February 17th, 2009 | 1:06 pm

Bumps on the On Ramp

filed under Returners

iStock_000003269650XSmall_1_.jpgby Liz O’Donnell (Boston)

Stay at home mothers (SAHMs) are looking for work and facing some good news/bad news. A combination of factors is sending these SAHMs back to work. Some need to replace the income of spouses who have been laid off. Others need the additional money to combat increased living costs. And still others are merely ready to return after taking time to care for their families.

As we have been reporting on The Glass Hammer, the good news is that it is no longer considered impossible to re-enter the work world. Several years ago, the mainstream media was full of stories that said women who had taken time off to raise families had very slim chances of being rehired. Employers just didn’t value the skills women cultivated as heads of households and PTO volunteers, the stories said.

That is not the case today. “Fortunate women can opt out and opt back in,” says Amy Keroes, founder of MommyTrack’d. “Employers today know what to do with a mother’s resume,” she says.

The bad news: many women are being forced to look for work at a point when there are fewer jobs available. Keroes says her chat rooms are filling up with stories of moms having to head back to work for the first time in years since their husbands have been laid off, and of moms taking on more work trying to make ends meet in the current economy.

Keroes offers some advice for women contemplating a comeback in these trying economic times:

  1. Secure high quality, reliable and flexible childcare.
  2. Get rid of as many obligations as possible and even outsource chores to your children.
  3. Take a hard look at the numbers. Sometimes the cost of childcare cancels out a paycheck.
  4. Give yourself a break. “No day will feel quite balanced,” she says.
  5. Try to keep your confidence levels high. Women often lose their confidence when they stop earning a paycheck.
  6. Maintain ties with previous employers. “Previous employers can be your best options for work or referrals,” says Keroes.

Gina Smith followed these rules successfully. Smith had been an on-air technology reporter for Good Morning America, World News Tonight and 20/20, as well as CEO and President of Larry Ellison’s New Internet Computer Company before taking five years off following the birth of her son. During that time she wrote two books, including the New York Times bestseller “iWOZ: From Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-founded Apple and Had Fun Along the Way“, which she co-wrote with Steve Wozniak. She also began coursework towards a PhD in psychology. Last week she returned to work.

“I think my boss, who knew me and had hired me at jobs earlier in my career, knew (my son) was clearing five and I would have the time to do it. He was right,” she says.

The key to her new job, she says, is flexibility. As long as she puts in 40 hours a week, she is able to volunteer in her son’s classroom and be available to him in the afternoons.

“Companies like this one, first30services, recognize that flex time is a key point for parents and actually gets more hours out of them. I know I’m doing more than 40 hours, but it’s spread out over days, nights, weekends,” she says.

Returning to work isn’t easy, but it is possible; there are lots of resources, online and off, to help women.

1 comment

  1. Carol Fishman Cohen

    Hi Liz, Hi Amy,

    Thank you for this great article and the excellent advice.

    I agree with all of it except for point 3 – if the cost of childcare cancels out the paycheck (then the article implies one should think twice about returning to work. I would argue that even if the first couple of years back are a break-even proposition, a “relauncher” should still return to work. The women we interviewed for our career reentry strategy book Back on the Career Track found that compensation increased over time, either through raises and promotions, or because a business became successful. The break-even early years proved to be an investment for the profitable years to come.

    If married, better to weigh the costs of childcare, transport and other job related expenses against the husband and wife’s total, combined income.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Carol Fishman Cohen, co-author, Back on the Career Track, co-founder, http://www.iRelaunch.com.