Editor’s note: Fox News anchor Dana Perino recently talked with Fox Business Network’s Cheryl Casone about her new book, “The Comeback: How Today’s Moms Reenter the Workplace Successfully.” For more information, visit www.cherylcasone.com.
DANA PERINO: Families across America are grappling with decisions about whether a mom can take time off, if she should, and if she does, how then does she get back to work. What is the scope of the problem — both financial and emotional — and how much demand is there for the advice you provide in the book?
CHERYL CASONE: I think it was something that was never discussed, and just accepted: women who stay at home with their kids “check out” and become “lesser than” professionally because they walked away. Nothing is further from the truth. What I discovered from my research interviewing hundreds of moms and executives at companies was that women who are managing a home have instantly transferable skills. Moms are multi-taskers, they have more patience as managers, more maturity, and are sometimes more focused than their younger, sometimes childless peers. I’m not saying a childless employee is less professional (I’m childless!) but having a family motivates these women to perform at work. Most of the women I interviewed who were able to “Comeback” were quickly promoted and recognized because of those traits.
PERINO: Some of my friends have had really difficult times re-entering the workforce after several years away from an office while they raised their children. What are the most common problems women face when they try to return?
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CASONE: Believe it or not, it was themselves. Every mom I spoke with told me the guilt was the toughest thing, second only to insecurity about making their Comeback. The myth: my children will suffer. The truth: your kids will be fine. In fact, the example you set by going back to work may leave them better off.
PERINO: Did you meet anyone along the way during your research for The Comeback that broke your heart or that inspired you?
CASONE: Yes, one of the moms had a horrific accident weeks before her wedding and nearly died. She went ahead with the wedding and eventually had two children, even though she was dealing with long term physical damage to her body the entire time! I can’t imagine. Not only did she return to her profession (public relations) starting her own company, then she started an additional business. Two businesses, two kids, and an incredible husband. She never gave up on her family or herself.
PERINO: How can moms best keep up with technological changes at the workplace while they’re busy raising their young children? To me, that’s one of the most daunting things about a workplace separation.
CASONE: Technology changes so fast, and even one year away from the workforce can be a problem. One of the moms I interviewed had to go back to school to renew all of her certifications. If there’s a specific software or program that is critical to your career, figure out a way to keep current. Online courses are the best way and they are usually affordable.
PERINO: What is the best way for moms to keep up a social/work network while they are not working?
CASONE: Get on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These are all fun social media sites and apps, but more importantly, this is a network you can build from the comfort of your home. I discuss in the book ways to use each platform to your advantage. They are all different, so the behavior in each “environment” must be tailored specifically. Also, remember any place you find yourself can be a place to network professionally: the doctor’s office, the playground, church, and of course your child’s school.
PERINO: What are you top three pieces of advice for women who want to go back to work and are worried they won’t get the job they want or the money they were once paid?
1. Get rid of the guilt. All the women I met felt a huge amount of guilt, and had to constantly remind themselves they were doing something positive for their family, and more importantly, for themselves.
2. Forgive yourself. One mom told me she realized early on after returning to work, that she saw herself as a juggler, and a ball was going to drop at some point, and that’s OK.
3. Evaluate and reevaluate yourself. This might be the most important piece of advice. Before you make one move, spend some time really thinking about who you are, what you want, and what you love, when it comes to a new life professionally. You are going to leave your children for a certain amount of time every week, you should love, or at least enjoy, your career.
PERINO: How important is it to the American economy that we find ways to help women return to work and contribute not only to their families but to the economic growth of America?
CASONE: I write about this in the beginning of the book. The IMF did a study that found U.S. GDP (gross domestic product) would rise by 5 percent if females were an equal part of the American workforce. So, if as many women worked as men right now, our country would be economically stronger!
PERINO: Is there anything that husbands and dads can do to help their wives or partners make this transition back to work easier?
CASONE: My mentor once said to me “Cheryl, everyone needs a safe place to fall.” Hopefully, your partner is just that for you.
Dana Perino currently serves as co-host of FOX News Channel’s “The Five” (weekdays 5-6PM/ET). She previously served as Press Secretary for President George W. Bush. She is the author of the new book “And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side” (Twelve, April 21, 2015). Ms. Perino joined the network in 2009 as a contributor. Click here for more information on Dana Perino. Follow her on Twitter@DanaPerino.