Class helps women find a future outside the home

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:57am

Diane is a single mother from Lynnwood, but she didn’t used to be.

Seven years ago, she lived in a large house in Edmonds with her husband and three children within walking distance of the beach.

“I was a regular suburban mom,” said Diane, who asked that her last name not be used.

Diane’s life changed after she got cancer. A divorce followed and she ended up homeless. With help from the YWCA, she’s secured an apartment in Lynnwood with her children. She’s just begun to look for work.

Diane is one of nine students in a class for women who’ve been out of the work force for several years or are looking to change paths. The free course, called the Displaced Homemaker Program, was offered by the YWCA and held at Edmonds Community College this month.

Not all of the women are in dire straights: There are also stay-at-home moms looking to start careers.

Whatever the situation, it can be hard for women to get back in the work force once they’ve been out for awhile, said Cindy Fischer, who teaches the course.

“It’s hard because they don’t know what to do,” she said. “They say: ‘I always wanted to do this but now I’m older and I can’t.’”

Some women feel they don’t have much to offer because they’ve been out of work for so long.

The class teaches them to identify skills and realize they do have experience, whether it’s organizing children’s activities or volunteering for the PTA or other organizations.

Lisa Grey of Snohomish has been a stay-at-home mom for over a decade and now wants to enter the medical field.

“My husband has a good paying job and the kids go to school,” she said.

Grey wants to work again partly to communicate with adults, since she’s around children all the time, she said.

Judy of Everett, who asked that her last name not be used, did office work at the Boeing Co., then dropped out of the work force for 10 years.

She’s been trying to find work again, but never gets called back when she puts in an application, she said. Now 60 and a grandmother, she worries her age works against her.

The course has helped her, she said.

“It’s motivated me to want to do a resume and feel good about myself,” she said. “To be somewhere in the morning.”

The class also gives a tour of Edmonds Community College and an introduction to financial aid. It takes women to employment offices and to YWCA of Everett, which offers free work clothes.

Women practice writing a resume, interviewing each other and using the Internet.

With their new skills, some of the women are aiming for careers and others just want to get by.

Britt of Shoreline, who also asked that her last name be omitted, said she’s trying to get out of part-time restaurant work. She’s divorced with a daughter in high school.

“I found myself on my own – no health insurance, no retirement, I don’t own anything,” she said. “I’m 42 on Saturday.”

Diane, the single mother from Lynnwood, hopes to get a job advocating for breast cancer survivors.

She is still recovering from her own cancer. The class has helped her envision the future.

“It’s good just to be alive and be able to come every day,” she said. “There’s blessings in everything. There’s hope.”

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