5 Strategies for Stay-at-Home Parents to Transition Back to Work

Mighty Mommy shares 5 effective strategies to help stay-at-home parents ease back into the workforce.    

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #243

...I watch my neighbor’s son for an hour before school most mornings and she returns the favor for an hour after school while I’m still at work.

Strategy #2: Organize a Schedule

Working moms function best when they have a schedule that allows them to stay organized both at home and at work. This is particularly crucial if your family is accustomed to having you available to care for their needs without a moment’s notice.  Start with simple tasks like planning a few easy meals that can either be prepared in advance or easily made on those nights you are working.  If your children are older, communicate your work schedule clearly with them so they will know your availability and can plan ahead for rides home from after school activities. 

If you have an infant or younger kids, be prepared to schedule in extra time getting ready the night before or waking earlier on a work morning for those unforeseen, but highly likely, outfit changes, searches for misplaced pacifiers, and corraling of favorite stuffed animals, or for your slowpoke toddler who likes to play with her cereal during breakfast rather than eating it.  Realistically evaluate your calendar for time slots to fit in important tasks like grocery shopping and keeping up with your own exercise routine.  Once you make organization a habit, you’ll cut down an enormous amount of stress in your family and work life. 

 Strategy #3: Do a Trial Run

I was nervous about how my new work schedule was going to affect our two dogs, never mind my kids, so the week before I went back to work, I did a trial run.  I set my alarm earlier and practiced my work routine. This included: leaving the breakfast items out for my kids, driving my two youngest to their grandmother’s house for the day as a mock trial of driving them to the babysitter’s house where they usually go while I’m at work, devised and printed a schedule for my teenage kids who would be at home (including their chore duties, reminders for summer reading requirements, and schedules of baseball games, music practice, etc.), and put together a meal for the crockpot which I plugged in before I left. 

Now, I didn’t really stay out of the house the entire day during the trial run, but I gave myself a full week of practice for the things that are most daunting to my schedule—getting the kids up and out for their daily activities and having the big chore drains like laundry and meal preparations organized and delegated ahead of time so I wouldn’t be scrambling at 7 PM after a long day of work.  

Strategy #4: Don’t Go it Alone

Working parents want to feel successful both in their careers and at home, and oftentimes they are afraid to admit they need help.  I know because I used to try and shoulder every aspect of my life all alone.  This only leads to exhaustion, frustration, and eventually resentment.  Nobody wins when mom or dad is stressed out, especially not your family, so get in the habit right when you go back to work in accepting support from friends, family, and neighbors.  

And if you’re raising your child with a spouse, make sure it’s a true give and take partnership.  One of the greatest perks of my new job is that we have a group of 5 moms who take turns making dinner for one another a few times a month.  We devised a schedule where we rotate meals with one another by doubling our recipe for items like a lasagna or homemade beef stew and share it with a coworker so it’s one less meal we have to prepare on a work day.

Strategy #5: Scale Back Obligations

Until you get used to your new work routine, don’t feel the need to say yes to every obligation that comes your way.  This includes school and PTA requests, extra activities for your kids, or even accepting the usual number of social invitations you and your spouse might routinely attend.  Cut yourself some slack and create some breathing room for yourself and your family until you can adjust to your new schedule and work out the kinks that are inevitably going to be part of this new change. 

For more ideas on balancing work and motherhood, check out my episode on 12 Ways to Balance Motherhood and Work with special guest Erin Jay Flynn, author of the fantastic book, Mastering the Mommy Track.

What strategies helped your transition from home to work? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.  Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

Working outside the home is a choice that individual families must make based on personal circumstances and preferences.  So whatever you decide is best for your family, make it as positive an experience as possible so you can reap the rewards both in and outside of your home.  Until next time…………….HAPPY PARENTING!

Working mom image courtesy of Shutterstock.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.