Life after Stay-at-Home Momming: Grad School


woman with backpack and school books. stay at home mom to grad school. Des Moines MomIn my 40th year and as a mother of three, I applied to grad school. It was unexpectedly terrifying.

Our children are growing, as children do, and though I was convinced we’d have nursing, diapered babies for the rest of our lives, that’s no longer the case. As we prepare to launch our youngest into his preschool years, I know it’s time to plot my professional return.

Easier said than done. 

Return to Work

I left my full-time teaching job seven years ago. In my then post-partum, enthusiastic naiveté, I assumed I’d return to the same sort of position, in the same sort of world, as the same sort of person when my kids were older. 

My predictions were wrong on every level. Everything is unimaginably different.

These gross miscalculations on my part left me reconsidering my professional plans. A grad school program and a slight swerve in career suddenly seemed the best path forward. 

That’s when the real trouble began.

Resume Building

Revisiting your resume after seven years of stay-at-home momming is frightening. Even though I’m confident in my work experience before kids, there’s now this big blank gap with no job-related content to fill in. I have no interesting side hustle (I have yet to make money off any of my mom talents), no relevant accomplishments (does potty training two and a half kids count?), and no accolades (unless the homemade Super Mom poster I got for my birthday could be considered). 

I could find no room on my resume to reflect on the personal growth parenting a small child requires. To describe my heightened powers of empathy and perfected adulting abilities. To list the parenting skills honed in the past eight years that can arguably be applied to any job. 

There’s no room to put this on a resume because every other parent has these skills, and many parents developed them while maintaining a full-time work schedule and wearing hard pants. Their resume doesn’t have this gap.

I felt inadequate. Out of my depth. Irrelevant. 

Asking for Help

Then I had to ask for help. The application also required three letters of recommendation. This wasn’t just contact information. It was an actual time-consuming letter I had to request from my beyond-busy, professional contacts who were already overwhelmed with working and parenting during a pandemic.  

Asking for help is hard. Moms do the helping, we don’t require it for ourselves. 

I went through with it all and completed the resume and application. I swallowed my self-doubt and made the painful request to my colleagues to submit letters of recommendation. They are beautiful human beings and did so without complaint.  

Leaving a job to stay home and parent full-time is a privilege and should be a choice rather than an expectation. It is a sacrifice both financially and professionally and can wreak havoc on one’s sense of self. I don’t think I realized just how much until I started to consider what would come next.

Motherhood is too big to fit on a piece of paper and too intangible to list as a skill set. I know I will be a better professional now than I ever was before kids. I’ve been stretched mentally, emotionally, and – you better believe – physically. Of that, I’m sure. 

The terror of self-promotion and justifying my unpaid, profession-less existence was real and it was deep. Whether or not I get into grad school doesn’t matter at this point. I’ve grappled with the terror and realized that I wouldn’t trade these past homebound years for any resume-builder. 

Now I just have to find some real pants.


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