In recent decades, the tech industry has catapulted forward at a break-neck pace. Keeping up-to-date can be a challenge for anyone, but especially for busy moms returning from a much-needed parenting break.
How can you balance your family responsibilities with the demands of the ever-evolving tech scene? Tech mamas, do not fear! Below, you will find a roadmap to success so that you can get back to the code with confidence.
Face the Gap Head-On
For many years, employment gaps were a red flag to employers. If an individual had spent months or even years out of the workforce, hiring managers made negative assumptions, for example, that their skills were no longer up-to-date or that they would not prove to be reliable, long-term hires. This leaves many returning parents wondering how to explain gaps in a resume.
The good news is that those preconceived notions are now nearly a non-issue. In 2002, CNN declared that “resume gaps aren’t a big deal anymore.” Why not? The pandemic played a major role in lessening the stigma, as millions spent months or years out of the workforce caring for children, sick family members, or because their workplace closed its doors due to COVID restrictions.
Rather than ignoring the presence of a career break, face it head-on. You can start by adding a career break to your LinkedIn profile.
When applying for a job, briefly and honestly address your time away from work in your cover letter. Be prepared to talk about it at your interview, but don’t go into too much detail. Katy Curameng, the University of Massachusetts Global director of career planning and development explains that employers simply “want assurance that whatever the reason for the gap, it won’t keep you from being successful at their organization.”
Think, too, about how you can leverage things you learned during the career break. How might your parenting experience contribute to teamwork or leadership? Additionally, you can include any classes, projects, or volunteerism from that time on your resume. This provides evidence that, while you were not working in a paid position, you were still actively engaged in your field. Finally, any new certifications or skills will give you the confidence that you still have what it takes to succeed.
A broader acceptance of career gaps wasn’t the only legacy of the pandemic workplace. There are now more options than ever that allow for flexible schedules to suit your needs. Additionally, the tech world is uniquely adapted to flexible work strategies. Many tech jobs, from coding to data analysis, can be performed from any computer with internet access.
What does this mean for you? Instead of jumping directly from full-time parenting to full-time at the office, you may be able to work completely remotely or pursue a hybrid schedule that blends time at the office with time at home. You may also be able to set the hours in which you are engaged in remote work. This can enable you to balance your parenting and career responsibilities—for example, working from home when the children are sick or starting your day after they’re dropped off at school.
How can you find jobs with such flexible schedules? Most job search websites allow you to filter by workplace type.
You might also think about easing yourself back into your career by starting with a part-time position. This will allow you to have several full parenting days each week, making the emotional transition easier for both you and your children. We’ll talk more about the mental health aspects of going back to work in the next section.
Changing your routine can be taxing to the mind, body, and emotions. This is especially so since your new job adds a suite of responsibilities to your plate.
Before you return to work, get in the habit of practicing self-care. Try to arrange your daily activities so that you get plenty of sleep, a bit of exercise, and regular nourishing meals each day. Some experts say that it takes 14 to 28 days to form a solid habit, so begin this healthful routine at least a month before you return to work.
While you are excited about your new career prospects, you may be surprised that you experience sadness, anger, or guilt as well. Spending less time with your family could register as a loss. This is sometimes referred to as “mom guilt.” If this is true in your case, allow yourself to grieve. Don’t let negative emotions take over, however—returning to work does not make you a bad parent. You are a good mom, so remind yourself of that fact as often as you need to. Share your feelings with your partner or another trusted friend.
Moms who STEM make great role models for their children, and they can face the challenges of returning to work after a parenting break successfully. Don’t hide the fact that you took a parenting break; focus on what you learned from it. When returning, choose flexible positions with schedules that work well for you and your family. Don’t forget to take good care of yourself, both during your career break and after it.