Whether it has been several months or many years, trying to return to work after being a stay-home mum comes with its share of challenges. Some mums share their experiences and suggestions to make this transition smoother.
Making life decisions is never easy. There are so many factors to take into consideration. For starters, if you intend to return to work after a stint at home, it would help to map out your career plans as early as possible. However, do keep in mind that the longer you’ve been out of the working scene, the more challenging it may be to return.
But even if your career advancement takes a hit because you stayed at home to look after your kids, surely this proactive, intentional investment in your children’s lives is worth the sacrifice. Being present for our kids early on means we can make a difference when they need us the most. No regrets, mums!
Before You Quit
1. Consider no-pay leave or flexi-work arrangements
Rather than tendering your resignation, explore the possibility of taking no-pay leave or having a flexi-work arrangement with your company if you just want to stay home for a short period. This keeps your options open when you are ready to return to work.
2. Gain the required work experience
Before quitting her job, Mdm S. Goh, a freelance designer in her 40s, chalked up 10 years of work experience and built contacts in the industry. This enabled the mother-of-two to start her own business and work from home after the birth of her first child.
In contrast, an ex-teacher, who declined to be named, found many doors closed when she tried returning to work as she was lacking in the prerequisite two to three years work experience.
3. Get certified
Some professions require additional certifications before you can practise or advance in your career. These include those in the teaching, accountancy and medical fields. It would be ideal to obtain these qualifications before you stay home, because it can be challenging to resume your studies after several years. Especially when most of the intellectual stimulation you’ve had recently are only up to preschool level!
Desiring a career switch in return for more flexible work hours, Ms H. Chua, 37, spent her entire second pregnancy attending courses and taking exams. This qualified her to work as a financial consultant after taking five months of maternity leave to care for her second child.
(See also: The Best Time for Mums to Get Back to Work)
Returning to Work with the Kids Still Young
4. Keep up-to-date with industry practices
Ms S., 38, returned to work when her two children were five and two-and-a-half years old. Despite having stayed home for five years, the healthcare worker kept herself in touch and updated with her industry’s latest practices. To make future job searches easier, she advises mothers to attend short workshops if possible. This will help “keep the skills and knowledge going, and also stay connected with the people working in your industry”.
5. Start with something manageable
Before plunging into the deep end of full-time work right away, it may be good to start with a part-time job first. This will give you time to recall and apply your previous work experience. It can also help you ease into your new role as a working mum. Your child also has the chance to gradually adjust to not having mummy around all the time.
Mums@Work is a good place to start if you are looking for part-time or flexi-hours work. Aspiring “mumpreneurs” (mummy-entrepreneurs) can also sign up for workshops and networking sessions there.
(See also: Work-Life Balance for New Mums!)
6. Plan your schedule
When she was searching for a job after 11 years as a stay-home mother, Mrs M. Gan took her children’s needs into consideration. In order to not be caught off-guard by unforeseen circumstances, she worked out the logistics with her husband. Together, they thought of possible scenarios and made contingency plans before she started work.
Without the help of extended family or the services of a school bus, Mrs Gan chose to work part-time as a social worker. Her working hours enabled her to be present for her children, then aged 11 and six, when they came home from school. She was also able to bring her younger son to her workplace when the need arose.
Mrs Gan also planned her time around her kids’ schedule. This helped minimise disruptions to their lifestyle and they were able to adjust more easily to her returning to work. This meant making preparations the night before, waking up at 4.30am to cook and pack lunch for her children, and rushing to pick them from school after work.
On top of working and caring for her two children, aged four and 11 months, Ms Chua also intentionally schedules quality time with her children on weekends. These could be spent on “a trip overseas, a fun session at the playground or simply staying home lazing around and doing nothing”.
7. Prepare your child and caregiver
If you are leaving your child in the care of others, it will be helpful to give your child and the caregiver some run-in time to adjust to each other before you start work. Do brief your caregiver on specific items to take note of. These include your child’s diet, allergies and medications or simply, where his books, toys and clothes are kept.
Ms S. recalls, “In the beginning, the kids did get upset when they knew I had to go work in the morning. But after a while of routine and constant reassurance that you will be home, the kids do get use to it.” Be patient and “just grit your teeth through the whining, tantrums and complaining” during the transition period. “The tough time does come to an end,” she encourages.
(See also: Babysitting Services in Singapore)
8. Take care of your own needs
Juggling work and kids can make you want to tear your hair out, especially with all the rushing around. It is even more challenging to “run on the limited energy available”, so Ms S. advises mothers to “rest whenever you can, even if it means a quick power nap to just recharge”.
Ms Chua concurs. She encourages mums to get ample rest “whenever time permits in order to stay mentally and physically fit”.
Returning to Work after Many Years at Home
9. Have realistic expectations
If you have been out of the workforce for over a decade, be mentally prepared that employers may prefer younger workers or those with current work experience. To remain competitive, do not expect to get your last drawn salary. You may need to settle for less and slowly work your way up again.
10. Go for retraining
Attending a refresher course or getting retrained to work in a different industry may open the doors for a second career. Eligible Singaporeans above the age of 35 can get a 95 per cent course fee subsidy for selected courses under the Workfare Training Support Scheme. Alternatively, you can make use of your SkillsFuture Credits or apply for a SkillsFuture Study Award to defray the cost of retraining.
(See also: 6 Mum-Friendly Co-working Spaces in Singapore)
11. Get help with your job search
The Employment and Employability Institute provides a wealth of resources for job seekers. Among other services, you can get help with resume writing, interview skills and job matching. You may also seek career guidance and explore your options at one of the Workforce Singapore (WSG) Career Centres.
12. Think positively
While your working skills may be rusty initially, Ms S. urges fellow mothers to take heart. “Like riding a bicycle, you don’t completely forget. The first few days will be slow as you try to get back some momentum, but after that you will find most skills and knowledge do come back quickly.”