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. I got pregnant in grad school thinking it would be an easy way to take a bit of time off, get a bursary and then go back to it. Turns out getting pregnant had me rethink the whole grad school thing, and I dropped out. Luckily, I dropped out because I knew my internship was going to turn into a part-time job! I was working about 18-22 hours a week while pregnant and then my contract ended. Luckily they love babies at this particular environment magazine, so though my daughter is not even four months, they’re totally cool with me starting at 4 hours a week and working my way back to whatever. Best part is I get to bring the babe with me! I picked up another 4-hr a week job where I can bring baby with me, and a volunteer position as well. Overall this kid didn’t derail my career plans at all, but a second kid might.

  2. I knew that I wanted to stay home when I had children, but not to eat chips and watch TV. I wanted to be able to contribute financially to our home while raising our son. A few months into my maternity leave I started training to be a Labour Doula. A month before my maternity leave was up I opened an Etsy shop and now I am able to bring money in for our family and stay home with our child. I just needed to think outside the box and I could not be happier!

  3. This seems like a good time to point out just how surreal this whole conversation is from here in Quebec. It`s hard to describe just how backwards the US seems, when seen from just about any other developped nation. I have friends in the US and it just flabberghasts me how they have to struggle. Seems common sense to, as a society, to choose to prioritize families. I suppose the US is still quite conservative and this is seen as going against the traditional ‘stay at home mom’ model. But overall the US seems very family UNfriendly!

    Quebec is sometimes labelled the most family friendly and I agree – we have a year of paid parental leave, that can be shared between the two parents as you want. Then daycare is 7$/day for everyone. And healthcare is free.

    If this all sounds too ‘socialist’ for you… don`t want to pay for your coworker choosing to have a baby? You don`t, parental leave is a set amount taken off your paycheck over time for just such an occasion. Don`t want your government to fund daycare for other kids? Well that program actually MAKES money. How? Parents going back to work pay income tax, which would be 0 if they stayed home. So overall the income from working parents make up for the cost to the government.

    Now that I’m done tooting my own horn – my husband is a full time student, I am the sole breadwinner for now. I took 18 months off (12 of which were paid – my son was a preemie and in the hospital for months), went back to the same job which I love, my son is in a high quality 7$/day public daycare. My husband organizes his schedule so he finishes early every day, so he can pick up our son early.

    • I think it must be something ingrained in our culture. You pay for what you get, and get only what you pay for. Literally. Also, many people still don’t really believe in women in the workforce… Some of my co-workers remember a time when it was company policy for a woman to be fired for being pregnant. There are too many people really believe in staying home with the children, and helping someone stay in their career isn’t going to promote that value.

      On a side note: Taking a year off could be bad for certain jobs. It takes at least two years for someone to learn the job of the engineers in my department. If someone was gone for a year, it’s not enough time to hire and train someone new, so co-workers would have to pick up the slack. Is someone going to pay them extra for that work? Probably not. It’s a hard sell for a culture that isn’t used to it.

    • I too live in Quebec and am so happy about it. I grew up in the USA and have moved here recently and am now a resident. I couldn’t imagine being able to afford having a child in the USA but here childcare is cheap, housing in Montreal is cheap, healthcare is covered, and university is cheap (so I don’t have to worry as much about sending my kids to school later on).

    • Sounds like it’s time to move to Quebec! I lament on these backwards US practices and values all the time! It drives me crazy but I feel stuck.

    • I can’t even express how jealous I am. I live near Washington DC and lost my job about two days after we conceived. Oops. I’m getting close to showing now but after three solid months of sending out resumes and looking for work, no bites. And as soon as I start showing, any interviews I *do* get to will be more or less pointless as being visibly pregnant will instantly make me a less worthwhile candidate to the vast majority of hiring managers.

      We’re running out of my unemployment benefits, I *was* the higher wage-earner, our student loans aren’t going away, my husband can’t look for higher-paying work because the insurance we have through his current job is about 1000x better than anywhere else, and child care around here, when I *do* finally find a job, runs about $19,500 – $25,000 per year.

      It’s enough to make me really wish we were born in a country that didn’t make citizens and workers pay through the nose for education, healthcare, and child care.

      • I have to admit these Quebec comments sting. No, they burn. I, too, am unbelievably jealous and sad that we don’t all get to live in a place that supports women and families in such a way. Listening to talk about how sequestration will affect, among other things, what tiny childcare subsidies *do* exist in the US makes me terrified for everyone. I really feel that the US is collapsing under the great moral failing of NOT caring for the vulnerable, for NOT being willing to admit that by supporting those in need–of money, time, food, work, childcare, whatever–we are hurting everyone.
        Kate, I hope something works out for you soon.

  4. I am in the midst of trying to figure it out. I found out that I was pregnant the day before the job interview for my current job (huge surprise), a job that I was interviewing for because I had just quit graduate school. As I was in graduate school, we did not have a lot of savings, thank goodness I did not acquire debt to be there. I have a master’s degree, and am now 28 weeks pregnant and about 20 weeks employed at my current job. It’s a great place to work, I have a fantastic supervisor, but the problem is the salary.

    We live in an area with a high cost of living (Seattle, WA) but not necessarily high salaries… I work as a non-profit administrator, essentially. My husband’s salary is not high enough to support three people (it would be great for a single dude, but not a family). Initially we were thinking, “OK, stay working!” Then we discovered that my salary is lower than what childcare costs. It would cost me money to work.

    I am finding “the need for income” is becoming more pressing than “my desire to self-actualize into a career”. Let’s face it: parenting also involves feeding kids and putting a roof over their head, and given them a modicum of stability too. We already do without a lot of things: cars, cable, eating out, etc etc. Add to it that neither of us qualify for FMLA leave… yeah. It’s tricky.

    We’re considering the following options:
    -Moving back to the area we are from, so we can take advantage of our family networks (I live in Seattle, WA now and I’m from Syracuse, NY. Cheaper cost of living = having two wage earners is even less important, and we have family members willing to help with childcare). In New York, figure out some other path of making money, or continue my career in non-profits.
    -Shifting our hours into long days and stagger it so that we’d need part-time childcare. My boss would probably support that. My husband works for a small start-up and it’s not clear if his employer would.
    -I quit my job and find a night shift gig so we stagger child-care that way. (I work with homelessness alleviation services – this is possible). Turns out that a minimum wage job at night nets my family more than a living wage salary with a day shift because childcare is expensive.
    -I quit my job and spend my time extracting even more ways to be frugal until our daughter ages into a cheaper child-care bracket.

    My husband’s position is the more lucrative one, and it has benefits, so we feel it’d be unwise for him to change unless we moved. We’ll see. I feel for you because it’s super challenging to this out, and it bothers me that the folks who need jobs to support their families are the ones who struggle the most with them.

    Good luck!

    • I just read this after posting mine, and I hope you read what I wrote below and that it helps. All of that craziness happened within two years! We used to live in Seattle and considered moving back there when we found out we were pregnant, but we knew we’d be in the same boat we were in back in the bay area. Seattle would be a great place to raise a child though. You guys will figure it out, and you’ll see once the baby gets here it will become easier to make those tough choices because there isn’t anything you won’t do to make their life better, even moving across the country and leaving the city life behind.

  5. Mine came to a screeching halt. I was our breadwinner, and had recently gotten my BA. I was looking for a better job when our nephew needed us. I went on FMLA and my position wasn’t held. Nephew needed more care and my job dropped my hours to 5 a week. I have been a mostly stay at home parent for almost 2 years. I am constantly torn between find a better job (applied tons but no call backs) and just accepting that this is where we are.

    We are not in the financial shape we want or even thought we would be now. Our now adopted son is showing delays so more appointments, and coordinating is needed for him. Childcare is pricey and I would be paying to work for at least a couple of years, we would like to have a second(or third) child…but what would that look like.

    Do I go back to school, try a part-time job, full-time?
    Adult life is tough.

  6. It has been a pretty big transition for us. I was working with a company that I thought I would be with forever when I became pregnant. I had been there for a few years and didn’t think it would really change much, until my boss started changing my hours to night shift and gave me split days off, oh and started having someone else perform my job duties since I wasn’t there the hours they were needed… I got the picture pretty quick, I wasn’t even into my second trimester. So I quit, found a job before I started to show, and went on my leave with plans to return. While I was on leave we got new management and scheduling was pretty chaotic so we were unable to find childcare that was willing to change days and hours on a weeks notice. I unexpectedly became a SAHM and hated it. I loved the time with my daughter, but I am not suzy homemaker. I felt guilty that my husband was going to work and still coming home to do the dishes and put away laundry. Not to mention the financial burden it was putting on him. I considered becoming a childcare provider myself, but with two dogs and a cat I wasn’t going to easily find clients.

    So I surfed Craigslist found a job in my field for what I thought was a great company, took a pay cut to get my foot in the door and ended up getting into debt because I was spending more on the commute, childcare, eating out more, insurance, etc… than what I was making a month. I felt like we were on the verge of hitting rock bottom. we had to get on food stamps, and were so stressed out all the time. So what did we do? We moved out of crazy expensive California to middle affordable America. We actually were both able to find jobs in our field that pay us more than we have ever earned in California and the rents are much cheaper and we live in a HOUSE! We have a yard for our dogs, we live near my in-laws. My sister in-law watches my daughter three days a week. My husband works four 10 hour shifts. I work 5 days but one day I get to work from home. We have never been happier. Not where we ever thought we’d be, but we embraced the change! Good Luck!

  7. I am, I think, a minority voice in saying that I am trying quite hard to keep my current career as a secondary school teacher intact and on track. I will be returning to work full time in May, when my son is 9 months old.

    I am lucky enough to live in a place (the UK) where I was able to take an extended period of paid maternity leave, although my pay has declined by a certain percentage each month. I think this makes a massive difference as there was no way I was ready to turn my son over to daycare at three months! In addition to being exclusively breastfed, he has emphatically and consistently rejected any bottle feeding, even of expressed breastmilk, so sending him to daycare would have involved a pretty harsh regime of trying to force a bottle on him.

    I know that I am going to have to find a different way of working when I go back to work. I have always been the come in early and stay late kind of teacher, but I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always been the most effective of workers. The plan is to drop my son at daycare, which is right next to my school, one hour before school starts and pick him up one hour after school ends. Anything that doesn’t get done in those two hours is just going to have to not get done.

    As much as I have really appreciated and valued the time I’ve had with my son while on maternity leave, I am quite keen to get back to work, too. I know that I’ll be an emotional mess for the first few weeks of turning my kid over to someone else to look after for the day, but I’ve felt like I’m missing a big chunk of who I am while not at work. I have a lot of pride in myself as a professional, really enjoy my job, and am looking forward to getting that piece of my pre-mommy self back. Besides which, I have a great role model in my mother, who balanced a full time teaching career with being an awesome parent throughout my childhood.

  8. Thanks to 8+ years of low funding for science. Grad schools didn’t take as many students, there weren’t as many grants for small companies, and soul sucking job in an unfriendly to being pergnant to borderline unsafe lab followed. I tried to jump jobs before pregnacy even if it was a pay cut but I interview for one where they wanted me to pick up the pigs blood from the butcher fresh. Seriously WTF science jobs? Staying home now working part time in massage therapy only because child care we have is free. It’s been a frustrating road with no answers.

  9. I always thought that if I were a parent, I’d want to be a working one. I don’t have very specific career goals, but I am fiercely independent and never wanted to rely on my husband 100% financially. Then I had a baby and was facing going back to work when he was just 3 months old. I tried to do part time for a few weeks (the longest I could negotiate) but that became full time almost immediately.
    We are lucky to have very affordable childcare between my husband being off 2 weekdays, and my mother in law watching our son the other 3-4 days a week. However, having a child totally made me priorities change overnight! I no longer care about being so independent. When I leave my son at 7 am, knowing I will not see him for the next 10+ hours, it kills me. I want to be there for his development and growth. He is well cared for in our absence, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m not there. So, I have contemplated all the things you mentioned. So far we don’t have a way to make it work financially if I were to work part time, as most part time positions pay a much lower hourly wage than my full time position. I work in the nonprofit world, and have worked with kids my entire career. And now I struggle with wanting to give that up for something more lucrative but probably more soul sucking. For now, I hope to at least find a full time job closer to home so that we can continue to pay down our debt and I can cut down the 2 hours I spend commuting everyday. But that still won’t change the fact that I will be missing a huge chunk of my son’s growth… I have no answer, I just hope that in the future, my husband and I will be willing to take on a more risky option like our own business or some sort of work from home option for me.

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