Stay-at-home parents face tough challenges when they return to the workforce. You can take some steps now in between changing diapers and organizing play dates to help make the transition easier.

Volunteer

Don't dismiss unpaid work. Volunteering keeps your skills fresh and helps you develop new talents. Volunteer work could become the crux of your resume, especially if you remain at home for more than 10 years.

When your kids start school, help out with school events. Classroom participation not your thing? Ask the school librarian, art teacher, or PE instructor if they could use a helping hand. Get involved from the comforts of home; use your writing skills to write the PTO or class newsletter, or ask the teacher if he could use some help organizing class materials.

When your child is a baby and toddler, look for other volunteer opportunities in the community. In addition to developing skills, you'll be a better parent thanks to the much-needed "me-time."

Meet People

Stay in touch with former colleagues and classmates, above and beyond sending them pictures of your kids. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people. When you start the job search process, networking will become a prime tool. Establishing and maintaining contacts now will save time and stress later.

Re-Evaluate Your Interests

Do you want to switch careers? Now might be a good time to research your skills and interests and determine if a career change is in order. Check what, if any, gaps must be filled in to accomplish your new career goal. Learning a new skill or earning a different degree might be in order.

Stay Current in Your Profession

If you plan to return to the profession you worked in before becoming a stay-at-home parent, don't become out of touch. Join industry associations and societies to keep up with the latest trends. Read trade publications. Consider attending local events that target your industry.

Keep Your LinkedIn Account Active

If you aren't familiar with LinkedIn, get familiar now. LinkedIn is the Facebook for professionals, and is rapidly becoming the go-to online resource for job hunting and networking. If you have a LinkedIn account, don't disappear now that you're a parent. LinkedIn is a great way to network and stay current in your industry.

Update Your Resume

Proactively updating a resume is much easier than reactively trying to re-write it when actively job searching.

Arrange Informational Interviews

You aren't looking for a job now, but you can always be on the lookout for mentors. An informational interview provides a safe environment to ask candid questions and practice your answers, since you aren't being evaluated for employment. Additionally, informational meetings help you keep pace with current industry trends and allow you to tap the hidden job market for future opportunities.

Think of Parenting as a Job

Industry experts recommend not listing "parent" as an actual job title on your resume. Different resume formats that highlight skills work best. But employers won't think of your parenting role as a full-time job if you don't believe it is one. Write a job description for a stay-at-home parent. Use resume resources like action verb and skills checklists to correlate your at-home duties with in-office qualifications.

When you're a stay-at-home parent, your attention shifts from meetings and deadlines to feedings and naptimes. But taking simple steps to stay in the professional loop now will make the transition from the playroom to boardroom smoother.