To the Mom Who’s Taking a Break in Her Career to Raise Kids

To the mom who’s taking a break in her career to raise kids, know this:

  • You won’t regret the time you’re spending with your kids.
  • There will be times you’re going to feel unappreciated, restless, like everyone else is moving on and climbing up and succeeding, but…
  • There is purpose for you in this season.
  • It’s possible to go back to that career, job, passion, curiosity, or hobby. And you just might be better at it than you thought. Better because of motherhood and what it’s taught you.

Here’s how the story of my career pause has unfolded…

Like most of my peers, I graduated college, got a job, and was ready to take on this new phase of life. My first job after graduation was with an international PR firm in San Antonio. I had a corner office close to the River Walk. I was well-respected, recognized, given opportunities to grow and succeed, and became friends with my co-workers. Not a bad way to start a career.

I always knew I wanted to have kids, but I was new to my career and newly married. Kids could happen eventually. Even though my own mother, whom I greatly admired, had been a stay-at-home mom, I knew it was possible to have both a career and kids, so I figured when the time was right to start a family, there would be an opportunity to be a working mom if that’s what I chose to do.

My husband was active-duty Air Force at the time, and he was up for another assignment about two years into our marriage. He landed a job teaching civil engineering at his alma mater, the Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs—a highly sought-after assignment.

The firm I was working for didn’t have an office in Colorado Springs, so even though this meant I was leaving my job, I was ready for the adventure. I spent the first several months settling into a new city and looking for a job. It was hard, living in a place where I didn’t know anyone, trying to get my foot in the door. I was finally hired as a publicist at a large non-profit organization and enjoyed using my professional skills again.

A few years later, we welcomed our first daughter into the world, and I decided to quit my job so I could stay home with her. Another assignment for my husband was around the corner, so it hardly made sense to put our infant in daycare for a few months when we knew about the impending move. But the reality was, I wanted to stay home with her, so it was an easy decision.

My husband ended up separating from the Air Force, we moved back to San Antonio to be close to family, and we added two more girls to our family over the next several years. We were fortunate enough to be able to get by on my husband’s salary, and motherhood seemed to keep me busy full-time.

Busyness doesn’t always equal contentedness though, and I often felt the pull to do something in addition to being a mom. During those years I dabbled in “other things” by volunteering, creating a stationery business (that was really more of a hobby), working at our church part-time as the print and media specialist, and opening an Etsy shop to create and sell custom digital portraits.

As our girls got older, they needed less of my time. It’s still as important, if not more, that I’m available when they need me, but I started having more space to imagine going back to work… like a full-time, salaried job.

I’ve always heard that when you open yourself to an idea, opportunities will come to you. And that’s exactly what happened, in a roundabout way. I was hesitant to put myself out there and compete with everyone who was younger than me and had more years of experience.

Without talking to anyone about my willingness to go back to work, a friend reached out about a potential job opportunity. I updated my resume and explored the opportunity, but it wasn’t quite right. Strangely, it felt empowering to say no to something that wasn’t best for me and our family at that time.

Shortly after that, another friend reached out with a different opportunity. This one had some definite advantages but was in a field that was new to me, and ultimately would have been just a job, not going back to my career field. Ironically, a few days later as I was pondering that option, a colleague from my first job reached out and said she was working for a PR firm in Dallas, and they were looking to hire… and working remotely was an option. I think my reply was, “Tell me more.”

Long story short, I ended up dusting off my PR skills and going back to working full-time, remotely, for this agency. We turned our guest room closet into an office (or a “cloffice”— thank you COVID for stretching us in ways we didn’t know were possible). At this stage, I sometimes feel confident and proud and fulfilled, and many other times I’m just “making it up as I go.”

I genuinely treasure those years at home with my little ones, but it wasn’t always easy. All those days—the ones where I thought the world was moving on without me, the ones where I thought I’d never really go back to the career I’d barely started, the ones where I felt left out of the conversation because I wasn’t working outside the home—I could have never guessed the set of circumstances that would bring me full circle, back to something I started years ago.

So, to the mom who’s taking a break in her career to raise kids, you may:

  • Decide never to “go back to work”… and that’s perfectly okay.
  • Decide to turn a hobby into work… and that’s perfectly okay.
  • Decide to go back to a job or career you had pre-kids… and that’s perfectly okay.

Regardless of where you end up, it’s all part of your journey, and you just might be surprised by how it unfolds.