I never assumed I could single-handedly make ends meet.
When my second child was born, it just made sense for my career to take a backseat to my husband’s nine-to-five job.
At the time, I was working overnights as a behavioral health technician in an inpatient psych unit. It was hard to get a much better job with only a bachelor’s degree in psychology. At one point I had hoped to get a graduate degree, but when I became a mom for the first time at 22, my husband and I realized the demanding schedule and expense of tuition weren’t possible for our family.
I felt unfulfilled at work but enjoyed being home as much as possible with my daughters. Plus, my flexible schedule and part-time hours helped us avoid the expense of daycare, which was well outside our tight budget. At that time, it made sense for the priority of our careers to shift.
Two years later, still working a job that represented only a paycheck and not a career, I began to dabble in freelance writing. I was keeping a blog for fun and noticed that other bloggers had begun to write for online publications as a way to support their families. I started squeezing in extra writing during naptime or after my daughters settled into bed. I pitched editors and made connections with other writers who helped me find work until I was making enough to quit my job and be home full-time.
But I never saw my writing as a career. I was making barely enough to pay for the expenses my husband’s income didn’t cover. Some months we found our budget so tight, we charged groceries and small bills on credit. I never imagined I could turn what I was doing into a full-time job. I assumed when my kids were in school I would reconsider the career path, go back to school, or maybe pursue writing full-time. Without the time to truly focus on improving my skills, I always felt held back by the need to work around my husband’s job.
Everything changed when my husband became unemployed early last year. I was suddenly our main source of income, and my husband was home with our girls while looking for a new job.
For the first time since college, I was forced to take a look at my career goals and figure out how to fast track them as a means of producing a full-time income. I knew that freelancing was risky, but I also knew that nothing in my field with my current education paid as much as freelancing.
So, my husband stayed home with the girls, applying for jobs during naptime and in the evenings, so I could get out of the house to focus on work. My work ranged from ghostwriting for local businesses, to work I found on job boards online, to writing profiles on local restaurants, to writing mommy blogs about my life as a work-at-home mom.
Still, I never assumed I could single-handedly make ends meet. I believed that when my husband’s unemployment and our emergency fund ran out, we would have to get creative about how we were going to pay the bills and possibly even ask family for help until my husband found work in his field of digital marketing.
I was wrong.
In April of that year, I nervously sat down to work on our budget and was surprised to see just how empowering my husband’s temporary unemployment had been for my sense of competence as a freelancer. We were definitely going to have to live on a tight budget, but work I had previously treated as supplementary income was now enough to cover our expenses for a family of four.
My husband’s unexpected unemployment did more than bolstering my confidence in my ability to pay the bills. I realized it not only enabled me to bring in more income, but also to take risks and reach goals much sooner than I had imagined possible. Why? Because I had to.
I was adding new publications to my portfolio, reaching out to editors I believed would laugh at my sparse resume, breaking into food writing with no real experience at all — and I was seeing the fruits of my efforts in the form of new bylines and contributing opportunities.
Even though my husband has since returned to work, I can’t imagine myself returning to part-time or sporadic freelancing. I love being a mother and spending plenty of time at home with my young children, but I also love my flourishing writing career.
So my husband and I have made some changes. My career no longer takes the back seat to his, and we more evenly share the roles of financial provider, parent, and homemaker.
This drastic change to my family’s life has opened new doors for my future. I’m a different person — my work challenges me every day to grow and improve. The best part? I find more enjoyment from my role as a mother now that I also have a fulfilling career.