I had it all and I gave it all up. Best decision in my life.
I was in charge of a start-up in Russia for the European Retail giant Kingfisher. I managed half the buying team, had a huge strategic input into the format of the first stores, and felt like I was genuinely creating something amazing. It was a role that offered a generous expat package, and for the first time since we had been married (3 years), my wife and I were able to put some serious savings in the bank.
I have written before about what happened next, so I won’t bore you with too many details again. We were told that we couldn’t have kids, so we quit our stressful jobs without a second thought, decided to move back to the UK immediately for IVF treatment, and in the end, my wife got pregnant naturally. Amazing. Cue life-changing events and very happy ending.
However, this blog isn’t about me.
This blog is dedicated to all the parents or caregivers out there, who make difficult decisions for their families (or future families). So many of them make huge sacrifices for the good of their nearest and dearest. They are heroes. Every single one of them.
Many women give up their careers at middle-management level to raise children, only to find it hard to regain their career trajectory when they go back. They swap smartphones for nappies, conference calls for feeding sessions at 2am, and cute baby-talk replaces tough negotiating language. It is a magical time, but being a Mum is a choice that makes further career progression that much trickier. There are positive changes in this area, but it is the case for the majority.
It affects the Dads too, although far less is written about this. There are lots of Dads who change their working patterns when they have a family. They change jobs to be closer to home, they opt for more flexible working conditions, they might even start their own business to be present for their family. These decisions are a little more pressurized for the Dads, as the fact remains that they are often the main breadwinners (rightly or wrongly). They take the risks and have to cope with the resultant pressures.
Parents and carers, whose careers take a “hit” because of their family, are the real heroes of our society. They are not slaves to the pursuit of selfish career goals. They are happy with “enough” and keen to pour their energies into the people closest to them. A degree-educated Mum, who spends four years at home with her kids, is just as worthy of praise as the highest-flying executive. A Dad, who once sat on top of the corporate world, is no less successful because he now decides to have a job that lets him spend half his day with his family. A generous soul, who stays at home to care for a loved one, shouldn’t have to feel so lonely in our self-obsessed society.
Your job does not come first. Your job does not define who you are. That little boy looking up at you with awe, wanting you to teach him how to throw a boomerang, is the one that counts. That little girl, who visibly glows after a nice “Daddy hug,” is the one that you live for. The grateful squeeze of your hand from a sick loved one is worth a thousand bonuses.
Earn enough money for them, by all means, but never put your career first.
You’ll regret it forever.
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