The time has come to call a truce in the so-called "mommy wars."
Everywhere you look these days there are stories about hard feelings and judgments between stay-at-home moms and employed moms. Fortunately, in the real world, I perceive much less conflict than the media portrays.
I have several strategies for healing the mommy wars. First and foremost is to decide that it's time to work together. Any effort that women spend judging each other is wasted energy that could be used instead to work together for common goals.
If you think about it, there is really no "us" versus "them," only "us." Nearly eight of 10 American women return to work by the time their first child reaches five years of age. Despite the stereotypes you see in the headlines, becoming a stay-at-home mom is not a one-way trip out of the paid workforce for most women. Perhaps more importantly, it's time we realize that even when women take very different career paths, most of us experience similar pressures. The search for quality childcare, family-friendly employment and financial security can play out in very different ways.
One mom may stay home because her employer could not accommodate her request for part-time work, while another woman goes back to work because she secured a job-share. Some women can afford to stay at home, others can't. Some women can't afford to go back to their jobs because the cost of day care is more than their take-home pay and a few promotional pens. We need to work together to increase family-friendly career options for all women, because very few of us can truly count on being stay-at-home moms forever, and many of us would like to resume careers when our children get older.
Every woman needs a back-up plan that will enable her to go back to work when necessary. This is good planning for our families as well as ourselves. It is difficult to think about, but any of us could find ourselves in a situation that requires us to become the primary breadwinner. In my own life I have seen women close to me suffer serious financial blows when faced with one of life's unexpected curve balls of divorce, widowhood, spousal unemployment, or disability.
Keep an eye on emergency employment options, and ask yourself, "what would I do if I needed to get a job tomorrow?" Consider long-term strategies as well, asking "what is my ideal life-long career path?" Time at home with young children can provide an opportunity to plant the seeds for a future career path. Here are five practical strategies to help you stay at the top of your game and ease your transition back into the work world after taking time off:
1. Maintain and build networks. Keep in touch with old colleagues in your professional persona, and cultivate relationships in all the groups you belong to.
2. Update marketable skills. Take classes and consider going back to school part time to get a certificate or degree that will help advance your career later.
3. Keep up with new developments. Read relevant publications and maintain continuing education requirements needed to keep your professional licenses current.
4. Volunteer. Volunteering will keep your intellect sharp and can introduce you to influential people within your community. In addition to traditional volunteering such as field trip chaperoning or class clean-up, seek out opportunities that let you use your professional talents and could tie in to future employment.
5. Build your resume. Writing journal publications or articles, giving conference talks, making presentations to local community organizations, or becoming involved in the local Chamber of Commerce all offer ways to show continued involvement.
For all mothers, the day will come when our youngest child grows up and moves on to pursue his or her own dreams. Thanks to our increased life spans, most of us moms can count on decades of productive living, working, and creating during our empty-nest years.
It's more important than ever to take a lifelong view of our careers. Let's join forces now to lay the groundwork that will maximize our current work options, as well as pave the way for the exciting "next act" in our lives.
About the Author:
About Amy Tiemann: Before becoming a mom, Amy Tiemann earned her Ph.D. in Neurosciences from Stanford University. Today, her work helps women regain their "mojo" when entering motherhood. Often times, women lose themselves when baby is born. Getting in touch with your true 'self' while raising your baby is not only possible, it's being done in "Mojo Mom Circles" around the country.