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What about me? (Guest Post)

Choosing to take time off of your career to be with your kids when they are young can have a big impact on your career opportunities. Most parents I know wouldn't give it up for the world, but that doesn't mean that finding your way back into the job market is always seamless, even if you kept working part-time or going to school during those years. After a long search, my partner will be starting a new job this January. His challenge finding a job after being a stay-at-home-dad and graduate student for many years is not unique. Today, I'd like to welcome my friend Holly from The Culture Mom to share her story of balance her career and her children and finding her way.

What about me?


51% to 44%, women in the U.S. are more likely to say that, if free to do either, they would rather have a job outside the home than "stay at home and take care of the house and family." Women's preferences for working outside the home have been consistent in Gallup polling since 2007, and were also evident in 2001; however, at other times in the not-too-distant past -- 1992, 2003, and 2005 -- the majority of women favored the domestic role. – Gallup.com

When my daughter was born 9-1/2 years ago, I looked forward to maternity leave. After working for nearly 13 years, I thought it would be nice to be home to get to know my new child and orientate myself to motherhood. As the days neared, I thought about the things I wanted to do with her and was eager to take some time off work.

Work at my publishing job gave me a surprise shower before I left to take my leave. They showered me with gifts and offers of good luck with my soon to be newborn. I’ll never forget my mentor pulling me aside and whispering in my ear: “You’re one of the best marketers I’ve ever worked with during my entire career.” One of my fellow colleagues had recently left after having a baby and I suppose he wondered if I would do the same. I left my job looking forward to my new chapter. I knew I’d be back, at this job that loved and revered a few short months later, and his words stayed with me until the baby was born.

And then she arrived, and my heart was torn, and I guess I forgot what he said. I knew my time was limited at home. I breastfed “on demand” and was all of a sudden more needed by anyone that I’d ever been in my life. She and I spent our days getting to know each other and I lovingly fumbled my way through the early days of motherhood.

Then my time was up. I hired a babysitter and headed back to work. When I got there, I was granted the first real office I’d ever had with my name on a plate outside the door. I put a photo of my daughter in a frame by my desk, pumped my milk and took the 1-1/2 hour commute back and forth from work for as long as I could.

But I didn’t last long. The tri state black out hit NY during my first week back and it immediately put me in the mindset that I would quit my job and take some time off. I’d go back to work when I was ready, with no problem.

What was I thinking? Within a year, I had another child and wanted to go back to work when he was about one. With two babies crying, I knew I’d be a better mother with time away from home. I craved independence and stimulation.

A colleague had provided me with a contact in publishing on my last day at work, and sure enough they offered me a job immediately. It was a part-time situation that worked out perfectly. I had the best of both worlds. My colleagues resented me for working less than they did, but I ignored it. I did my work and thought I’d achieved balance between my two worlds.

That job lasted three years. It was the same kind of work I’d been doing before I had a baby and it led to several more freelance positions after that…many that have been long term. There has hardly been a gap on my resume since I left the work force. I’ve never stopped working, but I’ve worked part-time for the last eight years and my resume is a bit clunky. I’ve worked in the office, out of the office and at Starbucks. I haven’t missed a beat with the kid’s activities. I’ve been there for everything, and now I’m ready to go back to work fulltime. Working part-time isn’t a cup of tea. I’m always the first to be let go, the first for my hours to be cut, the first to put in more hours and not get paid for my extra time, the first to jump when the boss needs something. I’ve had to prove myself time and time again to these companies, but for what? At the end of the day, how truly marketable am I? I’ve advanced my skills. I’m more efficient than I’ve ever been. How could I not be? I’ve juggled conference calls, school pick-ups and deadlines all at the same time. But have I advanced my career? Without being fulltime and able to climb the same ladder as my colleagues, I think not.

So, what about me? I’m young, I have many years left to work in this world and I yearn for the kind of passion I had at the job I gave up eight years ago. I crave interaction and work with like-minded professionals in an office. I have no gap on my resume, really, but I do have a number of part-time jobs that have led to a dead end.

I don’t choose my kids over my career, I want both. I’ve tried to have both but I’m not sure where it has gotten me. I’m ready to go back fully committed to an office job.

But where do I start? Who will hire me?

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Holly Rosen Fink has spent the last 17 years in NYC working in all facets of media, from MTV and Lifetime Television to the world of traditional and online publishing.  Now working as a Marketing Consultant, she blogs about travel, theater, film, art, books, advocacy and more at The Culture Mom.  She is also a partner at MamaDrama, a social media boutique specializing in culture and advocacy.

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Reader Comments (17)

I can relate. I thought being self employed for the last decade - working with my husband on our company - would give me hugely marketable skills. I have found out that this isn't the case. I didn't want to go back to the real world outside my home office and now that I have to, I can't find a way back. So I hear you loud and clear and can only say good luck and keep at it :)

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChantal

Thanks, Chantal. I have actually had a lot of success with my consulting businesses lately and I'm feeling more confident about 2013. I'm also applying to Graduate School, which I started and need to finish. Something good will happen, for both of us!

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

I can relate. I planned to stay home after my second child and freelance, chickened out (afraid of having no pension, among other things), went back, was conflicted the whole time, did a crazy thing by leaving to go back to school in a new field, and now can't get a job in that field. I do freelance in my old field (which was the plan originally, so I should be happy!) but not as much as I need, and yet it's hard to take on more and balance the family, my husband's schedule, trying to break in to my new field through volunteering...I'm so afraid the longer I'm out, the harder it will be to get in.

Best of luck!

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

This is scary. I'm in the first boat right now -- quit a few years ago, freelancing now, not interested in going back to work because my kids are young, but in a few years I probably will. On the other hand, I love freelancing and can see myself doing this full-time forever. Hopefully that will work out for me financially! :)

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa @ Organic Baby Atlanta

It's very daunting. I crave independence again, not to be reliant on my husband financially. As a feminist, I'm not sure how I ever let go of that part of me.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

I do think that being self-employed gives you hugely marketable skills, but it seems like they aren't valued by employers. It is hard to tell whether it is because it is a tough job market right now and they either have someone in mind already or somehow feel it is less risky to hire someone who has been in a very similar job previously, even if that means they would bring less creativity and new ideas to the job.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I think that is hard on both partners. My partner has been financially reliant on me for years and it is hard for him, but also hard for me, because all the responsibility falls on my shoulders to ensure enough money is coming in. I can't wait until we're a few months into his new job and can finally get to a point of each having our own well earned "play" money that we can do what we want with. Financial planning as a couple and as a family is important, but that financial independence (and freedom from being the only breadwinner) can be incredibly important too.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChantal

Yes. Despite the fact that husband and I run a business together, he is the sales end, so the pressure really is on him every month. It's exhausting for him. We are ready for a separate $ stream to come in and ease the burden a little.

November 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChantal

Hi there- Loved this post. I'm a bit older (so is my husband) than the writer here. grew up in a different time, I worked on Wall Street for many years, and we both felt my son needed his mother home. I stayed home for about 7 years then went back to work part -time, then full-time and now have my own psychotherapy practice. It wasn't easy, neither psycho-socially nor financially. I still feel like a chameleon as far as self-identity, changing to step up to what;s needed with the family's ebb & flow. And it took years to build up a thriving practice (which I have now). So there was a choice for us between money & family sanity. Plus, I didn't know that my feelings of self-efficacy would be so challenged when I was SAHM. I don't think we can have it all until there are some major changes.

Thanks, Kathy. That's so good to know. My kids are ages 8 and 9 so it's time to make a leap. They're just fine without me. There is no guilt when I leave.

December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

I went back to work part -time after my son was born 8 years ago. I really do feel that it's the "best of both worlds" and definitely the best choice for our family, but that doesn't mean it's easy. I work in the veterinary industry and staying part time really did help keep my foot in the door, especially in terms of keeping my skills sharpened. But as mentioned in this post, I'm the one who loses hours first, and I was the one let go a few years ago from a job I'd been at for 8 years, instead of several much newer and full time employees.

I'm lucky enough to have worked in places where my boss will let me take unpaid time off for vacation as long as I arrange for someone to cover my shifts. But I don't acrue vacation or sick days. I can't call out if I'm sick or one of the kids is sick, so I've gone in seriously ill, or taken a sick kid in with me and bundled him into a bed in the private office area to sleep while I work. (Obviously I am lucky to have this as an option, even if it's not ideal.)

And I'm dependent on family members for child care, or swapping babysitting with friends. So when grandma gets sick, or a friend left me high and dry the day before she had agreed to watch my child, I have to scramble. It's nice having time away at a job I enjoy and that I am good at, and I can (usually) relax, knowing they are enjoying time with family and friends.

I guess at some point, I will go to full time, but I wonder how that transition will go.

December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

Kayris, I felt that way, too, about working part-time until recently. My first part-time job post-baby was 3 days in the office. Even though it was part-time, I worked non-stop at night to make myself just as valuable as everyone else on my team. When push came to shove, and my manager had to make cuts, I was the first to go. My husband has reminded me that those three years were my happiest as a mom. I got out of the house, had a great pay check and was stimulated. I was heart-broken when it ended. I've worked part-time ever since in various capacities but somehow my financial worth has decreased considerably, even though my skills have increased two fold.

December 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

It makes me so sad to read these comments and how little support we give working families... like Kayris' example of not having vacation or sick days, which seems ridiculous.

I'm at home currently, I quit my last paying job about 6 years ago. The "plan" is for me to start working again in another couple years once my youngest starts school. My field is one where I think I will be less likely to be penalized for having taken this break, but I suppose only time will tell. I wish we (society, employers) valued this work as caregivers more. That could go such a long way towards making life easier for so many families.

December 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Like the other comments, I can also relate. Once I had my children, work-life balance took precedence over work-passion. Some days I feel the "What about me?" question of this post, but most days I simply resign myself to reality and remember that this is a conscious choice ... a career rarely provides all of the elements: good balance, money, and passion.

December 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercoffee with julie

Julie, I hear you loud and clear. Maybe that's why it's taking me longer to find the job that provides all the elements I want.

December 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

Great article. I could so relate with the information. Have 2 young children - 2.5 and 16 months. Have decided to take a bit of time off work to stay at home with my girls, I feel they grow up so fast and you can't get back this time with them. To keep my creative juices flowing I decided to create a blog - savysuburbanmom@blogspot.com. Need to keep relevant!!

At some point I will re-enter the work force. Thinking about it gives me a few chills!!!

December 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTania

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