How to Banish Your Back-to-Work Fears

mom going back to work

Women can be and do anything we want, as long as we have a real goal and a good road map. I wrote Moms for Hire, to help off-ramped moms who want to return to the (paid) workforce. As a single mom of four who's been in and out of the workforce, I've been there!  


For many of us, before we can even dust off that résumé, we need to contend with our FEARS.

Fear is our most natural reflex. It can protect us. It can empower us. But it can also paralyze us. When we're afraid, we can talk ourselves out of what we want before we even start writing a LinkedIn profile. The first step in conquering your fear is to name it.

Often, our worries are overblown. (I promise, your kid can take a fine nap and will finish his homework just as completely with a sitter on-site.) Other anxious thoughts are valid but far from insurmountable. (Absolutely, the store-bought spaghetti sauce won't be as good as your homemade; your boss might be condescending; and, yes, you might still get a horrible "emergency" phone call from the school.) However, I've found that by specifically naming and listing my fears, I could then deconstruct them and ultimately strategize a way to overcome them.  

Here are the six top back-to-work fears and tools to help you outplay them.

1. How will everything get done when I am not around? Will my kids be in danger?

The best way to tame this worry is to develop concrete, practical safeguards. It's okay to delegate! Start by listing every task and possible pothole that you think won't get filled unless you are present, and then create a plan, including a protocol for emergencies. As long as your family is safe, they are quite capable of thriving independent of your constant presence. Assign certain essentials to your mate and other caretakers, and force yourself to slacken up your control line. You can even delegate some responsibilities to your kids if they're old enough. A few things will inevitably slip between the cracks, but those are crumbs that can wait. And if you need a get-out-of-home card, read this

2. The working world has advanced at the speed of light. How can I ever catch up? Fit in? Do I still have the necessary skills?

Sure, technology and social norms have changed. Many of today’s workspaces, attitudes, and power dynamics might be unrecognizable. But hey, if my 93-year-old grandmother can learn to Snapchat, you can take a millennial to lunch, ask some smart (and dumb) questions, practice, and put on a confident face. You've got this, girlfriend.

3. After years of being the boss of my home castle, will I be able to take orders from a new boss?

Tough to know for sure, but brace yourself. Often, your new boss will be unfair or cranky. Most likely, your pay and your position will be less than when you off-ramped. If you find that prospect too onerous, then become your own boss. Many moms find Occupational Happiness (O.H.) by starting a small business, becoming a freelancer, or working as a consultant.

4. My family is functioning just fine, so is it selfish of me to change the balanced status quo? Do I deserve to upset the apple cart? 

You may feel guilty about claiming your own ambitious needs. All I can say is: Don't. Ambition is your birthright. And if you ever find yourself in a self-doubting spiral, watch this video to amp up your professional mojo. You deserve to embrace your ambition and dream big for yourself.  

5. When I finally get a job, what if it's terrible? The wrong fit ... Not what I was promised. The job is too low paying, too grunt-filled to merit being away from my family?

This is a real possibility, but don't invent a problem before it is even on the horizon. Often, having a job and a paycheck of your own is enough of a proud reward. You won't really know if you'll like the specific job until you test it for at least six months. And if you don't at least stick a toe in the water, then you are no longer allowed to complain that you feel stuck or are missing out.  

6. Finally, the omni-fear: REJECTION. REJECTION. REJECTION.

We all harbor a bone-numbing fear that we may not be good enough. Unfortunately, criticism and an honest "no" are inevitable and always painful. Regardless of your station, almost every day we are faced with a choice: Either chance rejection or give up. I say, bring it on. By nature, mothers are resilient and powerful advocates. Today, advocate for yourself. You can weather rejection. You can be emboldened by it. You can prevail.


Deborah Jelin Newmyer has been a film and television producer living in Los Angeles for over three decades -- actively involved in projects such as The Goonies, The Color Purple, Jurassic Park, ER, Bridges of Madison County, Schindler's List, Little Rascals, How to Make an American Quilt, and recently NBC's The Sing-Off and The Good Lie. She's had 11 valued jobs with 11 different bosses and paychecks. Meanwhile, she held down an equally rewarding career as a mother to four thoughtful children, the last decade as a widowed, single mom. In between producing and parenting, she sat down … researched, interviewed, wrote, and rewrote Moms for Hire: 8 Steps to Kickstart your Next Career, dedicated to the millions of smart and capable moms who want to boost their Occupational Happiness. She says, "Now I can hang out a shingle of my 12th job: Author."

Skyhorse Publishing

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