“Wow,” I thought as I looked around the VIP crowd at a grand opening party.
I was 22 and had just graduated from college. Instead of taking the popular route and gallivanting through Europe, I chose to jump start my career in public relations and advertising with an unpaid internship. I spent that summer learning the ropes of event planning, facilitating media requests, and boosting my resume with name-brand clients.
I missed out on adventure travel, and stories about hopping from hostel to hostel, but I was thrilled when my unpaid experience landed me a full time job in advertising. I thought I’d hit the first job jackpot when I got an offer from a large, international advertising agency.
My first couple of years at the agency were spent working long hours on tedious projects. I was less than thrilled with the actual work itself, but enthralled with the perks that came along with the role. I played foosball with my creative coworkers and took full advantage of all the socializing at work.
The agency was known for throwing epic parties on their deck that offered sweeping views of Puget Sound. I loved feeling like I was a part of it all and, before I knew it, our client began offering me tickets to local sporting events, movie premieres, and hip, city happenings. I began traveling for work. I went to San Francisco and Boston. I reveled in client dinners eaten in restaurants I’d otherwise never dine.
But the hours were long and all consuming. I began to question if my current career track was really what I wanted for my future.
After getting married and moving out of the city, I traded in the travel and exclusive event invitations for a predictable job. I gained valuable industry experience, but found myself bored and missing the adrenaline rush my former job provided. I pursued my master’s degree to fill the void, fully intending to put my new education to good use in a more vibrant role.
My well-laid plans didn’t quite come to fruition. Our daughter was born shortly after I graduated with my master’s degree and my mother heart strings pulled me to devote my time to her for a while. But the lure of the fast-paced career stirred in me a couple years later when I got the opportunity to work on a global brand on their advertising team. Soon after I was dining at trendy restaurants again and meeting with magazines and agencies from New York and Los Angeles.
Working was energizing. It was fascinating to be involved in such, high-profile, international campaigns. But I was also sacrificing for it. I’d regularly tell my daughter I’d see her at swimming lessons but find myself caught up in unexpected meetings. I would be hours-late to a long, over due date night with my husband because I was tied to my desk desperately trying to make a crucial deadline.
One Sunday afternoon I was prepping for my work week while my husband and daughter played happily together. It dawned on me that this wasn’t how I wanted to be spending my Sunday afternoon.
I decided it wasn’t worth it. I was missing too many critical moments that meant more to me than any exciting job ever could. I was pregnant with our son, and I knew I didn’t want this type of work stress with a new baby and a three year old to manage at home.
I walked away from it all, opting to take time off and then return a year later to work in a less pressure-filled environment.My current schedule is regular and predictable. I’m home every night for dinner and bath time.
Sometimes I long for a little more thrill during my work day. Sometimes I crave an after-hours launch party. But then I remind myself of all the perks of my current gig. It’s a flexible job that allows me to work from home when I need to.
I’ve been able to spend time in my daughter’s classroom, and not a single work crisis has kept me from my family since I began this role. Every day I leave work on time, and every day I melt when I return home to see two smiling faces.
I have the work-life balance I want but, more importantly, I realize that my role as a mom is my best job yet.