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Money Buys Choices

Brenna Clairr Moore

AS I WATCH MY daughter gleefully play with her toes and stare in wonder as she turns the pages of a new book, I’ve never felt more fulfilled. The day she entered the world, I knew I’d finally found my true purpose.

I’ve always believed that money buys us choices, and I wanted a lot of choices and flexibility once I became a mom. My daughter, who is my firstborn, arrived eight months ago, and she forced me to reexamine my life’s priorities in the best possible way.

I started preparing financially for motherhood early in my career, when I was nowhere close to having children. In my first job out of graduate school at a global public relations agency in downtown Chicago, when I was in my early 20s, I lived paycheck-to-paycheck. As my income swelled thanks to promotions, bonuses and new employers, I made a conscious effort to live well below my means, piling up savings at a more rapid pace than most of my peers and avoiding the temptations of lifestyle creep.

In addition, I agreed to take jobs in different locations, which generated new opportunities and faster salary increases. At one employer, I lived in four states in five years, so I could take advantage of four unique roles that helped broaden my skill set and expand my network within the company.

On top of that, I only vacationed in places where I had the option to stay with family or friends. I took public transit, rather than cabs or Uber. My idea of fine dining was a pizza parlor. I shopped for home furnishings at antique shops and furniture liquidation stores. Was it all worth it? Absolutely.

Once my daughter arrived last summer and my maternity leave was in full swing, I found it harder and harder to imagine quickly returning to full-time work in the same capacity, especially given the extremely limited paid leave (if any) at most U.S. employers, and recognizing how critical the first year of life is for babies and their mothers.

After more than a decade working in the corporate world, I purposefully chose to step back from full-time work, taking a career break so I could focus on nurturing and caring for my daughter. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I’ve been soaking up every second.

Stepping away from the traditional career ladder in my mid-30s, which is arguably the prime of my career, isn’t the norm. No financial advisor or career coach would recommend it. I was on the receiving end of numerous opinions, not all of them supportive of my decision. I fully respect those viewpoints. Yet, at the same time, I feel incredibly fulfilled that, at this stage of my life, I’m in the driver’s seat of my career and family. Time is a finite resource, and I’ll never get back this time with my daughter.

I’ve worked hard to build my career, and it’s an important part of who I am. That said, I have zero doubt that I’ll add more value in my professional job when I return to the workforce full-time. No one knows how to manage multiple deadlines, lead teams with conflicting personalities and juggle five crises at once better than a sleep-deprived mother tasked with caring for an infant 24/7.

Today, I’m COO of my family because of the choices I made in my 20s: living below my means, maintaining a frugal mindset, saving diligently, carefully negotiating every pay raise and job offer, and prioritizing building a healthy emergency fund. Temporarily stepping away from the work world comes with obvious financial repercussions, long-term career implications and challenging (and sometimes exhausting) days as a parent.

Still, I have zero regrets. I didn’t want to reach retirement age with more money and a more impressive job title, and yet desperately wish I’d had more quality time with my kids. As we all know, you can’t turn back the clock.

Parenting may not come with congratulatory emails for a job well done, promotions, bonus statements or annual raises, but it has given me my daughter’s first smile and laugh, her joy at rolling over for the first time, and watching her radiate with happiness whenever I sing to her. That’s all infinitely better than any bonus I’ve ever received.

I can always work more. But the time with those who matter the most to me is precious and fleeting. As someone told me before I became a mother, “If you’re lucky, you may share 18 birthdays with your child—and then they’re gone. Cherish them.” I couldn’t agree more. As I hold my beautiful, smiling daughter while she watches my every move, I know these moments are priceless.

Brenna Clairr Moore was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and currently resides in Dallas with her husband, daughter, cat and dog. She has nearly 15 years of experience working in corporate communications and public relations across numerous industries, including energy, consumer packaged goods, higher education and financial services. Brenna Clairr holds a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University and a master’s in strategic public relations from the University of Southern California. She’s passionate about strengthening her community, and serves on the boards of her local YMCA and the Northwestern University Alumni Club in Dallas-Fort Worth. She believes that everyone—no matter their background—has a story that’s worth sharing.

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