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Online Degrees Give Stay-at-Home Moms A Way to Prepare For Workplace Re-Entry

Jun 18, 2007 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

Jennifer Cartwright worked for a Fortune 100 company for seven years.  She loved her job.  While many of her co-workers burned out in the high-pressure environment, Jennifer thrived.  She was on her way up, and it looked like nothing could stop her.

Then she got pregnant. 

“I hated to give up my job,” Jennifer says.  “But there was no way to scale back my time at the office—it was all or nothing.  And even though I loved it, I ultimately decided my baby needed me more than I needed to stay at work.”

Fast-forward a few years.  Jennifer’s son, Alan, was now old enough to go to pre-school, and Jennifer wants to go back to work.  But she still had a hard time finding a high-profile, high-pressure position like the one she left.  Most of the employers who asked for interviews were offering considerably scaled-back positions at much lower pay scales, with little opportunity for advancement.

It’s a common dilemma for working moms.  Unlike in years past, today’s professional women are demanding time for personal fulfillment and quality time with their families—without a sacrifice in pay or prestige.  Working moms are causing single employees and men to rethink work-life issues, too.  This is putting pressure on companies to change.

There’s no question that women are changing the character of the workplace, but for many, it’s not changing fast enough.  Many companies look at any resume gap as a warning sign, so a mom with an employment gap of a few years may never get a foot in the door to explain her position. 

This is where an online degree can help.  If you want more than the typical dozen weeks of maternity leave to see your child through her formative years, an online degree can keep you competitive while you take time off.  Here’s why:

It makes you more valuable

In general the more education you have, the more you’re worth.  If you’d like to go back to work in a job like the one you held before, consider getting a Master’s degree: either in your specific industry, or in a field that would give you an edge over the competition.  Online MBA degrees are especially useful: business sense is needed in a wide variety of positions.  Consider a degree that your employer would love to see on a resume, but that few other applicants have.

It fills that resume gap

It can be tough to make yourself look good to employers with a wide gap in your resume.  But fill that gap with school and study, and you can make it disappear. 

With a degree program instead of a gap, you’ll stop looking like a mommy-track dropout and start looking like an ambitious self-starter.  You may not even have to bring up the fact that you left your last job to take care of a child—you could explain that you left more for the opportunity to go back to school.

You can study on your own time

A full-time school schedule can be just as demanding as full-time employment—but not if you’re studying from home.  Online degree programs are uniquely suited to moms with childcare responsibilities.   You can go to class when you have time, not when you’re required to.  The flexible schedule is very humane for moms with young kids; you can study around your family’s schedule.

You don’t need childcare

Perhaps the most difficult part of getting a degree as a mother is arranging for childcare while you’re out of the house.  But with an online degree, you can study while your children play nearby or nap in the next room—no babysitting required.  This saves moms considerable money on childcare expenses, plus gas from shuttling the kids to and fro.

Jennifer ultimately got an MBA through an online program while working part-time and caring for her child.  Eventually, she landed a job with a pay scale similar to what she had before.  “I wish I’d started my online MBA sooner,” she says.  “It would have made things much easier when I decided to go back to work.”


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