Last week the Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article around the efforts of companies, namely McKinsey, to recruit former female employees who had left the company to raise kids. The whole thing reminded me of my own career decisions and some reasoning behind working for myself that I’ve never really shared here….

I was really fortunate to have my parents around, generally all the time, while I was growing up. They both either worked from home or were only outside the home part time.  We had full time nannies while we were really young, but my parents were always there (i.e. in the house), and their careers allowed them the flexibility to mold their schedules- for the most part- around ours.

There was always a part of my decision to work for myself that was connected to my life one day as a mom. I was 26 when I went out on my own, and my hope was that I’d have a solid five years or so to set the foundation for my business, and build up my client base and staff.  Then, in my early thirties, when I began having children, I’d be able to create some sort of transitional schedule for myself- a combination of taking on less work during a certain period and leaning on the support of my other staff (that staff being in the future of course!). Though I do have a certain timeline in my head, it’s the structure and flexibility that are most important to me. Don’t worry, I know life can’t be planned that perfectly!

But all planning aside, I do sometimes wonder if I have it backwards. If you’re working for yourself and you’ve built your own thing, maybe it’s actually harder to step away when starting a family? Is the juggle, in fact, more difficult, because the work is that much more personal? Or is my gut feeling- that working for yourself  provides more flexibility, allowing one to more easily balance career and motherhood- on track?I’d so love to hear your thoughts, opinions, and if you have it- experience!

  1. Clare, what a great post. Thank you for being so honest and open. I too began my own business so that I could start a family and stay home with my children. I knew our household would always be a two income family (or so I thought) and so if I was going to work, I would rather work for myself. That was 11 years ago when I was in my late twenties. My business began to take off and my husband was laid off from work so he began working with me (8 years ago) and continues to work with me full-time. However, now I’m 41 and somehow that baby never came along. I do have a unique situation in that my hubby doesn’t want to have children and I found myself going back and forth between wanting a child and not wanting a child. We did finally agree before my 41st birthday that we wanted to try. We have been trying for the last 8 months. Now that the window is closing pretty fast I don’t want it to shut without at least trying. I have gone through somewhat of a mid-life crisis and have looked back and wondered if all the sacrifices have been worth it. There is so much more I could write with all the emotions that I have felt over the years but I will shorten it to say, if you for sure want to have children, don’t wait. It only gets harder not only physically but as you get older you tend to get a little more accustom to your life and wanting to make room for such a big responsibility is not something you easily want to do. I certainly would love to know what others have experienced.

    • Clara

      Angee- thank you so much for your candid response. I can definitely foresee myself thinking something along the lines of- “I don’t have time to be pregnant this year- has to be next year!” And then that year gets farther and farther away… I’m definitely going to take your advice to heart. xx

  2. Hi Clare! Oh my goodness I love this post because it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I write for magazines and work from home (always have). I’m engaged and my fiance and I would love to have kids in the next few years. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes I honestly think it would be easier if I worked for a company instead of for myself. Since I’m freelance, I won’t get any maternity leave so if I stop working for a little while to take care of an infant I won’t earn any money. Then I wonder if the work will still be there for me when I come back to it. Also, I’m not sure I could take on as much work as I currently do because if I have a 2pm interview scheduled with a source and there’s a baby crying, well, I know which would take priority. In any case, I love working for myself and the flexibility it allows and I know when we get to this point we’ll just figure it out like everything else in life. But thanks for highlighting something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately!

    • Paige - I can identify with your comment! I’m a freelance writer and still building my business… and I’m pregnant with my first child (I’ve totally thought about the 2 pm interview and baby crying scenario!). There is a lot of uncertainty when freelancing in general, and when you add a baby to that… well, I’m not sure what to expect. I made the move to work for myself largely for the flexibility, knowing we would want to have kids. Growing up, my mom stayed home with me and my sisters while my dad worked. I want to be there for my kids and be able to adjust my schedule as needed, but I’m not sure what exactly that will look like for me when the time comes. Thanks, Clara, for bringing up this topic!

      • Clara

        Melissa! You’re pregnant?!?! Congratulations! So happy to bring up this subject- love the discussion it’s sparking.

        • Yes! Due August 14… So obviously I’m loving this topic too :)

          • Congrats Melissa! I hope you’ll keep us all updated on your blog (I just clicked over…love!). Thanks for testing the waters of freelancing and parenting for me : ) Just kidding! I’m starting to realize that in life you can do all the planning you like, but eventually you’ve just go to take the leap if there’s something you really want (whether that’s leaving a career to freelance or being freelance and having kids or….) and just figure it out as you go along. Easier said than done of course.
            By the way I live in Chicago, too : )

    • Clara

      Paige- I TOTALLY feel on your concern over the work- and if it will be there for you to come back to. I already feel that way and I don’t even have a baby in my life yet! I can’t imagine what’s it going to be like when I do. Something to think about and work on for the future…. good luck to you!

  3. Great post Clara.

    Thank you for sharing the article. It’s a subject that Iam very passionate about; having lived the life of
    A single mom while working for one of the biggest brokerage firms at the time, with
    Success just at my feet was incredibly empowering for me.
    But there was one problem. I hated it! I missed my son terribly. His dad was not in the picture at all (unexpectedly) so the entire financial responsibility was on me.

    It was such an intense period in y life, and at times emotionally confusing. I loved making money,
    But felt like I was missing out on very important experiences in my son’s life.

    I come from a VERY traditional family, so there was no template for me to follow. I had no mentor.
    My parents just didn’t understand.

    I didn’t let go of my desire to have it all tho. I’m not sure where my moxy came from. I like to think it’s the spiritual side of me guiding my every step.

    Fast forward 13 years: I am married to a wonderful man, my son is 23 and rockin it, and we have a new addition to the family. My daughter, who is 8.

    The ironic thing about this whole story is, I thought (because of my programming as a child) that having a child while married would have enabled me to be a stay at home mom for a while, until I was good and ready to go out into the workplace again. The shift in the economy, changed that. My husband lost his job, and went into commercial real estate at the top of the market.
    I think you know where this story is headed… I had to go back to work with a small child. ugh!

    However, this time I was committed to making it work for me. I needed to be creative and fulfilled.

    So, I took my 12 years of training (my secret life) as a personal trainer, yoga instructor, and meditation coach.

    And I went out there and kicked some holistic butt. I decided that if I could bring in a certain dollar amount while working on a VERY part time schedule, I was ahead of the game.

    I began this new journey in 2008. I never advertised, but it didn’t stop the business from coming in.

    I have a 10 year plan for my business and continuing education on the subject of what I call “true fitness”.

    The reality is that you could have the awesome abs and great guns, but if you haven ‘t truly realized yourself on an Intimately spirituals level, you are missing the mark of your true greatness. And dare I say peace, love and joy.

    Thank you for this post Clara. You are on a magical path of fulfillment through creativity. Stay the course and you’ll never regret it.


    • Clara

      Yoli- your story is so inspiring, and I’m so touched you were willing to share the whole thing. Talk about a journey! I’m such a planner and I have a hard time accepting that often times life is just going to happen… the way it’s going to happen, and there’s not much I can do about it. It’s interesting to hear your perspective on the other side, so to speak- being able to look back and see what lead to what, and how everything came together in your life. That perspective is incredibly valuable to 20 somethings like me- so thank you! xx

  4. Great post! It really has me thinking. Although I, too, hope that kids are a ways off (though I have too much experience with friends accidentally getting pregnant to believe that I can ever be sure) I think about my life as a working mother quite a bit. I had a mom that always worked outside the house but fortunately had enough flexibility in her job to always be at sporting events, concerts and the like. Ideally, I would love to end up in a spot someday where I could work 3 to 4 days a week at a job I really loved and that allowed me some flexibility to be with my kids when they need me. I think a lot of people are striving for the same balance!

    • Clara

      I’m right with you, Madison. In my dream world I’d work 3-4 days per week, but sometimes I feel like that’s such a “dream like” scenario… given today’s world. But then again, sometimes I think if I myself can create it- then it’s possible. Here’s hoping!

  5. Really glad you wrote this! I work for a tech company doing marketing, but on the side I have been doing consulting for marketing, branding, events, etc with the hopes of one day working for myself. One of my main reasons to do so was the same as you-children down the road. I am engaged but not really ready to even think about kids YET. But I know in a few years, it’s going to happen and I really hope I’m able to set up my business in the same way you mentioned…take on less work and/or have some fantastic assistants. Cheers to making it happen!

    • Clara

      Lauren, that’s so exciting!! Congrats on your freelance work! It’s a daunting journey that requires some serious persistance, but I firmly believe that if you just keeeeep going, things will work out!

  6. I’m SO happy that you wrote this post. I think in the next few years we’ll want to have a baby, and so it’s something I think about a lot, and is something I considered when starting my own business…although who knows like you say it may make things more difficult in some aspects. I wanted to start my own business for a lot of reasons, and my passion for creating product I really believe in was definitely the main one. How to balance it all really scares me…but I’m learning to remember that there’s never a perfect time for anything and the things that are important you make time for. I’d love to hear more advice about how other women balance their lives with children as I think it’s such an important topic.

    • Clara

      Your point about there never being a perfect time for anything- so true. I really need to be better about accepting that, in all facets of my life! Thanks, Becca!

  7. Thanks for being so open and honest about this! I’ve honestly been hoping for the same thing: to work for myself to have the flexibility to be with future kids while also continuing to work. I’ve always known that I wanted kids, but now that I’m engaged and my fiance and I are both positive we want them, I can think about it in a more concrete way. I’ve struggled with this because I know that I want kids, but I also know that I don’t want to stop working and doing things I love to become a full-time “mom.” At the same time, I also don’t want to be a mom who never sees her kids because she works full time. I would LOVE to be a full-time mom, but I just don’t want it to mean that I have to stop doing other [creative] things for myself. So, I feel like working for myself is the perfect solution. I would only have to answer to myself and could do my best to have the best of both worlds.

    Not only that - but I feel like I’ve been afraid to tell people that this is my goal: to work for myself so I can have kids and work from home. So, I appreciate you saying that on your blog. As a young, educated woman with a great job, I’m kind of embarrassed to even say that I want kids, because I feel like that means I need to quit my job (at least that’s what others might think). Isn’t that terrible? I shouldn’t feel that way - but this all comes back around because it’s why I want to work for myself - so I DON’T have to stop what I’m doing. Does this all make sense? I’m rambling. Anyway, thank you for bringing it up. It’s nice to hear what others have to say on the topic.

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