“Are you going back to work when all your kids are in school (grow up, etc.)?”

It’s a common question stay at home moms get, and not the most welcome one in a lot of cases. Many people assume that once your kids are in school, you don’t need to be a stay at home mom for them anymore, despite all the challenges of getting them to school and back home again after, coping with sick days and so forth. And certainly you won’t be staying home once all the kids are grown! What are you going to do once that time comes that you need to find a job when you’ve been spending years as a stay at home mom?

This can be a real dilemma, although it gets worse if suddenly you can’t be a stay at home mom anymore because your family needs more money coming in for one reason or another. Then it can be urgent.

I get this question here and there, even from fellow stay at home moms. In my case, I’m fortunate enough to have a business that I love and that may allow me to continue to stay at home, kids or no. We’ll see what the future holds. It doesn’t hurt, however, to plan ahead so you know what you’ll do when you’re no longer able to stay at home.

Keeping Up or Building Your Job Skills

What kind of work would you like to do when you’re no longer staying at home? Do you have a dream job you’d love to have? What would it take to get you into that job?

If it’s a job you had before you became a stay at home mom, you may have skills you need to keep up. There may be journals in your field you should be reading to keep up on the latest, or short classes you can take here and there to maintain your skills. These are the kinds of things you might be doing even if you were working in the industry now, and there’s little reason to give it up just because you’re at home now. Hopefully they’ll come in handy again in the future.

If you have a dream job you’d like to get into when the kids are old enough, at what point should you start taking classes to help you in that direction? Are classes available online that you could take while watching your kids?

For example, I have considered the possibility that I’ll go into Instructional Design someday. I took a course in that in college, and it was a lot of fun. My college had a Master’s Degree program for it, so if I want to do that in the future, I’ll have to look at how I’d qualify for that program.

Look into any grants or scholarships you may qualify for when you’re getting ready to go back to school. There are grants available in some places for homemakers who want to build marketable skills. Check with your local colleges to see if something is available to you to help with the costs. An online search can help too, just be careful of scholarship scams.

Working from Home

Many stay at home moms keep their skills or build up new ones by working at home. You can find a job you can do from home, freelance for a variety of clients or start your own business. This is the option I took, and I’m glad of it, as it has allowed me to stay home with my kids even when my husband was laid off work, plus  I’m continuing to pay into Social Security in the hopes that it will continue to be there.

Even if you believe you’re always going to stay at home, earning some amount of income is a good idea. Not only do you never know what’s going to happen in the future, you need some way to save for retirement. If you aren’t earning your own money, make sure to take some of your husband’s income for a retirement account. Odds are you’ll need it someday.

I like working from home. It’s rough getting things started, but for me it has been well worth the trouble. I’ve had pathetic months where my earnings have been miserable, and great ones where I’ve earned more than my husband, all while being there for our kids.

I have skills now that I could use in a job outside the home if I had to. If it comes down to it, I might still go for that, but I could certainly show a potential employer that I could help them with certain online parts of their business. It’s not a bad skill to have. Alternatively, I could brush up my old medical transcription skills, although I’d have to learn to cope with electronic medical records.

Earning some amount of your own money at home can be very good for the future of your career as well as your retirement. You may not want it to take over the time you mean to spend with your kids, but there are always early mornings, nap time, school time and/or night time to work if you want to be mostly focused on the kids during the day.

Setting Up Your Resume

The resume is the hardest part for a long term stay at home mom. You may not feel as though there’s much to put there, and just where are you going to get references anyhow?

The important thing to a potential employer is that they know you are truly interested in getting back to work. They don’t want to hear how you’re missing being with your kids or other such things. If you might have childcare issues, be upfront about that.

As a stay at home mom, you’ve done a lot of work keeping your family organized, dealing with finances, possibly you’ve volunteered at the school or other places. These things can be highlighted on your resume, along with any work you’ve done or classes you’ve taken to keep your job skills up to date. Volunteer work may be a good place to get references. Don’t be ashamed of having been a stay at home mom; just point out the skills you used as one. Skip silly titles for the work you do at home and go for realistic ones.

Remember to tweak your resume for each job you apply for. You want to emphasize the skills the job listing asked for. Focus more on skills than on dates, but have the dates available on your resume, as many employers still want to know. A flat out chronological resume may not be your best choice, but a combination format allowing you to emphasize your skills while giving employers access to the dates they may be interested in is often your best choice.

Don’t stress too much about keeping your resume down to a single page, but don’t make it excessively long either. These days you’re more likely to be sending your resume by email or through an online form.

Make sure you know how to write a good cover letter too. Some companies care about them, others don’t, but you usually won’t know that in advance.

Try a Temp Agency

If you just aren’t finding a permanent job of the sort you’d like, try a temp agency. Sometimes these jobs turn permanent, but even when they don’t, you’re building up your skills and making them more current while earning money. That’s far better than being out of work.

Don’t expect a temp agency to be the solution to your job search woes. They won’t always have work available to you immediately. They are simply another tool you can use as you look for a job.

Update Your Wardrobe

Make sure you have a reasonably current wardrobe appropriate to the type of work you’ll be doing. Just what you need depends on the job, and it may not be exactly what it was when you last worked outside the home. Many are more casual than they used to be. Fortunately, dressing up a little for interviews is still a good plan in many industries.

Returning to work after being a stay at home mom for a few years or more can feel pretty strange, but it’s entirely possible to make the transition. Search hard, prepare well and do your research before interviews.