A few weeks ago the <a href="https://hbr.org/2018/02/stay-at-home-moms-are-half-as-likely-to-get-a-job-interview-as-moms-who-got-laid-off/html/">Harvard Business Review</a> published a study showing that Stay At Home Moms are half as likely to find employment than women that were laid off. There is absolutely no doubt that being a stay at home parent is a demanding and fulfilling avocation…but it is *not* a "job". You will certainly use all of your soft skills and refine many of them, but the bias against SAHM/SAHF is the deterioration of *functional* (or "hard") skills. Virtually every industry changes these days, whether it is new software programs, discoveries/innovations within the discipline, or new business processes. All of these take effort to learn. If you are lucky enough to have the luxury of staying home when you start a family with the intention of going back at some point, it is absolutely vital to understand some of the ramifications of your choice, and ways you can help yourself and prepare for your change in occupation and eventual transition. Please remember, this is *your* choice and part of that choice is a level of professional sacrifice.
Bringing a new baby or adopted child home is a 24×7 commitment. That being said, there are periods of time, after your little one has an established sleep pattern and once you and your partner establish a routine, where you can turn youself to other things. And while I know that laundry, cleaning, errands, and cooking are generally part and parcel of your new role, it is important that you carve time for yourself to keep up some of your professional skills/credentials. You don’t have to commit to 40 hours a week to do so. Remember, "professional" is defined in terms of quality, not quantity. So if you devote a few hours a month to keeping up your professional credentials, your transition back into the workforce when you are ready should be much more lucrative.
Here are some ways you can keep your professional persona alive and relevant for the longer haul.
1) Education: take or teach classes. With the plethora of online college options, getting either college degree or a Master’s is something you can do a class or two at a time. There are many online programs now geared for working adults that give you "credit" for your professional career, allowing you to "test out" of traditional pre-requisites. And, as a friend of mine that stayed home while raising her two sons and took classes, a little known fact that as long as your taking *at least one class* and receiving financial aid, even if you finish your degree, your financial aid will remain deferred.
The other side to the education track is teaching in your field. A continuing ed class or certificate program at a local community college; small groups of professionals as an independent consultant; speaking at conferences/seminars. Keeping up your professional network during this time is absolutely vital.
2) Writing: start (or continue) a blog; write a book; branch out into freelance journalism and write articles. Don’t discount the value of participating in LinkedIn discussions. Comment on postings that relevant to your field. Answer questions on Quora. Basically create your professional persona as a Subject Matter Expert in your field. Save all your content into a portfolio, and create a website for yourself that you can use when you are ready to go back to work. If you are in a field that has online communities (ie Github for technology, or the AMA for marketing professionals; LinkedIn and Meetup both offer ways, and FB is chock full of communities for *everything*).
*I would also like to say that if you in any way create CONTENT-digital, written, visual – build your portfolio BEFORE YOU LEAVE YOUR JOB. Obviously I am not advocating taking intellectual property or proprietary information, but screen shots, presentations, press releases, marketing collateral etc. are all valuable pieces of your history that can help bridge past and the future.
3) Volunteer *in your field* a few hours a month or quarter. The key to volunteering is that it must be generally in your field.
4) Attend evening networking events such as professionally-focused Meetups. If there isn’t anything, *start* a channel of interest.
5) Consult. Remember, it isn’t about quantity, it is about demonstrable results. One client a quarter is just as valid as 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year.
Finally, make the effort to keep up with your professional contacts and continue to build new ones. When you ARE ready to return to the workforce, it will be via people who know you, know your work, and feel comfortable recommending you to THEIR networks. Luckily we live in an era with LinkedIn, email, instant messaging, video chat, Facebook and other social media channels where we can keep our networks up electronically. Although the occasional lunch downtown after Jr. starts school might be a nice break.