As our reader population continues to grow older, conversations about having families while working keep popping up in our Network and in other corners of the internet. Many conservative women desire to work in politics, law, journalism or a number of other career fields, but also have a desire to have a family. I reached out to three conservative leaders that I admire and asked them how they manage their own families and careers.

Kristan Hawkins is the founder of Students for Life of America and has four children.

Kimberly Corban is a sexual assault survivor, promotes advocacy, and has four children.

Jessica Taylor is an attorney and business owner and recently ran for US Congress in Alabama’s 2nd district. Jessica has three children.

Although all these women are married and well-educated, their stories couldn’t be more different. Each woman had amazing insights to offer on what working motherhood looks like for them. 

What do you do for a living?

Kristan: I lead Students for Life of America, a national non-profit organization dedicated to making abortion illegal and unthinkable.I graduated high school a year early and then I graduated college a year and a half early so I actually graduated college shortly before my 20th birthday. I graduated early so I could go to Washington to work at the Republican National Committee for the 2004 election and I’ve been with Students for Life since 2006. 

Kimberly: I work in sexual assault advocacy. I travel around the country to speak about sexual assault and victim advocacy. 

Jessica:  I am an attorney and business owner. I started my business, Azimuth Grants, in 2010 while still in law school at night and while pregnant with my first child.

How many children do you have?

Kristan:  Four. Gunner is 11, Bear is 10, Maverick is 6 and Gracie is 5. 

Kimberly: We have four. Two bonus boys [step children] who are 12 and 11 and then the two that I grew myself are 6 and 5. Our youngest is a girl. 

Jessica: I have 3 children. Sam is 9, Fair is 8, and Jackson is 6.

Did you seek higher education? What degrees do you have and from where?

Kristan: I have one degree. A BA in Political Science from Bethany College.

Kimberly: I went to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. That was for Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice in 2010. I did not publish my thesis but I studied for my Master’s at UNC as well. 

Jessica: I have a BS in Political Science and a Master’s in Public Administration from Jacksonville State University. I also have a JD from Jones School of Law and am licensed to practice in Alabama.

Did you already have a career when you had your first child? 

Kristan: Yes, I’d been leading SFLA for a few years before I had my oldest.

Kimberly: Kind of. I’d been doing victim advocacy and on-call work for about 3 years at the police department.

Jessica: Yes. I worked full-time in the Alabama Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and attended law school at night while pregnant. I was actually in labor when I took my last final for the fall 2010 semester. I went to the hospital afterwards and had my son the next day.

How did you know that your husband was going to be an equal partner before you had kids? What kinds of conversations did you have?

Kristan: How we thought we were going to raise our kids changed because when our son was 3 months old he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. I went to a babysitter growing up and my husband had a stay-at-home mom. We always assumed we would hire a nanny or a babysitter and that our kids would be public school educated but that all changed. When Gunner was diagnosed with CF we knew that we weren’t going to be able to put him into a daycare situation. We decided pretty early on that he was going to have to be homeschooled. I was lucky that my job allowed me the flexibility to say that I was going to work 2-3 days a week from home but as we got closer to Gunner starting school we realized there was no way we would both be able to work. We did the math one day and I was making more than my husband so we made the decision to get a cheaper house, downsize to one car and have my husband stay at home with the children. 

Kimberly: I can offer the contrast because my first marriage was not supportive or healthy. Speaking from hindsight and many years of therapy, it was a domestic violence relationship that was rooted in gender roles and a power and control dynamic that I couldn’t see. The conversation about having kids was “hey we dated, we got engaged, now we’re married, kids are the next step” and we didn’t have the tough conversations that now I would want to have. I found out very quickly once I was pregnant that it would not be an even split. It was “I’m going to work and will do whatever I want to when I get home. You’re going to take care of the cooking, the cleaning, the vaccinations, everything.” I was basically single parenting two people: my son and my husband. You can’t always see it when you’re the one that’s being victimized. Once my daughter was born there were a lot of red flags that could lose someone their parenting rights. So trying to be a single parent [after the divorce] and balance a career ended up actually being easier. I left when [my daughter] was 3 months old and I was living with my parents. 2015 was my glow up. I had been with him since I was 23 so there was still a lot of healing and things I was trying to work out as a person. And unfortunately, who he wanted me to be shaped a lot of who I was at that point. After I left, I single-parented but he also had shared custody. I was looking for more advocacy work that I could do at that time. My daughter was about to turn 1 when I had the CNN Town Hall with President Obama. I was suddenly being requested to speak a lot more. I tried to schedule those things on the days that I didn’t have the kids because on the days that I did have them, I wanted to be at home with them. 

Now I’m with Mike and I gained two kids from that marriage and we both have our own careers. I needed to find a job that was closer to home and I’m juggling through daycare and preschool. Last year we had 4 kids in 4 different schools. One was open enrolled, one was in middle school, one in preschool and one in kindergarten. The community that we lean on is going to be there for me as I start to focus back on my career. Now there’s going to be some measure and childcare and accountability that isn’t just falling on my shoulders. I’ll be able to get out and speak more and write more. I choose to go passionately in the direction of my dreams and my career because I want to model that for my kids. I don’t expect them to be a certain way or love a certain way. I want them to be authentically themselves. I want them to grow up and remember that I was able to do this. 

Jessica: I had actually planned to stay at home with the kids until they were school-aged. A few months in, I missed professional life terribly and decided to grow my business slowly from home while caring for my family. As the business grew, we went from a part-time nanny to a full-time nanny for childcare. We also had au pairs for three years before all the children were in school.

Is your husband a stay-at-home dad? How do you split the responsibilities? 

Kristan: My husband stays at home full time now and I work from home every day that I’m not traveling to speak. 

Kimberly: My husband and I both have our own careers so we rely a lot on school, daycare and our community.

Jessica: My husband has always worked full-time. He actually served in the Alabama State Senate from 2010-2014. He didn’t run for re-election because we had three kids in four years, and I needed help. We divide childcare-related tasks based on our strengths and schedules.

Was there ever a point in your life where you worked from home or were a stay-at-home mother?

Kristan: Leading up to 2014, I was working 1-2 days from home and 3-4 days in the office. Now I work from home every day that I’m not traveling. 

Kimberly: I’ve always worked but there’s been some balancing between working from home, traveling, etc. 

Jessica: Yes and yes.

How would you respond when a woman is told she shouldn’t seek higher education if she wants to have children? 

Kristan: No one should tell you that you shouldn’t get an education simply because you aren’t sure if you’re going to be “using” that education. There are many ways that you use your education, even if that isn’t getting a job. A lot of what you learn in college is critical thinking. Everyone needs to have that, even if they don’t have a job outside the home. I think there is a consideration that should take place from an economic standpoint. If you’re pretty set that you want to be a stay-at-home mom then you probably shouldn’t go to the most expensive college.

Kimberly: There are a million different ways that you can use the skills and tools that you use in college and that time of your life that are going to benefit you for years and years to come. No one is “just a stay at home mom.” The things that you are going to do if you’re working within the household is growing and shaping these tiny leaders. Those kiddos are going to grow up and are going to leave your home someday.

Jessica: That’s ridiculous. I wouldn’t even justify that comment with a response.

How would you respond when a woman is told she should place her career above her children and family?

Kristan: You have one life to live and the question is what is the legacy that you leave on earth. I think the greatest legacy you leave is the people that you impact and the people that you procreate and how they impact and change the world. I mean, do we do important things in our jobs? Yes. But even what I do on a daily basis with Students for Life, it has value absolutely but really at the end of the day, my number one job and my number one calling isn’t with Students for Life, it’s to raise my four children to be Christ followers and to know that they leave a meaningful impact. No one is going to remember that I led Students for America. The reality is that very, very, very few people will be remembered. No one’s going to know my name in 100 years but my great-great grandchildren will.

Kimberly: I’d say the answer to that is “who’s asking?” Is that somebody that truly has your best interest in mind? If it’s not then it’s none of their damn business.  

Jessica: Career shouldn’t be placed over family by a man or a woman.

What is your advice to young conservative women who want to have children and a career?

Kristan: Just do it. But also understand that it’s not going to be easy. The best piece of advice that one of my mentors told me when I started SFLA “know what your balls are.” You have crystal balls that if you drop them, they’re going to shatter, but you’re also juggling rubber balls and if you drop those they’ll bounce back. Keep your priorities straight. As a working mother you’ll have to juggle a lot of different balls. You’ll have to find a job you’re really passionate about or your early mornings and late nights won’t be worth it. I routinely work 20 hour days. There’s not enough compensation in the world for me to do that if I wasn’t passionate about it. For a very long time I considered for my health to be a rubber ball but it needs to be treated as a glass ball. You also can’t be too hard on yourself when you mess up. Fix it, move on. Go into being a working mother with eyes wide open and realize it will be stressful and difficult. You also have to have a partner that understands and supports your work. If you aren’t getting support at home it makes it very difficult for you to continue on in your work. You need a spouse that understands that you have something to offer to this world and that you have a passion to transform something in your community.

Kimberly: There are two things that have helped me as a mother, and that’s red wine and white wine. You can do whatever you want to. Grant yourself some grace and know that things will always be changing. You know yourself best. Keep pushing yourself to be the best version of yourself. At the end of the day the most important thing is those sweet little snuggles you get at the end of the night. Your kids will drive you crazy. You’ll find goldfish all over your house even if you don’t have any. If you’re ever wondering if it’s chocolate or poop, treat it as if it’s poop. Make sure you get your kids new kennels as they get bigger. If it’s been quiet for too long something is wrong. Also know when to ask for help and support. Now during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s become so obvious how much we rely on our communities at work, at school, etc. You’re going to go through different seasons of parenting and asking for support is so important. It’s absolute chaos, but you’ll be able to make it work.

Jessica: You can absolutely have both. Try to plan ahead to divide responsibilities with your spouse, but you really won’t know how things will unfold until you have children. As the saying goes – plans are useless, but planning is everything. Keep an open mind and be flexible. Parenting is the most challenging and rewarding thing you will ever do.

Georgia G

Georgia Gallagher graduated from the University of Alabama in the summer of 2019 where she majored in Journalism and Political Science. She is currently working as a Cast Member at  Walt Disney World in Florida. In her free time she can be found advocating for pro-life policies and working with single or low-income mothers. She often says that her planner is second only to her Bible and she’s never caught without a cup of coffee in her hand.