When Ellen Kaufman quit her job as tax manager for a mutual fund company three years ago, she gave up the salary, perks, and stress of a full-time job to stay home with her two children, then 1 month and 3 years old. But she discovered she didn't want to lose her identity as a CPA. "Suddenly I was going to the playground in sweatpants, blabbing about baby food," says Kaufman, of Hillsdale, NJ. "I missed the professional side of my life."
So she teamed up with another mom in her town, a full-time lawyer, and founded the Professional Parents Network, Inc. (PPN). A cross between a kaffeeklatsch and a working-women's network, the organization offers seminars on topics ranging from discipline to updating a resume, holds social functions, and puts out a newsletter. "We focus on both our kids and our work," says Kaufman.
Despite the widely reported "mommy wars" between mothers who stay home and those who don't, PPN has attracted an even mix of more than 100 stay-at-home and working moms in the New York and New Jersey area. The moms who work offer those at home services, such as financial planning and legal advice, while the stay-at-home mothers recommend community offerings. "They have more time to find the best dance school," says Judy Brown, PPN's cofounder and the mother of three children, ages 2 1/2, 4 1/2, and 7.
Each side learns from the other: Working moms who are contemplating trading a job for home life quiz those who've made the transition, and vice versa. "A lot of at-home mothers plan to return to work when their kids are older," says Brown. "They want to see how I juggle things."
PPN plans to expand to other states.