I think every parent has heard how much their lives will change after childbirth. I can say unequivocally that for me, it was true. Before having my son, Alijah, I focused on my career in corporate communications for a large financial institution where working long hours, spending two hours a day in traffic, being on-call for emergencies and attending events on evenings and weekends was the norm. The six-figure salary, media contacts and great exposure made it worth it for me at the time. When I became pregnant with Alijah, still reeling from a devastating stillbirth I’d suffered just two years prior, my health and family became my numberone priority.
With a year’s worth of savings and a very supportive husband willing and able to take on the financial load, I resigned from my position and stayed home with my son. I loved witnessing the milestones and spending time with Alijah, but I also needed to stimulate my mind and pursue my passions outside of parenting. When Alijah was 6 months old, I started my own company doing freelance work as a public relations consultant, writer and TV host.
Before I knew it, I was living my dream, covering press junkets and writing articles for magazines such as L.A. Parent. This new path allowed me to be creative and offered the flexibility I needed as a parent. Freelancing also gave me the chance to get experience working at multiple companies and with many different people without looking like a job hopper. “In fact, it’s a huge plus to clients to have experience working on many different types of projects,” says Holly Knoll, business coach and creator of The Consultant Code.
Whether they’re trying to cut child care costs, experiencing a change of priorities or just want to spend more time with family, many parents are discovering the benefits of nontraditional work paths.
Laura Spawn, CEO and co-founder of virtualvocations.com, a company that helps job seekers find telecommuting jobs, says remote jobs are gaining in popularity. “Back in 2007, when our team first started aggregating jobs to add to our database, we were lucky to find 200 telecommute openings each week,” says Spawn. “Last year, we added more than 700 remote jobs to our job board every day.”
Spawn adds that most of the positions posted on Virtual Vocations are full-time, permanent positions that provide comparable compensation to what job seekers would earn if they were to work in a brick-and-mortar office. Spawn also found that most job seekers visiting the site are mid-level career professionals with bachelor’s and, often, master’s degrees. “Professionals don’t have to give up the peace of mind of a regular paycheck if they want to work remotely, and telecommuting doesn’t have to be a short-term arrangement,” says Spawn. “It’s clear that remote work isn’t the future – it’s here now, and it’s here to stay.”
David Targin: Father of a 2-year-old son, Executive producer and telecommuter
The option of working remotely from home full time gave David Targin the stability he needed as a father. When his wife, Ashley, became pregnant with their son, Clayton, he resigned from his position as a freelance sports field producer – where he often worked two to three weeks a month out of town – and took on a new position as a sports documentary filmmaker that allows him to telecommute and work flexible hours. “I decided I needed something with a little more stability so I could be home,” says Targin. “I wanted to be there to help raise a child. I think it’s really neat.”
To find the right role, Targin says he was upfront with his new boss during the interview process, explaining that his wife would soon have a baby. “One of the first things he said to me was, ‘Family always comes first,’” Targin recalls. “I think it’s just having an open discussion with your boss. I said, ‘This is what I want my life to look like. If it works for you, great. I’ll do the work and I’ll do a good job. But I also have this other thing that I care very much about that is equally as important to this job, if not more.’”
To save on child care costs, Targin and Ashley, who also works from home, each spend two hours a day with Clayton at Wiggle & Work, a coworking space near Los Feliz with on-demand child care for babies and toddlers.
Jill Henry: Mother of a 2½-year-old son, Author
Jill Henry, a former high school math teacher and cross-country coach, also found Wiggle & Work a great option. Henry says she resigned from her position as a teacher, where she worked from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., so that she could have more time to parent her son, save on child care costs and start a passion project – her first book.
“It was important to us that there was stability with one of us being home a lot,” says Henry. Prior to her career change, Henry and her husband, Dave, were balancing their full-time work schedules and sending their son to full-time day care, which cut into her teaching salary “quite a bit.” “I had also been lucky to be at a point where, after nine great years of teaching, I was ready for something different. Having a kid sort of coincided with when I was ready to take on a new challenge,” she says.
Her passion project actually began during her husband’s paternity leave. One of her students asked her how she could avoid weight gain once she stopped running. Henry noticed the lack of health books for adolescents, and she and Dave began writing one. “I think I was probably going to leave teaching anyway to stay at home, but this made it clear that it would be professionally more satisfying. I know myself enough to know that I needed that professional stimulation,” says Henry.
Wiggle & Work helped her overcome the challenge of finding time to write. “Wiggle and Work was a saving grace because it’s affordable and gave me the blocks of time during the day,” Henry says. The family also saves on child care expenses by hiring a high school student to babysit at $12 per hour and trading child care shifts so that they each have individual time. Henry now has a publishing contract for her book, due out next spring from Skyhorse Publishing. “Make the decision to invest in your career path,” she advises fellow parents looking to transition to more flexible careers.
Adriohn Richardson: Father of four, Owner of Sporty Jams and InspireFlow Arts
Lots of parents turn to entrepreneurship after having children. According to a 2009 survey from the Kauffman Foundation, nearly 60 percent of entrepreneurs had at least one child when they started their first businesses. Adriohn Richardson is one of them. The rising cost of child care and lack of time with his family prompted him to start his own party entertainment business, where he works from home helping other parents plan celebrations for their kids. After becoming the father of twin sons, he also started freelancing as a speaker and presenter, traveling the country discussing fatherhood and environmental awareness.
“Parenting skills are great transferable skills to being an entrepreneur,” says Richardson. “Parents are the CEOs, CFOs and other chief officer positions of their household. Time is something we cannot stop or get back, so having the opportunity to set your own schedule is a wonderful advantage for your family. This allows more flexibility to be actively involved for your child’s developmental milestones.”
Richardson advises aspiring entrepreneurs to start on a business plan for their new ventures and write out mission and vision statements for their lives before resigning from their current traditional jobs. “Evaluate your value system and write down the things you value most,” he says.
Kerri Harper-Howie: Mother of two sons, McDonald’s franchise owner
Kerri Harper-Howie loved her career as an employment attorney. Although the days were as long as 12 hours, she enjoyed the nature of the work, the excellent pay and even the stress – which she says she thrives on. But the distance from her family took its toll, so she relocated from the San Francisco area to L.A. just before she had her first son, Caleb.
“I lived in a place where I would have had zero family support,” recalls Harper-Howie, who now has a 5-year-old in addition to 7-year-old Caleb. “When I came home after I quit my job, I had access to two sets of grandparents, my sister and my cousin. Also, my mother was getting older and had increasing health needs that I wanted to help my sister manage.”
After witnessing the control her sister had over her life, she joined her in the family business by becoming a McDonald’s franchise owner. “I get to work with my family, have incredible flexibility, work in an industry that is changing, challenging and growing,” says Harper-Howie.
Danielle Schwartz: Mother of a 2½-year-old daughter, Owner of GRLSWIRL and Lady Dandelion
With 20 years of fashion experience, Danielle Schwartz always had a desire to be an entrepreneur. But it wasn’t until she was pregnant with her daughter, Lulu, and her former employer refused her request for maternity leave and wasn’t at all supportive of her pregnancy, that she finally made the leap. “I didn’t want to go back to working for anyone ever again,” says Schwartz.
Her first move was co-founding GRLSWIRL, a female skateboard group created to show girls of all ages that they can do anything. The group’s popularity grew immensely, gaining more than 84,000 followers on Instagram, and it was featured on national morning shows.
The visibility she gained through GRLSWIRL gave her some leverage, and the women she skated with encouraged her to fulfill her dream of starting her own company, Lady Dandelion, a fashion brand designed for “every lady who likes to get dirty but cleans up nice.” She has even opened her own Lady Dandelion shop on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. Schwartz says she loves the flexibility that entrepreneurship offers, but warns anyone pursuing a fashion business that, “it takes a lot of perseverance and determination.”
While the options are plenty, Knoll cautions parents considering transitioning into unconventional careers to do their research. “If you’re on the fence or curious about transitioning out of the nine-to-five,” she advises, “take a small step each day to learn more about it, educate yourself and talk to people who are doing it and stick with it.”Anasia Obioha is the founder and president of Ascend Brand Communications, where she is a content creator and media trainer. She holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University and an MBA from Woodbury University. A proud Detroit native, she is married to entertainment attorney Igbo Obioha, and they share one son, Alijah.