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. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!)

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.)

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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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