How did having children change your career path?

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By: anurag agnihotriCC BY 2.0
I am coming to the end of my maternity leave with no job to return to, as I was in a contract position that is now over. Realizing that childcare is expensive, we need more income to survive, and that the economy sucks and doesn’t support my chosen field of expertise, I am examining new options — go back to school with a baby? Become a childcare provider myself? Try to find similar work to what I was doing and pay a little more than 1/2 my wages to a childcare provider? Move the whole family to a new continent and pick fruit or teach English?

I would love to hear stories from others who have found themselves at a completely new fork in the road, and how they decided to move forward with their lives as parents! Did you start a whole new career path (including stay at home parent!) after having kids? — Vivi

Comments on How did having children change your career path?

  1. No real advice, except that I am in a similar boat. I am freelancing (as a writer and editor) and have managed a couple of short-term contract jobs, but wondering what’s sustainable long term as we consider having another child (my daughter is almost two). We have been lucky in that I was still in grad school when I had her, which assured me of a few months’ teaching income when I went back to finish. Also, we have been fortunate to have a childcare provider (an in-home daycare) who is much cheaper than commercial options and who is very flexible with scheduling–we keep her there part time to hold our spot for those times that work does pick up, but we also don’t have to pay for full-time daycare. I wonder, if freelancing is an option for you, whether you could find a babysitting coop or other childcare exchange or barter system that would give you some time to pursue your career without having give up flexibility or shell out too much $$$.
    Good luck finding some answers!

  2. I was working for a well-known internet company when I got pregnant. Took my maternity leave, came back to work for 6 months, then got laid off. I decided it was a blessing in disguise. I got to be a SAHM for a while. When I decided it was time to go back to work, the only real experience I’d had was working in call centers. The internet company was a great gig, and less of a call center environment, but that was gone and I decided that I never, ever wanted to work in a call center again. So, I’m in school now, going on a completely different career path, and really excited about it!

  3. I surprised myself since I expected to let my career take a backseat to raising my child, but three months into my maternity leave I got offered a job out of the blue, and negotiated a salary that means I can afford part-time daycare while my husband and I have staggered schedules to cover the rest. I am now back to work full time and enjoy it but it is hard to balance it all, and some days I really miss my daughter!
    That said, my plan before this job came up, and in all honesty I may go back to this plan, was to do freelance gigs from home. It can be a little slow to get started, but once you get a couple of regular clients it’s fairly reliable work. It can also be hard to work while your kid is bouncing off the walls, so you may have to still fork over a little bit of daycare or some kind of kid-watching swapping deal with a friend where you watch her kid while she works some days and then you switch.
    Good luck!

  4. I stopped going to the traditional 4-year college I was attending because I had no idea what my major was going to be and I felt I was wasting time and money, especially since I wasn’t sure my child’s father was going to step up. I got a quickie associate’s degree but it was too hard to balance working full time on my own with the extremely high cost of decent childcare.

    I basically struggled until I met my current life partner and we had two more children together. Im lucky that he’s able to support us so that I can be a SAHM, because honestly I haven’t found anything I love enough to leave my kids for…that, and daycare for two little ones would probably exceed my monthly income.

    As my kids get older I’ve entertained the idea of going into business for myself. Maybe a kids consignment shop, part-time photography, just something I truly enjoy doing that still lets me be with them a majority of the time. Having kids radically altered my priorities. I always thought my mom settled by being a SAHM instead of having some big career but there’s nothing I’d rather be doing, at least not while they’re little.

    I’m glad I had my kids young so when they’re in school, I’ll still have most of my life ahead of me to pursue whatever happens to grab me.

    • This. “I always thought my mom settled by being a SAHM instead of having some big career but there’s nothing I’d rather be doing, at least not while they’re little.”

      Only, I had our son at 36, so it is feeling a lot more like a crossroads now about giving up or altering my career.

  5. I am struggling with this as well. I had my daughter two months before I graduating from nurse-midwifery school, and planned to move wherever I found a job at which point hubby would be a stay-at-home-dad. But after months of getting turned down (I was upfront about having an infant and was very much judged for that, long story but quite sad and eye-opening especially in my field), I have mostly been staying at home and hubby got a promotion that is keeping us in our current location. I work a couple days a month for a local practice and I love the time with my daughter, but hate that I am screwing my career. I will likely have do a remedial term in school before I will ever be hired as a full-scope CNM at this point (my daughter is turning one in two weeks). So I guess I don’t have any advice for you but good luck! I hope whatever path you choose ends up being the right one for you and your family 🙂

      • This is disappointing indeed! I am also a CNM but have left practice to pursue my doctorate. At least one of my peers has given birth since joining a practice as a CNM and the administration was fairly unreasonable about her leave. I think this has to do with us existing in two somewhat distinct worlds: midwifery and (for better or worse) medicine. One is more supportive of these life changes and the other places professional development as the highest priority. This is a gross generalization and simply my opinion.

        Secondarily, you might not have to take a remedial term in school. A woman I graduated just accepted a full-scope position (her first position as a CNM) and we graduated 2.5 years ago. You are currently working, and if you are keeping up on CEUs and seeking out educational opportunities, I’d suspect you should be ok. Which is not intended to provide false hope, etc but just a glimmer of positivity. It takes many of us a significant amount of time to locate positions that work for our life and there does seem to be some flexibility in that regard.

  6. When I was pregnant my plan was to go back to work part time, then slowly transition back to full time — I was a programmer, in front of a computer all day. Now with a 5 month old I’m freelancing design and going back to school to become a midwife. I’m grateful my husband and I can make it work (doesn’t hurt that a set of her grandparents are moving closer!) He works for a job he really loves, and as awesome it would be to be a full time SAHM, we hope our children will grow up with an appreciation for working/doing things that you truly love.

  7. I had my little one shortly after becoming licensed to practice in my field so I was gearing up for a change in jobs anyway. However, the jobs (two part-time) did not pan out the way I had hoped and I had to reassess. I managed to find new part time work and work mainly weekends and the one day a week my husband is off so we don’t have to pay childcare. As my hours pick up, we plan to hire a babysitter for a couple hours a week to help. I really lucked out with a flexible schedule and a partner who can be a stay at home dad some days.

  8. I have recently found myself in a similar situation. Years ago my fiancée and I discussed our parenting options for when we have kids. We both agreed that it would be preferable if I stayed home with the children until they go to school. We also decided that we would preferred private school or homeschooling. That was the plan until my graduation got delayed by a year and I couldn’t find a job in my field. The new plan became working in my field and seeing if I loved it enough to not stay home. Since no one wants to hire, in my field, someone who has no experience, I took a temp job. The pay is not great and it is not in my field, my degree sits useless as they only require Highschool completion. Recently I was asked if I wanted to become permanent. The plan changed again. With less than 10 months until we start trying I know I can’t get far enough in my field to take years off of working. The options were to stay a temp and keep hoping I find another job, sending at least the first child to daycare or stay at the current job and leave it after the child is born to be a stay-at-home mom and then homeschool. I still have another week before they need my answer but I am taking the job. I’m still going to look for my dream job now and after the children and that’s the thing about plans. Things change all the time. If I end up missing working or we decide homeschooling is not for us, I can go back to work or to school. That thought alone makes the transition easier.

  9. My plan was to go back to a job that was extremely fulfilling part-time after our daughter was born but my boss became sullen after i announced and started leaving me out of meetings with partners and planning sessions so I was having trouble accomplishing goals for the non-profit that he and I had previously agreed upon. Life there became so miserable that I went to part-time for the remainder of the pregnancy and became a SAHP after my daughter was born. I considered one job hard when my daughter was about 9 months old but my partner and I realized that our quality of life was better with me coordinating all of the other domestic tasks in addition to childcare so even though we could have afforded for me to take the job, it would have been at the expense of more tangible things since we could only outsource childcare. We are lucky that my partner makes enough to cover our expenses. However, as a result, we chose to try for our second child much more quickly than we would have if I had been back at work. This has both pros and cons. I fully expect that I will enter a totally different field when I go back to work in 5-7 years but my degrees are less about qualification and more about prestige so I’m not too worried. Again, luck plays into this, rather than planning.

  10. I was working as an executive assistant when I got pregnant — the timing of which was chosen because of my job’s great medical and maternity benefits, and the way my boss promised I’d be able to work part-time after the baby was born. That part didn’t pan out.

    My son just turned two and I’m 20 weeks pregnant. Currently, I stay at home with my son. I take care of a friend’s daughter several days a week. I was a labor doula before I got the office job, so I’ve been wanting to go back to that, but it’s really challenging work to do when you’re breastfeeding. And even with a partner who works from home, being gone for 30 hours at the drop of a hat is challenging for childcare.

    So this fall, I trained as a postpartum doula. I’m working on my certification, and finding it to be really compatible with being a stay-at-home mom and with our lifestyle in general. We’re planning to homeschool/unschool, which I think will combine well with my labor & postpartum doula work in the long run. I expect my involvement in the birth world to expand as my children get older.

    I’m still getting used to the stay-at-home-mom part of the job, but I’m getting better at it as time goes by, and I totally love it. This surprised the hell out of me — my mom stayed at home, which was her DREAM, and I spent a lot of time trying to distance myself from her. Turns out that managing a household and raising children doesn’t automatically turn me into my mother? Wild.

  11. I found out I was pregnant during the last month of my bachelor of education. Finding a full-time teaching position, or even contract or supply work is incredibly difficult in Ontario, and this was part of the reason my husband and I decided to go ahead and have a baby. Well, my daughter is now fourteen months old, and I have had no luck finding supply work, so I’m in the “related to my career but not what I trained for” boat…and it works, really well. I work part time for an after-school program, and also tutor and volunteer in the schools. I’m also looking to start some creativity classes for young children. My work is pretty flexible which means I’m still taking care of my daughter the majority of the time. Having a baby and NOT being able to nab a teaching position has helped me to see that there’s a wide variety of ways to use my B.Ed, and that maybe some of those ways might be a better arrangement for my family than if I was teaching in a traditional public school setting. Money is tight (the after-school program I work for is a non-profit organization), and we are very fortunate to have family to help out with childcare, but we make it work.

  12. When I went on mat leave I was in a similar boat, contract term which was ending a full 4 months before my mat leave ended. And at the time I was certain I was going to be applying for my masters at the end of my mat leave (I need a masters to become a registered architect). Then, in October I was offered a really significant opportunity to start my own architectural design business and work in a collaborative group with two others (and more if we had others who wanted to come and work with us).

    This meant leaving a secure job, with a secure bi-weekly paycheque and secure hours.

    And it was exactly what I had wanted for years. So I took a pretty big leap and started my own design business. At the same time, I realized that I didn’t want to do a masters, I don’t enjoy institutionalized education. Instead I signed up for a program known as RAIC syllabus, which would end with me having an Architectural Diploma and becoming a Registered Architect at the same time…without the student loans because I would be working at least 20-30 hours a week along with school.

    I’m a year in now, it hasn’t always been easy and there have been many times where I have gone 3 or 4 months without a paycheque because someone didn’t pay a bill on time, or times where I lost money when a contract wasn’t secured. But I’m so much happier. I work predominantly from home, my daughter goes to daycare 3 times a week and the other two days she is home with dad in the morning and with me in the afternoon. I can leave my “office” to pick her up from daycare or spend time with her when I want. It’s reduced our daycare costs, while still affording me a full work week. Once my daughter goes to sleep its school work time, with a little time on the side for couples time.

    I am so glad I took the risk and just went for it. I really thoroughly love every part of it and I know I am so much happier than I would have been had I re-applied for my old job just for the sake of security.

  13. Piggy backing off of your question: any moms here who handled this transition without placing an income burden on their partners? This is looking far, far ahead, but I’m leaning towards the breadwinner in my house and I can see this transition being tough in my current field (which usually requires a lot of work and not necessarily enough pay to justify it post-kids).

    Freelance often means a drop in income, at least to start, which is even tougher when you have a third human being to take care of. When I was freelancing I was actually working much, much more just to try to find new gigs, etc. I can’t imagine doing that again, particularly with a baby. How do those of you in career transitions after a kid a) keep making money – particularly now that you need more of it, b) support your partner – at least making sure they aren’t suddenly the breadwinner, and c) stay relatively sane?

    • The breadwinner question is tricky. My husband has never once complained about the fact that his income is floating us, but I know it puts a lot of pressure on him, especially because he’s in a competitive and not very stable field (journalism). I feel guilty about that, even though that’s coming from me, not him. At the same time, even if I had been able to find a full-time position that paid enough, I honestly don’t think I could have done it with the demands of breastfeeding at night–I did not truly emerge from the sleep-deprived cloud till she was over a year old.

    • It’s hard! My husband was the main breadwinner, and I really wanted to stay home when we had kids, so that part was a no-brainer for us. What wasn’t the no-brainer was still coming up with money. I do cleaning work on the side, but it’s not enough, so my husband started adjunct teaching in addition to being in academic administration. His job is high stress and lots of hours, so I try to make things easy as I can for him during the week so he gets to spend as much time with our son as possible while I pick up the slack, and then the two of them hang out a ton on the weekend while I rest and work side jobs. It’s not perfect or ideal, but it works for now.

    • When we decided to have our first baby, we knew that my husband would stay home with him. He didn’t particularly like his job, and I like mine, and we don’t want to use day care. I wouldn’t say it’s a “burden” being the only one bringing in money. I’m not working any harder or more hours at my job than I was before. the real work is taking care of another human in general. I believe the work that my husband is doing as a stay at home father, is very valuable and much more important than the work I do for money. These are our values, so we planned our decisions around them. We both work to keep the family and house running, and it doesn’t matter that one person is making money, as long at it’s enough for our needs. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s kind of a state of mind. Rather than feeling that each of us has a burden we feel blessed that we have what we do.

      On the other hand if someone is feeling dissatisfied or over-worked, I could see where that might lead to feelings that family is a burden.

    • I was the breadwinner for a few years. The progression was: two incomes (FT), no kids, then 1 income and my maternity leave for 12 months (half of that paid in some way), then I went back to work and he quit which we did for two years. My mistake was taking a better paid/higher level job closer to our families – it sounded great! He’d be close to his family while staying at home with our daughter, paid more, better for my career. But it turned out I absolutely LOATHED the job. As in ended up on stress leave level loathing. So I quit after two and a bit years, we floated by with both of us unemployed for a while and now he’s back working fulltime while I get a PhD. I’m hoping to pick up PT work at some point but since our daughter is in kindy (5 day fortnight) work will be difficult to manage around the study load and the primary carer duties.
      After I’ve finished the PhD I may stay in my former career (with some changes) or may change over to academia (depends on what I can get work-wise) but I’ll be back to working while he goes back to uni. At least, that’s the plan!

      The thing is, after a baby, SOMEONE is suddenly the breadwinner – maybe it’s both of you, but the pressure is there in a way it isn’t when it’s just you. And there is no ‘sudden’ about it really.

  14. Becoming a mom really shifted things for me! I am lucky to run a successful business with my husband, and also do contract work in my chosen field… and yet, until just recently, I only wanted to be Mom. I was really surprised at how part- time my other jobs became, by my own choosing. I struggled with guilt and identity issues…and financial concerns!… but ultimately the most rewarding job for me was being a Mom. And I learned to be ok with that. And now, even though I have two other options for career paths, I am exploring a third! One that is even more meaningful than the other two, and also more in line with the new me that was born when I gave birth to my son. The biggest lesson for me since becoming a Mom has been to honor where I’m at in the moment and make choices that resonate with who I am and who I want to be. What makes me happiest? What gives my life the most meaning? How do I balance this with the needs of my family? And then I just have to be open to seeing where those questions and answers take me!

  15. I was in the middle of my bachelor of fine arts when I got pregnant in expectantly with my first son. I originally planned to go back and finish but I came to realized that I didn’t need a degree to make art. Ater my son was born, I started looking at work I could do from home. I started taking some sewing classes, then after moving across the road from my in-laws, my mother in law is now teaching me the sewing trade. I now have small business tailoring and custom quilting. I’m finding it much more fulfilling than any other job I’ve had before. And to think, I never would have figured this out if I hadn’t dropped out of school!

  16. I read this article recently, which seems quite relevant here:

    The gist of the article is that an awful lot of people (men and women both) wind up compromising their plans for career/equal split of parenting responsibly due to practicality and money concerns. She argues that better (any) maternity leave in the US would probably make a big difference in what options are actually viable for a lot of people, and cut down on the degree to which having a baby is a major career hit for women.

    I went back to work when my son was about 3 months old, which was only a month ago. So my opinions might still change! Before I had him, I was DETERMINED to go back. Partly this is because I’m the breadwinner to some extent – I’ve always made more money, and my job is the one that provides out health insurance, etc. Right now my husband is home with our son for a few months, which is awesome. It’s not the best decision financially, but it’s been great for us to experience that role reversal. We both have a much better appreciation for what’s actually involved in full-time baby care.

    While I do kind of wish I’d taken more time off (exclusively breastfeeding and working full time kind of sucks!), I’m really glad I went back. My full time work is far from being the most convenient thing for us right now, but having thought about it a lot I do feel strongly that it’s actually really valuable as an investment in my career, my relationship with my husband, and the kind of parent I want to be. Having done all that soul searching and discussion with my partner, we’ve decided to prioritize long term goals over making things easier in the short term. Given my personality and attachment to my career, the long term costs of staying home (both financial and in relationship dynamics) just wouldn’t be worth it, even if it is tempting right now.

    • Thank you for the link. Very interesting and makes so much sense. Everyone seems to have to compromise in the US right now (regardless of gender) but I especially like that this article discussed 1960s feminist perspective, how that changed things, and the reality of Now.
      I feel the desire to run full-steam-ahead towards my career and higher education goals, but as a mother, it is impossible to achieve my goals as quickly with another human being who needs time and attention (well, two humans and two dogs). Patience is the key word here. All in good time I will have my cake and eat it too, dammit

  17. having a child not only changed my career path but changed my entire outlook on “career” and “work”. during my pregnancy i worked in a high-stress position, 40-60 hours a week, for a medium to large size legal firm. i assumed i would go back after 12 weeks of maternity leave but toward the end of my pregnancy, and especially in those early weeks postpartum, i became more and more aware of my general dislike for the job, more concerned about our ability to find quality, affordable childcare for our daughter and more protective of my nursing relationship which i feared could not be sustained if i returned to work full-time, and finally decided not to return once my leave was over. it was a difficult decision, emotionally, financially, but ultimately my husband and i decided to push through, scrimp and save, and reevaluate at 1 year postpartum. at 1 year i desired fully to return to working part time. i dumbed down my resume and interviewed with several legal firms, non-profits, etc. and though i was offered several positions none of them were financially or personally satisfying – paying a babysitter $10/hr for 30hrs of childcare to go to a job that is well below my skill level and interest for 25 hrs/week at $12/hr? it just didn’t sit right with me personally or professionally. but, again, i was ready to return to work in some capacity. i had been a SAHM for a year and through that time i learned that i am no Martha or Mayim. i like contributing to our family and i like to feel a sense of independence from them as well. since we got good at living on one income during that year, it wasn’t necessary that i find employment right away, which i feel insanely privileged about but it was during this time that i decided to start my own business. it’s been the perfect scenario for me – i can work from home, take clients as needed/wanted, focus on my child when she is sick or generally needy, and do something i love without having to answer to The Man. if more workplaces were able to offer that kind of flexibility to working mothers, i think our businesses, communities, and families would benefit.

  18. My husbands business fell a part just around when I gave birth so I am working on starting a career while he takes over at home and we are bitcoin miners to help cover the gap, which has worked really well just lately as bitcoins are becoming way more valuable.

  19. I deliberately chose a career field, publishing, I thought would be family friendly – and generallt it has been. After my first child, my employers let me return 3 days a week, although I went full time in the run-up to my second child’s birth (to raise money for my leave). I realise that I’m very lucky to have paid leave (even if not well paid), being in the UK. I was made redundant at the end of my last leave and have just today finally been offered a job! I had resigned myself to it being full time, and it is, but at least I’ll have been at home with my son until he’s 19 months old.

    So I’ve not changed my plans – I initially made them with childcare in mind. I will be working full time, but my new employers are very open to home working regularly, so that should bring me a little more time with the kids on occasion.

  20. My plans have completely changed, mostly due to my exhusband and I separating when my daughter was 5 months old (now 21 months). I currently work F/T at a crappy job completely unrelated to my degree but it’s hard to come by jobs in what I want to do. Thankfully my hours jive with my exhusbands and we can easily share 50/50 custody and each have two full days off to spend with her. She goes to day care two days a week. The original plan was to be a stay at home mom until my daughter (or youngest subsequent child) started elementary school, then I would return to work P/T and go F/T when they were old enough to be on their own. Hopefully I can get a job related to my degree soon though.

    So if anything, having a daughter delayed my decision to return to work but not my ultimate career/education ambitions…however, divorce has fast tracked me back into working and possibly returning to get my MA in the next year or so. I did want to work internationally pre-child, so I guess that’s a big change as I don’t want to do that until she is all grown up.

    I would also like to add what a bunch of smart cookies we have here!! Every time there is a post related to this everyone seems to have master’s degrees, PhD’s or great careers. Go super parents 🙂

  21. I was working full-time as a crisis counselor while pregnant and in the first few months of my son’s life. I transitioned to a 3/4 time job in higher education working with the same at-risk population of students, but teaching and advising rather than crisis counseling. I needed a change because I craved a stable schedule (with 3 day weekends). The 24/7 crisis counseling model with on-call days and crazy amounts of driving all over King County was just too unpredictable for my mommyhood.

  22. I’d planned on going back to work, at least part time, after 12 weeks but after only 8 i really stopped and re-evaluated our situation. My career can be really inconsistent in pay (professional pet groomer paid on commission) and when our daughter was born it was right at the big busy season, meaning after 12 weeks we’d be in a huge lull time. After talking to my bosses and husband we decided that I would come in for a few specific clients that only I was able to handle and possibly come back when the business picks up again enough to afford daycare, at least a few days a week. As things stand right now i’m pretty content being a SAHM, even though it was the last thing I thought i would ever want to do!

    It’s amazing that one little person can wreak such big changes in your life and perspective.

  23. To be honest, I have NO IDEA how we’re surviving on the wages we receive. My husband delivers Chinese food, which is about $25 an hour, however our car is a major expense because he puts so many miles on it. Our rent is $1250 a month and that is cheap for the area we live in! There’s not even a beach nearby, so I have no idea why the cost of living has gotten so ridonkulously high. Anyway, my husband only works a few days a week. We’re both students, so partially we are living off of financial aid. >.< He's studying Enology and Viticulture (grape growing and wine-making for those wondering.) And I'm studying the arts. There probably aren't any jobs in the arts, but whatever. I don't care at this point. I will have debt for student loans for my entire life and I'm willing to live with that as long as I am doing something that makes me happy! I love drawing and photography, so those are my two main areas of study.

  24. When thinking about how much of your income goes in ‘childcare’ there are three things I found helpful…

    1. I’m investing for the future. I have a career that I love, and in a couple more years my kids will be in school and I won’t be paying the childcare fees any more. I’ll be in a much better place professionally when that time comes having worked part-time over these 6 years than if I hadn’t. The long term financial payoff is actually better doing it this way, even if my ‘per hour after tax after childcare fees’ income looks appalling in the short term.

    2. I’m not just spending money on child care, I’m investing in quality early learning and care. Long term UK research (which I personally find persuasive) demonstrates ongoing benefits for kids attending quality long daycare services (research focuses on ‘from 2 years’ I believe from memory). So what I’m paying for is not just my capacity to work, it’s also the education of my kids. Thinking about it this way helps me ‘spread the cost’ in my mind – it doesn’t seem as much!

    3. Really, it’s not just ‘my income’ that goes on fees, it’s ‘our income’. Although who’s the lower income earner may drive decisions about who stays home if somebody does, if you’re both working and both gaining personal benefit from it (job satisfaction, career progression etc etc), it shouldn’t matter if ‘my income’ barely covers the fees… as a family we earn $x and we spend $x on fees, which enables us both to work the way we want (him full time, me part time). Childcare is an investment in both our careers, not just mine as the woman.

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