• Cheryl Amyx

From The Boardroom To The Playground: Seven Signs It's Time To Go Back To Work

Updated: May 21, 2020

As Originally Seen In Forbes

Emily is winded as she climbs the bedroom stairs. Four months pregnant with a 20 month-old little girl to chase, she describes motherhood as “amazing and brutal at the same time.” Emily left her career as a corporate communications professional to be a stay-at-home mom; she is also a certified business coach and holds a master’s degree from a prestigious university. Her combination of high intelligence and extraordinary communication skills is evident, but after one year of being a stay at home mom, she is quite simply, as she puts it, “bored.”

Emily’s boredom leads to curiosity, and she begins creating a website. Emily learns quickly and now has three new clients. Suddenly, she’s is a budding entrepreneur -- developing websites, crafting marketing messages and strategizing with clients. Though excited by her new challenge, she’s now faced with the daunting job of building a new business, finding satisfaction being a stay-at-home mom, managing her home, sustaining a positive marriage and maintaining the elusive work-life balance.

Emily is a microcosm of what I see on the playground: women who are management and leadership success stories with at least one degree and who, in a pregnant instant, go from the boardroom to the playground. Women who were once sought after for their business skills and acumen, now idly watch over their brood. Women who managed massive programs and solved problems effectively are now searching for sunscreen amidst leaky juice boxes. The weary faces of the "business moms" are etched in sadness and fatigue. Emily says that business is a huge part of her life and insists emphatically that she “cannot be a stay-at-home mom.”

So, how do you know if it’s time to go back to the workforce? Everyone’s time clock is different -- some people are ready after a few months, others after two years or five. But here are seven signs that can help you determine if it’s time for you to go back to work:

1. You miss the interaction and camaraderie of your work team.

Being around other people often brings a sense of purpose, pride and shared responsibility toward a common goal. These feelings are vitally important to our human nature. If you thrive on human interaction, follow your instincts.

2. You feel depressed and uninspired most days.

Are you finding it hard to get out of bed? I don't mean in the typical, sleepy-eyed, hit-the-snooze-button hard way but the feeling where your stomach turns at the realization that you are waking up to a new day.

3. You take out your anger on your children, either through emotional withdrawal, irritability, sarcasm, shouting or spanking.

Anger is often a result of extreme irritability. This can be caused by lack of proper sleep or nutrition, and many new parents can easily slip simply out of sheer sleep deprivation. But, if the behavior continues, it may be a form of depression. Some researchers are advocating that the standard DSM IV depression diagnosis be updated to include “dysfunctional anger” to the list of typical depression symptoms of “the blues” -- sadness, fatigue and appetite changes.

4. You are resentful and snippy to your partner/spouse.

The people closest to us are to be respected and appreciated. If you find yourself resenting the fact that your partner gets to leave the house in a snappy suit while you are at home facing a day of boredom, and you take it out on him or her, it’s time to consider a change.

5. You feel undervalued.

When you feel undervalued, you may start to question your identity and your true gifts and talents. Mundane household jobs tend to be thankless jobs. Some folks are truly happy running a household, but for former executives or artists, it can be a road to dysfunctional anger.

6. You miss having your own paycheck and financial freedoms.

For those who once managed companies and company finances, the sting of no longer having a paycheck can be painful. If you find you are embarrassed to ask your partner for money or, worse, refuse to ask and go without basic needs, then it’s important for you to bring in your own money. Leaving the workforce for 10 years can easily cost a high-paying professional over $1,000,000 in lost wages, not including investment opportunities and compound interest.

7. You feel jealous or sad when you hear about a former colleague moving up in the world.

We live in a time when others' accomplishments are easily discoverable. But, when you hear of a colleague or friend who just received a big promotion or opportunity and find yourself feeling jealous, it could be a sign that you miss the feeling of accomplishment.

Any or all of the above could be signs that it’s time to consider heading back to the boardroom. It’s not easy juggling daycare and babysitters, but continuing to build your career is also important for your sense of well-being and purpose. Look into options, and start the dialogue with your partner, your former employers or a headhunter. Perhaps even call your former employer about the possibility of contributing on a project basis or the possibility of ramping back into the company full time.

Remember, there is no shame in wanting to make a living. The only shame would be in staying in a role that doesn’t feel right and continuing to put on a false front. Being someone you’re not -- not being true to yourself -- can end up harming the family unit and perhaps destroying your creative and ambitious callings. By all means, take care of your family, but move in the direction that makes you feel alive.

As Betty Friedan said in The Feminine Mystique, “The problem that has no name -- which is simply the fact that American  women are kept from growing to their full human capacities -- is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease."

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