About 4 months ago a friend of ours told us about a job opening that he’d heard about.
It was a government position. But an interesting one. It was in a new, small, and rapidly evolving branch. The type of job where you might actual be able to make a substantial impact in the overall trajectory and success of the organization, as opposed to simply being another cog in the wheel of a major bureaucracy.
(A feeling we were all too familiar with from our last government jobs.)
Mike was more than qualified for the job. The position was in his wheelhouse in terms of experience and the skills he would bring to the table.
The commute was a meagre 20 minutes. By Lower Mainland standards, that was just a quick jaunt down the road.
The salary range was reasonable for the hours and demand, and the job offered a decent amount of flexibility when it came to the day to day scheduling.
Mike’s curiosity was piqued – so was mine.
We started to talk about what things would look like for us if Mike actually went back to work. It would yet again bring about another major transition for our family. But it would also undeniably bring a level of normalcy for our whole family.
We talked about what it would mean for our boys. We still aren’t sure if it’s the best thing in the world for them to grow up seeing neither of their parents working.
On one hand, we were modelling what life could look like when you front end load, and how simply living below your means can achieve some pretty major advantages. Encouraging them to forge their own paths to Financial Freedom.
On the other….
Maybe we were raising kids who would be self-entitled. Who wouldn’t remember or recognize how hard their parents worked to get where we were. Kids who bucked the idea of work altogether?
I like to think a lot of our thoughts and efforts as parents go into making sure that latter outcome doesn’t happen…..but sometimes, you can’t help but wonder.
Selfishly, I thought about how much it would normalize me. No longer would I be the mom who’s husband was at home all the time and therefore had life so easy. Who must have all the time in the world to herself.
I would just be another stay-at-home mom, like many of the other mom’s I knew. Given the benefit of the doubt that I worked hard in my day to day. No more sideways glances, no more being the odd one out. No more passive aggressive comments about my “perfect life”, or eye rolls if I wanted to vent about something that hadn’t gone well in my day.
And for Mike, it would bring him something he had lost since retiring. A sense of professional productivity and value. It’s a difficult thing to replace, and maybe finding the right job was the answer?
Then we talked about the cons. How Mike going back to work would limit a lot of our travel plans. Our opportunities to see extended family, and to go on our own family vacations.
It was awfully nice to be able to pick up at moments notice and leave for a weekend or a week. Or to plan ahead months in advance without consulting a work schedule or leave banks.
But, we have also recently committed ourselves to the fact that despite our ability to travel for extended periods, move somewhere else if the fancy struck, or move closer to family………it just doesn’t work with our oldest son.
There are many reasons for this. But, recently he’s also been pretty clear with us that while he loves our usual family vacations, he doesn’t like to be away for extended periods of time. He doesn’t like missing out on his sporting activities, he misses his friends, and he definitely doesn’t want to move.
While our family decisions are always made with the whole family in mind, it’s impossible to ignore that he is in a major transitional phase of life, and we are fortunate enough to live in a neighbourhood where he has built some incredibly strong friendships. With really good kids.
Friendships in which he thrives. In which he feels confident to speak up and speak out when he disagree’s. Friendships that don’t fracture when people don’t see eye to eye every minute of every day.
The type of friendships, that as parents, you hope your child develops.
That has value. Value that we can’t ignore, and amongst other factors, greatly influences our decision to stay where we are, despite our own individual desires to be closer to family.
So – if we are going to be here…….going to be living our day to day here, not traveling quite so much in order to facilitate our oldest’s love of sports and all that comes with that, then maybe Mike getting another job made the most sense?
Maybe it was a piece of the routine and structure we have been missing.
So after all that discussion – we decided, hey…….why not put in for it? See where it went? It didn’t mean we’d have to take the job……right?
The application process was somewhat rigorous. Multiple written submissions, an extensive background and screening process. The process went on for months.
Each step of the way, we re-evaluated our position. Did we really want this? Would this really be a good change for us?
Somedays the answer was yes – others……it was a resounding no.
But we kept plodding along through the process, putting off the hard decision until we actually had a hard decision to make.
Then, a few weeks ago, we suddenly had that hard decision to make.
Mike had passed all the steps with flying colors, and suddenly he was on the phone receiving the job offer. The head of HR was laying out all the details, start date, salary, etc. and I was perched a couple feet away, straining to hear all that was being said.
When Mike got off the phone, we both looked at each other for a moment, waiting for the other person to speak.
Mike didn’t look thrilled. I felt anxious.
“Start date is in three weeks, and the salary offer is lower than what we expected.”
I tried to look at the situation pragmatically. Mike didn’t need to go back to work as it was, so it didn’t need to be about the money. And yet here we were, feeling disappointment about arguably one of the less relevant aspects of this decision.
I asked him, money aside, how much he wanted to do the actual job. He looked at me, and gave the honest answer of 50/50. Many aspects of it excited him, setting the alarm clock, committing to another 9-5, and buying (I think mostly the wearing part) a business wardrobe again…….not quite so much.
50/50. Exactly how I felt. Albeit for different reasons.
And then we circled back to the money. There was a number for both of us, where giving up our current level of freedom had made sense. Where the value we would all be getting as a family from the job, outweighed what we would be conceding.
But undeniably – the money was directly tired to that sense of value.
Mike knew it, and I knew it.
The money made Mike feel it was worthwhile. The money made me feel like it was worthwhile. More specifically – what we could do with that money.
At the end of the day, despite some frank dialogue with HR, we couldn’t get the number to where we wanted it to be.
It felt a little weird. Walking away from an extra $100K a year, and the likelihood of an additional pension felt…….odd.
I think we both immediately wondered if we had made the right call.
But a few weeks have passed, and now there isn’t a single doubt in my mind that we made the right call.
The only reason to take a job at this stage, after everything that’s happened to get here, is if it’s exactly the right one. For Mike, for me, and for our kids. And even though we don’t “need” the additional money to maintain the lifestyle we planned for, it’s clearly still a component that’s strongly tied to our evaluation of the overall transaction and exchange of our time.
And I suppose that’s ok.
Maybe for the perfect job we wouldn’t feel quite so strongly about the monetary compensation. After all – I continue to invest a great deal of time and energy into this blog – for free. But……when it comes to going back to a typical job, we’re going to have to feel good about the number, and it’s going to have to be a whole lot more than a 50/50 feeling.
What the experience did help us identify, is that after 2+ years of retirement, we aren’t opposed to one of us going back into the work force. So long as it works with our families priorities, current aspirations, and creates a strong sense of value for our family as a whole.