I quit my job last week.
As someone who has had a traditional job of some kind or another since I was a young teenager, this was a difficult and jarring decision. My wife and I had been going over the pros and cons of one of us leaving the corporate environment and whether the lifestyle of two full-time working parents was feasible for us any longer. After months of going back and forth, I finally ripped the band-aid off and quit.
Now I want to address a few things right off the bat. First off, I understand fully that this decision comes from a place of extreme privilege. The fact that my wife and I can make choices like this because of her income is not a luxury a lot of people have. We are not wealthy at all, but we live a lifestyle that can afford this change. Second, I have not stopped working, nor will I for the foreseeable future. I am working at home now and will put a living together from several projects.
But why did I quit? There are a lot of reasons that I could throw out with varying to degrees of validity, but it all comes back to one major subtext.
Modern America is not built for two working parents.
Our American work culture is absurdly outdated. It is a machine built in an era when one income and a parent (generally mom) at home was an expected and manageable lifestyle. With cost of living inflation, wage stagnation, and women joining and excelling in corporate America the one worker household is no longer common.
With these changes to family structure, we have done almost nothing to help families. Daycare is extremely expensive, after school is helpful but limited, and time banks at work are generally geared toward people who are only using it for themselves. The old way of thinking has put unreasonable pressure on the modern family. I want to be clear, by American standards, my last job was with a reasonable and decent company. However, it still isn’t enough. America expects someone to be home.
Personally, this year was extremely taxing on the family side of things. Both my mother and my wife’s mother got very sick (and through the wonders of medical science and the support of friends and family are recovering). We needed a lot of time off to go be with them, and we simply didn’t have it. By the end of summer with severe weather and seasonal sicknesses looming we had exhausted our time banks at work.
We had been there before, looking at winter with limited PTO and New England blizzard season on the horizon. However, it never felt so unsustainable as it did this year. Whenever my daughter would get a cold or one of us would be under the weather it would create stress and tension at home. We would be borderline arguing over who could take the next day off.
Beyond this, it got to the point where I wasn’t seeing my wife or daughter enough. Like most Americans I would work long hours, and when I got home it was functionally bedtime for my kid. My wife had been doing most of the post-work evening routine, and she would generally crawl into bed early also from exhaustion. There was no family time, and I did not marry my wonderful wife or choose to be a father with the goal of seeing them for 20 minutes a day.
There is one more piece of this that would be disingenuous not to address. I wasn’t great at the corporate way of doing things. I don’t always follow strict directions well, and I can be abrasive at times when the way things are done don’t make sense to me. Neither of these traits lend themselves to the corporate lifestyle. People who succeed in that world impress me. I say this with absolutely no sarcasm. It is not easy to get ahead in that world, and you must sacrifice a lot.
That is where I never excelled. That extra sacrifice was never something I would make. I always did my job reasonably well, but I refused to stay late or give up the extras that other people did. A job has always been a means to an end to me. A way to do more with the people I love. This year, the people I love needed me more than I could be there, and that is not a situation I ever want to repeat.
So, I quit.
Now it is time for the next chapter, and I am some combination of excited and nervous. I don’t know exactly what this change will look like months or years from now, but in the meantime, I will enjoy seeing my wife and daughter more, creating my own career path, and trying to find the balance again.