaperone for my son's class's trip to the pumpkin patch. But I don't have time to do any extras. So my son has a huge scrapbook, and I haven't even done one page in my daughter's. I made my son homemade Halloween costumes, and my daughter's was storebought. I put up with a boss who can be very unpleasant at times but full of praise at others.

Frankly, if it weren't for the money, I would quit in a second. I think it takes a lot of work and help and understanding from your partner. Mine means well but just doesn't understand the concept of trading off the dinner chores. They, and other housework, fall disproportionately on my shoulders. It's tough. I wish you the best. Gwynne


I went back to work full-time when my youngest was four months (home daycare) and my oldest was 3 (preschool). For me, it wasn't a choice - we need the money. If I had a choice, I would have prefered to work part time - even though I enjoy my job, it feels exhausting to come home after work, get everyone fed, bathed, and to bed at a reasonable hour. I miss so much time with my children because the only time I have to really spend playing with them is on weekends. My advice to you is, go back to work full-time if you really want to because you love the job or you need the money. Working full time will not make your life with two children any less crazy than it already is. good luck with your decision

Going back to work after 2 years - scared!

Aug 2003

I'm going back to work after almost 2 years of being home with my daughter. I have a great daycare for her, I found a great part time job... but I'm still terrified!! She's never been away from me, is she going to be okay? Will she think I abandoned her? Will she be terrified? How will she nap? And, on the other hand, I've been out of work for over 2 years, do I still remember how to do it? How am I going to juggle a job, a commute, an active toddler, a house, a husband.... ??? How am I supposed to make dinner when there's no ''naptime'' to get things done? What do I do when I'm up all night with her, and I CAN'T take a nap the next day? I'd appreciate any and all advice you can provide!! Eek!


I went back to work parttime after a year and was similarly distressed/worried, so I feel your pain! It has gone remarkably well though. One thing I recommend is to go with your child to the childcare arrangement for a week (or more if necessary) to get her used to it. Believe it or not, being at work just 2 days a week gives me a break from my very active toddler. I demand more of my husband on my ''work-outside-of-the-home'' days (e.g., I don't do home chores on those days) and so far, he has totally come through. Good luck! Your daughter is fortunate to have a mommy who cares so deeply for her. another parttime worker
It is scary at first, but you will get used to it. Its like having a baby the first time, seems overwhelming but then you settle into it. I wigged out both times I had to go back, and I realized that wigging out made it much worse, it wasn't that bad. So relax!

Your house will be dirty, at least for a while, so don't worry. You might be a little slow at work in the beginning, so don't beat yourself up.

Ask your partner to help you around the house and with the children. You'll develop a new routine and things will begin to go more smoothly. Enjoy being able to have coffee with a co-worker and to eat lunch by yourself! (Maybe even sneak a little shopping in -- for yourself) You can do it! (and even like it) A mom who works outside the home with two Paula


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