I was a teacher for 5 years. Second grade, first grade and then my personal favorite, kindergarten. In fact, I have both my undergrad and master’s degreee in education, one of which I’m still paying for… but I loved teaching. I was proud that I was a fourth generation teacher, sharing the story of my great grandmother teaching on the ranches of south Texas. It was the most difficult and most rewarding job I’ve held (besides motherhood, of course) but I was unfulfilled. I needed a creative outlet, I needed a change. One fateful afternoon, I found myself getting off my subway and sitting in an advisor’s office at FIT, signing up for a fashion styling course. Everything clicked. This was the next move for me but shit, was I scared! I knew it was worth the risk because I knew teaching wouldn’t be it for me and I knew ultimately, it was my call, my life, etc. Is being a wardrobe stylist my forever job? I can’t answer that. I love what I do but like everyone else, I am always evolving and growing. What I love most about my decision to leave a career I was great at but not entirely fulfilled with, was that my son will know this. He will know it’s okay to leave your comfort zone, to take risks, to allow yourself to grow and evolve even if that means a different course of life than you expected, or more times than not, was expected of you.

Guest editor Lilly Neubauer recently made the decision to leave her job for the reasons I listed above. She is back to share her story of why when choosing to be the kind of role model she wanted to be for her daughter Heidi, it meant leaving her job. I never intended to write such a long introduction but I was moved by her story in more ways than I realized, opening up a new topic of careers and the impact it has on our life and our family. The power of community and open dialogue, friends. All photography by Danielle Doby of @iamhertribe

By Lilly Neubauer

Be kind, make your own choices, say “please,” chew with your mouth closed.

As a Mom to a three-year-old girl, I have days where it feels like most of what I say is instructions. They’re necessary, since raising my daughter to be able to thrive in the world as she grows up is important to me.

These life lessons seem to permeate more easily into my daughter’s habits when I make the conscious choice to live them myself. When I say “thank you” at Starbucks, a little voice under the counter is excited to chime in as well. When I take an audible, deep breath as tempers begin to surface, my daughter now looks me in the eye and takes a breath and counts to three following mine. Just as often, during the times when I decide to let my emotions boil over, we’re soon both puddles of tears on the floor.

So too when it came to my career, I worked in large part to be a role model to my daughter. Representation is what shows the next generation what is possible, so it was important to me to work, take risks and be actively seeking my next opportunity for growth. As often as I could bring her, my daughter came to work with me to see me making decisions, leading a team and resolving conflicts.

While my job benefitted me and my family for a long time, circumstances changed. I realized modeling a working woman to my daughter was beginning to mean modeling a woman under stress, a woman not taking good enough care of herself and a woman who was often distracted during time reserved for family.

I realized I had to make a decision between representation of a career woman to my daughter or a woman who seeks new truths, takes on risks and makes choices that best suit her life and goals. So, without hesitation, I changed our family’s spending priorities and stepped out of my full-time, director-level position and onto a blank slate.

Surprisingly, this change required more confidence in myself than any of my former career accomplishments. By deciding I can find career balance on my terms, I have to fully believe I am hirable and capable of using my brain and contributing to society, even off the well-oiled track on which I previously rode. I want my daughter to know she can do anything, even decide to choose to focus on herself and her family for as long as needed and understand that’s part of her highest calling as a woman, not a dismissal of it.

I use these pronouns since I have a daughter, but find modeling self-care and choice in career something of great importance as we raise sons as well, with men also feeling immense pressure to put “providing” above well-being and family relationships. Everyone deserves alignment and thriving over a life lived on someone else’s terms.

We do need more female and maternal representation in our board rooms and c-suites, and I don’t believe I’m fully done in those spaces. I know though, that what I am most called to represent to my daughter is a woman who puts her happiness into the equation and understands the power and privilege of choice. I want her to see women choosing peace over perfection as much as she should see us making sacrifices and leaning into some hustle to accomplish our goals.

It reminds me of my favorite (unattributed) quotes, “My mother didn’t tell me how to live. She lived, and let me watch.”

You can keep up with Lilly on her personal blog, Pancakes and Beet Juice, or on Instagram at @LillyNeu.