I was thinking about how I’ve been freelancing from home for a couple years now and whether or not I want my career path to curve back around to an office job someday. And if so, what that might be. Marketing again? Copywriting? Something else? Have I expanded my options by focusing on freelance writing, or drastically reduced them? What would happen if all my work dried up and disappeared tomorrow — what have I done to my employment chances over the last two years? (Other than moved to a smaller town with fewer opportunities, of course.)

Dylan will be in kindergarten next fall and that will be another big life change, one that will free up about 34 additional non-child-wrangling hours per week for me. What do I want to do with those hours, as time goes on? Do I want to work from home forever? Do I want to do something different? Is being flexible and available always going to be worth the financial gut-punch of not being a salaried employee? Do I want to think about school again?

I’m almost certain my answer to the last question is no (it’s a whole different post, I suppose, but the idea of college has slipped away almost entirely. I don’t mean that in a sad, giving-up-on-my-dreams way, either, although I realize it must sound that way. Of going back to school, I once wrote, “Maybe when you shoot for the ridiculously big stuff, you’re bound to land somewhere good,” and I believe that’s exactly what happened), but for the rest of it … man, I’m not sure. Here I am at nearly 40, wondering (again) what I’ll be when I grow up.

Where are you at with your own job-related thoughts and plans? If you changed your career (or left it) because of parenthood, what’s your long game?


70 Responses to “Long game”

  1. honeybecke on January 20th, 2013 4:46 pm

    I was just coming upon this exact situation (my second boy will start Kindergarten this coming fall too) so I solved the problem of going back to work with getting pregnant again (!!!) and setting the clock back five years. Baby no. 3 FTW! …not reaaaaally planned..

  2. Linda (not you!) on January 20th, 2013 4:55 pm

    I’m getting my masters in Library Science right now. It’s kinda awesome with a whole online thing with limited weekends to meet with the teacher and network with your classmates. Lots of libraries need people who can write grants. And you probably don’t need an MLS to do it.

  3. Sarah on January 20th, 2013 4:56 pm

    Funny you should mention this. I was laid off ten days ago after ten years in the same job. My husband has been unemployed for a year. Our only child starts kinder in the fall too. So what do we want to be then is the question of the month at our house. No answers yet!

  4. Katharine on January 20th, 2013 5:02 pm

    I was wondering this recently too. I switched to at-home contracting work just over a year ago, and working at home with people I’ll never meet suits my personality more than I could ever have dreamed. However, if the work dries up, I’m effing doomed.

    When I think about going back to a steady office job, I want to go to the corner and rock and eat my hair. Nononononono. But what will happen to me if I’m still doing this job (which has no possibility for advancement or greater income) four years from now? What does that mean, to my life’s trajectory and to my marriage and to my budget? I haven’t the slightest idea, and I don’t know where to begin assembling a clue.

    Kids are not a part of my equation, FWIW, but I am definitely feeling that same what-did-I-get-myself into? thing that you set out here. I’m not unhappy with this (in fact I’m tickled pink at this), but will I be unhappy someday? Was this as unqualified-ly a positive move as I feel it to be now, or will it end up being the biggest mistake of my 30s? Should I be planning more or is it OK and I should relax? Gaaaaaah.

  5. Jen on January 20th, 2013 5:03 pm

    Hmmmm…sounds like you benefit from another round of Mondo Beyondo. ;)

  6. cara on January 20th, 2013 5:05 pm

    You’ll be You when you grow up. :)

    I left my job in September of last year to work full-time on my own. It’s a big leap, and I don’t currently have plans on going back. But yeah, Big. Leap.
    (I sort of wonder a lot what I’ll be when I grow up too…)

  7. Emily on January 20th, 2013 5:06 pm

    I resigned from my demanding full-time job yesterday to go back to straight commissions and much less job security, but more flexible hours, hopefully for about the same amount of $. My kids are 2 & 5, but from what I hear – working full time is even HARDER once they get into school because of after school activities and sports etc. I think we decided that ultimately you have no idea how much time you will really have with your children and the time you do have is just worth more than anything else at the end of the day.

  8. Eric's Mommy on January 20th, 2013 5:16 pm

    I just had an interview for a job the other day that I would love. Hard thing is I would be taking a huge salary cut, huge. The commute is less than half of what I am driving now and it is at a place I have wanted to work at for years. I hate my job now, and I am extremely stressed out. You need to do what is right for you. (keep your fingers crossed I get this job though :P)

  9. Linda on January 20th, 2013 5:21 pm

    Katharine: YESSSS. You articulated many of the same concerns I have.

  10. Ms. HalfEmpty on January 20th, 2013 5:53 pm

    I’m not a parent, but I have the same career worries and concerns. I left my lucrative office job in May, and am forging a path on my own. I’m not sure where the path is leading or if it’s the right path, but I certainly don’t regret leaving. I just wish I had more certainty.

  11. Christi on January 20th, 2013 5:59 pm

    So after working at home as a consultant (with consistent work) for years, I recently just went back to an office job that was too good to pass up. My you gets child is in first grade and I still need (and have) the flexibility to go get sick children. So far, I miss the days spent in my slippers, but I really appreciate having some upward mobility and the benefits of being a salaried employee, I feel pretty happy to have fallen into this and think that it will be good for me to have a professional career arc outside my home as my children get a little older. Pluses and minuses for sure, but it is really nice to interact with grown ups over the course of the day. And paid sick/vacation time isn’t bad!

  12. MinnieK on January 20th, 2013 6:11 pm

    I’m getting ready to start nursing school, at the ripe old age of 33. I worked in journalism for 5 years, left for public health 2 years ago, and decided to continue in health care. Right now, I’m not a parent, but my choice to pursue nursing is based on my desire to become a parent. Because of some medical mishaps, we will only be able to concieve with IVF (expensive) or possibly adopt (also expensive) and my entry-level public health job isn’t going to cut it. (My husband also works in public service, so we are solidly part of the 99%.)
    I have no idea what we’ll do about work when we actually become parents, as none of this is working out how we imagined it would.
    Is it my lifelong dream to be a nurse? No. But I find healthcare interesting and challenging and I know I will be good at it. I’ve been working full time since I was 18-years-old and I know that sometimes you just have to put in the time, you know? As I’ve watched my friends struggle with career changes, I’ve told them that life isn’t a straight line; there are lots of curves and hills and valleys and u-turns and you never know when your true path is going to show up. I just keep trying to remind myself of that.

  13. NancyB on January 20th, 2013 6:20 pm

    12 years ago I quit my fulltime job (our son was 9) to work for my husband who started his own contracting business.
    12 years later its the LONGEST I’ve been at any job and basically I’m stuck here whether I continue to like it or not!
    It’s lonely – the only time I get other female companionship is if I set up coffee or lunch out which I rarely do.
    Business is slow – but I can’t look for another job cause I still have this job to do! I have worked 2 part time school jobs within the 12 years but it was hard to keep up with office work.
    Oh well – I guess it’s up to me to create my own happiness! Maybe take an online class or something.

  14. Diana on January 20th, 2013 6:30 pm

    Funny thing is – I decided 2 years ago to go back to school. I work full-time and take online classes. I will be 47 when I graduate with my bachelor’s degree. I then plan to pursue a CPA and then go on to law school. I am certainly shooting for the big stuff and feeling pretty confident that I will land somewhere good. Don’t give up on college if that is really what you want to do – you can do it. Maybe you should try an online class or two and see if you are really ready to give up that dream.

  15. Lisa on January 20th, 2013 6:50 pm

    Sometimes it’s so hard to just bloom where we are planted. It’s human nature, or maybe it’s our culture to worry so much about what’s next. I’ve been struggling w/this myself. I’m very glad I got all my education out of the way when I was young, but I resent the fact that I’m going to be paying on those student loans forEVER.

    I studied photography in school & I learned quickly after finishing school how hard it is to make a living doing just that. Pretty much the only way is to do lots of weddings & family photos, which I did not enjoy at all. I taught myself graphic design & a bit of web design & went after jobs doing both. No one would hire me without experience, so I freelanced for several years. I really loved it, but I didn’t make a whole lot of money.

    Last year, I was offered a full time creative job by one of my clients, a Fortune 100 company. I took it, and I swear, I spent all of last year wondering if I’d done the right thing. I am at heart a freelancer because I love the freedom & working non traditionally, but there are so many opportunities at my corporate job- not to mention benefits & a salary three times what I made freelancing. But still- I kept wondering about what’s next. I’ve been trying this year not to worry. As long as you are happy, being challenged & learning something, it’s good. What’s next will come when it’s ready. If you have a good gig, it’s totally okay to sit back & enjoy it while it lasts. Nothing is forever; you always have options.

  16. Maureen on January 20th, 2013 6:54 pm

    A long time ago, I think you were talking about being a Physical Therapist or maybe a trainer. It’s career path that will be needed with all of us boomers out here getting new knees and hips. I have had a few students go back to school to be nurses and one to be a PA. I teach at a small regional college and teach media production. They all managed well with accelerated health programs. We have shortages here so most of the time if you have a BS you can do one of these programs in 18 months without sacrificing your whole life. Everyone also waited till their kids were old enough for school. I do think that when they get into activities it takes some time to get them to and from the activities but you can always work that out with other parents or with careful scheduling. I know for me the hardest time in my life was when my son was in middle school because of his activity schedule. I always had to get another parent to help with driving. I paid them for it but I still felt guilty. Things got better in High School. Two major activities with the driving part concentrated one month in fall and one month in spring. I just left work to manage that cause I was able to shift my schedule. Good Luck whatever you do. Don’t count out an educational program to help you get a different career. Health Communications is also booming. I have people who work for docs and write press releases, organize events, write up patient instruction brochures, it’s amazing how much stuff needs writing in a doctor’s office. I also have folks that all they do is run cameras and edit for doctors who need video. It’s an open field right now.

  17. Chloe on January 20th, 2013 6:57 pm

    “Where are you at with your own job-related thoughts and plans? If you changed your career (or left it) because of parenthood, what’s your long game?”

    I’m not a parent now, but we plan to at least try to reproduce within the next few years.

    Right now, I’m in (hopefully) the last year of getting my PhD (I’m turning 30 in two months). Getting a PhD really sucks, so in that sense, I don’t know if I would have done it if I had a more concrete idea of what it involved… but the jobs I could get with a bachelor degree were not jobs I would have been happy with for more than a year or two. So, I’m glad I’m slogging through, I guess, even though it’s tough– I believe the process has made me tougher and more driven.

    I’m terrified I won’t be able to do what I want to do, but ultimately I want to work in the business sector/ industry, in my field, and doing something I find personally meaningful, (but I’m NOT willing to work 50+ hour weeks, because I want to have a family and a happy life outside of work). I know I’m not suited, personality wise for academia, and I like the increased financial stability, though my job stability will be (generally) MUCH lower, I’ll be making enough that if I do get laid off, we should be able to survive for 6+ months while I pursue new employment.

    If I can’t find my perfect job right away (I’m really in a bad spot because I really do not think I can leave the city I’m in right now due to my fiance’s job– very bad in this field), I’m willing to do contract work doing just about anything related, to keep money coming in, while I interview for jobs that potentially could lead to careers– I grew up pretty poor, so financial stability and comfort is really important to me– the idea of not having any savings or money coming in is really stressful for me.

  18. Donna on January 20th, 2013 7:13 pm

    Dude, when Dylan goes to school, you should just hang out all day, eat bon bons, and turn in an article once in awhile….watch soap operas, (does anyone watch those anymore?), and not do anydamnthing.
    No? Then I got nothin.

  19. Jae on January 20th, 2013 7:25 pm

    I recently started back to school on a second bachelor’s degree.

    It’s such a bizarre-o situation but, by god, it works.

    When I was nearing completion of my first degree, I re-applied to my university to the Medical Laboratory Science program. I was accepted but ultimately declined since my husband was hating his job and we wanted to get out of the town we grew up in.

    Fast forward six years, three states, and one child later and I’m back at my first university, living with my mom and my kiddo and going for that second degree in the program I withdrew from.

    It’s an odd situation in that my husband is in Seattle working at Amazon and I’m 2500 miles away.

    We’re both thrilled that we’re getting what we want and chasing our dreams and our families are supportive and so happy for us both.

  20. Brenda on January 20th, 2013 7:31 pm

    Three years ago when I turned 40 I decided to go back to school. I completed my associates degree in May, started a new 3/4 time job in June, and am now working on my bachelors degree part-time. I have a job that I love but would like to keep moving up the ladder so I continue on with school. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I started school but now I have a good idea of what I’m working towards :)

  21. Frannie on January 20th, 2013 8:14 pm

    Oh man. Katharine did articulate that well.
    What do you have in mind?
    I’m in my last RN class, going through a nightmare of a divorce, with two young sons under three in tow, and working fulltime. I find myself not only in a great transition, but I’ve found that my passions have changed as well, although I enjoy nursing because it is challenging and gets me out of my comfort zone. Is it my calling? Yes, but I know I have other dreams to pursue. I have all this creativity inside as well. Just don’t beat yourself up, I say. The demise of my marriage did shake my foundation, and my esteem. I was treated as though I was not doing enough, but now I’m beginning to renew, out of a very hard place.
    Dreams never die, and follow them. No matter how ridiculous or hard

  22. Kim on January 20th, 2013 8:55 pm

    Yep. Left environmental consulting for farming. I’ve only been gone a year and a half, but I really think that there’s no way back to that now. Nor do I ever, ever, ever want to be back. However, I do wince a little when I think of the earning potential I just walked away from because COWS! YEAH! Objectively, I know that is really, really dumb.

    I keep trying to come up with the plan for the ‘long game’ and I don’t know. I’m starting a brand new farm, managing an existing one, and I just have no clue where this will go in 5 years. Much less 10 or 20. I want that long term plan, but my brain can’t even work out what it wants beyond being ridiculously motivated for 2013.

  23. Blythe on January 20th, 2013 10:06 pm

    I spent 3 years away from my original field of expertise in my mid-30s. I had been at the same place for ten years and wasn’t sure what to do next. It was so freeing to be out of the rat race for a while; it opened my mind to the possibilities in a way that would have scared me when I was at my old job. I am back in the same field now, but am much more aware that I there are all kinds of jobs and situations, and I don’t have to pigeonhole myself. I was also surprised that the time away didn’t really hurt my prospects, it made me fresh.

  24. kalisa on January 20th, 2013 10:14 pm

    Lives and careers don’t go like they did when our parents were our age. People don’t take a job and then stay at it for 40 years until they retire. Just because you haven’t found that life-long position doesn’t mean you’re floundering. You HAVE found who you are; right now that’s a work-at-home-mom. Whatever’s next is your next adventure.

  25. Tamara on January 20th, 2013 10:19 pm

    I haven’t left my career yet, but it’s starting to concern me that I can’t live up to the 12 hour days and occasional weekends anymore. Especially since my husband also works in entertainment. I don’t want to leave what amounts to my dream job, but I’m not sure how to balance work and family yet. I’m just going to go bury my head in the sand for another couple months.

  26. sooboo on January 20th, 2013 10:48 pm

    I’ll start by saying I don’t have kids so that does make some of my decisions simpler. I left my full time job with benefits 6 years ago and it’s been up and down since, mostly up lately. I have short term and long term goals but it’s hard to know what the future looks like as my fortune depends on things like, right place right time, the economy and dumb luck. The working hard part, I’ve got down, no problem. Usually every year I write down my ideal life vision (all of it, not just job bit things like family, health, friends, relationship, house, money too) and then I read it every month or so to stay focused. When I don’t know what to do regarding the big picture, I just take the next small step. I was hoping yours would be novel writing!

  27. Kris on January 21st, 2013 12:09 am

    I haven’t read everyone else’s responses, but here goes.

    I turned 40 in August & my 4-year-old son has autism. When I think about where I want to be in a year or five years from now or when my son turns 18, the answer is always the same.

    I want to own my own business.

    Lately that means something small, like maybe a little sandwich shop on a quiet, peaceful lake. Somewhere the locals can come in for a bite and some company or the fishermen can pop in for a sandwich & some bait before heading out for the day in their boats. Somewhere my son can help me bake bread or gather minnows, because I don’t know that he’ll ever have the skills to hold down a “regular” job in the “real” (cruel) world.

    And yes, there is the problem of financing. But as I write this, my dad is laying in a hospital bed, fighting for his life. And I have to have a little dream to hold onto.

    I hope you find something and follow your dreams to it. I hope that for all of us, actually.

  28. Stacy on January 21st, 2013 6:18 am

    I am a 47 year old self-employed architect with three kids. I went out on my own eight years ago (when I only had two kids) and have managed to keep myself busy ever since. BUT I have not contributed to my IRA in all those years, now that my kids are in school I work less then when they were little (no more daycare), and we are always juuuust scraping by financially. Going back to work would be the smart financial move, but tough for family management. I love all of the freedom that comes with my work, and I love that I actually get credit for the hard work that I do (something that rarely came when working in a firm, unfortunately). I hate that I don’t make more money, but I would really, really, really hate to be beholden to somebody other than my family for 40+ hours per week. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a government job, but I think the lack of creativity with that kind of gig would kill me. Without making a change like that, though, I will never be able to retire. Luckily, I love what I do.

    So, for now, the plan is to keep riding the horse I’m on. I think it’s going to be a busy year – all indications are the economy is on the uptick in my area – so I’m planning to really buckle down and bust ass. And if I make a change, I feel like my window of opportunity is closing…I’ve got about five years to make that decision. Keep your fingers crossed for me and I’ll keep mine crossed for you.

  29. jonniker on January 21st, 2013 7:19 am

    I am sitting here in sweatpants emailing my freelance clients so that I can get back on the working horse and . . . yeah. Are you IN my head today? I have the vomits from stressing about this, honestly. Great for the diet, though!

  30. Lisa on January 21st, 2013 7:53 am

    I started out as a corporate travel agent when I was 19. Moved on to marketing/project management when I was around 30 and had 2 kids and needed more $$. Child #3 came along and flexibility became the most important factor for my family. So I quit my job and became an independent contractor doing marketing for a private company. That was 5 years ago, my youngest is headed to kindergarten and over the past year or more, I’ve had the same thoughts as you. “What am I going to be when I grow up? Will I be happy working from home still?” The answer to the last question was a definite NO! So I enrolled in nursing school last August and am currently in my 2nd semester. I can’t WAIT to get through this and move on to yet another career.

    So my advice to you is, take your time, think things through, and don’t ever be afraid to make those changes in your life that you often dream about but might be a little too frightened to actually find out if they fit you or not. Life is too short to look back and think, “what if I had taken the leap and tried this years ago?”

  31. Katie on January 21st, 2013 8:00 am

    Ugh, a question that plagues me every day! I actually start grad school tomorrow. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of my job and I THINK that what I’m getting a degree in is what I want. Think being the key word. Check back in a few weeks :-p

  32. Karen on January 21st, 2013 8:06 am

    I work full-time outside of the house, and always have. My girls are 19, 16 & 13. I have to agree that our schedule seemed to get busier as they got older. Girl scouts, sports teams, travel sports team – gah!, school projects, days off, half days etc. To have the flexibility to help, drive, watch is so key to my life, and I think this is true whether you work at home, outside of the home, or are a SAHM.

    Just last week I got a call from school (am I the only one who sighs when I see the school nurse phone # on my caller id??) that my youngest had bumped her head in the locker room – raised her head into an open locker – and now had a minor cut but they are so paranoid about concussions and she feels fine but can you come get her now and even though she is 13 please stay home with her and keep an eye on her for concussion symptoms. Yeah, she spent the day watching tv and messing around on her phone while I “watched” and had to take vacation time.

    That said, I have been so fortunate to have jobs and bosses who understand and let me take time when I need it. I want to see their games, and watch them run in cross country, I want to go to the valentines day party, and see the Halloween costume parade. I want to be home on the numerous institute days, and go out to lunch when they have a half day. I guess what I mean to say is flexibility is key. Whatever you decide, flexibility is key.

    There is the school of thought that when interviewing for a job you should not bring up your kids or family or outside activities because it make you look like you aren’t devoted to your career. I say bullshit. I let the company/boss know right up front. I have three kids, a husband who travels for work, and the kids will take priority all the time. If the company can’t handle that, then I don’t want to work there. So far it’s worked for me!

  33. Kathy on January 21st, 2013 8:20 am

    I’ve done both over the years – full-time working mom, full-time stay-at-home mom, back and forth, a couple times. I never fully embraced either because I was too worried about the kids or the future or who would want to ever hire me “after” (news flash, they did). I have read your blog long enough to know you will create the life you want, you will make it happen, you already HAVE. Your life five years from now may be exactly the same or wildly different – who knows? What you are doing right now is mostly working, that’s a win, for now! I’m speaking from about ten years further down the road (one kid in college already, the other soon to follow) and if I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would tell her to live in the moment, trust her instincts, stop worrying about the future (it’s unknown and you really don’t control it, even though you think you do)and focus on making today a better day for you and those you love, it’s all you can do.

  34. JMH on January 21st, 2013 8:59 am

    I guess I am very lucky..I have a job that I like (for the most part), and I work in a the same school where my kids attend so we spend lots of time together. Whenever I look at other jobs that offer more $$, better benefits, I am tempted, but then I realize I am happy now. In 5 years….who knows? But I am satisfied for the moment. Good luck to you and your decision!

  35. Em on January 21st, 2013 9:27 am

    I am a nurse and have been very lucky to have flexibility both in shifts and hours worked and stay in the same field. That said, before I had my daughter, I worked full time, was very invested in my unit, knew the ins and outs and the comings and goings. After I had her, I cut my hours WAY back. In the years following (and three more children), I find I am nothing more than a warm body there. I’ve lost a lot of respect, no one comes to me with questions anymore. And honestly, my skills have dulled in some areas. I’ve often wondered if I would have done less damage to my career by stopping work while my kids were young and starting new when it was time to go back to work rather than keeping my foot in the door. I really don’t know. And it is something I have been trying to explain to my career advancing husband. In a way, I don’t care. For me (FOR ME), working is a means to an end. It’s a paycheck and I want to work as little as I must to put food on the table but I’d prefer to be home with the kids. In another way, I care a lot. Being really good at my job was a hard thing to lose and made (makes) me feel like a loser a lot of the time. But if I had stayed full time, would I have felt that way about mothering? I don’t know. I’ll never know.

    What was the question again?

  36. wendy on January 21st, 2013 9:28 am

    I took two years’ maternity leave when my daughter was born. I then resigned from a well-paying, great-benefits, excellent-retirement, no-flexibility but stable job and took less-money, no retirement, year-to-year contract job with a great amount of flexibility. On paper, it looks crazy…but in reality, I’d do it all over again. If my daughter is sick, it’s much easier for me to stay home with her. Holiday party at school? I can rearrange things and go in to volunteer. My only advice? Follow your heart. Your heart isn’t necessarily what ‘makes sense’ on paper…but, at the end of the day, if you’re happy, then you’ve made the right decision.

  37. Linda on January 21st, 2013 9:36 am

    I just want to thank you guys for sharing your thoughts here. I’m finding value from every single comment and perspective, this is such a tangled subject and it’s really useful to hear what other people are thinking. Thank you, thank you.

  38. ElizabethZ on January 21st, 2013 9:37 am

    I will be 40 in a few months and have worked f/t since I was 19. I work in asset management and have always worked in a related capacity in the brokerage/finance field. I have been at my current job a little over a year, and I hate it. I hate most of what I have to do in a day, I dislike my boss (condescending nit-picker and frankly, I just don’t think she likes me), and I dislike the company as a whole (elitist, arrogant). My husband had not had a steady job since he was laid off 3 years ago so my options were limited. He recently began what should be a long term contract for full-time work in addition to working a part-time gig for a neighbor that is becoming pretty steady too.

    I have always bought & sold on ebay but recently I opened a store on there, and am making a decent part-time income from selling. We have 3 boys – twins in 1st grade and 1 in preschool. In the summer, their daycare costs will be in the neighborhood of 1400/mo. We recently decided that come June, I am going to quit my job, at least for the summer, work on building my ebay business and try to double or even triple revenues and come fall, decide if I need to work a job in addition, and get something part-time if so. I am tired of working in an office so many hours a week, 20+ years of 40+ hour work weeks is plenty and I am done. I want to spend more time with my boys and have more flexibility in my life.

    I do have a cushion in this scenario though, because at some point around retirement age, I have a modest inheritance coming so I am not as concerned with building up my 401K as some might be. I am praying it all works out, I love doing the ebay business – I am a shopper by nature, and I get to cruise estate sales and thrift stores looking for treasures and then sell them, usually for quite a large profit – it is so fun for me and I am good at it. I would love to be able to do that as my job, forever.

    Approaching 40, I just don’t want to spend any more of my life working while being unhappy with what I am doing. That is my goal, to be happy.

  39. Christie on January 21st, 2013 10:02 am

    My kids are in grade 3 and 5. I work from home and can’t imagine full time in an office now. It makes for a crazy schedule some days, but I love the flexibility of being around before/after school, volunteering at the school, taking a day off if my husband has a day off, being home if a kid is sick or they have a day off. The reduced stress, commuting, child care expense… all of it is worth it. The fact that I work in yoga pants and a hoodie most days, and never have to see anyone, and can roll my eyes through a phone meeting if necessary… an added bonus. Do what you love, and love what you do! If that’s freelance, then carry on!!!

  40. June on January 21st, 2013 10:19 am

    I went to school forever (BA, MS, PhD, postdoc) and got my first real job in 2005. It’s the only job I’ve ever had that I didn’t dream about quitting on a regular basis. Pay, benefits, and schedule flexibility are second to none. I’ve learned a ton and feel sharp, like I’m at the top of my game.

    But (and you know there’s a but) there’s no more room for promotion unless I change roles and go into managerial stuff (noooooo), and I’m wondering if I will look back and regret topping out at age 34 (the age I was when I had my last promotion). Or should I shut up and just be damn grateful to be where I am?

    I fantasize about going back to school, just to do something a little different, but it’s not feasible with my current load (kids 2, 2, and 4) and full-time work.

  41. ememby on January 21st, 2013 11:19 am

    I simply don’t know what I’m going to do with myself because I never envisioned being at an office job, this one in particular, every day, all day as the plan for my life so I cannot imagine continuing it on until retirement. That said, I don’t know what else I actually want to do. I think I’d be perfectly happy working in a coffee shops, making people’s days better with a latte and a smile. Alas.

  42. Em on January 21st, 2013 12:15 pm

    I also am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! I work 3 days a week in marketing and stay home the other two days with my daughter. It is a good balance BUT (and isn’t there always a but?) I don’t really like my job. I like getting out of the house, but I miss writing (my background is journalism). The problem is when people ask me what I’d rather be doing, I don’t have a good answer. To top it off, my husband is looking to change jobs and we may be moving out of state. If that happens, I have NO idea what I’ll do. I guess I don’t have any advice – but I definitely can relate to you!

  43. Sonia on January 21st, 2013 1:12 pm

    Hoo boy…. My (unwanted) divorce will be final tomorrow. I used to work full time in a career that utilized my degree. Once I had my son, I went back to work part time. When he was 10 months old, I had to quit because we realized he had developmental delays, and I would be spending a lot of time at Children’s and taking him to physical, speech and occupational therapy. A few months of being off work was killing us financially, so I went to work in the evenings at a friend’s salon. My husband would be home with our son while I worked evenings. Then I picked up 2 days a month, on the weekends my husband didn’t work, back in my original career. Shortly after that, my son needed brain surgery, AND I got robbed at work. The robbery did me in. No more pharmacy work for me. I continued to work evening at the salon, a couple days a week, and primarily was on mom duty. Once my son was in school part time, I went to work during his school hours, as a receptionist at a medical massage therapy clinic. I loved that job! After a couple years, there were some questionable financial decisions made by the owner, and they couldn’t afford to keep me. From there, I was asked to manage a women’s boutique, and could work around my husband’s schedule. I stayed there for 1&1/2 years, until it was no longer a fun little job. From there, I started nannying 2 days a week, which was a good fit. My husband had an affair and left a year ago in December, and I continued to nanny. Only now I nanny for a different family, and it’s an even better fit. The courts agreed that it would cost me more money than I would make, to go back to work full time, because of my son’s needs. So my ex husband pays for me to be a stay at home mom, and I supplement by nannying a few days a week. This is how things will be for the next 3 years, and becUse of all the heartache and stress I’ve been through, I gave myself permission to focus on being a mom, and not worry about career choices during this next 3 years. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I don’t have to worry about it right now. :)

  44. Sarah on January 21st, 2013 1:34 pm

    I have a salaried job right now, but do it from home (I work for a company in another state). I also have two toddlers, who go to daycare.

    In the beginning, I thought this would be the-best-of-both-worlds. Some days it is… stability of a salary, but I can wear my Snuggie at my desk and have a little more flexibility with hours since I have no commute. On the downside, I miss daily in-person interaction with adults and I’m starting to have the same “have I hurt my career long-term?” thoughts you are. I also am not in love with my job anymore, but my job is more stable than my husband’s & the pay is good, so it’s become a “is not being happy every day worth giving up money/stability?” kind of conversation.

    No easy answers, that’s for darn sure. I just keep hoping that in the long run I can find a way to have time for my kids, support my family and not get to the point where my job is a total soul-suck.

    As a side note, I continue to be stunned by how often your posts mirror an issue I’m currently struggling with. Thank you, thank you for voicing them & getting these conversations started. Helps more than you’ll ever know.

  45. Carla Hinkle on January 21st, 2013 1:44 pm

    I am 40 — 3 kids, 9, 6, and 3. Everyone is in school 8:30-3, 5 days/week. Husband works full time at family business, 50-ish hours/week but very flexible schedule. He can make a parent teacher conference, school play, etc if he needs to, but I take on the bulk of the child-related management.

    I am an attorney — worked thru my 20s at a big corporate firm, long hours, etc. When my oldest was 18 months I went out on my own, not running my own cases but doing hourly work for friends with their own smaller law firms. All from home. Hours great but money WILDLY LESS than my corporate job. I do manage to contribute to an IRA most years. I love… LOVE this job. LOVE IT.

    I can’t see myself ever (or not for a very long time) going back to an office job. I love the freelance, work-for-myself life too much. I love the flexibility I have with the kids. Though sometimes I find it hard to get in even 20 hours of work a week, though I technically have 30+ childfree hours. Afternoons are taken up by activities, sports practice, music lessons…someone always needs to go to the doctor, the dentist, the optometrist … cars need to get serviced, home repair people waited for.

    Of course if I wanted a full time job, I’d up the childcare and everything would get done somehow. But I don’t really WANT to. I like to think I’m keeping my hand it, keeping my skills up, and maybe someday I’ll want to do something different. But I guess I don’t really know if that’s true, or not.

    I think it’s never really clear, you know? Just stumbling along, doing the best we all can…

  46. Maggie on January 21st, 2013 3:50 pm

    Funny I’m reading this today, as I was just talking to my Mom about a related topic this morning, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Of course, it’s from the other side…retirement. My parents are in the process of building their retirement home right now–something that has been talked about for YEARS in our family, but was always just a “someday”. Well, “someday” is here…they will soon be selling my childhood home & moving to another state, where they will live out their years (hopefully many, many more to come!). They’ve been planning and saving, but of course, there are always unexpected turns along the way.

    Something that has been on the forefront of my mind, though, lately, due to the whole retirement home building process and a drunken family argument at Christmas (aunt & uncle, as the drunk staunch republicans…), is how grateful I am that my Mom started her own business so she could work from home while we were growing up. It was so great to know that she was home when we needed her–if we forgot our lunch or homework, if we had to go home sick, if we had a field hockey game or tennis match, she was never too far to be there. It was nice, too, that she was home every day when we got off the bus. Yes, they wish they had a little more money now to do everything they want in the new house, but ultimately, I think we all agree that the contribution she made to society in being there to raise my sister and me to be confident, honest, hard-working, and successful women, was worth it.

    I hope to be fortunate enough to have a similarly flexible schedule when I have kids…but it seems that today, it’s maybe not as easy for Moms to do that (at least based on many of my friends who already have kids)…

  47. Nic on January 21st, 2013 4:19 pm

    What do I want to be when I grow up? Wow, I am so struggling with this right now. I’m 40 and childless but was just laid off from a job I loved. Really I loved it. I was/am heartbroken to lose the job, I felt like I had been dumped by a lover. I have no idea what to do now, the industry I was in is a young persons business and I worked my way up to management by shear force of personality alone. I have no real skills, no computer expertise or degrees. I do have a nice savings account (or did) so I’ve been sitting and thinking trying to find an idea or a plan or even a thought that starts a fire in my heart. I read all your comments searching for an idea and while I didn’t see the steps one two and three I was hoping for, it does give me a touch of comfort to know that I’m not alone.

  48. Melissa on January 21st, 2013 4:35 pm

    Dylan can not go to kindergarten next fall because Riley was just born a few months ago. *waves her cane because she is old*

  49. Lorri on January 21st, 2013 5:09 pm

    My boys are 10 and 14. I’ve been not earning any income for almost a year for the first time ever. Which has meant no responsibilities outside the home other than to my kids’ schools, etc. It has been the best year ever. They are super busy after school, so I live like my day really starts at 3pm. Lessons, sports, homework, meals. I am fully present and not irritated or migraine-y. No more stress when they are sick. No more juggling everything during the summer. Ah. Relief. To be just a mom. For only a few more years. Then it will all change again.

  50. Lana on January 21st, 2013 6:12 pm

    I am 35, 3 semesters away from finally completing the BSW I have been working on part-time for the last 3 years. All while raising my 5 and 8 year old girls and working full-time as a school counsellor. I’m tired.

    I love what I do at my career, but I don’t like the politics in the running of it. I have golden handcuffs in the form of pension, benefits, 3 months of paid vacation a year, no evenings/weekends.

    There is the annual threat of layoff that caused me to return to school so that I can get my MSW and ensure that I can find a nearly equal job out there in the real world. I have pipe dreams that it will lead me to something exciting and interesting. I worry I’ll stay here forever even with the extra degrees simply because the vacation time is fabulous.

  51. H on January 21st, 2013 7:15 pm

    I’m 50, my kids are 21 and 24. After college, I wanted to climb the corporate ladder and raise a family. My son had minor but constant health issues. My husband’s job allowed no flexibility so I was the one leaving work when daycare called. One day, I was in the middle of a corporate “charm school” course when daycare called – again. The next day I told my manager I needed to back off, and I did. My career was by no means stagnant but my promotions were years apart. I couldn’t stop working because my husband’s jobs were in a much less stable industry and we desperately need my income and benefits.

    Fortunately, when my kids were 9 and 6, my employer moved us home to work and the arrangement was perfect for our family. I had to travel some, but we were able to work out our schedules to accommodate the kids. The kids no longer live here and I still work at home. I love it, but I can tell the isolation is starting to take a toll on me. I need to find a way to get the social interaction I used to get when I was going to my kids’ activities.

    I don’t regret slowing my career advancement. While I never hated my positions, I can’t say they were enormously fulfilling, but that’s OK with me. I need to continue working but I’m now starting to think about transitioning to do things I love in my free time and possibly into retirement.

  52. Angella on January 21st, 2013 9:25 pm

    I don’t have any idea what I’m supposed to be when I grow up and I’m still simmering on what to write about that.

    38, man. Aren’t we supposed to have it figured out by now?

  53. Erin (Snarke) on January 21st, 2013 9:45 pm

    I’ve been working from home as a freelance writer for 5 years now and I’m pretty sure I’m screwed in terms of “regular” employability–at least while the job market is so tight. I think, though, that I’m okay with that. I’ve learned enough through my work to, if I ever choose to stop doing the writing part, I could do consulting, marketing, etc freelance instead.

    When I look down the road, though, I hope to someday be able to sell my own work well enough to earn a living instead of just writing for others. That would be nice.

  54. Mary Clare on January 22nd, 2013 9:20 am

    Linda, Have you thought about marketing/communications for the non-profit world? Just a thought. Wouldn’t be as lucrative as for a big company, but perhaps rewarding?

  55. Laura on January 22nd, 2013 11:11 am

    I’ve been doing the freelance dance (contract writing with very limited childcare) from home for a long time. My youngest goes to kindergarten next year, and I was lamenting to a friend that people keep asking me what I’m going to do career-wise now that all three kids are at school. She laughed and said, “Tell them you’re going to work without kids crawling up your nose all day!”

    Can you imagine? Blocks of time each day to excel at your job without the immense guilt of an overturned CandyLand game at your feet and a crying child begging you to play just one more game. For the first time EVER it will not be “bring your child to work” day for me.

    Best wishes, Linda, this is a very hard transition.

  56. Maggie on January 22nd, 2013 11:20 am

    For the last several years I’ve been struggling with work in general. Unfortunately, the reality is that I want life to be one way, but it’s the other way. My husband’s industry is in the tank and he’s been laid off twice in the last three years so even though he’s working now, we can’t trust it will last. In addition, I earn nearly double his salary and have better benefits. So, I have to keep working full time even though I long to work less. In reality my job is good and I loved it before I had kids. Now I love my kids and resent the 40 hours a week I am not with them. I think in the long run when the kids are grown and gone, I will likely love my job again and if I left it, I’d never have it again for a variety of reasons. So, I try to make peace with it. Some days it’s easier than others. Today, after a three-day weekend, it’s harder. As Snoop says in The Wire: you want it to be one way, but it’s the other way. Basically too damned bad.

  57. scantee on January 22nd, 2013 12:58 pm

    One thing to keep in mind is that not all office jobs are the same. There is such a wide variety in size and environment of employers that I don’t know if the descriptor “office job” is very useful.

    I say that because it what you’re dreading about an office job is the office-jobness of it all there definitely are environments that don’t come with all of the crap that we generally associate with working for the man. One of the good things about being a free-lancer is that you have the opportunity to make connections and wait for the right salaried job (if that is what you decide you want). So, I guess that would be my advice; start looking and learning about opportunities in your area now even if you don’t want to make a move for a few years (or ever, for that matter).

    Me? My kids are 3 and 5 and I’ve been in a salaried job since before they were born. The job I had until just recently I absolutely hated but kept because it was very flexible. My current “office job” is doing something very similar but I love it and the people I’m working with.

  58. pseudostoops on January 22nd, 2013 1:15 pm

    My daughter will be 2 in March, and for now I’m full-time in a government job that offers pretty great flexibility and a lovely work environment, but not a whole lot of opportunity for advancement. I’m lucky to have it, and will likely stay here until she (and a possible eventual second? Gulp?) are school-age, but in the long term I’d like to transition to something else that involved a little more possibility for growth, and some bigger-picture work- clinical teaching, probably. Here’s hoping that in five years or so I’m able to make it happen.

  59. Linda on January 22nd, 2013 1:19 pm

    Scantee: oh, you’re totally right — I was just using that term to differentiate between freelancing from home and being a salaried employee, didn’t mean to make it sound like I was dreading the idea of working for the MAN. (I’ve ALWAYS worked for The Man. Freelancing, for me anyway, means you work for The Man but you don’t get paid very much and you don’t get The Man’s benefits!)

  60. Olivia on January 22nd, 2013 5:18 pm

    After working Admin Assistant jobs since graduating from college, I quit after having my second baby 8 months ago. I’m really enjoying my time at home and right now I have no desire to go back to an office job. I’ve got a year or so to figure it out, but I hope I can figure out something is part-time, or work from home, or seasonal. My husband is a high school teacher and I really don’t want to be working full time while he and the kids are off on holidays.

  61. Amy on January 22nd, 2013 6:12 pm

    I always envisioned myself a work outside the home mom, and three months after my daughter was born I returned to my full-time marketing gig with great pay, benefits and lovely co-workers. But my job didn’t *feel* like the right fit anymore. I was bored and uninspired. Looking back, I can see I had felt that way for years but I was comfortable. It was easy to stay, so I did. Then when my daughter was 2.5 years old I quit my job. My husband and I sacrificed alot ,financially and otherwise, so I could stay home and figure out what I wanted to do with career. One year later I started graduate school. My first class was the day after my 38th birthday. That was September 2012. So, now I am a stay at home mom and full-time grad student switching careers in mid-life. I will be almost 40 when I graduate and the thought of starting over in a career is scary. But, not as scary as the prospect of spending the next 25+ years in a career that wasn’t “me” any longer. Life is too damn short.

  62. Michelle on January 23rd, 2013 8:42 am

    At the age of 23, these are the questions I have encountered for the first time. It seems that life is ever changing, our needs are ever changing, and trying to find true happiness is a constant quest. However, I do believe that happiness is a choice. It’s an active choice that has to be made every day. I will say that learning to be happy with your own pasture is one of life’s great lessons, because we always think the grass is greener is someone ELSE’S pasture. It’s never too late to try something new! Keep your head up, your eyes open and your heart ready because as long as you have each other, the rest will work itself out.

    Much Love!

  63. Cara on January 23rd, 2013 10:16 am

    I just left my marketing job of 5 years to stay home with my kids (7 and 5). I found that once they were both in school, it was actually harder to work, especially with my hour commute. They were having to go to after-school care until almost 6 every night, signing them up for any sort of extracurricular activity was impossible and trying to get a healthy dinner prepared every night? Forget it. We were probably eating out 4-5 times a week.

    Leaving my job was a huge deal for me. Most importantly, it meant giving up my health insurance. My husband’s insurance from work is private (ie, not a group policy) and I have pre-existings which prevent me from getting private insurance. So I’m not exaggerating when I say that the outcome of the election had a lot to do with whether I’d be able to quit. I needed to be reasonably sure that the Affordable Care Act would be around in the next year or so. But the health benefits that I’m already seeing from leaving my job are huge: no more stressful 70-mile, 2 hour commute each day, no more fast food, and plenty of time to go the gym (which I haven’t seen the inside of since I started working 5 years ago).

    My kids see the benefits too. I’m able to pick them up from school every day and help them with their homework. We were able to enroll Tori in gymnastics and Payton in soccer because I’m now around to take them to these activities. They get home-cooked meals almost every night, I have time to make their lunches in the morning instead of having to eat school cafeteria food,etc.

    I do some contract marketing and web work for a company and I’ve been able to increase my hours a little there and that helps, money-wise. I’ve actually been working them for over a year, and the big difference between last year and now is that now I’m able to do that work when the kids are in school and not between the hours of 10pm and 2am.

    I never realized how many changes we’d make once we had kids. It seems like every two years or so we get the itch to shuffle our schedules around and try something different. I hope we get to keep this one for a while though. I love being home when my kids get home from school.

  64. Kelly on January 23rd, 2013 10:47 am

    I left my (crazy lucrative, but high-stress and constant-on) salaried job at the end of my maternity leave last year. I’ve been doing a smattering of at-home, freelance work for that company since leaving.

    It’s been amazing to have so much time with my girl. I never would have thought we could afford to do it, and it’s been a wonderful fit despite the financial stresses it put on us. Unfortunately the work’s started drying up (they finally got my replacement a couple of months ago so aren’t as short-handed) so there’s not really any money coming in anymore. And now my husband really needs to change jobs but is limited in his options to something that can give our family the benefits we need since I don’t have any to fall back on. It’s made it a lot more stressful for him as he’d love to be starting up his own company now, but that’s not something we can afford to do yet.

    We stayed in our crazy-cheap house in the city to be able to afford the change, but by the time school rolls around we’ll need to either live in a reasonable school district (ours is beyond disgraceful) or find the $$ for private school.

    The good news is that freelancing doesn’t out and out look bad to employers for salaried openings. I ran into that a lot when I was doing the hiring. We did do some more careful evaluation of why it seemed they had made the change and how likely we thought it would be that they’d be a happy fit back in the office environment, but as long as you can clearly articulate what you want out of coming back to an office environment (beyond the salary and bennies), and can show the great work you’ve been doing, I don’t think you’ll find it a hindrance if/when the time comes.

  65. jobonga on January 23rd, 2013 4:13 pm

    I’m a few months pregnant (shhhh…) and pending some number-crunching, I’m contemplating quitting my full-time soul crushing job for a year after my maternity leave, then looking for a different job in my field. Having a gap in my resume makes me nervous, and just thinking about walking away from a cushy academic job makes me feel guilty and petty when so many are still scrambling for work. But I also hate going to a place I dread being everyday, and that’s just human, right?
    I really just wanted to comment to urge/encourage you to consider using some of your extra time to write with no strings, whether it’s here or in a paper journal. You’re a fantastic writer and I’d love to know you are out there writing, whether or not getting published (outside your freelance gigs) is part of your long game.

  66. Shawna on January 23rd, 2013 6:05 pm

    I may come back and answer your original question, but before I go put my own munchkins to bed, may I make a suggestion for you?


    (Writing, not reading.)

  67. Shawna on January 23rd, 2013 7:00 pm

    Okay I’m back. Having my two children didn’t shake up my career, but in Canada we have a year-long paid maternity leave whenever we have a child.

    My job is kind of boring and every now and then I get the itch to try something new, but: I’m good at it, I get positive feedback from my peers and boss, the salary is really good for the amount of actual responsibility I have, my commute is reasonable on public transportation, I like the people I work with and for, and I have ridiculous benefits. In addition to what is basic here in Canada for everyone (paid mat leave for a year at 50% of your salary, public health care), my job has a drug plan, life insurance, a top-up of my salary on mat leave to 93%, travel medical insurance, and when I retire at age 57 I’ll be entitled to a pension that’s 60% of the average of my best 5 years salary-wise that’s indexed as I age. I really don’t feel like I could give that up in order to “find myself”.

    So, in the meantime, I have a 2nd job at the gym teaching group exercise 2x a week to stay fit and my own small fine-art photography business to satisfy me creatively and earn some cash on the side.

    Something may have to give if the kids start to get more heavily into extracurricular activities (hockey for one and soccer for both only right now), but my husband is fantastic about pulling his weight at home and with the kids, and he owns a business that allows him a very flexible schedule.

  68. Lisa on January 23rd, 2013 8:11 pm

    I went back to work part-time and now full-time after being a freelancer writer for eight years. I LOVE it. Love being back in the working world again. I had my doubts after so many years of calling my own shots but I so enjoy NOT being in charge anymore. I love to have lunch out with co-workers and making new friends and meeting new people and using my brain in different ways that do not revolve around baby milestones and playdates and naps. Good luck in your decision. It’s a tough call.

  69. Chris on January 24th, 2013 12:49 pm

    I’m a copywriter/marketing assistant (and I live in the same town as you, funny enough) and I just went back to work after having my son in 2011. I don’t really like my job but I didn’t finish school (on my second attempt as an awkward mid-20 something roaming around with those 18 year olds) because of that whole baby thing. I work for PENNIES and no benefits but I feel like I can’t get a nicer job because I’m degree-less. So frustrating. So it’s like…stay here and go back to school evenings? My hubs is already getting his Master’s at night…how much do we really want to take on? And we want another baby. I was a nanny for years and I’ve got half a mind to quit this gig and just nanny until I get pregnant again. And then maybe do school with a newborn? But then, that sounds like hell on earth too. GAH. Life choices man…they effing suck.

  70. Krista on January 25th, 2013 3:14 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses. I am in a similar situation: I quit my (secure, heathcare-paying) job about 6 months ago to go out of my own and work from home. Since then it has worked out fine, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still feel anxious about it almost every day. I wish I could just settle down and enjoy this time because I know looking back I’ll be disappointed that I didn’t appreciate it more.

    We have two kids – 10 and 6 – who have benefited hugely from me being able to finally pick them up from school and volunteer in their classrooms, etc. However…since I still need to bring in a certain amount of money each month, I’m not able to do as much as I thought I would be able to. Additionally, even though they are in school full time, since I don’t have additional childcare I find that I am not able to work nearly the number of hours I would like. And the healthcare premiums – ugh. But…we’re making it work for now.

    I try to remind myself that life doesn’t have to have one single path. We can take a detour anytime we damn well please. If something isn’t working, we can reassess and make changes. We always have choices. I know some people have more than others…but we always have SOME choices.

    Good luck! Keep writing!

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