Jane Clayson Johnson doesn't regret leaving career for family

Published: Monday, Nov. 22 2010 11:45 a.m. MST

She had decided that she couldn't juggle both a career and a family; the former was simply too demanding. "She could have chosen to have fulltime help, but she wanted to be more involved in her children's lives," says Hannah. It was a momentous decision. Clayson knew that if she left TV journalism, there was no going back. She was burning the boat. "Once you get off the network news train, it's hard to get back on," she says. "I was perfectly aware of what I was doing and the implications."

Many of her peers expressed their dismay at her decision. Her agent echoed the sentiment of many when he told her it was a terrible decision. "How can you walk away from this offer, and why would you want to?" he asked, according to Clayson. "You've worked 15 years to get to this point. ... You're crazy. These offers don't come around every day. What are you going to do, move up there and teach Sunday School?"

Ironically, after moving with Mark from New York to Boston, she was immediately called to serve as a Sunday School teacher. On Jan. 4, 2004, the day her new ABC contract was supposed to begin, she learned she was pregnant.

Not everyone was so cynical about her decision. She says one CBS executive came to her office and, after closing the door, said, "I have to tell you, I really respect what you're doing. You're following your heart and principles. There are a lot of people in this building who would make a similar choice if they weren't so caught up in achievement and success."

Just months after leaving journalism, Clayson told graduates at Utah State commencement exercises in 2004, "There is more to life than a job. I didn't ever want to look back and point to a bookshelf of videotapes and say that's been my life. It's so much easier to write a resume than it is to craft a spirit. There are seasons in life. Don't ever let anyone try to deny you the joy of one season because they believe you should stay in another season ... Listen to yourself. Trust your instincts. Keep your perspective."

Talking about this now, almost seven years later, Clayson feels compelled to clarify her feelings on working mothers. "I want to make something clear," she begins. "Every woman makes her own decisions about her life based on her circumstances and her own desires. A lot of women don't have a choice. Their situations are different and they can't do what I did. Sometimes these choices come with judgment. I don't ever assume judgment of any other woman's choice. That's important to me."

Looking back, she has hard-earned empathy for women whose hopes for marriage and family have gone unfulfilled or delayed. She advised and interacted with many such women when Mark served as a bishop for a young single adult ward.

"I finally realized after many years," she says, "that if you lay out everything you have — your hopes and fears and desires and your own plan — and turn it over to the Lord — let it go and walk away — it is a liberating moment. It takes a lot of prayer and meditation and wanting to trust in something besides yourself. Trust in God's plan and don't focus so much on yourself. Go find someone else to help."

Recently, Clayson cooperated for one of the I-Am-a-Mormon video series, which the LDS Church has sponsored and made available on the Internet. It is clear that Clayson, now 43, is content and happy with her decision. In the video, she explains her feelings about her second life with a certain eloquence. "I would not trade these moments, these precious moments," she says. "It's a season of my life that will be gone with my kids in just a few years." She concludes by looking directly into the camera and identifying herself thusly: "My name is Jane Clayson Johnson. I'm a taxi driver. I'm a macaroni and cheese maker. I'm a homework helper. I'm a boo-boo fixer. I am a journalist. And I am a Mormon."

e-mail: drob@desnews.com


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