Back to work: Stay-at-home mom re-enters workforce sooner than planned

Meghann Reed recently returned to the workforce as an event consultant after a stint as a stay-at-home mom. Although she'd planned to continue caring for her two daughters full-time, family finances pushed her back to work. Like many women, the Corning, N.Y., woman is conflicted about being a working mom and sometimes feels guilty or angry about the thought of leaving her children, Mykaela and Savannah.

"In a perfect world I would be a stay-at-home mom until both of my girls were in school. In fact, I would love to have a third, but have that on the back burner for now because I would want to stay home for the first year and at the moment it wouldn't be possible," Reed says. "My 2-year-old still cries every day when I leave and my 3-year old has become very clingy. It isn't easy."

Reed found herself returning to work after her husband, a carpenter for a local community college, was injured on the job. When they realized his injury would keep him from returning to work for a while, the couple decided that he would care for the girls and she would return to work. "This September would have been his 16th year there. He also worked part-time as a self-employed contractor, but that had to be put that on hold for the time being as well."

The couple's recent role reversal was just part of a broader trend of women, for the first time, being on the verge of outnumbering men in the workforce. That's due in large part to men being hit hard by job losses. Women held 49.83% of the 132 million jobs in the U.S. in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Reed had always intended to re-enter the workforce, just not so soon. During the time she stayed home with her kids, she completed her bachelor's degree in business, management and economics through independent studies and online courses at SUNY Empire State College. "This format worked very well for me since I was able to stay home full-time and do my work either at night after the kids were in bed or on the weekends when I would spend a great deal of time at my local library."

When it was time to job hunt, Reed was glad she'd finished her degree. But looking for work during a recession was tough because she was competing with so many people who had been recently laid off.

Reed's husband is returning to work, she said Wednesday, and she has left the job as an event consultant. She's hoping to find a job that makes it more financially and personally satisfying to put her daughter in daycare, and has a second interview for a new position this week.

She said she was making a quarter of what she would have liked to start out at, "and I had low expectations to begin with." She said it was frustrating because she felt she was not making enough to justify the time away from her family, yet she knew she needed to show some recent experience on her resume.

One of the biggest challenges with going back to work is balancing work and family. Her oldest child recently started pre-kindergarten and Reed was unable to attend an event at the school because she didn't feel like she could ask for time off from her job.

She said when she is working she tries to make the most of her time with her family "...dinner at the table when it is possible...girls' days out with my nights after the kids are in bed with my hubby. Things always fall through the cracks though and that is hard to deal with. I don't think I will ever feel like I successfully balance everything!"

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