How to Go Back to Work After Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

yes, you can do it!

going back to work

My two kids are in school, one in 4th grade and the other in 6th. I have not worked for 12 years and thinking of going back to work while they are at school.  I have no idea where to begin and it is a daunting outlook to someone who hasn’t worked outside the home for so long.  Any tips on how to get started?  Ann Marie – Sammamish, WA

Our panelists offer up tips and wisdom about a common issue among stay-at-home moms. Our feature in the career/job section named, “Yes You Can Be a….” offers exclusive interviews with women making working outside the home, work.

Amy C.First of all, I’d suggest you take an inventory of your skills, both ones you used 12 years ago and ones you are employing now.  Yes, volunteering at various community events does qualify as experience.  Multi-tasking multiple schedules qualifies as well.  Having a grasp on what you can offer an employer — as well as what interests you — will help you start to narrow down where to look for a job.

Secondly, I’d start chatting with your friends about your desire to get back to formal employment.  It’s so much easier to ease into a position that’s referred to you by someone you know, as opposed to trying a position that is listed in Craig’s List that you know nothing about.  Even today, good ole’ networking is still the most effective way to find a position.

Lastly, be open to simple jobs that offer opportunity but not much glamour.  Focus on what industry the job is in, as well as what company.  If both offer room for growth, that’s where you want to be!! Good luck!  Amy C. – 40 something

Life CoachThe first step might be to sit down with another person and brainstorm ideas.  What would you like to do?  What are your skill sets?  Do you want to go back to what you did before, or re-create yourself?  As with any transition, it is important to break it down into small steps and just make small goals for each day/week.  An outside support person is very helpful – whether it be a friend, spouse, consultant or coach.  Good luck!  Jamee – 40 something


annGlaserI had a similar experience.  I had taken a few years off from paid work and wanted to do something completely new for my next career. They recommend in the “What color is my parachute?”   book to sit down and go through the classifieds in the newspaper.  This may be old information since there aren’t that many classified anymore.  So instead, go on Craigslist and look at the job listings there.  The idea is to see what different kinds of jobs are out there and then get ideas about what appeals to you.

Go to a company’s website that you have often admired.  Go through their job listings and see if your skills fit there.  You may find, like me, that you want to reinvent yourself.  Or you may find that your skills are rusty and you need to take some refresher courses at the local community college.  So, sit down with a community college catalog and mark up classes that sound interesting to you.  You could also look at the local university and see if they have any seminars that sound interesting.  Start researching!  If you have a skill, ask people you know if they know of anyone who is hiring!  Or you could use your old network and meet them for lunch.  Just get out there and dip your toes in.  Who knows what you might find?   Ann – 50 something

mariacowellAfter 15 years as a stay-at-home mom, I realized my former profession did not fit my current season of life.  So, I looked at my skill set to see what was transferable.  Because I was a former reporter, I was able kick-start my career again as a grant writer, and eventually that led to other career moves. Look at your skill set to broaden your options; don’t limit yourself to your experience.  Because you have been out of the work world a few years, you need to emphasize what you can do, not just what you have done. Also: do not discount what you have learned as a mother: organization, prioritization, flexibility, and maturity.

Secondly, re-educate yourself.  Things change rapidly in 12 years and you need to find out what is current. Certainly, one way to do this is to utilize the internet and social media, but capitalize on former relationships, too. Can you meet a former colleague for lunch and ask what the industry is like now and who is hiring? The advantage of a personal connection is that it lets people know you are ready to join the work world again, and you start building up network that would lead to opportunities. And don’t forget the networks you already have:  the mom groups you are in, the scout troop your kids are in. Let people know you are looking and see what opportunities arise.

Thirdly, be open to the possibility of part-time at first. This is a great way to transition from home-to-job without being overwhelmed. Once you get comfortable being back at work, you can more realistically assess how you will juggle both.  Maria – 50 something


margeGiuntoliFirst of all, determine your priorities.  Many women fail at this attempt because they want an employer to work around their household schedule, i.e. picking up the kids from school, dental appointments, illnesses, family vacations, etc.  It doesn’t work that way since when you get paid to do a job, you are expected to do it and not beg for exceptions.  Now, that said, and not knowing your skills, I would say first look around for a type of job that has built in flexibility if you can find one in this extremely competitive market.  If you can’t find one where the employer is willing to work around your family demands, then explore volunteer opportunities which will allow you to be productive and introduce you to some new challenges.  You have been out of the job market for 12 years and regardless of what you did before, you are dated.  The other option is to begin working from home, which allows you the most scheduling freedom.  Walk dogs!  Garden by the hour for a senior citizen! You can also take a few classes to update your skills, but be aware employers will ask you for your experience in using the skills, not just that you sat at a desk.  Good luck!  Marge – 70 something


  1. Wow. These comments were all very depressing as I thought about my circumstances: I’ll have to job search at 54 when my husband retires at 56 (we’ll have a dependent at home). By that time I will have been unemployed outside the home for 25 years. Sigh.

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