I always thought I’d be the sort of mom who, after having a child and taking maternity leave, would happily go back to the office and resume her career. I wasn’t even that desperate to have a child in the first place. It was one of those things that I thought would be wonderful, to grow our family with a baby, but the priority in my pre-child life was always career and travel.
But then I got pregnant just as my husband and I were making a huge life-changing decision—to move from Sydney to New York City. While I was hoping to transfer with my old employer to New York, a role never came to be, and I ended up resigning at five months pregnant. While my whole life plan was falling apart, I started a new life in New York City. And when the baby came along a few months later, life as we had known it really changed for good—and so did my old priorities.
Jobless in the city
The first year flew by. I took care of our baby full-time and with no pressure of a job to return to, we were free to explore the city’s restaurants, museums, and parks. My kid went to more galleries in her first year of life than most people visit in a lifetime. And while my baby and I were getting to know each other, as well as the city, I discovered something unexpected. I didn’t want to get a job like I’d had before. I had absolutely no desire to leave my baby in care and return to an office job five days a week. Which left me where exactly? While I didn’t want a traditional job, I needed to do something for myself again as the newborn haze lifted and life became manageable again.
Looking for a new life path
My great passions are writing and photography—the two areas where I’d always thought I would end up working. But through various career twists and turns, I ended up in advertising. I enjoyed the life I had created, but it was far from my true love. This new beginning was a chance to explore what I really wanted to do in life. The first step was blogging about our adventures. Then, what began as a simple story about our lives in the city lead to other opportunities, like freelance writing. My new path opened up—the working-from home route had sprung up before me and it was both flexible and creative. My daughter started preschool a few half days a week, and suddenly I had time on my hands to pursue my new career while still be able to spend plenty of quality time with her.
In order to make the work-from-home arrangement work, I adhere to a very strict work schedule—it helps to keep me on track. I allocated time for pitching articles to publications I wanted to have a relationship with, getting my foot in the door with new publications, following up on old pitches, actually writing articles, writing for my blog, building my social media presence, image processing and editing and all of the other administration work. If I don’t get everything finished while my daughter is in care, I get my laptop out again after dinner and spend another few hours trying to get everything done. Of course, life is busier than ever and I don’t get much downtime in the evenings. But the payoff is huge. My career is slowly building back up again, in a way that works around my own schedule, and I have plenty of time to be with my gorgeous daughter. While the money is a lot less, I’m honestly happier, and have found that my needs, cash-wise, are a lot less than they used to be.
Reminding myself what matters most
Some days I question my decision to take this path—days when there are epic tantrums, days when I have more work coming in than I have care for my daughter. And, also, when the opposite happens—days when I can’t get any work and I feel like this path is a failure. What works for me is focusing on the now. Every woman, man, mother and father knows that it’s impossible to have “it all”—all we can do it try our best to do what matters most to us. I keep my priorities front of mind to help create balance in my life. Enjoying the time with my child before she starts school is at the top of the list. There will be more time for work, more time to take a yoga class, more time to go back to the workforce if that’s what I desire. But for right now, this balance I have struck is enough—and life is good.
This article first appeared on MommyNearest.