Monica Samuels had her career path all figured out. She would become a lawyer, work for a law firm, and when she had a family, she would hire a nanny to care for her children.
Only one problem: Law firms like to get billable hours – lots of billable hours – from their associates. Spending the majority of her waking hours at work did not mesh with Samuels’ plans to raise a family, and she soon found herself with the work-life dilemma that has been facing women for decades in this country.
That prompted Samuels – an environmental and immigration attorney and former campaign staffer and a fundraiser for President Bush – to try and look for solutions not only for herself, but other women who want more options while raising their children.
The result: a Web site (www.momsnextmove.com) devoted to helping women figure out how they’ll leave the work force when they have a family – and how they’ll re-enter it when the time comes. Samuels has launched the Web site with J.C. Conklin, a journalist.
“A lot of women need help re-entering the work force not just after having been home raising their children, but because there has been a death or divorce (in their lives),” Samuels says. “We have found that it really helps these women to hear the ideas and successes of other women, so we thought the Web site could serve as a resource and forum and be really helpful.”
For example, one mom on the site’s forum asks for input about getting her husband to stay home with their son since she makes more money than he does, while another wants to know how she can persuade her boss to let her take a year off from a job she loves.
Samuels says there is no cookie-cutter solution for women seeking to balance work and home, because each profession has different demands. Still, she says there are some things that all women need to think about:
• Lay the right groundwork: “Even when you’re in college and thinking about a career, find out if it’s the kind of profession that will let you have the family life you want. “For me, I didn’t understand that I would be required to have so many billable hours,” Samuels says. “Talk to a woman in that career and find out if the career is conducive to what you want.”
• Plan ahead. No matter how much time you decide to take off to have a family, maintain your contacts. Reach out to your network through e-mails, lunches, professional meetings, etc. “You have to be the one to keep up the contacts, and initiate invitations,” Samuels says. “For the first couple of months when you leave for family time, it won’t be hard. But then, it’s out of sight, out of mind. You’ve got to keep it up. For example, you can send an e-mail congratulating someone on a promotion. Make sure you stay in contact with people two or three levels above you.”
• Leverage your skills. When you decide to return to work after being at home, think about how you’ve used business skills during that time. Many stay-at-home moms take on volunteer projects, using skills such as marketing, fundraising, organization, management, leadership and accounting. By creating a functional resume, women can point out how they’ve put their skills to work to achieve real results, she says.
Samuels says that while a lot of women may be worried about job hunting in this tough economy, “there are a lot of people with gaps in their resumes,” so it shouldn’t make them unemployable.
And, she adds, women shouldn’t be intimidated by the idea of facing new technology in the workplace. “There are so many tutorials on the Internet, or you can even ask your teenage son,” she says. “I see so many moms using their BlackBerries these days, I don’t think it’s going to be much of a problem.”
Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy … and How to Avoid Them,” (www.45things.com). Write to her at: anita(AT)anitabruzzese.com or c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Va. 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.