I’m starting a new series on Look to the Western Sky about going back to work after being a stay-at-home mom. I thought I’d start the series with my own story. Before I was married in 2006, I was an elementary school teacher in Missouri. I had worked for 12 years in public schools, and I quit when we moved to Champaign, IL. My dream was to be a writer, and I also had a 6-year-old stepson who came to visit quite often and still lived in Missouri. So one of us (me or my husband at the time) had to be available to pick him up and drive him the 4.5 hours back to our house. My husband’s job was not 9 to 5–he’s an air traffic controller, so it made the most sense that I found something more flexible. I became a substitute teacher, freelancer, and columnist for the newspaper. I also tried to have a baby, which took 4 years!
Once I had KT, we lived back in Missouri, and I was a stay-at-home mom, which is what I wanted more than anything. I could not imagine going back to work and letting someone else take care of her. But I still worked–I still freelanced and ran my editing business, Editor 911. I also published 3 books during this time. However, when KT’s dad and I separated, she was 4 1/2, with one more year of preschool left, and I had to get a full-time job in 2015.
Now many of you reading this may have had to go back to work for different reasons–you wanted to, you needed another income, or maybe, like me, you had a life change. Trying to find a job when I desperately needed one was excruciating. It took me almost 8 months; and when I finally secured one, the same one I have today, it was no longer in teaching, and I made $10,000 less than I did when I worked as a teacher full-time in 2006. And get this…I felt lucky to have any job at all with benefits. I also felt lucky that I did not had two degrees. This new job was going to use my English degree and my editing experience that I had acquired while staying home with Katie.
And that’s a good thing because without those qualifications, I would have been substitute teaching at a local school district because that was the only job I could get with my master’s degree in education from Truman State University, +30 extra master’s hours, +12 years of experience and glowing recommendations because…I hadn’t been in a classroom full-time for 9 years, and at all for almost 5. Nobody wanted to interview me. I had ONE interview at a private school, and I did not get the job. I was hired as a sub within 10 minutes of my interview, and the advice from the district admin professional was that I should work as much as I could in the same building, so the principals could get to know me. Then I could get a chance at a full-time job. He said, “I know you are overqualified to be a sub.”
My story is a dime a dozen. I hear from countless parents, men and women (and it might be even worse for men since it is less common for men to stay home), that their career was hurt because they decided to be a stay-at-home parent. Most of us don’t want to go back to work before our kids are in first grade anyway! I was a reluctant mommy. I didn’t want to be away from her when she was only attending 2.5 hours of preschool every day. But I had to go back. And then for it to be so difficult to get an interview and then a job that paid me below what I was making 9 years earlier? It was depressing.
Would I go back and do it any differently? No. I would still give up my career to help out my stepson and then raise my daughter. Because I would regret missing those experiences much more than taking a cut in pay and having a stressful few months wondering if I would ever get a job.
This series, Caution: Reluctant Parents at Work, will have some how-to articles, inspirational articles, stories from the trenches and more. If you have a question or something you need help with, please leave it below. If you want to be featured on this blog as a reluctant parent who had to go back to work and your story, please email me at margolynndill (at) gmail.com . If you are dreading the day you have to go back to work, let us know because we are here for you!