Career After Kids: How Everything Changes

Mom Moment 16

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

jobs & money


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tinyp... tinypossum

I pushed for a more flexible schedule and teleworking when I had kids and it's been a godsend. It makes the logistics of life so much more manageable and allows me to avoid long commutes and to spend more relaxed family time in the evenings. I am thankful to have an employer that embraces family friendly practices. 

nonmember avatar Lori

After a ton of soul-searching, number crunching and overall indecision, I quit my job when I had my first son. I had my master's degree, was working in my chosen field and I loved my job. But, I knew they wouldn't offer me the flexibility to be the kind of parent I wanted. I'm currently counting down the days until child #3 arrives and I realized I've been out of work for 7 years. That's crazy. What started out as a one-year break is turning into nearly a decade of unemployment. I know what I'd like to be doing 5 to 10 years from now, but knowing how to make it happen -- that's a whole other story.

Erin Arndt

As soon as I found out I was pregnant with my first (who will soon be 5) I left the military (something I wanted to do anyway) and headed straight to college in pursuit of nursing. I have since completed that mission and am now a full-time nurse. The thought of having kids lit a fire under my ass.

kjbug... kjbugsmom1517

I still don't have a strong im gonna do this or that in 5 or 10 years. I have alot of aspirations of things id like to do or have done but then reality smacks me really hard. Im getting ready to re enter the work force after being home for almost 5 years. So we shall see where I am in 5 more years.

amyji amyji

I began my own business reviewing the best baby strollers, and work from home after several years of soul searching trying to figure out what to do next. I was a substitute teacher during this time to bring in some extra money. Now that a few years have passed by, business is beginning to pick up, but it is a long haul.

It was (and is) important for me to have the flexibility to be there for my son. I am able to volunteer twice a week at his school, plus monthly art lessons. I know what's going on in his classroom and I can spend one-on-one time with him for homework and reading books.

It is a sacrifice by going without a full-time second income, but completely worth it.

nonmember avatar Kt

Kids definitely changed a whole lot of things- I work a Barely-Part-time job to afford me flexibility with my 3 kids in 3 different schools and let- out times, half days, quarter days n " staff development days" at a moments notice- in 5 to 10 yrs I see me doing the same with a truer part time job since my youngers will by then be in high school or at least college...would I change anything??? Today my answer is NO WAY!! But ask me again when my youngers return from school and start fighting over who gets the red Gatorade for soccer practice! ;-D

Linda Wright

Boy can I relate!  I just turned 41, and with two boys 12 & 2, I have found myself in the very same predicament.   Never thought at this age I would be in such a professional limbo with no idea where my place or contribution would be professionally.  Makes me feel so lazy & unaccomplished.  But then again, I landed where I am to, as you said, have a smoother home life after my 2nd son was born in '08.  He'll be starting Kind. in 2013 just like your youngest...then what?  Your guess is as good as mine!


Ericka Rollins-Koucoules

Before my son I had a job that I absolutely loved.  I was a nurse in a busy day surgery center.  It was Monday-Friday, days.  No weekends, no call, no holidays.  Any nurse can tell you that is a dream job.  Well, the part that didnt work after I had my son was that I had to be there at 630 am.  That meant getting up at 4 am to get myself ready before he woke up.  It was too much.  I left after 3 weeks for another job that offered more flexability but now Im back to working the weekends and holidays oh, and call.  He will be 2 in May and now that I feel like we are at a point where I can go back to my career it's not easy.  I let my certifications expire and now Im paying to renew them myself.  Unfortunately in this job market employers are looking for nurses who are currently working in the surgical area and well, I have done homecare for two years.  I feel like I have committed career suicide and I almost wish I just stuck it out.  The weekends and holidays are the part that is so hard to leave my family now.

mzbar... mzbarker2

I am sort-of in the same boat.  I worked 50 hours and more when my oldest was growing up. I have a degree in Interior Design  but have been in furniture sales for ...well ever since I graduated.  It was a great career moneywise. But very stressful. Anyone who has ever been is sales knows this.  So, after both my parents died and I divorced, I never expected to find myself remarried, and pregnant at 40.  So now I have a 7 yr old, an 18 year old,and Im living in a new area.  Im tired all of the time, menapausal, and in need of a new career because I cannot see myself in sales any longer! Ive got this degree that seems almost useless.  After being downsized from my last part-time job, Im unable to find anything else.  Looking at my resume, I look damn good on paper, but mostly for sales.  The only people calling me for jobs are for insurance sales (yuck!). I just dont know where to turn. Anyone with ideas...Im open!!!!!

thanks Donna

Marilyn C. Cole

Just want to point out that these years of working (writing!) on your own might just prepare you to stay at home and Write That Book. Don't know if you're totally down with that solitary kind of day as your day-to-day, but something to consider, right?

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