In this new era of technology, moms who decide to leave the workplace need to pay special attention to staying up-to-date in their fields.
At iRelaunch, we recommend that moms subscribe to general and specific publications and websites in their fields as a first step to getting back up to speed. Of course, the publications to get depend on the field to which you are returning. For me in finance, I re-subscribed to the Wall Street Journal and read it cover to cover for a good six months before I felt I had a handle on the current business environment. I also studied finance texts and even some of my old business school finance materials to review basic terms, definitions, and especially mathematical calculations.
Use the internet for specific industry and technical information, general advice, and social networking. One example is our site, iRelaunch, which is designed to connect mid-career professionals who are on a career break with a network of their peers, relevant resources for updating, and, ultimately, employers interested in hiring. If you are entering a new field or updating yourself in your old field and want to take a course, don't forget that you can take many of them online. A dean from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, commented that the number one users of their online courses from midnight to 4 a.m. are at-home moms.
Regarding technology updates, I had a teacher from the local community education program come over and give me a tutorial in Excel and PowerPoint because I had never learned PowerPoint and all my spreadsheet experience was on Lotus. Alternatives here are to take a local class in use of these programs, have your teenager (or someone else's) teach you, or learn it on your own.
And yes, we certainly recommend getting out to conferences and networking events in your field. Good things always happen when you go -- you may make a new contact, learn something new in your field, or find a new way of telling your personal "relaunch" story. Also, remember that people who are mired in the "day to day" at work often don't have the opportunity to attend these conferences. So if you attend one and are exposed to cutting-edge thinking in your field, that is excellent fodder for interview conversation. Not only does it indicate your seriousness in returning to the field, but you may talk about something that your interviewee has not yet heard about -- impressive on both counts.