Thursday, November 05, 2009

Why I "Gave Up" My Career

Some of you likely know that by trade, I am a Chartered Accountant or CA for short. I was recently asked by another CA why I worked so hard to obtain my CA designation (16 hour exam over four days!) if I knew I was going to "give it all up" to have kids. This CA is a mother, but also a partner at a large accounting firm. She and I are not only not on the same page, we are not even in the same book. To clarify, both are legitimate books, neither one better or more valid than the other, simply different.

I stumbled over my response. It's complicated. It's not as simple as "giving up my career". For one, I haven't given up my profession. I still work as a CA, just not in the same capacity as she does. I was not offended by this question, though you might expect I would be. Because, when it comes down to it, in a sense, I have given up, temporarily and maybe permanently, a "career" as a CA.

I know of this career. I had begun this career before we had children. Barely, granted, since I got pregnant with Jack the week after the above mentioned 16 hour exam. We don't waste time. Such a career requires hard work and long hours. It requires climbing the corporate ladder. It requires assuming more and more responsibility. Not like any other career, I imagine.

In essence, it requires everything that I am not. I am not, by nature, a corporate ladder climber. That whole genre does not fulfill me even a little bit. I admire people who are fulfilled by this but I am not one of them. I think, and I am only speculating, that some are driven by the lure of making more and more money to buy more and more stuff. Maybe this is because I can't understand the alternative. That someone would be excited and energized to move up the corporate ladder. I don't know. What I do know is that neither of these things drive or motivate me.

When Jack was 18 months old, I went back to work. I had quit my job before he was a year old because I just couldn't fathom leaving him for 40 plus hours a week with someone else. Again, this is how I felt. I don't judge others who do leave their kids to work. It's a personal choice and ofter not a choice at all, but a necessity. For Jay and I, it didn't feel right. I also know that I am extremely lucky that Jay and I share these same beliefs and values and that we have this option.

However, after spending the next six months with little or no social contact (I had not yet discovered the internet, obviously), I needed to go back. It had nothing to do with wanting to further my career. It was simply a survival decision.

Jack loathed daycare. I loathed leaving him there. I didn't enjoy my work. I enjoyed the social aspect yes, but that was about it. I only worked three days a week. Frankly, in hindsight, it was three days too many. This arrangement lasted 18 months until my maternity leave began for Kamden. I never went back.

While on leave, the work I do now was mentioned as a possibility by another mom. I am indebted to her for the idea and for pushing me to try it. I have never looked back. I now teach online courses (among other things) to students who are working towards becoming CAs. I am still in the profession. In a way, I am giving back to the profession far more than I ever would have working in industry or public practice. But the biggest perk, the one that motivated me to try this in the first place, is that I am the one with our boys. I wake up with them every morning, feed them breakfast and send them off to school. Minus the "hurry up, Mommy is going to be late for work" rants. I am here when they come home for lunch. I am here when they come home from school. I was the one who dropped them off and picked them up from preschool.

I was here. I am still here.

And for that reason, I don't feel like I have given anything up at all.

Me boys

Rather, that I have accumulated a lifetime's supply of riches.


Cheryl said...

Kami you have the hardest job, working as a CA from home raising your boys. I think it wuld be easier to drop them at daycare and head to the office and climb the corporate ladder....
That's just my opinion...
My brother asked me the same question years he envies my flexibility and my full time pay..all while hangig out in my Lulu's!

Anonymous said...

oh kami! you have no idea how much this has touched me. unfortunately, i have not been able to stay at home with the girls, and its not for lack of wanting to. i wanted to in the worst way. but we just couldn't afford it. i feel guilty every day for not being home with them.
i envy you for being able to have that choice.

good for you! your boys have no idea how lucky they are to have parents like you and jay!!

3LittleMonkeys said...

We are so lucky we can make the choice to stay home with our kids! I am ever so thankful! However, I do think it would be easier to have a 9-5 job! Some days my boys drive me crazy, but I wouldn't give it up for the world!

Besides the people who HAVE to work, I'm not sure why people want to work to get more and more money. Kids don't care about material things! If you asked them what they would rather have I know it would be time with mommy and daddy instead of a fancy car!

Karen K said...

I hear ya! I have been asked many times how come I worked so hard to become a CMA then gave it up to become juat a "bookkeeper." I love what I do and I could never go back to full time and then some at a firm. I would miss my kids whole life because of "busy season" that really never seems to end!

Angella said...

Oh, you know I hear you on this (Since we both work for the same organization).

It's been great being here for my kids. I'm going back, yes, but they'll have Daddy here.

Also - I am not a ladder climber. I'm happy to sit on my rung and enjoy a cocktail. ;)

Lori: Teacher Turned Mommy said...

it is a hard question no matter what job you choose to give up and/or put on hold while you choose to raise your child. But, you have to step back and realize you did you what you felt was right for yourself and your family... it is that aspect that so many people don't seem to understand

Stacie's Madness said...


R Royal Family said...

So true Kami on so many levels. It has been an honour and privledge to walk this road with you. You have made it SO much more enjoyable because lets face it staying at home is fun but having friends to stay at home with to celebrate and commiserate with makes it that much more enjoyable and, well, bearable :-)

Alex Elliot said...

This is a wonderful post, Kami. Just today someone asked me about "giving up" vet school to stay at home. I feel that really the amount of time that kids are at home is in reality short and some day I will get back to work and have a nice long career. It may not always feel like that. It's kind of like when I look back and how long I lived with my parents and realize that I've lived on my own almost as long.

Ed said...

I've never been much of a ladder climber myself, either. Probably has something to do with my morbid fear of heights.

And I've got to believe that whatever riches I've accumulated from being at home with my kids they have benefitted ten fold.

Karen MEG said...

Kami, so many parallels here, the whole ladder thing...for me, though, some of the pressure to go back was not always just within myself (judging from how ecstatic my mother was when I got this job "what a waste of 2 degrees, to stay and watch the kids!!!!" ugh.

I'm still dealing with the guilt of being away for most of the day...but that being said, there is a part of me that is fulfilled more than I would have imagined. I took the next PA day off to be with them, and my daughter wants to go on a playdate! So someone else was likely just as ready, if not more than me, for this change.

One of my oldest friends is a CA, I saw what she went through to go up the ladder (kicking & screaming as she's not political at all, but she did reluctantly make partner)... and it is a grind. She doesn't have children, and come to think of it, I haven't seen her in years as we just don't have much in common anymore. It's sort of sad.
Enjoy this best of both worlds arrangement. Because that is indeed what it is. You haven't given anything up -- and you've gained wonderful time with your boys which is irreplaceable. Your "career" time, when and if you want it again, will come.

Kami said...

You made the decision I would love to make and look at those happy, gorgeous smiles on those boys. Obviously, they agree with your decision 10000%. (As a CA you can work out the math on that one, but, I know it's a lot.)

Mrs. Wilson said...

Wow. VERY well written post!! If I was able to stay home and work from home I would, but, like you said, you do what works for you, I do what works for me. I think it's a good system :)


Elaine A. said...

We all make different decisions for different reasons in our lives. I think you've made all the right ones for your and your family and that is worth so much more than a huge bank account...

Kudos to you Kami!

A Crafty Mom said...

What a great post, Kami. I am really struggling lately with a lot of these issues (possibly going back to work b/c we need the money) and it's comforting to know other moms out there have made the same choices I have. And survived :) I'm so glad you have made a decision that you are at peace with, and is so wonderful for your family.

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