I find myself in a new phase of life, where I’m out of the baby stage & into middle/high school teenager stage, but my kids aren’t adults yet (somehow, this is still news to them). As a mother of 4 girls, I’m very focused on what teenage girls go through and try hard to guide my older kids into young adulthood without going insane myself. Wine helps.
One of the things that my husband & I teach our kids is the importance of working. I was raised by parents from a hard-working European immigrant background. Growing up, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t work for a living. It’s something that was simply assumed & I knew it was what I wanted.
As I entered adulthood, I began to appreciate one benefit of the feminist movement – the idea of choice. I could have a family & choose to be a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom), I could have a job to pay the bills, or I could work towards having a long-term career. I’ve done all 3 at different points in my life & freely admit that being a SAHM was the hardest. I have a lot of respect for women who choose this path. It certainly isn’t an easy one.
Having said that, over time I’ve begun to notice an increase of women wanting or needing to re-enter the workforce after a long period of time out of it. It’s concerning because the longer the break, the more difficult it can be.
RETURNING TO THE WORKFORCE AFTER A LENGTHY BREAK
Going back to the workforce after several years out of it can be challenging. Sometimes it’s a desire to return to a profession in the post-SAHM years, when the kids have grown up. Other times it’s simply because they want to focus on themselves outside of the wife & mother roles. In these situations, women find themselves in a tough spot. Returning to the workforce after 10+ years can be extremely difficult; many find that they’re virtually unhirable. There are resources to help, but they’re too few and far between.
THE UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATION
Time to get uncomfortable.
Life can change suddenly & for the unprepared, it can completely crash their world. Here I refer to one of the DID’s (Divorce, Illness, Death). I see it all too often – a couple divorces, a husband becomes seriously ill or there is a tragic event of a death. When this happens, if a woman has no financial independence or marketable skills, she is left with little recourse to support herself and her children. Some can rely on family for financial support, others can’t or don’t want to.
This is why it is so important for women to be financially independent, or at least to have the ability to become so.
In May 2015, an ex-marine wrote a column on USA Today titled “Why I Won’t Let My Wife Quit Her Job”. I was floored by what this man had to say & 3 things he said stuck with me:
• I worry if something were to happen to me, she’d have to start over at a much older age.
• I don’t want to pay for our daughter’s college tuition, just to see her walk away and let a man take care of her.
• I don’t want our daughter — or my wife — to ever be in a bad marriage and feel they are stuck because they have no experience, no options or can’t make enough money to sustain themselves.
Countless times I’ve heard someone say “I don’t know how, my husband always took care of that” or “I can’t afford to get divorced because I don’t have my own source of income”. There are many inspiring news stories & articles about women who triumphed over difficult odds & yes, those are moving, but they are the exception, not the norm.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Women can stay professionally relevant in the SAHM years, even during the day when the kids are in school.
• Go out for coffee with a former colleague or a friend who works in a field you’re interested in
• Take online courses to keep your skills relevant or learn new ones
• Read books & articles
• Use social media to stay in touch with former co-workers or reach out to people in your industry
• Network, network, network!
During a period of freelance recruiting, I once reviewed a resume from a candidate which really stood apart from the others. In her cover letter, the woman explained that during her SAHM years, she coordinated fundraising efforts for her son’s school, organized field trips, volunteered at a youth center & managed social media accounts for a friend’s small business. Her point was although she wasn’t officially in a professional work capacity, she used management skills, handled large amounts of funds & developed social media skills.
So ladies, and men who are married to or in a relationship with them, please, for your own sake & the sake of your families & loved ones, please learn a trade, gain professional skills & network with other business people. You never know when you’ll need something to fall back on or simply want to start a new phase of your life.
Time for that glass of wine now.