Why I left the Times-Union – the long answer

I wrote the following the day after I gave my notice at the Florida Times-Union after nearly eight years of working there:

On a recent Saturday, I was at home, trying to squeeze in some work before running errands.

My daughters, who are 5 and 3, were coloring and getting dangerously close to using the crayons on the wall. I looked away from my laptop, and that’s when I saw it.

My 10-month-old son stood up and took three steps. And I knew in my heart that it wasn’t the first time, either.

I’ve just been too busy and preoccupied to celebrate, and sometimes even notice, his achievements. I was forced to finally face something I’ve known was inevitable for the past year. And I felt relieved.

It was time for me to leave my job at the Florida Times-Union as a reporter and be there for my children. It was time for them to be the primary recipient of my attention.

I’ve been working at the Times-Union for nearly eight years. I started when I was 23 and unmarried, and I’ll leave as a married mother of three.

I’ve had many jobs here and covered many things. For the past six months, I’ve been working on stories about the tuberculosis outbreak among Jacksonville’s homeless. I would spend all day and night, and after the kids were fed and bathed and put to sleep, reading reports by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and going through thousands of health department emails.

I was exhausted.

My goal was to try and get through each day, and if I didn’t go outside and scream or pull out my hair, I would consider it a success. I wanted to be a great journalist while being a great mom. I was finding it impossible. I made a decision, and it was time to leave.

This will come with changing some habits. One of my goals now is to be able to look at my 5-year-old daughter in the face instead of at my iPad when she’s telling me a story from school or singing a song.

When my son starts speaking more words, I want to be the first one to hear them. I don’t want to feel like I’m just getting by as a parent.

I’m not devaluing my experiences at the paper. It has been amazing. I’ve interviewed everyone from Gloria Steinem to a Jacksonville stay-at-home mom with 10 kids. I stood out in the rain during American Idol auditions for Jacksonville.com’s online coverage. I was eight months pregnant at UNF working on the Republican presidential debate. I’ve won some awards, made a lot of friends and worked really, really hard.

In a recent article published in the Atlantic, former state department director of policy planning Anne-Marie Slaughter argued in today’s economic and societal climate, it is not possible for women to “have it all.” Women are working longer hours and for less money to compete in the workforce.

Luckily, I have a very supportive husband so I can pursue this new adventure with our children. I’ll be a freelance journalist, so you’ll still see my name in the paper from time to time, but stories will be written when I’m not taking my kids to the doctor or to soccer.

Unlike Slaughter, I still think and badly want to believe women can have it all. I have deep admiration for women who have been able to achieve that balance. But for this woman at this point in my life, I’m choosing to be really stellar at something instead of adequate at two things, which was the only balance I could find.

I also realize many women don’t have the support I do, and I am in awe by their motivation to devote all of their energy simultaneously to their career and children. I have no doubt they are able to be successful in both realms.

For those women who are able to have a successful, full-time office job while raising children- nicely done. I admire your tenacity. But I won’t apologize for a decision that gives me complete peace.

It has been nearly two months since I wrote this, and I stand by my decision. I’m freelancing full time, but I often have a kid with me while I do it. I haven’t been stressed every time one of my children comes down with a cold and needs to go to the doctor. If I have to do something for them that can only be completed during work hours, I don’t have to strategize with my husband on who is going to take the time off to get it done.

I do, however, miss saying I work for the Times-Union. When people used to ask me what I did, I would always say with pride that I worked for the newspaper, in the newsroom. I would often get a look of awe, or a, “that’s so cool!” Now, when I say I’m a freelance writer, I get the polite smile.  That’s something that will take some adjustment.

As much as I miss impressing people with my job, I’ve also learned from it. I’ve learned you can have pride in what you do, and still do what you need to do as a mother. Dare I say, I may be having it all – just probably not with the same parameters most people expect. And I’m grateful.

Since I wrote this, journalist Allison Bird wrote the now famous piece, “Why I left news.” But for me, it was never about staying or leaving news, although I miss it deeply and relate to both sides of the debate. I love and have deep respect for my Times-Union family.

But the rush of a breaking news story or the feeling after a great interview never had a chance of competing with the flexibility I’ve gained by leaving. And who wouldn’t want to see these faces more?



  1. Twenty-three years ago my wife decided she wanted to leave her full-time job and be a full-time mother. Our oldest son is graduating from the University of Florida in May and starts working with a national construction company in June. Our other son is at UNF. It was absolutely the right decision for us. Congratulations, Tracy. You’ll never regret spending more time with your children.

  2. Tracey, I admire you for staying home with your Children! They grow up too fast and you would regret it down the road! I did! My Daughter and you were both pregnant at the same time! I do get to spend a lot of time with my Grandson!

    Sandy Dyal
    retired Florida Times Union 2008

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