Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sometimes You Just Have To Jump

"Now's a good time to introduce the band; 'bout as good a time as any..."

When is the right time to make a life-changing decision?  Some of them are made in a chronological fashion and tend to follow a natural progression - decide if/where to go to college, decide whether or not to take a job, decide to get married, have kids, etc.  When is the right time to leave a job that you really enjoy doing where you have great colleagues and an incredibly supportive work environment?  Good question.   

There were a number factors at play in my personal decision to leave my job.  It was actually a decision that we (my wife may disagree with the use of that pronoun) made before we found out we were expecting baby number three.  For a while I had wanted to find a way to spend more time with our kids.  On workdays, I would often drop them off at daycare at 7:30am and pick them up at 5/5:30pm in the afternoon.  I know this is pretty much commonplace for two income households, and some people see their kids even less during the workday.  But to me, nearly 50 hours a week seemed like a long time for our kids to be at daycare.

Not that we were unhappy with the childcare we had.  The center our kids were at was awesome - the staff were intelligent and engaging, our kids learned a ton, and it was really close to our house.  I just wanted to find some middle ground.  Given the good environment and the things our kids were being exposed to through their childcare, I was hesitant to take them completely out of that setting.  I often thought, if they stayed home with me all day, they'd be bored out of their minds.

It also wasn't the case that I was unhappy with my employment situation.  I had a good job working with some incredible people at an amazing institution. Together, my wife and I made enough for us to pay for a good daycare and still put some money away.  But, I knew there was a shelf life to my job.  I couldn't do it forever and I had no interest in moving up in the department.  I was also starting to realize that the things I needed to do to be successful in my job were starting to directly conflict with the things I wanted to do to feel successful as a parent.  Internally, I never felt like I was putting in enough time at either place, work or home.  Oddly, I was feeling a greater sense of accomplishment doing seemingly mundane household tasks - laundry, cleaning, etc, than I was fulfilling my obligations at work.  Something had to give.

At a weekly meeting with my boss in March, I told her that I was going to be done.  No contingency plan, no other job lined up - sometimes you just have to jump.  Well, actually, I told her that I would stay on until the end of August.  Summer is the busiest time of year for our department, and it would allow some time for them to find a replacement and me to figure out what my next move might be.  It would also be five years in August that I had been at my job and I'd be leaving on my own terms, good terms, which seemed like an appropriate time to move on.  So, I didn't necessarily run to the cliff and jump, as much as I did camp out at the edge and wait for favorable weather before jumping.

"Ah, might as well jump"
Irregardless, my decision came as a surprise to a lot of people.  Especially when I told them that I had no idea what I was going to be doing after I left.  A lot of people asked if I was going to stay home with the girls.  Early on, my response was that I didn't know and if I didn't find anything, that would always be an option.  Secretly, I think I kind of hoped that would turn out to be the case.  When we found out toward the end of April that we'd be welcoming a third little one to the family in early January, it seemed considerably more definite that this would be the case.  Of course we had to wait until mid-June to reveal the news of our expansion.

My wife and I had always kind of joked that someday I'd probably become a stay at home dad.  I think she often mentioned it in jest to gauge my reaction and see if I would really be open to it.  With two under five and one more on the way, it became pretty apparent that if we were ever going to try it with one of us staying at home, now was going to be the time.  Financially and logistically, it was always going to be me.  My wife makes at least three times what I made and had a considerably better schedule.  Emasculating?  Honestly no, but I'll elaborate more on that in a follow-up post.

So we (or I) made a decision.  Was it a good one or a bad one?  I guess we'll see - so far good, but it's still early.  Good or bad, it was the right time to make that decision.  If it turns out to be a bad decision, then we'll figure things out from there.  My Mom always told me, "you get to choose"; referring to the direction in which your life goes.  Luckily, I was born and raised in an environment where that is the case.  I've had support along the way and continue to receive incredible support as I figure out parenthood, and just life in general.  I know that when I jump, there is a solid chance I'm going to fall, but I've got family and friends that will help me get back up.

That's what I'm most thankful for in my life.  The people that surround me, because they are amazing.

You may have seen this already, but I think it is worth sharing again - a snip-it from Jim Carey's Commencement Address at Maharishi University (watch from 10:18 to 12:18 at least).  My buddy Frank shared this video and succinctly put it; pretty profound for someone who rose to prominence talking out of his ass (literally).  You can fail at anything.  Might as well take a chance on something you love.  Are you doing something that is worthy of your time?  You get to make that choice.

Three incredible ladies who are always worthy of my time.
Luckily they think I'm worthy of their time too.

Stolen Quotes:
Subtitle courtesy of Bob Dylan between-song banter at a concert at the Xcel Center; retold to me by a good friend who attended the show.  He said it was one of the most random things he'd ever heard.  Classic Dylan.

First photo caption courtesy of Van Halen's "Jump" (obviously).


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