How Not To Rejoin The Workforce After Being A SAHM

by Sarah Cottrell
re-enter the workforce
James Tutor / iStock

After nearly a decade of wrangling my children, I’m finally ready to re-enter the workforce. It took some serious convincing to get me to do it—after all, who would be interested in hiring a person who thinks nothing of not showering for days on end and who swears by dropping the word “sugardoodle” as a fierce example of an expletive. And yet, here I am, ditching my yoga pants, dusting off my briefcase, and wondering if women even wear pantyhose in an office anymore.

Before I packed my brown bag lunch for the first day, my husband reminded me that I should try my best to not to “mom it up” with my conditioned motherly responses to regular everyday situations. Fearing that I would make a fool of myself, I made a mental note to try my absolute best not to do the following things”

Resist the urge to threaten my co-workers with a time-out.

As tempting as it may be to rely on that classic mom standby of parking a naughty kid in a chair and setting a timer for five minutes, I just can’t help but wonder if HR would get involved if I pulled a stunt like that at my new job. I mean really, I know I have mastered the “scary mom is super pissed” face and all, but maybe try to rein that shit in on the first day.

Don’t tell my boss stuff like, “Wow, that’s awesome! Great job!” when he tells me anything like, literally, anything.

Any parent knows exactly what I’m talking about here; it’s that automatic response to validate and acknowledge ideas or statements or “demands” made by children. Not being able to slow down this particular knee-jerk reaction might just get me fired, because to an adult, this level of “praise” can come across as pretty damn sarcastic and condescending.

Resist the urge to wipe anyone’s mouth during business lunches.

Even if Bob from accounting can’t keep his food out of his ironic hipster beard, I really shouldn’t go hunting down those crumbs with a wet wipe or, worse, some spit and a paper napkin. Nope! Don’t do it!

Refrain from referring to myself in the third person.

I can just see it now, Joan from two cubes over throwing me shade over something lame like not remembering to refill the ink cartridge in the communal printer when I’m rushing to hit a deadline and me responding like a lunatic with, “Sarah doesn’t appreciate your shade throwing, Joan! Keep it up, and Sarah may have to put you in a time-out!”

Leave the sticker chart at home.

No matter how tempting it may be to boost team morale, stickers aren’t going to motivate anyone over the age of 9. Although I had a lot of success using Ninja Turtle stickers to chart how well my kids did with potty training, I just can’t imagine that clapping my hands while jumping up and down and praising my co-workers with gold stickers on a laminated Elmo performance chart will go over well. Although, isn’t that what free donuts and bagels in the break room are for? Hmm…

Never resort to bribery.

No matter how tense shit gets, never bust out the mother of all behavioral manipulation. I’m not totally sure, but I think in the workplace that might actually be illegal. Also, I don’t think many adults would get excited about an extra cheese stick or a fistful of stale jellybeans.

And while it may be true that after years of wiping butts and burning dinners the opportunity of working outside of the home has me wanting to yell, “Fuck yeah! I am so ready to hang with other adults!” another part of me feels twinges of regret and panic that my small brood will be under the care of someone else.

The big day is here and I’ve got my bag packed with the appropriate gear, a nice (clean!) work outfit, and even a healthy lunch that doesn’t include yogurt tubes or juice boxes. I just hope I don’t fuck it up by saying things like, “Wow, thank you for using your manners!”

Wish me luck.