Many a stay-at-home-wife or mother has found herself completely reliant on her husband or partner for financial support. The necessity of a consistent, inexpensive childcare person aside, it’s important to realize that staying at home and out of the workforce for years, or even decades, can make it near impossible to get back in the game.
Your man is not a financial plan, and there is no guarantee that you will be together forever. Whether separated by death or divorce, being a single mother will be hard, but being a single mother who has spent years, or even decades out of the workforce is even harder. Employers are reluctant to hire anyone, regardless of past experience or accolades; if your experience is not current you may as well have never worked a day in your life.
Also, ageism is a very real challenge, and most retail or customer service jobs are going to go to women who are dressing and styling on trend, perky, and let’s face it – younger. So forget being able to find a low-paying customer service or retail position – those go to the younger workers among us, even if they don’t have families to feed at home.
It’s super important, then, to consider keeping a foot in the door so that if and when you are ready to reenter the workforce, even after a substantial absence, your transition will be an easier and smoother one.
There are a few ways to do this:
Take a specified leave of absence
Consider taking a leave of absence instead of quitting outright. Talk to your senior management and explain that you are interested in taking an extended leave and are willing to make yourself available to any temporary replacements. But that you would like to come back in a certain number of months or years. If you explain your position and situation on a personal level – they make be more apt to part ways in a way that will leave that door open for when you are ready to return.
Keep a foot in the door
If possible arrange your schedule so that you work one or two days a week – part time, flex time, or from home. Buddy up with your partner on child care so that you can work at least a few hours every week and continue to prove your value to the company. Sometimes mothers can work for years on a part-time basis, especially if working for smaller shops and businesses.
Bring your child with you
I know this may sound crazy to some but it is actually more common than you might think. More and more businesses and companies are learning that offering in-house childcare is not only more economical, but results in greater productivity for parents. Knowing that their young children are just a few offices or floors away gives parents the peace of mind needed to focus on their jobs. And whether provided for free or at a minimal fee – is a much more economical solution for both employers and parents. Additionally, some companies allow you to bring your children right into your office. This doesn’t work for all industries of course –a s some are quite dangerous or toxic to little ones. But in relatively safe office environments it’s possible to bring a port crib, a mini nap area, snacks, toys, book, or a table to sit at for crafts projects and coloring, and still assist clients and customers in-house.
Request to work from home
Another option is to request to work from home. If, for example, your job is to schedule appointments or assist customers over the phone, rather than train a new employee on complicated procedures it may be more feasible for your employer to set up a call-forwarding to your home phone a few days a week. I know of one mother who is the receptionist for her husband’s dental office. All of his calls are re-routed to her cell phone and she accepts patient and vendor calls and enters information into the appointment data-base right from the comfort of her home – and in between naps, childcare, and meal-making.
If you job is heavy, on administrative support activities – like writing, responding to e-mails, data entry, or other routine tasks – there is no reason why your employer should refuse to let you work from home. So long as the work is getting done each day or on a weekly basis, flex time is one of the best things to happen out of the technological age. And now with e-mail Skype, and texting we can connect all day long just like we were right there in the office itself.
If you keep your resume current by volunteering in a position similar to any paid positions you’ve had in the past it helps keep your game fresh and your contacts and connections open. Consider working in a volunteer, unpaid, capacity at least a few hours a week (of you can’t find a consultant, freelance, or other paid position). The contacts that you build and people that you meet will also be able to offer current letters of reference if and when you decide to apply to any new positions.
Remember, you alone are responsible for your own financial security, never rely on others to provide for you. Buck up, take care of your own needs and keep your skills current. If you do manage to earn something for your part-time efforts, save them aside for a rainy day or work to pay down any student loan debts or other loans to get into a better financial position moving forward – boosting your credit score in the process. You never know when life may throw you a curve ball, but if it does, you’ll be ready for it!