The minute the youngest child heads to Kindergarten, every stay-home military spouse starts to wonder: Is it time to go back to work?
“Returning to work after years away is complicated enough,” says Carol Fishman Cohen, co-author of the career re-entry strategy book Back on the Career Track and co-founder of iRelaunch . “But the combination of lengthy overseas postings, having to function as a single parent when a spouse is deployed, and moving every two to three years, on top of the usual issues of lack of confidence, reviving old networks and creating new ones, and figuring out what you really want to do, can make the process even more overwhelming.”
When contemplating the life-altering decision of returning to work, one of the biggest questions military spouses must consider is when? When is the best time in a military kid’s life for the at-home parent to return to the workplace?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to that question. “There is no perfect time,” says Nancy Collamer, author of The Back-to-Work-Toolkit: A Guide for Comeback Moms. “It depends on your family situation.”
Although many military moms start back to work after their maternity leave, others find their way back to the workplace when kids are preschoolers, grade schoolers, or even after the kids have graduated from high school.
Cohen and Collamer suggest that a spouse can make a more informed decision about returning to the workplace by asking these five sets of questions:
1. Do I really want to go back to work? Do you miss working? How often do you think about having a career? Do you find yourself talking about it more frequently? If you’re consumed by the prospect of jumpstarting your career, that’s a good indication that you’re ready.
2. Why do I want to go back to work? Are you looking for intellectual stimulation? Are you looking for a paycheck? Are you looking for adult conversation? Answering these questions about your motivation will not only help you decide if you’re ready to return to work, but will also help you determine what kind of career you’re interested in pursuing.
3. What kind of work am I looking for? Do you want to return to the field you were in before your career break? Is there another field you’re interested in as a result of your experiences as a military spouse or your volunteer work? Are you prepared to further your education or renew expired certifications if necessary? Do you want to work outside your home or would you prefer to work from home? Is it more important for you to have autonomy, flexibility, or fewer hours? An important step in readiness is knowing what you want.
4. What are my family responsibilities right now? How many children do you have and how old are they? Do you have children with special needs? Is your spouse deployed? Is your family PCS’ing soon? Assess your family situation and make sure you’re not adding yet another responsibility to the ones you’re already juggling.
5. What kind of family or community support do I have? Is your spouse supportive of your decision to go back to work? Do you have family members, friends, or a reliable baby-sitter who can pitch in to help? If you have young children, your husband is deployed, and you have limited family and community support, you might reconsider your back-to-work plans and either postpone your career a little longer or launch into a different field.
After asking yourself these questions, you may discover you’re ready to jump back into the workforce with both high-heeled feet and you’re already dusting off your resume. On the other hand, you may come to the conclusion that it’s just not the right time yet. But that doesn’t mean you should take the idea of working off the table altogether.
“Even if you’re not ready to go back to work yet, get a steady diet of information,” advises Collamer. “It’s really important to surround yourself with inspiration on a daily basis. There’s plenty of bad news. You have to be proactive about getting the good news.”
Do you think you’re ready to return to work? Take The Relaunch Readiness Quiz at iRelaunch.