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Erin Stewart offers tips to ease the tough transition from full-time mommy to full-time employee

Let’s be honest: Every stay-at-home parent fantasizes about the day when all her children are in school. It’s the dawning of a new era. A chance to return to who you were before being somebody’s mom.

But, that day also fills stay-at-homers like me with dread. It’s the ending of an era for crying out loud! Who was I before I was a mom?!

More and more of my mom friends are facing down this momentous occasion. Most of us have given more than a decade of our lives to being a full-time mom. We gave up careers we loved and paychecks and adult interaction, and most of us would do it again in a heartbeat. But it’s hard not to stand at this precipice and wonder if we would have been better off staying in the workforce.

Because facing the prospect of working — or at least finding our place in the world again — is daunting (to say the least). This moment brings with it serious self-doubts about whether we can hack it in the workplace again, or if we even have anything to offer outside our homes.

Another stay-at-home mom contemplating her return to the working world wrote recently that she often marvels at her working mom friends, who aren’t facing this identity crisis after years of full-time motherhood.

“They seem to know what they want. They seem to know what they need,” she writes. “All of them went back to work after maternity leave. They stayed in touch with their pre-parental selves. I didn’t. I dove off the working world plank and landed face first in a sea of motherhood.”

According to research, her anxiety is legit. A study last year in the Harvard Business Review showed the workforce has a serious “mommy gap bias.” Moms looking for work who had left the workforce to be full-time parents were half as likely to get a call back from a potential employer than mothers who had been fired from jobs, and a third as likely to get that call than working mothers.

So, what does that mean for full-time moms trying to make the jump back into the workforce? We’re doomed? We should just throw up our hands and give up on ever doing anything outside the home again?

No way. Sure, we may have to hustle a little more than the next lady in line for the job, but that’s OK. We are moms. We are nothing if not scrappy, resourceful multitaskers who won’t take no for an answer. But let’s face it, you’re going to have to buckle down and give it the old mommy try.

First, refresh your skills. If you’ve been out of your field for years, things have changed. The technology is new. The protocols are different. You’ll need to get caught up on what you’ve missed, whether that’s by taking online classes or getting recertified. Don’t expect to just waltz back into the workforce without a serious revamp of your expertise.

Second, get the word out. Your most useful connections for the past years have been the mommy down the street who throws the killer birthday parties and the PTA mom who always gets the good parking spot. No more. You need to start using your network to find job openings. Your resume is likely a little stark at this point, so the word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend to a potential employer could be your foot in the door. Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re looking to go back to work.

Third, be prepared to explain your resume gap. Don’t try to hide or gloss over these years by padding a resume or skirting the issue. Be proud of your decision and your years as a stay-at-home parent. Talk about it openly with potential employers and tell them what you learned and how those hard-won skills could come in useful in a job.

Finally, go easy on yourself. It would be kind of miraculous if someone could take a 10-year hiatus from the workforce and then just jump back in on the same level as everyone else. Just like the learning curve for motherhood took time and patience, so will the return to work.

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Take it slow. Rebuild your resume. Rebuild your confidence. And remember, you took the time off to be a full-time parent because that was the decision you thought was best for your family. This transition — even though it might be scary and painful and overwhelming — is just another piece of that choice.

And as far as redefining yourself now that your kids don’t require 24/7 mommy care, take that slow, too. You’ll find yourself, and when you do, you won’t be the same woman you were all those years ago. But that’s OK. I’d only be worried if those years didn’t change you and shape you into the kind of woman who can take a decade off and still come back swinging.