Last week, I became a statistic.
I’ve joined the ranks of the many mothers who quit their jobs during The Great Resignation. The plan is to stay home with my sweet daughter for an undefined period of time as she approaches her first birthday. We’ll become a one-income family funded by my husband’s salary, plus income from a rental property.
I have a lot of big, dissonant feelings about my decision. I’m ecstatic to spend more time with my daughter. The drive to be with her more sits at the core of my choice. I’m also proud to have the courage to make such a bold change.
At the same time, it’s like I just had a breakup with the #1 career gal that I was. I feel like a failure because I couldn’t do it all.
My situation feels deeply personal and unique, though I know it’s anything but. I’m a microcosm of several labor market trends happening in the U.S. right now.
- Middle managers are being squeezed, taking on more work and direct reports without reciprocal pay.
- The pandemic has Americans rethinking how they want to spend their finite time and energy.
- Women, especially mothers, have left their jobs at an alarming rate throughout the pandemic.
- Job-switchers are outearning job-stayers.
Here’s how my reluctant resignation played out.
For the past several years, I’ve managed a team of financial planners. No job is perfect, but honestly, this was a pretty damn good job. I enjoyed leading my team, developing and executing on strategy, and encouraging hundreds of financial advisors to build financial plans for their deserving clients.
Balancing my job with motherhood wasn’t easy, but it felt possible. I had decent work-life balance and flexibility to work remotely. I missed my daughter painfully each day, but I at least felt like when I was home with her, I could focus.
There was a minor detail, though, that my company couldn’t get right…my pay. Despite getting a significant raise at year-end of 2021, I was still underpaid relative to the industry.
I knew this because I’ve been approached for similar roles at other companies with better pay. I was reluctant to leave my company, however, because I enjoyed working with my team and my boss.
Then, when one of my peers left our company in early 2022, I added his responsibilities to my existing ones. This included managing an additional team. *Commence the middle manager squeeze.*
Knowing I had a lot on my plate managing 11 people already (and getting managed by an 11-month old at home), my boss presented this opportunity to me by asking if I wanted to take it on.
After deliberation on my part and discussion with my husband, I accepted the challenge under three conditions, one of which was higher pay. Further, I’d communicated exactly what my compensation expectations were.
Once I signaled agreement, contingent on my conditions, things progressed quickly. Overnight, my responsibility doubled, and from what I could see, without much consideration of my stipulations.
The pace at which I was introduced to my new role was deliberate. It would have been incredibly challenging for me to walk back the acceptance of these new responsibilities at this point, even if I didn’t get what I wanted.
After a month passed of me operating in good faith, the executives I work for broke the news to me that I wasn’t going to be paid what I wanted. Not even close. Considering I was already underpaid for doing just one job, this was the blow that brought me to terms with what I needed to do.
I should also mention I was (and am) still breastfeeding, shuffling off like a leaky bag lady to squeeze in pumping sessions during this madness.
As the weeks passed, I questioned how I was spending my days.
My stress levels reached new highs, and it showed in my marriage and parenting of my daughter. Those are two lines that I’m not willing to cross, so I felt I had to make a choice knowing the status quo wasn’t sustainable.
I asked myself if I got to the end of my life (Can someone check on Madi? 😂) and had money left over, would I be willing to spend it to buy back time with my daughter? The answer was most definitely yes, like, all of it.
The answer to that question validated for me what I needed to do, even if it meant forgoing some pay in the short term.
After mustering up the courage, I resigned, giving my boss one month of notice. This was definitely not a moment when you tell your boss to shove it. If anything, it was a little sad. 😔
My plan for now is to take a few months, recalibrate, and spend quality time with my daughter. For now, she’ll no longer be going to daycare, which will save us about $1,800 a month in expenses.
My husband and I earned roughly the same amount of money before, so we’ll be bringing in half of our normal cashflow. Given our modest lifestyle, we’ll be able to adapt just fine.
And when I’m ready to return to work, whatever that may look like, I like my chances of earning even more. After all, job-hoppers have been rewarded handily as compared to loyal job-stayers.
I have confidence in myself that I’ll land at a good place.
P.S. After resigning, I couldn’t stop thinking, almost comically, about how disappointed Sheryl Sandberg would be in me. Later the same day, I learned that she was stepping down from Meta. I’m categorizing this serendipity as a good omen.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult with your financial advisor.