A Stay at Home Mom’s Guide for Getting Back Into the Workforce

Looking to get back into the workforce after raising a family? Here are some common challenges you might face — and how to overcome them.

5 months ago   •   8 min read

By Resume Worded Editorial Team
Table of contents

Reentering the workforce after taking time off is never easy — and this goes double for stay at home parents. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while to raise your kids, the prospect of finding work again may seem a little daunting, and for good reason. But that doesn’t mean that reentering the workforce has to be an uphill battle, especially with a few key pointers to set you in the right direction.

Challenges faced by stay at home moms

In an ideal world, stay at home moms wouldn’t find it any harder to land a position than an average job seeker. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely true — researchers have found that parents who opted out of the workforce to raise children may face twice as many difficulties as those who are unemployed for other reasons. These are a few things to be particularly aware of:

Resume gaps

Employers don’t love resume gaps, but gaps don’t have to be a dealbreaker, either. Even a long gap, like the time it takes to raise a few children, isn’t prohibitive. Most employers will only want to know the reason behind the gap — which is easy to explain — and that you’re now able to commit to work.

Ageism

This is one issue that shouldn’t exist, but does. Consciously or unconsciously, there are some employers who are biased in favor of younger hires. There are a couple of simple ways you can help combat this, like removing the dates from your education section and leaving much older jobs off your resume entirely.

Other employer biases

As a stay at home mom, you’re likely to encounter your fair share of stereotypes during your job search. Some employers may have concerns about your ability to readjust to the workforce, your dedication to the job, or that a long absence means you’re now out of touch with modern technology and workplace practices. You can counter this with a stellar resume and cover letter, and by being prepared to answer probing questions during the interview stage.

Steps for getting back into the workforce

Despite its challenges, returning to work as a stay at home parent is far from impossible. Here are some of the most important things you can do to make that next step a little easier.

Network

In any job search, networking is key. This might feel awkward if you’ve fallen out of touch with most of your former colleagues, but don’t let that deter you! It’s totally normal to reach out to old contacts when you’ve just started looking for jobs.

If you’re looking to get back into your former industry — or maybe even hoping to resume the job you left — the best place to start is with former coworkers and managers. Some may still be working in similar roles, and even those who’ve left might have some good leads. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding people you’ve lost touch with as well as looking up new contacts in your chosen industry. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, check out our detailed step-by-step guide on how to get referred to your dream job. Here’s a sample email template to help you get started:

Hi [Contact Name],

It’s been a while! How have you been? I heard you’re now working at (new job or position], congratulations! How is that going?

I’m looking to get back into [your chosen role or industry] and would love to reconnect — are you free for a quick chat sometime soon? I’m sure you’re busy, so please let me know any time that suits. It’d be great to catch up over a cup of coffee or Zoom call.

Best,
[Your Name]

And don’t just focus on job leads — especially if you’re coming back after a long absence, informational interviews are just as valuable. Set up a few calls or short meetings to ask about how the industry has changed, what the kind of roles you’re seeking are really like, and how other former stay at home parents made the transition.

Build work experience

Getting some recent work experience on your resume doesn’t just make you a more appealing candidate to hiring managers, it can also be a way of combating a large resume gap. This doesn’t have to be full-time work —part-time and temporary work, volunteering, and personal projects can all have a place on your resume. Consider:

  • Asking your previous employer if they could use your help on a contract basis.
  • Using sites like Upwork to find freelance work.
  • Looking for gig work like user testing websites, taking online surveys, or becoming a secret shopper or delivery driver.
  • Working from home as a virtual assistant, customer support representative, or contact tracer.
  • Applying for an adult internship to get relevant experience in your field and build networking contacts.

Upskill

If you’re moving — or returning — to an industry that requires specific skills or qualifications, further education might be your best bet. Even a short or online course could be enough to get you the qualification you need or get you up to speed on any new technologies you might have missed out on while you’ve been away.

Education can also be an alternative to jumping straight into full-time work. If your reasons for returning to work are more personal and less financial, going for a degree could be a great way of doing something productive with your time while taking a little extra time to figure out what direction is right for you. It may not be an option for everybody, but every step you take is a step in the right direction.

Improve your resume

The very best thing you can do for your job search is to have a good resume. That doesn’t mean you need to have a perfect work history — it’s all about the way you present the experience you do have, like using a clean, easy to read format (like these resume templates) and using bullet points to demonstrate accomplishments rather than listing duties. If you’re unsure how yours holds up, use our free resume checker to get expert feedback on how to improve.

If the bulk of your resume is solid, smaller changes can make a difference, too. If you’re changing careers, a resume summary can help contextualize why you’re making the shift and what transferable skills you bring to the table. If you’re worried about potential age discrimination — especially if you’re competing with a lot of recent grads or entry-level candidates — leaving the dates off your education section can help. So can dropping much-older work experience, unless it’s particularly impressive.

As tempting as it may seem, don’t include “Stay at Home Parent” in your work experience section. If you want to, you can address it the way you would any other resume gap, but it doesn’t belong in the same category as paid work and is likely to come off looking a bit odd if you try to list it that way. Another thing to steer clear of is a functional resume format, which removes dates and sometimes job titles from your work history. Even if you have limited work experience, stick to a standard chronological resume format.

Update your LinkedIn profile

If you haven’t touched your LinkedIn profile in a while: Update it. If you don’t have one: Create one. Over the past decade or so, LinkedIn has become essential in building and maintaining a professional network, especially for job seekers. If you’re in need of a bit more guidance, check out our comprehensive tool for getting found on LinkedIn and read our guide on how to write the perfect LinkedIn connection request if you need to build your network quickly.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to curate your other social media. Everything you put online is searchable these days, so make sure there’s nothing on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.

Tips for stay at home parents

Consider your options

Contrary to popular opinion, remaining a stay at home mom forever or immediately returning to full-time work aren’t your only options. Maybe part-time work offers the flexibility you need to juggle kids and a career, or maybe working from home is more your style. Freelancing, contract work, and volunteering are all options, too.

If you are keen to restart your full-time career, this might be the perfect opportunity to consider other roles or industries. After all, what better time to change careers than when you’re starting fresh?

Do some research

Even if you’re returning to your previous role in the same company, things may have changed more than you think. Even a few years away is enough for skills to get rusty, technology to become outdated, and whole industries to move in a new direction. Make sure you’ve brushed up on the most important changes since you’ve been away and ideally chatted with a couple of (old or new) colleagues.

Be prepared to answer questions

The biggest question you’re likely to get is the one about the major gap on your resume. It’s fine to be straightforward about it — you took some time off when your children were born and are now eager to throw yourself into your career. If you’d rather not be that candid, saying you took time off for personal reasons is okay, too, but may leave employers wondering what those reasons were. You may get other questions, too — are you truly ready to return to full-time work, how do you think you’ll handle working and being a parent, how have you kept your skills sharp during your time away from work. Having a short script ready to navigate any tricky questions can help you keep the focus where you want it — on how you’d be a good fit for the role.

Know your rights

It’s okay to ask employers about things like flexible working arrangements and accommodations for working parents. You likely won’t be legally entitled to these, but it’s still a common request, and a good thing to bring up once you get to the offer stage. You should also be clear on whether you’re covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and what that means for your rights.

Avoid scams

Websites that advertise “easy jobs for stay at home moms'' or “make $2000 per week by sitting on the couch” may sound like a pretty good deal, but these gigs are rarely as perfect as they first appear. Anything that seems too good to be true usually is, especially if it comes with upfront fees, like multi level marketing (MLM) schemes or courses from self-proclaimed gurus.

The best jobs for stay at home moms returning back to work

Ready to dive back in but aren’t 100% sure where to begin? It’s a good idea to start by looking for a role that offers flexibility, decent work-life balance, and possibly even the option of working from home. Here are some jobs that may be ideal for stay at home moms returning to the workforce.

Education

Chances are, you’ve spent a fair amount of time teaching your children, whether you realize it or not. Looking for jobs as a substitute teacher, teaching assistant, or tutor could be a way for you to flex those transferable skills you’ve been honing in the background.

Childcare

There’s no doubt that stay at home moms are qualified for this one. If you’re looking for a role with flexibility that allows you to work around the hours of your own kids’ education or childcare, why not consider becoming a childcare worker? With the right licence and facilities, you could even open up your own daycare.

Hospitality and customer service

Waitressing, bartending, or working in retail may not be the most glamorous of jobs, but they’re great for people looking to get a foot in the door. They also offer flexible hours that you can schedule around your life and are perfect if you’re only looking to work part-time. Jobs like telemarketing and call handling can often be done from home, too.

Administrative

In a similar vein, administrative assistant and data entry jobs also frequently offer part-time hours. Want to work from home? Recent years have seen a surge in demand for virtual assistants, perfect for anyone with excellent organizational skills.

Healthcare and fitness

There are plenty of jobs in healthcare-related fields that don’t require a massive time commitment. Medical coders and records clerks are lowkey jobs that still allow you to be involved in helping people. If you love keeping active, consider jobs like fitness instructor, massage therapist, or health coach.

Creative

If you’re looking for something a little more creative, why not try freelancing? Freelancing writers, artists, programmers, and graphic designers are all in demand. If you have an artistic hobby, you might also consider turning that into a side hustle or full-on business — why not knit or make candles for a living, if that’s what you enjoy?

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