If your job is weighing you down and you feel like you're trading in happiness for a paycheck, you're not alone. Meet moms who ditched their day job and changed their outlook on life by turning their passion into a new career.

That ah-ha moment

Maureen Rich-Wallace recently resigned as a spokesperson for a Fortune 50 company so she could stay home with her kids. Her ah-ha moment came after I wrote a blog post moments after watching the film, Just Like You — Down syndrome. I stayed up until 2 a.m. revising and tweaking the post, then emailed it to my husband and went to bed. I woke up to him crawling back in the bed at about 6 a.m., having just read my story. "Honey, quit your job," he whispered. "You have to write."

I was pulling triple duty: Full-time work, blogger-by-night and mommy, and I was really stressed out with my job.

Yolanda Machado, now co-founder of Simply Sassy Media and owner of Sassy Mama in L.A., said, "I was pulling triple duty: full-time work, blogger-by-night and mommy, and I was really stressed out with my job. Fate intervened when I got laid off. When I started interviewing for work, I was actually offered two jobs. Then I thought about the commute, what I would be going back to — and leaving behind — and I began to feel sad and anxious. With my husband's support, I turned down the jobs and became a work-at-home mom."

Molly Smith, former magazine editor, now stay-at-home mom and part-time writer, had her ah-ha moment while "trying to conduct an editorial meeting when my son was at work with me, crying and needing to be nursed. I had to give him a bottle (which of course he didn't want to take from me since I usually nursed him) while still leading this meeting. It was ridiculous. I felt I was losing credibility at work and failing my son, too."

Pulling the trigger on a career change

I've struggled with the emotional tug-of-way that inevitably comes with trying to succeed as a mom.

For Wallace, focusing on her son's needs helped her switch gears. "I have two children under age three, and my oldest has Down syndrome," she said. "I've struggled with the emotional tug-of-war that inevitably comes with trying to succeed at a career and succeed as a mom. Charlie's extra needs have really helped me focus and learn to let go."

After 11 years owning a successful film festival, Robin Laatz-Kozak walked away to pursue a career she could feel more passionate about and hasn't looked back. Laatz-Kozak explained, "I knew it was time for a change and that my next venture had to inspire me and allow me to be creative on a daily basis." This mom of four, including newborn twins, recently founded First & Birch — a modern line of children's toys centered around creative, imaginative play.

How changing their career changed their lives

  • Laatz said, "Once I made the commitment, a huge sense of relief and excitement overcame me. I was thrilled to see where my next chapter will take me!"
  • Wallace said, "Once I made the decision, my heart just lifted. It really did. For the first time in my life, I have this unwavering, insurmountable passion for a subject — my amazing little boy and his equally remarkable sister."
  • Smith said changing her career changed her perspective on work and motherhood, "I finally understood the amazing importance of being a mother."
  • Machado said, "My entire working life, I always assumed stress was just part of the job. But it isn't. While I am busier than ever, I'm my own boss. If I need a day off, I take it. I prioritize differently now and I love taking a step back and saying, "Wow. I did this!" It feels amazing.

Their advice to other moms?

Machado said, "Trust yourself and your gut. You can have it all." She adds, "Your version of all. Not anyone else's."

Laatz-Kozak said, "Spend the time soul-searching to really determine what you love and what you are good at. Don't settle!"

Smith said, "Follow your heart. It sounds cheesy but I really believe that. I wouldn't change my currently lifestyle for anything in the world."

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Self-employment: Is the grass really greener?
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