Career After Kids: How Everything Changes

I've never had what you might call a picture-perfect career path. Years of working in the tech industry taught me how to run a tradeshow and write copy that snapped, crackled, and occasionally plopped—but it also taught me to be leery of layoffs, dysfunctional management teams, and pedantic software engineers. I increased my income over time, but my responsibilities and job titles were all over the map. One year I was a manager, the year after that my business card read "marketing weasel." Hilarious ... ly stupid.

Freelancing, by comparison, has been wonderfully ambiguity-free. I do X amount of work, I get paid Y. No cutesy titles or useless staff meetings. No soul-sucking commute. No vacation days, benefits, profit sharing, or cushy corporate salary either, but oh, it's been so much better, in so many ways.

Still, now that I've been working from home for over a year, and my career trajectory has taken an even less traditional turn, I can't help wondering ... what's next?


I mean, what I'm currently doing makes perfect sense for our life right now. With two kids who go to two different schools with different start and end times, pickups and dropoffs alone make my flexible at-home work gig hugely important—not to mention being available to deal with sicknesses, non-school breaks, and various other schedule SNAFUs.

I suppose I always figured I'd go back to an office job someday, though. There's a lot to love about working from home, but I do miss working with people. I miss having a differentiation between my work and home life. I miss feeling like I'm an active part of a team (although I don't miss feeling like I'm on the Titanic, that's for sure). I'm insanely grateful for what I'm doing now, it just never seemed like a permanent change.

But as for that "someday" ... my youngest starts kindergarten in 2013, but even then, school schedules are a logistical pain in the ass, especially with our district's early midweek release. There's always after school care, but that's expensive and maybe not always ideal and then there's the extracurricular stuff and—hell, I'm not telling any of you working moms anything you don't already know. I thought it would be so much easier after my kids were in school, but really, it's not.

I'm nearly 40, and I guess I thought by now I'd have it all figured out, you know? I didn't think I'd still be dithering about what I want to be when I grow up. I couldn't have imagined the massive priority shift that happens when you have children, and how you sometimes set aside things like dreams and aspirations in favor of a smoother family life.

Someone recently asked me what I thought I'd be doing 5 or 10 years from now, and I had no earthly answer to that question. I mean, not a goddamned clue. Is that weird? It seems weird to me, or irresponsible, or lacking in ambition, or something. I tell myself that it's okay to live in the moment and not have plans for what's around the corner. I tell myself this ... but I don't always believe it.

Did your career change when you had kids? Do you have a strong idea what you'll be doing 5 or 10 years from now?

Image via Flickr/Johnny Jet

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