Two and a half months ago I put in my resignation for a job I’ve had for the past 8 years. My last day is in about a month.
I enjoy my line of work. I work with great people, I work on interesting problems, and my work makes a real difference in peoples lives. However, right now given the choice of going to work 40 hours per week vs. not going to work at all, I choose the later (actually, my wife Sarah and I made the decision together).
Why? Read on.
The Frustrations of Parenting and Full Time Work
Time is finite– we all only have so much of it. When I was single and working full time, I felt that I still had plenty of free time– my life felt balanced. My only obligation was approx. 8 hours a day of work– I had the other 16 hours to myself. Subtracting for sleep, about half of my waking hours were mine to do what I pleased with.
Fast forward to today, married with 2 young children, and it’s a different story. My “free hours” are constrained to the hours after the kids go to sleep and before they wake up (hint: early!) You know– the hours where you can barely keep your eyes open, and probably should be sleeping.
While I spend the day at work, Sarah is at home with the kids. We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to afford to have only 1 parent working, but stay at home parenting is also no easy job (my work is a daily vacation in comparison!)
Parenting is hard work, no-matter what your arrangement is. However, there are a few particular frustrations that come from having just one parent working:
- Unequal distribution of parenting responsibilities
- Missing out on family time
- Flexible vs. inflexible schedules
Unequal distribution of parenting responsibilities
In a situation with two working parents there is opportunity to distribute the parenting responsibilities relatively equally between both parents (whether or not they actually get distributed equally is another story!). When only one parent is working, however, the parental responsibilities are obviously owned by one parent for the majority of the week. For Sarah and I, this has at-least two notable effects:
- It puts friction on our relationship. While I’m at work “making a living to support the family” (aka relaxing), she’s trying to keep two screaming toddlers from ripping each other’s eyeballs out. This puts us on unequal footing.
- It makes me feel guilty to spend time pursuing my own hobbies. Sarah has already spent 5 out of 7 days watching the girls, and I’m going to disappear on the weekend??
Missing out on family time
Sure, there are plenty of difficult parenting moments at home while I’m at work– but there are also those amazing moments of parental joy. The pride of seeing your child write their first letter ‘A’ all by themselves, or experiencing the moment your child sees snow for the first time. I’m not sure if this would be better or worse if we were both working– but I can’t help feeling that I’m missing out on some important moments while I’m away at work. I’d like to available to teach my children life’s lessons at this young, impressionable age.
Flexible vs. inflexible schedules
Sarah and the girls are available to take advantage of whatever opportunities come their way, while my schedule is more constrained. Several times Sarah and the girls traveled home to visit family on the east coast while I stayed on the west coast to work because I didn’t have enough vacation time.
For the last ~6 years we have been diligent savers. My career has been strong, and we also established some side income (we’ll talk about that in a future post). We’re at the point now where quitting my job and not having steady income isn’t total financial suicide.
We’ve found that some of our best moments as a family have been when we’re out exploring together. I think there are a few reasons for this:
- The girls are better behaved when they are outdoors than when they are cooped up in the house.
- When we’re at-home there’s the ever-present “todo” list nagging at us– we feel like we should be doing something productive, and attempting to be productive with a 4 year old and 2 year old vying for your attention is an exercise in frustration!
- We’re more “in the moment” when we’re out experiencing new things together– our heads are in the present rather than thinking about yesterday or tomorrow.
So what’s our plan? We’re hitting the road for some long-term travel. Parenting on the road might be easier or it might be harder, but I know for certain that the experiences that are to come are going to ones that we won’t regret having.