Sending kids back to school opens doors for Chicago parents to reinvent themselves

Kids change their parents’ lives in countless, often unexpected, ways. While the constant responsibility and endless energy can be exhausting, children can shift your priorities and give you a renewed focus on what’s really important.

That’s what happened for these three parents, who reinvented themselves to do what they love.

Amy Renzulli (pictured above)

  • Family: Married with a daughter, 16, and son, 14
  • Previous career: Health care sales and marketing
  • Current career: Owner, School of Rock-Oak Park

How did you change your career and why?

My dad always told me there would be a point when I would want to do something on my own. Around the time of health care reform, I couldn’t find a place in a big company to flourish. When my kids started going to the Chicago School of Rock, it was like a light bulb went off. This opportunity just appeared in front of me. I hadn’t planned to open a franchise, but this uses all of my skills and passions.

What are some of the best parts of your reinvention?

I can completely express myself the way that I want to. I feel unleashed. My personal and professional life are much more fluid. I’m happy, energized and feel younger every day. I also sing in the adult performance program. I call it putting my mouth where my money is. If I’m going to set this up and offer these services, I should do it, too. I’m having a ball.

What has been the hardest part?

I’ve drifted away from my close friends. As happy as I am, that made me really sad. When you launch a business, it’s kind of like having a baby. You give birth to this big thing and put everything you have into it. After a year, you start getting back to yourself. I’m circling back with them now.

What do you think your reinvention teaches your children?

They can do whatever they want to do. It teaches them to be fearless.


Scott and Birgit Collins

  • Family: Married with two sons, ages 7 and 4
  • Previous careers: Both worked for Nestle
  • Her current career: Lighting sales
  • His future career: History teacher and coach
  • How did your paths change and why?

Birgit: After our youngest was hospitalized with pneumonia twice by the time he was 5 months old, I stayed home with the children. I absolutely loved everything about that year and a half, but at the time, I don’t know if I appreciated it. I’m a Type A personality and I started to feel bored. Now I’m the breadwinner. We both work hard, but have the flexibility to volunteer in our son’s class every week. Scott is our “Mr. Mom.”

Scott: My eyes opened up to the world around me when I saw a friend who fought testicular cancer start coaching, something I always wanted to do. When you get married and have kids, you put yourself on the back burner. But I don’t want to be hitting retirement and not doing the things I wanted to do with my life.

What do you think your reinventions teach your sons?

Birgit: Mommy’s job is just as important as Daddy’s. I feel like I get more respect now. The kids see me doing something for us and for myself. I’m in a better mood—I get a break, an outlet. They are inspired by the things I do.

Scott: I hope it teaches them to be open and embrace change. I want them to be adventurous. If there’s something they want to do, I want them to go do it.

What advice would you offer other parents considering a change?

Birgit: Go with your gut. Don’t let people tell you what to do. You know what’s best for your family.

Scott: Go for it. If you’re on the fence, at least try it part-time. You will be a happier person for following your passion.


Susan Kaye Quinn

  • Family: Married with three sons, ages 15, 13 and 11
  • Previous career: Rocket scientist
  • Current career: Speculative fiction author

How did you change your career and why?

I wanted a family and realized a pregnant belly in space was probably not the best idea. After my first child was born, I worked part-time as a scientist. It sounds great to take care of your child all day and work in the evenings, but, really, it is just exhausting. I stayed home as a full-time parent for eight years. Reading to my children rekindled my love of writing. One day I started writing and couldn’t stop. In five years, I have written eight books and several stories.

How has your reinvention influenced your parenting?

It is important for us to teach our children that they not only can, but need to be creative in addition to their base, core competencies. In the world our children are growing up into, the people doing well will be the ones bringing creativity to their jobs. You can’t just be an engineer—you’ve got to be an engineer who can create and think and take it to a higher level. Every kid has the capability to be creative, it’s just a matter of how much it’s fostered and encouraged.

What advice would you offer other families considering a change?

Each person in the family has a right to their own fulfillment. You have to respect that, even if it’s inconvenient. You will have conflicting desires. You will want to do everything and you can’t. But when you build that respect into the family, the kids will flourish.

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