Comeback Moms: How to Leave Work, Raise Children, and Restart Your Career Even if You Haven't Had a Job in Years

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9780767922425: Comeback Moms: How to Leave Work, Raise Children, and Restart Your Career Even if You Haven't Had a Job in Years
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Millions of educated, professional women are quitting their jobs to stay home and raise their children.

That would never be you, right? You worked hard for your degree and even harder to get to this point in your career. Quitting now, even for a few years, would kill your career. Right?

That’s what Monica Samuels thought when she found out she was pregnant and boy, was she wrong. Once you have a baby, your life changes in ways you’d never imagine. Some of your friends and family members may think you’ve gone a little crazy—crazy enough to leave a salary and paid vacations to stay home with your child. Before you go storming into your boss’s office to announce your departure, read this book. There’s more to quitting than saying the words. There’s strategy involved.

Over 60 percent of professional women who leave work to raise children want to go back into the workforce someday. If you even think you might want to go back to work, be it in one year or twenty, you need to lay the groundwork now for a successful reentry or your options will be limited. If you do a little planning, you can reposition yourself professionally and have the choice to one day get back on the same career track, shift gears, accelerate, or change careers entirely. And, if you’ve already been out of the workplace for several years and never thought you’d go back, you’ll learn about the best strategies and resources for jumping back in.

Comeback Moms is a practical, commonsense approach to career planning for all mothers. Monica Samuels and J.C. Conklin examine every conceivable angle and obstacle to help you make the best decisions possible before leaving your job, during your time at home, and once you decide to return to work. They offer advice on how to keep one foot in the professional pool, when and if it’s best to go back to school, setting realistic expectations when re-entering an old career, helping your children adjust when you do go back, and on the logistics of rebalancing marital power when a spouse leaves or re-enters the work force. It's all here in an invaluable guide for every woman who wants it all.

"Proving once again that there is no one-size-fits-all approach in women's lives, Monica Samuels and J.C. Conklin's insightful book reveals to us the delicate and complex balance of family, power, and career. A must-read for both women and men seeking to manage career and family sucessfully."
-Representative Dianne White Delisi

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About the Author:

Monica Samuels is a trained environmental and immigration attorney. Although she was given the opportunity to join the Bush administration, Monica elected to stay in Austin and raise her two sons. In 2002, President Bush appointed her to the Board of Directors of the Mickey Leland National Urban Air Toxics Research Center, which she serves on today. J.C. Conklin is an award-winning writer and journalist whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and The Dallas Morning News.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

When Is the Best Time to Cut the Cord?
Maybe you just got the news that you're expecting or maybe you're a veteran mom with middle school-aged kids at home, it doesn't matter where you are on the mom continuum, at some point you'll be confronted with the burning question: Should you stay home with your children? Should you leave a job you love to stay home with your children who you love?

That question avalanches into a blizzard of other worries. If you quit to assume this new role at home, will your career be over? Will you ever work again and if you do will it be in a job you find fulfilling or will it be in a position for which you'll memorize three words: "paper or plastic?"
You stay up late with your friends and debate whether or not you can have it all--career and family. And, like a lot of us, you find that you can't. At least not all at once.
There are basically two reasons mothers decide to quit their jobs--guilt and love.

We visit the day-care facilities we'll be leaving our newborns in. We see row upon row of cribs decorated with a few items from home--sort of the way inmates adorn their prison cells. We see the babies sleeping or staring at the ceiling but not doing much else until their number comes up for a diaper change or bottle.

We see this and we think--not our babies. We're not going to do that to our babies. So we quit to diaper and feed them ourselves.

Or we tough it out for a few years and one day we catch ourselves staring at our computer screens thinking, What am I doing here at while my children see me just a couple of hours each evening and on weekends? This isn't worth it. So we quit.
This may seem obvious. You want to quit because you want to nurture your baby. Just like we said, right? You want to watch your child learn to crawl and walk. But, before you even think about quitting, let's make sure that's what's going on.

Our friend, Darcy, is a good example of why not to quit your job.

Darcy didn't just hate her job, she loathed being a physical therapist. She moved from office to office until she ran out of places to go and she realized it wasn't the people, it was the work; she abhorred the tedious insurance forms. Because she hated her job, her husband and two children were miserable. Nobody wanted to be within one hundred feet of Mommy when she returned from work each day for fear of finding out that once again she had a bad day at the office.

At lunch one day, we noticed Darcy wasn't her normal tense self. She told us that she and her husband were considering her quitting her job to stay home with their kids.

"We know it will be tough," Darcy explained between bites of Caesar salad, "but we think it's the right thing to do."

Two months later, Darcy made the big move. Rather than leave quietly, she made sure that all the other therapists knew that she hated the place and was glad to be going. Her departing remark was something along the lines of, "Good luck, suckers."

A week after her departure, we lunched while her kids were in school. She was happy and full of plans.

"We definitely need to do a spa day," she told us excitedly. "And maybe we could all get together for drinks one night a week. I'm also thinking a girls' trip to Hawaii might be nice."

We looked across the table at each other, and it was clear we were both thinking the same thing.

Alarm bells were sounding over Darcy's head.
She thinks she's on vacation!

A month later she shared her itinerary with us. The children were out of school for the summer, so she had lots of time to spend with them. Darcy said she had taken the children shopping, swimming, golfing, and to some of the better restaurants in town. She had also seen almost every movie playing. Her elementary school-aged children saw R-rated movies with her. On a whim, she got a tattoo. We're not sure if the kids went along for that field trip.

When school started, Darcy's vacation abruptly ended. Her husband gave her an ultimatum. The spending had to stop or she had to go back to work. She chose to budget.

With Darcy on a budget and the children in school, she had to find other activities to occupy her time. She started volunteering at her children's school. Soon she was chairing every carnival and fund-raiser it hosted. She was working like she was trying to make partner.

The demands of her volunteer activities spilled over into her evenings and weekends. She had to hire a part-time babysitter because she was away so much. Within a few months, she was bitterly complaining.

"I had it easier when I was working, and I was paid for it," she groaned.

Once Darcy's initial euphoria over leaving the job she hated and her mini-vacation ended, she was dissatisfied with her life. She didn't like all the cleaning and cooking she had to do. She didn't see her children as much as she thought she would because they were occupied with school, sports, and dance classes. Plus she was busy with fund-raisers, which she didn't enjoy all that much because the other volunteers weren't as "professional" as she was.

"They don't take their duties seriously. Some don't even show up when they're supposed to," she complained. She questioned her place in the world. After months of swinging back and forth on the pendulum of depression and denial, she realized she needed a new profession. After a year of saving the money for tuition, she's now studying to become a psychologist.

We're not saying that you shouldn't enjoy yourself when you're at home with your child. For a lot of us staying home is more stressful than working outside the home. We need relaxation and down time. We should never feel guilty about taking that time or a spa day.

Be clear about why you're quitting. Don't simply make your children an excuse for leaving an unpleasant work situation. If you realize you hate your job then make sure you know that's why you're leaving. Make a list of all your reasons for choosing to stay home. Be honest with yourself. Is there more to your decision than just wanting to take care of your children? If most of the items on your list relate to problems at work, consider the possibility that what you really need to do is find a new job. And, if you're still sure you want to quit and stay at home, knowing what is motivating you to leave your job now will help you figure out what job you would like when and if you decide to go back into the workforce later.
In addition to analyzing why you're really quitting, think carefully about what your expectations are when you do quit. Make sure that you aren't expecting too much from the experience, because if you do and you're disappointed, your family will suffer.

An analogy can be drawn to psychologists who interview patients undergoing organ transplants or gastric bypass surgery before clearing them for these procedures. The psychologist will ask a morbidly obese woman, for example, what she expects from a gastric bypass operation. If she says she expects it to completely change her life for the better, she isn't cleared for the operation, because while the surgery can improve her life, it isn't a panacea for all her problems. Instead, she's sent for counseling until the psychologist feels her expectations square with reality.

While your decision to stay home certainly doesn't fall in the same category as major surgery, the psychology is the same. If your expectations for the experience don't fit the reality of what's about to happen, you and your children will pay the price. For you, this may mean dealing with a period of disappointment and perhaps even depression later. For your children, it may result in them becoming anxious and acting out.

Carolyn is a woman who thrives on external motivators. She craves accolades from others, winning awards at work, and getting promotions. Before deciding to stay home with the kids, she had to take a long hard look at the reality of the situation.

"It dawned on me one day that I wouldn't have the same things that motivated me at work keeping me going at home," she said. "Clearly, my son wasn't ever going to heap praise on me for the exciting way I read him a bedtime story, and my daughter wasn't likely to present me with an award for driving her around town all week."

In the end, Carolyn decided to stay home, but she is careful to do it in a way that still meets her own needs for fulfillment. While her kids are in school, Carolyn participates in civic groups and community projects where she can still get a pat on the back every once in awhile and perhaps even win an award. By taking this approach, she is dealing with the reality of staying at home in a way that best fits her personality and is realistic as to her needs. Had she not taken this good hard look at herself in advance, she likely would have simply quit and been extremely disappointed with her life. Now Carolyn can plan her return to work at her own pace rather than desperately running back to work after a bad experience at home.
Okay, so you've really thought about it and you definitely want to quit. The most important thing to know now is when is the best time to cut the cord.
When You're Pregnant for the First Time
Never act rashly during pregnancy because you don't know if it's the hormones talking or you. Spur of the moment is out. Slow down. Think it over for a week. At the end of the week, think it over for another week. If you still want to quit, don't. At least not right away. You have to devise a game plan.

Why would we say something so awful when you're absolutely sure leaving your job in two weeks is the absolute best thing for you and the baby? Because...

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