The year I got pregnant was the lowest-income year I ever had as a professional. Lower even than the year I got let go from my first post-college job, started collecting unemployment checks, and handed out samples at Dunkin' Donuts and Acme for extra cash.
The following year—the year Emily was born—was my highest-income year ever. Look at that, I thought to myself. I just had to wait until I was 35 and pregnant to finally get my shit together.
And things have only gotten better since.
A recent piece in the Washington Post reveals that, counterintuitively, some women make more after becoming mothers. And this despite the challenges of juggling work and motherhood, trying to find affordable childcare and going off the deep end. "Honestly, we're still trying to figure it out," says Jane Waldfogel, one of the Columbia University researchers who discovered this trend.
For me, my boost in income post-pregnancy comes from a mix of factors, chief among them luck and fabulous timing. In the year of Barely Any Income, I was floundering, uncertain what I was working toward, making most of my money by teaching yoga, managing Twitter for a longtime client, and writing the occasional blog post.
Of course, the most lucrative of these was the one where I got to futz about on social media.
Then, in the fall of 2013, as I was bemoaning the dismal state of my freelance career and considering the possibility of becoming a full-time housewife, my social media client passed my name along to an organization looking for a new writer and editor. Tasked with leading an editorial committee, managing a transition to online-only content, and creating a brave new world that was sure to piss off 99 percent of their members, I had a feeling I might be getting in over my head. I said yes anyway. A permalance gig I could do from home that involved decent money and respect from people who valued what I did was like the holy grail of freelancing.
A month later, I found out I was pregnant.
I immediately informed my new client. And to be honest, I was scared as hell that my attempts to juggle motherhood with this intimidating new job were going to lead to a spectacular crash and burn. But with their blessing, I decided against backing away. Rather, I decided to go all in and make it work.
Knowing what my time is worth and being able to say no to those things that don't meet my requirements leaves room for higher-paying and more fulfilling work.
So beyond the luck and the good timing of this new opportunity, how has motherhood itself boosted my earnings?
It's forced me to become more efficient. First there was nursing and cluster feeding and pumping. Then there was crawling and the eating of carpet fibers and cat food. Now she's cruising. With each stage of Em's life, I've found new challenges to getting my work done. At least she still takes two naps a day. When that happens? I conduct phone interviews and flip pitches and write like the wind.
It's forced me to trim the fat. When Em was born, I immediately decided she was the only thing that mattered. After two months, however, I was relieved to get back to my writing and my editing and my yoga. But not everything that was a part of my life pre-motherhood has made the cut. The limits on my time have made me really question what's important. So I no longer take four to six yoga classes a week or watch TV every night or go to Toastmasters. Cutting these things out of my life has given me more time for both work and motherhood, while still leaving time for the other things that nourish me.
It's forced me to get better at saying no. And not just to party invitations. I've scaled back on the number of yoga classes I teach each week and am also more discerning about the new projects I take on. Knowing what my time is worth and being able to say no to those things that don't meet my requirements leaves room for higher-paying and more fulfilling work.
It's opened up a whole new niche for my writing. This is the part where I admit to totally exploiting my child for the sake of my writing. Which you already knew anyway, because you read my stuff here at mom.me. Seriously, though. My daughter is my muse. I like to write about the things that loom largest in my life, and nothing beats out motherhood.