Getting Back to Work: From Stay-at-Home to Working Parent

By Danielle Spano

There are over 5 million stay-at-home mothers, according to the US Census Bureau’s America’s Families and Living Arrangements report. And while moms still make up the majority of stay-at-home parents, there are now about 2 million stay-at-home fathers, 21 percent of whom are home specifically to care for the family, according to the Pew Research Center. However, whether it be for economic reasons or simply because the children have grown up, there often comes a time when a stay-at-home parent decides to reenter the workforce.

Whether you have experience and education in a field of expertise or have no particular proficiency at all, a long gap in employment history raises a red flag for hiring managers. Crystal Spallone was in corporate accounting before becoming a stay-at-home mom. “After five years home with my kids, it was very hard to get someone to even look at my resume,” said Spallone. “By explaining the gap, I was letting the employers know I had small children and I felt they would assume I would take more time off than others with older children.”  After six months of her job search, Spallone wound up finding a job. It was not exactly in her chosen field, but used many of the same skills necessary for accounting and offered flexibility for her family life.

While an employment gap may turn off potential employers, an article in the Journal of Management said that people returning to work may, in fact be better employees by combining past work experience with an enthusiasm for returning to work having benefited from the time away. There are many organizations now available not only to help companies create reentry opportunities, but also assist those who have been out of the workforce as they restart their careers. Companies such as iRelaunch and Path Forward offer seminars, learning materials and job listings for both men and women returning to work. Locally, Santa Fe College has two programs that are designed to help women get into the workforce.

Focus on the Future offers free classes and workshops to homemakers who have been financially dependent on Federal assistance or another family member who no longer provides such support. This program helps women gain self-confidence and transition into a working role. And while stay-at-home mothers can reenter the workforce at any age, Back to Work 50+ is another helpful program that helps women over 50 build economic stability. These programs offer coaching and training on life management skills such as time and stress management, interview readiness skills such as developing a resume and interview techniques as well as offering computer workshops. “Someone who has been a homemaker has acquired a wide range of talents,” Jimmy Yawn, Coordinator for Career Resource Center at Santa Fe College, said. “These programs help them recognize the economic value of those talents and help direct them into the job market.”

Of these various programs and resources, some of the key steps for successfully emerging back into the job market remain constant. Networking is essential. Maintain contacts and relationships with those in your field during your leave. Reach out to them as well as any professional organizations you may have belonged to seek employment opportunities. Keep your skills tuned. Stay up to date on the latest in your industry, and use this knowledge in conversation with hiring managers to show you have not gotten rusty! Keep your resume updated and incorporate any functional skills like time management and budgeting that you may have mastered during your time at home. Do not be afraid to make a change. Analyze your skill set along with new skills you have gained through homemaking (organization, budgeting, time management, etc.). If your previous profession is difficult to reenter, find a new opportunity that suits your newly expanded skill set. Lastly, be confident. As a stay-at-home parent, you raised children, so the sky is the limit!