Transitioning from full-time to freelance and back

As I mentioned on Monday, I met Rachel Barry at the NASA Social I went to last March. She was full of information and a lot of fun to talk to, and was really enthusiastic about teaching our group about all the cool work being done on the International Space Station.  

I found out that Rachel has had a really varied career path, that includes a few years staying home with her kids when they were young. She joined the freelance workforce, doing web design, teaching extension courses, doing commissioned embroidery pieces, and always writing. Rachel and I talked a bit more about how her experience staying home impacted her career trajectory, and how the internet and the growing freelance economy open up new possibilities for shaping the career path you want.

Rachel atop the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center, where the Apollo rockets and Space Shuttles were put together pre-launch

I did stay home with the kids, but I always tried to keep myself working in some capacity and always learning some kind of new thing so I could stay relevant, and then also just put myself in the way of any opportunity that I could get. And I’m grateful that I was able to have that experience working from home with them, and then also now I’m really happy being a full-time professional outside of the home.

I think that’s common, that people love being home with their kids, and then they love being back at work. Each of us as parents has to decide, how do you want your life to look once you have kids, in relation to working from home, or outside of the home, or not at all, or whatever? And that’s obviously up to each individual, and no way is better than the other.

Some days I’m like, oh man, why did I ever stay home? Where would I be in NASA if I had started at NASA 15 years ago? But at the same time I look back at my career now and I think, man, I’m so thankful that I was able to do both, to get still myself here.

15 years before I had my kids I couldn’t have done what I did, to be able to work at home, on the Internet, doing stuff while my kid is crawling around my feet. I just couldn’t have done it. I am hugely grateful that I had my kids in the time that I did, because that was available to me. Freelance, and then also now as we get more into companies that are more flexible with working from home, and flex time, and flex schedules and things like that, will just open up so many opportunities for people who may have felt like they didn’t have a choice.

I do genuinely feel really lucky, but I also know that I worked really hard to get to where I am, so I don’t want to just discredit that and just call it luck. But I feel very grateful to be able to have had the experience that I’ve had.