A funny thing happened after I had my first kid—my income doubled.
I had taken time off work for a couple months after Evan was born, and wanted badly to phase back into a work routine. But I also knew that my new life as a mother had changed things. Whatever I pursued needed to offer more flexibility and independence than my previous experiences.
That changed my priorities. I wanted to take on only the projects that interested me, offered a higher return on my time invested, and benefited our family. And while I can’t prove it scientifically, I firmly believe that this new way of thinking about work—essentially, the new outlook I got from becoming a mom—has made me richer.
In my case, the answer was to launch a podcast—which, it turns out, has delivered a healthy profit. But that's just one example of how my decisions go these days.
Focus on Efficiency
We now have two children. Our son is three and a half, while our daughter, Colette, was born last year and is approaching her first birthday.
Because of them, I look for ways to make my career simpler and more accommodating to our family. I’ve become more productive by outsourcing things that distracted me in the past—I hired a copywriter to handle social media and blog posts, and a part-time personal assistant to help manage email and schedule meetings. Taking cues from my headstrong toddler, I have also gotten better at saying "NO." I've learned how to tell clients what I need.
I don’t travel much for work, either, unless I must—and only when the pay is right. I recently accepted a speaking engagement in Chicago, for instance, that requires one overnight stay—negotiated down from two—because I realized it would help to cover several months of preschool tuition.
I have also realized I can’t do everything by myself. I recently created an online money course in partnership with Investopedia. It’s something I always wanted to do but couldn’t pull off solo. This way, I get to do what I do best (teach), while they handle all the things that I’m either too busy to execute or not skilled enough to do well—a list that includes production, marketing and sales.
Full disclosure: I’m very fortunate. Over 50% of working mothers still believe that having children makes it harder to advance at work, according to Pew Research. (Only 16% of dads believed that to be the case for them, incidentally.) The demands of parenting, in my opinion, far outpace the demands of work. The mental and physical exhaustion is real.
Yet I also love my career. I work for myself and have more flexibility than if I were still an employee. I have the luxury of at-home care with a loving, responsible and experienced full-time nanny. And I have my husband, who is the most reliable person in our lives. He works full time—but whether I need to be away for a few days or Evan has a doctor’s appointment right when I'm scheduled for a video shoot, Tim is at the ready.
Timing may also play a part. I started having children in my mid to late-30s and spent an entire decade and a half prior to the birth of my children working around the clock, building career momentum, saying yes to most opportunities and planting the important seeds that are now sprouting. Payscale recently crunched the numbers and found that for women, salaries peak at age 39. (I just turned 38.) So maybe earning more was inevitable?
Measuring the 'Baby Effect'
Even so, there’s lots to be said about the “baby effect” on a parent’s earning potential.
First, there’s the instinct to provide and protect that kicks in like never before, says parenting expert and author Amy McCready. We don’t think twice about applying for the promotion, asking for a raise or, starting/growing that business.
Belinda Rosenblum, founder of OwnYourMoney.com, started her family four years ago. “It inspired me to totally revamp my business to accommodate the needs of my growing family,” she said. Her practice went from one-on-one coaching to online courses. The shift allowed her to scale her business faster. Sales have since grown two-and-a-half times.
You also get more efficient, as time becomes your most precious commodity. You have less time to devote to work, so that means every second you spend has to be productive, efficient and focused. You don’t have any other choice.
My friend Kailei Carr, a leadership coach for executive women, just experienced her first full year of work after giving birth to her daughter. She went from working five days per week to three. In that time, she managed to double her revenues by raising her fees and landing a big client. “I am more focused, can more quickly prioritize tasks, and have less time to ponder over decisions,” she tells me.
Finally, says McCready, when we become parents, “we want to become better versions of ourselves for our kids—whether that’s getting healthier, donating more to charity, or getting ahead at work. We want our kids to look up to us, to see us as a superhero.”
My podcast may not be earning me superhero status in our home (yet), but Evan does like to join in on some of the interviews. He made a recent surprise cameo on episode 676 with entrepreneur Isa Herrera. (Next time, I'll remember lock the door to my office.) He waltzed in and said hello to my remote guest, whose voice he could hear through the speakers. He then proceeded to scribble her a picture using my pen. “It’s for Isa,” he announced, as he fled off to something more exciting … I’m guessing involving one of his prized Rescue Bots.
You had to be there, I guess. But it's moments like these that make this working mom wonder what life was like before kids. And then I feel richer than ever.
Farnoosh Torabi is a financial expert, bestselling author and highly caffeinated mother of two. Her new financial course is live on Investopedia.com. (Use the code Farnoosh20 for 20% off.)