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Choose your own adventure

Let's suppose...

  • In five and a half years, you are going to change careers.
  • You may use the next five and a half years to seek education or training in support of your chosen new career. You live in an area where education or training is available for pretty much anything you could want to do. However, you are required to continue meeting all the commitments of your current full-time life for the next five and a half years. A graduate degree would be possible, running off to med school would not.
  • The money you make will be helpful to your family but is not necessary to pay the bills. Salary is therefore a relevant concern, but not a critical one.
  • You are not willing to work an 80 hour week. You may not even be willing to work a 40 hour week, at least for the first few years, but that bit is negotiable. You are not willing to move or travel extensively.
  • You will be pushing 40, the owner of a small collection of young children, and likely lacking in any relevant work experience.
  • You may have just a bit of trouble with authority. You can deal with it, you just don't tend to like it. Mostly this means that you make a really terrible secretary.

Given that those are your only limitations, what would you do?

Comments (75)

Massage Therapist. No, really. Irrational dislike of feet and all.

Learn one of the following crafts/trades:

Party Planner
Professional Crafter

I vote for photography as well.

That's exactly what I'm trying to figure out. I finally signed up for a career & life planning class, because I'm turning 30 next week and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up (besides what I already am, I guess).

I'll let you know if I get anything other than motivational speaking nonsense out of it.

Fundraiser/Development/Advancement professional. You can start learning the ropes as a "professional volunteer" in an organization that is close to your heart. There are some minor classes you can take, but hands-on experience abounds - as do great books.

It's fun, you can make a difference, not necessarily work full time and make decent money. And depending on the organization, may get to be pretty independent thus the no authority thing. (But I'd recommend taking a gig that has some "mentoring" available for the first time then branching out for the second job.)

If you're interested, email me and I'll point you to some sites/opportunities.

Or? you can have my job. Effective June 30th.

lets not forget you have to be home by 3pm, have sick days, snow days, teacher workdays, spring break, Christmas break, and summers off...welcome to my world, except I have 521 days left. Ive counted.

Photography.....I feel as if I am in the boat with ya. Although I only have about a year and half left before my last one will start school, so I take on small jobs for now. I always roll my profit in to more equipment and I am building a portfolio as I go. This way when I am ready and my schedule allows I can say go and be ready.

The role of professor is one that has always seemed interesting. Hours are good, stimulation is great, opportunities are plentiful and you're respected (for the most part). If you get your masters in Marketing or Business Education I suspect there will be a large demand for professors teaching Internet Marketing principles and project management.

Given the last four points of consideration, I would use this time to maybe research a home based business with a flexible schedule. Perhaps take a few accounting and business courses if necessary. Perhaps even check out becoming a licensed real estate broker.

I think given the parameters I would try to do either some consulting or my own small business. With your experience you could do some photography work. It's an easy job to enter especially with the time you have you can get some photography certification and take some classes.

I would stay away from Web Design unless you are going to go into it full on and do WAY more than just design.

I would start looking at market trends now and see what businesses are going to be good. Real estate is good for part time. Easy certification. I know teachers who do that in the summer as summer jobs.

I think that since the money is just pocket change, then working for non-profits is good as well.


I would go back for my MBA, take that business degree, and turn my little side biz that I have going on now into something storefront. And sustainable.

Web developer. Either frontend design and nav stuff or backend programming stuff. (Or both, if possible.) I can give you a list of recommended courses, should you choose to accept it.

Something general - business, technical writer, acquisitions, contracting. Then work short term defense contracts. They pay WELL but won't offer things like insurance, which you won't need because of Chris. Need a break? Don't take the next contract. I was offerered one of these at a rate of 75K/year but it was only a 3-month contract as a tech writer. So I'd make whatever the hourly rate is when you make 75K. I'm a tech writer full time, but there are tons of part time (some even work from home) writing/editing jobs. Especially in the DC area with all the military bases and corporations full of people with no writing ability whatsoever (I'm in Stafford/Fredericksburg).

I'm quietly considering the options with the same checklist, except for point 3 and most of point 5 (no kids, but the rest is pretty similar). Best to start thinking of this now rather than smacking myself in the head five years from now, thinking, "I could have been prepping for this."

I agree with others - a small business owner. You could go to school for business classes that would help you with this. If you want to be your own person that is the way to go. Though this can costly if it does not succeed.

If you like it or think you can handle it (meaning the teeth, blood, shots, etc...) there is money and flexibility in Nursing, Dental Assisting/Hygienist, or being a Physician Assistant.

While it is mean less money depending on what you choose to do with it but writing is an option.

I have this quote on my computer at work that says "Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what this world needs are people who have come alive." (Howard Thurman)

Personally, knowing that I will eventually be in a somewhat similar situation someday, I'm already thinking about nursing school. I know it's an odd choice for me as a writer, but if I want to get out of the house when kids are in school, that's where I'd like to be.

My sister is, at 42, heading back to school to be an ultrasound tech for the very reasons you outlined. And she's a *lawyer*, but all the jobs she's getting offered are for full-time law, which is not very friendly to a family. U/S techs are in demand, make decent salaries and can swing part-time careers pretty easily.

If you're thinking about a career in healthcare (not that you are, but I am), I'd steer away from a physician's assistant. I have three friends who are PAs, and though the salary is awesome, they have less flexibility than most physicians and work like dogs.

The creepy thing? I kinda wrote the same post today, except I have a year or so. So, yeah, I'm no help.

I've been thinking about this a lot too and I am leaning towards a masters in psych (we have a great PhD program here too that might be better although it seems terribly intimidating). From there I can do either clinical or counseling work and set my own hours. That's my plan ... or I've been offered a job as an office manager for a rum distillery ... it's a tough choice, really.

Good for you for (hypothetically) thinking ahead. I like the idea of you starting a business. Would make good use of your lead time. And you'd be your own boss lady.

Sounds like this person would be in the position to really follow her heart. What a wonderful position to be in! I'd pick something sustainable until retirement, and something with a flexible schedule. That may or may not involve school. Or if it does involve school, maybe not a traditional degree.

I will say, one of the greatest things about my wife's job as a teacher is that her hours and vacations match our kid's hours and school vacations. Substitute teacher (only requires 60 hours of any college credit)? Elementary school teacher (full degree required)? Tutor? School staff such as librarian/media specialist?

I personally would go to med school. But that's only because I totally rearranged my life to do so, because I am clearly out of my mind.

I would consider getting a graduate degree of some type, because returning to school has been, without a doubt one of the best (although one of the hardest) decisions that I have ever made. But as far as what you should seek such a degree in, well that I have no idea about...

I didn't read the other comments so I hope I am not repeating. Nursing. Totally.

#1. I did it in 2 years. You only need a diploma to qualify for the state licensing exam. After that, most hospitals will pay for you to get your bachelors or masters if you want to. The school I went to also had night/weekend programs that lasted 3 years.

#2. There will be a shortage. This equals high demand which equals competetive salaries.

#3. Best part - 8 hour, 4 hour or 12 hour shifts. Days, Evenings, nights. 40 hours, 36, 24 or as needed weekly. Working with mostly women who get family resposibility and work together to help each other out (except on Christmas. Ouch.)

#4. You don't like nursing homes? Work in a hospital. Don't like those? Have you tried ALL of the departments? OK. Work home care. Don't like that either? Doctors office, school, corporate offices, major league ball park, cruise ship, they ALL have nurses. Is it patient contact you don't care for? Nursing educators, managers, etc. You can move up or to the side.

#5. Don't worry about that authority thing. Sometimes doctors are very sweet and when they aren't, we talk about them behind their backs and give them cruel nicknames. Its fun!

Oh yeah, helping people and fulfillment, yadda yadda.

A teacher. For sure.

Realtor. Set your own hours, in charge of your own commission.

If you are creative and not scared of marketing, then perhaps photography, as others have said. If you are more business oriented, I would think about working for a non-profit or charity - fundraising coordinator, something like that, where you are involved with something alturistic, but you still get paid.

Or you can learn about computer software development and come work from home for my company, but that would be now, not later!

Therapist. Been working on it for years. Only now, I'm finally in a position of actually doing the coursework! Yippee. You can do agency stuff or do private practice, rehab, inpatient, outpatient, groups, kids, teens, parents, individuals, couples, marriage. The possibilities are endless.

That is, if you like to listen to people's problems.

I'd be a librarian! A really, really, ridiculously good-looking librarian!

I'd look to be running my own business so whatever I was doing was on my terms. No idea what though.

-Project Manager
-Consultant... for whatever it is you USED to do pre-babies.
-Wedding Planner

if you think of anything else - let me know, because I'm heading that route next.

Pammer mentioned fundraiser/development. That's what I do--if you work for a large institution the money isn't as bad as if you work for a little non profit. It's a good gig if you believe in the cause but you have to get over the fact that you ask for money for a living. Also, lots of women (at least where I am) so folks understand the family/career juggle.

My plan is to come up with my own career, a mix of my own small business, part time at the current gig and maybe some freelance writing on the side. We'll see, I'm trying to set the balls in motion now ;)

Since money isn't a top concern, I say teacher. A teacher certification or a masters program shouldn't be too strenuous. Plus you'll have the summers and all the federal holidays off with your children!

i'd get a masters in social work. and then i'd get a job as a CASA (court appointed child advocate). an MSW isn't needed to be a CASA, but it would definitely help when dealing with the court and the system.

oops. court appointed special advocate. sorry. i introduce myself as a child advocate all the time so i got things a little mixed up there. kind of sucky too because the acronym for a court appoitned child advocate isn't very pretty at all.

I would open a geriatric dude ranch given the graying of the population and my love of the outdoors. You couldn't jump on board though given your fear of horses.

Funny that this "hypothetical" situation has been running through my head a lot lately. I've been doing what I do (school psychologist) for 5 years, now. Well, 8 if you count the grad school. But, I'm fairly certain I don't want to continue to *just* be a school psych forever. And about all your conditions absolutely apply.

I love the idea of finishing up a doctorate - maybe a PsyD - since I've already got a masters+. But I hate the thought of working with managed care to get paid.

I'm also toying with getting my administrative certificate and shooting for a Director of Student Services type job. That'd be less than 2 years of extra schooling . . . but more hours and probably a year-long contract.

Or, hell - hubby gets his promotion and I may just make an entire career change and stay home. We'll see how the collection of young kids has progressed at that point . . . :-D

Considering what a reader you are, and lover of books, I recommend a masters degree in library and information studies. It's a highly versatile degree -- you can work reference at a university, manage virtual libraries in your pajamas, work with any age group in a public library setting, or work in a school library media center. There are unlimited options as far as part-time work and consulting. I obtained this degree twelve years ago and have done lots of different things while I stayed home with my kiddos (now 7 and 5). I now supervise library services for a large suburban school district and love it. I also teach as an adjunct professor at a state university. I love knowing that, if I want to do something different, there are so many options. Good luck!

I vote for something in healthcare. it will feel good and usually the types of jobs (aside from the MD) are pretty flexible. I am a therapist and love the ability to basically choose my hours... best of luck!

**?Snort*** sorry, I've got nothing better than the awesome suggestions already up there, but as a Professor, I must tell you that there is VERY little respect involved! There is a great deal of whining, complaining, apathy and sometimes downright hostility involved. Anyone who goes into teaching, at any level, expecting respect as a perk of the job is in for a disappointment. Also, there are different levels of "professoring," and there could be as much as 7-8 years of grad school involved to get there. I did a 5 year grad program and a 3 year post-doc, taught 7 years and was denied tenure (ouch), starting 2nd position now. Respect? Not so much.

Oh, plus? Opportunities plentiful? Not so much, also. Our department received over 120 applications for one position (in Psychology); departments in the Humanities routinely receive upwards of 800-900 applications for a single position. Requiring a move to Timbuktu, or where-ever.

Since money is not really an issue...

Do something you REALLY enjoy.

I'm finishing up my Fine Arts degree this August. It was the best thing I've ever done! I've grown a lot as a person and connected with my passion. The degree won't net me tons of cash but is pointing me towards a career that I'll look forward to everyday.

As a massage therapist, I vote no on that suggestion.
You won't make as much money as you think you might, you are dealing with way more than just massaging people (it's still customer service!) and it's not that flexible unless you enjoy working Friday through Sunday.

As a former person in social work, I vote no on that one, too. I took my job home with me every day for four years to the point of utter mental exhaustion.

What about web design? Consulting? I think the real estate suggestion was good also. Or what about working in a bank...?

I SO second Em's comments about nursing. My mom did that when we were little, going to night school, then was able to schedule around our school stuff when that became an issue.

And the most important feature? You could always work for the Hottie Pediatrician.

Consider working for a school or something along those lines where you have flexible hours. I have been a volunteer since my boy was in Kindergarten. It's led me down paths that I never expected, I've made volunteering to seem like a job in hours and commitment.

It led me to being asked to apply to be a classified substitute and I now work somewhat often.
You need the best of both worlds. Fulfillment, money and a flexible workload to be at home when you want/need to be.

You could be a temp. This would enable you to work whenever you want.

My plan is to go into the nursing field. The 6-week training one (CNA, I think), or the 2-year training (LPN) if I really think I'd be into it.

But while the kids are in elementary school, I think I'd work for the school so I can have the same days off.

Have you considered real estate? Given the area you live in, I would think that might be a good option. You can start up slowly, learning the biz, and working with an established agency. You should be able to set your hours to work with your children's schedules and Chris'. Then once you rock the socks off that business, you could start your own firm and make millions!

I'm a massage therapist, a trade school career. I've been Independently Contracted, allowing my the control I so desperately need.
I've been on my own, slow but building - my first choice.
I've recently been employed and have not been happy. I hated losing the control I had when I was just self employed. I'm working at getting back to that point.

I would either:

Get my MFA in Creative Writing

Get my PhD in Creative Writing

Get both

Start taking ceramics classes and see whether I like them

Take art history classes, so I could work at the Smithsonian someday

Go to law school. Or not.

No idea! :P Good luck!

I've got a law degree that I'm currently using to teach adjunct classes at a community college while staying at home (mostly) with my six month old. I love what I do, and I love being a professor, but seriously? Getting a MBA or JD to work for adjunct $ isn't the best option before you. I could totally see you loving a PhD program though--and a psychology, English, or other liberal masters/PhD is generally much cheaper.

Were I in your shoes, I'd get an MFA, but that may be my own regret talking too :)

Good luck!

Maybe you could find the US equivalent of this

I'm assuming you're really asking for yourself....

Pol x

free lance photographer
internet researcher
free lance writer

Wow, lots of good suggestions. I suggest getting a masters degree in Counseling or something in that area. You could be a school Guidance Counselor or get a job at a University-working in a school will give you the same days off as the kids. Universities are so flexible with family and scheduling. It's the best environment ever and I will never work anywhere else if I can help it.

If you want to stick to a business related field, there are lots of administrative positions at Universities as well- in Advancement, Finance, Human Resources, Alumni Relations, Career Services, Marketing.....but still the same academic environment. Plus most schools- you get free tuition for your family. My kid is going to college for free! He graduates next year with no student loans!

I would either start my own business creating scrapbooks for people or seriously take up photography. Or I would write and actually get paid for it... which I'm not sure I could do, but it would be fun to find out!

Author of Children's Books
Event Planner

The latter two could be achieved relatively easily through books or online courses. The first one can be done online or in a classroom setting. I would including photo software editing as part of the education.

I would get a teaching degree. The pay isn't that great, but if you teach in the same county as your kids, you get most of the same days off that they do...And summers off!!!

Good Luck!

All of this depends so much on your personality and your likes/dislikes. I am a former clinical social worker, now a librarian, and I love my job. But it's definitely not for everyone.

Funny, the first thing that popped into my mind for you was lactation consultant.

the little green monster in me is not able to give you an answer at this time.

Eh, the whole career thing might be overrated. Remember, someone has to sit home eating bon-bons and watching the soaps!

But good luck with whatever you decide!

phone sex operator.

no? well, it meets all of your requirements, i do believe. you could probably work just a couple hours a day from home and earn far more than the amount of your utility bill.

and? add a web cam and chris could likely quit his job.

what? you want it to be legit, something you can comfortably discuss with the other ballet mommies? ok, ok. i get are a gifted writer, beth. witty and entertaining with a generous sprinkling of humanity. and i'd venture to guess that its also something you love. and isn't that the most important thing? well, that and proper grammar?

I would either become a florist or a vet tech. I have always only wanted to be a mommy and never really had the desire to seek out much else. I finally think now that I want to become a vet tech (my brother in law is a vet and I help him sometimes and LOVE it). I know the pay pretty much stinks, but the hours are great and I don't really think it would seem like work.

I would do something computer-related (like web design, coding, or technical support) that would allow me to work from home while the kids are at school, set my own hours, and be my own boss with only a string of clients to appease.
Oh wait, that's what I'm doing now. It's working out great, though :)

I want to run a winery.

But i think you would make a very good teacher.

As someone who has spent years in the arts I can tell you that the one person we're always looking for is grant writers. You can write from home if you want and there's usually pretty good money in it. Something you could likely do NOW without more school as well.

What's your undergrad degree in, again?

Social Services helping women who are ready to come out of shelter's to start their lives gain; find a place to live, find a job, get their children ready for school.

Or a Montessori Teacher, but that would require a teaching degree plus Montessori certification.

Or a web page designer. That may be focused on non-profit websites.

Good luck!

One more - an office manager for an architect that specializes in eco-friendly commercial buildings.


People are paying a lot of $$ for that stuff.

Medical billing and coding is something I have heard a lot of people talking about-can be done from home, requires little training and can be a nice little paycheck. I don't know much about the logistics of it, but it hadn't been mentioned so I thought I would throw it out there.

Delurking to say...

Though there are several votes here for MFA or PhD programs in creative writing or literature, as a lit professor, I have to say a few things to set the record straight. (1) job market is very difficult in these fields (I was one of 300 applicants for the job I got; more and more hires are adjuncts rather than tenure track); (2) starting pay is less than the good elementary and h.s. teachers make after 5-10 yrs of experience in our area, and since raises are about 2-3% per year, after 5 yrs on the job, the elem teachers with a BA are making more than me with a PhD; (3) hours are "flexible" within limits of teaching schedule, and it IS completely dreamy to be able to be home with the kids in the summers; (4) the intellectual interest of research, conferences, smart colleagues, etc., is fabulous; (5) the "office politics" are as bad as any other place; (6) administrations increasingly think of students as "consumers" and professors and disposable (easily replaced with even cheaper adjuncts).

In short, these are degrees and jobs to pursue because you ADORE the work, the community of academia, and the challenge of teaching -- not for a sense of respect or money or with the expectation that this will be an easy road. If I had it to do over, I would make exactly the same choice, as I love what I do. But I do think anyone going into it has to know clearly the drawbacks as well as the perks.

Delurking to say...

Though there are several votes here for MFA or PhD programs in creative writing or literature, as a lit professor, I have to say a few things to set the record straight. (1) job market is very difficult in these fields (I was one of 300 applicants for the job I got; more and more hires are adjuncts rather than tenure track); (2) starting pay is less than the good elementary and h.s. teachers make after 5-10 yrs of experience in our area, and since raises are about 2-3% per year, after 5 yrs on the job, the elem teachers with a BA are making more than me with a PhD; (3) hours are "flexible" within limits of teaching schedule, and it IS completely dreamy to be able to be home with the kids in the summers; (4) the intellectual interest of research, conferences, smart colleagues, etc., is fabulous; (5) the "office politics" are as bad as any other place; (6) administrations increasingly think of students as "consumers" and professors and disposable (easily replaced with even cheaper adjuncts).

In short, these are degrees and jobs to pursue because you ADORE the work, the community of academia, and the challenge of teaching -- not for a sense of respect or money or with the expectation that this will be an easy road. If I had it to do over, I would make exactly the same choice, as I love what I do. But I do think anyone going into it has to know clearly the drawbacks as well as the perks.

Didn't read through comments. Sorry.

I am going for Doctor of Pharmacy. I have about 3 years worth of prerequisite courses (taking 2 classes at a time, evenings only) and then I can apply for the program (designed specifically for post-bacc students who have taken boatloads of chemistry, biology, etc. courses; see 3 YEARS of prerequisites mentioned above!!) which is a 3 year program. Get this: first two years of that program are WEEKEND ONLY CLASSES, so it's designed for people who are working FT (who apparently don't want a life). But I will probably continue to work PT and be SAHM PT during those years. Then, once the third year--must be FT student and do rotations-- kicks in, kids will have started school.

Starting salary is in the $80K ballpark, give or take $20K depending on where you live, etc. Woah!! I could pay back the loans in the first year if we didn't change our lifestyle (which we WILL because my entire motivation to jumpstart my life is that I want a house with 2 freaking bathrooms. I don't want to share our one 4'x5' bathroom with two adolescent girls. Just shoot me.)

Oh, and pharmacy is generally regarded as a hugely flexible career. You can simply work at a drugstore counter, or at a variety of healthcare settings, and a lot of moms choose to work like 2 days/week, and I would still be making more doing that than I make now FT.

I'd spend the next 5.5 years taking classes in museum management and education, and then when the kiddies were old enough to be in school, I'd get a part-time job at the Smithsonian in the Education Department, where I'd write programs for the public.

Sounds like the situation my wife is in currently. She's thinking she wants to get into teaching, most likely at the community college level, where her engineering degrees will be useful towards leveraging her a position to teach math/sciences. Since salary wouldn't be as much of an issue for her either, she'd be happy teaching a couple classes a semester, and have summers off to take care of the kids when they're out of school.

Wow! I have been thinking this same thing over the last year. I have 2 kids roughly the same ages as yours so I am on the same time frame. If I think of anything I will let you know. My first instinct was get a part time job at Starbucks because 1) I live in Seattle and they are EVERYWHERE around here 2) SUPER flexible scheduling. I just don't know how stimulating it would be for me though.

High school or college career counselor. I'm pretty sure you need a master's degree in counseling, so there is school involved, but I love working with young people, and I love school, so this would be a perfect fit. No traveling, probably some occasional overtime, but not much (is there such a thing as a career counselor emergency?!), and while I'd be helping people talk through their problems, they wouldn't be problems that make me lose my faith in humanity.

Nursing. I know so many women with small children who are nurses. They can basically make their own hours they are in such high demand.

And...I don't know what is but all the nurses I know are just the damned coolest people I know.

You can finish up nursing school in only 2-4 years depending on what you are going for. Think how awesome it would be to learn things that could even actually help you in the caring for your own children?

Tough question! I would say, choose a job that is a challenge, you are very intelligent and I bet a boring job would not make you happy.

But I could see you work at a non-profit organisation, perhaps in PR.

Or a teacher.

.. a writer.

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So the Fish Said...

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