Staying in the Game: Tips for Stay at Home Moms

2018 Update: We still stand by these SAHM career tips, particularly for lawyers turned stay-at-home moms — but you may also want to check out some of our more recent stories on stay-at-home parents, including what you need to know about strategic volunteering, and what to consider when you’re thinking about not returning to work after maternity leave

Reader R writes with a question about how women who choose to stay home with their kids for a while can keep career paths open to them…

I’m hoping you and the lovely Corporette commenters will be able to offer some guidance. (as surely I’m not the only one who has faced or will face this dilemma).

I’m an ’08 law grad and spent two years in biglaw before accepting a government position last fall. Now I am pregnant and due this fall. I’d originally moved to government thinking it would be more amenable to family life, but have since decided I’d like to stay home full time, at least for a little while. If we end up having more than one child, I suppose it could end up being as long as 3 – 4 years.

So, my question is, knowing I’d like to return to the legal field one day, what can I do during my career hiatus to ensure that I am still marketable/relevant when I return to work and to help make that transition back easier? I’ve already made up my mind to stay home, so I am not really interested in a suggestion that I continue working. However, advice on how long is “too long” to be out of work would also be appreciated.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! I think you’re really smart to be thinking about this now — and not, say, in four years when you’re looking to get back in the workforce. I have no experience with this personally, so I’m really curious to hear what the readers say.

Picture via Stencil. (Original image (2011): Open Doors, originally uploaded to Flickr by *Fede*.)

– First: Network NOW. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it is easiest to build relationships with people when you are not asking for anything. If your baby isn’t due until the fall, you have several good months ahead of you that you can fill with breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Get to know your current colleagues better, as well as your supervisors and yes, even your subordinates. Go back to your previous jobs and reconnect with people. Your goal at this point should be two-pronged, I think: first, create (or rejuvenate) friendships — you never know where people are going to be in four years. Second, especially for people who have children or are older, ask them for their advice on juggling work and family. You don’t necessarily need to show your hand re: your SAHM plans, but the work/life juggle is a problem for everyone and they will have tips for you, both for when you get back to work as well as how to make the transition back to work, whether it’s from maternity leave or a SAHM position.  When you’re looking to get back in the game, these are the people who will, hopefully, hear of jobs and think of you, or be able to connect you to other people who may have jobs.

– Second:  Make it easy for you to keep track of people in the years that you’re at home. If you aren’t on Linked In, get on there — you can even set it so you get a weekly summary of who’s changed jobs and more.  You may also want to set up Google alerts for companies or a few key people you’ve worked with.  It doesn’t take a lot to write to your ex-boss and say “Hey, I saw you quoted in the newspaper — congrats! How are things going with you?”  or to that ex-subordinate “I noticed you changed jobs — congrats! How’s the new place?”

– Part 2b: Stay up to date on your subject matter. For example, if you have a legal specialty, sign up for newsletters, magazines, and more that will help you keep abreast of the topics.  This could also be a good time to dream a little: in a perfect world, what would your ideal job be?  Then, keep track of that industry (whether you’ve worked in it or not).  Over the months and years that you’re home with your child, you’ll see the names of companies, the fluctuations in the industry (tip: bad sign if everyone’s filing for bankruptcy), and even the names of some of the key players — when you’re starting to look to get back to work you can call the company and ask for an informational interview, or use social networking tools like LinkedIn or even Facebook to see if you have connections to those companies or that industry.

– Third: Don’t have an all-or-nothing mentality. After you get settled in with your baby, you may realize that a very limited amount of work would be a pleasant intellectual change.  If you have colleagues or friends who are writing books or articles, offer to help — in exchange for a byline.  Depending on your line of work, you may want to connect with your old boss(es) and offer some time here and there if they need an extra hand on projects.  Even if it’s just 10 hours a week or less, it still gives you something to put on your resume and talk about in interviews.

– Finally: If you’re in a career (like Reader R in law) where continuing education is necessary to maintain your professional status, stay up to date on your credits. If money is an issue, your old employer(s) may offer to let you come and sit in on their continuing education classes — if you’re more interested in conferences and the like, be judicious about which ones you go to and why (see above re: your ideal career).  When you go, look professional and be friendly.  You may even want to have business cards made for yourself (I’ve used Vista Print in the past with good results) that have your name, number, and email address.  It may not be a bad idea to set up an online resume/website now (before you’ve even given birth!), so you can put the URL on the business card; otherwise a link to your LinkedIn profile should work fine.

Readers, what are your tips for staying in the game while being a stay at home mom?  What have you seen work, what have you seen fail? What are your best SAHM career tips?


A lawyer thinking of becoming a stay-at-home mom wrote in, seeking SAHM career tips -- how could she stay in the game and leave the door open for a return? We rounded up our best career advice for stay-at-home moms.


  1. I was in the same sort of situation. I am a teacher and I stayed home with my daughters for 4 years. I continued to keep up with my teaching certificate. I also took the opportunity to take a handful of graduate classes that would develop my teaching and give me an extra certification. I did teach part time for a couple years because I needed to keep my teaching techniques fresh. And then, when the right job opened up, I researched good day cares and went back to work.

  2. Since you’re in law, you might want to have a go at trying to have an article or two published in a scholarly journal, magazine, or newsletter. Even doing case summaries for a legal publication would help keep your resume from looking stale and show potential future employers that you kept abreast of the law while you were away.

    • I was going to say the same thing. Write things for submission to your local bar journal or maybe a guest post for established law blogs in your jurisdiction. Getting something published in a journal might be tough since you’re still so young, but the local bar journal and/or law blogs are usually more receptive to pieces from younger attorneys.

      And, of course, stay friends with those you work with.

  3. Diana Barry :

    Also, I wouldn’t decide 100% on staying home until AFTER you have the baby. Sometimes the baby can change your mind one way or another! While sometimes I think I would want to stay home, I think now (with 2 kids) my ideal situation would be to work @50%, instead of the 80% that I am doing now.

    • I completely agree with this and Kat’s #3. Especially if you have enjoyed your career up to this point, you may find being a full-time SAHM isn’t for you. There is NOTHING wrong with that. The right balance for me is being a “full-time” mom and a part-time lawyer. Sometimes it can be tricky, but it’s the best thing for me and my family. IMHO, since this is your first baby, you might want to keep your mind (and options, if you can) open. Good luck with whatever you decide!

    • Very good point. By the time my baby was 5 months, I was ready to go back to work at least part-time. Taking care of young babies can feel like grunt work. I’m now back at work and she’s in day care, and we’re both better off. Although every day between 2:30 and 4:30 (when I leave work), I start to get antsy about seeing her adorable little face.

      • Hmm. I fully expected it to be ‘grunt work’ and therefore didn’t mind continuing to work full-time after 3 weeks off when he was born. What I found instead was that the early stages of child development go by so fast, it was fascinating and fun to watch them progress.

        • Watching them grow is awesome. But diaper changing, spit-up cleaning, laundry, dishes, sleepless nights, long hours of rocking crying baby, etc. were not fun. Although I’d probably feel differently if I only got to do it all for 3 weeks (rather than seven months of it). My curious chatterbox is two now and by far this is my favorite stage.

    • I COMPLETELY agree with you. After 3 months of maternity leave, I was almost dying to go back — being a working mom is the best of both worlds, I think. Except the few times I’ve had to pull all-nighters since coming back to work to get everything done!

    • You also don’t know what circumstances will be. My SIL wanted to stay home after her first baby, but about three weeks before he was born, her husband lost his job. She ended up having to go back to work when her maternity leave ended, and she supported the family until her husband found another job. Now she’s been home for four years, but there is NO reason to close off bridges for yourself until you reach them.

  4. I can tell you what worked for me: After six months home with my firstborn I was going bonkers at home all day with a baby. I started volunteering one day a week at a legal services organization relevant to the field I work in (IP) and with whom I’d done some work before becoming a SAHM. I was fortunate enough to have my parents nearby who could watch the baby on that day, so I didn’t have to go out of pocket. That was crucial for me in staying involved, keeping stimulated and the resume filled. Six months after I started a new project at the organization required a manager and they hired me part time to run it (three days a week, no overtime).

  5. As someone who “down-shifted” to spend more time with a child, I can say that the women I know who have had the most success “off-ramping” (i.e., stopping work entirely) and then going back to work later are the ones who did SOME kind of work – part-time, contract, volunteer, etc. – while they were out. You don’t necessarily have to plan to work right after your child is born, but within the first year or so after, try to have some work lined up (and you will probably be grateful for it, because babies don’t talk, and you can only go to so many playdates). Like I said, it doesn’t matter if it’s paid or unpaid, but it should be professional in nature and related to the field you want to go back to, if at all possible.

    I agree with everything Kat said about networking, and making time to keep in touch with people. It might be helpful to line up a babysitter who’s available during the day, once a week or every couple of weeks, so you can get out of the house, maintain your network, and get some “grown-up conversation time.” There are a lot of college students who would do this type of sitting for you, as well as older ladies you may know in your neighborhood or from your place of worship. You may want to get them lined up to come in starting a few weeks after your child is born, even if you aren’t going to be in “networking/work mode,” so you can get out of the house without the baby every so often.

    OP, you may get a lot of static – both here and from people IRL – for wanting to stay home, but if it is the right decision for you and your family, it is the right decision, period. There are no black-or-white, right-0r-wrong answers when it comes to working or staying home. I made the choice three years ago to work part-time and I have never regretted it. The time I have been able to spend with my son is more precious than diamonds (or cars or vacation homes or anything else money can buy). Your kids are only small for a brief time and they begin the long and bittersweet process of separating from you. Stay home for your kid, stay home for you, do it for whatever reason, but if it’s the right thing to do, don’t worry about what other people say. Everything will work out as it’s supposed to. Good luck.

  6. Anonymous :

    Also, don’t be a sanctimonious b*&%h to working moms. I live here in the DC area where many professional women quit their jobs during the boom years to be SAHMs, and annoyed working mom to no end with their “mother superior” antics. Many of them were replace by younger, strech mark free models when their husband’s ship came in, and of the marriages that survieved, many are now having to contribute to the family income due to their hubby’s job loss. Guess where their pathetic attempts at networking or their resumes end up? Yup, in the trash!

    • uhm…wow…just, wow.

    • This is a really inappropriate and unsupportive comment.

      • I can understand some of her anger though. Some SAHMs make passive-aggressive comments to imply that working moms don’t love their children as much, which can get REALLY grating. Especially since you already feel bad about missing out on that time. Although I still think day care is better for us (and probably better for some kids with SAHMs). Those day care teachers are experts, and my daughter would not get to do the same numerous activities and projects or have that interaction with other children if she was home with me.

        • And some working moms make sanctimonious comments to SAHMs that make the SAHMs angry. Getting in each other’s face about it, or making snarky comments about stretch marks on a blog, doesn’t help anyone. As women, we would all be better off if we could learn to evaluate all sides of this debate through a neutral lens, rather than attacking each other.

      • Anonymous :

        While I agree the comment is nonsupportive I do not think it’s inappropriate. It is one person’s view on the stay at home mom issue. While it may offend you or others, to me it’s a viewpoint that deserves just as much to be listed as many other snarky comments on this blog.

        • I agree, the anger in the post is seething, but who are we to judge? The SAHMs she described probably were mean and condescending to women who work. And they had the luxury of feeling superior because it was raining money during the Boom and Hubby could bring home the bacon. Then the music stopped (either by divorce or financial necessity). The game changes quickly, doesn’t it?

          • God, bitter much???? There are a LOT of people posting who seem to be really angry about how their lives have turned out, and are taking joy in being hateful b*tches about other women and their choices. I don’t get that at all. My experience is that women who are secure with their choices don’t talk sh*t about other people’s choices, even if that choice was to “marry up” and stay home with kids. I think there’s more than a little jealousy being expressed in some of the above comments, and envy green ain’t a good color on anyone sweetie!!!

    • Hello, troll!

    • Wait…are you trying to say that getting a divorce from a guy who thinks of women the same way he thinks of cars is a BAD thing? I’d say those ladies lucked out, whether they appreciate it or not!

      Of course, I might say the same regarding having you as a supervisor…. Those ladies lucked out, whether they know it or not.

    • Praxidike :

      Although this was stated in an unpleasantly aggressive manner, I can understand what Anonymous is saying. There’s a lot of judgmental sniping (probably born out of feeling insecure in their choices) between women who stay home and women who choose to work. Since everyone’s family is different, it’s no surprise that difference solutions work better for different families.

      Maybe the nicer way to put this is, “Don’t second-guess your choice to stay home with your kid, and don’t second-guess anyone else’s choice to work after they have a kid.”

    • Anonymous :

      This was an unnecessarily c-nt-y comment. Plus, there are creams to help prevent stretch marks, and lasers to reduce the ones you’ve got. And boob jobs. And wrinkle creams…oh, and history with your husband; children; education; and personality. Moral of the story: Not every woman lets herself go, and not every man is superficial.

      • Anonymous :

        Wow, just wow. This may be the worst comment I’ve ever read on this blog. I’m embarassed for you.

        • This is hardly the worst comment on the blog. And it was very tongue-in-cheek

          • Anonymous :

            C*nty is never appropriate and I think the worst comment I’ve ever read here. Below classless.

          • AnonInfinity :

            I agree about the c-word, anonymous. I don’t care if it was directed at a person, that person’s comment, an inanimate object, or Hitler, it is never an appropriate word to use. Period.

          • Wouldn’t “the c-word” lose its power if we stopped letting it insult us so deeply?

          • JR, as if “get a thicker skin” isn’t the same schtick women hear every time some “joker” makes a misogynistic comment? Please. I’ve even heard guys say that rape wouldn’t seem like such a “big deal” if people weren’t so “prudish” about sex.

            So, no, believe it or not, making a gender-based insult which relies on the “nastiness” of female genitalia doesn’t magically become unproblematic when we decide so.

      • Women should go out and buy creams and use lasers to get rid of them? And/or get plastic surgery? Doing otherwise means a woman is “letting herself go”?

        You’re being totally tongue-in-cheek, right? If not, where’s Germaine Greer when you need her?

        • AnonInfinity :

          I also hope this was tongue in cheek. Because of what you mentioned and because of the use of the “c-word.” That is 100% not cool.

        • Anonymous :

          Anon who posted the comment. I just had to look up who Germaine Greer is. And she looks fabulous.

      • Anonymous :

        Original Anon. Definitely a bit tongue in cheek, but I do stand by my observation that 1) The woman’s COMMENT was c-nt-y and 2) Not every woman lets herself go and not every man is superficial. Furthermore, “letting oneself go” can be defined multiple ways, and honestly what is so bad about looking the best that you can at any age, with as much or as little “help” as you feel comfortable with? I may get flamed for saying (typing?) what I said, but at least I’m being honest.

        • I like the at least I’m honest argument. Hey I may be racist, but at least I’m honest. Hey I may have murdered those people but at least I’m honest. Sure I may have slept with my best friends husband, but at least I’m honest.

          That said I think the comment was tongue in cheek, and I guess I’ll just thank my stars I don’t think I need creams and tucks to find and keep love.

      • Holy sh*t! You’re using THAT word to say something is inappropriate?! I think we need a moderator here. Yes, the mommy wars are ugly with both sides feeling superior and defensive at the same time, but that kind of slur against all women is waaaaaay out of bounds.

        • Seriously, why is there so much hate about that word? How is it different from any other swear word?

          • AnonInfinity :

            Because the word is a one that implies that the female genitalia is disgusting and nasty and is in turn used only to refer to women.

    • While I think there may be some venom to the comment, I do think it is an important point to remember, particularly if the SAHM thinks she may need to get back into the market in several years and wants to network effectively. There is no need to alienate others who choose something different.

      • Anonymous :

        Yes, and plus it’s nice to have grown-up conversations once in a while.

    • Why can’t smart, educated, professional women give one another the benefit of the doubt and accept that we don’t all think the same way and that doesn’t necessarily mean that some of us are stupid? Why do we have to be so judgmental towards one another and why can’t we be a bit more kind? And don’t say it’s because we are all gunning for the corner office.

      OP, I think you should take this thread as a reminder that when you choose to re-enter the workplace, you may get lots of judgy sideways glances, and, in egregious examples, some women may resent you for your choice and throw your resume in the trash can. But if you find a place with nice people, it can work out beautifully – I’ve been there.

      • Ughhh!!! I get so sick of the “mommy wars!” Basically, no matter what a woman decides to do after having children, she’s giving up something major. If she decides to continue to full-on pursue a career she may have dreamed about and trained for for years, she’s giving up precious time with children she loves more than anything on earth. If she decides to stay home with her kids, she’s giving up her own ambitions and what may have been the source of her self image and esteem for her entire adult life. All this is so hard that I think some people can only deal with it by taking on the attitude that the choice they’ve made is the only way to go. So the SAHMs have to think the working women are miserable, stressed out people whose kids will spend years in therapy. And the working Moms have to think SAHMs are dumb and boring, and make the type of comments that started this thread.

        Personally, I chose to stay home with my kids for 5 years and then went back to work full time (as an attorney). I felt a lot of anxiety while I was at home about whether I’d be able to find work when I wanted to. I still remember a nasty working mom and fellow lawyer who told me she was sure people just “wouldn’t know what to do with me” when I wanted to be as Associate in my mid-30s. That comment gave me such a sinking feeling at the time.

        Well, she was wrong. I had to suffer through some bad interviews, in which I was asked with skepticism whether I still wanted to practice law? Who would come back after so long?? But ultimately, I found a good job through a personal connection — a guy I’d worked for before kids referred me to a friend of his who’d started his own firm.

        So all is well. I did have to accept the fact that I’m not where I would have been professionally if I hadn’t taken that time away — not by a long shot probably. Some of my supervisors at work are as much as eight years younger than me. But, I’ve decided it’s really not possible to have everything in life, and I have a good measure of what I wanted. I’m pretty content.

        • Just to offer some perspective, I just read two stories off Google news of children being beaten to death by their parents. I am grateful that we have so many women here who care so passionately about their children and are trying so hard to do the best for those children, no matter whether that means working or staying at home. We are all good moms no matter what we choose to do about work.

        • busy&happy :

          Thank you so much! I couldn’t have said it better myself. The work-life balance issue is the same as every other major issue you’ll deal with as an adult: you are the one living your life — make the best choice for you and your family circumstances, and then carry on.

          FWIW, I love both sides of my life and I’m lucky enough to be able to consult part time and still do things like volunteer for school field trips, so I get to keep my feet in both worlds.

        • Anon for this :

          Here here!!!

        • Lawyermommy :

          I’m so glad you posted this! I got pregnant during my last semester in law school, took and passed the bar, and then decided to stay home with my son. I know I want to practice law in the future, but I want to be home with my son for a few years. I love hearing that you managed to go back to work in the legal field after being home for a few years, because it gives me hope that I will be able to work in my chosen profession eventually. I could care less about who is above me on the ladder, as long as I get to use the skills I worked so hard to learn.

  7. I had to take some time off to help my son with a very difficult situation.

    Now that I’m looking to get back to work, I wished I had networked much more, just like Kat says. What I have been doing that helps: writing articles, speaking occasionally, and editing a newsletter (it comes out twice a year and is about 10 pgs long). These things keep me cognizant of the field I love, keeps my name out there, and yes, gives me something to talk about interviews besides my gorgeous, loving, very clever, strong, and wonderful boy. Don’t be surprized, once you’re a mother, if such a string of adjectives applied to your child seems reasonably limited.

    Good luck!

  8. Another Perspective :

    The idea of working part time (it can be VERY part time) for a charity organization is a good one, and you may enjoy the time out of the house. I am pleased to tell you that a young colleague asked me this question several years ago when expecting her second child. I told her to do what felt right for her and it would turn out to be right for her career. She stayed home for several years with two young children, and then was sought out by a major Big Law firm which wanted her so badly, they let her dictate her schedule and she has the best of both worlds. If you are good at what you do, there will be opportunities you cannot predict.

  9. If after a few months at home you’re looking for a small amount of external exposure, think about contacting a local college about an adjunct staff role. I have taken many classes with adjunct professors who teach one class a semester. Also, many professors look for individuals to come in and guest lecture once a semester. Still further yet, student organizations always benefit from those who have worked in the industry.

    • I know someone who adjuncts at a local college. He teaches one night a week, which sounds like a great schedule for your situation since preparation hours can be scheduled whenever and presumably your husband could have one solo night a week with the baby.

      • Being an adjunct is a great way to stay in the field. I was an adjunct, and I really enjoyed it. However, don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare for class, at least the first semester you teach a class. It took me approximately 5 hours to create a PowerPoint 90 minute lecture. I’m not saying it’s less of a good idea, it will just take more time than you spend teaching and having office hours. In other words, I had 6 “contact hours” per week, but I spent closer to a total of 20 hours actually working.

  10. You noted you work in government, so this may apply.

    If you are getting your health benefits through your company (the gov’t) and not your spouse’s, and you do not return to work after your maternity leave and work for at least three months, then your company MAY cut your health benefits retroactive to the time you gave birth.

    I know that this is legal in some states (Massachusetts comes to mind), so do check to make sure you won’t get hit with the full, un-adjusted, bill for your delivery – this can be 10K for a “normal” birth.

  11. Don't Stay Gone Too Long :

    You don’t have much experience as a lawyer. If you stay out very long, you will be starting all over again. I have watched this happen to women since 1984 and NOTHING much has changed in this regard. You must stay relevant in some way.

    • This. I’ve been an attorney for many years (first Big Law, now in-house), and I was immediately concerned when I learned that Reader R was an ’08 graduate. While I don’t mean to discourage Reader R, I think taking a substantial (3 to 4 year) break at this stage of her career is risky. I hope that she is at least open to part time work or coming back sooner rather than later.

      That said, I think it’s important to remember that there are many kinds of legal jobs, and while Big Law may decide that Reader R is not an attractive candidate, a host of other jobs may have an entirely different take. I would advise Reader R to think seriously about what she wants to do when she returns to work and how her hiatus will be received by her ideal post-SAHM employer.

    • This. Been around almost this long and have seen it time and again as well. I can’t speak for the field of law, but in almost any other field you had best be prepared to come back at the bottom of the food chain. With this competitve job market, unless you’ve cured cancer in your previous worklife, don’t expect responsibilities or salary even on par with your previous experience. You may be lucky to even get a job in your previous field. Skills, knowledge, relationships all decay with any length of time out of the market. Bottom line – and I know I’ll get flamed here – but speaking as hiring manager and a mom myself, you will not be perceived as serious a candidate as others who did not leave the workforce (for whatever reason). It isn’t fair, but that’s how it is in my world (gov’t/non-profit/consulting).

      I had a professor who once told me that no matter what, you have to be prepared and able to take care of yourself. Life can be cruel (divorce, death, layoffs, etc.). Don’t ever “quit” your career so much that you can’t find your way back to it if you had to. Suggestions of part-time, contract work etc. aren’t perfect, but they are better than nothing.

      • another anon :

        This, 100%. I realize the OP is wanting to stay home and take care of her kids in the interest of their well-being in the near future, but I would also urge her to think about what is in their best interest for the long-term. In particular, the OP should look out for her own future financial security and that of her children. You never know what life is going to throw your way, and with divorce being so common now, I think it is a big mistake for many women to bow out of the workforce for an extended period to take care of kids. There was an article about this a few months back, maybe in salon or slate? If someone else knows what I am referring to please post a link to the article.

        • Maybe you are thinking of coverage about a book called The Feminine Mistake? It talks about all the long-term costs of a short career hiatus.

          • another anon :

            I have heard of that book, but this was an article on the internet. It was written by a woman who whas a journalist I think, and then took a huge chunk of time off to raise her kids, and then her husband left her. I could be off on the details though.

          • I think you’re thinking of Katie Allison Granju, another anon. This article has links to a lot of the more prominent opting-out articles that have come out over the last few years, and Katie wrote a more recent take here.

          • I’m pretty sure it was this Salon article:

          • another anon :

            That’s it Laura #2. Thanks!

        • Anonymous :

          Sorry, but I wasn’t willing to outsource the raising of my kid and keep working a soul-sucking job with no flexibility just in case my husband left me. I chose a good guy, one who takes pride in supporting his family and doesn’t mind working hard – not a lazy man I need eyes in the back of my head to watch over. Not all marriages break up, and in fact, the couples I know who are getting divorced right now are the ones where the wife continued to work full-time after kids and neglected herself and her marriage until the husband got fed up with always playing fourth fiddle (after work, kids, and house) and sought companionship elsewhere.

          • Anonymous :

            So, moms who work are outsourcing the raising of their kids? See above post regarding bitchy women.

          • another anon :

            Wow, OK. First of all, I would bet that the vast majority of women who end up getting divorced thought going into it that they had chosen a “good guy” and never, ever expected to get divorced. But it happens. It happened to my mom, who put her career on the back burner to raise me and certainly did not neglect herself or her marriage.

            Second, I guess you must have also selected a husband who is immortal and who has superpowers which protect him from becoming permanently disabled and unable to work and financially support you and your children.

            My point was simply that s*** happens in life, and it’s good to be prepared for it.

          • It is comments like this, about the “outsourcing” of one’s children, that drives me crazy.

            I am a full time lawyer in biglaw, and I have a three-year-old daughter. I am also a full time mom. When I drop her off in daycare in the morning and go to work, I do not stop being her mother, and I do not stop raising her. She is very very aware of who her mother is. This is what works best for my family. I did not want to put my ambitions on the shelf just because I also wanted a family. I am in no way “outsourcing” her upbringing.

          • Really, Kerry? You are the one disciplining your child? You are the one teaching her colors, shapes, alphabet, how to read? You are outsourcing at least some of your parenting. Which is fine. I’m not saying this to criticize. I think some women are truly happier working, and a happy mom is a happy family. Raising small children can be tedious and mind-numbing and it’s not for everyone. But you’re just flipping it around and making it sound like someone that does stay at home doesn’t do anything more than what you do. Get over your insecurities, and own up to the fact that you are a working mom.

          • So,

            1. Working mums = out sourcers
            2. Husbands of working mums = mind working hard/ not proud to support family
            3. most divorces involve working mums

            With this application of logic, no wonder you don’t have a job!!

          • Wow, as a recently divorced woman, this really, really stings. All I can say is this: as a married woman, you ought to know that no one on the outside really knows what’s going on in a marriage and why a couple divorces. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a divorce that could be explained as simply as the scenarios you’re sketching out here. Please have a little compassion, and realize that when I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, I believed in my marriage and my future just as much as you did on yours.

            I’ll also add that my mother has worked full-time throughout my parents’ extremely happy marriage, and they’re celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary in a month. My father is a good guy, who takes pride in being married to a wonderful woman who supports her family. And she feels the same way about him.

            And finally, that yes, my parents (not my mother – my *parents* – because fathers are part of the parenting equation to) outsourced some of their parenting to others, and that I personally benefited from being exposed to a wide range of helpful engaged adults. Children, and families are different. This kind of judgment helps no one.

          • Anonymous :

            Um yeah. Your resume goes into the trash. And my kid will beat up your kid. And your husband is probably going to sleep with my friends and we’ll all laugh at you.

            And please outsource the raising of your kids so they don’t wind up like you.

          • Yuck. Yuck, yuck, yuck. This is exactly the kind of sanctimonious crap that makes working moms feel ire towards SAHMs. “Outsource the raising of my kid?” Come on…

            I have to hope you were attempting to bait us all here.

      • Very true. You will be just one crazy bus-driver away from being a single parent.

        I work in IT where gaps in service mean you’re likely to be left behind.

        I worked part-time after my sons were born. I did that for 15 years. My salary floated upward, I stayed halfway current with the industry and nobody hated me when I left early because I wasn’t expected to stay late.

        Your current employer is your best bet for part-time work. See if they’ll work something out.

      • This is kind of sad, because as a hiring manager and a mom, you’re in a position to be a part of changing this for women…

  12. Anonymous :

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news but your bigger issue may be your flaky, non-comittal past employment. You only spent 2 years in a job then less than a year in your government job before you decided to say home. That’s 2 jobs you left with less than 2 years of employment.

    • This is the 21st century, and people don’t stay in jobs forever. I interview people every day who have a work history of two to five years in several places sequentially, usually because they got better offers and moved up, or because the economy tanked the business they were working for. I interviewed a guy the other day that had worked for three big corporations, in completely different sectors, doing the same job at each one, and each time the company went out of business while he was working there. We are living in “interesting times” and short tenures don’t get much of an eyebrow raise from me any more, unless I see multiple stints of less than a year or something. I don’t think the OP’s work history is “flaky,” although I have to say I think it may be problematic that she worked so few years TOTAL before she decided to stay home.

      • Anonymous :

        She was at biglaw for less than 2 years (08 grad means work started fall of 08-fall of 10 would be two years) and at the government for less than 1. Neither of these were corporations that tanked. I too interview people and this is a big concern for me. I would not want to spend and waste the time interviewing, background checking, and hiring someone only to have to do it 10 months later.

      • Anonymous :

        The work history will be as follows: <2 years, <1 year, gone for 3 to 4 years.

        I am sure I am not the only person who thinks this doesn't show "I'm reliable, I want the job"

      • I think people need to keep in mind that not everyone goes to law school straight out of undergrad and finishes at ages 24-26. While it might be nice to get 5-6 years of experience under your belt in your chosen career before having children, it’s not going to be realistic for all women. Plus, having kids earlier on may mean that you won’t have to take so many steps back once you return to the workplace. It’s not like the OP had 4 jobs in two years and then decided to have kids. She left a biglaw job after two years, which is very common, and then decided to have kids after one year at a government job.

  13. Reader R here…so excited Kat posted this for me! Thank you ladies for your insightful comments/suggestions. I think writing articles, etc is a great suggestion as is volunteering for a relevant organization. I’ll be looking into both these possibilities. Keep ’em coming!

  14. Here are a couple of thoughts. I understand you want to stay home full time, but have you considered working as a contract lawyer from home for a handful of hours per week? I recently helped a female associate at my firm negotiate that sort of arrangement, and she seems quite happy with it. It’s mostly document review, so not super stimulating, but she’s keeping her foot in the door, working 10 hours a week and is home with her kids. We still pay for her CLE, invite her to certain events, and reach out to keep her looped in.

    If you want to ramp off completely, take a look at PAR’s Opting Back In Program. (PAR is the Project for Attorney Retention, and a terrific resource for women lawyers and their employers.) Here’s the link you can copy and paste into your browser:

    Good luck!

  15. In Denver :

    Quick threadjack: any Corporettes in Denver for the ABA conference? Want to meet up?

  16. North Shore :

    This could’ve been me over a decade ago, except I had 6 years of experience as a government lawyer before having my first child. I was sure I wanted to quit and stay at home with my baby, but supervisor, who had a child herself and understood where I was coming from, convinced me to try working part-time. I am so grateful that she did. I worked reduced hours, then had a second child and went down to working just two days a week, then eventually ramped back up once my children entered school. It was her flexibility and understanding that kept me in the game, and because I was able to hang on those few years, I am right where I want to be with my career (and my savings goals) now. The next two women in my office to have babies were able to follow my lead, and went part-time as needed. I was there to encourage them and let them know it could be done. My wonderful supervisor has since retired, but the precedent has been set, and we continue to have a great, family-friendly workplace. That said, I really love my job and wanted to hang onto it, once I realized it was possible. If you don’t love your job, you might feel differently about the situation.

    • My dad is a GC for a regional governmental organization, and has employed this model for many of his best and brightest lawyers. I am so proud of him for his forward thinking ways. His reward as a boss? Amazing candidates leaving big law for the assurance of some flexibility as their careers grow. He is beginning to think about retirement and second in command is a woman who dropped to part time when she had young kids. She was the attorney who started his thinking in this direction, now 15 years ago (i.e., I don’t want to lose lawyer X cause she’s awesome, but she’ll clearly chose her kids over her job if she needs to make a choice). You can tell I’m proud of him (if he’s a good boss, he’s an excellent Dad). If you are in this situation, I think it’s rare but worth preserving at whatever cost.

      • yay. great post. :)

      • Yay for your dad! Most moms I know think the ideal is working part-time, and yet it’s so hard for lawyers to find a true part-time schedule. So it’s pretty awesome that he made this work for his office. I wish there were more people of that generation (both men and women) who thought like that.

      • This is excellent. So often, these sorts of things are viewed only as “women’s issues” and men feel free to ignore them. They are critically important work force issues. I wish more men thought like your dad.

  17. Seventh Sister :

    My two cents:

    1. Your feelings may change during your maternity leave. I was fairly sure I wanted to go back before my kid was born, but I was *really* sure I wanted to go back after she was born. It depends on any number of factors, sure, but you may not want to make any final decisions until after the baby arrives.

    2. Being nice to other women (and men) who make different choices re working/not working can be hard, but I feel like people (including myself) could make more of an effort in this department. I’ve said some unkind things about SAHM moms, and I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty catty comments from SAHM moms. A little diplomacy might go a long way.

    • Love this comment. I am really guilty of the “how could anyone possibly stay home with a baby fully time” sentiment, but the bottom line is that I am in no position to judge another mom’s choices or how she wants to live and run her family. *Trying* to be less judgmental!

      • Good for you. But seriously, is it that hard to keep these thoughts to yourself? Maybe it’s because I was brainwashed in my prior BigLaw job to keep controversial opinions to myself, but I am the opposite (I personally *hated* leaving my baby every day), and I think I’ve managed to not make snide comments about someone choosing to work. Part if it is that one of my best friends had a baby at the same time as me and still works full-time, and is perfectly happy doing so. It’s not hard for me to understand that her working is the best thing for her and her family, while me ramping down was the best thing for me and mine. A little empathy goes a long way.

        • Anon with question :

          But, based on your earlier comment to Kerry (see above), your friend is “outsourcing her parenting”. Why would that be the best thing for HER family yet lead you to criticize others?

          • I don’t see it as a criticism. I outsource lots of things that women traditionally did and don’t feel bad about it, including the care of my child (although not full-time). If someone feels bad about it, maybe it’s because they have unresolved feelings about their work-life balance. My criticism of Kerry was that by claiming to be a “full-time” mother she implicitly demeans what full-time SAHM moms do. Personally, I am not a full-time SAHM mom, I work part-time, and am at home part-time, but I have a ton of respect for people that stay-at-home full-time, and for people that work full-time. Neither is for me, but I get why it works for different people. I just don’t understand why full-time working moms get all huffy about the idea that someone else is participating in their child’s upbringing, when that is, in fact, what they are doing. Own up to whatever decision you make, and stop making overt or implied criticisms of others. That’s all I’m saying.

  18. Don’t forget about pro bono work! There are always people in need and one or two simple cases wouldn’t take up a great amount of your time.

  19. I am a fifty-something with 2 teenaged kids. Nothing, as far as I can tell, has really changed in this environment since I went on maternity leave 18 years ago. Here is what I did then, and what I would recommend now. If you have a good relationship with your employer, you should try to arrange to do some hourly consulting after your initial maternity leave. Even if it is 10 hours a week, and going into the office 1/2 day a week, try to do it. It will be great for you personally (emotionally) and professionally. I did this for months, and then went back to work part time. I have been working part time ever since (17+ years). I made partner along the way and have what I think is a workable work-family balance. Not perfect, of course, but workable.

  20. Pre-planning. I read this book: and plotted out a rough outline what I’d do when before I left my career in order to do the pregnant-be-with-baby thing. It was easier for me though, because I knew I wanted to leave my old career path and do something new, and so it was a totally clean break for me.

    Good luck.

  21. As a lawyer who recently reentered practice after a nearly 12-year break to raise my daughters, I’d like to offer my perspective. I wholeheartedly agree with the advice Corporette has offered — the key is to keep up with your contacts and keep your toe in the water in your area of practice. I moved several times during my career break and did not keep up with my contacts as I should have. This made my reentry very difficult, despite top law school credentials and 7 years of practice at a top-tier nationally recognized firm. I am happy to report that I have successfully reentered, but only after taking the only job I could get until I could get back to a job I really enjoy. And, by the way, I found that job I really enjoy through — no surprise here — law school contacts. Invaluable. But when you reenter, be ready to be organized and assertive — it’s tough out there for those of us who make this choice. Best of luck!

  22. I am an ’08 grad as well and have a little girl who will turn one in a week. I was exactly where you are before I had her, but with a little less experience. I was in Biglaw and really did not enjoy my job. I requested reduced hours and they declined. I quit my job there, but found a part time position (3, 8-5 days /week) with a boutique tax litigation firm. It isn’t perfect, and there are certainly days I wish I could stay home with my daughter all the time, but it really is working for me. I don’t think I could run right back to biglaw right now, but I think I am keeping my foot in the legal market enough that I could work my way back to biglaw if I ever wanted to or needed to.

  23. Anonymous :

    There is a new organization geared for mom attorneys (currently in San Diego, Seattle, and Austin and more, I believe are on the way in other cities). Its called MAMAs (Mother Attorney Mentoring Association). Even if you stay-at-home, keeping up with organizations like this, with other mom attorneys, would be a great idea. The one I am in has both working and stay-at-home mom attorneys and its a great way to network with a diverse group of female attorneys.

  24. As someone making a career transition along with a period of being partly stay-at-home, the things that have been most valuable to me are:

    1) Online presence. I have a career-relevant blog (linked above) and I’m active on Twitter. This has let me have a name in the field way bigger than my seniority, and let me meet (sometimes face-to-face) a lot of the big names. It also forces me to keep at least sort of current on the issues.

    2) Conferences. For me, arranging childcare for occasional (and mostly weekend!) things like conferences was way easier & cheaper than arranging childcare for weekly things, as conference childcare is pretty much “my husband takes a couple of vacation days”. Super fun, lots of opportunities to meet people and get my name out there (dovetails very well with the online presence).

    I’ve also been branching out into writing (print as well as online) for publications in my field; I like to write and it’s something that’s relatively easy to work around childcare constraints since it doesn’t matter when or where I do the work, as long as I do it.

  25. I would say that after having a few months really off after giving birth, maybe you should look into any writing or consulting work that you might be able to do from home for a few hours a week. Contributing articles to legal publications and websites will look great on your resume when you want to look for full time work again.

  26. I can’t wait until I am able to join you!

  27. Westwood Mom :

    First congratulations on your pregnancy. As I have posted previously, I worked in BIGlaw for 10 years, than took five years off after the birth of my first child, and then went back to work f/t as a government lawyer. After two years back, if I can’t change to a p/t schedule within the next few months, I plan to quit, and do pro-bono/volunteering while my kids are in school. I really love my current job, believe it or not, but am not getting enough time with my kids.

    My advice to you would be to educate yourself about the cons of not working. Your relatively junior status will probably hurt you down the line. You basically have to be willing to start in the same position a few years from now as someone fresh out of law school, both in terms of pay and senority. I felt that I lost a year of seniority for each year I was out, so when I returned I was the equivalent of a fifth year, and my friends were 15 years out.

    I did no legal work for the five years at home, and the only “networking” I did was staying in contact with work friends. I got a job relatively quickly, within six months of when I started looking, and that was in the peak of the horrible market of 2009. My network was of no real help other than to provide good references.

    I think you should follow your heart, you only get to live one life and it should be one that makes you happy. Definitely wait to see how you feel after the baby is born– in some ways, staying at home is the most difficult job you can have. Moreover, everyone’s situation is different– the support system you have if you SAH, your husband’s job and ability to help out if you return to work. . . so ultimately no one really knows what is better for you than you.

    As for the you must work in case you get divorced theory, the divorce rate for the college-educated folk, especially those than get married after their early twenties is much lower than the fifty percent national average. In my opinion, the possibility of getting divorced isn’t a good reason to return to work if you don’t otherwise think that’s the best path for you.
    Also, I’ve found the toddler years are actually among the easiest to be at work, they have alot more activities that need parental involvement as they get older (homework, recitals, sports, school parties, etc . . .)

  28. Reader R, good luck! There are many different career and life paths, and many different ways to raise happy children. I have worked the whole time, and I have seen my friends who became SAHM’s for a while have a tough time re-entering the work market. We currently have a temp with an MBA because she couldn’t get a better job after staying home to raise kids. An atty friend of mine, who worked 10+ years and is willing to come back in at the bottom, is losing jobs to 30 year olds who are far less qualified than she is. I think there is a sort of discrimination that the working folks feel to those who have stopped doing so, so I think the part time/ writing/ teaching thing might go a long way to helping you when you do try to get back into your field.

    Re the mommy wars, women can be judgmental and nasty to each other about a whole bunch of things (peep toe shoes, SAHMs, pants that are too short, etc.), so I just try to take comments with a grain of salt. I also think part of the reason it doesn’t bother me that much is that I am the primary earner in my family and so my kids need me to work. Because of that I feel I don’t have the luxury of guilt or second guessing.

  29. Reader R, you are asking good questions.

    Since you’re not quite sure what will happen or how you’ll feel three or five years down the road, it’s good to ask these questions now and at least know the drawbacks or benefits of any course of action.

    I would suggest a four part plan: First, what do you want to do if you were to return to work in, say, in five years? Would you want a partner-track position? A part-time position? A government law job? Will you have a supportive spouse and money to hire help (nanny, au pair, and/or house-keeper)? Less senior employees have less control over their time, not more. Exceptions to this are those who are part-time or contract employees. If you return to a position that has less flexibility, your life will be more constrained. Or would you want to work from home or start your own business?

    Second, what can you do now to position yourself to return to the same type of job or same level job? I’ve seen women get so immersed in child-raising that they basically have to return to an entry level position. You are especially at risk, in my opinion, because your work history doesn’t show that you’ve “invested” in your career. Other posters have pointed this out and it’s not that we are being judgmental; it’s that you haven’t established tenure as an attorney and that might raise questions if you return. Returning to an entry level position may not matter to you but it might also make it harder to get a job if you are competing against newly-minted attorneys from top schools with good grades and recent work-experience or internships.

    Third, what can you do while on extended “leave” to make your re-entry easier? Maintaining connections is so much easier with LinkedIn, Facebook, email, blogs. Every few months, attend a few conferences, a networking or Bar Association event, some continuing ed requirements – all of these will keep you in the loop. Read blogs, subscribe to (and actually read) your Bar journals. Part-time work, writing articles, volunteer or pro bono work (depending on your specialty) might also pay off. I know an attorney who began teaching at a law school as an adjunct part-time and now that her kids are in high school, she teaches full-time. Besides law school, you could also teach business law to undergrads or legal writing to paralegals: Online classes are tailor-made for stay-at-home parents.

    If you’ve ever wanted to get additional degrees (e.g. LL.M. or tax degree or a related Masters’), there might not be a better time.

    And fourth, make sure you and your spouse/partner are on the same page. Some men (and women if the positions are reversed) don’t want to be the sole breadwinner due to the stress and risk of having “all the eggs in one basket.” Or perhaps they don’t appreciate how much work it is to stay home with children. Will the lack of your salary significantly handicap your retirement savings or your kids’ college funds and are you both ok with that? He may hear 3-4 years and you may want to extend that and that could cause problems.

    Too bad we don’t have a way to peer into the future to see what the results of any one path might have on your life and career but maybe you can come back to Kat’s blog in a couple years and let us know how it works for you.

    • Manoa Valley Girl :

      I think Coach Laura has an excellent response and I concur with her in every respect. One more point however. Our society has become extremely ageist. When you decide to return to work, your competition for the job will be 25 years old and “child-free.” The hiring committee may opt for the younger person just because of a misplaced perception of young=more energy. Childlessness = willing to work late. Young also = less sick leave, etc. If you had more experience, that might trump the age issue, but in fact you don’t.

      In any event, law is really not the best career choice for work/life balance. Perhaps you could branch out to an area where your degree impresses but you won’t have to practice actual law.

      Oh, and as a former divorce attorney specializing in child custody cases between professionals, you are naive to believe your marriage could never be at risk. Life is hard, good people change, or get ill, or become bankrupt. Every single woman should plan and should have a secret savings account.

      Good luck on your pregnancy and delivery and we all hope you have a healthy baby, a marriage that lasts forever with a strong, supportive, good provider, and an awesome job in the future.

      • Manoa Valley Girl :

        Also, the early feminists were wrong: you can’t have it all. Unless you redefine “all.”

      • cubedweller :

        I don’t quite understand the recommendation to have a “secret” savings account. How about having a personal savings account that is not linked to any joint or spousal accounts? I would be hesitant to keep a secret account , unless there is abuse in the relationship and I needed money to escape the situation.

  30. Agreed. PL, you come across as angry and nasty. Hope your children aren’t picking up on that.

    • Eh? I’m not angry or nasty. I’m actually really, really happy. I work for myself about 2.5 days a week, and spend the rest of the time hanging out with my kid. It’s pretty sweet. It’s not for everyone, which is why I really don’t feel the particular need to criticize anyone for making a different choice. What I do dislike is the arrogance of women that consider *their* choice to be the best choice, and look down on other people for not making the same choice.

  31. Reading this thread, I am so glad that I don’t have kids. Some of you people are nuts.

  32. Westwood Mom :

    Wow, why so much hostility? If you don’t like someone’s post, just ignore it, really no need to insult other posters or their parenting skills.

  33. Consider yourself lucky if you have the choice between staying home with your child and working while your child goes to daycare. Some of us would love to have that choice to agonize over, but children are not among the life options at the moment.

  34. A woman I work with just came back to her old job after several years of full leave. She is adjusting to the transition but seems happy. Staying in touch with your current employer and letting them know a year or two before you are ready to come back is probably smart.

    My friend helps run MomsRising which may have some helpful resources for you.

  35. Prax, I agree with you 100% as this is something I encounter just about every day.

  36. In the 19 years since I had my first child, I’ve ranged from 100% time SAHM to freelance, to part-time to full-time to freelance again. I honed my managerial and technical skills by volunteering for school, alumni, church and other non-profits. I loved it all, and was thrilled that when I recently applied for a full-time position as my youngest is about to leave for college, the women who read my resume got it and hired me. My advice would be to stay busy by doing what you’re passionate about, keep sharp and make a difference. You’ll enjoy the journey more, and it will be more likely to pay off in the end.

  37. Does anyone have any advice for a newly graduated lawyer? I have a selected field and contacts from clinical work and internships, but I’m not taking leave since I have no job currently. I know I will have to be a SAHM because day care in our area costs pretty much the same as what my salary would be if I had a job due to the economy. I’m just concerned about going back to work in a few years with no experience and very few contacts. I’ve decided to at least continue going to professional organization meetings that I went to while in law school and am a member of, but what else could I do that isn’t overly time consuming or expensive; ie, every CLE imaginable.

  38. Anonymous :

    Maybe it’s irrelevant, but I wish men had this option, too. I mean if they wanted to stay at home, or do 50% or decide on this or that.. Nope. It’s just ‘you gotta work to support the family.’

  39. Anonymous :

    Wow. I feel icky even having read some of these nasty comments. For many women, this is a hard decision either way – hard to leave their babies and hard to leave jobs they worked so hard to get. And even harder to know what the future holds and which decision will result in greater happiness in the long-run. Not sure why so many moms feel the need to express so much cruelty and anger toward women who simply made the choice to either work or stay home – we aren’t talking about people who harmed others; they just wrestled with a tough decision and made a choice they felt was best for them. I really don’t get the hatred. The OP was just asking for some helpful tips – she said she already made up her mind about wanting to be home with her baby – she wasn’t soliciting advice about whether to stop working, but simply wanted to know how to keep connected and transition back to work when the time came. I appreciate all the posts that provided helpful tips, however.

    For the OP, I found the book Maternal Desire to be really interesting about many of these issues.

  40. not a super mommy :

    Jesus, it’s hard to believe that actual women wrote the nasty comments here. I started reading this, eager for advice about what to do, and instead I got a horrible bitchy argument from both sides. How awful. Why does the dilemma of “working” vs. “staying at home” bring out the worst in us? I have the utmost respect for women who choose to pursue a career *and* women who choose devote their time entirely to their children. Both choices intimidate the hell out of me. Not that the original poster even asked the question, but deciding whether or not to stay at home is the toughest dilemma I have ever dealt with and I still don’t have a good answer. No matter what choice I make, I will most certainly feel like I am missing out on something. How unfair for women to have to feel this way. Sometimes I feel like we are victims of our own success. Dads don’t have this kind of pressure to do it all and be a super daddy, but we are expected to do just that. No wonder everyone here sounds so bitter.