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HOW THREE STAY-AT-HOME MOMS JOINED THE WORKFORCE AFTER YEARS OF BEING AT HOME.

Let’s be honest, being at home with the kids for years can set you back a few years in your career. It can become quite daunting to even consider returning to work or even starting your own business! However, there are some brave moms out there who have done just that! Today on the blog, we take a look at how three stay-at-home moms joined the workforce after years of being at home.

LESLIE SONN-SAVAGE, ATTORNEY.

How old were you when you got married? Were you working at that point and did you have any qualifications?

I got married when I was 28 years old and I was not working, I was doing my Masters, which I didn’t finish (unrelated to marriage or motherhood). At that stage, I had an LLB and a diploma. 

How long were you a stay-at-home mom for and did you take on any freelance or part-time work during this time?

I was at home for a long time. I would say about five years. Three out of the five were while I was a mom and I did no other work – apart from caring for my kids.

What made you return to working full-time and how has the transition been?

I was asked to join a company and it seemed like a good idea. I consulted with all my important people and we all agreed that it was a great opportunity. My daughter was settled at school and I had no reason to decline. 

What challenges did you face when you went back to working full-time?

Mom guilt is so real! Luckily my daughter enjoyed school and that made it so much easier. I studied ten years prior to going back to my field and when I went back, things had changed so much! It was and still is daunting and as is in most professional careers – there are more males than females (although that is also starting to change).

How has being a mother impacted your work?

I know that being a mother has made me work harder and I definitely have a different perspective on life. I work for my family and I learn for my family. Within a year of returning to work, I managed to do 3 exams which included written and oral. I am also very lucky as I work for someone who allows me to leave for school events or emergencies because he has children himself. His priority is simply that I get my work done!

Leslie is mommy to two children.

TANIA KABEYA, CHEF.

How old were you when you got married? Were you working at that point and did you have any qualifications?

I got married 2 months before I turned 25. At this point I had a few certificates and had been working part time but it was nothing serious.

How old were you when you had your first kid and how long were you a stay-at-home mom for? 

I had my first child a month before turning 26 and was a stay-at-home mom/wife from the time I got married until after I had my third, which was at age 29.

What pushed you to enter the workforce and what is it that you do?

I enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom and being available for my husband but after a while, I started feeling uncomfortable in social situations when people would ask me about my career. I started feeling that I needed to do something other than being a mother and wife. Once I had my daughter, I felt like I needed to be more than a mom so she could know that she could be and do more too.

I am now a qualified chef and have my own business; preparing African food. It stills allows me time with my kids but affords me the opportunity to work and grow as an individual.

How was the adjustment from being a stay-at-home mom to going back to school and starting your own business?

I went back to school when my third was 6 months old. I just had this huge sense of urgency to study something and complete it! It was tough because I had a baby who would wake up often and then I would need to wake up early to go to school, but I persevered. When I look back now, I believe it was God preparing me for the passing of my husband. 

Any advice for other stay-at-home moms?

Going back to school and getting into the workforce helped me appreciate my husband much more. I feel like it also opened up my world and helped me to discover myself. Before I had kids I thought I wanted to be an accountant, but once I had kids my choice was to go to culinary school.

I would say that if the kids are old enough and there is opportunity to work or study (especially flexi-hours) then they should take it. There is so much to be gained in having and doing your own thing.

Tania is now widowed. She lives with her kids in Midrand where she also runs her business. Her business can be found via this link.

BUSISIWE MOLEFE, ADVOCATE.

How old were you when you got married? Were you working at that point and did you have any qualifications?

I was 25 when I got married, in December 2008. We were blessed with our first child in 2009. At the time I was working as a Cabin Crew Member and had Cabin Crew qualifications. 

How long were you a stay-at-home mom for and did you take on any freelance or part-time work during this time?

After maternity leave, seeing that my husband was also in aviation, we decided I resign and stay home with our son. I left my job in November 2009. 

I was a homemaker for 2 years and when my son, who was one at the time, started at nursery school, I then went to study project management at Wits University. I was also involved with charity work with a group of young ladies. 

What made you return to working full-time and how has the transition been? 

I decided to go back to work because I wanted some independence and to be able to stand as an individual in the [marital] union. 

How were you able to enter the job market?

In 2012, I was blessed with a job as a Receptionist/Board Administrator for a large financial institute where I was first on probation. In January 2013, I was made permanent. In July that year, I moved departments and found out I was pregnant with our second child. The department I had moved to was understanding and supported me fully. I gave birth in 2014 to a beautiful baby girl. That was when I made the decision to go back to school and finish my degree, which I had started and left years before. 

How did you balance your time between being a mom and studying?

I had support from my husband, kids, mom and sisters which was a great motivation. I started in 2015 and completed my degree in 2018. 

When it came to my studying, I planned my time in such a way that I had time for my family and allocated about two hours of studying a day. When the kids went to bed, I made time to hang out with my spouse. I also made sure that I was getting enough sleep so I could function well the next day.

How much have you grown in your career since beginning your journey in this new field?

During the time I was working and studying, I started weighing my options and researching the different avenues that I could follow with my degree. I fell in love with Compliance because I was already in compliance, just in an administrative position. In October 2018, shortly after my graduation, I was blessed with a new position as a specialist in Banking and Competition Law. This was where my interests lay and I enrolled for my Masters in Trademark, Competition and Intellectual Law. When I moved from the position, we found out we were pregnant with our third child but we lost the pregnancy in November 2018. 

During this time, I applied for admission to become an advocate. Our case was moved because new legislation had been put into effect which governed admissions and the legal practitioners’ field. After the Judge had consulted and the ambiguity of the section on admission was cleared, I was finally admitted in February 2019. I remain in a non-practicing position due to the fact that I am in Corporate. In the same year God blessed us and I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

I intend on staying in Corporate for a while, with hopes of finally moving into practice. I want to specialise in family law.

What advice would you give to stay-at-home moms who feel like there aren’t any opportunities for them?

With a career, whichever path you want to take, if there are no opportunities make them for yourself. I was in an administrative position and I used my lunch time to sit with the team I am with now and learn. After some time, I had a conversation with the head of department to ask if I could shadow the team and we devised a plan for me to shadow them without compromising my duties in the position I was in at the time.

If there are no opportunities, offer your service because it will also help you learn and grow. It will give you the opportunity to show your value to your employer – that definitely gets you noticed.

To the stay-at-home moms: It’s never too late to start. There is no rule that governs when a person can start studying or when they can start a new career!

Busi, works and lives in Johannesburg with her husband and three kids.

This is the last blog post on the stay-at-home mom series. If you would like to read the previous posts click here

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