I remember handed my credit card over for the flight upgrade back from SXSW in 2014. Work had paid for my flight but I didn’t even bat an eyelid at the extra £300 it was going to cost me to upgrade my seat. As far as I was concerned, my comfort and ability to stretch my legs out was more important than anything else at that moment in time as I had worked long hours in around of attending the conference. I was exhausted.

Of course, that was when I didn’t have kids.

And I had a job.

Fast forward four years later to today and I am sat here writing as a self-employed person with a limited amount of funds to help my new business. That £300 could help cover the food bill for the family for the month. The baby has started to eat food too (rather than just drink milk) which has meant I’m paying for the bread sticks that now lay mushed into the carpet as well as her formula.

I do the weekly shop with the eye of a coupon queen. I look out for two-for-ones and offers. I make my own coffee at home and never buy out anymore. I took my family camping at the weekend because we can’t afford to get a passport for the baby or buy flights to go overseas (maybe the real truth is that we don’t want to wrangle two kids for a hot week in the sun…)

So what happened?

My path to today’s reduction in funds has been one shaped by having children. I had a baby and wanted to move house closer to family. Then needed to pay for childcare. Then wanted to be near her nursery in the day in case anything happened and I wasn’t two hours away on train. Then got pregnant again. Then wanting to ensure I was around more for two kids, not doing a 60 hour work week.

Within the space of three years I have managed to half my salary by:

  • Quitting my high-flying senior management job in London.
  • Taking a lesser-paid job in Brighton outside of my profession because I didn’t want to commute to London anymore.
  • Realising after a year that I didn’t want the job I had taken.
  • Taking another job with an even bigger pay-cut but it was in my profession in the hope that I could rebuild my reputation.
  • Realising after a year that I didn’t want the job I had taken.
  • Deciding to set-up my own business.

I’m not sure if you can see the pattern above, but:

I’ve quit three jobs in three years.

I imagine I won’t get much sympathy. I had some well paid senior jobs. A lot of mothers don’t after they have have a baby and go back to work. I went back to work 9 months after my first daughter was born and 11 weeks after my second daughter was born.

My decision to leave any of these jobs was always about my kids. I remember the lightbulb moment that made me leave each time:

I don’t see my kid enough.

I’m pregnant and don’t see my kid enough.

I don’t see my kids enough.

I would be working full time (and more) to see my very small kids 1–2 hours a day. They were also the most fraught hours: getting ready to get up and go out or going to bed. I would give away nearly half my pay-check for this so-called “privilege”.

“Having it all”.

I wanted to be a great role model for my daughters and pursue my career in digital marketing but at what cost? I couldn’t get the high paying job where I lived or childcare near the high paying jobs in London. I couldn’t afford to live in London anymore either. I also wanted to see my kids more and felt bitter about paying a lot of money (I didn’t have) for other people to look after them. It was a bit of newsflash as I always thought career first until I had them but as I’m sure any parent out there knows — an awful lot of your values change when kids come along.

I didn’t want to take on jobs with longer hours either. I’ve kept trying to find a local role where working on a client project doesn’t dictate long hours and deadlines. I didn’t want to do that and raise two small children. It’s exhausting. Something has to give and it’s usually my energy and enthusiasm.

I have spent evenings alternating between feeding crying babies and refining pitch docs or uploading web content. The job would get done but I would be too tired to enjoy spending time with my family or depressed due to lack of sleep. I would look at myself in the mirror and see a tired, lifeless woman who would be no role model for her daughters in that state.

The next phase.

I have spent the past 6 weeks planning my own business with the support of my husband. For the first time he’s able to support me fully to pursue my passion to help others. He also gets more time to invest in making his own business (which I am part-director) a success. It’s an arrangement that means we get to see more of each other and our girls. It’s certainly out of my comfort zone as someone who is used to the safety net of being employed but it’s also meant that I have been able to structure my working hours around being a parent.

This doesn’t mean those hours have reduced. Oh no.

I work harder than ever before.

I look after a 3 and half year old and an 8 month old baby in the week when they’re not in childcare or with family. They go to nursery in the week but with what fits with our budget. I have to entertain, feed, play, clean, dry-the-tears, sooth, laugh with and love two very time intensive humans. They both wake up in the night. they both wake up too early in the morning.

After dinner, bath time and bedtime, I sneak back to my Mac and continue writing until the wee hours. My workload has increased so much more since I was working. I get physical. I may have been sat at desk for hour and hours to get a website live for a deadline before but now I’m on the floor playing horsey and picking up bits of carrot off the rug. When they head off to nursery or to their grandma’s I have a short amount of time to write posts like this and that time is golden.

It’s my time.

So had you asked me all those years ago — “would you give up your money and increase your workload” I of course would have said no. However I am grateful that in doing so :

I get to choose my hours and set my own agenda.

I get to plan and run a new business doing work I love (writing and helping people become empowered to create their own digital marketing strategies).

I get to see my kids when I want to. Finally.