The Struggle For Stay-At-Home Moms Going Back To Work
OKLAHOMA CITY - Being a working mom is not always easy, but getting back into the workforce after you've taken time off to raise children can be even more challenging.
For five years, Emily Nash Kitch was a successful attorney at a big downtown law firm. However, when it came time for her to start her family, she started to have some anxiety.
"When my male counterparts wives got pregnant it was like a celebration, the guys passed out cigars, congratulations was the word you would hear," she said. "When a female at the same job got pregnant it was an 'oh.'"
Kitch took a year off from work after her daughter was born and that anxiety returned when it came time to re-enter the workforce.
"You see all your colleagues continue to work and everyone continues to excel and grown and learn new things and stay with trends in the case law and rulings of our Supreme Court," Kitch said. "When you are taking care of diapers and slobber and baby bottles you are not thinking about what the Oklahoma Supreme Court is doing."
Jonathan Willner, an economics professor with Oklahoma City University says that's what employers worry about too and is a big reason why women who take time off work have a difficult time returning to the workforce. He says the longer women are out, the harder it is.
"The skill sets they had that were very valuable back then are not necessarily as useful as they were," Dr. Willner said. "That makes them more difficult to hire, puts them more at an entry level position then at a more senior level that they might have had leaving."
Dr. Willner says those employer concerns affect women in the workplace, even before they have kids.
"If you invest in the young woman then you have a higher likelihood that she's going to leave the business and you'll lose those investments," said Dr. Willner.
However, experts say all that pulls women out of the leadership pipeline and means fewer talented women in the workforce in general. To combat that, experts say companies can offer flexible work opportunities, bonuses for women returning to work effective sponsorships of women by high-level executives and support of women outside of the company, such as women's professional organizations."
Dr. Willner says women can do their part too, while they're at home.
"So if women do plan to go back into the workforce and have a specific area they want to go into they should keep up with what's going on in that industry and do so with a vengeance," he said.
Kitch ended up starting her own law firm when she returned to work, closing the case on all that anxiety.
"A lot of it was initial self-doubt," she admits. "I was okay once I got back."
Advocates say some employers are beginning to see the benefits to the community and their bottom line of investing in women at all stages of their lives.