WHY I QUIT MY JOB (& THE JUGGLE) WHEN MY KIDS STARTED SCHOOL

MOTHER OF ALL LISTS, MOTHERHOOD, MUST READ, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, USEFUL, WORK & MONEY

When I was growing-up the majority of kids at school were being raised my stay-at-home Mum’s or ‘housewives’ as they were known 80’s/90’s (gah what an adequated sounding title). Yet when this list came through, I was surprised to find myself taken aback at the principle of someone quitting their career once their kids had started school. Not because I have any kind of judgement, but because it’s increasingly unusual. But then when I went on to read Laura Barnett’s submission I found the ‘struggle to juggle’ which lead to her decison very relatable.


On reflection I guess I’ve always done things in an unconventional way, which bemuses a lot of people, prompts an array of questions, and (sshhh) even annoys me a little sometimes. It would have been a lot easier to have had a plan at 16 and just stuck to it, but that just isn’t me, and it’s taken me 38 years to realise that. 

In a nutshell, I went back to work following statutory maternity leave after having both of my babies, when they were both just 9 months old. Then, when my youngest was finally and firmly at school full-time (no more huge childcare bills – yay!) I quit my career…

  • There are two years between my boys, who are now 7 & 9.

  • I took statutory maternity leave from my career working in creative marketing, going back to work after 9 months off each time.

  • When they were teeny (babies and toddlers), I personally found it easier to work – less guilt, easier to find childcare, we could have fun at the weekends, right? I was tired but everything was good. I could pretend I was still that 20-something career minded woman I so loved being!

  • I had been working for the same company for a while and when my children were 4 and 6, I found a new, higher pressured but ‘perfect-on-paper-for-a-childless-me’ creative marketing role, pretty much as my youngest walked though those school gates for the very first time.

  • I mean, they were both at Primary School now, I was practically a free woman wasn’t I?

  • I LOVED that job, it was creative, fun, very fast-paced and I worked with a cool bunch (albeit mainly younger & childless).

  • My husband had a demanding job and worked away a lot, but hey, this was 2015, we could both have careers couldn’t we?

  • I worked hard, and played hard. Just like I did when I was younger.

  • This felt great. I was smashing it.

  • I rushed around. Dropping the kids off. Doing the homework. Going to meetings. Booking the children into clubs. Doing the food shopping. Travelling to photoshoots. Packing and unpacking the dishwasher. Arranging work events overseas. Ordering school uniforms. Cleaning the house. Preparing marketing reports. Visiting family and friends. Picking the kids up. Entertaining work clients.Washing the bedsheets. Going to marketing budget meetings. Arranging playdates. Planning kids Birthday parties. Devising marketing plans. Paying bills. Proof reading marketing materials. Doing life admin, etc.

  • After a year or so I suddenly realised I wasn’t sleeping very well.

  • I also realised my feelings about almost everything had evaporated.

  • I was just doing.

  • Other women made it look easy, why couldn’t I?

  • My home life started falling apart.

  • I was sinking into a deep dark hole of feeling useless at work and at home.

  • I didn’t know what topics my kids were doing at school. That made me sad.

  • I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

  • I would check my work emails constantly. At mealtimes. At the Dr’s. On the loo.

  • I would rush the kids through their homework at breakfast time.

  •  I had no time to read with them.

  • In fact, I had no time to read at all.

  • I rarely finished a conversation.

  • When I was at work, I thought about home.

  • When I was at home, I thought about work.

  • Communication between my husband and I was scarce, and mainly about putting the bins out and that all-important argument over who was more tired.

  • In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what he was doing during this time, I was just busy trying to keep myself and the children above water.

  •  In the most British and swan-like manner. Naturally.

  • I actually thought I was losing my tiny mind at one point. Everything felt out of my control, and the lights were on but no-one (not even one exhausted trying-to-have-it-all Mummy) was at home.

  • We decided to go on a one week holiday in the sunshine. That would fix everything, surely.

  • The pressure I felt before I left the office just to enable me to have one week on a sun lounger was so immense I thought I would burst.

  • I cried all the way home that evening.

  • I felt like a failure.

  • In fact I realised I had been crying driving home regularly. It was the only time I was alone and able to let go.

  • Those commutes became pretty rubbish.

  • We packed in a hurry, and rushed to the airport, and forgot to pack a lot of things, but who cared? We didn’t have time to care, we could buy the rest there couldn’t we.

  • We had a relaxing week in the sun, we ate, drank, chatted, and even relaxed momentarily, all four of us. At the same time. The kids were happy, something I hadn’t taken the time to notice for ages. But my mind kept drifting back to work, and life, and managing the two simultaneously on our return.

  • I got back to work and had what felt like a million emails to respond to.

  •  I know this isn’t unusual, but I simply didn’t know where to start, so I just sat and stared at them. For hours.

  • And this life continued, and the kids were once again neglected of my time…

  • I suddenly ALWAYS felt so guilty and just craved being with the children, a feeling which I had never truly experienced before this point.

  • It was at that time I had either a moment of madness or clarity.

  • Something had to give; my career, my sanity, or my family.

  • Me and my husband discussed (at 6am before he left for work one morning) whether we could survive on one salary for a period of time.

  • We hatched a vague plan (just after he’d brought the bins in late that night), and we figured if we were careful, it would be ok.

  •  I was desperate to organise my life, my head, even my kitchen cupboards. I know that last bit sounds ridiculous!

  • I had an emotional meeting at work and told them, to my regret, that I would be resigning in order to hang out with my kids for the foreseeable.

  • •A job I had worked pretty hard to get, just jacking it in. Madness?img_1849

  • More guilt. A different type now.

  • They tried to work out a way for me to stay.

  • My decision was final. I needed to spend some time with my children.

  • I worked my notice and had a fabulous leaving do. I instantly felt lighter, but also a little scared of the unknown ahead of me!

  • I was lucky to be able to take the next 6 months off, spending an amazing summer with my babies (then 5 and 7) and genuinely enjoy them. Something I hadn’t done before.

  • I got used to living on less money.

  • In fact I actually spent much less because I was not throwing convenience and guilt money at things. I took the time to source cheaper items when needed, and even had time to do fun, normal things, rather than cram in OTT expensive activities on my day off.

  • The kids were brilliant, not in a smug way, they obviously drove me mad regularly. They scrapped and made a lot of mess, but I embraced it. I could handle it.

  • I helped out at my children’s school on a voluntary basis. I (surprisingly) found it fun, rewarding and eye-opening.

  • I took up yoga and actually found time to exercise (a bit – please don’t get me wrong, I am not destined to be a gym bunny).

  • I looked around me more.

  • I had conversations.

  • I listened to my children.

  • I made new friends.

  • I made time for old friends.

  • I managed to organise my kitchen cupboards. Somehow symbolic!

  • I totally slowed down my pace of life, my responses, and my diary. I got my shit together.

  • I knew I couldn’t be at home forever (both because my domestic skills are sketchy, at best! But also I enjoy working)

  • I decided to seek work that fitted more around my children.

  • I found a job working with kids, term time only, and one that allowed me to truly switch off at the end of the day.

  • Two years in, and it is less pressure, without a doubt, and I certainly won’t make my millions this way, but I give it my all when I’m there and enjoy it, and then (importantly) I go home.

  • Working with children has made me realise that no two days are the same and it’s refreshing, and a completely different way of life from what I was used to. But it can also be a lot of fun!

  • People constantly ask me if I feel fulfilled. I am fine for now. Thanks for asking.

  •  People ask why I worked a lot when my children were babies and now I work less?

  • That’s just how things have panned out for me. What can I say? I enjoyed paying extortionate prices for other people to look after my offspring!

  • People enquire whether I miss using my brain. My brain is being used, constantly. Thanks for your concern though.

  • People ask me if I miss the money. Of course it’s helpful, but I can’t put a price on my sanity.

  • Some people even ask whether I regret getting a degree all those years ago, to now not be using it. I don’t live my life like that. I still look at brands, websites and campaigns like I work in that world, it’s kind of ingrained in me. But I don’t sweat my LinkedIn profile too much these days.

  • Don’t get me wrong,  I do sometimes get a little pang of envy when I see a Mum who has a high-flying career and is totally bossing it.

  • But it is short-lived, as I know, at this moment in time, that that would not work for my family dynamic.

  • I do miss the hectic world of creative marketing sometimes, and I will probably work that into my life at some point, if and when the opportunity arises, but at this very moment, this is me.

  • I might change my mind one day and re-train to do something completely different.

  • I might start my own business at some point.

  • I have even threatened to run away to join the circus, but I think that is just a pipe dream!

  • Do I regret any of my decisions? Not one bit.

  • •       If anything, I want to teach my children that they don’t have to do things in a particular order to be happy. Things don’t always go to plan, and that’s ok. You live and you learn.

  • •       For the record, my boys still scrap and make a mess, and I still cock up on a monumental scale regularly, but I can cope with it.

  • •       I certainly do not have the perfect balance, and I’m pretty convinced that such a thing doesn’t exist.

  • But what I do have is more patience, more time, and a clearer head. For now.

  • •       We’ve recently been told that our youngest has some learning disorders. Admittedly not the end of the world, but there you have it: a problem that hits you at full speed,unexpectedly, another area that will need my time and attention – something that I feel lucky to be able to give right now.

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35 Comments

  • Reply Jenny Lewis October 8, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    Loved reading this honest account… very inspiring indeed.

  • Reply Blended Hope October 8, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    At the end of a VERY LONG WEEK of working full time, taking children to different events, attempting to work out, and keep up a clean home, I looked up at my (first) husband and said “If you are doing work and I’m doing work, who is doing HOME?”
    I knew our children were missing out on so much and I felt so worn thin. Their childhood was slipping away and I was losing precious time.
    How grateful I am to be able to stay at home with my children today. Honestly, it’s easier to work but I’m NEEDED AT HOME.

  • Reply Emily Rickard October 9, 2018 at 7:14 am

    Loved reading this. It resonated. I’ve not hit that breaking point yet but can totally relate! The juggle and the struggle is real. Well done for taking the leap!!! I’m sure it was scary but utterly rewarding!!! Thanks for sharing xx

  • Reply Jordy October 9, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Having recently done exactly the same it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one. When I made my decision to leave work people nodded and smiled but I knew they didn’t really understand. 5 months later and I just need to work out what’s next, whilst still trying to avoid the guilt. For me it’s guilt over money. But now my youngest has started school I have space to figure it all out. I have so much respect for Laura. We do what we have to do even if it’s not conventional.

  • Reply Helen October 9, 2018 at 7:28 am

    Thank you for this , i feel like ive just read my life. Its opened my eyes to realise im not alone in the guilt feeling and not being able to do absolutely everything. Inspiringly honest xx

    • Reply Laura Barnett October 9, 2018 at 9:01 pm

      When writing this I genuinely thought I was the only person to ever feel this way, so it’s reassuring that I’m not in fact bonkers! Glad you got something from it x

      • Reply Jen October 17, 2018 at 9:41 pm

        This is probably the most relatable thing I’ve read on parenting to date. Thanks so much for putting into words my daily thoughts! My son has learning difficulties too, it’s incredibly stressful and adds to the every day guilt. It sometimes feels as if I’m skimming the surface of a very long to do list and you’ve rightly pointed out that it doesn’t have to be like that. Whoever said we could and should have it all, and who would want to anyway?!

  • Reply Laura October 9, 2018 at 7:46 am

    Loved reading this list, I did exactly the same thing after my second child started school and reading it was like reliving every emotion I went through. We are so used to reading about woman who can balance work and home (and hi five to those that do) but it’s so refreshing for somebody to put their hands up and say I couldn’t do it all but that’s ok. Women should be empowered and applauded to do what right for them with no judgement x

  • Reply Sarah October 9, 2018 at 7:50 am

    I love this list, I did the same when my youngest was two. I was failing at work and at home (or at least that’s what it felt like and something had to give besides my sanity which was going quickly. I’m about to hit the 2yr mark from leaving paid work & at times I still wonder if I made the right decision but know there was no other decision to make that would have kept my family and me afloat. I keep threatening to go back to paid work & one day I will but until then I will revel in my very organized kitchen cupboards 😁

    • Reply Laura Barnett October 9, 2018 at 9:06 pm

      Kitchen cupboards were the main driver in my decision making process! Jeez, it’s hard being a grown up sometimes. Glad you enjoyed the list. Laura x

  • Reply Mummykins October 9, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Greaf that you self-describe as unconventional – you must find your self really interesting.

    This story could have been covered in 3 bullet points.

    Middle class wank.

    • Reply Laura Barnett October 9, 2018 at 9:18 pm

      Charming.

      Is your last line you signing yourself off or a snidy dig at the author? (me). Either way, be kind to yourself and others.

      Peace.

    • Reply Rebecca October 22, 2018 at 5:47 am

      What a disgusting horrible things to say.

  • Reply jessie October 9, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Puts things hugely into perspective. I’m always worrying about work…it literally occupies so much of my thinking. But recently I’ve been questioning why…there is so much more to life. I’m really trying to switch off and occupy those thoughts with those of my little boy. Thank you X

  • Reply Robyn October 9, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Reading this on my way to work after a hectic drop off at school and nursery, I can completely relate to this and admire your bravery. I wish I was this brave, I’m not yet but maybe one day I’ll have the confidence to change things.

  • Reply Sonya October 9, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Fantastic! I too went back after 9months to teaching/middle management and oh boy it was hard as again not a job you leave at the door at 5 and I also have the pressure of being the salary earner. So last year went to 4 days and now 3, and finally i’m getting on top of life….life is precious and we all need to be happy.

  • Reply Spotonshopper October 9, 2018 at 9:47 am

    I literally want to hug you!! This is me. I gave up my career after 3 children, we’ve since had a fourth. Although I do feel my brain is turning to smush some days, I still have that person who looked at stores and designs and comment still now. It’s not the path I thought I’d take, it’s more a country road now! But just reading that, I know it’s ok. Thank you! 💟

  • Reply Jess October 9, 2018 at 11:02 am

    I too gave up work when my fourth and youngest started school, I haven’t regretted it one bit. It’s so reassuring to hear that I’m not the only one who made the decision to be at home at this point in their lives. I love doing every school run as I know I won’t be having any more children so it’s my last opportunity. I feel far more in control of my life than I have for years and although I feel I have to watch what I’m spending, I’ve realised just how much I used to spend on unnecessary things either to cheer myself up or because of guilt.
    Right now, me being at home suits our family and I’ve learnt not to worry about what other people think of our decision.

  • Reply Andrea Hanson October 9, 2018 at 11:26 am

    This resonated so much with me. I did the same but it took a lot for me to finally decide that I couldn’t do it all. I was on that treadmill and I hadn’t even thought that I could get off. Eventually it took my son, age 8, developing acute anxiety with school phobia to realise that there had to be another way, and I needed to be around to help and support him through it. Although I miss working, it was definitely the right decision- the only decision- that was going to work for my family at the time. Thank you for highlighting this and making us feel like we’re not just stuck in 1950’s surburbia for making these choices.

  • Reply Anthonissa Moger October 9, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    A great list!!! One of my absolute favs. Thanks for sharing- I can totally relate x

  • Reply Jen October 9, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Great post, really enjoyed reading it, but did wonder a little about the life admin equality bit… I mean, why do mums generally end up with most of the scheduling? It’s so exhausting. I work FT, as does my husband but often I’m doing 80pc of the stuff that keeps family life ticking along…..

  • Reply Danielle October 9, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    Love this. Thank you for sharing.
    I have recently “repositioned” myself at my place of work to gain more time with my son. Well actually…more time for myself, my head, my body, my relationship, kitchen drawers (?!) etc along with my son!
    I’m still in the midst of the transition at the moment but there is light.
    Great to read this is normal. Guilt is such a player in our midst.
    Thank you for helping me to keep pushing.

  • Reply Rupinder October 10, 2018 at 2:42 am

    Great list. I’ve just done the same thing, my eldest has just started school and my youngest is 1.
    In a world where mums are trying to have it all I felt like I was taking the easy way out by quitting my job, but reading this assured me I’ve made the right decision for me and my kids, after all, at the end no one ever wishes they’d spent more time at work. Thanks for the list.

  • Reply Rebecca October 10, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    Wow! This is a fantastic insight. Thank you for your honesty – I love it! I may be the only one commenting who hasn’t been in a similar situation, but I have thought about this a lot as something that might happen in my future, so your piece (found by a share on Facebook) was really interesting. Well done to you Clemmie for recognising what you needed to do and being brave enough to do it. x

  • Reply Shelley October 10, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you for your honesty. This is exactly the situation I find myself in. It somehow seems to matter more now that the children are at school that a parent is present. When they were babies, they needed to be loved and cared for. I’m confident that my decision to place my children into a caring and nurturing nursery environment at 12 months has helped them form bonds with others outside their immediate family and has most definitely assisted with the transition to school. However, now that their needs are becoming more complex, I find myself compelled to be around more. My only concern is that they won’t be this small forever and at some point, they won’t need me in quite the same way. I’m concerned that if I let my career go now, I won’t be able to revive it in 10 years’ time. No answers yet but this is the one thing that means I continue on this unsustainable merry go round that you have so articulately explained.

  • Reply Emily October 11, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Thank you for your words.
    I can completely relate to this after having chosen to leave my creative job (I LOVED my job) in February when my boy was 2 and a half.
    A very close friend told me the other day that ‘most people would give everything to have the life you lead’ and yes, I am extremely grateful to my incredible husband every day for enableing me to give up work. Not everyone can afford to do this, I am very lucky. Equally however there are struggles, emotional stresses, particularly that ‘loss of oneself’. I just wanted to say that everyone’s story is unique, we are all guilty, so don’t make judgments-just listen- then be the best person you can.

  • Reply mothertherealist October 11, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you for your perspective. I haven’t tried to work with kids, and keep looking at Wonder Moms and wondering how they do it all.

  • Reply Charlie October 12, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    Really enjoyed reading. The juggling is such a struggle and the guilt…it helps reading the comments too, feels easier knowing I’m not alone in feeling like this.

  • Reply Alison October 14, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    This resonates so much. It’s not just the physical time having a pressured job but the mental time/space. I couldn’t give up work but I am seriously considering something that fits around my children more.

  • Reply Shelley October 14, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Going through a bit of change in my life due to wanting to spend more time with the kids (they’re 3,5 and 7.) This has helped massively! Very inspiring, thank you.

  • Reply Holly October 14, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Absolutely bloody refreshing to read. You did what was best for you and your family, what a wonderful and brave thing to do More power to you! People love to judge with passive aggressive comments, but it’s becuase they’d rather be in your shoes. Well done you.

  • Reply Daniela October 16, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    I quit my Job after my oldest started with school. Because I wanted to give her my most possible attention while getting settled. Like you I have always worked, through both pregnancies and went back 3 or 4 days a week after 6 months.
    Too many nights with the kids in bed and I was back at my laptop continuing work. Same situations before and after vacations, just like you describe them. And the marriage going down the drain….
    I like the concept of daycare because I think it learns the child emotional intelligence which will last for life.
    But with school starting I had/have the feeling that I, as a mother need to be present without me feeling rushed because there are still so many other things to be done and rush her and she feels the pressure. School is just too important and I went her to enjoy it. It will get though soon enough…
    My younger one will start kindergarten in Summer. And school in 2,5 years. So I call this now my timeout for the next 4-5 years.
    I am sure I will start working again in one way or another because I also enjoy it.

  • Reply Claire October 16, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    I LOVE this so much!! Currently working out my notice period before returning to being a mum full time in the New Year. I cannot wait to give up the juggle and I am oddly excited about having the chance to organise my kitchen cupboards!!!!

  • Reply Clare October 16, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    I’ve just left “The Job” in Australia to move home to spend time with my 2 1/2 year old. 2 weeks in and I’m still adjusting but think it’s the right move for my family. Doing a half assed job at work and at home feels really draining when you are, in fact, using your whole ass LOL. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Alexandra October 17, 2018 at 9:51 am

    I can totally relate to your article, have just done the same for the kids and my sanity – I thought I may loose it otherwise and end up with mental health problems. It is just not possible to have it all. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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