Leaving Full-Time Work: Reflecting on my One-Year Anniversary


working momSeptember marks one year since I gave up full-time work outside the home. I no longer have benefits, a staff, or a record of 19 years of professional full-time employment without a break. Dropping out was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. Getting pregnant for the first time at age 39 was probably only slightly more terrifying.

But I was tired of being tired and having zero energy for anything but work.

I needed flexibility, email-free evenings, and guaranteed weekends off to care for my 11-month-old son, Everett. At the time, he was getting physical therapy and speech services weekly. We were also traveling two hours round-trip each month to get his head measured for the helmet he wore to improve the shape of his head.

  • I was worried when I wasn’t able to physically be at the office.
  • I jumped every time my phone buzzed, signaling yet another email to answer.
  • Every time I heard Everett sniffle, it made me fear I’d have to take a sick day to stay home with him and jeopardize a deadline.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that working moms with young children often come to this crossroads: mothers with younger children are less likely to be in the labor force than mothers with older children. In 2015, the labor force participation rate of mothers with children under six-years-old was lower than the rate of those whose youngest child was six to 17 years old (64.2 percent versus 74.4 percent). The participation rate of mothers with infants under a year old was 58.1 percent.

It took me months of agonizing before I handed in my resignation letter.  

A father of three, my boss simply remarked, “Krysten, my wife was a vice president. When our third son arrived, she had to make the same hard decision. I understand.” I talked to friends, family, acquaintances, and random moms in Facebook groups to get as many opinions as possible. They all told me I wouldn’t regret having more time with my son; time is worth more than money. I decided to believe them. I was terrified of slashing our family income, stalling my marketing career, creating distance with my friends, and losing my identity completely. To a degree, all of these things happened.

I gave myself a year to accomplish a bunch of goals. 

  • Lose the baby weight, preferably 30 pounds.
  • Learn how to build a website from scratch.
  • Volunteer regularly in the community.
  • Cook decent dinners for my family each night.
  • Join a bunch of mother-baby groups.
  • Pick up freelance writing assignments.

busy-working-mom-clipart-1I had a lot of stops and starts this year. But the reality is that most of my original goals did not get accomplished.

After about two months of unemployment, I started searching for part-time jobs. I did a short stint of data entry work before settling into a part-time job in January. I am just now starting to pick up contract work in addition to this job so we can avoid drawing money from our savings account, and I can still pursue my passion for writing. Do I have more balance? In a way yes, and in a way no. My son is still in full-time daycare. I am still chubby. We attend mom-baby groups when we can. Most of all, I am still trying to discover who I am at 42 with an almost two-year-old. Am I happier? I guess it’s a relative question, and one I’ll need another year to answer honestly.

Here are some tips to help you make the transition from full-time work to full- or part-time mom:

  • Don’t ditch daycare right away. Seriously. I was not cut out for staying at home with my son for up to 12 hours each day, alone. Until you know you are able to do it, don’t give up child care.
  • Make sure you have a padded savings account. It’s amazing how much money goes out, even when you think you are being frugal. Make sure you have at least six months’ worth of backup income.
  • Keep some irons in the fire. Before you quit your job, make sure your professional contacts know where you will be and how they can get in touch with you. You never know when you might be itching to jump back into the workforce.
  • Set your house up for success. If you are going to mostly care for a small child at home, baby-proof your house BEFORE you are home with him or her. Invest in gates and cabinet locks; you might even rearrange entire rooms so that your child has a few safe places to play.
  • Be emotionally ready to make the break, and don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t base your decisions on someone else’s script. No one else lives your life–only you do.
  • Realize that no situation is ever set in stone. We are not trees; we can move if we don’t like where we are standing. Yes, you may risk getting the same high salary you once earned if you drop out of the rat race for a bit. But you might discover a whole new career path, too. Or, you might decide that you are exactly where you are needed right now: at home taking care of your family.
  • Open yourself up to a “new normal.” Things today are never exactly the same as they were yesterday. The only constant in life is change: go with it and don’t look back.

Let me know if you’ve made the leap and how you are coping. I want to hear honest input from other moms.


  1. Krysten – Thank you so much for this post. It is not something I could possibly do with my twin boys in our given situation, but, it is certainly something I have considered or really, daydreamed about. In my case I am able to balance full-time work because of having the right flexibility in various the positions I have had where I can work from home when one of them is sick or know that my husband could just as easily if I couldn’t. I realize it is not the case for all and so, I am very grateful. I think there is a lot to be said for the pressure you talk about that we put on ourselves if we make an adjustment such as this. Thinking we need to lose the weight, volunteer more, gain new experiences, etc. It has been a long, slow road but I have been realizing I cannot do that to myself. My boys are my reminder to soak in all the moments, good and bad, especially those moments when we are together on weekends and vacations since I do have to work full-time. So much more reflection from your post going on in my head. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Nicole. It’s great that you have the flexibility you need. I was fortunate that my former employer was very flexible, but I still felt like I had to be there to lead my team – virtually or otherwise — and I felt torn when I had to put the baby down to answer an email or hop on a call.
    And I do agree that our generation (my generation is Generation X) was bred to achieve. Many of us are first-generation college graduates who wanted to do our housewife-mothers proud by earning the same income as our husbands. Kudos to you for balancing it all – with twins!

  3. Krysten, this post speaks to me right now on so many levels. I left a full-time job behind about 1.5 years ago and have loved every minute of the new freedoms I have. It’s not that I have free time, I never do. Working part-time, starting my own business, and two kids doesn’t leave much. I have enjoyed the freedom of not being tied to a 50 hour/week job where I am expected to answer emails at night and be on call. I also have enjoyed the freedom of having my kids home with me all summer. Nearly impossible to work from home with them here, but so glad to have them with me while they are little. I too thought I would do so much more and have so much more free time! I am not financially free however so it has come full circle that I may have to choose full-time work again. It’s a constant struggle in my head to figure out what is the next right move for me and the family. I like the reminder that nothing is set in stone, I need that right now. Excellent post!

    • Diana, it’s such a tough balance to strike when the reality is that it takes two full-time incomes to pay for a mortgage, cars, childcare, and food–never mind saving for retirement and a child’s college education. This afternoon, one of my colleagues brought in his 10-week-old daughter. It made me sad to not even remember what Everett felt like at 10 weeks. His first year was such a blur because I was more focused on work than I was on him. What I wouldn’t give for some of that time back! Here’s to hoping we have high-income potential when we do decide to return to the full-time trenches!

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