Taking time off to care for kids can be a big blow to lifetime earnings because of lost wages and career momentum. In one Harvard study, female MBAs who took 18 months off earned 41% less over their careers than male colleagues. Three mitigating moves:
35. Make work work for you. Negotiating flextime may enable you to stay on the job. Ideally, start the process before you go on maternity leave. Says work-life consultant Pat Katepoo: "Prove you're just as productive telecommuting before the baby arrives, and you remove this as an issue for your manager."
36. Shift down, not out. Work part-time or freelance rather than quit. In addition to the paycheck, you will continue to gain experience and connections and won't have gaps on your résumé. Search for flex jobs at sites such as Elance, Guru.com, and FlexJobs.
37. Stay connected. If you quit your job, do "strategic volunteering" -- something that dovetails with your career and can be added to your résumé. And keep up with co-workers.
"When you're not working is exactly when you need to keep those connections strong," says Carol Fishman Cohen, co-author of Back on the Career Track.
Just starting out? Now's the time to create a solid plan for investing and saving.