Who knew babies weren't boring?
October 4, 2010 6:53 PM   Subscribe

For those of you who have decided to stay home with your kids, how did you exit the workforce gracefully so that you were well positioned to return at a later date?

I want to spend more time with my child who is 8 months old. Right now, I have a job that demands 55 - 60 hours per week, with frequent evening and weekend commitments. There is no possibility of negotiating a reduced schedule or part-time opportunity within the organization.

I've looked for part-time work (nonprofit development/grant writing) but can't seem to find anything at the moment. The only part-time gigs available now would take me in a different, more clerical direction, which I'm afraid could be tough to explain to future employers. I wonder if I would be better making a clean break and taking a few years off rather than diverting to something else seemingly unrelated to my past eight years of experience.

Seeking any advice, considerations, anecdotes or general feedback concerning the decision to leave work for a few years.

(NB: I am well aware of the adverse financial effects this will pose to me and Mr. Brunette, but I just adore this kid more than I ever thought possible and am willing to sacrifice financial gain in order to have more time with her.)
posted by thenewbrunette to Work & Money (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
What do you do? After getting laid off by government in November last year, I have worked from home. I do copywriting, translation and project management activities, as well as grant writing for non-profits and business dev. While I have quite an excellent network in four cities in 3 different countries, I would imagine you could probably do at least some of the things that I do.

For grant writing, it always pays to know where the money is. So, instead of asking a non-profit if they need any help writing grants, find the money first and let an org know about it. This has worked for me twice in the past twelve months. In one case I wrote the grant and then was actually hired to carry out the project funded by the grant. In another cases I secured the funding, only to find that the org (a different org) went out of business just as I found the funding. If they had continued on, I could have probably secured about $1M for them, and I would have made a commission of about 5%.

It helps that I have done this sort of thing for the past five years, and have a good reputation in the community and a strong track record.

However, the past year has been pretty lean, so I've really tried to focus my efforts in the field of copywriting and marketing writing (white hat SEO).

Optimizing websites for Google Search is pretty basic, and pretty easy to learn how to do, and you can do as much or as little as you want.

The first thing to do is to start networking. Contact competent, credible web development companies, and see if they need help. Offer to intern for a month to learn the ropes.

That's what I would do.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:34 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have been home for about three years from a finance job, similar constraints-hard to make it part time. I have taken on some consulting work here and there but have been largely been chasing my kids and allowing my very expensive education to be replaced by Elmo songs for the last three years. When I left work, I gave them as much notice as possible so that I wouldn't burn that bridge in an effort to preserve my last reference for the foreseeable future.

I recently started looking at going back. I was very worried that due to the changes in the economy, I'd have been left in the dust. But what I've found is that most employers totally get that I had a baby (in fact, two) and decided to be home for a while. As I've interviewed and received several offers, I've been careful to go into every interview as current as possible. I read everything I can about the industry because I don't want to be caught flatfooted. I've joined a women's networking group so that some of these interviews are set up by women I know socially and I've stayed current with former coworkers. All of that seems to have helped. But I'll be honest-the offers I'm getting are a little lower than what I made three years ago when I stopped working. Which sucks. I guess my point is that I bet you'll be able to come back from it if you stay on top of your industry while you are gone, but expect some setback.

Last-I admit I've run into a couple companies that were perplexed by all the perceived nothing I've been doing for three years. It was easy for me to dismiss these companies because if they don't understand me taking time off to be with my new baby, how the hell will they handle me taking time off for that child getting ill or starring in the school play? A family friendly company (which is what you'll want to work for from here on out if you can) gets why you want to be home and will get it in the future.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:35 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am at home right now; to "keep my hand in" and have advanced my skills during my time at home (though I'm not sure whether I will go back into the same industry or a different one):

*I teach a couple classes as an adjunct at the local community college (evenings or weekends so the mister is with the baby; also one online);
*I volunteer with a couple of different organizations (sit on a community non-profit's board, do volunteer communications and fundraising for a local museum, participate in various green initiatives);
*and I am active in local politics (I actually serve in unpaid elected office, but I'd suggest there are plenty of city commissions, county appointed boards, etc., that need members; even just becoming active with a local party or in a particular local issue -- there are a lot of moms in many advocacy groups with kids in tow) and my local neighborhood association

These all help me advance various skills, although it's not a united skillset with a specific goal. I also meet a LOT of people through these activities, and people get to know me as someone who's passionate, active, effective, etc. I think this will help when I go back. :) And politics and volunteering mostly let you bring the baby along.

(I also keep my professional license up to date because in this economy, you just never know.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:18 PM on October 4, 2010

I've never had a baby, but I have had some other stuff going on the past three years. Luckily, I've had one steady part time job that looks pretty ok on my resume.

And why does it look pretty ok? Because my reference was glowing, and hiring managers don't ask you, 'was that a full time position?' (my pay at the part time job is awesome though, and i am still there on sundays) They might ask about salary, but remember in negotiating, the first person to name a number loses, so don't answer that.

So getting a part time gig in something sort of related (and you can probably make anything sound sort of related), and do your best to stick with it. This way you can continue to accrue social security time (if you're in the US) and perhaps squirrel away some savings or fund a vacation.

This keeps your resume 'up to date' and allows you a bit of time out of the house on either a regular or a flexible basis.

love the billy bragg reference!
posted by bilabial at 8:31 PM on October 4, 2010

When I had my son, I tried returning to my job part time after only 7 weeks of leave. I decided that it was just too much, so I consulted with my husband, my supervisor, and my HR generalist. I decided to leave, and I put in two weeks notice and made sure that I was eligible for rehire at the company. Now, I am trying to get back into the workforce, and have applied to several companies, but I have had no luck. I think that being unemployed for a year has left me at a disadvantage, because I have been doing nothing to develop skills in my field, and the job market is just not great right now.

It sounds like you're in a completely different field than I am (my experience is in biomedical research), so I don't know what the job market is like for your field. I would recommend taking a part time job, even if it isn't ideal, just so that you can show that you've been employed, and you're gaining experience. If you don't plan to return to work for a few years, then maybe the economy will pick up and it won't matter so much. But in my experience, having some work history is better than none.
posted by lexicakes at 10:20 PM on October 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the great and varied perspectives. They are all helpful and constructive--best answers all around!
posted by thenewbrunette at 8:59 AM on October 6, 2010

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