As any stay-at-home mom knows, the term "back to work" is a misnomer. Raising an infant while juggling the endless cycle of housekeeping, cooking and scheduling can be more demanding than a typical 9 to 5 job. So what can you do to ensure all that effort translates into more than a gap on your resume? Here's how can you make sure you find the job that's best for you:
Moms should be confident the right hiring managers will appreciate their past work experience, as well as the time they took to prioritize their families.
"I think mothers with or without gaps in their resumes are some of the most hirable people out there," says Cathy Sharick, executive editor of PowerToFly, an organization that matches women with jobs they can do remotely. "Moms want to get jobs done well and as fast as possible. They don't have time to waste. They get their projects finished efficiently so they can also tend to the needs of their families."
Nina Vaca, chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, which provides IT workforce solutions to Fortune 500 companies, says when you're applying for jobs after time off, it's important to be upfront about it.
"Confidence is the best outfit you can wear to an interview, and honesty is the best interview strategy," says Vaca, a mother of four and one of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship.
Vaca says those qualities stood out when she hired her general counsel, who took five years off to raise her children.
"She was very direct and honest with me. She didn't beat around the bush. She said, 'This is what I did. This was my priority. These are the talents that I have. This is who I am.' I personally loved it," Vaca says.
Focus on what you do best
Are you creative, great at numbers, or more of a people person? Target your strengths and highlight how you've stayed up-to-date within your industry or acquired new skills through volunteer work or personal projects.
"I have found that my personal success has come from doubling down and being crazy good at what I do very well," says Vaca. "Whether you're pregnant or have two kids or five kids, it's irrelevant because people will know you for what you're able to deliver."
Sharick, a mother of three, adds that when recruiting new talent, she looks at what a mom did before having children and how she maintained her brand while raising kids. She recommends: "Stay in the know, whether that's through social networking or taking a class."
If all else fails, remember being a mother is some of the best leadership training out there.
"In a family you're trying to bring out the best in everyone. In business, it's no different," says Vaca. "I find women are excellent multitaskers, collaborators and have that sense of bringing out the best in people all for one mission. That's truly valuable."
Think outside the box
"A known statistic in the staffing industry is that 44 percent of people who start out as contractors, end up taking a permanent job," says Vaca. "It gives the opportunity to see your talents as opposed to a gap in your resume."
Jade Harris, a project manager at RebelMouse, a content management system, found her remote job after having her first child. She says initially she was ready to dive back into work, but not certain how it would turn out. Remote work gave her the flexibility she was looking for.
"Ask for what you want, and be firm about what you need," advises Harris. "You may be surprised at how most things can be accommodated with a little creativity."
Lika Nikanorova, a developer at Skillcrush, an interactive online learning community, taught herself new coding languages and found her dream remote job after taking time off when her son was born. She says: "In some sense, everything's possible if you just try and believe in yourself."
And don't underestimate the power of networking.
"The women you meet on the playground may also have great connections," says Sharick. "Sometimes having a conversation with a fellow mom or former colleague might spur an idea for your next career move."
Marie Elizabeth Oliver is the managing editor of PowerToFly, the fastest-growing network connecting women with remote jobs. She was previously an editor at The Washington Post, Parents, and Better Homes and Gardens. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and daughter, Annie.