Babies & Work Part II: Making A Career Ladder

I had so much to say on this topic, I had to break it up into two posts! Read Part I here.

Though I’m a stay-at-home mom, I am no less motivated to make my career work. In fact, I’m more motivated than ever.

I am lucky. I got the choice of taking time out of my career. The timing lined up well with my inner turmoil over my career path and my very real desire to have a child. But the choice was also made for me in a sense, because I already made less than my husband, my potential salary would be barely enough to cover child care as it is outrageously expensive, and my stress level in my chosen career path of social work was guaranteed to have the most negative impact of all.

I am also lucky that my husband is unbelievably supportive. He believes in my dreams even more than I do some days. He believed in me when I wanted to change the world as a social worker, and he believes that I can make something out of this writing thing. He is so grateful I stay home and take care of our child. He is so proud to be able to support us. He uses strong, sound logic to remind me we won’t get these years back, we will never regret spending time with our child and that my dreams are still achievable, even if the timeline is super slow as a result. He’s amazing and I’m so grateful.

But my brain, my heart, are yelling at me anyway. I am ready to work. I am ready to hustle. I am ready to take some of the burden off of my husband, because while he’s amazing, he’s stressed so much of the time. He carries such burden of responsibility to keep us afloat. I am ready to have the baby number two conversation, but it is impossible to imagine without more income.

I want to be able to put my son in the very best preschool we can afford and actually contribute toward putting him there. I know the very fact I get to grapple with these thoughts and work toward shifting the situation is a sign of my immense privilege, despite my feelings of dejection and frustration.

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These are my motivators.

So here I am, social worker, turned stay-at-home-mom, turned freelancer and hopefully someday professional writer. I am piecing together a career that I hope works out. For which there is no guarantee and no set trajectory.

That’s an artist’s ultimate challenge. Because there is no ONE way. When you want to, say, become a principal you go through the clear steps: you get a teaching degree, credential, teach, become assistant principal, then principal. I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just saying it’s clear. The ladder is set and you are poised to achieve the dream because you can see the next rung clearly. There are knowable steps and processes to achieve these dreams.

Often for artists, writers, musicians, this is not the case. So much of the steps that worked for one writer, won’t work for another. The processes they utilize are ephemeral. The paths and trajectories are intangible. Especially as these industries are ever-changing.

I am not climbing a career ladder, I’m making my career ladder.

I didn’t choose this career when in college because I was so afraid of not having a set of steps before me. Yet, here I am anyway, cycled back ten plus years later, trying to embark on a risky and unformed path, when I have more responsibilities than ever. It doesn’t make much logical sense. It’s simply the type of mother I want to be, because it’s the type of person I am. At this point, the stakes are too high not to try to do my best and achieve my dreams. I am making this whole thing up as I go. I don’t know what’s going to work and there is no guarantee that even if I do it all “correctly” that it will hit and I will be able to make a living.

More often than not, many parents aren’t working their dream jobs. They are working to pay to live. They are working to give their kids great lives. They have not the luxury of time, space, or fiscal freedom to pursue their utmost dreams, and instead, provide for their families as best they can. This should be applauded. I am not above this. I simply have the space to try  out this writing dream and see how it unfolds for a little while. And I may circle back to social work anyway, someday. Or I may find a way to combine the two and really be living it up. I have to try my hardest, or my regrets will have the largest impact of all.

There isn’t a ton of money in writing, at least not at first, and at least not when cold pitching for freelance work. So I don’t really have an answer yet on how to make a living and write and be a mom. I can sit and cry about it and not make any income, or I can find a way to make it work for me as a writer searching for her voice, place and space in the conversation. I will absolutely be working toward the latter.

What I do know is that I’m hungry to make it work. I am so enjoying writing every day, connecting and conversing with other writers and friends about these topics of parenting and more. I want to be able to keep doing this and with every day that passes, I am more willing to go all-in. It’s because of having my child that I am more motivated than ever to make this thing work. It’s terrifying and exhilarating.

It is what fills me up and makes me feel like I’m having the biggest impact, both in my own life and potentially the lives of others.

This career ladder is far from complete and far from obvious. But I’m holding faith that it will take me where I want to go.

Photo credit: Pexels

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