How To Opt Out And Re-Enter The Workforce

Two professional moms launched Apres, a business dedicated to paving the way for moms who “opted out” and want to head back to work.

apres-groupThe impossible situation: You have 2 young kids, a stressful job that requires frequent travel, a daily commute to and from the ‘burbs (because you know, “quality of life”), and coworkers who roll their eyes when you leave at 5:30pm (which only means you see your kids for 10 minutes before bedtime). You’re not doing anything well, and you’re about to f*^king lose it.

So you opt out of work and stay home for a few years. (Because really, what other choice do you have, but that conversation’s for another day…)

Cut to 6 months/3 years/10 years later: Your kids are in school full time, followed by after school activities, and you are itching to go back to work. But how?! Where do you even begin?

Niccole Kroll and Jen Gefsky totally know how you feel. They were equally as lost when they wanted to re-enter the workforce. Which is what led them to the idea for Apres, a new company that guides women through the process of finding (and getting!) the right opportunity for them. With super-helpful content, career coaches, prep tools, and curated job listings, it can be as hands-on (read: hand holding) as you like.

We peppered them with the endless questions swirling around in our head, and they answered them like the #BossWomen they are. Read on for some of the best advice, whether you’re thinking of opting out or heading back to the workplace.

Educate, Educate, Educate

Our approach is two-fold:

  1. Educate our members about their value to a workplace. It sends the right message to current employees who aren’t yet parents, giving them mentors and a beacon of hope that they’ll be able to do the same thing when they have a family. Lead by example, ladies.
  2. Educate companies about why “returners” are so valuable to the business: Clients want to work with companies that employ women with kids – it puts the company’s priorities and culture in a positive light.

Preparing to Opt Out:

  1. If feeling financially independent is going to be a trigger for you, plan ahead by stashing away  some savings to alleviate that stress.  
  2. Talk to a few people who have done it, so you have an understanding of what’s to come.
  3. Think about strategic volunteer opportunities that will add value if and when you go back to work (90% of women do) – be on a board, help a local small business – something that keeps your skills sharp or builds upon them.

Making SAHM Friends

  • Don’t shy away from connecting with women who may not be at all like you. You have being moms in common, and that’s enough.
  • If your kid is in school or signed up for activities, the parents of your kid’s friends will become your friends. Sounds ridiculous, but it truly happens that way.
  • Go to exercise classes during the day (i.e. not before/after work times) – barre, spinning, yoga – that’s where your people are.

While You’re Home…

You may think you’ll never ever go back to work, but 90% of women re-enter after opting out. Just in case, do the following – it will make it so much easier should you decide to go back.

  1. Keep an ongoing doc that keeps track of projects you take part in (think class mom, helping a friend launch a business, volunteering) and the skills used.
  2. Stay connected and engaged on Linkedin – join groups like alumni networks and professional groups.
  3. Keep your social media buttoned up – any future employer is going to look at it, so consider it your own personal brand.
  4. Stay abreast of your industry’s news by reading articles and staying engaged in groups. It’ll keep you informed and prevent playing catch-up should you find yourself interviewing one day.
  5. Don’t lose touch with professional contacts. Meet for coffee or drinks occasionally. Besides hearing all the industry gossip, it makes it not awkward to ask them for help if you decide to go back.

Let’s Do This Re-Entry Thing!

  1. The friends you’ve made on the soccer sidelines are a great resource. They know you on a personal level and will likely be very willing to refer you or make introductions if you ask.
  2. Be honest and up-front about the gap on your resume – it’s not something to feel insecure about. Say confidently, ‘I made the decision to spend some time with my kids.’ They will respect that.
  3. Know the requirements of the job (hours, travel, in-office policy), and don’t accept one that isn’t feasible for you.
  4. If you’re needing to move hours (not reduce hours), be up front in the interview process. They’ll either be willing to do it or not, but don’t take it thinking you can mention a shift in hours upon starting.
  5. If you don’t want to go back to doing what you did before, that’s fine! Work with a coach who can help figure out how your skills transfer to other jobs and sectors. Companies are opening up to this and recognize that cultural fits are increasingly important – not just having the perfect background.

And breathe… you’ve got this.

For more information, go to apresgroup.com.

You Should Know About… Wonder Crew

The line of actually cool dolls is meant to teach little boys that strength is less about brawn and more about friendship, kindness, and connecting with other people.

wonder-crewWhile it’s awesome to see the onslaught of STEM toys geared toward girls to bust through antiquated stereotypes (“I scientist, mama!”), we still love the sweetness of watching little girls play with dolls. It’s a display of the most pure, nurturing empathy and contributes to their emotional development in a major way.

But what about little boys? Though there’s been plenty of progress, boys are still conditioned to play out the masculine stereotype that they should be tough mentally and physically; that vulnerability makes them weak.

This sentiment is further driven home by the imaginative play options available to them – recognizable action figures, idolized superheroes, weapons – which hardly encourage any sort of creativity or emotional growth.

Laura Wider is doing her part to change that. Prompted by her son coming home from preschool saying “boys aren’t supposed to cry”, she created Wonder Crew. It’s a line of actually cool dolls “crewmates” meant for toddler boys to teach them that strength is less about brawn and more about friendship, kindness, and connecting with other people.

The crewmates are available in various styles (think builder, explorer, chef, superhero), have friendly faces, and each comes with a matching piece of adventure gear for your little to create a bond and foster creativity.

Available online at wondercrew.com

Toddler Sleep Issues SOLVED

Toddler Sleep Issues: An expert on how to get a child to stay in their bed, squashing fears, and putting a stop to the drawn out bedtime routine for good.

You’d think we’d get it by now: As soon as you’re feeling all confident, totally nailing this parenting thing – BOOM! – kid turns on a dime and the wheels. fall. off.

It recently happened to us: Our easy-peasy 15-minute bedtime routine and good sleeper turned into an all-night-long two-week sleepless battle with a 2-year-old. At our wits end, we called Kimberly Walker, founder of Parenting Unlimited. With a background in psychology and social work, she’s been successfully teaching parents how to implement healthy sleep habits for more than 15 years.

She’s based in NYC but willing to travel – Kimberly does phone consults and/or home visits. We thought we needed the full-on overnight treatment and are here to tell you she solved our sleep problems in one 45-minute phone call. We call her the sleep whisperer.

We polled our inner-circle for the biggest toddler sleep challenges they’re facing and put Kimberly to the test. And she nailed it.

Ahhhhhh… my child climbed out of the crib, and we are so not ready for a toddler bed. What to do?

If he’s climbing out of the crib, the only safe thing to do is put him in a bed. Yes, he may start roaming the house in the middle of the night at first, but you can teach toddlers to sleep in their beds:
1. Start by writing down a bedtime routine and being very firm about it.
2. Do not cave to all the things they pretend to need. If you have a toddler that is crying because she “can’t fix her blankets”, yet she was able to climb out of the crib, that is quite suspicious!

My daughter has decided she’s afraid of the dark/monsters/a wolf coming in her room. She refuses to go to bed and wants one of us to stay in her room until she falls asleep with the lights on. Dying here.

Sometimes children this age really are scared. And sometimes they are using the word “scared” because they know it works. Let’s assume honesty here and move towards validating your child’s feelings.
1. Tell him everyone gets scared sometimes and it’s okay to feel that way. Have him repeat after you many times… “I feel scared, but I’m okay.” Throughout the day and before bed, ask him over and over, “What do you say to yourself if you are feeling scared at night?”
2. If the above isn’t cutting it, get a special “monster” spray bottle, fill it with water, and keep it by his bed. Anytime he “sees” a monster, he can spray it and say “shoo shoo, monster” and the monster will go away. Some kids need to physically feel they have control.
3. No matter how much they beg, do NOT stay in the room until your child falls asleep (unless you are okay with that becoming part of your bedtime routine every night). Repeat the mantra, “I know you feel scared, but you are safe in here, and everything is going to be okay.” By leaving the room, you show them that you know they are safe, and kids are likely to absorb this certainty from you and internalize it. Sitting with him night after night sends the message that you don’t think they are okay without you.

We transitioned to a big kid bed, and our son gets out and comes in our room all. night. long. We don’t engage and walk him back and put him in bed, only for this to be repeated pretty much until morning. This zombie needs help.

There are some kids who will actually stop with this behavior if you go with the plan of walking them back to their room over and over. However, there are the other kids who will come in JUST so you can walk them back to their room and do not care if you do it 100 times a night. If you are the parent to one of those spirited kids (lucky you!), it’s time to put up an extra tall gate at their door so they can’t get out. Some kids this age are not psychologically developed enough to have self-discipline at 2am when they are half asleep and want mommy and daddy. Think of the gate as an extension of the crib – a boundary that both reminds and commands them to stay in bed. You may have a few nights of tantrums, but stay strong. It’s no different than throwing a tantrum because they want out of their carseat, another cookie, or one of the 1,000 things toddlers throw tantrums over!

My child was recently moved to a toddler bed, and he goes down fine and stays in his bed until… 4:30am, when he comes in our room ready to party. We walk him back, but there’s really no sleep for anyone once that happens because he’s back every 5 minutes. Help!

The easiest and best solution for this is an “okay to wake” clock. I like this one for it’s simplicity (red means stay in bed, green means okay to get up). It gives them a sense of empowerment, control, and pride – which is the ultimate emotional trifecta for a toddler.

My bedtime routine takes HOURS. She wants one more book, one more hug, anything she can think of to procrastinate. How can I stop the madness?

Your bedtime routine needs to be short, sweet, and EXACTLY the same every night. Choose how many books you are going to read: 1, 2 or 3 but always the same. If you choose 2, then read ONLY 2 books every single night. It’s helpful to write out a routine, and here is an example:
Bath
PJ’s
Brush teeth
Go potty
Climb in bed
Read 2 books
Give hugs/ kisses/ tuck in
Say goodnight and turn the lights off
Leave QUICKLY

When she starts to ask for one more book, one more hug… look at your routine. If it’s not on the routine, the answer is NO. You can respond with “It’s sleep time, and you can have _____ in the morning.”

If the above is not working, take pictures of every step of the routine and post them in a chart. This drives home visually the bedtime routine for your child, and as long as you don’t cave or deviate, she will stop asking when her asks never work!

Farmers Market Haul: Asparagus

3 kid friendly asparagus recipes the whole family will love.

In our parenting dreams, we stroll through the farmers market with our kid, tasting fresh produce together, relishing the bounty of spring. But that, friends, is just not our reality. (It’s more like doling out crappy packaged snacks just to avoid a tantrum).

But we are committed to finding (and testing) seasonal recipes that the whole fam-damily will happily eat (or at least try, we’ll take a try at this point).

First up: Asparagus, which – offensive tee tee smell aside – is one of our faves.

Baked Asparagus Fries

Commitment Level: 15 minutes of easy peasy prep
Tip: If the kids turn their nose up, whip out marinara sauce for dipping.
Health Level: We’re talking whole spears of asparagus, masked by a few carbs. If your kid eats this (and ours actually did) you are winning at parenting.
Kid Reaction: They were on the fence until we broke out the marinara sauce – then everybody’s plate was clean.

Asparagus Gruyere Frittata

Commitment Level: This is an easy one with just 6 ingredients and a few steps. Plus you get more than one meal out of it.
Tip: This is a fun one to make with kids – they make excellent egg whiskers and stirrers.
Health Level: Sure, there’s cheese, but with minimal ingredients, this one is high in protein and carb-free (boo-yeah!).
Kid Reaction: Winner winner, asparagus frittata dinner.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Commitment Level: Not gonna lie, shaving asparagus is a pain in the a*s but oh so worth it..
Tip: We leave off the green onion.
Health Level: It’s pizza so not at the top of the list, but the raw, shaved asparagus is so shockingly fresh and delicious it balances out. Also, use whole wheat crust for added fiber.
Kid Reaction: A tough sell since the asparagus was raw, but we took it off (more for us!) and they happily ate cheese pizza for dinner. You win some, you lose some – we call making only one meal a win.