SECOND CHANCES: Returning to work may be easier than many city moms think
TIME OUT KIDS
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By Jennifer Kelly Geddes
Women hear it all the time: Stay home with the kids and you can kiss the career good-bye. Even if you manage to rejoin the workforce in some compromised capacity, your seniority and paycheck will never recover (Don't get us started on the problem of child care). But a new nonfiction book dares to deliver the kind of good news that doesn't make the headlines.
Emma Gilbey Keller's The Comeback
(Bloomsbury) follows seven women who kick-started rewarding second careers after extended family leaves--while overcoming obstacles ranging from reluctant partners to family health issues.
A successful journalist and the author of a book on Winnie Mandela, Gilbey Keller wrote The Comeback
after staying home to take care of her two girls, now six and 11. While she loved the Mommy & Me classes and the walks back and forth to preschool, she began to feel isolated. "It was the playground that did me in--I was lonely there, and the swing-pushing was endless," she admits. On top of that, her husband's career at the New York Times
was soaring (he's Bill Keller, now the paper's executive editor), and she found herself at social events being asked about his
opinions on Iraq. "I started to wonder how I could justify my day. At supper, the kids would tell us about gym and their reading and art classes, and Bill would discuss the lead story in tomorrow's papers. All I could add was that I'd been to Fairway."
Finding the seven women and telling their stories was easier than Gilbey Keller had imagined. "It sounds like a cliché, but they fell into my lap," she says. "I stopped looking when I thought I had a good mix, but who knows how many more are out there?" Maxine Snider is one of the seven; she'd worked as an interior designer before having kids, and later returned to work by starting up a furniture design company. Her business happened to take off just as her husband was retiring and wanted to travel and relax. (In the end, she kept at it and he found a hobby--photography.) Or consider Elaine Stone, who took a five-year leave from her law practice after her third child was born. She's now working at a big firm and has made partner.
New York moms are uniquely poised to get back on track, says Gilbey Keller. "Everything is very close in the city--just think of your own apartment building. There's hardly any physical isolation. And people here really do want to make friends and get together in groups, which makes networking pretty easy." Here, more of her simple yet sage advice for mapping your own comeback:
Get out of the house.
Holing up at home can make you doubt your own abilities, so join something--a gym, a church, a school volunteer group. Gilbey Keller tried all of these (two churches, in fact) and more. "Consider taking a class, as well. It'll give you the confidence and get you out of your own head."
Look toward preschool.
That's a good stage to start thinking about your next career move. Once you get into a routine, you'll find that you can do a lot in the two or three hours the kids are gone (though you may have to cut down on grabbing coffee with the other moms).
Find a quiet spot.
It can be hard to focus at home where you may be tempted to tackle the laundry, the breakfast dishes, or your email. Gilbey Keller recommends the library, either a city branch or, if possible, the one at your kid's school. "When you're in public, you're a little bit on display, so you tend to work harder."