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My Career Didn't Take Off Until After I Had Kids

Patrice Poltzer

I remember the day vividly. I was living in Chicago and having a boozy Saturday brunch with my girlfriends - existing in that "fake adult life" right out of college where, yes, I technically wasn't a student anymore, but my choices told another story. I was ordering my second (OK fine, third) mimosa when my eyes stumbled upon a tired-looking mom with two little kids walking by our table. I thought to myself, "I'm SO glad I'm not you right now. Your life looks sort of terrible." I cringe even writing how flippant my thoughts once were. But it was true. I was in my 20s with a fun and exciting life in front of me, a TV career to conquer, and fame to be had, and the thought of even wanting kids was so foreign to me. I actually believed then that kids made your life just . . . stop (and not in a good way).

Fast-forward through my 20s, and the glam TV career I always thought would happen just sort of didn't. I was frequently almost within reach of amazing opportunities, but they never panned out . . . like when I thought I nailed my NBC Page Program interview but was rejected a week later, or when I had several interviews with the talent recruiter at MTV but nothing ever came from it, or when I showed up unannounced at my local TV stations with my reel in hand but was told that was annoying.

Life: 1; Me: 0.

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When I look back at my career up to this point, it only took off after I had my kids.

I did eventually get a writing internship. That led me to hosting a public access variety program, which paid approximately zero dollars, and then a horse-betting program where I was basically cast as the young, dumb girl next to the expert (my older and wiser self cringes at some of my earlier career choices). I just didn't realize at the time that I was professionally lost. I ended up applying to Northwestern's journalism program at the urging of a news director after he showed me a reel of a young girl he'd just hired. She was reporting from outside the White House, while in my reel, I was dressed up as Princess Leia at a Star Trek convention. Little did I know, however, that this stranger changed my life.

I was accepted into the one-year program at Medill, where I realized early on that I had no real desire to be a local TV reporter. While most of my friends were on their second or third promotions at work, I was only just starting to land internships. But I now had marketable, technical skills, which gave me a leg up I didn't have before.

A few years later, I moved to New York, started working at reputable TV networks, and married the Brit I met in London (spoiler alert: NOT Prince Harry). Long story short, I got knocked up on my honeymoon (how cliché am I?!). So there I was, pregnant and nowhere near the professional goals I thought I would have already accomplished at this stage in my life. For the first time, I felt pure panic. At the ripe old age of 32, I felt like it was over for me, whatever that "it" was.

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Then Jenson came. The same person who felt sorry for the tired mom at brunch all those years ago became a totally fulfilled, happy person who couldn't believe she had walked the planet this long without this tiny human. Having a baby changed me, but it especially changed me professionally. It woke me up, because it made me truly unafraid.

Instead of feeling lost, confused, and disappointed at where I wasn't, I started focusing on my talents, skills, network, and where I WAS.

I wanted to be my own boss, make my own content, and have fun again in my industry. And I wanted to do it because my purpose for living had fundamentally changed. My happiness and personal contentment were even more paramount because I had a little human looking to me for guidance. Instead of feeling lost, confused, and disappointed at where I wasn't, I started focusing on my talents, skills, network, and where I WAS. Having Jenson unlocked my "Give Zero F*cks" armor that I was searching for my whole professional life. The first week back at work after maternity leave, I pitched an idea for a video series, was told I could but they had no resources to give me, and went ahead and did it all myself anyway. I then started an NY-based video restaurant review website for parents, won some internal awards for my digital videos, got pregnant again, and ended up in Greece documenting a group of American moms in refugee camps while I was seven months along. Oh, and I won a Gracie Award for my coverage.

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Since then, my résumé (and confidence) has only gotten bigger. Jenson is now 4, Macklin is almost 2, and I feel more alive and focused than I ever have in my life. Don't get me wrong, working for yourself has a whole other set of challenges that I have to navigate on a daily basis, but when I look back at my career up to this point, it only took off after I had my kids. So to all the younger women who may be reading this and think you have to achieve all your professional milestones before you have kids, I'm here to tell you that simply isn't true. In fact, you might see my kids and me pass you at your next carefree and boozy brunch and, instead of having pity on me, might think to yourself, "Damn, I can't wait until I get to that point."