I dread the question: “So, what do you do for a living?” Well, I am a college-educated woman in 2020 choosing to stay home with my children.
If this answer isn’t met with an, “Oh, good for you,” then it is stunned silence and a subject change. I often feel that my answer to this question makes me seem unmotivated as if choosing to prioritize my children over my career is the lazy route.
Sure, most of my daily tasks are those that June Cleaver would find familiar–laundry, meal prepping, and general housekeeping–when I am not reading a book to my toddler, changing my baby’s diaper, or trying to wrangle my preschooler out of a tree. But unlike Mrs. Cleaver, this is just a temporary gig for me.
I fully intend to get back into the workforce once my children are all in school full-time.
Since I have three children, I am looking at a grand total of at least 10 years away from the workplace. That’s 10 years where housework and child-rearing are my major everyday tasks, and the fact that the house is standing and the kids are alive is what I have to show for it.
My own mother also spent about 10 years away from the workplace starting in the late 1980s to care for my brother and I. When she left her office job, fax machines were new and exciting. When she returned, cell phones and personal computers were at every desk. She essentially had to learn how modern business was done all over again–not to mention assimilate back into a 9-5 routine and navigate the tricky dynamics of new office politics.
While many will say that full-time parenting is the hardest job in the world (it is not easy!), it always doesn’t exactly translate into a substantial resume. In an effort to avoid a hard transition back into the workplace, I try to make a conscious effort to remain relevant to corporate America while staying at home with my children.
If you’ve put your career on hold to stay at home, here are six things that you can do as a stay-at-home-parent to make yourself a more desirable candidate when you reenter the workforce.
1. Take professional development classes
Sites like Skillshare have courses in a broad range of topics from business to design at a manageable cost. Even just educating yourself on a topic that interests you like interior design or caring for your houseplant shows initiative on your part and gives you a topic to discuss intelligently as a personal interest in any future interview.
If you’re looking to go the extra mile, sites like Coursera and edX offer professional certifications with coursework focusing on Business Writing, Corporate Finance, and Management that you can tackle at your own pace once the kids go down to bed or while they’re with a babysitter.
2. Listen to podcasts
I love good true crime podcasts like any other American, but there are plenty of other options for when you get a little tired of hearing the word “murder.”
Add a quick headline podcast to your daily morning routine. Catch up with current events by listening to AP Headlines or get the rundown on the economy with NPR’s Planet Money.
When you have a bit more time and focus, find podcasts that are relevant to your industry or a soft skill that you want to hone. Lead Into It is a new podcast with short episodes by a female millennial US Air Force Reservist who interviews leaders from both the traditional workplace and the military about how they lead effectively.
At the very least, a volunteer role shows that you have time management skills and community awareness; at the most, it brings you so much more.
If you are willing and able to take a leadership role at a volunteer organization, the job skills that you end up practicing are endless–sales if you’re working on a fundraiser, communication if you’re leading a team, and so on.
Volunteer opportunities can also translate into a profession in the nonprofit sector easily if you have a familiarity with 501(c)(3) organizations.
4. Stay current with technology
It is easy to become lackadaisical with evolving technology when all you really need to know how to operate is the Netflix remote and a LeapFrog reader.
Maintain a basic understanding of the programs that you used in previous careers and find a way to continue to use them in your everyday life. For example, I use the ever-evolving G Suite as a way to share photos and videos with family that live out of state. I also use Google Drive to manage my editorial calendar and Sheets to track expenses and revenues. Another small exercise for the not-so-tech-savvy is to update your phone’s operating system, back it up to the cloud, and then transfer all your data yourself when it comes time to buy a new phone. Finding small ways to optimize your own knowledge in technology can go a long way.
5. Manage your home finances and budgeting
Keeping your mind active with numbers, even just simple math like debits and credits, is a great mental exercise. Putting yourself in the driver’s seat when it comes to your family’s budget not only gives you an awareness of your financial stability, but it also opens the doors to hone your negotiation skills. See if your cable company is willing to change your rate since you’ve been a loyal customer. Ask your bank to drop certain fees. Find out more about your credit rates and limits.
Take this opportunity to educate yourself on what you are actually paying. What exactly is your mortgage rate? Should you refinance? What are your investments doing for you now and in the future?
Develop or perfect your budgeting system by creating a spreadsheet with formulas to track expenses, bills, payments, etc. Take it a step further and keep track of your assets, liabilities, and net worth. Businesses do the same for their finances. Practicing this at home will educate you on what businesses consider when making big financial decisions–which will all prove useful when it’s time to re-enter the workforce.
6. Stay social
Your whole life can easily revolve around your children’s interests and schedules, which can quickly become isolating. Maintaining friendships and relationships with old colleagues and employers works as both much-needed adult interaction and networking.
Oftentimes, getting a job has to do with referrals and who you know. Going to happy hour with your friends who are still working is a great way to meet new people who might have future connections and to stay informed about the current climate in your industry.
Above all, never underestimate the work that you are doing on a daily basis. So many of the skills that it takes to run a household with children are applicable to the workplace–delegating, time blocking, salesmanship. When it comes time to reenter the workforce, don’t diminish the work that you have done while at home, but taking extra steps to make yourself the most appealing candidate can always help boost your appeal as the years go on.