I'm Tempted to Give Up on Career Post-Kids—But Here's Why I'm Not
When I was deciding on what to major in at college, I settled on education. It was a degree I knew would give me summers with my future children, enough money to pay the bills, and intellectual challenge. Little did I know I would meet and marry a British guy, move to the U.K., and have an American degree that wasn't recognized in British schools.
Since my husband was working and earning enough money to live on, I chose to volunteer with a domestic abuse charity in hopes of helping women and eventually gaining employment. It worked; for two years, I had a nine-to-five job that I loved, working to get women safe from abusive partners.
Then I started having babies: three lovely boys who are now seven, five, and two. It was always important for me to stay home with my kids before they started school (my own mom, a single mother, often said how much she wished she had the choice to be a stay-at-home mom, and her sentiments must have rubbed off on me). For the past seven years, I have worked odd, part-time jobs here and there, but I mostly lived on my husband's income so I could be the primary caretaker for our young children.
While I don't regret the decision, it has come at a cost: my career.
Recently, I have started to dabble in the world of journalism, to find out whether it's a path I want to walk down once my toddler is in school. I've always loved writing informally, and I thought I could look to make a vocation of it. For the past year, I have pursued freelance journalism—and to be completely honest with you, I am tempted to give up.
It seems that in the world of journalism, there are two types of people I am competing with: the incredibly young, and the incredibly experienced.
Students just out of college have endless time to commit to interviewing, research, further education, writing, and editing. They can drop everything for a timely story, stay up late at night to meet a deadline, cope with just enough money to live on, and open their computer at any point in the day to get on with work.
As a mom of three, I simply do not have this kind of time, money, or energy to commit to a new career. On a typical weekday, I am woken at 6:00 am by hungry children who need feeding, dressing, and grooming before school. After rushing them past the school gates, I go home to entertain a toddler with books, snacks, and trains, before heading back to the school to pick them up by 3:00pm. All this is followed by laundry, dishes, dinner, baths, and homework. Where in my day is there time to sit down at a computer to get any work done at all? Even now as I type this, I have all three kids bombarding me for more food, more attention.
Childcare, of course, is an option that could give me space to develop a skill and find work, but the price of nursery school at this point would negate any small amount of money I might get paid. And even if I did find someone to take my toddler, who would pick my older kids up after school?
The 20-year-olds branching into journalism have an upper hand on me simply because they have one person to take care of: them.
It isn't just the youth I'm up against, either. I'm attempting to enter a world that's already overtaken by educated, experienced journalists. These guys are pros with journalism degrees, resumes, and relationships in the industry. They slaved away early on and are reaping the benefits of their labor. Nothing would give me the upper hand when competing with their credentials.
Given that the odds are against me achieving a new career as a woman who has taken time to stay at home with children, I often want to throw my hands up in the air and quit.
But I won't quit. I am a strong woman who has opinions and skills to contribute to the world. It would be a waste for me to throw those away simply because it feels too hard. Plus, it isn't just me who faces hurdles when it comes to getting back into the workplace after kids; most people who leave careers to raise young children inevitably come up against similar walls when ready to work outside the home again. We all need reminders that we can do it, we should do it.
Raising children well shouldn't be punished with a lack of future employment; rather, it should be celebrated. After all, we primary caregivers are nurturing and developing the next generation—those who will have power to love, advocate, create, and change the world.
Besides, parents who want to go back to work after having children have so much to offer. We have ingenuity, problem-solving skills, multitasking superpowers, empathy, and wisdom. If work gives us purpose, enjoyment, and challenge, then we cannot simply give up—for the good of society, ourselves, and yes, even for our children.
The world needs mothers and other primary caregivers in the workplace. We just have to be creative about how we find our way back into it.