If you don’t have a paid maternity leave, or don’t want to just go back to your old job after a paid maternity leave…

You’re a new mom. You want a job that doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted and guilty all the time, even though you are doing your best on all fronts. You want to keep your key relationships safe and enjoy raising your children without creating chaos both at home and at work. Everyone’s situation is unique, but if you’re looking for a suitable career down the road, here are a few non-negotiables to consider:

regular, normal hours. If Grandma is looking after the kids, this may not be an issue, but otherwise, it sure can be The Biggie: Day care centers may resort to calling Children’s Aid if you don’t pick up your child when the staff must leave.

flexibility. It sounds like a contradiction to say we want both regular hours and flexibility. We need regular hours for when we must be somewhere other than at work (or face dreadful consequences), but we need flexibility when the care arrangement for children collapses, due to illness for example. The good news is that today one can often work by computer from home (teleworking). So, logically, you’re here and you’re there at the same time, and you still get the work done.

stability. The smartest thing to do as a young mom is stay put and build a reputation for reliability in carrying out a set task, despite difficulties. That stability creates a basis for later career advancement. But to do that, we need jobs where stability is valued. Suppose no one knows whether the concern is going out of business, moving across the country, or falling victim to a hostile takeover? What if there are spectacular job hirings and firings every day, bad press and criminal charges—honestly, we and our families are far better off to watch that stuff on a TV series than live through it.

benefits that matter. Does our employer’s health plan cover our children’s problems, period, so that we are not left wondering who will pay if we can’t? We can certainly do without insurer-paid specialty back rubs, but we can’t do without neurosurgery in the rare event that our child needs it.

can use existing skills now. Some women can manage work, school, and raising a family all at the same time, but most of us are better off to work now and research further education for the day when there is time to do it right. That time will of course come, and a good work history is a key to acceptance.

Here’s an idea. Score each of the five needs mentioned above (and any additional personal ones) from one to ten (least to most), and evaluate job opportunities like the following, and any others you encounter, against your own “importance” ratings.

Another idea: Investigate employer co-pay for courses qualifying you for more responsibilities, in exchange for loyalty now.

Here are some careers we’ve chosen for new moms to consider:

Top 10 Jobs for Recent Moms

Medicine: Illness never goes out of style and medical care is needed everywhere.
Here’s a career where you can work your way up:

Medical Assistant ($31,000 – $44,000, highschool diploma): You assist the doctor, booking appointments, making patients feel at home, bringing them gowns, etc., and generally helping out. You can learn and observe a good deal of basic medical procedure while getting paid, which will give you a boost if you later study a health care discipline.

Note: Don’t have a high school diploma? … Find out whether your state offers programs for recognizing adult experience for some credits. Let’s face it, if you are 25 and on your own with two kids, what do you need a course in sociology for? If you need upgrades, focus on essentials like language skills and basic math, where you can study online at home, if you can spare a bit of time.

Here is a job where you can easily work at home, with flexible hours:
Medical Transcriptionist ($23,000 – $38,000, high school diploma, good typing skills). You type out transcripts of everything from doctors’ notes and corresponence to the recording made of actions performed during an operation. You need some judgement to ensure that what people say, sometimes under high stress, gets transcribed in a usable way. You are getting paid to learn medical terminology through your work, which can be useful if you pursue a health care career when you have more time.

Here is a “holding pattern” career where your life experience is actually your biggest asset:
Recreation Worker ( $18,000 – $33,000, high school diploma) Chances are, you have a skill in arts or sports that you could coach, or an ability to work well with, say, seniors or moms n’ tots. The pay for this job isn’t great, but you can probably get flexible hours in a relatively low stress environment. Promotion opportunities are limited but if you need a holding pattern with pay, before moving on, perhaps to Social Services, Art and Music, oFitness & Sports, or Education, this is the job.

Here are two jobs that will pay you to prepare yourself for the vast education market, where you typically have regular hours, sick leave, and wage increases:
Preschool Teacher ($20,000 – $30,000, high school diploma) Most, if not all, states have compulsory education for children aged, typically, six to 16. However, many also feature preschool programs, starting at four years of age, where children learn basic skills in language (literacy) and math (numeracy). You need to know how to work with children, but then you need to know that at home anyway, right? With any luck, one of your kids will be in the program, which eliminates some child care expenses.

Teacher’s Assistant ($16,000 – $25,000, high school diploma). Essentially, in this job you are getting paid to learn how to be a teacher by helping one, and you can pursue further qualifications later. If this isn’t smart, what is?

Here are ways to earn while you learn, with regular hours in the financial industry, and great future prospects:

Bookkeeping clerk ($20,000 – $35,000, high school diploma) For this position, you need strong math skills and high school accounting. Without experience, you may need to convince them to try you out on a temporary (paid) basis. Caution: Tax time (February through April) can be really stressed. Negotiate working from home on your laptop. Upgrade your skills, income, and responsibilities later.

Financial Clerk X ($30,000 – $38,000, high school diploma) In this job, you can learn basic aspects of a company’s finance operations and aim for future advancement by acquiring recognized finance credentials.

Interested in a career in the justice system?

Court Reporter ($36,000 and $60,000, high school diploma) Here, you tape and transcribe court hearings. You get paid to tape them, and much more if you type a transcript that is ordered. You need, of course, a good knowledge of English, accurate typing and spelling, and an ability to follow the correct legal format for transcription. A huge advantage for a new mom is that courts sit and rise at regular hours, and transcription can be done at home. In fact, you need not even attend the court if you get your transcripts through an agency, from another reporter’s work. There are courses in court reporting that will definitely help you, but the need for transcripts is so great that you are best to look for work now and bone up on your qualifications later.

You enjoy marketing? Market your community — as a great destination! You love it, so why shouldn’t other people enjoy it for a while?

Hospitality Salesperson ($45,000 – $88,000, high school diploma an asset) Working, usually, for a hotel/conference center, in this job you market vacation, tour, conference, or other packages to interested buyers. If you get a conference, it could mean 500 people. You can usually work from home on your own time, if you are on an up-to-date network. Bone up on other Hospitality Careers as time allows.

Would you like to earn while you learn a career in social services or therapy?

Social Service Assistant (2009 median $49,000, high school diploma an asset) You work with a social worker to introduce clients to solutions, benefits, etc., that they did not know about. This job provides regular hours, and a great way to earn for now with regular hours, and learn later, maybe through agency funding.

Say no to craziness. Earn. And learn.