If you’re pondering a jump back into the workforce, the statistics are on your side.
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What’s more, women start businesses at 1.5 times the national average, generating nearly $1.5 trillion dollars in annual revenue and employing over 7.9 million people.
But, a woman who sets off for the office each morning, often does a double shift when she returns home by keeping track of schedules, delegating housework and keeping the family trains running on time. We asked experts for ways to make a return to work as smooth as possible.
A New Look At Finances
For a lot of women that return to the workforce, an additional income stream opens up new avenues for retirement or college savings, allows her to boost her family’s emergency fund, can lessen the strain of unforeseen expenses, and impact both her and her family’s quality of life by increasing the amount of spending money available.
“Discretionary income can be for anything from family vacations to extra meals out and a house cleaner to help ease the transition into a new role,” says Becky Klevan, CFP®, CFA®, MBA, Wealth Manager, Accredited Advisors Inc.
But for the scores of women who change careers each year, and take a pay cut in the process, a new role can have an adverse effect on her family’s finances. Klevan’s advice is to “keep the long-term in mind. More years in the workforce can help offset a pay-cut that may come from a job change.”
But with money being the leading cause of stress in relationships, squabbles are likely to arise as a family adjusts to its new normal.
Tackle these issues by “reviewing the family budget and looking for low-hanging fruit to cut, whether it’s an unused gym membership, or newspaper subscription that never gets read,” says Klevan. “If bigger changes are needed, prioritize expenses and look to cut things that are not of upmost importance. If kids are still in daycare, remember these are high-spending years, and there will likely be more room in the budget once the kids are in school.”
Keeping The Household Running Smoothly
It’s a sobering trend: When a woman returns to work, or takes on a different, more challenging role, little changes on the homefront to make the transition easier.
“Even when a woman goes back to work, her home life doesn’t change that much,” says Barbara Reich, author of “Secrets Of An Organized Mom,” co-founder of Never Caught Up, LLC, which focuses on work/life integration, women’s empowerment, and wellness, and an expert on time and space management. “Women are still doing the majority of the housework, the home care. It’s the women who are the ones who make sure things get done.”
Reich has several strategies for keeping things running smoothly at home while tackling a new job or pivoting. They include:
Automating As Much As You Can. “Put things on autopilot,” says Reich. “That might mean having a monthly meal plan where the first Monday of every month they have chicken, and on Tuesday they have tacos and on Wednesday they have steak. The grocery list can be on autopilot. Plug your cell phone at the same place in the house. Eliminate as many of those everyday decisions that you can eliminate. The more things that are routinized the more that frees up space in her brain to think about more important decisions.”
Learn To Say No. “Absolutely do not ever overcommit,” she says. Imagine accepting an invitation to a wine-tasting birthday party two towns over on a Thursday night. “Before you say yes, think about all the things that ‘yes’ entails. Yes means getting a babysitter, buying a gift, driving an hour. Think about all the things yes entails and don’t be afraid to say no.”
Be Organized. “If your home is set up properly then the maintenance of your home will take you ten minutes a day,” says Reich. “You can group the like things together. You want one place where the batteries are, for example. Label everything, and make everyone in the home accountable for putting it away and everybody knows where things go. That way your home will run in a much smoother fashion. There will be less chaos.”
Use Technology Wisely
“Technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to its relationship with organization,” says Erica Keswin, Co-Founder, Never Caught Up and an expert on the impact of technology on relationships. “Technology can have a negative impact on organization, but used strategically it can have a positive impact on organization. What I always say is, we need to put technology ‘in its place,’ [such as] in a basket on the table and leverage it to be more organized.”
Many working moms find themselves answering emails or taking conference calls after-hours, when they used to have more time to monitor their kids’ homework. Keswin says this can be ameliorated by defining “school-work time” and “screen time.”
“If a child is writing a term paper and is in the ‘zone,’” she says, “it takes up to twenty-three minutes to get back into the zone after being interrupted. Tell your kids to put their phones in another room and every thirty minutes they can take a break to go check it. Tell your child that it will take him or her longer to get the homework done and the quality will be degraded if the pings and dings are on.”
Of course, even the most diligent student will find it hard to resist the temptation to check her text messages or social feeds outside the designated half-hour window.
“If you are having trouble getting your child to put the phone in another room, you can download an app called ‘focus,’” she says. “This app will automatically shut off your child’s access to the Internet on their phone for the amount of time programmed.”
Ask For Help
Reich’s advice for getting the family involved? Just ask.
She gives her kids jobs. For example, instead of allowing them to place their soiled laundry in the laundry basket, she keeps a shout stick within reach and asks them to pre-treat their clothes so they can better be cleaned when she gets to it.
If you are looking for help from your spouse, you may consider drawing up a list of household duties so it is clear what’s needed to keep things running smoothly, then assign each duty to a column of what each of you are willing and not willing to do, and what you’re willing to hire out to get done. If it is worth giving up dinner out a couple times a month to have the lawn mowed regularly, that might be worth it.
In the end, it’s important to remember that a return to work or pivot is a good thing for all involved, and that no issue is insurmountable.