March 5, 2007
Methods for clearing back-to-work hurdles
Beth Herrild and Carolyn Harvey, co-owners of the Bellevue consulting firm Quest for Balance, share some pitfalls that back-to-work moms often face — and tips for avoiding them.
You've got a new job. And all your old ones.
• Sit down with your partner and kids to lay out the benefits of a working mom, as well as the need for new responsibilities. Ask kids for input and suggestions. Set boundaries, such as, "I do wash this day. If it's not in the laundry pile, you're on your own."
• Wrap up volunteer projects, and delegate where possible.
You're overwhelmed trying to meet the same standards.
• Look for short cuts, and consider paying for help.
• Plan meals in advance. "You don't want to be inventing that the first week of your job," Harvey said.
"If you're used to a certain level of cleanliness, let it go," Herrild advises. Likewise, stop managing every household detail. "Pick what you control, or you'll make yourself crazy," Harvey said.
You're stressed out.
• Pay attention to transitions. Use the few minutes before you get home to mentally change hats. "Then you arrive home ready to take on the transition rather than having it smack you in the face," Herrild said. Spend a few minutes connecting with kids before making dinner.
• "Realize you're going to be really, really tired the first few weeks," Herrild said. Keep weekends low-key, and take a real lunch break. Make exercise a priority.
• For child care, plan a backup of your backup. Anticipate the unexpected; put neighbors' and friends' numbers in your cellphone for emergencies. Watch other people's kids on the weekend to build goodwill.
• Bellevue mom Catherine Springman paid for a wardrobe audit to help boost her confidence before starting a sales job after eight years at home. A Nordstrom personal shopper went through her closet to cull out-of-date styles, then helped her rebuild her work basics. "I didn't want clients to look at me and think, 'Who's that frumpy, out-of-date woman?' "
Then she got a Clinique makeover and chic haircut. "It absolutely helped," she said. "I might have been out of it for eight years, but when I went into the office, I knew I was ready to take on the world."
• Take computer classes or use tutorials. "It used to be employers wanted a 'go-getter,' " Herrild said. "Now they want to see a list of what software programs you're proficient in."
Springman used a computer at home but budgeted extra time outside of work to get up to speed. "One of the biggest challenges was coming into the office and learning all these machines," she said. "It added to the initial overwhelming feeling."
Herrild and Harvey are co-authors of "Comfortable Chaos: Forget 'Balance' and Make Career and Family Choices That Work for You." They give seminars and run a recruiting service called Talent Bench for moms returning to the workforce. www.questforbalance.net
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