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Overcoming Return to Work Challenges

Lauren is a stay-at-home mom of five years. She has three kids, ages eight, five, and three. After returning to work shortly after her oldest was born, she decided it was time to pause her career and focus on family when baby #2 came along. She was grateful to be present for so much of her children’s early years. 

Now that all the kiddos have school during the day (even the littlest has part-time preschool!) Lauren is starting to get the itch to go back to work. 

As soon as the thought enters her mind, she pushes it back with a never-ending wave of reasons why returning to paid work would never, well, work. She feels rusty, out of practice, and unprofessional after years of doing the “dirty work” that moms do so well. She can’t imagine a life where she is able to balance her kids, the house, her community activities, and a job. It’s just too much.


Does Lauren’s story sound familiar? As a career coach for parents looking to return to work, I have heard every fear/reason you can think of…

…employers won’t want me after such a long break.

…I’m not good enough to compete in today’s job market.

…I don’t want to go back to my old career, which means I can’t go back to work at all.

…I’m going to have to start from scratch when it comes to learning to be in an adult work environment.

…how will my family adjust if I go back to work? Who will do all the things?

If these fears sound like things that you have been telling yourself, write them down. Write down every single reason why you think you can’t or shouldn’t return to paid work after a career pause. Identifying them is the first step to overcoming them!


There are three challenges that show up on almost every parent’s list, although you might have to read behind the lines to identify it.  They are:

  1. A lack of confidence.
  2. A lack of clarity.
  3. A lack of community support.

These are incredibly common, but also within your control to overcome! 


If you are facing one of these three common challenges, you’re not alone. I’ve helped dozens of moms overcome these return to work challenges, land incredible jobs, and enjoy the success of a career while also enjoying their family. If you need some inspiration, read these amazing success stories from moms who had career pauses that spanned up to 21 years! 

Here are a few tips that I share with all of my Parents Pivot clients for overcoming the top three return to paid work challenges:


If you lack confidence in your skills, you might have written down things like, “I can’t compete in today’s job market.” Or “I’m too rusty and out of practice. Or “I’ve lost my touch.” 

First, you have likely not lost any skills during your career break. I am passionate about helping moms change their perspective on “mom skills” so that they can showcase them as a value to employers. To do this, you can browse the many blog articles I’ve written on the subject: empathy, relationship building, research and problem solving, adaptability and agility, strategic thinking, communication, motivation, and organization

But even if you are rusty in a few more technical areas, there are dozens of free and reasonably priced online courses that you can take to brush up your skills and build your confidence. Coursera, Linkedin Learning, and Udemy are just a few.


This challenge plaques parents looking to return to work, but also working parents who just want a career pivot. If you lack clarity, you might have written down, “I didn’t like my old job.” or “A career wouldn’t allow me to spend as much time with my family as I want.” Simply put, you don’t know what you want to do!

Take the page on which you wrote down your challenges and turn it over. Write out a list of things you like to do, what you don’t like to do, and things you would like to try but haven’t yet. Look for commonalities in the list, and do a little research. What types of jobs are out there that would allow you to do the things you like and avoid the things you don’t like? 

Let’s look again at Lauren’s story. She was a marketer before she left the workforce, but really doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day after being on her feet playing with her kids. She likes the project management side of her old job, and has become very detail oriented with balancing schedules at home. Maybe event planning would be a great way for her to exercise her skills while also getting to be away from her computer quite a bit running an event.


Returning to paid work, while highly satisfying and a great choice for many families, it will not be an easy transition. Not only do you have to transition, but so do your kids, your partner, your friends, and family. If you don’t have the support you need from those in your community, it can be even more of a challenge to return. 

This piece originally appeared on ParentsPivot.comTo learn more about how Parents Pivot can help you achieve the work-life integration that you want as a leader and a parent, visit our Shop for more information on their 1:1 coaching.

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