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How I balance my career and kids

Modern Money Matters is Refinery29 and Chase's exploration of what the modern American family really looks like—from starting a family to moving—and what it actually costs to make it all happen.

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When I was growing up, I desperately wanted to be a journalist. I idolized the female anchors I'd see on TV and dreamed of wearing suits, traveling, and asking people questions. Part of this dream also included a desire to serve people and lay a solid financial foundation for myself.

With a career direction in mind, I decided early on that I didn't want to get married or have children until I was at least 30 years old. I rationalized that my 20s had to be a time for focusing on career growth and building financial wealth. While I ended up pivoting to pursue a degree in education and took a position as a kindergarten teacher after graduation, my decision to put my career before a family remained a major priority.

I rationalized that my 20s had to be a time for focusing on career growth and building financial wealth. -Jennifer Bailey, Lifestyle Blogger

I signed my first teacher contract in 2004, with a gross income of $24,000. To save as much money as possible, I decided to continue living at home with my parents. I'm still thankful for the decision—it kept me grounded and made it easier to pay for grad school (that, and a $24,000 student loan). I finished up my degree within a year.

When I was 27, I met someone. I wasn't quite as old as I planned to be when thinking about marriage, but I was seriously in love and decided to go for it.

Immediately following the "I dos," the questions about having kids began. But I was firm in my decision. I still had career plans and wanted to become a principal of an elementary school before my own kids ever came into the picture. My husband was on board with the plan—he understood the importance of building both of our careers as well as financial wealth.

So we made the next four years full of memories and experiences. We traveled, enjoyed our financial and physical freedom, and, most importantly, I was able to climb the career ladder in the field of education—reaching my goal of becoming a principal and putting in long hours to do so. I knew it would all come to a halt if we interrupted our lives with children.

At the age of 32, my mind began to change. I started to envy women with babies. I had also already reached many levels of career success: I had two graduate degrees in curriculum and leadership, had become a school administrator, and had increased my salary by $50,000. My husband was earning a six-figure salary, so we were financially healthy. When we made the decision to try to get pregnant, it happened quickly—we had a baby girl a year later.

As much work as our little girl was, we were infatuated and knew immediately that we wanted to have another. Three years later, we got pregnant again, with another beautiful baby girl. But even with two kids in the picture, I wouldn't change my career timeline for anything.

With plenty of milestones and financial security under my belt, I decided to return to my early dream of working in journalism. Although I still had my job as a principal, I started a blog as a place to house my thoughts and build my résumé, focusing on like-minded women with a desire to balance life with beauty, fashion, and fitness. It's been about a year since I started blogging, and it's been an incredible experience that's afforded me new opportunities for networking and writing.

Today, daily errands, housework, and managing the girls' routines is the norm. My husband and I have relied on daycares for our childcare over the past few years, which has certainly been expensive. Thankfully, though, due to our prior saving, we've been able to buy a home and still plan for retirement.

I feel confident in the path I chose for myself from an early age—it's benefitted me, my family, and our financial situation immensely. We now live with a growing income and are debt-free, and I have the opportunity to write every day.

My choices early on began with a passion to serve others and a will to carve a financial path that would allow me to have options. I hope to raise my daughters with the same goals of pursuing their dreams, working hard, and living a debt-free life.

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