By Katie Rössler and Abigail Fobangong
When you become a stay at home mom after working, life changes dramatically. You go from receiving feedback, reporting to a boss or customers, completing daily/weekly/monthly tasks, having accountability and receiving acknowledgments to a much slower paced life. You are now responsible for taking care of a small baby who will not be able to thank you for a while, and you now have to see your home as a workplace instead of where you can relax. It is such a challenging time for many moms! There comes a point for some where they get to decide if they will go back into the working world in some form or fashion. It is not always an easy decision and it comes along with new thoughts and emotions that pre-child you probably would not have faced.
Am I really ready to go back to work?
One of the first questions that we ask ourselves is if we are “ready”. This question is supported by fear, anxiety, and sometimes embarrassment. We begin to question if we still “have it”. Will we be sharp enough? Can we focus on our job versus how our child is, what needs to get done still at home, and what will we have for dinner? We go from a “job” of taking care of a home and child, which sometimes involves limited time for feeling like an adult, to being in the workplace where most haven’t had time away and continued to keep themselves on top of what is going on in their work world. It can feel like it’s just easier to stay at home than put ourselves back out there. But why? Haven’t we been managing a home? Keeping a whole family system organized and functioning? What we may lack in updated knowledge in our field, we make up for in practical knowledge and experience that keeps us working hard and accomplishing tasks efficiently (because you just don’t know how long that nap is going to last!).
But I am not who I used to be…
I, Katie, used to cry to my husband that I didn’t go to school to learn how to take care of a home or raise a child. I felt so angry that all my education that I paid so much for wasn’t being used in the day to day. Some time after my first daughter was born, I noticed a change in me. My priorities were different. My brain was different. I had matured, but at first I saw it as a regression. I thought because I wasn’t sharp in my field any more that I was SO far behind others who had not taken time off. It wasn’t until I started my second company (another kid later) that I realized I was even better at my job than before I had my first child. I still needed to sharpen my brain in the field of psychology and counseling, but it was like riding a bike. The best part was I now had a perspective on life that helped me balance much better than I did before.
Will my family still function if I go back to work?
Recently I, Abigail, went back to work for the second time. After my son was born I got to choose when, how, and what I would be doing. I initially chose to work from home full-time while simultaneously caring for the kids and managing our home. Working from home gave the illusion that I could meet more of our family needs than was realistic, and I knew that a few things needed to change. First, reducing my work hours to an amount that fit my family’s rhythm was the key to balancing the needs of myself, my husband and both the kids. Second, I needed to ask for help. My husband offered to cover some chores and we hired a house cleaner to help with big tasks. Third, I took notice of my son’s growing activity level and curiosity – it was a perfect time to introduce him to the mini-kindi. It has been wonderful to see how our family rhythm has developed and even our little man is thriving with this new schedule!
Tell yourself the truth
As women, we are our harshest critics, and we tend to tell ourselves lies that we are not good enough and we can’t make it work. It’s time to start challenging this negative self-talk and be more realistic. If you are ready to go back into the workplace, sit down and write out what type of position you would like to do with the hours you actually can work. Be realistic about what you and a company can agree upon. The key is write it down first. Yes, it will probably change, but instead of being abstract thoughts in your head, putting pen to paper helps you face what you want and what you can accomplish.
Begin reading books, journals, news, articles, etc in your field. Ideally, you can be doing this during your time as a stay at home mom, but now it is even more important as you embark on the adventure of returning to work.
Applying for jobs is the next daunting task. You already have your realistic goals of what type of job you would like to have; now set out with the same level of determination you have to get your child to sleep through the night to look for a job. You may not find the perfect match, but knowing your priorities will help you decide what is worth compromising on. Be creative when searching. It is so easy to search for exactly the job we were doing before, but maybe there are areas of your field where you would like to develop your skills and have enough qualifications to apply for. In Germany, you have protection over keeping a job at a company, but that doesn’t always mean you and the company will agree on the type of job and hours you will be working when you return. Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere to see which companies are looking for someone like you.
With all of the ways that motherhood has allowed you to grow, it’s no wonder that it feels like a tall order to figure out if this whole “back” to work thing is for you. You may not feel that all of the details are ironed out, or that you will fit back into the same job seamlessly, or that your new family rhythm will flow … yet you know that you are strong, determined, and supported. The outcome may not be what you set out to find, but you may be beautifully surprised by the way that you, your partner, and your kid(s) work together and depend on each other. This is your life. And finding a balance of things that satisfy and invigorate you is all part of the journey!
Katie Rössler is a licensed professional counselor from the United States. After living in Munich for about a year with her husband and two girls, she started Positive Connections providing workshops on relationship building skills. Katie enjoys running, hiking, and doing yoga. In 2013, she completed a yoga streak and is hoping to do another in the future. Katie believes in the importance of self-care, especially during difficult life stages, and enjoys helping people to grow.
Abigail is a Minnesota-born, wild rice and lefse-loving, active wife, mama, sister, and friend. She loves being creative, edelbitter schokolade, sushi, sunshine, thinking too much, red wine, and ocean waves. She is learning to dance with princesses, walk slowly while holding hands, be intentional with relationships, and make African cuisine. Abigail lives in Stuttgart with her husband, daughter (4) and son (1). They will move to Morocco this spring. This makes her best friend Katie very sad but super excited for her next adventure!