Thinking about returning to work
Returning to work isn't easy, even when you've 'only' had maternity leave of six or nine months, or a year. But it's even harder when you've been out of the workplace for a longer period - maybe three, or five, or even ten years spent at home while your children were young.
The good news is that returning to work after a long break can be done: there are umpteen Mumsnetters out there who've managed it, to prove the point. But it takes a bit of know-how....
Before you start searching for a job
Think carefully about how paid employment is going to affect your life, and what you'll need to change to fit it into what, let's face it, is an already packed existence. Things are going to have to change; things are going to have to give; you can't have it all, remember? So there will have to be new ways of doing things, and it's worth thinking through what they might be.
Going back to work
Childminders, nannies, au pairs
Childcare is the obvious one, of course. Don't wait until you've got a job offer to start your search for a childminder, nursery, nanny or after-school club. Also, plan not only your frontline childcare, but also your back-up plan, which, once you're working, will be just as vital.
"Get childcare sorted early, and you need a fallback plan as well as your main one - what will you do when DCs are ill (note 'when' not 'if'!). Have a good think about how you will manage household stuff in addition to work and being a mummy - and a good discussion about it with your partner, if you have one. Consider internet food shopping, a cleaner if funds allow or setting up some routines - but be prepared for how tired you will be after working, and doing all the other stuff - there's not much time left for fun!" abgirl
Don't kill your ambitions, but do be realistic about the sort of job that will suit your family circumstances. Bear in mind that the first job you take is only getting you back on the ladder - you may need to take a job that's not as prestigious or well-paid or senior as the job you left several years ago. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't return to your former giddy heights - and indeed, climb much higher. This is only the beginning, after all.
"Get your foot in the door. Once you are in, you can make an impression. I took five years out, then contacted my old employer to ask them whether they would be willing to provide me a reference (and kind of hoping they had something for me) - they offered me a maternity leave cover, and two years later I have been made permanent and promoted twice." TheFallenMadonna
"Don't be afraid to drop a level or two. If you are good you can climb back up quickly - and you may find it more of a shock than you expected and therefore being a grade lower could help you get in the swing of it better." StillSquiffy
You have lots to offer and your skills can be every bit as sharp as they were before motherhood, but your situation is different now. Do a bit of blue-sky thinking about how your career goes from now on in. It doesn't have to be the same career it would have been had you not had kids. Think more broadly.
"If you can, consider becoming freelance. I did it. I now dictate my hours around the kids, both of whom are at school - so I'm able to do drop off and pick up. Earning is at a higher hourly rate for generally less hours. In the current climate as well: employers are more likely to go to contract staff when work picks up than risk taking on full-time employees." Spoo
Once you've got a vague plan about what you'd like to do work-wise, it's time to get some experience, dust down your CV, join a job club and brush up on your interview technique.
And for advice on all that, step this way...