Motherhood hiatus demands job skills be kept current


October 21, 1991|By Joyce Lain Kennedy | Joyce Lain Kennedy,Sun Features Inc.

Dear Joyce: My husband and I identified with the married engineering team who moved to Seattle to find work.

We, too, are engineering (computer emphasis) graduates of the 1980s and would like to move to the Northwest.

Our first priority is to find jobs. Then we are thinking about starting a family within two years, and maybe I would drop out of the work world for 10 years or so and then go back to work.

What are you seeing for women in my situation concerning career moves? M.E.P.

For right now, find out who's who and who hires in a guide to 1,700 companies in the area's software and computer industries, "Northwest High Tech 1991." This $25 directory is available from Resolution Business Press (800-866-0327; in Seattle, 206-455-4611).

For tomorrow, put a roof on before it rains.

Do you want to work part-time and keep your skills current during your decade at home? Perhaps you can become a computer commuter. If so, aim for a company with policies that permit this.

But if you need a job fast and if you sense that a company is only interested in hiring full-time employees, use judgment in how you find out if exceptions are considered.

If you intend to be a full-time mom, plan on obtaining an advanced engineering degree just before you go back to work. Or on changing careers.

A 10-year hiatus sounds "Taps" for a technical person who doesn't upgrade.

Your problem is one that's popping up everywhere.

NB For the first time in decades, women are having more children.

Some moms are in their 30s and, having delayed motherhood, are rushing to bassinets before it's too late.

Other women, in their 20s, are having children earlier. Together, these two groups are driving up the baby rate to 2.1 kids last year, from 1.8 in the mid-1970s.

Economists are scratching their heads, asking if more babies mean fewer working women and, if so, are the nation's employers facing a new and more serious labor shortage? Demographers and sociologists disagree.

Some believe that the slowing of the number of women entering the labor force plus the higher baby rate for women signals a shift in national priorities back toward families and children. Several polls suggest that 1990s' women have greater interest in staying home with their offspring, even though they expect to return to a job later.

Others believe the two trends are merely a temporary statistical blip caused by two age groups having children simultaneously and the recession. Practical-minded analysts say that the 75 percent of American women aged 25 to 54 who work outside the home may soar to a rate equivalent to Sweden's -- 90 percent -- as more women work to keep families afloat.

This is one of those stay-tuned questions. If you're part of the puzzle, anticipate. Keep up your career connections at home by education, networking, joining associations that cut across industries and doing favors for your favorite headhunters such as sending clippings of industry news.

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