Tempted

Now that the decision is made, we’re in free fall. It’s a treacherous time for our little plan. It’s vulnerable, susceptible to temptation.  And we even expected it.

After I handed in my notice, it got quiet. Too quiet.  I knew something was cooking in the upper managerial ranks of my division, behind the suddenly, and often, closed doors in our office.  It was an offer, and a pretty generous one.  One I didn’t see coming, nor prepare myself to respond.  It was an offer of exclusive telecommute with a salary increase. I expected the salary offer, but not a home office, and certainly not both.

I’d prepared myself to politely decline a salary increase, even a generous one, rationalizing that after taxes and higher expectations, it wouldn’t net me better off.  But a 100% telecommute scenario was something I thought only existed in blogs and at start-ups.  No more traffic. No more fussy work clothes. No more scrambling to get everyone’s teeth brushed in the morning.  Was this the best of both worlds scenario I never thought was possible? Or was it too good to be true?  These questions collectively became the subject of several days of discussion in our house.

On the surface, we can’t argue that it seems like the perfect setup.  I’d continue to earn a great salary, keep my group health and other benefits, and with less time and energy spent on commuting, blow-drying, and applying makeup, I might even tip the scales in favor of our home life. The hard facts are even harder to ignore:  I’d no longer spend 6+ hours on the road or the couple-hundred dollars a month in fuel and tolls, but I also wouldn’t be cutting our income in half or paying a heist in monthly health-care premiums. It’s not the all-or-nothing option we’d planned on that would have me totally focused on running the house and caring for the children, but it’s a compromise worth considering. On the other hand, less time in the office could mean less control of my staff and projects, less face time could lead to political alienation, and the trade-off in expectations could mean longer hours and more travel.  We could actually end up worse off, and at best my children would still spend their weekdays in daycare.  I’d still be splitting my attention, and probably working harder to compensate on both ends, a scenario we already know isn’t working for us.

So now what? Am I crazy?

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“So what are your plans?”

I’ve left jobs before, always of my own motivation to climb the corporate ladder, except for one layoff which was more of a blessing that didn’t even bother disguising itself. But this is the first time I’m leaving a job without another one waiting for me [a paying one anyway].

The day went pretty much as expected.  I got a time slot with my manager at 10, just to make sure I didn’t get caught up in emails or project meetings. My resignation speech was short and [bitter]sweet.  I told my boss that I’d been struggling with balancing my work and home life, and that, unfairly, I’d been giving less than my best to both.  When I said I’d be leaving, he seemed confused, but nodded as if he’d known all along. I told him it wasn’t as much about any unhappiness in my job, though there were some frustrations, most of which I saw as opportunities I just didn’t have the energy to rise to. I told him how much I appreciated what a great manager he’d been, and how much I respected him and the team.  He was disappointed but understanding, which made it harder. I actually lost it a little, which I’d planned not to do. Oh well.

He asked for the day to communicate the news up to senior management, and I agreed not to share it with anyone else until then.  I offered 4 weeks transition time, which he said he’d consider and get back to me. Then we talked about projects in the works and I committed to doing my part on them until the end of my time there. He said, with unquestionable sincerity, that I would be leaving in good standing and welcome back any time. I’ve heard that before when leaving jobs, but this felt more like I was leaving home for college and could come back at holidays and after graduation.

I partly expected to have a panic attack upon leaving the room, but I just wiped away a couple more tears on the way back to my desk and babbled something about fall allergy season in case anyone noticed.  The rest of the day felt oddly indifferent, but excruciatingly slow.  I, too, felt strangely the same, except that knowing I was leaving and not able to tell anyone yet was making me squirmy. At lunch with my counterpart, I was tempted to tell him in case it helped him somehow, but decided a day or two more couldn’t make a real difference.
The day ended with a phone call from my senior director.  It was half exit interview and half an attempt to change my mind, and both made me feel valued and even more appreciative.  He made me some tempting offers, which I agreed to take a day to consider, though we both knew that I wouldn’t likely accept, and he was kind enough to acknowledge that they would probably only complicate my decision. I reiterated my gratitude and how difficult my decision had been, and he said he understood, that he and his wife had made the same decision when their children were born.  He asked what my plans were and when I told him I was going to stay home with my children and pursue a writing career, I felt a little surge of adrenaline, and pride.

“So you’re going to be a mommy-blogger, huh?” he said.

“Yeah…I’m going to be a mommy-blogger.”

Don’t stop believing

Journey. Commute.  How topical. It got me thinking about my manager on the way to work this morning. This guy is a true believer in the professional sense.  Someone who surprised me, challenged me, believed in me. He never gives up, he keeps trying to change the game no matter the obstacles.  We’ve worked on some game-changing initiatives together this year, some that might even finally take hold in the next couple of months.

In 1 minute, I’m going to tell him I still believe.