Career or family – an impossible decision

I have been away for a long time, way longer then I ever imagined.

But life ran over me like a truck after we made the decision to go for a more streamline living. I knew it would be hard to adjust to going back to that old way, but I didn’t expect it would be THAT hard.

I didn’t miss it.  At all.

I am trying to survive through this year, and thruthfully, it is not easy.  I feel so miserable. It is a very confronting reality that makes me really question all the decisions we have taken so far, about life, about family, about work and values.  Changing to a new set of values is hard.  but going back to a set of values you don’t really believe in anymore is ever harder.


I don’t feel like my life is balanced right now, and I sure don’t feel like I am where I would like to be.  I feel like I should be with my kids, and not only so, I am so passionate about everything homeschooling and self directed learning.  And my daily reality is very far away from that.

So what is keeping me back??:  My career.  And I have one that I need to be active in, otherwise, I will lose my licence in a bat of the eyes.

And the most ironic thing is I am not sure that it fits me anymore.  I don’t think it still stands up to my values.  So it seems easy to say: well, just let it go, get away from it.

BUT.  there is always a but right?

I just feel like I can’t.

There will be a time when my kids will be older and they will become independent.  I can already start to see signs of this, and although it looked like a very, very  distant futur not so long ago, it sure starts to feel real and much more round the corner then I thought.

Once they are out of my care, and able to care for themselves, what will be left of me if I don’t have a career/work life/ job that I love anymore?   What will I do to help me be secure financially but most of all keep fulfilling myself?  Life won’t stop the day my kids will be independent, life won’t stop once they have moved out.   What will I do then?


I would love to recycle myself in something new.  I feel like this could be a good time for this.  I would be ready for this.  But I am just not able to figure out what.  I am not finding any other passions right now.  I don’t have dreams to long for.  No projects no visions of something grand and yet possible.

I just am not able to see myself doing something else that is meaningful to me then taking care of my loved ones until they don’t need me anymore.  But then what?  I will just have pushed the problem to a later part of my life when it will be harder to start anew.

I feel it is impossible to really reconcile a career and a family.  And deciding between the 2 is downright impossible.

I’d love to hear your stories.  Did you quit your career to do something else?  Did you have to make a bold move about your job?  And most of all, are you happy with your choice?  How did you make it happen?

I would love to hear you out.  And turn this rather negative post into a positive one!


Career or family – an impossible decision

17 thoughts on “Career or family – an impossible decision

  1. Agathe says:

    Hi Neptune!
    I was longing to hear from you, and this post makes me Sooo sad!!
    You know, I am a French working mum, working as a consultant. Working a lot in a big consulting firm. My daughter will turn 3 in december and I am expecting a boy for february.
    I am also a Montessori passionate, really keen on giving the best to my daughter and her “to come” brother. So, I sometimes feel that I should work less, or differently, and surely I will, because I am quite exhausted with trying to do it all with the same level of excitement and ambition…
    But one thing is sure : I’ll never quit working. My mother was a really smart and brilliant young woman, but raised to get married and raise children, and she never really worked or had a career. It is a big waste because she is SO smart and could have developped so many other faculties had she been working…
    And now that her three daughters are happy, married daughters, I can tell you that she sometimes feels really lonely and useless. I know she is not, she helps me a lot with my daughter and she is still a wonderful mum for me. I love her…. But when in the family we all have conversations about politics or economy or the world we live in, she’s the one who gets up and does the dishes, because she doesn’t feel comfortable with debating or with “smart talking”. Not that she doesn’t have anything to say, she has a great power of analysis… But she doesn’t feel legitimate or something. She feels not really in the society….
    It was quite hard for me to start working, because I didn’t have a model. My house could not be as clean as my mum’s house. So many thing couldn’t be as perfect as what my mum had done…. But then you get organized, you put some boundaries, and things happen to be quite fine too… But husband’s mum was a working mum, and he has always told me that it never was a problem because “when she was with us, she was 100% with us, and it was great”.
    Yes, it is sometimes exhausting, but then it is also important to show to your children that a woman is a loving mum, but also a woman, with her own life, and that they can get the same freedom when they get older. They can get to choose what they want…..
    Also, I think that it is important in our society to give more room to fathers in educational aspects. I would love boys to be able to stop working if they want to, and girls to be able to have a career if they want to….

    As regards the question you ask in your post, I would maybe say that the problem is maybe not “do you want to work or not?” but rather “is the job you’re doing the right job for you?”. I don’t know what your job is, but maybe a change would help you feel more comfortable, or find a better balance between work and family.
    At last, it is what I feel for me… I know I love my job but I’ll soon need to change, because I want another balance….

    Anyways, I send you all my love and “encouragements” from France. You are such a smart person, you helped me (and surely so many others) so much in my learning to be a mum, that I’m sure you’ll find the answers that you need…
    I hope to hear from you soon, but maybe you need also a break from blogging, it must be quite time consuming to write such good posts! 🙂

  2. Jacqueline says:

    I think I’m in a similar position to you. I would love to stay home and home-school my three-year-old daughter as she grows up. I work in IT, so I don’t feel that I could stay out of the workforce for long and come back to a similar position. I do (mostly) enjoy the work, though I do think of career changing, too. But I’m not sure what else I’d want to do!

    I am lucky enough to be working three days a week so I am not too unhappy about my work-life balance. My daughter is, alas, not in Montessori care, which I would much prefer.

    It is very refreshing to see you discuss your dilemma between career and family – thank you. So many of the (very inspirational) bloggers I read are stay-at-home mothers, and it’s sometimes hard not to feel a pang of envy or inadequateness. Then there’s the guilt at the choice I’ve made to try to combine career and family; and then feeling I’m not doing all that well at either!

  3. I am a mother of three, three and under, so take my advice with the warning that I am a novice! I studied at top music conservatories but when my first baby came along I just couldn’t do both. I couldn’t be the performer I wanted to be and I couldn’t be the mom I wanted to be. I chose to throw myself into motherhood. I had no license to loose like you do, but it will take a few months at least of renewed dedication to get back into playing, and probably more than that to re-build my connections, but I don’t regret the decision. Home life is harder, but it’s also more fulfilling.

    I was never the type that only ever wanted to get married and have kids. I threw myself into my work whatever it was, so dedicating myself to my role as mother at this stage feels perfectly natural to me. Yet I am still my own person and I’ve found I MUST develop myself at the same time as being a mother or my soul DIES. If I let myself be defined solely by the role of mom, as much as that entails, then there is the danger of “loosing myself” so much that once the kids are gone I am empty.

    But we don’t have to have a traditional career in order to keep learning and growing. In fact, just as sometimes the best learning occurs outside of school, sometimes the best growth occurs outside of a career.

    I am not saying that having a career is bad, I’m just saying it is not the only way to learn, to grow, and to make meaningful contributions.

    This relates to what Lori Pickard, author of Project-Based Homeschooling emphasizes again and again: The best way to raise active, engaged learners is to be an active, engaged learner. We need to be the kind of person we want our kids to grow to be.

    You’ve done such marvelous things for your children and inspired so many mothers, it’s sad to see you don’t give yourself the same opportunities for self-direction you so prize for your children. If you feel trapped by your career, then how will being securely trapped be any better? Being an independent learner and doer is scary, but isn’t being trapped even scarier?

    So never stop learning. Never stop working, but stop your career? Sure, if you want to!

    If you want encouragement to “recycle yourself into something new”, check out the series on Project-Based Homeschooling for grownups here . You say you don’t have a passion in the same post where you say you are passionate! Instead of suppressing your passions, listen to them and grow them beyond the walls of your home. You already have a beautiful blog with faithful readers, you could do more with blogging, just as one possibility.

    Like I said, I’m still at the stage with my kids where them not needing me seems impossibly far off, so maybe I shouldn’t speak out yet, but I’m not worried about the future because I am where I want to be and there is nothing more rewarding than being with my kids as they learn and grow. For now, my family needs my creative energy, and the best thing is, they appreciate it more than anybody else ever could, including on the job.

    When I’m feeling insecure about my decisions, it helps to examine the vocabulary being used. Does one have a “career”, or is one a “wage slave?” Am I a “stay-at-home mom” or (my preferred turn of phrase) “independently wealthy” because I get to stay home with my children? Don’t let manipulative vocabulary fool you into pursuing something that doesn’t fit you.

    Let it also be clear that my choices and passions are mine. They are no judgment on the choices and passions of others.

    May you have strength and grace as you search for the right path for you!

  4. Louise says:

    Your post comes at the very day I was asking myself the same questions. I am also looking to redirect my career and for some additional qualifications I can do while still at home with my kids. But it’s hard to know what to choose, and what to go towards, without being at work or really knowing what the other options are. I’m hoping to do some job shadowing with some friends of friends in the coming months.

  5. May OH says:

    I can sympathize with you. I, too am passionate about homeschooling and Montessori but my hubby prefers that my daughter who is 4yo should go to school so she’s in school now. After maternity leave, I switched to casual job (2-3 days/year) just to keep my license. But now, I work 4 days a month (on the weekend) so I am still with my daughter most of the time. Why, she still wants to do (school/ Montessori method) before going to bed of if she wakes up early. What I am saying is that, I like what I do but I do it minimally and will probably work it up once she is truly more independent. I may not be where I would like to be financially but the reward I get for staying with my girl is so fulfilling and wouldn’t exchange it for the world.

  6. Karolina says:


    I have made the switch of careers more than once. I also spent most of last year in the hospital and almost died. I missed out on many of my second son`s milestones such as his first steps and first words. That being said, I know how you feel. I am a teacher and my work is more of a vocation to me more than a career. I am thinking of perhaps starting a home daycare and learning more about montessori perhaps finishing my PhD. I say you should take what you are passionate about right now and make that your career.

    good luck


  7. Hi, I can imagine your feelings now. I’m away from work to raise my kids. (3yo and 6 months) I’m feeling happy i can stop working and take care of them.
    In another way, i’m missing to have a time on my own. I’m not very organize with the kids and sometimes feels the work could be a way to breath.

    But, what i’m sure, is that i want to have a job in harmony with my new life (my family). I’m wondering what kind of job could give me that kind of satisfaction… And it’s really blurred. Sometimes it’s a vertigo.

    But i prefer see this as a new opportunity to know me better !
    Good luck for you. Change is hard but reward full.

  8. Ange says:

    If you died tomorrow would you be so glad that you stayed working? Or would you wish you had spent more time with your children? The future will take care of itself. You may not even be here to worry about it. But you do have today. Spend it on those things that matter most to you. (if you have the privilege of choice) Don’t let the fear of tomorrow steal from the joy you can have today. Thank you for your honesty and openness. The world is so much better with real people.

  9. Dear Neptune,

    It has been a long time since I last commented on your blog. Your last article did particularly ring a bell.
    I have not sacrificed my career as such since I did not have one to start with. But I did move to a different country after getting married, did not carry on my studies, did not look for a job thinking I wanted to improve my skills in the language first. Then I got two children. They are now almost 2,5 and 1 yo and I have decided that in the New Year I will start some Online learning project, slowly, surely, just to get back into the learning process. Then in Autumn next year, my oldest is starting Kindergarten, I will probably try to get even more studying done.
    I have made the choice with my husband to stay home as long as the children are really small. We can afford it. And even when I give my children in some other people’s care, I will not want to work full-time if we don’t need the money. I want to be there for them.
    I might have felt differently though if I had had a career to start with. For me the choice was probably easier in that respect!

    I still have my dream of becoming a University teacher but hey… let’s see what the future brings 😉 I am quite happy at home, just feeling that I need a little more for my brain now… I love my children, but I want to read other things than kiddies books ^^ – I love my children, but I miss adult intelligent conversation.

    I know I am not really giving you any answer, any solution, but well…

    May I ask you what you are doing as a career? You mention that you can lose your licence if you are not active… I think I remember it has to do with teaching. Am I write or am I mixing you up with somebody else?


  10. Dawn says:

    Thank you for your blog. Your ideas have frequently inspired me.

    Lots of interesting comments…a few things I wanted to say:

    What do your children want (for their schooling)? Are they transitioning or struggling with the new learning method? Are they content? Or is it too early to tell?

    Once you are finished raising your children you are not used up, left to float aimlessly and without purpose through the rest of your working life. Life is full of opportunities to learn and become something new. Be confident in seem like a very smart and capable woman, certainly capable of finding your next calling in life once your children are independent. Be patient, you may not know now what you want to do in the future, but I’m sure when the future arrives, you will be able to figuring it out.

    I too left my work to raise my child. I was studying for my masters in engineering. When my son was 6 months old I went back two days a week. I think I lasted for two months and then quit permanently. I gave up a scholarship in doing so, and any chance of future funding for further education. I knew that it just wasn’t right for me any more. My world changed when I had my son. Life became about him, and giving him the best I possibly could. It has taken me a long time to fall into the roll of “mom” though, because it is not really something that come naturally to me. You, on the other hand, seem to be quite gifted at it.

    X dawn

  11. mutti says:


    Greetings from Germany. I’ ve got a 26 months old girl and stayed at home for just one year. She’s ging to a montessori inspired daycare. I spend a lot of time in searching the best daycare for her. So don’t have to be worried leaving her alone there for 7 hours a day. I’ve had the chance to continue working in a qualified position. Being mum is usually not easy in my job. But i need talking to adults, working on projects and not only playing lego. I need both. Im much more relaxed after my 4-5 working hours. Sometimes it’s like a little holiday, a trip to “adult-country” without nononono,changing clothes 4 times a day etc. And she needs her “friends” . Being with children makes her happy, makes learning easier (other children as role models, so we don’t have to discuss e.g. how to eat with fork and spoon). It’s the best way for both.
    And there is also another reason: she is a girl, growing up to a young woman with dreams – a career and herhaps a little baby. So I try my best to make it easier for her in future. I struggle for better workinf conditions and against men in companies who have prejudices against pregnant women and mums at work.

  12. snuck says:

    I am the mother of a one year old (tomorrow!) and a three year old (in a month) and have dabbled in Montessori with them both (and will continue to do so). It suited my son’s personality, but it also suited me – I was raised in the rather hippy Fremantle (Western Australia) and went through an alternative schooling model for a while.

    In my adult life, before marrying a farmer and moving to a fairly remote rural town and giving up my career, I was a project manager and contract manager in large scale corporations – working in the IT and electrical engineering spaces, primarly in efficiency and business improvement modelling. So quitting that and moving to the country was a drastic change, and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to return to those roles as I’ve been out now about four years and it’s going to be quite a few more before I would consider going back.

    It’s been hard to balance the loss of identity (I *was* a project manager) with the building of a new one (I *am* a farmer’s wife) – so much of how I self identified, the easy answers to new acquaintances, the sense of immediate value that could be attributed to ‘important roles like Project Manager’ disappeared, suddenly I was someone that people expected to know how to bake (I’m a coeliac – I don’t bake with wheat) and who apparently sat around at home all day (doesn’t work that way – women work on farms these days). I also had to build this new identity in a new town without any of my own supports. AND I had a new family. Ouch.

    The thing I’ve started to come to realise is that life is what I want it to be. It’s up to me to work out what I want and then to hunt it down, and no one else is going to do this for me. Do I want to go back to a corporate career? (I don’t think I want that sort of job again) Would I be happy doing something different in a similar space? (Probably not) Is there a middle ground (probably not for me)? Where does this leave me? A farmer’s wife. What sort of farmer’s wife do I want to be? Well there’s lots of types – there’s the CWA scone baker for sure, there’s the part time sheep rustler… but there’s also incredibly educated women in agri business, there’s many who run small home based businesses, there’s many who go back to uni and change their lives.

    I just need to take the time to decide what I want to do, and fit it in around my other priority – the one I want to keep as the first priority – my children, and our short span of time at home together. Shall I homeschool? Well that’s a conversation I’m mentally working through too.

  13. becky says:

    I’ve changed careers a couple.of times. Still paying off the related education debt. The most solid callings come in the quiet times. It’s difficult to switch directions when you’re caught up with trying to secure a path in one direction. Having the heart and mind going two different directions is hard on the soul. And it does favors for neither. You don’t have to analyze it, things and opportunities will become clear. Do what you want above everything else and grow compassion for that inner voice. Losing your license may seem like the scariest waste, but the door it opens might be so freeing. I’ve seen my way through the demons and can tell you: It has provided a strength of will that Montessori would be proud of.

  14. Hi! Thank you for your honesty. I can relate with what you say, although I’ve been working since the same day I gave birth, and then two months after. Finding balance is difficult, but it is worth it. It helps me to keep in mind that by going to work – and enjoying it – I teach my daughter about independence, commitment, endurance, self- realization and balance. My advice: get her involved! It’s all a game, except for the bond between you.

  15. Dear Neptune,
    a read your post a year ago, left me shocked as all the others, I am sure.

    To me, finding passion in the way we live our everyday lifes is sooo difficult. So, when you finally find it, to me, it is a gift. And coming from reading your posts that were one of few things that got a passion to my early motherhood life, you are the one who has found it.

    Why to give it away?

    Why, after giving it all to you kids and family, not to turn it into a full time job? To do consultations, run blog, have your own montessori club, whatever. Is this not considered to be a job?

    I really would like to know, how you are doing these days. If you can drop some lines.

    May be more about me. After suffering a major anxiety attack during my hated masters studies, I decided to quit and never do anything I do not believe in. I am still in a process of looking for it, thought getting very close, not making almost any money and fighting with my husband over this issue. But I felt at that time like dying. It was not me. At this time, I sell Usborne books, teach English and I am in a process of Play therapy training. At the same time, trying to be here for my 4 and 6 years old kids. You know what? I might be dead by the age my kids become adults and independent, all worries about being out of use and without career might turn to be useless then…

    There is no security in a future, I feel, like we need to enjoy NOW.



  16. Jflick says:

    I grew up never feeling part of my family. Always excluded. What i wanted the most in my life was a family if my own. I was in the NAVY wgen i fell in love. I had a long term career there but i gave it up to be abke to be with my soulmate and have a family.
    We finally get married. He is a writer, I teach Spanish. We wanted to see the world, we felt depressed not being able to do it, but we would have to quit our jobs. We did it anyway. We sold everything, put some in storage. And away we went with our 5month old little girl, to live and explore. We have lived in 3 countries in 2 years, visited many others. We made friends, learned and struggled, too but we did it, we lived our dream if only fir a couple of years…Now we both feel like we accomplished our adventure goal, we are now returning to the US with a new adventure, we are now business owners and I will be back to work when my daughter is in school but i dont feel like Im missing out on anything anymore, i feel that im in the pisition to be a mom first, then keep learning and helping second.

    I hope you find the light that lets you think clear on what you want.
    Thank you for your post.

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