Before Kids… I was Normal
Before my children were born, I was normal. I realize that this is a statement pretty much any mom reading this can relate to, but bear with me here. Before kids I had a career, or at least a series of retail and administrative jobs that I could piece together into some semblance of a timeline enough to be considered a career. Before children I went to work, came home, spent time by myself, and eventually with my boyfriend and then husband, went to bed and washed, rinsed and repeated the next day. In short, life was easy! And normal! And routine! And then the little ones came along…
If you’ve ever had children of your own you know that those little buggers can be expensive (I love my kids dearly and refer to them as buggers in only the most caring, heartfelt, sometimes exasperated way). When the kids were little I was lucky enough to find a job I was able to work from home. While it wasn’t exactly the same as a full time career, it worked for myself and my family. I considered myself lucky to be able to raise my kids while still helping to provide for my family. There were exasperating days here and there. Days when I went to pick up my coffee and ended up with apple juice instead or days when I juggled conference calls while googling how to get bubblegum unstuck from hair or magic markers off of wall paint. Through all all of this, though, I was still grateful that I was able to keep my professional life going.
This somewhat of a routine continued until the kids grew older. By the time my children were settled in at the elementary school, the company I was working for started to sink and, eventually, closed its doors altogether. My little fantasy life of having it all, career, family and that much needed financial support, came to a crashing halt. We were a double income family and trying to manage with one made our finances a little too tight for comfort.
Our first thought was pinching pennies. It turns out there are only so many stouffer’s pizzas and patched up pants a family can take. I had no idea how fast a kid could grow out of sneakers!! After making some budget cuts, the need to find a source of a second income became imperative. We decided that I needed to re-enter the workforce. My children were in school so the day shift was covered and on mornings where I needed to leave early I was fairly confident in my husbands ability to cook up bacon and eggs without burning the house down. So off to the job hunt I went.
I put together a resume and started applying to jobs. This part of the process was easier than expected. As it turned out, in the time I’d been gone from the real world of careers and employment, most companies had started listing positions online. Bye bye classifieds, hello Google! Before I knew it I was getting call backs for interviews. My confidence was on the rise and I just knew that a lucrative job offer that fit me and my families needs would be right around the corner.
As soon as I hit the in person interviews, though, I realized I was in for a rude awakening. The first thing I noticed was that I was now old(er). Not that I felt old, I mean I could still chase a five year old around while juggling my cell my and morning cup of coffee. But the HR contacts who interviewed me all had fewer years out in the workforce than I had, and still didn’t think my background and experience was particularly interesting or “the right fit” for the position. Needless to say, I didn’t get invited back, or receive any offers.
I wanted to give up. It was obvious that my peanut butter and baby oil trick for removing that previously mentioned bubble gum from hair wasn’t as impressive when compared to other candidates that had continuous, traditional and uninterrupted resumes full of work experience. It seemed hopeless. But there was still that whole pesky money issue. It turns out, you kinda need that stuff to eat and feed your kids, and occasionally buy new clothes for yourself. There’s only so many times you can pass your ripped jeans off as trendy before the other moms in your group start catching on.
So instead of giving in to despair, I redoubled my efforts. I started reading the job listings more closely and only applied for those that matched the previous work experience I did have. I took a few free online certification courses in areas that matched my field, and added those certifications to my resume to show that my skillset was current and applicable. I expanded my search to sites other than the big two or three job boards and even perused freelance listings. In short, I made looking for a job my full time job.
And you know what? It paid off! Before long I not only had an interview and a callback, I had a job offer that allowed me to provide for my family and keep some semblance of normalcy in our home schedule. While it took some time, and a whole lot of effort, I made it happen by not giving up and concentrating on the process as if I were tackling a work project. Moral of the story is that if I can do it, you can do it. If you’re feeling hopeless about returning to the workplace, don’t. The right fit and career will come along if you assert yourself, be open to alternative strategies for looking for work and, most of all, be tenacious in the pursuit of your goals.